Why I Hate the "Church Mix"

The "Church Mix"

First imagine a mix of music the way you're used to hearing it on your iPod or in concert...

Now take electric guitar and turn it down until it's just about inaudible. You can tell it's there, but you can't tell what it's doing.

Do the same with the snare. If you can't get the snare to an inaudible level, move the drums as far away from the crowd as possible. If that doesn't work, try putting a giant plexiglass shield around them. If that doesn't work, make an entire room of plexiglass with a door. If that doesn't work, scrap the acoustic drums and purchase an electric drum set. Now turn down the drums in the PA until it's about the same level as the slapping of the drum sticks on the plastic drums.

Ah, much better. You're almost there.

Turn the band down. A little more. You should know they're there, but the sound shouldn't be intrusive. You should be able to have a conversation while they're playing - that's the true test.

Now take the vocals (most live bands have 1-3 vocalists, but if 3 is good then 7 is great!) and turn them up about 50%-100% louder. They should clearly be the loudest thing in your mix. Change the balance of the vocals until there is no clear lead singer. Harmony parts should be just as loud or slightly louder than the melody.

To emphasize the sonic mix decisions we've made, let's physically move the band to the farthest back corner of the stage. Kind of like an orchestra pit - they're not there to look at. Now put the vocalists at the front edge of the stage. They should span across the stage from left to right. Anywhere you look, you should see a smiling face staring right back at you.

We'll call this the "church mix".

Here's why the church mix exists:

Here's why I hate the church mix:

Bottom Line:

We've got to stop shooting the Church in the foot in an attempt to appear different from "the world" or to avoid complaints. Professional techs and musicians have spent 50yrs perfecting the sound of rock music. Some of them go to our church. Instead of defining our own version of rock music (the "church mix"), let's release the professionals to do what they're great at. Yes, that may look similar to secular concerts. Yes, it may (will) earn us some complaints. But the trade-off is worth it.

Here's what you'll get in return:


If you're a worship pastor and you think you need to move away from the church mix and more toward a professional mix, your first order of business is to convince your fellow staff members. If you fail to do that first, you're going to cause division and frustration and ultimately you'll fail.

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