First Person with Dan Murphy
The following article is an excerpt from Shure Notes for Houses of Worship, Issue #47 (October 3, 2011).
Running live sound in a church setting can be a very challenging and a very rewarding experience. Every week, the sound crew is faced with a mix of professional, semi-professional, and amateur musicians who all unite together for a common cause. Some understand what they need to hear in their monitor mix, and some have no idea.
My job is to be as helpful as possible, designing individual mixes so that the musicians can be at their best leading the church in worship, not worrying about their mixes. The better the musicians can hear, the tighter the band will sound, and the more inspiring and moving worship will be.
Three Methods for Providing Monitor Mixes for Musicians
1. Letting the FOH sound person dial up multiple monitor mixes utilizing the AUXES.
Advantages: Less costly than the other methods.
Disadvantages: Communication has to be very good between the mixer and musicians. This puts a heavier load on the FOH mixer.
2. Letting each musician dial up his or her own mix using a feed before it hits the FOH mixer into individualized mixer units for each musician.
Advantages: Each musician gets a very personalized mix. The FOH mixer can totally focus on the main house mix.
Disadvantages: Very costly, could be too complicated for amateur musicians who might be fiddling with their mix instead of leading worship.
3. Having a dedicated stage monitor mixing board with a dedicated monitor sound operator.
Advantages: The monitor mixer has total focus on providing stage mixes.
Disadvantages: Very expensive because more equipment is needed, as well as talented and knowledgeable operators.
Lakeside Christian Church’s Method
We have chosen to use method #1 for the time being. It’s simple, clean, and very straightforward. It makes it much simpler for the non-tech oriented.
We use a combination of Shure PSM®400s as well as smaller wedge speaker monitors. We accomplish this by using a FOH mixing board with 10 AUX sends:
We break out the mixes by sending AUX 1 and 2 into one of our five Shure wireless transmitters for our two principle worship leaders, Craig Crynes and Eric Ginder. By sliding the dial to mix 1 or 2 on the Shure P4R wireless IEM (in-ear monitor), they can custom-design their individual mixes even further by adding the other’s mix. I think it’s brilliant that Shure designed this feature into their wireless receivers. It enhances the mixing options in a very useful way.
AUX 3 goes to our five-person vocal team. Everyone on the team slides his or her dial to the same side as mix 3 and receives mainly vocals, piano, and light click track. I can solo any of these individual mixes on the FOH board to check vocal balances. I also make sure to get input from the vocalists as well, to ensure that they can hear themselves.
- AUX 4 is the mix for the electric guitarist, consisting of piano, click track, worship leader, and drums.
- AUXES 5, 6, and 7 feed amplified wedges that we use for various changing band scenarios (choir, extra musicians etc.).
- AUX 8 goes to another Shure wireless unit for the drummer. This mix has lots of click track, bass, some piano, and the worship leader.
- AUX 9 is another spare amplified speaker mix.
- Aux 10 is used for my reverb send.
The key to successful monitor mixing using this method is to keep each mix simple and clean. One of the most important aspects of monitor mixing is to thin the mix out. Each musician needs to hear a specific thing. Identify those important elements, and customize each mix for them. Only the important necessary components are in each person’s ear, while the ambient FOH sound fills out the mix.
One more thing: Using the personal monitoring system really cuts the stage volume down, making for a much clearer FOH mix, and a service full of inspiration and impact.
DAN MURPHY is the Sound Tech Director at Lakeside Christian Church and also owns Group Effort Sound Studio (www.groupeffort.com), which he started in 1976. He is constantly using the natural laws of science, technology, and physics to illustrate how amazing God’s creation really is.