Actually, the word commandment is a little presumptuous on my part, so I will simply call them ‘rules.’ The fact is, there is no one thing in audio production that is really difficult to learn. And, if we break down all the tasks individually the entire process becomes simple and fun. So let’s get on with it.
Rule #1: Always turn your sound system on from “upstream” to “downstream” and to always turn your system off from “downstream” to “upstream”. In other words, turn the mixer (and any outboard gear) on first, then your power amps or powered speakers. When shutting down just do the reverse, turn your power amps or powered speakers off first, then your mixer. By following this rule, you will avoid speaker “pop” and possible speaker damage. To take it a little further, I suggest that when you turn your power amps off you wait 10 to 20 seconds before turning off the mixer. Many power amps have internal capacitors that will store a voltage charge (the source of the pop) for a few seconds.
Rule #2: Whenever you plug a microphone or any cable into your snake or mixer, mute that channel of the mixer. Plugging a mic or cable into an open mixer channel can cause a nasty pop which can damage your speakers. If your mixer does not have mute buttons, just pull the fader completely down.
Rule #3: Speaking of “pops, ” there is one more thing to remember: Always pull down the faders when engaging phantom power. If your mixer has individual phantom power for each channel then pull the fader back before you give it the phantom power. If your mixer has global phantom power, (one button for all channels) bring down the main faders before pushing the phantom power button or switch.
Rule #4: Regarding EQ. My approach is “Remove before adding.” For individual channels, remove the overpowering frequencies rather than boosting the weaker frequencies. This creates a more natural sound. I use the same rule when adjusting the EQ of my front of house speakers. Of course, pulling out unwanted frequencies is the most important technique when ringing out your monitors. If you want to avoid feedback you have to identify the offending frequencies and remove them.
Rule #5: Learn to identify frequencies quickly and accurately. Your ears are your most important tool when mixing any live event. Train those ears of yours to know what they are hearing. You have to be able to identify 1k from 2k or 2k from 4k etc. The more quickly you can identify a frequency, the more valuable you will be behind the sound board in your church.
Rule #6: Right up there with frequency identification is decibel identification—and for this I suggest a dB meter. A dB meter is the most important tool (after your ears) in your audio arsenal. There are dozens of app based dB meters or if you want to go old school, you can buy a standalone meter. We can all recognize quiet from loud but many churches have limits on how loud they want their worship music to be. Typically, I work in houses of worship that have limits of 95 to 100 decibels. Pulling out your dB meter and adjusting the level according to the wishes of your particular church will make you a very valuable member of the audio team—even if you are the team.
Rule #7: Regarding the sorting of XLR cables. I suggest color coding your cables to identify their length. I use colored zip ties and separate my 15ft, 20ft, 25ft and 30ft cables. Many churches only use one size XLR cables—If that is your church, more power to you. However, if you have cables of various lengths, then color coding is invaluable.
Rule #8: Now let’s talk about wrapping cables properly. There is only one way to wrap a cable so that it will unwrap smoothly and last longer. It is called the over under method. This method involves holding the cable end in one hand (XLR or other) and creating a single round loop with the other hand. Then creating another loop in the opposite direction by rolling the cable in your fingers.
(Check out this video from Gospel John)
A properly wound cable will ultimately become trained to go into that shape more easily every time you wind it. This cable will be easier to unwind and last longer. Do not wrap a cable using your forearm as a guide and don’t wrap it like it was an electrical cable.
Rule #9: This is very simple but extremely important—get to church early for every service. Even if you mix the same preacher and the same worship band day in and day you need to check out your mic placement, your mixer settings and out board gear setting etc. Chances are they will be the same as you left them, but better to find a problem before a service than during one.
Rule #10: Keep your gear clean. This is the only rule that should be a commandment because clean gear sounds better longer. Use a vacuum or compressed air to clean your mixer, outboard gear, power amps and the immediate space that this gear occupies. Remember cleanliness is next to Godliness.