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Where Each Instrument Fits in the Mix

Kade Young
Kade Young
Chief Audio Guru

As a sound tech at church, you not only have to possess a wide array of technical knowledge, but you also need an understanding of where each instrument fits in the mix.

Even then, every song is different.

If you feel overwhelmed with it all, you are not alone.

Good news is, once you understand where each instrument fits in the mix, it all becomes a whole lot easier.

Lead Vocal

On the top of every great mix is the lead vocal.

After all, one of the most irritating things for the congregation is when they can’t understand the lead vocal – so, work hard to make sure this doesn’t happen.

If you have a hard time keeping your lead vocal above the mix, check out this post: How to Make Lead Vocals Sound Amazing.

Bass Guitar & Kick Drum

The next layer is the instruments that create energy, bass guitar and drums. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get these right:

  1. Are the kick and bass married together – or is one louder than the other?
  2. Is the energy in the room where you want it to be? If not, you need more kick and bass (or maybe better subs).
  3. Are the kick and bass getting lost in the mix? If so, make necessary adjustments as they should always be heard.

It’s quite the phenomenon…it may seem like the electric guitar is too loud when the real problem is that the bass guitar is too quiet.

Bottom line, other than the lead vocal, bass guitar and kick drum is where it’s at.

Lead Instrument

Songs generally have one lead instrument (occasionally you will have two).

For example, on the song Wake by Hillsong Young and Free, the synth is the lead instrument whereas the lead instrument on Grace on Top of Grace by Fellowship Creative is the electric guitar.

To achieve a great mix, you must first pay attention to what the lead instrument is in a specific song. Then, mix it right on top of the background instruments/vocals.

Background Instruments & Vocals

If you have a well-trained band, your background instruments will be playing in different areas of the frequency spectrum.

For example, your rhythm electric guitar will be filling up the lower mid-range with bar chords while the piano player is playing an arpeggiated pattern in the upper mid-range.

This makes it easy to fill up the full frequency spectrum with background instruments and vocals.

And keep in mind, it’s okay if you can’t quite pick out the background instruments and vocals. But you should notice if they are missing.

Next Step

The next step to achieve a great mix is to brush up on your technical skills. Check out all our sound-related posts.


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9 comments on “Where Each Instrument Fits in the Mix”

  1. How do you build a foundation without a bass guitar, do you boost the low end of the lead guitar? (acoustic in my situation)

    1. Hey Tony - you can definitely boost the low end a bit on your acoustic guitar to fill in the sound, but you want to be careful not to boost too much or the acoustic guitar will lose clarity. In other words, slightly boost the lows to fill in the sound but don't try to make your acoustic sound like a bass guitar.

    2. In our church when our bass player is out, I remove the low cut (high pass filter) from the keys which allows the signal to go to through the sub. The keyboardist usually bounces a double octave note on his left hand in this scenario while continuing to play his normal stuff on the right.

      Hope that helps and gives you some ideas!

  2. Is it ok to use some of your information in a Workshop as long as we give credit to your site?

  3. I have a couple of questions.

    1. Our worship leader likes to have 4 or more background vocalists on stage, usually likes to set up condenser mics for this. We also use a condenser mic for a violin and the "drums" which consist of a cymbal, high hat, and snare and a "box". (I don't know what it is called. Also a condenser mic in the piano. Old school, I know. Anyway, it is very difficult to get the vocalists loud enough without feedback. Any suggestions?

    2. Our worship leader wears a wireless mic, and I think it may be a cheap omnidirectional. So if I set his gain so the orange is only occasionally lighting on an x32, he is not loud enough. Then, if I make him louder with the faders, I get feedback. Is there a microphone you can recommend to solve this problem?

    1. Hey Brent - All vocals should be using a dynamic microphone with cardioid pickup pattern. You don't even need an expensive mic - the Shure SM58 does a great job.

      When you get these mics, make sure vocals hold them close - no more than an inch from their mouth. This will solve your feedback problems.

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