I recently had the honor of playing for a great conference. The conference was hosted by a wonderful world evangelist. Everything about the conference was SO exciting (amazing speakers, worship leaders, special panels, etc.). The event had been sold out for months! The amount of expectation was immense! Sounds perfect? Yes… until sound check. I shall elaborate.

For the last several years, with the advent of personal headphone mixers, I have grown way too accustomed to dialing in my own mix. But now I was on a stage in a situation where there was no instrument level checking in any kind of organized fashion. There was new music to be learned, many instruments to be sorted out, sounds to be tweaked, etc. Many people were talking at once. Everyone was becoming frustrated not having their needs met. Instrument monitor levels were constantly changing in our ear monitors.

It was all quite chaotic until the very last minute. At that point the only thing I could assume was that something really significant was going to happen that week (I have found that if there is something that the enemy can do to mess things up, he will typically find it)! We did finally play but, as the saying goes, it was by the skin of our teeth. We never really properly heard each other in the way that we were accustomed to. Even still, God showed up. A great time in worship was had. Lives were changed.

We are almost always in situations where hearing each other correctly is of major importance! A bad monitoring situation can greatly affect everything in a negative way. Having a clear, open line of communication with your monitor mixer is a must. Here are some of the things that I ask for that you might want to consider.

First of all, in a stereo capable listening world, panning is the key. Having clarity and perspective between the many different instruments, the lead vocal, and the click is paramount to finding the groove. My ear monitor mix preferences are: acoustic instruments panned discreetly to 8 o’clock and 5 o’clock, electric guitar panned to 10 o’clock, the piano panned to 3 o’clock, the BGV’s panned off center at 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock, the aux keys panned (leaning) to the right, the click panned to 2 o’clock, the hi-hat panned to 10 o’clock, the overheads hard left and right, the kick and snare at 12 o’clock (the snare is set substantially lower in volume than the kick), and the bass at 12 o’clock. The kick, bass, and click are the loudest elements in
my mix.

As you can see, everything has its place in my personal stereo spectrum. This allows me to be aware of who is rushing, who is dragging, and who’s right in the zone (that’s what I want to hear the most of). I never turn anyone else off, but I do turn some more “drifting” elements down a little. Overall, my desire is to hear a wonderful, CD-sounding mix, with the bass, kick, hat, and click louder than everything else.

In order for you to accurately follow your worship leader and play well with your band, you have to be able to hear correctly. You can’t afford to let anything get in the way of that! I know that bass players are typically a quieter sort, but I digress. We sometimes encounter personality types that do not take instruction/requests well, and unfortunately, sometimes they’re monitor mixers. When that happens, we still must speak up. It might be a good idea to run your requests through your band leader first. I know it can be difficult, but be patient!

So…on to the fun stuff! What bass did I take? My Alien Audio Constellation Five, of course! It has a tight, focused bottom end, and it can sound like several different basses (a P-Bass, a Spector, and a Jaco style Fender Jazz bass). It also has built in distortion that is very handy for accentuating “up” sections of songs without overpowering. It also has a very musical feeling, three-band EQ that doesn’t do too much all at once (I have always been a fan of small moves when it comes to EQ’ing anything). Find Alien Audio on Facebook and check them out!

My conference experience was fantastic! It could’ve been technically better, but it certainly was a spiritual high of a lifetime…so far! I hope that sharing my perspective and my process for achieving a (hopefully) complementary musical position in this situation will be of help to you. May God truly bless the work of
your hands!

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