Mixing Two Services at Different SPLs

At one of the churches I’m working with, the tale is all too common. It is a large multigenerational congregation with a lot of history. As such, the attendance trend is for an older crowd to populate the early service, with the later service being dominated by younger families. This is not surprising as the same thing is probably happening all across the country.

One thing that can’t be avoided is the SPL preference of these two unique groups. I use the word preference pretty lightly. It’s stronger than that. The older generation becomes pretty vocal in their displeasure when the volume gets too much for them. Conversely, for some in the second service the volume never gets loud enough. If they don’t feel the Kick busting them in the chest, they’re not happy!

So what does the sound tech do? There isn’t time to rebuild the mix between services. A simple Master Fader change doesn’t work. That makes everything lose its presence, including vocals. Yet we don’t want to get crazy with changing instrument faders or we will upset the Pyramid mixing technique.

So we experimented this week. Here is our test method:

  1. During the first half of rehearsal, we build a normal Pyramid Mix as we normally would. We start with the drums and bass, mixing them at the appropriate level for the acoustic volume of the drums in the space. Then move up the pyramid until we achieve a great mix.
  2. Then for the last half of rehearsal, we reduce the master fader 6 dB.
  3. Then at the subgroups, we pull up the vocals and piano groups 3 dB.
  4. We ask the drummer to “ease up” on the first service.

So we have effectively “halved” (-6 dB) the apparent volume of the entire mix, while compensating the vocals and piano a bit. Now for 2nd service, we only have to adjust 3 or 4 faders ( Groups 5, 7, 8 back down 3 dB – and then Master Fader back up to its original position). Voila – we’re back where we need to be for 2nd service.

Some would suggest that we do the opposite (pull down drums, bass, guitars, keys, etc.) But for our situation, our method is the least amount of fader changes.

Have you done something similar? How did it work?


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