Mixing FOH for Young & Free

26 Feb 2015

From youth services on Friday nights to tours and conferences overseas, Omar Sierra is the FOH engineer for Hillsong Young & Free, and one of the pillars of our church audio team in Sydney. Here are some of the principles he applies to mixing, on the road and at home.

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As audio engineers, we are worship leaders too!

Something I have learned in the last couple of years is how important it is to see myself as leading worship from behind the console. Jad Gillies, one of our amazing worship leaders, always encourages our audio team to step up with confidence and to see ourselves as contributing just as much and equally important as the person who’s on the platform leading worship. This changes the perspective of every single fader I push. Try it!!

With this thought in mind, here are some practical things I’ve learned and try to apply every time I’m behind a console.

1. Mix outside the box

Youth services are a great place to try new mixing ideas. Put some effects on the vocals (eg. Modulation, distortion, reverbs, delays, etc). Make it sound fresh, different, interesting and FUN!!!

SEE ALSO: 10 WAYS TO BE A BETTER AUDIO ENGINEER

2. Be flexible and keep the big picture in mind

Be willing to work with what you have. One of my goals is to make it sound as best as it can be, no matter what I have to work with! For example, having the vocals sing and jump around while infront of the PA at times might be sonically challenging for us as audio engineers but if that makes the room atmosphere better, I’m up for it and will do everything I can do make it sound as best as possible!

3. Pass on knowledge and be replaceable

In my opinion, this is one of the hardest things to do as an audio engineer, but I guarantee that it will help you to become a better audio engineer. Pass on your knowledge and share the tricks that you’ve learnt to other young audio engineers. This will help them get better results, will inspire and empower them, and set your team up for a win as you help raise a new generation of audio engineers!

(Speaking of passing on knowledge, you really should check out some of the audio tips my friend Andrew Starke has shared too, he’s one of the amazing guys on our team who I’ve learnt so much from!!)

4. You are part of the worship team

One of the most common challenges we need to overcome is the potential division between the band and the sound team.  This can happen when the audio engineers don’t communicate with the band and vice-versa.  The end result is that everyone is disconnected or isolated from each other, instead of working together as ONE team!

We as engineers should be communicating with the musicians and vocalists all the time. (And if that’s not how your team currently works, why don’t you take initiative and take the first steps to build that connection!!)

Teamwork makes the dream work!!!

For example:

  • If the guitar amplifier is too loud on stage, talk to the guitarist and ask them to turn it down and have a win/win.
  • If the vocalists are not singing loud enough, talk to them and work as a team, the end result will be better for everyone!
  • Lean into the music that’s being created; chat with the band about what sound they’re going for, and work with them to achieve that result!

5. Keep it dynamic

Give character and momentum to the songs. Don’t be afraid to turn it down in quiet moments or turn it up on build-ups. Hear the people sing. Something that works for me is to make my verses quieter than my choruses. And don’t forget to save some extra decibels for your last chorus!! Build the excitement.

6. Keeping the main goal in mind!

My goal as a FOH engineer is to remove any audio/technical distractions that might take away people’s focus from having a unique and significant experience with God. Along with having fun and making great sounding music, the ultimate satisfaction for me is seeing people truly connected and engaged in worship!

Omar Sierra
(Hillsong Young & Free FOH Engineer)