Tips for Better Mixing

One thing’s for sure. You will only learn how to mix multi-track songs together by doing and reading and learning and failing and reading some more.

The reason for this little article is not to discourage, but rather to ENcourage you to go for it!! You won’t be able to magically pull up a great mix out of thin air, ya just gotta dig in and get to it! If you’re not in the position to work in a studio or to record tracks at your place, then there are plenty of multi-track recordings for free you can pull from the internet.

Mixing is an art form that begins with understanding the architecture of the final product before or as recording occurs. Or, if a mixer is for-hire and not involved in the recording, the mixer should receive specific notes from the producer as to what the final product should sound like; what instruments are to be featured or what tracks are experimental and not final. In the absence of any direction, the mixer is going to create what THEY feel and hear is the best representation of the song. It’s all about the song! The producer may or may not agree with the mixer’s assessment. Since a huge part of THAT equation is all about successful relationships, here’s hoping for some great communication between the two.

On the other hand, some very well recorded material is going to speak for itself. When microphones are set up well and then engineers just get out of the way of good musicians, real synergy is created between heart, mind and soul! You will hear exactly how a song should be presented. Sadly, this is not always going to be the case, but we hope for the best.

To quote a famous engineer psuedo-named Mixerman:

“A great mix is one that brings the production of a great song to it’s fullest potential while effectively manipulating the listener’s emotions and focus, thereby forcing an appropriate and desired physical reaction while simultaneously causing the listener to sing.”

What a mouthful! I guess the best way to explain that is for you to pick up a copy of his book, Zen and the Art of Mixing.

But just to continue this line of thought: Remember, it’s all about the song. If the song is weak, the mix is irrelevent. A well-written song is going allow for a great mix. If a song is not well-written, it may turn out to sound OK, but a thoughtful approach to the desired end result when writing the song is going to make all the difference in the world as far as the potential of the mix.

Mixing is more about an attitude than it is about the technical aspects. Sure, you need to know some technical aspects. You need to yearn to GO BEYOND thinking that a mix is only the technical aspect.

A well-written song is one that takes the listener on a journey and pulls at the heart. A good sounding mix can come from less of a song, but a GREAT sounding mix is borne from the best written ones.

Keep Worship Songs Simple

The line between cliche and simple is really not easy! For me, I find that approaching writing for congregational flows around, ‘how can I say what I want in as few words as possible while remaining conversational?’ That usually is the key for me. When I write, I tend to be very wordy and then cut it down from there without losing the meaning.

Otherwise, when I approach it from the simple angle or try beginning with few words first, cliche comes to rear it’s ugly head!

On the other hand, thinking simple can work for simple praise tunes:

Humbly I will come
And simply I will pray
Father, hear me
Show your way

The thing about simple (whether beginning from few words or the pared down angle) is that focus is magnified. In the stanza above, I was thinking, ‘I will come and and I will pray and submit’. Nothing more. It’s really hard not to try and place the whole salvation message in a song, but there are many messages that need to be told about Him other than the cross. The focus on this was coming humbly, praying and submitting. Otherwise, forced rhyme city comes a-visitin’!

Sometimes, even what appears simple can be even leaner and have a more powerful focus on your message. I could have begun with:

Humbly I will come before You
And simply from my heart I’ll pray
Father, hear my cry of anguish
Show me how to make my way

I might then think: hmmm 8 syllables is a bit much for a worship tune. It’s not that 8 syllables is bad, it’s that making it simpler/shorter is probably best for the listener to remember.

‘Humbly I will come’ says the same thing
‘And simply I will pray’ says the same thing
‘Father, hear me’ doesn’t convey the ‘anguish’ component, but mostly says the same thing. Will it work if I leave ‘anguish’ out??
‘Show Your way’ pretty much says the same thing. Put it all together. Does this work to convey my original message? Am I fooling myself into being cliche, or am I really conveying the message? Am I diluting the message of the Spirit? Will this edify the body?

The last thought on this: writing and using simple hooks help to keep the focus and overshadow any mundane words or possible cliches. The fact that I decided to use ‘Humbly I wll’ and ‘Simply I will’ was an intentional alliteration/inner rhyme hook.

Have fun writing today!

What is CCLI? Important!!

What is CCLI?

Christian Copyright Licensing International, http://www.ccli.com, is an organization founded with the idea in mind that all songs used by churches should be catalogued so as to bless the songwriters with any income the songs might generate.

Primarily, they were founded to help churches comply with copyright law.

A CCLI song number is a number given by CCLI for each song registered with them in order to track usage and to pay the owner of rights any monies that they collect. Churches have the responsibility to report usage (usually, only random churches are selected, depending on the size of the church).

Copyright law states that churches are EXEMPT from paying for PERFORMANCE of songs, but they’re not exempt from liability of distribution of COPIES of the lyrics, whether or overheads or lead sheets, etc.)

CCLI exists in order to grant churches licenses to cover these distributions.

I know, the opinion exists that songs in churches should be free, no matter who wrote the songs. Although no church organization has been sued for copyright infringement, the real possibility exists, and the truth is that churches ARE in copyright violation if they distribute works from Hillsongs, Chris Tomlin, Israel Houghton, and on…AND, why not BLESS these songwriters for their contributions?

(the full story on Performance rights is that there are Performance Rights Organizations in each country. Here in the US they are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. These organizations license restaurants, night clubs and other venues to play copyrighted works. These organizations in turn pay the holder of rights of songs, publishers and songwriters, depending on how much the songs are played. Churches are the only organizations in the this country granted exemption from performance as stated in copyright law.

How other royalties are paid is another story. CCLI is an organization that helps churches comply with the rest of copyright law. So, they’re exempt from performance but not from distribution of lyrics. )

CCLI will grant a license to a church or church organization with the cost being determined by the size of the church or church organization. CCLI will give an identifiying number for each organization. Churches then report their actual uses of songs (not all churches have to, but your church might be picked randomly) so they can bless the songwriters.

HERE’S WHERE WE COME IN: Songwriters and publishers can apply to CCLI to become a publisher or an administrator and then submit songs to them in so they can be listed with them. CCLI will send you a song number. The song number is how a songwriter can be credited for usage.

Church administration, here’s where you come in: visit ccli.com and seek a Church Copyright License.

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Ok, that’s it for CCLI as far as songwriters are concerned.

I to take it one step further to say that CCLI also grants licenses for reahearsals of songs (mp3 distribution). The sound recording is a separate copyright, Again, why not help bless the songwriter? Even though the formula for how the artist/songwriter gets paid from this in the end result will vary, churches are in violation of copyright law unless they have a license.

1) Let our worship and music leaders at church know so they can be legal

2) Register our original songs we wish to use in church with CCLI

ANYONE here can register with ccli.com as a publisher or an administrator. This is not one of those ‘this levels the playing field’ type of come-ons. This is serious stuff.

If anyone is serious about their songwriting in churches, they should do this. Do this if you are a prolific writer and wish to share your songs with other churches.

If anyone here is NOT interested in registering with CCLI, but wish to have any of their songs registered with them, let me know. I am a publisher registered with them, and I’ll be glad to submit your song.

What happens when you submit your song? At this date, they want the title, writer and publisher information for the song and the lyrics. They will only ask for any lead sheet or mp3 submissions after your song has been reported as used by two or three churches.

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Recap:

Songwriters: learn how to submit your songs to CCLI.com so they have a song registration number.

Churches: visit CCLI.com and obtain a Church Copyright License (this covers the overhead and physical distribution of copyrighted lyrics). It doesn’t cost big money. Churches, also obtain a Church Rehearsal License (this covers the distribution of recordings of songs used by the worship team). Also not big money, and well worth it.

A Beginning Study of Melody

Great topic!  It’s a great study, and a great part of the songwriting craft that needs attention.  “Taking the listener on an adventure” is a part of that.  Creating tension and release is a part of that.

Yes, it’s great to listen to successful music to get ideas on how to hone and create melodies.  It’s good to be careful about copying, but as far as I know, there’s no tool out there that would let you know whether or not you have.

But consider this study of two very famous songs, and then make up your own mind.  Over the Rainbow and The Christmas Song.

I’ll give the basic melodies in number form (where 1 equals the root note and 8 equals the octave note of the scale).

In Over the Rainbow, we have:

1, 8, 7, 5, 6, 7, 8

6, 6, 5

In The Christmas Song, we have:

1, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 3, 3

6, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

You can not only SEE the similarities, but you can HEAR them clearly!  Was The Christmas Song considered a rip-off of Over the Rainbow?  You be the judge.  In the case of a court of law, no one has challenged this (that I’m aware of.  And we probably all would have heard about it if there was a case.)

I take this lesson to heart in this way:  As King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “there’s nothing new under the sun”.  There are only so many notes to work with.  We can look at this situation in three ways.  1) the writer of The Christmas Song ripped off  Over the Rainbow or 2) the writer of The Christmas Song completely wrote a similar melody that blindly sounds similar to Over the Rainbow or 3) the writer of The Christmas Song deftly utilized a similar approach in creating his melody that he heard in what has turned out to be one of the most successful songs in our history, Over the Rainbow.

As Christ followers,  I know that we want to be sure to honor God with our best creations.  He provides inspiration, but he also gives us tools to hone our inspirations so they are well-communicated to the rest of the flock.  To learn from other successful songs is only natural.  And wise.

We just can’t blatantly copy.  But we should be smart and listen/understand the melodic structure of successful songs.

Steve