In my early years as a volunteer “Sound Guy” at my local Church I had the opportunity to mix sound for a wonderfully talented worship leader/pastor, Sam. Sam had the ability to engage the congregation at a number of different spiritual levels, and at the same time he could also play guitar and sing as well as anyone I have ever met. However my challenge at the time was in mixing and maintaining an adequate monitor mix for Sam, as well as those who performed alongside of Sam in the worship band, who shared the same monitor and monitor mix as Sam.
At the time we were limited to only two separate monitor feeds where we used Monitor 1 for the instrumentalists (drummer, bass, guitar, keyboard) to share. Monitor 2 was for the vocalists, which included Sam, who also played lead acoustic guitar. So the goal (as it is for any monitor mix) was to ensure the mix was a fair balance of what most everyone needed to hear, while ensuring that at the very least all the vocalists could hear themselves in the mix enough so they could keep in tune with each other.
My challenge from a sound perspective was that Sam would typically always need more of his vocals, or his acoustic guitar in Monitor 2, to the exclusion of anything else in that same monitor mix, which was shared by 2 or 3 individuals. And while I would think the monitor mix sounded fairly well balanced, Sam would always want more of him. In any event it earned me a great deal of experience in the art of diplomacy, in working with Sam to insure he was comfortable with what he was hearing in his mix, but to also ensure that the others who were sharing that same mix did not get totally lost in the mix.
At times it could be as simple as not turning the level up on what Sam was asking for, but to instead turn the level down on some other parts of the mix that would allow Sam to hear himself better. “Less is More” a great deal of the time from the perspective of adjusting levels in a sound mix. But if this created problems for other performers using the same mix, then this is not always the best solution.
At other times employing a little audio misdirection would do the trick. Specifically, it was sometimes enough to wave to Sam with your hand on the sound board, and ask him if that was now better as I pretended to adjust whatever level he was asking for more of. Sam might still ask for a little more, which I would again promptly wave and adjust by the same amount (0). More times than not, this would be enough to make Sam more than happy with what he was hearing.
To be fair I would generally try and adjust the levels if Sam needed something, but if it was compromising things to the extent that Sam’s vocals and guitar was all that could be heard in the mix, then a little misdirection could sometimes yield the best compromise.
Fast forward to today. We made the move to a digital console about 5 years ago, and at the same time made the decision to move to Aviom personal monitor mixers, rather than the standard floor wedges that we had utilized for the 15 years prior to that. So Sam can now have as much of his vocals or guitar in the mix as he desires, because he is the only one will hear that mix. Conversely all of the other performers can have as much or as little of Sam’s guitar and vocals in their mix as they would like, allowing them to hear themselves as more clearly then when they would share a mix with Sam.