Unique challenges often bring unique opportunities. For those of us who are involved in musical…
By Grant Norsworthy
The good folk at MyMix Audio loaned me a comprehensive myMix system to do this review. It was delivered in a very professional, road-worn, big, black flight case – the type of case that seems to scream “IMPORTANT GEAR WITHIN”. I felt important taking delivery and was excited to see what was inside.
But any self-importance quickly subsided when it took me way too long just to figure out how to open the case. Those tricky latches! That ought to tell you a bit about my level of tech-competence. Keep that in mind as you read on.
I’m a musician. I am not a technician. And like many musicians, I often struggle with technology. I’d even go as far as to say that I am somewhat technically challenged. When I’m playing music or singing, I can feel like I have very few brain cells left over for dealing with technological complexities. I don’t want to have to make monitor adjustments while I’m leading a Church congregation to sing songs of praise to God. It can derail me badly!
In that way, I think I am like most church singers and instrumentalists. Some of us often feel like we’re on the outer edge of our ability and preparation level. And now, not only do we have to sing and play, we’re also required to be our own monitor mix engineer using tech gear like the myMix. And, for many, it can seem beyond us.
In my opinion, the biggest, most important factor to consider with a monitor console is not what it can do, but how smoothly the musicians who use it can get from it what they need.
At a glance, the myMix console looks nice and simple. Good-sized screen. One big push-to-select dial. Six backlit, flush-mount buttons. Sturdy construction. Clean design. With some imagination, he looks a bit like the face of a friendly robot! In fact, this guy looks like something … someone I might learn to like. Even his name suggests that he’s here to help me!
But let me be clear: The myMix is the BEAST of personal mixing consoles! It’s technologically very impressive. This piece of kit has more layers, more capabilities, more features than any other personal mixing console that I have experienced before. Heck, this little myMix robot head does some things that many FOH consoles only dream about!
The myMix is an outstandingly good personal monitor console, made (I am sure) by that rare breed of people who are both tech boffins AND highly creative music lovers. I can tell that serious consideration has been given to make the myMix as inviting and user-friendly as possible, while still retaining a high level of functionality. It sounds great. It’s well made. Has every function any church musician could possibly want – and more that we (perhaps) don’t yet realize we want.
So I’m a bit worried. How has the age-old struggle between features and usability, between technology and functionality been resolved in the myMix? It does so much from such a small package that compromises have had to be made. It’s inevitable.
Having now spent a bunch of hours over a whole week messing about with the myMix console – playing and singing through it and exploring its many features – I feel reasonably comfortable navigating through the different layers and options. And overall, I REALLY like it.
With three quite simple movements of my hand, I can find the track I want to adjust, select it and then change the level. Four steps to change pan or effect levels. On some other consoles, these adjustments can be made in two steps, and everything’s there, constantly visible and in two dimensions right in front of the user. Easier to use, for sure.
With the myMix, I sometimes have to think, read and operate through a layer or two of screen information. I never felt like I was operating through a keyhole. More like having to move through vertical folders in a filing cabinet drawer to find what I want.
I’m a little embarrassed to tell you that, a few times, I found myself touching the screen, imagining I could select items like I can on my smart phone. But myMix does not have a touch screen. At times, I got a little lost trying to find and adjust what I wanted, even though I’d found that same item several times before.
Other times, I’d select a track, make an adjustment, play and listen and, if I took longer than 5 seconds to decide if any further adjustment was necessary and get my hand back on the dial, myMix would assume I was done and deselect my track automatically. Now, turning the dial would change tracks rather than adjust volume. (Insert the sound of a musician’s brain cells dying)
So the myMix is not the easiest-to-use digital personal monitor mixer out there – especially for techno-challenged musicians like me.
BUT, I am willing to work with those operational layers because of some simply brilliant and innovative myMix features that I am really excited about. It turns out that myMix is far more than just a personal monitor mix console!
- It’s also a multitrack recorder!
Using a removable SD card for storage, with a push of a button, you can create a multitrack recording of your ensemble’s performance. The recording can be played back and played along with right there on the myMix. It can be shared with other myMix consoles. If you want to, the WAV files can easily be imported from the SD card to a computer program (like ProTools, Logic or GarageBand), modified, corrected and then brought back to your myMix consoles. Or the recording could be exported as a stereo audio file for sharing. It’s a live recording of YOUR band’s version of the song!
- It’s a tool for personal practice like no other!
The myMix unit does not need to be part of the network to operate. It can stand alone with the use of the included power supply. You can plug 1 or 2 microphones or 1/4” instrument jacks straight into the myMix and play along with the other musicians connected to the network, or with the music on the SD card. Individual team members could prepare songs with your whole “virtual” band on their own. If you trust them enough with the console, they could take it home!
To me, this is a game changer. MyMix provides the tools necessary to greatly reduce some of the biggest obstacles to higher quality music in the Church.
You see, many contemporary church musicians struggle to:
- properly practice and prepare a song before rehearsal,
- create a manageable, musical part for themselves with only a wall-of-sound pro recording to reference,
- learn a song well from a chord chart and a recording that are in different keys, have different structures or maybe even different chords,
- remember how they were directed to play the song last time they were rostered!
Used well, the myMix can provide the tools needed to solve some of your biggest, musical headaches.
Can you imagine this? You get your band together to learn a new song. You work together to create YOUR band’s version of the song, in YOUR key, with YOUR parts that are simple enough for all YOUR team members to replicate. You find YOUR consolidated, congregational way of singing the melody. No more confusion about which solo singer licks from the radio hit to include and which to leave out! You record it with the touch of a button.
You can now provide each team member with YOUR version of the song for them to practice and revise with at home. Rehearsals are far smoother. The songs that are presented to the congregation are more together. You have a reference version of the song that you know will best invite YOUR congregation to participate. YOUR people are more warmly invited to sing worshipfully to God.
And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
I know that it’s usually a tech-head who decides what sort of personal monitor mixing console a church is going to use – and you’re probably a techie if you’re reading this review. Techies buy them, but it’s mainly musicians who use them. So here are my bottom lines: If you’re going to go with a myMix system for your team of church musicians’ and singers’ monitoring, GREAT choice BUT:
- Make sure the units are properly installed and set up by someone who is both technically proficient and knows how musicians think. Take time to properly configure your units before team members even see them!
- Your team members will need to be fully and well trained on, not only how to use this particular unit, but also on what sound they should be shooting for with a monitor mix.
- Make sure the team have a good amount of time to become familiar with the unit before the pressure of a church service, or even a rehearsal. Maybe let them take a unit home and mess around with it like I have for a week. It’ll make a world of difference.
- Clearly communicate the imperative that singers and instrumentalists deliver the same signal levels from soundcheck, to rehearsal, to service. Emphasize the ideal of not needing any distracting monitor adjustment being made during the service.
- Early in each user’s experience, make sure that someone who really knows what they are doing listens in to their mix. That person – the audio tech or the MD – will need to be ready to step in, make suggestions, and even use the facility within the myMix system to suggest a modified mix to them.
- MyMix is not the cheapest personal monitor console out there. If you’re going to go to the extra expense of buying this system, make sure you’re ready to use the features that are available – especially the record feature. It’s a winner in my book.
If all this is out of reach, maybe myMix is not for you. There are other cheaper options with less tech depth. But if you have a good dose of tech-knowhow and get-it-done work ethic to support the musicality within your team (and I hope you do!) myMix just might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.