One of the biggest challenges when comes to Programming in churches is getting the sound right. So many factors need to be considered: volume, singers, musicians, atmosphere, band, room, acoustics, and why not say one more time: VOLUME.
I’m not the sound engineer in my church, but as someone in charge of the tech crew, I feel for my guys. The main challenge comes from the fact that the sound person has to combine all the variables I mentioned above and, in the end, the result is to make everything sound right to everyone’s ears, both in the auditorium and on the stage.
Thousands of sound guys struggle with this reality every weekend in churches all over the United States, so I thought this blog might help you to find encouragement and few ways to make your task easier and productive.
I spent some time with my sound engineer, Dan Metro, to talk about some techniques and strategies that help him to run sound for us many weekends. Dan makes us sound really good, but here is how:
Dan shared the value of being prepared for each service. Preparation does not apply only to those folks on stage and in front of the audience, but also to everyone involved in weekend services behind the scenes.
He mentioned the importance of knowing what the band set up is ahead of time. We communicate with him on a weekly basis. Usually on Mondays he has all the information needed for the weekend service. This communication is done via email. Dan also has access to Planning Center Online (www.planningcenteronline.com), however, where he will find information regarding: musicians, singers, soloists, service order, and stage set up. From weekend to weekend, set styles may change, and having this information ahead of time helps him to prepare whatever is necessary for sound for each weekend service.
With this information at hand, Dan arrives at the church one hour before rehearsal and starts preparing mics, cables, connections, etc. By the time the singers and musicians arrive for rehearsal, whatever they need is ready to go. This procedure saves time, and rehearsal can be about practicing songs and not about catching up on what everyone needs to rehearse. The PA, monitors, and other devices are all set and ready to go.
Dan mentioned that the key for happiness between sound booth and stage is clear and open lines of communication. You need to discover how to make your artist happy. Dan made the point that if the musicians/singers are not comfortable on stage, if they do not have what they need to sing and play instruments, they will not feel free to worship. Your job is to do whatever you can to allow them to feel comfortable on stage and meet their needs (to a certain measure). They need to be at a point where they can relax to perform better.
During rehearsals I’ve noticed that Dan focuses on the team. Whatever they need during rehearsal, Dan will do whatever he can to give it to them. Dan knows that when singers and musician ask questions, they are not audio technicians. Therefore most likely they don’t understand the dynamics that go behind the board, and the way to respond to questions translates into how much you want help them. Give simple answers and allow them to know that you are there for them. After all, it does not matter if this is a paid position or a volunteer position, you are there to serve. If singers and musician have a bad attitude, it’s not your job to fix that. Allow the pastor in charge to handle the situation in a professional and graceful way. For you, all is left is to establish a good relationship with everyone.
Dan has an interesting approach to house mix. He asks himself, What does it sound like with the PA off? Dan says that this is a great way to just add to the mix what you need to make the house mix sound right for your congregation. After you are done pleasing the folks on stage, turn your attention to the house mix. During rehearsal you have the opportunity to find the limit on your system: how far can you take the mix, how loud can you play before you hear any feedback, how much the singers change their vocal performance from one song to another, and how that will affect your house mix. Rehearsal time is also the time to take notes and try new things. If you are in a church where the worship set changes styles frequently, this exercise will help you to find the right house mix and allow your congregation to have the next experience on weekends.
At the end of the day, you are looking for clarity in sound. It has to sound clear. This will depend a lot on speaker set up and position, acoustics of the room, sound board, installation, even the quality of singers and musicians. But no matter what your current configuration is, you can always aim for the best possible scenario if you know your system well and have your heart in the right place.
Now, let’s mix…