There are many battles in church on Sunday: What color will the nursery walls be? Which usher will get the coveted center isle? What greeter will have to stand in the rain or the comfort of the auditorium doorway? But the most heated battle on Sunday is really between the band and the sound mixer. Many church services have suffered greatly because of the disconnect between these two, often very distinct, personalities. The Gladiators enter the ring and the battle begins: soundcheck.
SPOILER ALERT: Musicians and techs don’t think alike! Shocker! I know. But the truth of the matter is that, in a healthy environment, both are striving for the same goal – the same outcome – to lead the people in the seats to an amazing connection with God through music and creative expression. This connection will be broken or at least bruised if we don’t approach it as one team – moving in one fluid motion.
We can all play the blame game, but each one of us is responsible for our role in making our services happen. As someone who sat in “that chair” at front-of-house for ten years I believe that the sound mixer not only controls the mix, but also the temperature of the room. Let’s look at some steps to keep the thermostat on the best setting.
Get ahead of the game and find out exactly what’s happening before game day. Stage plots and input lists are crucial in being prepared. With all the tools at our disposal today there is no excuse for not being prepared. Programs as simple as Paint and Google Sketch-Up – both of which are accentually free – can help you virtually set up the stage before you arrive. If your church uses Planning Center you can use the Stage Layout function to get an idea of what goes where.
All too often the sound team arrives just before the band and sets up as the band is setting up.
Let’s face it. One of the reasons many of us serve in tech is that we want to be “behind the scenes”. If you are the sound mixer, you will have to interact with the band – no matter your gifting or personality. When the band arrives, go up on stage and hang out with them. Say, “Hi.” If you don’t know anyone, introduce yourself. Help them set up. Yes, help them! Note that you will have time for this because you are prepared and everything is ready.
Check in with the worship leader.
When the worship leader arrives, make sure you greet them and ask them if there is anything you can do for them. Most worship leaders have a lot on their mind as they hit sound check. Making them feel comfortable will go a long way to making the sound check and the services go smoothly. The worship leader needs to be confident that you are “on the same team”.
Put the band first.
Minimize chaos and be consistent.
Sound checks can get out of control quickly so work out the system you intend to use with your worship leader in advance – not in front of the band and singers. One of the best sound check methods is to direct all communication between the stage and the sound booth through the worship leader or, if you have one, the music director. One person asking for changes minimizes chaos and honors the leader. Bottom line, find what works for your team and use that method every time. Musicians may be unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean they like that trait in others – especially the sound mixer.
Attitude is everything.
I would venture to say that most techs are a little on the dark, sarcastic, and cynical side. While I personally love that, it doesn’t always sit well with the band. Most techs do not realize how much courage it takes to step out on stage and put your talent and reputation up for critique by hundreds or thousands of people each weekend. Your support, not only technically, but personally, can really make a difference in how they play and act on stage during the set.
Walk across the room.
If you are not friends with your band and singers already, start today. You will find they are great people with families, jobs, successes, and failures in their lives just like you. Some of the greatest friendships I have today started in bands I ran sound for many years ago.
Pray for them with your team.
Whether you pray with your tech team before the service or it’s just you by yourself, pray for each member on stage. Prayer blesses both the giver and the receiver and God loves unity.
Relax and have fun.
Remember, we don’t have to mix in church; we get to mix in church. We get to be a part of a team that is telling the greatest story on earth. Never forget that God has given you this opportunity.
A great relationship between sound mixer and those on stage is one of the most critical things in any church situation. If you don’t have a great relationship already, don’t wait around for someone else to fix it. Step out of your comfort zone and start making some changes. Better yet, have a meeting with your worship leader and start a dialog on how they can help you make these changes. They will love you for it.