One of the hardest parts of our job is mixing sub-optimal sounds.
The frustrating part is when it’s the fault of a musician and you and I don’t have the authority to say anything.
Don’t misunderstand me…I’m not saying I demand professional level musicianship from the band.
I’m saying there are times when they need to be better.
Let’s back up…
Recently, some articles have been focused not on the technical aspect of your work but on the human aspect of what you do. The first was a guest post from my pastor on his view of church audio and the roles of sound techs. The second article focused on how you can enlist the worship team to help you after the service.
Keeping with the theme this week of purpose and teamwork, let’s look at working with problem musicians.
This month, I’ve received quite a few emails from people asking how they can deal with problem musicians. Mind you, these usually aren’t musicians who are intentionally causing problems. They are musicians, singers included, who have adopted poor habits or aren’t able to perform at the level expected of them.
The result is you and I have a harder time creating a solid mix and the congregation suffers.
But what can you do?
As the sound tech, you don’t have authority over the worship leader or the musicians. You can’t tell them what to do or how to do it. That is to say, not in the ways that are usually ascribed to those in leadership. There are ways you can help, however, as you’ll soon learn.
I’ve seen a few problem musicians myself. Thankfully, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any more. But looking back, all of the problems could easily be corrected when the right steps were taken while keeping in mind their emotional well-being.
The three typical problem musicians
There are three typical “problems” I have seen with musicians. Their hearts are in the right place but they don’t realize the impact of what they’re doing.
1. The amp lover. The amp lover is the easiest to correct of the three. The problem they present is insisting their amp be the source of their audio feed (mic’d or not) all the while having it pointed at their knees and cranked too loud.
They simply love their tone but don’t know how to make it work with the mix.
2. The stylizing singer. Singers are on the stage to do one of two things; lead the congregation or support the lead singer in the case of background singers. When they sing outside of their expected melody, then they are no longer leading or they are no longer harmonizing.
They simply sing more freely than they should and it’s hard on the other singers/congregation to follow along.
3. The double-duty musician. There are some musicians who can sing and play an instrument at the same time while doing both tasks very well. And there are those who can’t. A musician might say “God has blessed me with a great voice and a love for the [insert instrument] so I feel I should use both gifts at the same time.” Just because God blesses someone with two similar talents doesn’t mean he’s telling them to use both at the same time.
Their heart is in the right place but when their double-duty results in doing one or both tasks poorly, then their sound suffers, other musicians have problems, and the mix suffers.