When I’m training technical teams at the churches I work with, one of the first questions I ask is, “Do any of you play a musical instrument?”
I usually get one or two people who say that they play some type of instrument.
But it’s a trick question, because the next question I ask usually results in silence while they take it in: “Do you realize that the sound board is every bit an instrument as any of the ones on the stage?”
No one ever thinks it does. And that’s a shame.
Every tech who runs the sound board is a musician, whether they realize it or not. Which is also why they are every bit a part of the worship team as any of the other musicians.
The difference between the musicians on stage and the tech folks are unique. Most of the musicians on stage will have played their instrument for a substantial number of years. They also have at least one of their preferred instruments at home.
Sound techs probably got recruited and have never worked on a mixer until they got to church. They also probably don’t have a mixer at home.
The other main difference is that while a musician on stage could probably flub a note or miss a cue and no one, unless it was really horrendous or there’s a musician in the audience, won’t really notice.
If the sound tech flubs something or misses a cue EVERYONE notices and invariably will do the mongoose thing and look directly at you from their seats.
So while the sound techs are every bit as important as the musicians on stage, their role, because they affect everything sound-related, is more critical to get it right.
So now that the sound techs have it in their noggin that they are actually musicians, they need to understand what that means. Musicians practice on their instrument until it becomes a part of them. Muscle memory builds with practice and after a while their instrument becomes an extension of themselves.
Sound techs need to do the same thing. The biggest problem for most techs is that their instrument is only at church. So how do you practice? If you can get into church you can always plug music into the system through a computer.
Yes, you’re only playing around with one or two channels, but you can still see how adjustments in EQ or FX make a difference in the way the songs sounds, and more importantly, in how it feels.
You can also download software such as Reaper, which is shareware that will allow you to bring in a multitrack recording and play back the different instruments one at a time or all at once so you can see how different instruments and vocals sound.
If you don’t have access to a multitrack recording see if a big church in your area will give you a copy of one of theirs. If they’ve got a digital board they’ll be able to do it.
The other things that the sound tech as a musician needs to do is to rehearse the music. If you don’t know the music, and know how the worship leader wants the dynamics of the song to go, you can’t do the song justice.
While you can leave the fader levels all at the same setting for every song and let the worship team handle the dynamics, part of your job is to enhance what the team on stage is doing with the song.
For every song that has quiet and loud parts, the sound-tech-as-musician can drastically enhance and fortify the dynamics, making the song that much more powerful for the congregation. Quieting the song during the quiet passages allows the intimacy of the song to come out and envelope the congregation. It also allows the congregation to hear themselves sing and draws them into the song.
Bringing the dynamics up during louder passages allows the celebration of the song to ring out and also gets the congregation to sing louder and feel less self-conscious.
Don’t believe me? Try it with Mercy Me’s Emmanuel (God With Us). Practice it with the recorded version. Leave the faders alone, close your eyes and listen to how the song makes you feel. Then do it again but this time bringing the faders down in the soft passages and bring them up in the louder passages. Now compare how that version made you feel.
Once you and the worship leaders build up the trust needed so that you become integral to the success of the worship team, you’ll be amazed and how well worship will sound.
Brian Gowing has helped over 30 churches meet their technology requirements. Brian works towards shepherding the church, analyzing their technical requirements, sourcing the equipment, installing the equipment and training the volunteer personnel. As he likes to say, “equipping the saints with technology to help spread the Good News.” Contact Brian here.