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Church Sound: The Delicate Dance Between Engineer & Stage Team
Mixing worship is much more than turning knobs -- it requires thick skin, a quick wit, and a sprinkling of political acumen...
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According to an old axiom, “Everyone knows two things: their job and sound.” In other words, every audience member is an audio expert. Therefore, it is difficult to deliver a “good” mix since what is proper tonal and level balance to one person is inappropriate to another.

A healthy relationship between the front of house engineer and the audience rests on the engineer’s ability to provide a mix acceptable to a plurality of the listeners’ ears. To achieve success, the mix should deliver intelligible vocals, a solid combination of melody instruments, and enough low-end and rhythm to cement the song together.

The relationship between the engineer and the stage team, however, requires a more nuanced approach. Since the stage personnel and the engineer interact continually, mutual trust and respect must be created and maintained in order for the relationship to flourish.

Additionally, since the engineer is the only member of the team who is also a member of the audience, he must be given wide latitude in molding a mix appropriate for the listeners.

Finally, since the interaction is multi-lateral, the FOH mixer should cultivate a deft touch dealing with simultaneous and conflicting requests from the stage. Fortunately, these idealistic goals can be turned into reality by following a few guidelines developed from decades of experience.

Team Flexibility & Responsibility
From the engineer’s perspective, relationship management is a triad based on sincere concern for the team, a desire to reach the audience, and a personal drive to perform at the highest level. Mixing audio is a dependent task; it requires other people in order to function.

More succinctly, if the band doesn’t show up, there is nothing to do. Unfortunately, some engineers hold the opposite viewpoint. They contend their experience and golden ears should rule the day. The resulting contentious barter between the booth and the stage undermines the goal of providing an environment conducive to worship.

Astute worship musicians,understand the team’s role as servant leaders to the congregation. In the same vein, the engineer’s job can be classified as servant-servant, in the sense our responsibility is to undergird the team so they can usher the congregation into worship.

Therefore, an engineer’s empathy is more important than their ability. Engineers must see issues from the team’s perspective in order to transform from glorified knob-jockey to valued team member.


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