Through careful planning and maintenance, your worship service can avoid unnecessary bumps in the road.
March 01, 2011, by Gary Zandstra
Talking with sound technicians and worship leaders, I often hear the complaint that from week to week the quality of Sunday morning varies.
I have determined some of this is from training, like when there is a problem and the sound tech doesn’t know how to fix it. Some of it is skill; some sound guys just have a better ear and command of the equipment than others.
On the same hand the skill level of the musicians may also vary. I have found that with inexperienced musicians the level they are playing can fluctuate greatly.
I attribute this to their lack of confidence. When they know the song they “bang” it out. When they are unsure, they hold back.
Today I would like to focus on another contributor to the problem of inconsistency: equipment status and organization.
It’s 5 minutes before the start of the service and you’re sweating bullets as you have to set up 4 additional players that the worship leader never told you in advance were “joining in with the band”.
You’re thinking, “Great, no time for sound check, much less a simple line check!”
You dutifully plug in the mics and direct box needed and position them as best you can. You then high tail it to the sound booth as fast as you can for the start of the service.
Thankfully you make it in time to guess at the input gain and monitor levels, say a quick prayer and unmute those channels for the opening song.
Then it happens, that infamous bzzzzzzzzzzzzz that makes every sound guys hair stand on end!
You throw on you headphone and determine it’s the direct box that the bass player is plugged into. This is when you’re forced to make a split decision as what you should do.
You decided rather than race to the stage to see if the line chord from the bass is bad, the ground lift on the direct box needs to be switched or if your mic chord is bad, you will just mute the bass players channel and work on the mix.
Plus your thinking at least his bas rig on the stage is working and that will spill into the house.
So, how many of you have had this happen to you? Was it preventable? Of course it was! Feel free to let us know in the comments below!
As I always say it’s the simple stuff that kills you. So, how could all this have been prevented?
Preempting Equipment Failure
Lets look at the 5 things that should have been done before the sweat and bzzzzzzzz fest.
1. Basic maintenance
On a regular basis check all your chords. See my previous article on this.
Also, organize your cables in a logical manner. Personally, I hang them on a peg board sorted by length. This way if you do encounter a bad cable you know exactly where to go to grab a replacement.
It goes without saying that you should have at least two spare cables for each variety of cable you are using. For example you should have extra 1/4 to 1/4, XLR male to female, 1/8 to RCA. Whatever cables and adaptors you use have spares, and know where they are!
Make sure that you know exactly how many inputs and what type of inputs that you will have from the band on Sunday morning and have them set up and tested ahead of time.
Ask the worship leader (and ask often) if there is anything else you need to know. Even for those of us who prepare ahead of time surprises can happen.
This past Sunday I had all 6 vocal hand held mics in use and 10 minutes before the service I noticed on the worship order a missions report was scheduled.
Right away flags went up as I figured the update was not going to be from one of the pastors (they all wear headset mics) and thus an additional handheld would be needed. I quickly found one of the worship team singers and coordinated a “handoff” of their mic to the pastor doing announcements.
Thus, the pastor handed the mic to the person giving the mission trip update and then would make sure it got back to the worship team member before the next musical package.
Typically we as a group (the pastors, worship leaders and the tech team) communicate very effectively, this just slipped through the cracks and thankfully I have a habit of running down the worship order and visualizing the transitions before the service starts.
The bottom line is error on over communicating and asking question!
4. Plan ahead.
Normally the above scenario would not have been an issue as we always keep a hand held wireless on a stand in front of the stage, “just in case”. But as I mentioned, we had all 6 handhelds being used by the worship team.
In retrospect if I had been properly planning ahead, I would have placed a wired handheld in front of the stage.
Always have some sort of Plan B in place if something goes wrong and communicate that plan to everyone onstage for the service.
5. Have a party!
Once every 3 to 6 months the entire tech team should get together to go through all of the equipment. This will help determine if equipment is missing, in need of repair or in need of replacement.
It will also give the tech team the opportunity to give input on additional equipment that is needed as well as organize the accessories (cables, stands, etc.) that you have.
Gary Zandstra is a professional AV systems integrator with Parkway Electric and has been involved with sound at his church for more than 25 years.