Over the past several years, I’ve had the privilege of being a musical performer and worship leader, as well as a church sound engineer and technician.
This has provided unique perspective from both sides of the platform; what I’ve learned on one side has helped me do better on the other side, and vice versa.
Through this process, I’ve noted several problems and solutions that apply to the technical side, the creative side, and both. I’ve refined these observations and practices into what I call the “Seven Deadly Sins.” Let’s get started.
Deadly Sin #1: Messing with the stage mix. Few things are more frustrating for a musician than a bad mix on stage. We’re a picky lot, and further, when an acceptable stage mix is achieved, we don’t want it to change.
Therefore, the first rule for the sound mixer is avoid adjusting input gain once a service has started. Even a slight adjustment can be a HUGE detriment.
Also, please don’t mess with monitor sends during a service. Certainly there have been times when the stage is too loud - often, we musicians tend to play louder when the adrenaline starts flowing. (Of course, others actually get timid and play/sing softer.)
Resist the temptation of making major changes mid-stream; not only will this distract the musicians, but also in all likelihood, changes will serve to make things even worse from a sonic perspective.
Instead, work on preparation that will eliminate these problems before they start. Pay close attention to how things sound during rehearsal, how sound is reacting with the room, and project what will happen when the room is full for services.
And, pay even closer attention during services, making observations and notes about what’s happening at “crunch time,” when true performance characteristics are being exhibited and an audience is on hand.
Of course, this is easiest to do when you’re using the same system in the same room with the same musicians. In most cases, the first two variables don’t change, and with respect to the third, note the techniques and mix approaches that result in the most consistency, regardless of who’s playing or a particular style.
Observe, experiment, formulate and then act - in advance.
Deadly Sin #2: Trusting untrained “critics.” While serving as director of technical ministries at a large church, I had the privilege of working with a talented director of worship. However, he had an annoying trait of trusting an elderly lady of the congregation to provide critiques of my house mix and overall sound quality.