Often times, it’s only through the critique of others that we are able to see the deficiencies in our systems, which is why I’m often called to visit clients services “in action.”
In the hopes that you may find some of follows below is an excerpt from the recommendations I made to a church client following a visit to their Sunday morning service.
The most prevalent issue throughout the sound check was that while the band sounded great, it took them a great deal of time to get the monitors right.
1: There is always this tension that exists between tech and talent about stage volume. Thankfully with the entire band using in-ear monitors (except, well, we’ll call him Jimmy, who was also singing), the stage volume was really at a minimum.
2: Structured monitor checking. When using in-ear monitoring it can be very difficult for the engineer to know what the musicians are hearing.
My suggestion would be to have the engineer (or someone who can assist him) ask each musician what they want in their mix before the rehearsal starts.
After the engineer has roughed in those levels on the console, the band should play through one song (unless it’s a total disaster, don’t stop). After the song, each musician in an orderly fashion should give the engineer direction as to how they would like their mix changed.
The band should then play through 2-3 more songs before the musicians can make any additional requests. This forces the musicians to be precise in their monitor requests, and it also gives the engineer an opportunity to work on the house mix.
After the additional songs, each musician can once again in an orderly fashion ask for adjustments in their monitor mix. Once this adjustment has been made, the musicians will have to live with the mix allowing the engineer to forget about monitors and only be concerned with the house mix.
Note: The engineer should not adjust the master gain on any channel (except for an emergency) after the completion of the first song. All adjustments need to be made using the faders (for house sound) and the aux sends (for monitors). Assuming a pre-fade auxiliary send, the levels of the monitors will not change when the channel faders are moved.
3: Shield or no shield? As you may or may not be aware, I’m not a big fan of drum shields (yes, sometimes they are necessary) because it’s been my experience that when the shield is removed, the drummer begins to play with more finesse, and stage levels begin to decrease.
In a room the size of many worship spaces (including this one), I would say that a shield is not necessary. In the drum mics, I find that around 90 percent of what is picked when using a shield or cage is cymbals.
I didn’t have much of an opportunity to look at drum mic placement, and there’s often some room for improvement; however, in general I would say take the shield away.
While these recommendations were made after hearing a specific clients service, they’re the same recommendations I find myself giving more often that one would imagine.
So, take note, and remember that most of what an engineer does and thus how he is perceived comes from his attitude toward the musicians.
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.