A while ago, I mentioned to my MoM (Minister of Music) that our backing vocals were sounding pretty rough on a regular basis.
Their intonation was so bad at times that we often had to use the “shoot it before it multiplies” approach to mixing.
You know - if it doesn’t sound good, don’t turn it up!
So over the summer he scheduled regular rehearsals just with the backing vocalists, and he stopped me in the hall recently to tell me about how well things were going.
Not only were the vocals sounding better, but the singers were encouraged and really enjoying the process.
We rejoiced together over the results of their renewed faith in practice, but I couldn’t help wondering why they hadn’t been practicing like that on a regular basis for years.
I guess sometimes we get used to how things have been done in the past, and it’s not easy to see, or hear, the need for improvement.
As Chris Beatty is known for saying, practice doesn’t make perfect - it makes permanent.
We Need Practice Too
By the same token, if you’re responsible for the sound in your church each week, you need to be attending those rehearsals as well. The single most effective thing any church sound mixer could do to improve his/her contribution to the worship service is to practice with the worship team on a regular basis.
We are called to excellence in the technical support ministry. God gave us His best, and our service through the tech ministry should offer no less than our best pursuit of excellence for Him. Audio, lighting, and video are all crafts that require our diligent study to learn.
We can learn by finding someone to mentor us, by reading and studying books on the subject, by participating in online discussion groups (like the ProSoundWeb Church Sound Forum or the Church Soundcheck Discussion Group ) by attending trade shows and workshops, and so on.
If anything, the majority of people who serve in a technical support ministry of their local church are way behind the curve on learning that craft. Let me explain.
In most churches, the musicians and vocalists who lead worship each week are accomplished musicians. They have studied music and how to deliver an excellent performance with their instrument for many, many years.
During those years of learning they immersed themselves in the learning process by taking lessons, practicing for hours on end at home, playing in recitals, practicing some more, and attending concerts to hear others perform.
It wasn’t easy, but they finally got there. Some are just farther down that road than others.
Yet the majority of individuals who find themselves serving in the tech support ministry of their local church don’t have years of study at that craft like the musicians and singers do.
Many of them are just starting to learn how the gear works, often struggling with well-meaning people teaching them the wrong way to do stuff, filling their heads with audio mythology instead of truth.
Being good at any one of those crafts also requires an element of performance during a worship service. A worship leader doesn’t walk on stage to perform. He/she goes out there to lead others into worship of God.
But there is an element of performance in what they do. Knowing the right words to the song, knowing how the melody and harmony parts go, developing the ability to sing well and in key - all of those are elements of performance. I think you would agree that we’re thankful for the time they’ve invested to develop the abilities God gave them.
God has given us unique abilities to shape and control the sound, or the lights, or the video equipment, to capture and even enhance the gifts of the worship team. But you didn’t wake up one day with the ability to deliver a great mix. You had to work on it.
Artfully lighting a dramatic presentation on stage, or even lighting the stage evenly so that the video team will have a smooth picture to broadcast takes an investment of our time and a decision to learn and develop those unique abilities that God has given us.