I've seen this situation mentioned by people in the comments on other threads, but I'd like to dedicate a thread specifically to this topic. I'll list some of the specific issues I'd like to have discussed here.
How to you train other people to be Sound Techs when you're one of the primary musicians?
-I'm in a situation where I have very limited pool of volunteers, so I've often found myself having to work with whoever would like to volunteer. I do have some requirements and I'm not displeased with the techs I have, but I would like to work with them to help them grow in their ability. An issue I run into is that in order to teach them how to use sound dynamically, I have to have an musician playing dynamically, and that musician is often me. I'd like any insight into how to make this work, and what others in similar situations have done.
How do you deal with difficult sound techs who think they know more than they do?
-For the most part, I'm very thankful to have sound techs that are willing to learn and grow, but I have one in particular who is older than me. He has experience, but not very much experience in a worship setting, which I've found to be very different than a local concert venue, which is where most of his experience is. Outside of the worship team we're fairly good friends as well, so there are times when I feel that I have a place to speak into how he runs sound, but often when I do, it seems as though he's brushing me off as not knowing as much as he does what should be done.
If there are other things that you think fit under this topic, please do share.
A little background on my sound experience and situation. I'm only 19, and I started leading worship in chapel services leading adult teams when I was 17. I knew that in this I had to approach the team differently as all of them (except my younger sister), had more life experience than me. But in the area of music and sound technology I have a lot more experience than the typical 19 year old. I want to preface this first with this statement, I have never spouted out my experience to my sound techs. I mean this in the fact that if they ask, I will tell them, but I don't use it as a means to prove that I know more than them. Knowledge used as a club to beat people into submission is knowledge that is abused, so with that in mind, I'd like to share my experience. I say this also to note that I don't think that my sound techs do know my complete experience, and I'm ok with that, my goal isn't that they know my experience, but that I can hopefully use what I know to help them grow in their abilities.
I started working with worship sound on analog mixers (currently using these at both chapels I lead worship in) at 12 years old and I was very fortunate to learn from techs who had been working with sound for over a decade. I learned from two main techs between the ages of 12 and 16 who both had 10+ years each of sound experience under their belt. During that time (between these two guys) I had the opportunity to lead the sound team for a period of 6-8 months until a more experienced tech came in. (Worked on a military base and people came and went often). At 17 I started working with the sound at a different chapel after moving, that's when I started working with worship sound on digital mixers. I also am in the process of building my own home studio. I consider the mixer and accompanying equipment as much an instrument as acoustic guitar, which I've been playing since I was 10. And I can do both at a high performance skill level. I'm by no means the best at either, but I do have 9+ years on one of them, and 7+ years on the other. Music, and more specifically music in worship, is a passion and one of my great loves. It's what I'm involved in now, and it's what I see myself involved in 20 years from now.
I'm looking forward to hearing what you all have to say.
"How to you train other people to be Sound Techs when you're one of the primary musicians?"
The first half of this is the tricky part, I'd say.
To deal with the second bit first, could you record yourself playing (and maybe a second track singing) and then run that into the desk through a couple of different channels to simulate a 'live' performance? Getting things in sync could be tricky, but maybe not impossible.
OK, the tricky first bit.
Lots of guys like techy stuff. Lots of guys like HiFi and fiddling. Of those, some guys can hear and distinguish frequencies from a technical POV and recognise that some frequencies make the sound muddy, cause feedback etc and can fix those issues. Many guys like this run PA faithfully, mutilating the sound in church week after week. ;-)
Few people who work sound seem to think like musicians, who would try to make the sound as rich, sweet, pleasing as possible, bringing out the musicality in what's being done. If you can, encourage the sound guys to learn about frequencies and technology, but also encourage them to listen to the music as music, to learn about balance and to learn about pleasure too. If you're a smallish band then it should be easier to show them how to EQ a bit of life and warmth into a mix than if you're Hillsongs United.
And especially try to help them learn that scooping the mids out of every mix to stop feedback is just nasty. ;)
As for the older guys, that can be really difficult. Having a young guy come in and start making changes can be a very challenging experience, even if all they do is right and they are humble too. Remember Paul's advice to Timothy about treating older men as fathers - it won't fix someone with a bad attitude (and you may need to go to more senior church leadership for help) but it can stop things escalating between you. Always be gentle and try to provide opportunities for reconciliation if that's needed. Do your best not to paint guys into a corner with a stark yes or no choice, but give them a chance to come round while retaining self-respect. Don't be afraid to recognise bad attitude in people for what it is, for your own sake.
Hope this is useful. I'm 54, been playing guitar since I was 16 (brass from the age of 11). I've had my times of being the rebellious guy who was a bit older, and have also headed up the worship team in a couple of churches (less grand than it sounds). I can do sound, but tend to be playing instead.
Oh my brother from another mother how are you?
I've been involved with worship as a musician and leader for many moons, and have always had these challenges. I am 58, a lead/acoustic guitarist with an FOH mentality. I've been in bands and in the studio forever, it seems. But I think the solution in church, and by solution I don't mean blissfulness, lies with the heart of the matter.
The heart of worship. No matter if it's a small church or a large one (almost all churches have to deal with the 80/20 challenge, you know, 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the people. In medium and larger churches, the overall challenge might morph into challenges of political pleasing of superiors), the challenge and heart of the matter becomes assuring that all is pointed toward the heart of worship.
The short version is the story told by Matt Redman and why he wrote the song The Heart of Worship. His pastor dismissed the church band for a season because they weren't focused on the main reason, but on things that rust. Matt wrote something that we all can relate with: I'm coming back to the heart of worship, and it's all about You. I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I made it. It's all about You, Jesus.
The heart of the matter is that everyone involved in worship is on the same page. When that is assured, you can more successfully move on to the technical.
How do you train other people to be Sound Techs when you're one of the primary musicians?
Establish a culture of worship at your church. Be the worship culture leader. Begin with including your sound techs as members of the worship team. Let them know that what they do is more important than what you do, that without them, the team is nothing. That because of them, the congregation is able to share in the beauty of the music. Let them know that they are in control of your sound, of how the people perceive your music. They are just as much a part of the band as you are.
Begin to include them at practice time and any worship team gatherings. If they can't make it to practice, encourage them to come early for run through on Sundays.
Continue to educate them. The experience of running FOH for worship is different than it is for a local venue. Okay, it is the same in the technicalities of EQ, room balance, panning and understanding the use of compression and effects, but even THESE technicalities should be handled differently.
This is a different environment. This is a place where folks come to unwind, be uplifted, honor and praise God and be fed by the Holy Spirit. Musical unpreparedness and FOH distraction is a crime against these things. Sound people should be involved with and understand the flow of what you're trying to accomplish. Include them in worship planning when possible, or involve them in a conversation about the flow of particular services.
Tailor your FOH education to them according to their experience. If they already somewhat understand gain structure and can successfully avoid creating feedback, then take them to the next level: share with them YOUR overall sound plan for the church. You have to be the sound architect and be able to explain to them what this is about. How do you intend on the sound for this church to be? Does each person/instrument have an EQ curve stored and recalled? Washed in reverb? No reverb? Tasteful reverb!? (EQ'd reverb) Delay? If so, how you do want it used? Have discussions on solving any room sound problems.
Have discussions with them regarding individual songs (e.g., 'during this word, I want a very subtle ping pong delay', or 'during the chorus, no delay at all', etc...).
Make them a part of the team, a part of worship presentation. Let them know that together and as group, you're all going to bring your A game. NOT to show off, NOT wow the crowd, but so that your team brings forth a pleasant offering to God while at the same time does not introduce a shred of distraction toward the worship of others.
It's never easy, and it shouldn't be. But your burdens are lifted the more you have accordance with the heart of worship.
If you need any other ideas at all, get in touch with me, Nathan. I've written a pamphlet on creating a culture of worship that I am using as a worship team manual, if you're interested. I'm uploading a new version tonight, wait until after 11 EST!
I recognise many of the points you raise here. I too started on the Pa desk many moons ago and now freelance as a sound engineer as well as being a worship leader.
The first point I would raise is that you need to be full of grace and love. This isn't a concert where people are paying to come and hear a professional show. It is run by volunteers who are giving up their time and talents to serve the body of Christ and that needs to be recognised and appreciated.
As you will well know, the sound engineer is just as much a part of the worship group as any other member of the band, the difference is that their instrument is the mixing desk. I suggest that you need to be working with the sound engineer in the same way that you would another musician. If you want a drum fill at a certain point, then you would suggest to the drummer "can you put a fill in here" for you sound engineer, you can ask for a specific effect at a certain point or need a particular musician up at a certain point, that should be normal.
It could be productive to have a chat with the engineers as to what you think it needs to have. Mixing for worship has some particular challenges that are different for a secular concert. The ones that spring to mind are:-
Volume: Where a concert of similar type music to modern worship might be knocking 100db at mix position, a worship time would probably only have 85-90db. This has a knock on to monitor levels with the age old problem of the stage volume overshadowing the front few rows.
Intelligibility: It sound like you are lucky in that your engineer has some experience. I have heard awful mixes in church where the engineer has no idea how to use eq resulting in muddy mix that is no help to anyone.
Get the engineers along to the rehearsals. Be prepared to have rehearsals that are purely aimed at helping the engineers to hone their craft. Let them know that you value them and want to help them improve.
Lastly. be prepared for it to sound rough sometimes. I don't believe that God is that interested in the sound, rather he looks at our hearts. If your engineer is doing their best with a heart to serve the body of Christ and glorify God, then rejoice. Remember at the beginning of Romans 12 it reminds us that our "true and proper worship" is about sacrificing ourselves to God, that is dying to self and becoming more like Christ. Helping one another to fulfil this spurring on another on, that is our primary aim. Christ's example of leadership was to lay down his life, we too as leaders should be willing to sacrifice and lay down our own desires to lift each other up.
I hope this makes sense for you, I found myself led to talk less about the practical and more about people. I wonder how Jesus would have handled it. I strongly suspect there would have been times when he would say, "Stuff the mixing desk come and join us praising God he's so good" Include your techs in the worship take time in rehearsals to lay down the tech stuff and just join hearts praising God. Have times with no instruments, get everyone including techs to "bring a song or a psalm" Where are hearts are together all the other stuff will come. Where brothers dwell in unity, is a place of commanded blessing.
Very good comments by Mark - I will confess that after reading your original post, I was kinda more sympathetic to the sound guy, thinking, wow, if you've got a sound tech who has worked in local concert venues, count your blessings. If you've got a sound tech who understands how those middle two knobs in the EQ section work, count your blessings.
Agree with Mark that keeping the volume down is important. Intelligibility, maybe not quite so much because the words you're singing are displayed on a big screen behind you.
This may seem a bit counterintuitive, but you might try asking the sound techs "is there anything we on stage could do to make your job easier?" That will get them to tell you what they think some of the issues are - and some of those may be, "yeah, I could point my amp right at my own ears and turn it down," and some may be, "well, here's a little trick I learned for dealing with that..."
Our sound guy has no training at all in audio technology, but he's out in the room and knows how it sounds out there in a way I never can up on the stage. I've just decided I have to trust him to make it sound good "out there" even if it sounds weird on the stage.
I do want to train the techs to view sound as a dynamic instrument that moves and changes throughout the song, versus a static piece of equipment that once it's set, it's good (which is what's currently going on).
That is so much on my heart. I know I've already mentioned it, but it's key in getting the sound person on board with the team and it's key in presenting desirable audio. Have the sound person ride faders of the vocalists, if anything. And have them work on creating a tight bottom end via eq so people can hear how much work the bass player and drummer put in. Most listeners won't be able to describe how much work it is to provide a tight groove, but they sure do appreciate when listening to one. They can't explain it, but the band sounds really good!
One way to get him involved during rehearsals and engaged in the songs is identify spots in the songs where you need the guitar to fade out here, or the piano to ramp up in volume there, or you need to make sure something is muted during this or that passage. Active muting/unmuting can also be a part of the process (a thing that makes his contribution super important!).