5 things that help you be a better Church Sound Engineer that have NOTHING to do with Sound.
Being a good sound engineer takes time to achieve. There are many things that only come with experience. There are also some things that don’t involve any equipment that will also make you a better sound person. This blog is going to take a look at just a few of them.
#1 Take Control- Take control of your stage. Having ability to make legitimate requests, for instance if a guitar player is too loud, tell them so. If a monitor mix is too loud and affecting the overall mix, turn it down. If anything stands in the way of you being able to provide the best mix possible have the authority to fix it. This does not give you a free pass to be a whip cracking tyrant, but someone to lead the way. Doing affective sound is as much about managing people as it is about managing knobs and faders. Sometimes handling feedback is easier than handling egos.
#2 Always use an order of service sheet- by using an order of service sheet each week you literally get your production team on the same page. As a sound person the key is to stay a few steps ahead of your sheet. For example, when you know the pastor will speak right after a musical number, be prepared in advance to unmute his microphone. Figure out in advance which channels can be muted. Have a game plan in your mind BEFORE it happens. This also goes back to #1 with the take control. An airplane pilot is always ready to deploy the landing gear before he needs it. As a church sound engineer you are the pilot.
#3 Know the limits of your system- This one is kind of tricky and requires the help of someone else. If you can gain access to the sound system when the church is closed, use this time to do a few things you wouldn’t normally do. I’m talking about the evil monster of sound... Make it feedback on purpose. Take each microphone, or at least the main ones and purposely make them feedback. Why would that help in anyway? If you can find the point at which feedback begins you will then know how far you can push it before it does. In the middle of a service on Sunday morning is not the best time to find out. We all know what happens when it does, all 500 people in attendance turn around and stare directly at you. Just accept the fact that when things go wrong they are your fault but when it sounds great it’s the music director‘s fault. That should be in the Bible somewhere.
#4 Always be training- pushing yourself to learn more is never a bad thing. This applies to your entire sound team. Resources such as YouTube or countless online sites offer unlimited information that simply wasn’t available in years past. If you are having a particular problem or roadblock you can guarantee that someone somewhere has had the same issue and figured it out. Another reason for training is to teach replacements for you and your team. Having the ability to have competent back ups for your team is a valuable asset. It gives those who volunteer a weekend off to worship with their families rather than concentrate on production. Things happen such as illness, vacations, or life in general. Always have a back up.
#5 Be part of the band- when you sit behind the sound console your frame of mind should be “I am part of the band.” When you have this mindset You will focus on making everything as close to perfect as possible. Take pride in your part. It is just as, maybe more important as the drummer, a singer, guitar player or choir. Each song will require you to make subtle changes. Play your sound console as you would an instrument. Know which instrument should stand out when and make it happen. When you immerse yourself into the music like this you get a sense of pride knowing you helped create the atmosphere in the room. When you go from being a sound person, someone who babysits a soundboard to a sound engineer, someone who engineers sound your outcome will sound much better.
#6 Have fun- if you don’t enjoy what you do, chances are neither will many who attend. Have fun. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. They do and will happen. Mistakes lead to learning and learning leads to better sound.