I have been a musician my whole life and worked in the audio industry for almost forty years. Having been a worship leader and a tech I know what each side needs make it work well… co-operation. I am going to run down a short list of tips for Worship Teams and Audio Tech Teams might consider to fine tune their connection.
Tips for Worship Teams and Audio Techs
1) Why Can’t We Be Friends? Get to know each other. This doesn’t happen ten minutes before a service every other Sunday. Find time to hang out in between services outside of the church. The more you know about somebody and their circumstances, hobbies, family, occupation and the rest, the closer your relationship will be. Heck, you may even become friends.
This will secure a trust between you and a knowledge that you are there to help each other with the common goal of glorifying the Lord. Co-workers, who are also friends will accomplish much more in less time than teammates who don’t know each other or care to.
2) What’s the Plan Stan? Worship leaders must communicate the plan to everyone who is included in the plan with enough lead time to be able to facilitate the plan. What are we doing this week? What musicians will be playing? What songs have been selected? Is the stage plot the same /different? Are there any additional equipment needs?
3) The arrangement of the Songs. Typically the worship team will receive an email with the list of songs for the service. They will usually include the key, tempo, and lyrics and coupled with a mp3 version of the song at the very least. I am asking you Mr. Music Director, to go one step further and arrange the songs so that each musician knows what to do in every part of the song: the intros, outros, transitions, verses, choruses, and bridges. Don’t leave this to chance and allow for a free-for-all jam session during worship. Music is not just about playing but just as much about listening. Direct the musicians to play parts that fit well together and pass this arrangement along to the sound tech as well so that he will have a roadmap of where the songs are going. Songs and sets that are arranged are so much easier to mix than a bunch of musicians who are playing whatever they want to at the same time, all the time.
4) Soundcheck. This is not rehearsal. This is the time spent to make sure we have the right levels on our microphones and instruments. This is for the sound operator’s benefit and the church at large. Worship leaders can help this by making sure that only the musicians who are asked to play at a given time play and the rest remain quiet until called on. Encourage them to sing or play at a similar level as they would in worship.
5) Microphone Technique. Worship leaders should tag team with the sound op to instruct the musicians in proper microphone technique. getting the levels right and consistent is the foundation of good sound.
6) Rehearsal. Most churches have little time for the band to rehearse. If there isn’t enough time allocated for rehearsal at least practice intros, transitions and endings. Use your time effectively. One thing that kills the time at hand is when people are late.. so be on time or early and let’s not waste other people’s time. Sound operators should make a point of attending the rehearsals as well as the musicians.This is the perfect time for sound ops and worship leaders to try new things together.
7) Commitment. The thing I look for, more than any other trait in recruits for worship or audio is their dedication to serving. Humility is another. I need to know if I can count on you. Will you show up? Will you stay late if necessary? Will you be here early? Are you willing to put the time in? Do they possess a servant’s heart? To me, this is critical and more valued than their raw talent.
8) Tame the stage volume. Worship leaders and sound ops should work towards making sure that the musicians hear what they need to perform well without interfering with the house mix. We know that monitors and loud sound sources on stage can destroy the house mix . The sound person and worship leader need to be united, and speak as with one voice, in making sure that the band knows that this is mandatory.
9) Drums. I love drums but can the worship leader and the tech not agree that plexiglass does not absorb sound? Can we not agree that the drums sound bad behind the glass and that it disconnects the drummer from the rest of the band? There are many ways to mitigate the cacophony that drums produce without subjecting the drummer to life in prison and we will have a future article dedicated to dealing with this.
10) Guitars. Guitarists say they need their tone which with tube amps requires them to open them up to exceedingly louder levels that may blow the pastor’s wife’s wig off from fifty feet away. Worship leaders and sound techs need to work together to find ways to get the sound the guitarist wants but at an acceptable level for the church. Smaller amps, amp modelers, repositioning the amplifier so the energy is directed somewhere else (preferably not into open microphones or facing plexiglass shields) isolation cabinets or closets off stage are some of the ways to soften the blow.
11) Floor Monitors. Less is more. Keep the monitor mixes simple and less complex. Aim wedges at ears and not at knee caps. Get closer to the monitor so that the amplifiers can be turned down. When a musician asks for something to be turned up, turn everything else down instead.
12) Record the services. Sound ops should record the worship team every time they play together. Add a couple of room (audience) microphones to the recording. The worship leader and the sound tech should meet to listen to the recordings and observe what if anything needs improving and work together to fix whatever needs fixing.
13) Training. A good percentage of your team’s budget should be for training. Make sure to get the folks who are dedicated to serving on the team the training they require to serve well.
14) Serving. Who will be the servant? The greatest servants often become the greatest leaders. Jesus washed Peter’s feet. As a sound tech are you willing to wash your worship leaders’ feet? Vice versa? Are the sound techs bringing water to the platform? Has the worship leader brought coffee for the techs? Ask each other “What can I do for you?”
15) Pray for each other. Are you lifting each other up? Are you praying for the worship team? Is the worship team praying for the tech crew?
16) Small groups. If the worship team meets in small groups please include your techs.
17) Retreats. Nothing will connect musicians and techs better than a weekend away together. Make time to build the bond of friendship and team spirit. Work towards creating an environment of trust. Pastor your teams.
18) Cross training. I typically look for musicians first to serve on the tech team. It saves a lot of time to train someone who already has an ear and a passion for music than someone who doesn’t. If I do have non-musical techs , I like them to spend time on the platform even if they have a very limited skill, to be fully immersed in the experience of what it’s like to be in the musician’s shoes.
19) Mentoring. Pass your skills and experience onto the next generation. Leave a legacy. Find someone who will mentor you and find another downstream to mentor. Teach others what you know and never stop learning. Pursue excellence.
20) Encourage each other. The church is filled with worship leaders, musicians, and techs who volunteer their time. They serve without pay and often without appreciation. Show how much you appreciate each other. It goes a long way believe me.
Worship Teams cannot opperate without the Audio Tech Team and vice-versa. Hopefully these tips for Worship Teams and for Audio Tech Teams will create unity among the two groups. At the end of the day, both teams have the same common goal and they need each other to be able to get there. Don’t look over these tips because they are critical to foster a thriving relationship in the Church worship service. Think about what your worship service would be like if it was just the Worship Team or just the Audio Tech Team. What do you think that service would look like? What would that service feel like?