4 Things Every Sound Tech Wished their Worship Leader Knew
I’m excited to have my first ever guest blogger today, James Attaway. James has been running sound and leading worship for 19 years, has a degree in Music Business from Belmont University and has mixed for venues from 15 to 15,000. He is a personal friend who ran sound for me personally for years and I trust his authority to speak on this issue. Not just in the area of sound technique. But in the heart standards needed for sound techs. I hope you are encouraged today as you read his post 4 Things Every Sound Tech Wished their Worship Leader Knew. As always, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Let’s be really clear: Sound techs are a mystery. Think about it—what kind of person wants to serve in a place where when they nail their job, they are ignored and everyone else gets praised, and when they mess up, everyone cranes their neck to stare at them in the back of the room. #soundtechsolo
And if that wasn’t weird enough, some of them are nerdy techs, and others are musicians brave (or foolish!) enough to twist knobs they may not fully understand. On top of that, they have a little fortress in the back of the room called the sound booth, and while they’re on your team, they spend most of their time more than 50 feet away.Let’s be clear: Sound techs are a mystery. What kind of person wants to serve in a place where when they do well, they're ignored and everyone else gets praised, but when they mess up, everyone cranes their neck to stare? Click To Tweet
Yeah, leading them is tricky.
So how do you shepherd the people serving in this essential part of your team? Here are four practical ways you can strengthen the relationship with your sound techs.
1. Gratitude and Honor
As a worship leader, you have a bunch of things vying for your attention. Between song selection, preparing for rehearsal, building your team and bringing up new musicians, the sound tech can get lost in the mix (see what I did there?) unless you make a conscious effort to acknowledge them. If a sound tech is doing their job well, they become transparent: things work when you arrive for sound check, the monitors allow you to play without distraction, the mix serves the congregation well. Thanking the sound tech in the rehearsal in front of the team (regularly), or even in front of the congregation during transitions in the worship service (occasionally), bestows honor where honor is due. Pro-Tip: It might embarrass them. They’re probably serving in the back for the very reason they don’t want the attention. But regardless, it’s life-giving.
2. Challenging them to Grow
Even the most self-motivated person can get worn down by the monotony of doing the same thing every week, with nothing to challenge them, nothing to stretch them to grow.
It’s impossible for you to really know what it sounds like from on stage. Figure out a way to record the board mix and listen back to it later. There are a few caveats to making this work well, but at the very least, you’ll get an idea of what’s working and what’s not in the mix. The trick here is to not get critical of everything that sounds weird. Start with one thing to improve and make that your goal for the next season (that’s the way Jesus leads our hearts, right?).
Challenging your sound team to grow can be a catalyst for your entire team to grow. One faithful saying for sound techs is “It all starts at the source.” Many of the problems you’ll hear when listening back to the mix could be improved with the players and singers. Taking a look into the “mirror” of the recordings will help you pinpoint ways your entire team can improve.
WORSHIP LEADER / SOUND TECH TIP: Record the board mix and listen back to it later together. There are a few caveats to making this work well, but at the very least, you’ll get an idea of what’s working and what’s not in the mix. Click To Tweet
Here are some other ways you can challenge them to grow:
Get some new equipment and ask them to learn how to set it up. Provide a “parachute” plan in case they get over their head. (Added Bonus: everybody gets excited about new gear)
Ask them if they want to visit another church one Sunday and connect with their tech team. Seeing how things could be better can expand their perspective and give them something new to aim for.
If you’re inclined, bring in some new types of instruments one week (with plenty of preparation!)
Which brings me to my next point…
3. Supporting Your Sound Tech
If boredom is one ditch on the side of the road, the ditch on the other side of the road is stress from requests without the resources to accomplish it.
When the worship leader gets the creative itch and want to add a 4-piece tuba section and a children’s choir in the hours before a church service, it takes a lot of energy to figure out how to accomodate all that, between mics, monitors, console channels, and everything in between. But there’s a reason MacGyver is a fictional character and not a real job title. It takes resources (time, energy, and equipment) to set up for musicians and singers, and maybe more than you initially realize.
“The Gumby-Attitudes: Blessed are the flexible, because creative people change their mind last-minute.”
While it’s a blessing for sound techs to be flexible team-players, and many of them will do it with a happy heart, big last-minute changes do take a toll on them. So when you’re making creative decisions that require accommodation from the sound tech:
Ask to make sure you have the resources to make it happen,
Communicate early and often with your sound tech about it, and
Consider the energy it takes to pull it off.
But wait – didn’t you just say to challenge them, but now you’re telling me to guard their time and energy? Yes. Yes I did. It requires wisdom and tension. Pray for divine ideas on how to hold that tension so you can lead your sound techs well.
4. See and Shepherd the Whole Person
With leading worship, there are so many moving pieces and so much at stake that it’s easy to see the people involved as just their role in accomplishing the mission. But it’s critical to see your sound tech’s whole life, especially their spiritual life, when leading them. Know what’s going on with their family, what their dreams are, and where they’re growing spiritually. When it comes to their spiritual growth, I’m more concerned with their trajectory than their maturity. For new believers, staying connected and in community with a team can be the difference between drifting away and staying the course. You could be the link who keeps them connected to the body of Christ by allowing them to serve on your team while they’re still rough around the edges.
WORSHIP LEADERS: There are lots of moving pieces with your job that it’s easy to see the people involved as just helping the mission. But it’s critical to see your sound tech’s whole life, especially their spiritual life. Click To Tweet
I hope that was helpful and will make shepherding your sound tech a little less mysterious. For more information on casting a clear vision for them to get consistent mixes every week, download my free guide, How to Lead Your Church Sound Team. and subscribe to my YouTube channel Attaway Audio.
Huge thanks to my friend Jordan Vanderplate for letting me use this photo from Cle Elum, WA. Check out more of his work here.