Worship Leaders: Stop talking to Your Sound Techs this Way
I’m excited to have another guest post from 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 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 Worship Leaders: Stop Talking to Your Sound Techs this Way. As always, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
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Imagine you’re joining the worship team, but you’re on an instrument that you’ve only played a few times. But the big challenge – you can only practice your specific instrument during sound checks and rehearsals. And if you mess up, everyone knows.
That is what it’s like for your sound tech.
Then imagine getting instructions from another band member for how to play your (new-to-you) instrument by someone who’s never played it before, and can’t even hear exactly how your instrument sounds from where they are on stage.
If you don’t have a little anxiety after imagining that, you’ve got a lot more guts than me. But that’s the reality for a lot of sound techs.Worship Leaders: Here are some suggestions of how to speak to your sound tech. Click To Tweet
I want to give some suggestions for how to speak to your sound techs.
It’s almost a different language. And context really matters.
There’s an invisible wall separating your worship team. The sound tech is on one side of it in the sound booth, and the rest of the team is on stage with you. It only takes a few short steps to break down this wall, and it goes both ways. I always suggest that the sound tech comes on stage to give feedback to musicians face-to-face. When you walk back to the sound booth to have a conversation with your sound tech, it shows respect, and helps you see things from their perspective.
Try to avoid giving correction through the lead vocal mic. Receiving correction over the loudspeakers feels like a public rebuke, no matter how kind the correction is, even if there’s no one else in the room.Worship Leaders: When you walk to the sound booth to have a conversation with your sound tech, it shows respect, and helps you see things from their perspective.. Click To Tweet
A talkback mic can be helpful for corrections or requests, since that’s relatively private. But even through a talkback mic, you have to watch the tone of your voice carefully. They can’t see the thankful look on your face from so far away.
This goes almost without saying- but you have to temper your irritation with kindness, and not take it out on the sound tech. Pops coming through the system can really hurt your ears – especially if you’re in in-ear monitors, so the pain is real. But “love suffers long with kindness,” so striving to love well even when things fall apart is a way to bear the fruit of the Spirit.
[SOUND TECH LANGUAGE]
Now when it comes to the language of a sound tech, both of you can learn to bridge the gap between the “feeling” words we use to describe tone, and the controls on the sound board. I teach more about this on my YouTube channel, but there’s one more pitfall I want you to avoid. It’s almost funny talking about it this way, but here goes:
When using tone “feeling” words, make sure it doesn’t come across as an insult (even if it’s true!).
“That kick drum sounds like a trash can.”
“The vocal mix sounds painfully harsh.”
“The electric guitar sounds kind of cheap.”
Temtper the way you talk about the tones with a solution in mind. Instead of a kick drum sounding like trash, ask how we can get it to sound punchier. Instead of saying the vocals are painfully harsh, ask if they can be warmed up a little bit to make it feel more comfortable when things get loud.Worship Leaders: Running sound is an uphill battle, and it can feel isolating and confusing. Click To Tweet
[I’M HERE TO HELP]
If you only take one thing away from this, I hope it’s this: running sound is an uphill battle, and it can feel isolating and confusing. Because of this, I’m teaching an online course for worship sound techs called Worship Sound Wisdom. It covers all the basics that you can’t teach at the sound booth during rehearsal and sound check (it’s really awkward to have a white board beside the sound board), plus practical application for how to improve as a sound tech and be a more valuable player on the worship team.
I’m teaching this class live and interactive – students can ask questions in the middle of a lesson – every Tuesday night for 8 weeks, starting on November 5th. While it’s geared toward sound techs, it’s absolutely applicable to worship leaders. Sound equipment isn’t going away any time soon; it’d be wise to learn how to use it better. Registration is open now, but it closes on November 3rd at midnight Central time.
For more information and to register, click here.
Huge thanks to my friend Jordan Vanderplate for letting me use this photo of Kristiansand, Norway. Check out more of his work here.