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.

[INVISIBLE WALL]

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.


I’m Justin Rizzo. I enable worship leaders who feel isolated, overworked, and unfocused to experience peace, confidence and create thriving worship communities.









8 comments

  1. Norman E Peterson

    Great post. Sounds a bit like the sound advice (groaning pun) I get from James Attaway. The worst thing a sound tech can have is to have a person in the room during the performance walk back to the sound booth. It’s always a complaint in some sort of foreign language! ” The electric guitar sounds cheap” “I can’t make out the words of the songs” or my favorite: ” it’s too loud” I love the ipads from the group that battle the sound levels and I just watch the sliders go up and down. Yup, a panic button lined into the booth is ideal.

      1. Norman E Peterson

        Yes, the sound booth dread. A lot of times it’s my wife telling me “singer 1 is …..” I gotta listen to her for certain (mas certo!) and the foreign language is how women talk to me. I am learning a new language from Gary Smaley’s “Men’s relational toolbox” It’s just hard to maintain a benevolent and correct eye contact and engagement when the piano sounds like a kids toy and one of the singers is holding the mic down by her midsection singing her heart out. It’s fun really!

  2. Jason Uttley

    I would also add, coming from a small House of prayer context, if your sound guy says he doesn’t have the energy to do multiple sets a day, maybe don’t say things like, “well how hard is it to sit behind the board, you can do it, right?”
    Or when then want tine to just sit and engage, don’t suggest that they can do that behind the board. I don’t sit when i do sound. If the worship leader/team is standing, I’m standing too. I’m doing a job.

  3. I am assuming this comes directly to you Justin.

    Kurt here.
    from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

    I’m on FB and one thing leads to another,
    to another,
    to another,
    (and God is often in this process)
    and I find myself reading your
    “how to talk to techs” perspective.

    We are looking at
    “desiring the presence of God”
    at church these days …
    and a number of us are (beautifully)
    stuck in the mercy and grace of God.
    And, we are to be merciful and gracious.
    Not My Strong Suits.

    Your words on how to talk to techs falls perfectly into this; ie…
    -walk to the back
    -don’t talk AT them from the lead mic, etc
    -watch your tone
    -the words you use to describe how it sounds
    matter

    Thank you, muchly, for this Justin.
    I will pass it on to others here
    at Trinity Baptist where I serve.

    I will also attempt to do what you have laid out, in some measure, to Everyone that I talk to. (especially the tone part).

    and…
    praying for you on a regular basis.

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