How To Talk To Your Sound Tech

A guide for worship leaders

In many churches, communication with the sound tech is a touchy subject. Most worship leaders can rattle off a list of offenses occurred from interactions from techs they have worked alongside. Likewise, most sound techs have countless horror stories of aggressive, diva musicians committing relational and technical fouls on stage before, during and after church services.

We must own, confess and repent for our part in relational damage with church techs; going forward, worship pastors and leaders must create a culture of honor, care and respect for those serving our sound. Click To Tweet

The solutions are more relational than technical (although gear runs a close second). Below are a few ways to engage your tech and make your church culture one that honors these valuable servants:

1.  Become Their Chief Encourager  

 Most technical people in church only get attention when something is wrong. Many have been shamed and ridiculed from the stage when things have gone wrong. Insecure musicians and communicators will often place blame on sound and media people from the stage.  Stop…. Right….. Now…. and ask God to reveal any techs from your past that you might have offended. Message, text, call and make it right.

After each and every rehearsal and service I strive to pinpoint a specific expression of kudos for the sound techs.

“Thanks for always being on time, it really makes a difference for us.”

“That kick drum sounded massive today!”

“The vocals were spot on tonight – I loved how easy you made it.”

“When you took time to help Sue with her bass amp, it really helped make the rehearsal go easy.”

Brand this phrase on your leadership heart: “what is rewarded is repeated.” This one concept has guided my leadership style more than any other in creating positive and healthy relationships in worship ministry.

2.  Ask “How Can We Help?” vs. “Give me this or that!” 

Instead of thinking that the sound tech is there as your servant, ask how you can help them achieve the best sound. We are ALL serving Jesus on equal ground and this IS NOT a consumer/customer retail situation. Sound techs have dozens of variables involved at any given time and you have only one or two. Inviting their input will help build trust. Teach your band this idea too. Your players should be interacting with the sound tech with honor and respect vs. yelling or demanding.

“Jim, is there anything we can do to help you get what you need out there?”

“Dave, when you get a chance do you mind turning down the kick drum in my in-ears? Thank you.”

“Julie, please tell me which setting is better for you.”

When something is not working on your end with the sound or monitors, instead of blurting out your problem, wait until the tech is ready and let them know your need in a calm, non-anxious tone.

 

3.  Learn and Speak the LANGUAGE OF SOUND 

Worship leaders that know some of the language of sound will better be able to communicate with their techs. Spend some time Not Leading Worship (volunteer for sound team) and learn your soundboard basics. Ask questions and become aware of what it takes to make a band sound good in your room. Learn their language so you can communicate clearly. There is a lifetime of knowledge to learn here, but here are some basics:

Gain – A microphone or guitar needs extra power to make the sound go from the instrument, through the cables to the speakers. This amplification is called gain. Too much gain and the sound will distort, too little gain and the sound will be weak and hard to expand. If you notice the volume of your instrument going up or down in your ears the sound tech might be adjusting your gain.

Equalization (EQ) – Most instruments/voices will benefit from raising or lowering certain frequencies on the sound spectrum. You can and should know what a good EQ curve is for your instrument(s). 

Balance – The relationships of the instruments with one another. Can you clearly hear the different parts of the mix while enjoying the whole mix? Getting multiple guitars, keyboards, and vocals to blend well will require a good exchange between the stage and sound.

A Sampling of Language 

The following are a sampling of phrases I might communicate with a sound tech during a rehearsal:

“Is there anything you need from us?”

“Sam, my voice just jumped in volume, are you adjusting gain, or is that something on my end?” 

“Jim, it sounds really good from up here, thank you!” 

“How’s the stage volume from back there, if we turn up will it be ok?”  

“How well are the drums sitting in the mix from the congregation?” 

“How’s the vocal balance out there, is Jenny cutting though?”

MY BEST ADVICE

If you spend more time encouraging your tech than correcting them, you will build trust for the journey which will allow for excellence to flourish. Would love to hear any other tips or ideas you have on sound tech communication; how do you honor your techs in how you talk to them?

Training Opportunity for your sound techs: USE CODE SS15 for 15% off the Vineyard School of Worship Sound Summit in Columbus OH January 31-Feb 2, 2019.

Check out How to Talk To Your Drummer HERE

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring worship leaders and teams. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more about how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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Kingdom Theology and Advent

The Kingdom of God in Advent is slow, contested, and unexpected. For worship leaders, the weeks preceding Christmas are a fitting time to highlight the tension in the Kingdom of God as we wait for the coming Messiah. In our prayers, songs and language we can once again enter into the story of longing and hope that crescendos into incarnation. Even though we know the end of the story, we need to help frame incarnation for all who are being formed by it as we worship and lead others.

Check out my encouragement here for worship leaders during this Advent season:

 

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring worship leaders and teams. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more about how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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How to Talk to Your Drummer

A Guide for Worship Leaders

For many worship leaders communicating with your fellow musicians is a huge challenge. It can be very intimidating to give an opinion about an instrument you don’t play.

Since the drummer and the drumset play such a critical role in the overall sound of our bands, here are here are several ideas of how you can talk to your drummer.

1.  Learn the Names of Drums and Cymbals 

Throne – The stool the drummer sits on is called a “throne” – and no that’s not a joke! Most drum thrones are adjustable and you might suggest raising or lowering the throne if you have a new drummer or someone unfamiliar with your church kit.

Kick Drum (aka Bass Drum) – This is usually the biggest drum on the drumset. It is hit with a pedal that has a beater attached. This drum has the lowest frequency of the drumset. It is a very important part of the overall sound. The bass guitar should interplay with this drum.

“Let’s really lay into that kick drum on this song.”  

“Don’t play the kick at all during the first verse.” 

Snare – Equally as important as the kick, the snare drum is commonly what plays the backbeat (where you want to clap). Snare drums can be tuned high or low. Snare drums can be struck in the center and on the edge of the head for different tones. You can turn the snares (the metal strings that line the bottom snare head) on or off and they can be adjusted to rattle more or less. You can hit just the rim of this drum for a muted click sound that can be pleasing (this is technically called a “cross-stick” although some mistakenly call it a “rimshot” which is something else).

“Play the snare really loose on this section.”  

“Maybe try a cross stick rim thing on this part?”  

Hi-Hats – These two cymbals join together on a specialized stand that is hit with a stick or “chicked” by simply depressing the pedal with your foot. If your foot is pressed down hard these will have a quick, tight sound when struck,  the more you lift your foot the louder and more wild they become when struck. How “open” the hi-hats are when hit will DRASTICALLY alter the volume and perceived volume of the drumset.

“Can you close the hi-hats a bit more?” 

“What would it sound like if we just keep the hi-hat going during the chorus instead of ride?” 

Tom(s) – These drums are powerful for creating transitions between song parts. They are the most melodic elements of the drumset and can create pleasing (or irritating) rhythmic patterns.

“Let’s do a tom fill going into that outro.” 

“Lay off on the toms to open up space under that guitar solo.” 

Floor Tom(s) – This is the larger of the toms and can be used to create low-end power and energy. If you have subwoofers in your sound system then should be rocking when this drum is hit.

“Can you play eighth notes on the floor tom instead of the hi-hat?” 

Crash Cymbal(s) – These typically have shorter sustain and add an accent to song sections or transitions.

“I like that bigger crash on that intro.” 

Ride Cymbal – This is a complex cymbal that can have a “ping” sound or “washy” sound. The sound changes depending on where you hit it.

“Maybe a little more wash on this part and less ping?” 

Splash Cymbal – These cymbals are super small and provide a very high pitched and short sustaining accent.

“Can you take the splash cymbal home and never bring it back?” 

Chime Tree, Tambourine, and Shaker – Random percussion can add pleasing elements to the song selections. It’s common for a drummer to use a shaker for a verse section or for the whole song. You could use a tambourine laying on a floor tom for accents.

“You can only rake the chime tree only two times in this song… thank you.” 

“Let’s do a tambo hit on 2 and 4 instead of the snare for this section.” 

2. Learn and Speak the LANGUAGE OF RHYTHM for Drummers 

Kick, hi-hat, and ride cymbal rhythms are vital to the feel of the song sections. You might simply ask the drummer to “play busier” or “play simpler”, but if you know a more specific language, it would be helpful.

Setting Up A Click Track For Your Worship Team

Adding a click track (metronome) to your worship team setup is easy and the video below shows you how to do it. Despite what some believe, adding a click will not automatically void the Holy Spirit from your church or kill the “feel” of your musicianship. Here are some reasons why I love having a permanent click ready to go at the church:

  •  It is a helpful tool to have for younger drummers, as timing is usually the #1 issue.
  • You can easily reference the tempo of a song before you rehearse or lead.
  • It’s a great tool for drummers in training if they use the church drumset during the week to practice.
  • Your musicians can learn the art and joy of pushing and dragging against the click.
  • Familiarizing your church culture with a click will give musicians a tool that will aid them if they enter a recording studio.
  • If you are recording your services you can sync other musical elements later with more ease.
  • Metronomes are standard tools for most world-class musicians.
  • You don’t have to use it on every song, but the tool is there if you want it.

This video shows my process for setting up a permanent click (metronome) next to the drum set.

WHAT TO BUY:

Tama Rythm Watch: https://amzn.to/2Lhrq0e
Power Adapter for the Tama Rythm Watch: https://amzn.to/2LTOQdu
The Mount for the Rythm Watch: https://www.sweetwater.com/store/deta…
Clamp for Holder (clamp to the high hat or other stand): https://amzn.to/2LPXnhj

Here is a little chart showing you how the audio will be run for the click:

The finished project will look something like THIS

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring worship leaders and teams. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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A Worship Leader’s Guide to Cleaning Toilets

From worship star to janitor in one day

“Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet,
what you need is not a scepter but a hoe.”
Bernard of Clairvaux

There is a deep transformation that happens when cleaning up the waste of those you are leading in worship. This is my story of going from worship star to janitor in one day.

My story of going from worship star to janitor in one day. Click To Tweet

A couple of years ago, when I was about to finish up my prestigious Master’s degree in Worship Studies, I got word that our church was making some cuts and had to let the cleaning company go and they put me in charge of all church janitor duties. 15,000 square feet of carpet to vacuum, tile to mop, walls to dust, 20 trash cans to empty, and yes, 11 toilets to clean. I thought for sure I would have written a hit worship song by now or maybe have an assistant after all these years, but nope… I’m a 40-year-old janitor/worship leader for a resource-strapped church. Sweet. Dream come true.

10 Vineyard Songs That Are Working (2018 Edition)

Over the past two years, I have visited over 50 Vineyard Churches in the states. I thought it would be helpful to share 10 Vineyard songs I see and hear that are “working” well in many contexts; these songs share our values as a Kingdom people and the lyrics hold up theologically.

I understand that the distinctives of a particular stream of churches are nothing to die for, but they are something we should lean into from time to time. It’s nice to have some common melodies and words to rally around as a family of churches. When choosing songs to sing in my local church, I typically will look to our local, regional and Vineyard family expressions before I reach into the endless pool of songs available today. It’s a bit of a farm-to-table approach knowing the effortless, radio CCM options are always there.

If you are a Vineyard worship leader or pastor, my hope is to remind and encourage churches in our movement that we STILL HAVE a vibrant and every growing songbook, one that is crucial to forming our people in Kingdom practices. Let’s celebrate who we are! 

TEN SONGS

Honestly, there are more than 100 songs I would include if space allowed. This list represents songs that are written in the past few years, are easy to play, have a track record of success, and align with our Kingdom (Vineyard Value) Theology.

Full disclosure: I do contract work with both Vineyard USA and Vineyard Worship, but these thoughts are my own and do not represent the movement or the worship label. Although I am a friend to many of these songwriters, I have tried to be as unbiased as possible.

1. Pour It Out
Written by: Stephen Lampert & Samuel Lane  ©2013 Mercy/Vineyard Publishing (ASCAP) / Vineyard Songs (UK/EIRE). CCLI #6615343

NEW Posters for Worship Team Training

11x17 Posters for Green Room and Backstage

 

These high quality, durable 11×17 posters designed by Andrea Bryant are a wonderful inspiration for the worship leader, vocalist or church musician! These posters can be placed backstage, in the green room, in the office or home. Click the button below to order your own 11×17 Worship Team Training Poster:

One “Before You Sing” Poster  – $15
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11×17 Poster Options (Price includes shipping)


 

 

 

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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5 Big Ideas for Every Small Group Worship Leader

As a small group worship leader, your role is no less important than the main stage worship leader. You are creating space for God and you are helping to form people as they worship. After 25 years of leading worship, many of my favorite memories are leading songs to groups of 3-10 people in a living room.

There is so much to say about this critical role in the Church, but here are some unique points I stress to every new small group worship leader I train. Five practical ideas for every small group worship leader:

1. Set a Mood  

Worship leadership has more than just songs and singing to consider. Think about the physical space. Working with your host and group leader, get the couches, chairs, and lighting best for the group (this might be different than the normal layout). Try to face as much seating as possible pointed away from the entry point(s) and face chairs towards one another. Dim, or turn off the overhead lights, turn on some lamps and light some candles.

BIG IDEA: A small group worship leader helps create a physically inviting and worshipful environment. 

2. Stand Opposite the Main Entry Point of the Room 

In order to minimize distraction for the group, consider standing facing the main entry point to the room.  People facing you will not be as distracted when people arrive or step out. Since it’s a small group just one person making a move will cause focus to turn to them. Do the best you can to help folks avoid distraction.

BIG IDEA: A small group worship leader strategically places themselves in the room to help remove distractions. 

3. Sing With Clarity and Boldness 

Leading songs without amplification has unique challenges. There can be crying babies, coffee grinding, and kitchen chatting competing with the focus. Try to articulate and be clear with every word and phrase.

Be clear and direct at the beginning of each phrase; sometimes I put a little rush on the first syllable. This is a subtle but important factor to small group singing that can help people engage the lyric more fully because everybody will better anticipate the first word of the next line. Use your body and facial countenance to lead into each section. Consider cueing the ensuing lines, especially in the beginning of the songs.

BIG IDEA: Sing lyrics with conviction and confidence, often times in front of the beat. 

4. Plan Songs With Simplicity and Repetition in Mind 

Some worship songs are more lyrically dense than others. Assuming you are not projecting or handing out lyrics*, consider choosing songs that have less overall words. Here are some approaches:

  • Use songs that have melodic and lyrical anchors “Great are You Lord, Great are you Lord”
  • Start with the chorus and repeat it.
  • Repeat verse sections. Repeat chorus sections.
  • Consider dropping whole sections of the song if they are too wordy or complicated.
  • Leave intentional space in the songs. Breathe.

*I would discourage the temptation to set up screens, powerpoint on TVs or handing out song sheets for small groups. What did the church do for centuries before printed sheets and electricity? Can you connect with those historic roots and turn off visual media?

BIG IDEA: Choose and arrange songs for your small group that are simple and memorable. 

5. Sing Really Soft and Really Loud

One of my favorite parts about small group worship is the invitation explore volume dynamics in worship. You can simply strum a chord once and start to sing without constantly strumming. You can and should lead “fast” songs, don’t be afraid to be loud together! Within songs, you can make verses whisper while choruses explode. As long as you are INTENTIONAL and CLEAR, people will follow.

BIG IDEA: In a small group, allow your musical worship to be both loud and soft; use your instrument and voices explore every dynamic possibility. 

 

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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What the Vineyard Can Learn from Liturgical Streams

Reclaiming historic worship elements for modern services

When I walked into a Vineyard church in 1994 my mind was blown. On a Friday night, the room was full of expectant people singing TO God. Coming from Presbyterian roots, the only time we gave this expression of exuberant praise was at summer camp! For the first time in my life, I learned of the power of the Holy Spirit through an extended, uninterrupted time of singing.

Fast-forward a couple decades and the “5 songs + sermon” model has become the standard “liturgy” of the modern church. Outside of our empowered ministry prayer times, you would be hard-pressed to see what makes a Vineyard Church distinct from many evangelical church models today.

I believe that as a movement, a time has come for us to pause and reconsider the way forward in worship, both musically and sacramentally. What did we fail to carry forward as a new movement (started in the late 1970’s) that can be reintroduced with care? Here are a few practical ways worship planners in the Vineyard can consider and implement elements of liturgical form in our services:

 

1. Eucharist (celebrated weekly)

Avoiding mindless, heartless repetition is a common reason many Vineyard pastors say they don’t want to lead their congregation to the table on a weekly basis, favoring to do it once a month or less. It begs the question why we sing, preach and offer prayers repetitively? Are these features any less special because we repeat them over and over? Are we increasing demand by planning scarcity?

A weekly invitation to feast on Christ is a beautiful picture of our Kingdom theology (God is here, now). In the meal, we are reminded that His active presence is with us; it is a vibrant and visceral picture that embodies all the senses while engaging everyone on the same level. Creatively and enthusiastically inviting our people to the meal more frequently might be the greatest discipleship plan we have.

  • Church planter, Luke Geraty recently submitted an excellent paper on Sacraments to the Society of Vineyard Scholars, check it out HERE.

The 7 Minute Worship Team Check-In

Transform your culture through care

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. –  Romans 12:10-13 

Band rehearsals are not usually super fun. Many times they are in the early hour or after a long day. Musicians and tech teams are all arriving with a variety of emotions, experiences and energy levels. Yes, your job as a worship leader is to get the band on track musically, but there is actually something more important that should PRECEDE music making.

Before your next rehearsal do this one thing and it will transform the culture of your volunteer worship ministry.

As the leader, arrive earlier than everyone else. Do everything administratively and technically possible to make the stage ready (print charts, check audio lines, etc..). Musicians will arrive and get set up. Once you and your bandmates have monitors solid and are ready to rehearse….

STOP EVERYTHING AND DO THIS…