Singing Though Your Mic Stepping up and into your microphone

Encouraging musicians in the church to STEP UP and INTO the microphone is a constant point in my training. There is a ton of apprehension with church singers “bringing it” for fear of being perceived as rock stars. Using the microphone with confidence is the beginning of great on stage leadership.

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 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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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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Creative Gear for the Worship Stage

Your Backstage Inspiration

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Drums. Bass. Guitars. Piano. Vocals…. what else????

After 20 years of leading worship in the contemporary church, I have acquired various musical instruments that have helped me develop musicians, challenge bored creatives, and inspire possibilities on the worship stage. Most church backstage areas have an excess of unused gear just collecting dust. I hate this! These unused instruments could be a pathway to new inspiration and opportunity.

There is a good chance most of your teams have under-challenged musicians that could use another instrument or two to wake them from their three-chord slumber. Adding new instruments will excite the band and elevate its sound. It will also inspire the congregation as they see and hear new instruments. Adding new instruments will require your musicians to be flexible, vulnerable, and courageous, but I found most musicians appreciate the challenge.

If the Church is the hope of the world and we are tasked with sharing that gospel of hope through music, why should our instrumentation be so limited? Here are some creative gear ideas that might already be hiding backstage:

IN YOUR BACKSTAGE AREA

  • Tambourines and Shakers – Extra percussion is a great tool to have for modern worship. Often times I will employ a horn/string player to use percussion on a song if it doesn’t call for their “normal” instrument. Background singers can also help out by adding percussion to a song. If you can clap in time, then you can play hand percussion. 
  • Hot Rods, Brushes + Mallets – Many times newbie drummers or folks that play with only one style of music will not have alternate sticks. I have found that in most 4-6 song sets could benefit from one or more stick changes depending on the song. Encourage all your drummers to have a variety of sticks, but the church should have some on hand. 

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  • Accordion – This is not a joke. I have lent out the church accordion to MANY keyboard players over the years. I encourage  them to search youtube for lessons and play along to a slow song using the keyboard (not the button) side. It’s a fun and life-giving musical tool to use for a song or two. Can sound like a pad or cello, not always polka. 
  • Ukulele and/or Mandolin If you have more than one  guitar player, often times I will ask one of those players to learn mandolin or ukulele and use it in a song or two. 
  • Cajon or Any Hand DrumI have trained up many drummers starting on hand percussion. They play along with the main drummer. As they get better I eventually have them trade seats with the drummer for the slow song. All of a sudden, I have more drummers! Check out Monk Drums, a very cool drum company that makes affordable custom cajon’s.
  • MelodicaIn Germany, they use this instrument to teach kids music. It’s a fun little piano that just about anyone can play. Don’t use it for every song or every week, but you can pull it out for a little inspiration. Keep the alcohol wipes handy.
  • Glockenspiel or Bell KitThese instruments add a loud and significant punch to melody or riffs on vamps. They get a workout at Christmas time! 

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  • Baritone and Hi-strung Guitars. Baritone guitars are tuned super low and sound in between a guitar and bass. They are fun and can work on some songs. High-strung or Nashville tuning is a way to string your guitar to make it sound “chimey“. If you have extra guitars hanging around the church, consider making one of them hi-strung.
  • Extra Snare Drums and CymbalsSince the snare drum and cymbals are so critical to the overall sound it’s nice to have some extra high-quality options for drummers to choose from. If you have better drums and options at church you will suddenly have more drummers! 
  • A Midi Keyboard Controller and Old LaptopI lent out an $99 midi keyboard and an old church laptop (with Reason and Garageband loaded) to a 10th grade homeschooler. She came back to church with pads, Rhodes, and all kinds of sounds loaded up ready to play. This stuff is no longer rocket science. CPU>USB Cable>Old Laptop>1/8″ cable>DI Box>Sound System. 
  • A Real Fender Rhodes Electric PianoThis is a popular sound that you hear on recordings and many keyboards already have a “Rhodes” sound built in. I have found it to be inspiriting to actually have the real thing on stage. They require some maintenance but really add to the overall expression of sound. You can usually find them on craigslist for $600-1000. 

NEW INSTRUMENTS IN PRACTICE 

  • Lead your drummer to use mallets on the cymbals for the slow part of the song to create dark orchestral swells to add emotion.
  • Ask your bass player to play the glockenspiel for a song that doesn’t need bass.
  • Instruct your drummer to use brushes on a slow 6/8 song to help create a softer element in a song.
  • Have your acoustic guitar player play the tambourine on their thigh like they are clapping.
  • Lend out your Cajon to a youth who has good rhythm, invite them to play the next week.
  • Strip down the stage to acoustic guitar, hi-strung acoustic guitar, accordion cajon and Fender Rhodes.

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. Contact me to talk about how we can raise the bar through virtual or on-site training for your worship ministry.

Mike O'Brien - Worship Team Training and Development

On Stage Sound: Vocals {VIDEO}

Singing In+Through Your Microphone

On Stage Sound: Vocals

Great sound starts ON STAGE! Because most churches meet in smaller rooms with less than ideal sonic landscapes, singers must be attentive to their relationship with the microphone. Even if your drums have a shield and you are using in-ear monitors, the vocalists must still sing directly in and “through” the microphone. Check out this video for more on stage vocal tips:

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. Contact me to talk about how we can raise the bar through virtual or on-site training for your worship ministry.

Mike O'Brien - Worship Team Training and Development

Winning the Volume War For Pastors VIDEO

Winning Volume War - Pastors

Great sound in our gathered worship spaces is all about removing obstacles. How a congregation perceives sound from the stage should inspire more singing, not less. A music volume that is weak is just as much a distraction as piercing frequencies that assault the ears of the faithful. Churches often meet in strange rooms at strange times. We have revolving volunteers with competing values working the knobs. Because of this, it’s ok for churches to be vigilant in the evaluation of sonic environments. This video (and some notes below) will give inspiration and ideas for senior leaders as we work together to win the volume war:

1. Decide the culture of sound that you want

Certain leadership values will encourage concert-like environments, while others lean towards a more ancient future space. Many will say you want it all! Cast a wide net, but choose which side of the boat and tell your worship leaders and sound teams what you want. Your language for this value is more important than the number on a decibel meter. Pastors, check out this brilliant post from Dan Wilt on the values of volume. 

Winning the Volume War for Sound Techs VIDEO

Winning the Volume War for Sound Techs

In churches, our sound volunteers have a difficult job: take a novice rock band, a poorly tuned room, inferior equipment and somehow get it all sounding beautiful before noon on a Sunday. “No feedback!” and “not too loud!” sums up many church’s sound techs manuals. Hurtful volume at church has less to do with decibels, but with the poor timbres that painfully pile up. As a result, many churches put so many volume safeguards in place, it results in a very timid and sad sound. Many have taken the role of simply babysitting the soundboard, but I suggest we take a more active role in the worship experience. If what we proclaim through our gathered worship is true, then it would make sense to desire a captivating sonic engagement! Sound techs, let’s work with the worship leader and musicians to get the most beautiful, dare I say loud mix, without it hurting the average ears. Here are some practical tips: