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.
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.
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:
Your drummer and the drum set together make up one of the most critical variables in the overall sonic landscape of your gathered worship space. Many of us struggle from week to week and drummer to drummer to get the right balance. This quick video will give you some tips to achieve the volume and velocity from the drummer that is best for your room.
You might want to check out the Introduction to Winning the Volume WarHERE
Winning the Volume War for Drummers gives 4 simple tips on how to help control volume and perceived volume in our services:
1. Tune your heart
Drummers, know the power you have to make the sound beautiful or brutal. Lay down your preferences (and your heavy metal cymbal set) and be a team player. You have been given incredible influence.
Worship Leader Bootcamp: Nashville TN June 14-17 2016
As a worship leader there are many things I learned in the local church by just faithfully showing up. I was the the guy who could just make it happen every week, and I did it for years. Ultimately, I realized that my call to worship ministry was more than just putting together 5 songs. I had to recruit and grow a constant stream of musicians. I had to choose accessible songs for teens, parents, and retirees simultaneously. I had to ask musicians to practice. I had to deal with a legacy church member who didn’t let anybody (including me) touch the soundboard. I had to learn how to care for my soul. I was expected to do the work of a shepherd, knowing only how to hold the staff, not actually knowing how to lead a flock.
Desperate to overcome the challenges, I attended conferences, seminars and began to read more. My most significant leaps forward in worship leadership came from learning environments outside my church. Specific worship leader training did things that immersion could not.
I get it. You want an engaging and energetic service. You don’t want to ignore the pain and depression of this world, but you don’t want to contribute to it. Musical worship takes up a significant portion of our services and sets the pace. When the Church gathers, those that are leading and the worship band should be hopeful and expectant. For the record, the Bible backs up your desire, continually telling us to worship with fervent hearts:
Psalm 100:2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Somewhere along the way, many musicians in the church thought that if we desired to be “real” or “relevant”, we should only show fear, shame, or melancholy on our face! See Dan Wilt’s post on Smile. Because of this, our songs started to match our emotion – all in the name of authenticity. We watch perfectly edited mega-church videos full of exuberant congregants clapping and singing; yet, we hang our head knowing that it’s what you want, but we can’t deliver.
Musicians at all skill levels benefit from having a chord/lyric chart directly in front of them. Music stands are a unique need for the modern worship church culture and unfortunately,a huge distraction for the congregation and the musicians themselves. Increasingly, we are seeing music stands and cpu tablets just inches from the eyes of EVERY musician on stage. What if we used music stands as a reference instead of a lifeline? Check out my quick VIDEO below:
This advice is not for orchestra players that are reading actual musical staff arrangements, but for those who utilize basic chord charts.
God is very kind to build seasons into our lives. Every new season is an excellent time to recalibrate and make new what has become tattered and worn.
For many, our worship ministries and personal leadership have plateaued. Sure, we get the weekly worship set out and go through the motions, but there is something deep inside that says there could be more. The non-stop voice in our head says, “I wish….”. For years I wanted a better voice but I was too embarrassed, broke or distracted to take a voice lesson. I also wanted a real Hammond B3 Organ. I wanted to get high quality counseling… and the list went on and on. All these dreams (and more) connected with my calling went nowhere year after year. In 2002 I started making a list and a plan of action for everything I could dream in the area of worship leadership and our team. That year, by March – EVERYTHING had already been accomplished! Needless to say every year since I have continued to pray, dream and designing goals for that next year.
We so easily discount these goal making sessions as RESOLUTION PLANS that will only fail. But let me say this: You will inevitably begin and restart cycles of sin this year without a list or a plan. I promise.Knowing that the one who comes to steal and destroy is always working, we need to take the time to listen to what God has for us. There are more tools today to help us succeed than ever before.
Many churches have a serious problem attracting and keeping volunteer musicians. Let’s face it, getting a team of musicians to show up to church and play music at 8AM on a Sunday can be a challenge. Usually there is sub-par monitoring, messy stages and lots of mind numbing songs to boot. Sometimes there are a series of unclear religious rules for stage and life we have to follow. Musicians can be under challenged or over challenged. We just can’t seem to convince people it’s worth it! For years I struggled as a worship leader making it happen every week. About 10 years ago we made some significant changes in our worship culture. Now, in our church (125-175 attendance) we have 4 bands, 4 sound techs, 6 main stage worship leaders, and waiting lists for all positions. It’s a wonderful blessing! Here are 5 quick hacks for attracting (and keeping) quality volunteer musicians at your church:
Last Monday I sent out a text to my worship team. It read as follows: “Hello Worship Team 3. This might excite some of you and bum some of you out, but I sense I am supposed to lead with one guitar and one vocal this Sunday. No band. We will resume the following week. Please come early and sing with vigor as I lead!” One by one, I heard back from my team with texts: “I’m in!”, “Sweet!” “Word” and “Praying for you”.
Our church has loads of musicians and it’s wonderful. We have an overflowing waiting list for every spot on our team! For a sanctuary that holds about 150, we have an amazing sound set up with vintage Rogers drums, Hammond Organ and top of line guitar amps. We pretend we are a much larger church when it comes to a quality live band experience. Most of our worship ministry’s 25+ musicians only play 2 out of 8 weeks. That being said, we often times intentionally dial down the production. Why?