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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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.