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.

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
One “The Perfect Worship Set List” – $15
BOTH POSTERS SHIPPED! – $20


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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Four Behaviors of a Thriving Worship Ministry

Lessons From Churches from 50 and 5000.

Over the past 18 months, I have served fifty-plus churches as a worship team trainer and guest worship leader. I’ve noticed some interesting trends in worship ministries that are healthy, growing, and happy. This post has little to do with the quality of liturgy or congregational worship experience, but it’s more a peek under the administrative hood. It is not exhaustive, it’s just a list of markers I have noticed.

FOUR behaviors of thriving worship ministries:

1. THEY CONSISTENTLY (and uniformly) SCHEDULE THEIR VOLUNTEERS 

Most churches have multiple worship leaders. If you have three worship leaders and three different ways of administering bands, you will drive your volunteers crazy. There should be one system that everyone adheres to. If possible, try to implement the SAME system across the board for all volunteers so families can serve in multiple areas of the church without confusion.

  • Pick a System – There are several ways to let people know when they are serving at church. Planning Center Online is the king, however, you can also look at worshipteam.com and others. You might use a mix of online tools and simple PDF attachments to email. Your system should have a way to communicate seasonally (1-4 months at a time), weekly (hey, you’re on this week), and the day of service (hey, you’re on today). Provide schedules at least 1 month before the start of the schedule. (i.e. the January schedule is emailed November 30th etc…).
  • Do not avoid creating a system because one volunteer doesn’t use email or Facebook. Those people either need to yield to the agreed method or you can build a secondary system for them. Either way, there should be a system to reach everyone.
  • Once a healthy method for communication is in place, don’t constantly change your methodology. You will build trust with consistency, which is measured in years, not months.
  • Raise heck when your system is ignored or amended by well-meaning, creative people. Consistency breeds faithfulness (and more drummers).

Worship Songwriting for My Church… and Your Church?

Our songs made available got me thinking

Transposable audio and chord charts for “How Glorious You Are” are now available on WorshipTeam.com! Worship directors, if you don’t use WorshipTeam.com consider using it to manage the craziness. It’s a better, more musical version of Planning Center.

It’s life-giving to lead your own church community in songs you create. It’s a gift and a wonderful feeling as an artist. I pastored the songwriters at VCC in Marietta GA for 18 years; we wrote 100’s of songs people actually liked and needed. We would press CD’s and make our songs available on the web with the hope that someone else would listen and enjoy what they heard.

If we are honest, in the worship songwriting world, the big “win” is learning that some OTHER church is singing your song… whoa! Not just listening… but teaching YOUR SONG to the drummer, putting the words you wrote in their power point, and encouraging others to sing along. It’s nice to know that we don’t just have to wait for the suits at the big Chrisitan record labels to spoonfeed us the next sugar sweet hit. This church songwriting thing is pretty life-giving and exciting. Hopefully, those songs are forming people rightly, making souls that think and act more like Christ. 


That previous sentence is the “right” answer and it took me a long time to get there. In my youth, my secret desire was to acquire a big house or more guitars with the success of my songs. At the core, what I really wanted was respect, honor, and influence. Some smart person told me I could get that stuff from other, more realizable sources! Now I’m just happy someone, anyone is listening – and maybe singing along 🙂 

Check out WorshipTeam.com for a FREE TRIALDownload, listen and sing to “How Glorious You Are” on iTunes and Spotify 

 

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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Recording as Discipleship

The Making of How Glorious You Are

FINISHING THE RECORD 

I co-wrote, produced and played on a live recording for my previous church in August 2015. Four months into production, I was let go from the church. Much of the process of finishing the album revolved around my ability to mix the songs on the cheap as an employee, so needless to say it was delayed. Working on this record after my departure felt like I was writing a love letter to an ex-girlfriend and having to mean it. Ultimately I had to finish it, because so many, including myself, had already invested so much. I want to share a little about this album and the creative community behind it to encourage churches to create record their own expressions of worship.

Creativity flourishes not in certainty but in questions. – Sue Monk Kidd

A WORSHIP TEAM WITH A NAME  

When the church planted 20 years ago we named the worship band “Poured Out Like Wine” because it sounded more sustainable than “Mike’s Praise Band”. Over that time we recorded 6 full lengths albums, 5 EP’s, and 5 singles. We built a studio in the church and trained hundreds of musicians, songwriters, and recording engineers over the years. You might call it “recording as discipleship”. We have has some limited success with royalties and labels publishing our songs, but we never had anything you could call a “hit”. No substantive reviews, nods or buzz. A long, slow, ordinary creative flow with hardly anyone noticing other than our church. This is where it gets interesting. In our little church, the worship leaders and songwriters have been saying something new for almost 20 years. With hundreds of our own songs weaved into the typical modern church liturgy, we have lived the dream week by week. Most artists would kill to have a couple hundred people in a room singing along to your song. It’s been good for all of us.

Each name on this CD jacket represents hours, months and years of discipleship. The songs have formed us, but more importantly, the hours spent creating together have formed us more into the image of Christ. 

SINGABLE VISION 

The preachers preach and the songwriters listen. We summarize the message into something memorable and singable. As the community embraces seasons of rejoicing or weeping, the songwriters are the attentive storytellers coming alongside the church to give voice.

HOW GLORIOUS YOU ARE 

This slow kingdom coming peeks into the world a little today the release of “How Glorious You Are”; the title track was written in between theology classes when I realized once again the centrality of Christ in worship. JR Rund and Wilfred Cuthbert bring their country leanings on “Songs of Joy” and “The Steadfast Love of the Lord”. Lauren Kamal wrote and sang (8 months pregnant) a deep reflection on the presence of God on “We Can’t Contain You”. “Oh Jesus” was written by our sound guy turned bass player tuned songwriter, Jonathan Hicks – it’s the most ‘Vineyardy’ song on the record. “Come Holy Spirit” is my favorite worship song I’ve ever written or recorded. It just says and does all the things I want a church song to do. I wrote the first song “One True God” when a really good friend told me he had quit Christianity – it’s the wrestling of doubt and faith against a Tom Petty chord progression. This is a very vocal record with all 6 singers (worship leaders) pretty much singing all the time.

For this recording, we used ALL local church people except for the drummer and mastering engineer. We made a 20K album for 3K! So many musicians gave up time at work and rehearsed hours and days to make this happen. We labored over the songs for months before setting them free.

You can buy the record HERE

You can STREAM the record everywhere

You can download the chord charts HERE

 

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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10 Hidden Songs for Advent

Worship in the Waiting

10-hidden-advent-songs-for-worship-planners-2

I never fully understood Advent until my wife and I experienced seven years of infertility. During those years each Christmas was more difficult than the last. Underneath the bliss of parties and cheery songs hid a deep sorrow that was only welcome in the church.

Here is a quote from my friend Ryan Flanigan about the season:

…we put ourselves in the countercultural posture of silence and waiting. We refrain from the instantaneous gratification of getting whatever we want when we want. And we allow ourselves to feel our need for a savior.

For worship leaders and planners there is a beautiful tension we can highlight in the songs, visuals and prayers we oversee. As much as I appreciate the rich legacy of our Christmas Hymns, I love to search for (and create) new expressions that highlight the happy-sad season of Advent. Here are 10 hidden gems that people can and will sing during the Advent season.

Come Lord Jesus (A Song for Advent)
Diane Thiel-Sharp – Vineyard Worship USA 

The Sun Will Rise
The Brilliance