If you’re like me, you develop a new interest in something and immediately try learning everything you can. There are good ways to do this and bad ways. Those good ones go beyond reading books, watching videos, whatever type of standard one-way learning you like. And it’s those added steps I’m listing today.
You might be surprised to know these hacks aren’t just for newbies. Any audio tech can apply these. They could be just what you need to take your skills up a notch with less effort that you think.
The Nine Hacks to Faster Growth
1. Set goals.
List out what you want to learn and set these as goals like, “become better at mixing electric guitar.” Then, when you’ve got extra time during a band practice or sound check, focus on the electric guitars.
If you have a console with virtual sound check, make time to practice with the recordings – and here’s the key to real progress, don’t get sidelined working with something else. Yes, you could start playing with effects on vocals but this is the time for focusing on electric guitar mixing!
2. Perform post-service reviews of your work.
What worked out better than expected and why? Maybe it’s something you can repeat. What didn’t work out and why? What can you learn from it?
This step seems stinking obvious but I see people skip it. I can tell because the following week they make the same mistakes.
3. Get a mentor
Identify a tech team member who has the skills you don’t and pin them to the walk and scream “TEACH ME!” Ok, so that’s a little extreme but the truth is when it comes to church audio techs, skill levels are all over the place so if someone is better in an area, ask them for help. If you need help getting vocals and instruments to sit in the right place in a mix, consider talking with musicians you know who have done recording.
4. Join a group.
Outside of training classes and educational resources, there’s no better way to improve than to get a mentor and (or) join a group. One of the benefits of joining the Behind the Mixer world-wide tech team is access to our private group. We talk about mixing, equipment, and pretty much anything that has to do with audio. Got a question? Ask it and you’ll get answers faster than you’d think.
5. Don’t compare yourself to others.
This is really easy to do if you’ve ever gone to a tech conference. You find out some guru audio tech runs a $60,000 digital console with pro-level musicians and you think about your “little” 24-channel analog console and mediocre band and wonder if your mixing efforts are even worth it. YES, YES THEY ARE.
It doesn’t matter the type of equipment or the quality of the band (they are in front of the congregation so they must have some skills), the work you do makes a huge difference. When in doubt, kill the sound to the house speakers and listen.
Maybe you’re thinking the church choir and pastor aren’t really that much to warrant the effort to perfect their mix. Au contraire, mixing the spoken word is ALWAYS important and not matter who is on stage, the work of the audio tech will make a difference.
6. Put your phone down.
PUT IT DOWN! Now step away. Farther. Farther. That’s it.
It’s easy to grab your phone and text a friend or check Facebook or twitter while you’re waiting for the band to set up. Don’t do it. Take that time to check in with the musicians. “How’ve you been?” “Can I help with anything?” This goes to building that teamwork mentality and comradery. I have musicians and worship leaders who ask me for honest feedback. They do so because they trust my work and we have a good relationship.
Phones are also time-sucks. For example, I’ll be at church tonight for the band’s practice and once I mix each song, I could surf the net on my iPhone OR I could work on improving an instrument mix or experiment with different effects. Which will make be into a better audio tech?
7. List it.
Any time you’re learning a new process or trying to streamline a process, such as the soundcheck, compile an ordered list of what needs to be done. Be as specific or general as needed – whatever works for you.
Update the list as you improve it. For example, let’s say you have a list of all stage work to complete before the band arrives and it works, but you find yourself running all over the stage and back and forth to the sound booth and equipment storage area. Group items from the list so you minimize those back and forth trips.
8. Record the settings.
I’ve learned this one the hard way. If you’re experimenting with equipment that normally has fixed settings (“we usually keep them like this.”) then record those settings. Now you can experiment all you want and have a place to fall back.
It also helps in case someone changes settings and something stops working. I had this happen. I don’t know if a button was accidentally bumped, a kid snuck into the booth, or the equipment reset itself…but it happened.
9. Make a decision.
Your skills and abilities as a church audio tech are dependent on one thing; YOU. I’ve seen techs with “years of experience” that could only handle the basics of mixing. I’ve seen techs with “months of experience” who accelerated past the fundamentals and were mixing some outstanding stuff. Each made a decision; one that knowing a little was enough and one that understood learning audio production is an everyday event.
Don’t “go with the flow” this year – decide to become a better church audio tech and take the steps to do so.
Are your learning efforts not paying off like they used to? Do you expect to be further along? This might be the reason – check it out: