Time To Get Honest: The Musicians Point of View

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I’ve been talking with some worship guitarists recently and asked them questions as it relates to the sound tech / worship team relationship.  Below, I’ve listed each question and some responses.  I’ve edited them only to shorten their length.  I’m not really sure if I need to expound on what they are saying.  Read their responses and apply to your situation.  We are all on a team.  That team is the sound crew plus the worship band.  Your team might be thrilled with you.  They might have a few issues they’d like to raise but are afraid of doing so.  Consider the below opinions as food for thought.

1. What could your sound tech do better?
Technically, walk around a bit with someone else on the board to see how the mix is everywhere in our church. Then mix to maximize the good mix to the largest groups of folks. 
Train other folks on the system so that he is not the only one in the church who can effectively work it. However, that is a tougher job than it sounds.
Take the initiative to actually ask what we need on stage.
-Pay attention to the suggestions the musicians have. Learn to understand frequency!
-Learn to play guitar. Seriously his only failing is that it’s difficult to make too many suggestions. He’s pretty defensive, which makes no sense because he’s not a musician, nor an experienced sound tech.
-Install subs so the monitors/speakers aren’t so overloaded.

2. What does your sound tech do really well?
– Considering the size, shape and layout of the church, he actually does a decent job of sound.
– Standout quality is his servant heart.
– He turns the system on very well. Oh and he is like a pitbull guarding the equipment. To be fair, he is good at stage presentation and lighting.
– He is trying and I suppose it’s his best.
– He comes on-stage and listens to each person’s mix.

3. Where is the biggest disconnect between the sound tech and the praise bands?
– What the mix should sound like. What should be prominent in the mix? Where the prominence should change song to song.
– The sound tech is a know it all.  We were having problems with the monitor amp clipping and shutting off. I told him what it was and for three or four weeks he insisted it was the speaker cable. After the three to four weeks went by he says "I guess you were right".  The other soundman that runs the board pays attention and when I tell him (from the stage with hand signals) to turn down the monitors we have no issue with clipping.
– (Monitor Mixing) I think we need a way to control our monitor mixes from the stage. I’m willing to leave the front-of-house to the pastors if they don’t like what they hear. But I need to hear what I need to hear on stage (rest of the band to a lesser extent).
– He doesn’t understand dynamics.

4. Do you take suggestions from the sound tech?
– Yes, all the time.
– Yes, if they ask for a volume change or an amp direction change I am more than willing to cooperate.
– He doesn’t make any.
– Yes, I’m in constant communication with him during practice and after each service.

5. Do you give suggestions to the sound tech?
– Yes, all the time… sometimes he listens.  To be fair, he listens pretty well.
– All the time and he always dismisses everything anyone says.
– As many as I can get away with short of lighting his fuse.
– Yes…."I think it’s time you go home now".

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  1. says

    Yeah one of the first comments about taking initiative to find out what the musicians need is HUGE. Don’t assume, just ask, and you’ll almost always be glad you did.

  2. says

    There are some mean, backhanded comments there! I am the only guitarist who gets along with sound guys?? We’re on the same team. Stop it.

  3. Admin says

    I’ve talked with a variety of guitarists who are in churches of different sizes.  Many have a great relationship with their audio team.  Today I talked with a congregation member of a church with 4 services with 1,500 people in each and he was complaining of sound problems.  The hardest thing for me to hear is that regardless of size, the quality of the sound tech’s can vary a lot.

    Recently, someone made a good observation.  I think this might apply only to smaller churches but I’m not sure.  If someone wants to play guitar, they have to show they have some talent and skill to play in front of people.  However,  if someone wants to run sound, the church welcomes them regardless of ability.

    My hope with this post is that sound tech’s can take a hard look at themselves and their quality of work, their heart, and their team spirit.  When this is all in line with how God wants us to work, we are able to create a more joyful noise and create a better working environment among the team. 

    There is a rift that can occur between the sound techs and the musicians.  Once is explorered and understood, then the healing and improvement can begin. 

  4. Matt says

    I try to see both sides of a conflict but being a sound engineer myself, I don’t like those opinions.
    I understand we sound guys are a annoying at times but the musicians have to realize that they are annoying too, they may have years of experience but let’s ask a question. do they have experience in music or sound?
    just because they can play doesn’t mean they have any clue how to use the equipment and I find it annoying when they think they’re experts and I’m the idiot, I may be a volunteer, but I have made an effort to learn how to do sound properly and I would like that to be excepted. We do have personality problems I agree, but our jobs are incredibly stressful, we try to do what we can for those on stage, but sometimes we need a compliment, not a complaint we get enough of those. being a sound engineer, I’m biased and would say that those on stage need to work on attitude, but to be totally fair and honest, the people on both sides, tech and music, need to work on accepting each other and working together

  5. Janne says

    I am a freelancing sound engineer and i am responsible for the sound in my church. For me the single most important duty as the sound operator is to serve. who do I serve? 1. God 2.the woship team (musicians+singers) 3. those attending the service.
    From those you can think what is needed so that my serving will fit the needs.
    1. What does the Bible tell us about how to serve?
    2. What do the musicians and the singers need to feel comfortable, so that they can concentrate on their own serving. Often I notice that the needs of a worship team are very different. The drummer and bass needs it LOUD, and the singers want it soft. Then the important part as the sound engineer is to get the team to listen to eachother so that they can settle for a good stage volume.
    3. Who is listening? Different audiences want different mixes. On our youth meetings it is loud(er), and the sunday service is softer, just because the target group is very different. It is not that the older people are always complaining, that’s the wrong answer. They have come to church to meet God, and we as sound operators should make it easy for them to do so.

    Then one thing on attitude. I am sick of sound engineers who are full of themselves. They are always complaining, and never rally listening. They feel that everything is a threat. This is not in any way due to age of the person. I have met church sound volunteers from age 18-45 who have not been able to listen to other people. If that is so, they are in the wrong place!
    If somebody is complaining about something what you do, there must be a reason. The reason might not always be you, and you have to try to understand that. Try to see behind words and understand what people really need, and then you will be able to give it to them, it might not be more/less vocals on stage, it might be a hug!

    Church sound is about listening, to God, to people, and also what you mix!

    my 2 cents
    Greetings from Helsinki/ Europe
    nice blog!

  6. Michael @ NCFF says

    I think in the big picture our job is all about customer service. As the sound engineer I need to make sure the worship team has everything they need to have a great service. If they can’t hear what they want, I need to do what I can to fix it.

    On the other hand, what happens in the sanctuary is my responsibility. The occasional suggestion is okay but please don’t try to help me set the mix. This is the job of the sound team. Not the worship leader, not the pastor. We’re not perfect but we’re doing the best job we can. Just step back and let us do what we have the training and experience to do.