I’ve missed a mic cue or two…or three. When I was a rookie, I was nervous and mixing a service felt like juggling. Missing a mic cue was bad but I forgave myself – sort of. If I miss one now, I beat myself up over it. The reason is I know how to avoid these types of mistakes.
It’s all about the anticipation.
At my church, we call each part of the service is an element. For example, a song, the sermon, and a video would be three elements of the service. The more elements, the more for me to do and to anticipate.
For example, when the band is near the end of a song, I need to be ready for whatever is next. You should have a schedule of elements so you are prepared. But there’s more to it than that.
Let me break this down into two examples with a song.
(No, I don’t mean I’m going to sing. haha.)
A song is ending and the band will play another song. We use scenes on the digital console so I need to be ready to jump to the next scene with all the saved fader positions, effects, and EQ settings. That’ a simple single click of a button.
The song ends and I know to go to the next scene. At that point, I review the channels to make sure nothing was accidentally muted and saved, and then I’ll immediately listen to the mix and adjust if necessary. For example, if a musician decides to play louder or softer compared to when we practiced.
That was pretty simple. In my analog days when I’d prepare to switch songs, I’d review my notes to see who is leading the next song both vocally and which instrument. Then when the first song would end, I’d make mix adjustments ASAP. Even effects. Like I said, notes helped.
A song is ending and the pastor will speak after the song. In this case, early on during this song, I’ll do a final check of the pastor’s wireless mic receiver. I want to make sure it’s on and receiving a signal. I also check the battery level. With our mixer, I can check directly on the pastor’s channel – sweeeeeeet.
As a note, the pastor’s wireless wireless pack should have a fully charged battery and it should be turned on and locked. But a last minute check is always a good thing. :)
What I’ve done is made sure when the pastor talks, his mic will work. But I still need to unmute his channel when it’s time. So, I check his fader channel and make sure the gain is set and the fader is about where expected. Once the song ends, I unmute his channel and only then mute the band.
What I Didn’t Do
Right before an element transition, I wasn’t:
- Using my phone
- Talking to others in the booth
- Or simply doing nothing.
I was preparing for what should happen next. I also wasn’t hyper-focusing on tweaking the mix. It’s very easy to do that and, in a way, I’m OK with it AS LONG AS you are aware of where the band is in the song. Are they down to the last verse? If so, it’s probably time to make sure you’re ready for what’s coming next.
Why We Miss Something
One audio tech told me that, when he trains new techs, during the service he covers up the eq knobs with a piece of cardboard. He uses that to remind them to watch the stage because that’s where the action is and it’s where surprises comes from.
For the new audio tech, there’s a lot of pressure during the service and it’s easy for us to be half way through a song and just zone out for a few moments. It’s like we tell ourselves we’ve survived this far. But unless we are careful, that moment we zone out might run long and next thing we know the pastor has started talking and their mic is off.
Am I saying we have to watch the stage like a hawk?
Well…as one audio tech I know likes to say, it’s all about situational awareness.
When we are in charge of audio, we have to bring our A-game.
If you want something a little easier to remember…
Don't get caught with your fader down.