What does it take to be successful in live audio production? To answer this question, I’ve partnered with professional audio engineer Nathan Lively. In part 1, I’m looking at it from the point of view of church audio.
There are six qualities that make church techs successful. Some techs have these the moment they start, for others, they develop these skills.
1. Dedication to the craft.
Ernest Hemingway said of writing, “…writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done – so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.”
Imagine he’s talking about church audio. Audio production is an art form. By learning the craft to the best of our ability, the better the job we can do. And by working at that level, our team-mates are inspired, the congregation is blessed, and everyone on the stage is focused on their job.
2. Professional work ethic.
It’s the same expectation the pastor has on you. Focused. Pro-active. Professional. I’m all for having fun in the sound booth and enjoying my job. I can do that while remaining professional. I can laugh and joke but I’m not going to be checking Facebook or talking to friends when I should be working. People know they can count on me.
3. Team player.
It’s the able to work with others, take direction and suggestion from others, and likewise help others. The audio tech is part of the larger tech team. And that team is part of the worship team and that team is part of the church team.
In difficult times, I’ve found it helps to look at the common goal and then work towards that goal instead of “my goal.”
4. Quick thinker.
Be able to react quickly when unexpected things happen. In live audio production, anything can happen and I’ve got a host of stories to prove it. Be able to stay calm during high-pressure moments when the unexpected happens. Be able to follow along with music changes, mic changes, and even run on stage if needed.
A great exercise to grow this skill is by listing worst-case scenarios and then creating a response plan.
5. A blessing to the church.
Work as one who is a blessing to those around them. If you’re not sure, ask those around you. I’ve had people tell me their lead tech acts like they know everything but in actuality, musicians complain about the monitors and other techs are afraid to talk to them. Don’t be that tech.
It’s our job to support the needs of every person who steps in front of the congregation. It’s also our job to present the congregation with a sound that benefits their experience. Working in church audio isn’t just about microphones and mixing, it’s also about being a hands-on blessing to others.
I’ve always said the most important job behind the pastor, during the service, is the sound tech. It’s a position to take seriously. It’s a position of honor. And I want people in that position to be happy.
When I walk into the church sanctuary, I know it’s where God wants me to be. It’s where I can be a blessing to others and knowing that makes me happy – and that affects how well I work.
Do the qualities of a successful church audio engineer equal that of someone working in the secular pro audio field? Are we working for the same reasons?