Tired of chaotic sound checks? Tired of getting last minute surprises and feeling overwhelmed and stressed out during the process? Let’s change that. The change begins by starting your next sound check the day after the service.
The extensive sound check checklist I give away on this site is over thirty points and four of them are categorized as Days Before. Your work needs to start that early so when it comes time for the sound check, the musicians have what they need and you have everything in place, including a mix plan.
Let’s look at the four “Days Before” points and talk about each one.
1. Confirm the musician roster (musician name, instrument and/or vocal)
You can’t prepare for a sound check unless you know which musicians will be playing. This preparation includes stage planning and mix planning. Yesterday, a tech asked me about setting the high pass filter for a guitar when there aren’t any drums or bass guitar. As small as this sounds, it’s much better to walk into the booth the day of the sound check with a mix plan in mind than find out at the last minute who is playing and then trying to figure out what will work best.
By confirming the musician roster, it helps you answer the question, “What do I have to work with.”
2. Develop a stage plot with name, instrument and/or vocal, and input number.
This varies a lot by church; some churches have the same musicians every week while others change up the musicians and instruments and number of singers and…you get the point. When you know who is playing and what they are doing (see #1), then you can plan for the number of mixer channels you’ll need, how to lay them out on the mixer, and where everything needs to go on stage. For example, last week you needed two floor monitors but this week you need three. Where will the third go and which aux feed will it need?
3. Get a service order and additional audio needs such as “play backing track for soloist.”
This goes toward eliminating last minute surprises, as much as they can be realistically eliminated. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of audio/video needs added to the service though the most unusual request comes from a tech who told me Dave Ramsey was going to speak at their church and that he was requested to “mic a paper shredder.”
As far as media requirements like backing tracks and videos, these should all be tested as soon as possible. A track might require panning, be in an incompatible format, or even be the wrong track. By the time the sound check rolls around, all you should need to do is play it to set the volume level.
4. Get the worship band song list and learn the mix (listen to it on Spotify, Rdio, YouTube, etc.)
Finally, get the song list, learn how the original songs sound, and then plan your mix based on the musician roster and the worship leader’s vision for the song. Many times, the vision will be to match the original version. Being able to truly match the original recording would require professional-level musicians and more mixing equipment than most churches can afford but you can go for the overall sound – which instruments lead, which are rhythm, how effects are used, where vocals sit, etc.
You aren’t mixing how you want the band to sound, you are mixing the band how they want to sound.
The Take Away
I’ve lived through the chaotic sound check where fifteen minutes before it’s supposed to start I found out the list of musicians, the songs they planned to play and, “oh by the way, the pastor needs to play this VHS tape – it SHOULD be cued to the right spot.” 99% of the time the chaos could have been avoided if I had simply sent a few emails at the first of the week.
You might need to send a few emails or you might already have everything you need because your church uses the Planning Center software service to track everything weeks or months before the service. Be pro-active, get the above information early so you can start your sound check preparation. Grab the sound check checklist below and put an end to the chaos.