Honestly, there are times when I arrive early at church, toss in a CD, and simply enjoy setting up the stage. Routine, yes. Exciting, no. But, enjoyable nonetheless. Some of my speed comes from years of experience and some of it comes from knowing how I can set it up in the least amount of time necessary. Want to set the stage as quickly and accurately and safely as possible? Let’s press on…
1. Know who’s playing in the band
Sounds simple but if you’ve ever had a time when you set the stage only to find out that one or two people weren’t performing, you’ll know what I mean.
What to do: Get the band list in advance. Just because the band usually has five people doesn’t mean that next week all five will be playing. As far as “morning of” type of notifications, ask the worship leader to text you any lineup changes as soon as possible.
2. Plan ahead for space planning.
I’ve jokingly hummed the music you hear at a three-ring circus when the pastor handed me an “updated schedule.” In the case of stages with limited wiggle-room, free space is a commodity. Whether it’s an added instrument or a sermon prop, it’s an added dimension to managing the stage.
What to do: Get the service schedule well in advance. If you often find the church service to feel more like a three-ring circus, considering running that thought by the pastor. Sometimes, they just need another person’s opinion.
Also, in the case of the last-minute-changes, find out if a prop can be brought on stage when needed and then removed when you need to reclaim the space.
3. Label cords for length
Using the shortest cords helps stage clutter and keeps the stage safe from added hazards. If you’ve ever seen someone trip on a cable, you know what I mean. When you know the length of the cable you grab, you know where you can use it.
What to do: Colored rubber bands on the end. Colored tape where each color represents a known length. White electrical tape with the length written on the end. It’s up to you.
4. Enlist musicians to help
Musicians are a valuable resource!
What to do: Train them to set up their stations. As long as they come in a bit earlier than normal, they can be a great help. Guitarists can set up their pedals and di boxes. Singers can grab their own mic’s and cables, if not wireless of course.
5. Use same band setup
Familiarity breeds contempt. Hmmm…not the phrase I wanted here…oh yeah, familiarity on stage is good for musicians and sound guys. For example, the guitarist is always on the left and therefore always knows to look right to see the bass player. It’s also just a mental issue. When you can picture who is standing in what locations, it’s easier to set up as you move across the stage.
What to do: Establish a stage chart for each band.
6. Magnetic tape labels for the mixer
I put this off for longer than I should and regretted the delay once I did it. ‘Nough said.
What to do: By spending an evening with magnetic tape and a labeler (or just use a pen), create labels for every person in the bands as well as any other people such as the pastors mic and, lectern mic. Also create generic labels such as “guitar” or “guitar 1” and “guitar 2.” These labels are great if you either prefer to label your channels by instrument or if you have a visiting band.
7. Keep an orderly audio closest – mic’s in same place, cables wrapped and in same location, etc.
Quite simply, an organized audio closet/room enables you to find equipment in a snap.
What to do: Tag it, label it, hang it, whatever works best for you to organize the area. I use labeled bins for tools, mic part, cable parts, etc.
8. Find out about last minute changes as soon as you walk in the building.
Last week we had a miracle. The schedule was not changed by either the pastor or the worship leader. Typically something is switched or added.
What to do: Take your copy of the schedule to the pastor, worship leader, or whoever else might have a key role in the service and check for changes. Do this as soon as you can. It’s easier to deal with the needed changes earlier in the process instead of at the last minute.
9. Drink your first coffee on the way to church, not once you get there. :)
10. Mentor someone! Got a person would is interested in joining the audio team? Got a sound guy who needs some extra attention? This is a great time to use them as a helping hand as well as talking and teaching and getting to know them.