Sound Fact: The brain receives these messages from the auditory nerve. The messages comes in fast and furious, in a jumble of confusion, but the brain has the ability to sort them into an organized pattern. This way we can understand the sounds we hear as music or human speech.
One of the most overlooked and unappreciated people involved in weekend worship at church are sound engineers. These are the scientists who take all that is being output, wrap it up and send it out for the congregation to hear. Literally everyone who is hearing the music being performed is listening to the work of the sound person. So, why are they so often overlooked?
I think the greatest reason they are undervalued is because of the very strange and pointless divide that is knowingly or unknowingly put in place between musician and tech person. As if there is no creative bone needed to mix audio. The other side of the equation, and must be noted, is that in many cases unqualified volunteers are being placed at the sound board. That type of under qualification wouldn’t be tolerated in a volunteer position on the worship team but somehow is welcomed at the board. So, what does a good sound person need to have that qualifies them for the job? Here are some thoughts.
1. This is the most important aspect: the sound person ought to be a Christ follower who is working toward the same vision as the pastor and worship team of your church. Yes, your sound person could be in a “missionary position”, meaning you have invited them to the team in hopes to lead them to the Lord, but that may be as reckless as inviting one of your singers to a similar position. Someone outside of the church will not know the goals and vision of your church as compared to someone within. It’s perfectly wonderful to be lenient and have positions in the church where baby Christians are entering the church, but I would recommend a position with less responsibility and required maturity. All in all, sound people should be people of character inasmuch as people of mixing ability.
2. The sound person should prepare ahead of rehearsal just like the worship team. This point to me seems so dead-on obvious, but from my estimation, it is very hard to find sound people who come in prepared for rehearsal having listened to the music. Why? If the musicians on stage are trying to formulate a sound that they’ve practiced, shouldn’t the one mixing have spent time learning what the team is trying to produce. Yes, in simple mixes it may not be as critical, but as the complexity of the mix grows, so should the preparation. Growth occurs when you are intentional in the small things today that will allow you to do bigger things tomorrow.
3. The sound engineer has a sense for what is current mixing strategies at your church and also what is currently trending in America (or your part of the world). Since the sound board is the final launching point for what the congregation hears there ought to be some pride taken in knowing why you’re outputting the way you are. If your church likes a vocal-heavy mix, it should be known and agreed upon. If you prefer more of a lead vocal mix with light BGVs, that too should be agreed upon. Don’t take anything for granted, rather be intentional.
4. The sound person should be included in prayer gatherings, any in-between meetings and any changes that need to be made in musical arrangements. Some of this ought to be the sound man seeking this information out, but the other side of the coin is that he or she should also be included in the discussions. Don’t forget their important place in the production of your worship music.
5. There should be accountability in the final mix each weekend. What happened in the preparation phase of step 2 should be seen through to completion by step number 5. Someone who is trustworthy should analyze the sound person’s work just as much as you listen to the guitar player’s part. Why leave the mixing (the part everyone hears) up to one person’s discretion. Instead, the result should be agreed upon by pastor, worship leader and sound person. Accountability matters.
The last thing to mention, and it’s not a numbered step, is to always remember to thank and encourage your sound engineer. They are not on stage. They don’t bask in the lights and audience participation you do but are equal members of your team. Do not forget them. Rather, be intentional about seeking them out. Do your best to know their story. Be able to answer questions like: “How many kids they have?” “How long they’ve been married?” “What drew them to your church?” And last but not least: “How did they come to a faith in Jesus Christ?”.
Sound people are integral to a great worship service these days. Whether we are speaking of a small sound system or a hung line-array, someone of quality training at the helm makes all the difference. Their being a plugged in member of the church is also deeply important. Honor their time while you are together and their buy-in will yield dividends in their commitment to the ministry.
I’m curious, how do you treat the sound people at your church? Are you snippy? Do you make certain to encourage them each time you are together? What are other ways that you, as the worship leader, try to strengthen the mixing ability of your sound team? I would love to hear! Comment or private message…