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Posted on Feb 24, 2014 in Featured Slider, Tools, Worship Ministry | 7 comments

Why You Should Stop Avoiding Your Sound Booth!

Look, I get it. I really do. Some of you love making music but couldn’t care less about the technical ins and outs of a sound system. Words like Gain, Phantom Power, EQ, Gate, Compression or even Reverb make your eyes glaze over and roll. The mere sight of all those knobs and faders on the sound board is enough to give anyone a headache, right?!

I have to admit, I was in your shoes for many years. I love playing guitar. I love singing. I love leading a band and a church in song. But I would’ve just as soon “wrassled” a wild boar as tangled with feedback! Or any of that other sound tech stuff, for that matter.

sound-magic

But over the years I’ve come to recognize that I truly need to be engaged in the sound ministry of our church. And, even though it’s still not my comfort zone or my favorite thing in the world, I’ve tried to learn and grow in this area. There are several reasons for this change of heart. And those are also the reasons you should stop avoiding your church’s sound booth!

The Big Reason
Sound volunteers’ time is limited. I’m guessing that those of you serving in blue collar worship ministries like mine, are in the same boat I am: We can’t afford to pay a pro! I’m blessed to have a couple of great volunteers but they don’t live and breathe worship ministry. How could they with tough jobs and busy families and even other involvements within our church? This shortage of time creates several little reasons:

  • Little Reason #1 What about mid-week practice? I don’t know about yours but my sound volunteers already have enough of their nights taken up with other things they’re plugged into. They don’t need another weekly commitment to add on their calendar. So I need to know enough to get the job done and solve some basic sound problems on Thursday nights.
  • Little Reason #2 What if they move or quit or die or something? Don’t tell my guys that I’m being so morbid concerning their longevity! But really, what will you do when your resident expert can no longer serve? Who’s going to train up the next sound volunteer? Or will you have to take multiple steps back in excellence because you didn’t invest the time to learn?
  • Little Reason #3 Sometimes big sound problems arise. Trust me, they do. Suddenly your old sound board starts weirding out and speakers blow and all the “sound demons” come out to play at once :) Then a lot of research needs doing and many quick decisions need to be made. Who’s going to make time for that? It may need to be you.

And finally…

The Other Big Reason
Who cares more about the quality of your church’s worship ministry than you? NOBODY! That’s why you need to know at least a little about everything worship-related. It’s a part of the ministry God has called you to, whether it’s the part you like or the part you kinda wish could go away.

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say anything about HOW to grow in this area. You could buy a book but sound tech books are crazy-boring!!! Sound Technology is one of those now-rare fields where knowledge is still primarily passed along relationally rather than by institutions or formal training. So I recommend starting with your volunteers. Ask them questions until you know as much as they do. Then there’s a good chance you may want to look for a sound guru who could pour some knowledge into both you and your volunteers.

How about you? Do you love it or hate it? How have you learned what you know about sound?

Photo credit: elPadawan / Foter / CC BY-SA

  • Doc Kavanagh

    OK , here’s an idea ……On a rehearsal night when you have no sound person , let the band learn how to do a song without you ( the leader ) and instead go back and do sound . In small to medium size churches this may entail more of just telling the guitarist to turn down , the singer to ” get on the mic ” , the bass player to get quiet during the verses . Not so much turning knobs and dials . More listening in the room and teaching the band to balance themselves on stage rather than having the sound guy make changes to fix their ” unbalances ” .

    • http://bluecollarworship.com/ Neil Oldham

      I also like this from the standpoint of helping them grow as a band without you. They and the church would be that much better off when you’re gone (whether vacation or whatever). Great idea, thanks for sharing!

  • Jonathan Dirrim

    Good stuff Neil! Been on both sides of this as well… Another point to be made is communication. The sound booth can have as much to do with communicating the message of the songs as you do. Quality helps you communicate without distraction.

    • http://bluecollarworship.com/ Neil Oldham

      So true! Few things have the power to interrupt the line of communication like a sound snafu :)

  • John Parker

    Thanks for this article, Neil. It is an area I have been avoiding forever. Many years ago when I joined a traveling rock band (’81-’86) and was a total newbie. I mean I was never in a garage band so I had no experience with hooking up PA’s, mixer boards, EQ’ing the mix, etc. I was a guitar player/singer. I went straight into a working, traveling band without any experience. The entire band got involved in unloading/loading the truck, setting up and breaking down all our gear, stage, PA, lighting, but I never assisted with anything to do with the mix or sound board. Fast forward to the churches I have been at and I have always had to rely on the sound men in place for all the technical aspects. Sure I can turn on the system and get volume turned up, but God forbid anything should malfunction with me at the helm. About 6-8 months ago our church purchased a Behringer X32 Digital Board and it has been so nice. However, I am more lost than ever, ha-ha! Perhaps the best feature with this new board is that all the musicians can now adjust there own monitor mix via iPod/iPad (and now there is an app for Android, as well). This is huge as we used to spend/waste 10-20 min each practice with everyone telling the sound man their monitor needs. Truth is, I am more a musician than a techie and granted, you can be both, I know! I just like to come in, plug in and get after it. This article has convinced me that I have to get more intimately involved in the sound production. To that end, I have already started watching some instructional videos on YouTube about setting up the X32 and general navigation. Right now, we really have only one dedicated sound man and he is really technical, but if he is unavailable, it would be somewhat worrisome just putting anyone else back there. To be continued….

    • http://bluecollarworship.com/ Neil Oldham

      Awesome! And good luck :) We love our x32, too. You may have seen my post about it from awhile back: http://wp.me/p3yfln-J

      But I remember when we first got it and had a guy explaining it to us…it was mind-numbing! HA! And it still is sometimes when I have to wade into a weird problem with the sound from time to time but on the whole, it’s been really worth it. Hope you’ll be able to find some enjoyment in it on the other side of the growing pains!

      • John Parker

        Just checked out your previous article on the x32. There have definitely been a couple times that people have come up to me at church when our sound man was not there with a question about the new board and I had to shrug my shoulders feeling pretty useless at the time. For instance, our prayer team has started meeting on Monday nights to pray (open to the whole church) and I joined them a couple Monday’s ago, only to find they were using a small boom box for pumping in some worship music as they had no clue how to use the sound system. The boom box was adequate, but they were using it out of necessity. There are quite a few instructional videos on YouTube about the x32 and I read that Behringer has put out some Webinars.