Sound check is one of the most critical steps in delivering an excellent weekend service. It ensures that all the complicated patching, routing, conversion, and reproduction are happening the way you want them to happen. When sound checks go bad (coming soon to your local Fox station!), it can put off the mood of both the worship band, the worship leader, and the production team. It is an easy way for the evil one to interrupt and distract you from the reason you are at church. By taking the time to prepare for your entire service, you reduce the chance for failure, distraction, and frustration.
To The Worship Team
Just as the audio team has preparation to complete before you arrive, you also have preparation:
- Change your instrument batteries (or at least check them)
- If you need to change strings, do it before you get to church.
- Warm up your voice in the car on the way over so you’re not singing over sound-check.
- If you come with a lot of gear, get there a little early so you can get setup and ready to play when sound-check starts.
- Remember that the audio team has already been working for at least an hour already and are in what I call ‘work mode’. They are ready to go, so don’t go grab a cup of coffee.
During sound check, don’t play unless you’re asked to do so. Even when your instrument might be muted in the house, level meters moving at the desk can be confusing if there is a problem being resolved, and not all instruments are silent when muted (looking at you excited drummers)!
During your check, play as you expect to during the set. While playing a rocking solo might be fun, if it’s not matched to what you’re going to play during the service, then the value of sound check is almost completely erased. If you need to adjust pedals, communicate that to the audio booth so they know you are making changes and they should expect that change.
Know how you want to sound, and try to articulate that. Simply telling someone that your guitar sounds ‘bad’ doesn’t help improve anything. Be as descriptive as you can, even if it doesn’t make total sense. Brightness, mud, crunch, harsh, boomy, etc., are all good words because they communicate a specific thing to the engineer. If you’re unsure about what you want, consider setting up a time to come in early or on another day with the audio team to try some new things and get it dialed in. I can’t imagine an engineer that doesn’t enjoy playing with tone controls and tweaking mic placement until it sounds absolutely killer.
During your first song run-through, remember that the audio team may still be getting levels right so be patient as things move around in the mix. If there are things that you cannot hear or are simply way too loud, send that information back to the desk at the end of the song. When you stop playing mid-song, the rest of the team loses their reference of your instrument and the problem escalates.
Assuming the audio team has done their job, things should go fairly smoothly and you should be rehearsing and worshipping your face off before you know it!
- Come prepared, regardless of your role.
- Respect the people you work with, and their responsibilities.
- Communicate as clearly as you can at all times.
Sound-check shouldn’t be hard once everyone figures out why they do it and how much better a rehearsal can go once it is done. If you and your team do it different, I’d love to hear what you do and why! Everyone has a different setup, different cultures, and different solutions. This isn’t the end-all-be-all sound-check guide, but if you’re struggling with technical problems and inconsistency, it’s a solid place to start.
Read PART 2: For the Audio Team