Perspective

Every once in a while I like to run sound. And every once in a while, I like to run tech. And every lots of times in a while, I like to play guitar in worship, without leading. It just lends such perfect (although at times, unfortunate) perspective. ‘What do you mean there’s no sheet music?’ Oh. Wait. Did that this morning. ‘You mean I spent two hours learning this entire ‘epic’ (can we please not use that word anymore) 15 minute Hillsong live version, and now we’re cutting it because you don’t have ‘a peace’ about it? (Isn’t it interesting how many times a worship leader ‘not having a peace’ about a song, is directly related to their also ‘not having taken the time to learn the lyrics’ of a song, too? Right…I got ya…there’s a trembling in the spirit, no peace in your heart, a disturbance in the force, the pontificate of music…that’s Edge…oops…letting fantasies creep in here again…came to you in a dream and told you not to play it, ya we get it. You forgot the lyrics.) Oh. Right. I did that last Sunday to my team, too. Perspective is important.

Although to quote (not entirely) Spinal Tap at Elvis’ grave, sometimes you can have too much perspective. And usually that comes from running sound and tech. I like to do this every six months or so at special events at my church, with just the title of, ‘Hi. I’ll be taking care of you this morning.’ Perspective. Whoa. Tech people? Sound guys? You have all my love. Not sure if you wanted all my love, but you got it anyway. How do you guys deal every day with missing a slide change, because eleventy people have been coming back from the audience to the tech room, each with their own unique and not so subtle perspective on your ear for sound and your eye for lighting, and then having the speaker make a joke at your expense (and usually a pretty funny one, too…guest speakers at these special events are usually best-selling authors, and they have a way with words, I’ll give them that :) ), and then the whole audience laughs…meanwhile, you’re still trying to explain to a member of the audience (as they’re laughing at the missed slide joke, by the way), that wouldn’t it perhaps be a little bit distracting to bring the scissor lift in behind the speaker to change the one blue bulb that’s burnt out?

Tech teams, sound guys, and especially my tech teams, and my sound guys, I salute you. And not just in a, ‘Okay, I conceded that your job is difficult too, now…will you route more reverb into the keyboardist’s monitor…ya…just on my voice…no, I don’t care if he doesn’t want it, it creates a nice ambience to my ears as I sing and it wofts over to my side of the stage.’ Not just in that way. Many times, our sound techs and tech teams are the most talented and level-headed ones out there, with the best ears. So then we stick you behind the sound board and abuse you. Wait…is the level of abuse directly related to why my monitor seems to get quieter and quieter as the service goes on and I keep giving you high signs on how to change the front of house sound from my perfect sonic position behind the house speakers? Oh. I get it.

Splendid.
Karl.

20 thoughts on “Perspective

  1. Yes, those guys have a tough job. We go out of our way to praise our sound guy, but there are comical moments. He’s a retired back-hoe driver with hearing issues. He got hearing aids recently but I suspect they aren’t dialed in yet.

    Our Pastor insisted on having a nice condenser mike for the pulpit spot, which means who ever sings there has different requirements than the rest of us on SM58s. So last week at announcements the condenser mike is squealing a bit and George didn’t even hear it. I had to diplomatically let him know.

    Occasionally I’ll say something like “Becky won’t be hear tonight” and he’ll respond “you need the lights out?” Splendid.

  2. I have been scheduled to run sound two weeks in a row. Apparently I must have taken one too many solos to deserve that kind of punishment….
    Actually, everyone including our drummers has to do some time on the sound desk. It’s a requirement that if you want to play on the team that you also learn how to set up and take down the entire rig. This can lead to some comical scenarios (didn’t you love when on the back of VHS tapes in the 80′s when it said “with hilarious consequenses” you knew the film was going to suck but you watched it anyway eg -Weekend at Bernies II) but overall works pretty well. To be fair, our two drummers are the best sound guys that we have, they definitely make things run the smoothest.
    It’s pretty funny to hear how each person mixes sound the way that they wish it was when they are on stage. The drummers have huge booming drums with lots of reverb on the toms, the vocalist have vocals in the front. When the bass players do it, you can feel your dental work rattling loose. When the keyboard players are on, you can actually hear the keys at times other than the offering. And when the guitarists are on sound….wait, are there actually other instruments up there?
    Does anyone else do it like this, or do you all have the luxury of dedicated sound and tech people.
    PS biggest pet peeve – even worse than a bad mix – slide guy that gets into the worship and forgets to advance the slides or doesn’t advance it until the leader has already started singing the line. Argh.

  3. hahah, great thread. We have dedicated people, and mainly thats due to not enough people to rotate at this time, which is pretty sad for the size of our church. But I do say that once we went to in-ear monitors, the level of work that the sound guy did was dramatically reduced. We all give him praise and the slide person too on a regular basis cause its them that make us sound good.

    At a previous church I ran sound, and it was very difficult. Trying to get a CD type mix, but the Worship leader, preachers wife, had to be heard over everything so it was quite maddening at times.

    I do have to admit though something as easy as hitting one key of a power point presentation for the lyrics seems quite so easy, but it seems to take that extra special someone to keep it going properly. :)

  4. Randy–hehehe That is awesome. :) Bless you for dealing with what you deal with, and bless him for a heart to serve. hehe

    Mark Colvin–nice! I’ve thought about setting something up like that for my team…and it would be very telling to hear how each of them mixes. lol And killer comment about the solos thing. That made my day!

    And yes…when you look back there and see your slide guy with his hands raised and eyes closed…you know he’s singing his heart out, but probably no one else is! haha

    Shane–totally. Giving them encouragement is key. And we have the same problem…seems like we should have more volunteers for our size, although I doubt we’re as big as your church. But I’ll get calls from worship leaders at big churches sometimes, desperate for a guitarist for a certain service. And I absolutely love doing it, but it does seem odd sometimes that at a church that size, a guitarist can’t be found. Oh well. More delay-laced Edge ripoff anti-solos for me. ;)

    And yes…I’m trying to put into some of our sound guys’ heads that hearing the vocals is good. HEARING the vocals…not so much. :)

    The slides seriously do look easy…but then being back there doing them…it’s crazy how intense it can become! hehe

  5. I had to smile at your comment about big churches not having enough guitar players. I just moved 2 hours North so now I’m too far to fill in at my friend’s big church. He asked me if I knew anyone else in the area that could play the modern style. No but maybe God wants you to train up some people in your church instead of going outside.
    If you ever move up to the Bay Area, I can refer you :)

      • Hi Tom – we moved to Santa Rosa but I’m still down on the Peninsula a couple days a week for work. I’m driving down on Sat for the Phil Wickham concert at my friend’s church (cpclive.org).

    • Definietly, I have a couple of teenagers that I am working with now, just trying to get them out of the box of normal chords, and then we shall move on to the tastey part… DELAY!

      Maybe not finding enough people speaks to how picky God is about who he puts up there, and then thinking about that seriously humbles me cause I really don’t feel like I am good enough to be up there. Goes back to the grace thing I think. God is Awesome!

  6. It’s definitely nice to see things from both sides of the stage. Sorry backup singers, you can’t have less drums in your monitor, because that is the mains you’re hearing.

  7. Dan–haha Totally! I mean, not that I’m complaining; I love serving…especially at the churches with the good sound systems. ;) But it is interesting. I think it’s just time-consuming to train up new people. I know I suck at it myself.

    And if I do ever move up there (which is on my list), maybe they’ll have yet to train someone up, and I’ll take you up on that reference! ;)

    Tom–in no way were you addressing me with that question, but I just can’t pass up the opportunity to give you one word: Matchless.

    Colty–lol Oh, that’s my favorite! Or when the vocalists (lead or otherwise) can’t hear themselves just screaming out of the monitors. It’s like, ‘Do you hear that thing that’s not an instrument? The one with words? Yes, that’s you!’ hehehe Oh, the joys of monitors.

    • Matchless. Yes.

      So I have just recently joined a secular band. It’s old school hard rock. I’m playing lead. SO much fun! Nice clean cut group too.

      ANYWAY – I just have to point out that the rhythm guitarist is playing through a Mesa Triple Rec Half-Stack.

      I had to turn down my little 15 watt 1×12 Matchless (whom I have nicknamed “Matchy”) to keep from drowning him out.

      This makes me very happy.

  8. Karl, great post i loved it.

    I’m that dreaded sound guy. However i actually fired myself from doing slides. I can listen with eyes closed and hands high, and maybe not miss that solo(“with an oogle of delay”). However the worship leader gets into the song, and changes his order, and the slide guys go into UH UH where do we go from here. I try to know our songs better than the band, it helps a ton. Also all of you know that most of our audio budgets have been either cut completely or reduced dramatically. i have found that reading the manuals, can make a huge difference. Especially on helping the sound of current equipment. Rather than always looking for the next piece in your system, to “be the magic”.

    again Karl great post

  9. We have a dedicated team that is lead by me. I was doing it for three years completely by myself. Every month, usually twice a month, somebody would inevitably come up and ask if I was new. Now I have too other guys who are 20 years my senior. One is an engineer and the other is a high end builder with hearing problems. Hurray. Sometimes, when the preacher makes a joke at the sound/video’s expense we shut off his sermon slides and turn his mic off. That is always fun. One trick I would like to pass on in monitor mixing. When someone is being especially difficult (constant tweaking, this up, now down, now up, down a little..) I “pretend” adjust. I hold my hand over the board and make a motion like I am adjusting something. Nine times out of ten this works. Granted, I am upstairs with a rail blocking a direct line of sight to the board but still, try it sometime. It has saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

  10. Shane–hmm. Interesting point. That’s a great perspective, and one that I hadn’t come at it from. Props!

    And yes…teach them to use delay!! :) The world needs more delay!! hehe I’m so serious right now, though.

    Tom–love it! Yep, Matchless totally emphasizes the ‘right’ tones. You get focused goodness, rather than loud ‘bleh.’ Love it, bro! Besides, your Matchless is fantastically gorgeous. :) The sound is just a bonus. hehe

    Seth–awesome points! I agree that the slides part is very tough to do, and worship at the same time. Sound is cool, because you can totally be singing and engaging in the worship music, which probably actually helps you mix the sound properly.

    And I so hear ya on getting the most out of current equipment. We’re in the exact same boat. Great comment!!

    Jonathan–lol The fake adjust!! hehe I love it. I read an article one time where a sound guy took and old rackmount unit he found at a garage sale for like, 5 bucks. It didn’t work, but still lit up. So he plugged it in and placed it on top of the soundboard, and then hung a few quarter inch cables out the back of it. Then, whenever anyone would ask for changes that he knew were just going to harm things, he’d just mess with the knobs on the little rackmount box. lol Kinda sketchy, but hilarious nonetheless!

  11. I have one more trick as well. We have a ten bus board and magnets labeling everything. So…I took the magnets that say “Mains” and moved them over to 2 empty buses and run the faders up super high. That way when someone complains about the overall volume I just make a painful face pull the dummy sliders down a little and ask if that is better. Again, 9 out of 10 times it works. Is this lying? Depends. People should be worrying about the off key singing coming from the stage I mean worshiping instead of worrying their pretty little heads about such sound matters. Granted, this is also an experiment in perception but let’s not get into that.

  12. Dan–haha That’s awesome!

    Jonathan–lol Way cool. And you’re right…maybe a little sketchy, but definitely an incredible social and psychological experiment! Could you video tape yourself doing that sometime? That’d be awesome! :)

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