What Guitarists Wish Sound Techs Knew & What Sound Techs Wish Guitarists Knew

There is no easy answer to this fabled (just one of the many words that can be substituted for the immensely overused ‘epic’) battle between guitarists and sound techs. Every answer for sound techs dies with just one experience with the pig-headed (let’s face it guys, we are) I-am-Van-Halen guitarist who yells at you when you try to rearrange the mic on his treble-cranked Marshall Valvestate 100 watt towards the edge of the cone in a desperate attempt to save him the embarrassment of going for the big solo and ice-picking people’s faces off. And every answer for guitarists dies with just one experience with the ex-’80′s-Metallica-roadie sound tech who belittles your tone but somehow manages to make everything coming out of the house speakers, including your carefully crafted Suhr-into-Blackface-Bassman, sound like a poorly recorded version of an Aerosmith B-side. And it’s those experiences that cause us guitarists not to listen when the sound guy asks us to turn down. Or the sound techs not to listen when we try desperately to explain why our amp needs to be louder.

So, rather than trying to give definitive answers, I’ve put down some things that I have wanted at different times in my life for the sound tech and the guitarist to know. These come from real experiences, as although I’m a guitarist first, I am also ultimately in charge of the sound ministry at my church, and do my best to run sound at least once every six months in order to get that ‘Oh’ moment again when my own guest worship leader who I specifically asked to lead worship yells at me to give them more high mids on their vocals…no, not in the monitor…ya, just the house…wait…did you take the reverb off? hehe So, this is my humble list. And reading back over this (yes, I normally don’t do that because I am very not-OCD…but I did this time in order to make sure that each section had the same number of points…yep…this can be a nasty battle, and I wanted very hard to try to be fair out of fright for my own life), I realize that I might do myself good to read back over this, or at least to try to see things from the other person’s perspective, at least a few times a year. :)

What Sound Techs Wish Guitarists Knew

  • You’ve got 5 knobs on your amp. There’s 237 on this board. Give me a second to find the lo mids frequency knob on the second overhead mic so that you can have the ride cymbal sound ‘crispier’ in your monitor.
  • Please be honest with me. If you ask for the vocals to be turned up in the house, and you get frustrated that it doesn’t happen quickly enough, and then you just say, ‘Okay, it’s fine’, then you’re just going to get bitter inside and then bite my head off when I say, ‘How’s everyone’s monitors?’
  • You know that feedback you’re hearing? Ya, I do too. You don’t have to patronize me into the microphone: ‘Does anyone else hear that low rumble?’
  • It’d be nice to get the mp3′s like the rest of the band, so I could hear the sound you’re going for.
  • If your amp sounds like ice picks through your speakers, it’s going to sound like ice picks through the house. If I turn down the treble, now it just sounds like really dull ice picks. Get a new amp.
  • Contrary to what you might believe, I’m not actually trying to make you sound bad. I’m trying to help you.
  • It’d be cool if you bothered to take the time to learn my name.
  • I have to eq you. Your guitar is running through a 200 foot snake twice and a soundboard that is not dedicated solely to your tone like your pedals are. You’re going to lose a little something tone-wise, and I’m just trying to put it back.
  • Please do not show up with an amp that hums at idle as if it had an engine, and then expect me to ‘eq it out.’
  • No, you cannot have stereo monitors with both your amps panned left and right.
  • Could you check your volume knob before I come down and start swapping cables?
  • And that last one is for acoustic players. Electric players…if nothing is coming out of your amp, I can’t help you.
  • And lastly…from me…I apologize for the times I’ve looked down on you and forgotten that you’re simply trying to rely on me to help you sound your best.

What Guitarists Wish Sound Techs Knew

  • Yes, as a matter of fact, it does sound better louder. ;) But seriously, tubes sound better hot, speakers sound better pushed, and air sounds better moved.
  • If you see me lugging in hundreds of pounds worth of gear (as in actual weight…not trying to be British this time), please assume I know at least something about good sound and treat me accordingly.
  • Please do not pin the entire 105db’s of sound on my amp, when there’s an unshielded acoustic drum set, and when you have the acoustic cranked loud enough in my monitor to drown out a HiWatt.
  • The sound system is for reinforcement. A good source sound mic’d well and then simply ‘reinforced’ by the sound system, will always sound better than any soundboard ‘magic.’
  • When I give you stage volume, I’m actually trying to help you get a warmer, fuller, and more lively mix.
  • Please do not ask me to turn down by madly pulling gains down and waving your hand at me while laughing. I understand that is because guitarists have bitten your head off in the past when you’ve asked them nicely to turn down, but could you try it one more time?
  • I am relying on you to be my ears out there. I really do want to work together for the best possible sound. However, that means both of us giving in to each other a little. I promise to turn my amp down lower than I would like, if you promise to turn the treble on my channel not as cranked a you would like it. Who knows? Maybe we’ll both learn something.
  • The guitar is a mids instrument…not a treble instrument. Please don’t kill my eq into the treble range as if I’m doubling the female background vocalist.
  • Please do not mic my speaker dead-on, complain about treble, but then act annoyed when I suggest a different mic positioning.
  • If sound is coming from my amp, but you have no signal, um…I can’t do anything else for you. The problem is not on my end. (And yes, that actually happened.)
  • Yes, the Avioms sound terrible. I don’t care what you’ve read. (In a nice way. ;) ) Sound actually exists in nature; not in ‘Pro Audio Today’ trying to sell us things.
  • I’m sorry, but the monitor simply does not have the sound or feel of my amp. If it did, I would be running my pedalboard into a 200-foot-snake, a soundboard with the wrong gain structure and a cheesey excuse for an eq, back through the 200-foot-snake and into a JBL monitor. Nothing wrong with all that; it’s necessary. But if I have to turn down my amp so that you can turn up the monitor, when my amp and the monitor are both in the same position on the stage, then I’ll just keep my amp’s volume where it is and you can turn down my monitor.
  • And lastly…and this from me…I apologize for the times I’ve stepped on you and forgotten that you’re doing your best to help me sound my best.

You know, when I was a kid (sounds like the opening monologue from a method actor), and my sister and I would get in a fight, my dad would come in and say, ‘You know, this could all be solved if we just showed a little bit of love for each other.’ And I hated that. I wanted justice. Well, when it was her fault. And now, looking back on that, I realize that he was very right; for almost every situation in life. Just a little more love goes further than anything. Remember that your sound tech, or your guitarist, is a person. They have wants, desires, needs, and sometimes they even have bad days. A little bit of love can probably take care of 90% of these issues, and in turn, I guess love can actually make live sound better. One of the greatest things you can do is make your sound position part of the worship team. They’re the most important part anyway, and then you’ve started a loving, symbiotic relationship that will ultimately lead to better sound than you could have any other way.

And what takes care of the other 10% of the issues? Turning your amp up, of course. Sound techs, I’m kidding! Kidding! …Eh…kind of… ;)

Splendid.
Karl.

47 thoughts on “What Guitarists Wish Sound Techs Knew & What Sound Techs Wish Guitarists Knew

  1. Unfortunately many church sound guys (at least at my church and some others I have experienced) don’t really understand the concept of the guitars being present in the mix. Many of them get this silly idea that the worship leader’s trebley Taylor acoustic should be the loudest instrument in the mix. Why? I guess they think he is the “leader”; therefore, his instrument should be “leading.”

    I just want to tell him sometimes to actually go to a rock show. I understand that worship is slightly different. But I want him to notice how much better it sounds when the bass is actually not buried in the mix to the point where you only hear it from the amp and the monitors, and I want him to hear how much better it sounds when the guitars are rockin’ through the mains.

    Most of all, it really bugs me when he turns the mains down low to appease the elderly. One of the services is mainly for them, and I understand that being turned low. But make no mistake about it. Music sounds better LOUD. Not piercing, but loud where it makes your chest thump. People like it better. It’s just a fact.

    The greatest thing ever happened. We had a service on New Years Eve where we hosted a worship night of our band and about six other bands from black churches (by the way, all of them were so outstanding that it made you want to never play an instrument again.) So there were about 800 people there, about %70 black, and many of the blacks stated to our staff that it wasn’t loud enough. They REALLY crank the volume in those churches because they know music. What is wrong with us white people? Seriously!!

    Oh, yes. I have more!

    People feel very intimidated to sing in the congregation if the volume isn’t loud because it’s awkward singing where everybody can hear every little nuance in your voice. I notice when it is louder, everybody in the congregation sings because they don’t feel embarrassed.

    Bottom line. Those acoustic guitars don’t need to be in the front drowning everything out. Make sure the bass is thumping and the guitars are not turned low to appease a very small select group in your church.

    • My church is stuck in the 90 decibel range, wish we could pump it up to like 102, we actually play the worship cd’s louder in the beginning of service, during break, and after service, than we have the actual band

  2. Great post, Karl. As both a guitarist and a sound guy, I have been on both ends of that far too many times. I (and you, to be grammatically backwards) are probably burdened with just a little too much pathos and knowledge. And unfortunately for me, it seems like whenever I am playing, the sound guy is an idiot, and whenever I am running sound, the players are idiots. And from this, the biggest thing I learned is that I am the idiot for assuming I know better than everyone else.

  3. I was lucky enough at my old church to have some really awesome sound guys who would let me crank my amp. This was helped by the fact that we held our church in a cinema which was awesome for sound and recording. I’m now playing at a sister church of my old church which holds it’s services in a community center.

    The community center is less than ideal with sound bouncing around every where but the biggest issue is the fact I have to run my Laney VC30 on half (not half power but half as in not even one.)

  4. as a sound guy, I just want to say, if you acoustic players (cause its usually them), if you bring pedals, like your own direct box, tuner, etc. PLEASE know how to plug them in properly, with the cables in the correct directions, and LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU ARE ABOUT TO UNPLUG IT SO I CAN TURN OFF YOUR CHANNEL.

    Yes, that boomy explosive sound was you, not the drums.

    man that irritates me.

  5. Seth J–haha Thanks, brother!

    David–I agree, it is unfortunately rare at times to find a sound engineer who knows music and not just technical stuff. That’s part of the reason I think it’s important to have your sound guys be part of the team, and have evenings where you can all listen to music together. And then you can point out, ‘Ya, you hear that faint percussive sound in the background? That’s the acoustic, and that’s the exact level it should be at.’ :) And that bass should be present, and I love what you said about people needing to not be able to hear every nuance in their voice when they sing. haha Great point!

    As for pleasing a select portion of the congregation, it does get a little dicey. For one, it’s usually the ‘older’ crowd, and I don’t mean in age. I mean the ones that have invested a lot into the church, and feel that they should have a say in how comfortable the church is for them. And from a cultural perspective, they are probably right. They have invested the most time and money into the church, they’re opinion should be heard the most. For me personally, I’ve found that the only way to deal with this that produces actual results, is to try to impart the vision to these people that church isn’t just about their comfort. That we are so stoked on how much they have given, and how amazing it is that all that time and resources are going to go out to reach the community. Make them excited about turning the music up in order to reach a new generation of unchurched people, and rather then getting bitter towards them, trying to make them part of the ultimate solution. They may be wrong about the volume of the music, but if you can get past some of the bitterness that is usually bred from long years in church (unfortunately), there can be some great wisdom there too, if they can get on board with the vision of the church. And if I understand Jesus correctly, a big portion of that vision was outreach. :) Just my thoughts on the matter.

    Joel–great comment! You nailed it, bro. Whatever side we happen to be on, we’re right. haha

    Baggas–I agree, some great bass is absolutely necessary. :D And perhaps some from the guitar tone, too. haha

    Sam–ah, yikes. I have been there. Our church is quite live as well, and sometimes it seems like I’m able to play louder in my apartment than at church. haha I envy you and your old church theatre!

    Kenrick–lol Good form! My favorite is when the acoustic player (usually the worship leader, hehe) unplugs his acoustic, makes the huge explosion sound you so aptly described, and then glares at the sound guy as if the sound guy should have intuitively known that he was going to unplug his acoustic at that exact moment. hehehe

    Don–haha Maybe we need to have a giant round table discussion with sound guys and guitarists. I bet after a few fistfights, we’d all be crying and hugging. hehe

    Sal–haha You’re the man.

  6. kenrick: no kidding! I almost felt embarrassed when i had to explain to an acoustic guitarist the In/Out plugs in the direct box. Signal flow people!

    Karl: I take except (didn’t you see this coming) to “If sound is coming from my amp, but you have no signal, um…I can’t do anything else for you. The problem is not on my end. (And yes, that actually happened.)”

    1. if you know how to plug 87 pedals an a unique array and then fit 23 wall-warts into a 6-plug power strip, then you should know to check the connection from the microphone to the cable that you’ve just moved around for the last 15 minutes before asking me why you can’t hear yourself in the monitor. If you still have a problem, swap cables – we both know you know HOW to do that. It will save me a walk to the stage to do the same thing. I could have spent that time working on your tone. ;)

    Also, to all guitarists across the world…PULEEEEZE check that your guitar is plugged in before you fiddle with your pedal board and then look at me like the lack of sound is my fault. While it’s easy for me to see there is no cable going into your guitar, it’s hard for me to tell you that without laughing.

  7. Great post Karl – made me laugh, cry, slam my fist on the table, pray, plead with God, hug my amp, hug my sound tech friends…in other words, as any good blog post, it put me through the whole gambit of emotions!

    Keep it up!

    Robin

  8. Chris–thanks for the linkage! :)

    And I totally hear what you’re saying. That’s a great point about love that you made…yes, I should be perfectly capable of plugging in a monitor or flipping the ground switch on my direct box, or checking to see if a mic cable is pushed in correctly; and I should definitely do that in order to save you a trip all the way back to the stage. My comment unfortunately comes from the experience of arguing with a sound guy whether or not there was sound coming from my amp. hehe He was saying that everything was right on his end, and that if his mic was picking up no sound, it must be that no sound is coming from my amp. I turned my amp up and said, ‘Um, well…I’m not sure what you want me to do. There is sound here.’ haha Turns out he had my channel muted. So, that’s where that comment came from. But I definitely agree that we guitarists should be doing all we can to help the sound techs. :)

    Robin–thanks, brother. Tears for tone are never a bad thing. hehe :)

  9. Our sound tech is a great old guy. He probably prefers organ, but now that he’s leaving his hearing aids at home ( they ring when he’s doing sound) I think we’re getting away with more volume.
    :-)

  10. I agree with the monitor thing….

    Every week I have the soundguy ask “Can you hear yourself in the monitor”
    “check, check…. Yes I can hear my voice.”
    “no, your guitar?”
    “um… Thats why my amp is loud.”
    “do you want it in the monitor?”
    “Don’t worry about it.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Yeah, I’ll use my amp as a monitor”
    “Okay…..”

    Every week for the last 3 years. I let him put me in the monitor once. Everytime I clicked an overdrive there was horrific feedback.
    I love my rig.

  11. Randy–that’s beautiful, your taking the older generation and sharing your vision with them. That’s really encouraging, because usually there’s an unfortunate rift.

    Larry–haha I hear ya. Every time I’m in the monitor, I spend weeks trying to fix my tone before I realize it was just that I was in the monitor. haha

  12. I am extremely blessed in that my sound guy is also a lead guitarist for a band so he gets both worlds. He’s also pretty dang humble…a word that maybe 1% of all sound guys know. Even so, I’ve been on both sides of the coin here and there is definitely a lot of golden nuggets in your post. Thanks for sharing, I will most assuredly share this link.

  13. I also am a “double agent” in that I am in charge of sound and play guitar. I can relate on both counts here since my two guys who also run sound are not musicians and while not quite tone deaf, they are pretty close. My situation should be envious to you all though. In addition to all the problems you listed (throwing in a guitarist that plays a Strat with the treble on 10 and the bass on 0) we are having such problems with our worship team the pastor inserted a go between. So, if the singers want more of something in the monitors, they yell to this guy, he yells up to me. Awesome. I know what you are thinking, this go between guy must have lots of experience and be a great musician. Nope, he sings well and has done so in many bars. Quite the resume. Begin being jealous of me…now. Something about God, patience, teaching me; not real sure but class is in full swing.

  14. this post makes me laugh. Everyone in a church and a worship team always gets their panties in a wad. the best idea for worship i think is having different people come in, yes most will say that there needs to be a worship team to “teach” people how to worship. If people aren’t worshipping God everyday of their life just by the fact that they woke up, then i don’t hink 20-25 minutes of music is going to teach them anything.
    I say all this because this is where the entire sound issue stems from, the controlling nature on all sides and therefore puts restrictions on what corporate worship could be. It also lays blame to one side or the other.
    Example? You are regularly on the worship team and you are always too loud, i hate you and your family. that kind of thing.
    Since i’ve stopped doing ‘worship teams’ in a church, the best worship i’ve been to is at a church that is more of a community in its own right, but they meet in a comunity center and do an acoustic music set – the crowd singing is louder than the music and finish it off with music as a backdrop to communion and blessing, its great (and powerful).
    I love rock music and i love to worship God, the older i get the more these two thing collide, intertwine and seperate, its interesting to say the least.
    I guess i could go on and on about sound vs. guitarists, but whenever i do still do worship, i just don’t even care anymore about all the crap that people within their church ‘justify’ as being important, compared to the creator, the reason i’m even doing music, its redundant noise. I’ll play how i how regardless (PT moves and all)

    I will say i agree Karl, Axiom and in-ears are from a satanic cult that the church (in general) bargains their sould with.

    LOUD & PROUD

    or,

    SOFT & NICE

    whatever……

  15. btw,
    whenever i said:
    “but whenever i do still do worship, i just don’t even care anymore about all the crap that people within their church ‘justify’ as being important”

    i meant soundwise – and the perfectionist or lack of (knowledge wise) in running sound or seaoned or non-seasoned musicians
    i didn’t mean, i hate your church and i’m ignoring your needs and wants

  16. I think that anyone who is involved in the worship ministry should be required to serve in some other form of ministry for a while to rediscover that it’s not all about them and their opinions.

    Come and clean the church for a couple of hours on a Thursday night or spend a service time chasing around 25 three year olds. Suddenly, the fact that in-ear monitors just don’t sound the same as my amp in my living room or that I just can’t get the sustain I want out of my amp with the volume 30% lower just doesn’t carry the weight that it did before.

    I’ve played services where the sound man forgot to put me in the mains. Did I still worship God with my instrument. Yes I did. Did I add anything to the worship service. Well…my wife said I looked like I was jammin’.

    The soundman apologized to the point that I was embarassed and turned me up loud enough during the second service that I felt I was too loud.

    I know, it’s fun to complain about this whole soundman/guitar player thing. But….I really think we need to keep in mind who we are serving. And that the guy cleaning the toilets on Thursday night is just as important as the guy playing the guitar on Sunday morning.

    Ouch….sprained my ankle steping off that soap box.

    • very well put, sir!

      however, i think it’s ok to have fun & just laugh these things out every once in a while, too … as long as it is in the spirit of just having fun! just be careful of some sensitive people out there, though ;)

    • Very well put, i’ve moved to working in the toddler room, setup (we meet in a movie theatre), community service leader, small group leader, maybe thats why my earlier post seesm so rash, there is so much more to the ‘modern’ church that its music, in fact, about 97% more, not to knock the music though, if done right, it can seem like it adds 82% to the church overall

  17. In my short years as a musician, I have come across some of the best people to lead worship with. There have been our share of singers that left the church because there was one week where we didn’t need them (seriously, not making that one up). But I have met so many more people that are so willing to help lead, but when you go to them and say “hey, we are doing something different this week, and we don’t need you,” respond with something like “awesome, I get to worship with everyone else, and spend time with my family.” And I think those are the ones that get it. It’s not about us a band. It’s not even about the congregation. It’s about us as a CHURCH. And not the typical meaning where everyone thinks of their particular church. I mean CHURCH. The global effort for God’s kingdom that gives us the privilege of worshiping a Savior that loves unconditionally. And beyond that, we get to share our worship with millions of people worldwide, lifting one massive voice towards heaven.

  18. Well said Karl! We have many sound tech’s at our church and I love all of them like a brother but there has been a few times were we don’t see eye to eye or ear to ear haha. One thing that has always helped and they have told me this many times is that a sound tech is most of the time not a musician. And many guitar players are not sound tech’s. It makes working together smoother every time cause they are learning from you and you are learning from them.

    Our head sound tech is a guy named Dave Staats who has been doing pro audio for over 30 years. This guy really knows his stuff and is such a blessing to have at our church. When i first started leading with electric we would always work on my tone for about 30 min before practice. When ever i would get a new pedal i explain to him what it does and why i got it. It helps to build a great relationship with your sound tech cause they want a relationship with you too! Dave knows what everyone of my pedals does, why i have my amp set up the way i do, why i have the guitar i have and it makes for a very smooth worship set and sound check!

    To every guitar player and sound tech remember that we are Christ body and he calls us to love eachother for His glory! And the more love the better your tone will be :) trust me!

    • This is what I hope to accomplish with the sound people…

      “It helps to build a great relationship with your sound tech cause they want a relationship with you too! Dave knows what everyone of my pedals does, why i have my amp set up the way i do, why i have the guitar i have and it makes for a very smooth worship set and sound check!”

      very well put….

  19. Maybe I’m the only one, buy my rig actually sounds better mic’d and in my monitor. It also works better when you want some cool nice sustaining feedback.

  20. Do i detect some bitterness and frustration in your voice? It feels to me that you’ve been working mainly with amateur (or pro, but not acting pro) sound guys. It’s all about trust. I have to trust that the guitar player actually knows his job, and if he does not, it is my job to make sure I can help him with that (not in a negative way, but nice and pro-active). Many of the issues that you talk about (guitar player wishing every sound guy would know) are actually more the result of bad sound guys.

    I’ll say many of he sound guys that I have heard about and worked with, really just need to have their heads checked and maybe actually learn a thing or too about their profession (actually open a text book and read) and not just what they have somehow heard from some dude somewhere, and he surely has to know, because he once shook hands with Michael Jackson.

    Nathaniel K. seems to be working with one of the good guys and I hope that I’m one too (I certainly get the feedback on it).

    Cheers, Hans

  21. Great post Karl!
    One of the places I’ve played has people that have worked at Dolby and Digidesign. I always try to pick their brains and learn something/ask dumb questions. I had to give my buddy a hard time after learning that he was involved with making Line 6 software work with PT in the early days – did you mean to destroy what was considered good guitar tone from that point on? :) Reading the ‘what soundtechs wish’ side makes me wonder if people are being too demanding. I’m not looking for them to help me with my tone, I just need a few levels to be adjusted to do my job. The soundtechs seem to have it a lot worse since the gremlins are always messing up stuff in their chain. With the advent of American Idol, some people in the congregation seem to have this expectation that the vocals should be mixed way higher than anything else (facepalm).

  22. I’ve had the pleasure of working with both amateur and professional FOH and monitor mix techs in different venues (and I sincerely mean what I said about the ‘pleasure’ of working with both). Their role is just as important (and in some aspects of worship, ‘more’ important) than the musicians they’re supporting. They ‘shape’ the dynamics and sound of the worship experience. They’re the last line of control for ensuring that no audio annoyances distract believers from the worship experience.

    When it comes to the FOH mix, I trust them to do what’s appropriate to provide the best context for corporate worship. I’m not out there… I’m not going to second guess their judgement. Although I mentor and train all of our audio techs, I routinely encourage them to, “If there’s anything you hear us providing you that’s not working effectively, let us know…” (a keyboard patch that’s just wrong; distortion to the point that a guitar is just ‘disappearing’ from the mix; etc.)

    My minor occasional nit with sound techs is regarding monitor mixes. If the team on stage can’t hear effectively, they can’t play effectively. Here’s my primary ‘commandment’ to our guys on monitor mixes:

    “Yea, verily — once the monitor mix is dialed in, that shalt not allow it to change!”

    Here are the two biggest culprits that usually compromise that commandment:

    1. The sound tech inadvertently has one or more monitor sends set to ‘post-fader’ instead of ‘pre-fader’ (this assumes that your FOH guys are controlling your monitor mix). As they’re moving the faders to mix the FOH, your monitor mix is constantly changing.

    2. After gain staging all the instrument and vocal channels, they decide to alter the gain structure during worship. Since changes in the gain structure affect both the monitor sends and the FOH, the monitor mix changes.

    I’ve been really tickled with our FOH guys. They’ve really gotten good about knowing what not to do once the monitor mix is established and worship is unfolding.

    The funny thing is that my most recent episode of having to deal with this problem occurred at the hands of a professional FOH guy who’s mixed some folks like Colbie Caillat. In his defense, he’s been routinely using the large digital Yamaha FOH consoles. For this 3 day event, the sound company sent out an analog console with which he wasn’t familiar.

    When we finished running through our setlist for Friday night, everything was ‘dead on’ in the monitor mix. The energy level was right; the bottom end was there. It was going to be a fun evening.

    I had the lead line in the instrumental break in our first song. As soon as I started to play, my guitar level in the monitor mix jumped about 12dB (every 6dB of increase is perceived as ‘doubling’ in volume level — I didn’t have an SPL meter there for obvious reasons — LOL!). While I like things ‘loud’, this change in monitor levels with my guitar about ‘tore my head off’. To make matters worse, the stage depth was only 12′. With our bass player slightly to my right behind me, there was very little room for me to ‘back away’ from my monitor (monitor line, pedalboard, backline amp, etc.). I played the next six songs in that worship set under those conditions (hey — you gotta do what you gotta do — LOL!).

    As we came off stage for the evening’s speaker, I discretely made my way back to the FOH engineer. With a smile on my face, I humbly asked, “Is there any chance the monitor sends for my guitar channel are set to post fader?” Much to his chagrin, he’d overlooked that. As the energy of the assembled believers rose to the occassion of worship during that first song, he needed to quickly change the energy structure of the mix, including my guitar. I assured him it was no big deal — if that wasn’t the problem, turning me down in my monitor would definitely be of benefit. A flip of a push button and all was well for the rest of the weekend (as well as the closing song for the Friday evening service).

    That’s my $0.02 on this subject. Have fun — keep playing for the Lord! :)

  23. haha Awesome! I was hoping for a bit of controversy with this one. I’m on my anniversary right now, and only have a few minutes while my wife finishes some school work, so I can’t respond to everyone individually right now…and that would probably kill the cool discussion that’s going on right now, anyway. So then, for my contribution:

    First off, as is my custom, I try to get a point across in the least boring way possible. If you can’t keep people’s attention while making the point, then you haven’t made the point. So, I apologize if that’s not your thing, but you do have to sift a little bit on this blog to get to the crux of the posts, and this one is no different. What I’m saying is, please don’t skip the part about love and relationships. Reality states that there will be awkward and junky times…especially in the sound tech/guitarist battle. ;) That’s where you gotta add in the love.

    As for the comments regarding the purpose of church music, I would agree that worship music is not the most important thing you can serve at in a church. And if you’re talking about the level of sacrifice in serving, then worship music is probably one of the lowest on that list. haha But I would also argue that church itself (at least the current western cultural model that is most often adopted) is not the most important thing you can do. (That merit would belong to how you live your life for God outside of your two hours a week on Sunday.) In which case, by dropping the importance level of the whole church, hopefully we can see better the self-importance we all affect at certain times, and can see the church as a functioning whole, in which every ministry plays a part. And while you’re in that ministry, I see nothing wrong with trying to serve God in it to the best of your abilities for Him. Hence, dealing with the unfortunate sound tech/guitarist issue.

    Just my opinion on the subject. :) And I totally agree that if anything is causing you to actually change who you are as a person, or to be unloving towards someone else or bitter, then it might be time to take a step back and realize how small of a part in God’s plan you actually are. Doesn’t mean not to give it your all, just means to not get so self-important in it that you lose your love. :)

  24. Great post, great comments! Karl is so even-handed I was almost disappointed that there wasn’t much to argue with. I was a bit worried at first that the comments would decend into a “why can’t everybody agree that electric guitar-led worship is best?”, but not so! It is SO encouraging for me to hear from so many servant-hearted musicians.

    My situation is almost the reverse of many others here. I’ve been playing acoustic guitar for 40 years, electric for 2 years, mixing FOH for 8 years (my current role). In our congregation, we’ve got 5 electric guitarists and 3 FOH folks. Two of my FOH guys are more experienced musicians than any of our guitarists, and have a better understanding of the technology as well. We sometimes have to humbly request permission to tweak somebody’s pedal board to fix sound problems. On the flip side, the guitarists stage skill level is sky high. One can move us into worship like Chris Tomlin, and another taught himself 3 complete Trans-Siberian Orchestra instrumentals in 5 weeks for our Christmas season this year. When these guys are “on”, I literally forget to watch my mix sometimes!

    Point is, we each have our weak areas, & we know ahead of time that it’s going to cause some stumbles/conflicts. Makes for the funny/painful/awkward moments like the many described above.

    Hopefully, as the sound team & musicians assemble a worship set, we’ll remember this: It’s not about us, it’s about bringing our brothers & sisters into a place where they can worship Christ in Spirit and Truth. If that means no amp on stage this week, well, then that’s what we’ll do. If it means I have to ask the bass player to adjust the LFO on his rig to get the 47Hz rumble out of the room, then I will (politely, of course). And trust me, if it means pulling the worship director aside and telling him I can’t get this week’s ensemble balanced at less that 102db in the 4th row of seats, I’ll do that & find out which way leadership wants to go–I don’t consider that my decision. (our agreed goal is 95-96db, but 105 is OK with me, as long as I don’t have to sit in the 4th row!)

    OK, gotta argue with one point–”the guitar is a mids instrument, not a treble instrument so don’t kill the treble eq” HUH? The electric guitar can “fit” many places in the mix, including treble above the female vocalists. Fact is, as the music ensemble grows in size, the FOH often has to cut some frequencies and boost others for many of the instruments and voices in order for all to be “present” in the mix. I frequently have to boost 4-5 strings & cut the low E on the acoustic, to keep it out of the way of the bass or piano beneath it, and away from the electric above it. Not always, of course, but if I’ve got 2 keys, 3 guitars, percussionist and drum kit, & 4 singers up there there is almost NO WAY every instrument is going to be present in the mix across the tonal spectrum. This means your guitar is NOT going to sound like it did at home–at least not in the house. And I truly am sorry about that–I KNOW you worked hard on your tone this week, and I don’t enjoy asking you to compromise. But it’s not about us. Monitors is a different story. 4-person band, also a different story

    sorry to go on so long–I really enjoy the subject!

  25. I know get exactly what you mean by “ice pick in the ears” treble. I’m a huge fan of The Strokes, and both Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi are HUGE influences on my playing (I’m 18, give me a break). So you can naturally assume I like bite and treble response.
    Well, I was persuaded into attending a Third Day concert with a girl I’m dating, at what was my first rodeo (The things women can get men to do, is astounding). Their guitarist was playing a cornucopia of terrible PRS guitars, and every single time he hit a note above the 9th fret, I cringed. I’m now afraid to put the treble up on my amp.

  26. Seth J-
    Don’t turn down your treble, just be sure that you are hearing what the audience is hearing. This might mean standing right in front of your amp with the center of the cone aimed at your head (not your legs!)
    You might find this interesting
    http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?t=470956

    I’ve tried this with my Mesa Black Shadow and Weber Blue Dog Alnico with some nice results. Have to turn it up a bit more, so not that great for home practice.
    I really doubt that Mark Lee and his PRS collection was the problem at the Third Day concert. I’ve heard those guitars sound just fine before. YMMV

  27. JayDub- Thank you very much! I try to get a reading of my amp from every angle, and I sort of have a “tester” in the audience during practice. hehe.
    I think that it might have had something to do with the sound system at the rodeo. I was just exaggerating a bit because I’m not a huge fan of PRS guitars.
    Thanks for taking an interest, that page earned a spot in my bookmarks, which is not easy to do. :p
    You are a gentleman, and a scholar sir.

  28. JayDub–right on! Love what you said about it not being about us. As far as the guitar being a mids instrument, what I meant is that I believe the guitar to sound best when eq’d for mids. You’re absolutely right that as the band gets bigger, the space within the eq runs out. And too many times when that happens, I’ve watched sound guys just crank the daylights out of my sound with treble. Now, they’ve taken away my ability to listen to the rest of the band, realize that there is too much going on in the mids, and jump up to a higher register. Because when I do that, now there is so much treble on my guitar that it just sounds terrible. So then I’m stuck playing in the register as everyone else, still creating muddiness, just now it’s really thin sounding muddiness. So, my point was that everything should be eq’d to where it naturally sounds best. If there is a huge band, and you can’t pick out the individual instruments, that’s ok!! Don’t re-eq in order to hear every instrument clearly…it’ll sound like a hodge-podge of weird-sounding instruments. The whole point of having a big band is to lose clarity a little and just have one sound coming out…think an orchestra. You want one sound, not to be able to clearly hear every instrument at any given moment. At certain times in the song, instruments and vocals should be jumping to different registers in order to highlight themselves, and then dropping back into the middle for the that full undefined sound.

    That is just my theory on sound, most of it based on the theory that the human brain can only differentiate between three sounds at once, or less. There are a ton of different ideas and mindsets on how to eq, so I don’t claim mine to be correct. But it is the one that has given me the most success currently. :) Bottom line is that when you have both the sound tech and the musician trying to get the instrument into the right place in the eq, you get a very awkward sound. It comes down to communication between the two of them, and hopefully a good worship leader who can hear what is going on, and give arrangement and eq-ing directives. :)

    Seth J–lol at the girls comment. And yes, treble should be used sparingly. A lot of people see it as a volume knob. lol

    JayDub & SethJ–that is beautiful advice. It baffled me for years why my sound sounded so good to me as I stood above the amp eq’ing it, and then so horrendously trebly through the mic. I didn’t realize for a long time the art of treating the mic as an ear. I.e., eq’ing while standing above your amp, only works if you’re going to mic the empty air above your amp. haha

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