Step Up and Take Charge Managing Sound-Check Chaos
In this article Bob Langlois addresses that critical period of time before the worship service: the sound check. This can often be a frustrating time with too many leaders and not enough followers, and it can turn pretty ugly if someone doesn’t take charge. Langlois suggests that that person needs to be the sound engineer. —JB
As more people and instruments require audio equipment to function in worship and the number of people involved in leading worship multiplies, things seem to spin out of control when it’s time to do the sound check. Someone must take control, and that someone is the sound engineer.
Occasionally I get called to churches to evaluate loudspeaker systems and maybe teach a class or two. Sometimes the only thing wrong is that the “sound engineer” does not understand the importance of controlling the stage. They can’t get people—whether volunteers or paid staff—to cooperate on anything, including attending rehearsals on time.
I once visited a fairly large church somewhere out West. It has a beautiful sanctuary with a very large “stage area.” There were many musicians in the band, a very large choir, and walk-on guest musicians almost every weekend. But I soon discovered that no one was in charge.
I saw guitar players putting their amps anywhere they pleased. The choir didn’t know where to stand, a sound check took two hours to get off the ground, and musicians were milling around with no guidance.
CONTROL THE ENVIRONMENT
One of the big lessons I have learned over the years is that musicians really like the structure of someone else being in charge. It’s one fewer thing for them to think about, one fewer decision for them to make.
So the first thing I teach in my classes is the importance of controlling the environment. If you can’t do that, you’ve lost the battle. In that church I visited out West, the first thing I did was to ask everyone to stop what they were doing and be quiet. I then introduced everyone to the sound person and said something like, “This guy is in charge, and whatever he says is law.”
Then I moved the drums to the correct position upstage left and had risers brought in center upstage. I asked the three guitar players to move all their amplifiers offstage and behind the curtains so we could have a little less stage volume for the singers.
After everyone was in place, it was time for a controlled sound check. I started with the drums, and, while standing right on stage, I went through every instrument and every performer’s monitor mix. This only had to happen once. When the next Saturday came around, the musicians were all on time and in place, waiting for instructions for the sound check, which lasted approximately fifteen minutes for all eighty people on stage.
In short, being skilled at making things sound good is only half the job; it also requires leadership skills. Step up, take charge, and bring the best out in the people who depend on you. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.