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A view of an audio mixing console with various stage plots  and run sheets. Planning for your Christmas production requires significant practicing and working with your tech teams.

Soundcheck and Rehearsals: How To Approach Your December Workload

During this time of year, you may require additional technical rental (audio, video, or lighting), contractors, extra rehearsals, guest musicians/singers, instruments you’ve never mic’d before and more, all to achieve what you have planned for this season.

For typical weekends at your church, you probably have routines and processes that you follow from week to week.

As we are on the verge of the Christmas season, though, soundcheck, rehearsals, meetings, and full dress run-throughs are being kicked up a few more notches.

During this time of year, you may require additional technical rental (audio, video, or lighting), contractors, extra rehearsals, guest musicians/singers, instruments you’ve never mic’d before and more, all to achieve what you have planned for this season.

To add on top of all of it, your pastor may have even thrown in some bonus content and/or expectations to add to this massive workload.

First, you must acknowledge that these Christmas programs and services are going above and beyond. Second, you also must grasp the fact that for your organization, this likely it’s the biggest yearly outreach to impact your community.

No small feat, knowing so much is on the line.

So how do we plan for it all, without eventually feeling like we are drowning in the deep end?

It’s certainly going to take a lot of planning.

Given that it’s nearly December already, some of you may be well into the final stages of planning, if not already rehearsing content, for your upcoming Christmas programs.

To get you started, I highly suggest reading a prior article I’ve written about the soundcheck process.

Preparing Your Teams

It’s at this point for these large productions, that you want to access the capabilities of your existing teams and stage capabilities.

If you are expected to kick it up a notch, do you need outside contractors or do you need to coordinate and arrange some additional training for your current teams? Also, you’ll likely need larger teams than normal, not to mention having an extra person around, to handle the unknowns.

Regardless of the route you opt to take with your team, you need to allow the extra time to place on your calendar to accomplish these goals. Don’t forget to take advantage of these times to create opportunities for all team trainings.

After you have accessed your team availability, you’ll want to access your stage production capability. What is it that you need to do with your stage, to get ready for your Christmas production? Are you in need of additional rental (i.e.; audio, lighting, video, staging?).

Plan to bring any additions in very early, to allow for your team’s availability to help. This will also include planning out some of the more technical items and how they will be integrated into your current systems.

Trying to integrate technical rental on the fly is time consuming, not to mention places additional stress on those who may be waiting for technical issues to be resolved, such as a band on stage waiting for you to resolve RF problems.

Last but not least, make sure all dates and times are very clear to your teams.

Not just once, but make it clear often.

Communication is key in outlining your expectations to your full team. Sometimes text and emails get buried or deleted, thereby it is valuable to send weekly reminders, as to what the current week’s production needs are. Inclusion and communication can never be underestimated here.

Practice Makes Perfect

Rehearsals are now underway, and we have seen that the worship team and pastor are practicing their parts for this big program. Should tech need to be practicing as well, after all soundcheck and the all-band rehearsal went well enough?

The answer? Absolutely!

The worship team will put countless hours into practicing, before even coming to rehearsals. And it’s a good bet that even after the rehearsals you were a part of are done, there are parts that they are still working on at home. Yet, all of their hard work is funneled through the tech team, in terms of audio, lighting, and video.

If you are not engaging in additional technical rehearsals, you are shortchanging yourself and the program.

I recently had the privilege of being an audio director for a musical with 20 actors on wireless mic which also featured a 50-piece symphony. Normally productions like that have a week or more of technical rehearsals.

They gave me only two rehearsals.

After the first rehearsal, they were expecting perfection.

I made sure that I multi-tracked from the audio console the entire rehearsal. After which I spent hours dialing it all in using virtual soundcheck.

The following night’s rehearsal, even though it was extremely polished, I did the same thing again to dial in all my cues, made additional notes in the script, and memorized key parts of the music.

Your entire technical team should work toward a process in which all areas are rehearsing their cues of the production.

If it’s possible, have a full run-through for tech only, which includes all lighting, audio, and any media cues. Make sure they have access to song recordings and run sheets prior to first rehearsals and after.

Everyone on the team should be studying the production and know what to expect.

Plan to Fail

You heard me correctly.

Things happen.

Are you prepared for that?

This very concept of planning to fail generally takes a bit of experience, yes, having things go wrong, to know how to build in backup plans should something happen.

Just a few of my key items I put on my checklist include the following;

  • If you are renting additional wireless mics, always have another free channel as a backup.
  • Do you have a backup mic, in case your pastors mic fails. Such as an extra wireless handheld, belt pack, or even a headset mic or lavalier?
  • If you are renting lights, ask the rental company to provide a unit or two as a backup, and always ask them for a spare lamp or two.
  • If you have a lot of critical technical positions, schedule extra team members who are capable of covering a few positions, should someone call in sick at the last-minute. These team members could be scheduled as stage hands, stage managers, A2’s, L2’s, you name it. Having extra versatile people around, could be key to your production’s success.
  • Have some open audio inputs on each side of the stage with an XLR patched and ready to go, in case a wired input fails or a musician shows up with an extra guitar.
  • Back up all of your show files from your audio and lighting consoles.

If you haven’t already got the hint, a majority of success to navigating these important productions, is having a solid plan of attack on your planning, prior to any rehearsal. The more prepared you can expand and foresee, the more success you will find in the initial stages of your earliest rehearsals.

I challenge you as technical leaders to make preparation as contagious as possible.

Involve your teams to come up with ways to plan for, study and rehearse the production to take it to the next level.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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