In my last blog I talked about the importance of doing a sound check before services/rehearsals. Let's take a look at what a sound check looks like. Understanding this will help set the precedent as a leader in your church, and make sure that everyone is on board with the concept.
Performing a sound check will vary based on how much your service makeup changes from week to week. A church that has the same inputs with the same band members won't need as long to perform their sound check. A church that completely changes from week to week will take longer.
Here's how it works:
- For each input to the sound console (which usually translates into an instrument or vocalist; however, a drum kit may have many a channel for each drum and cymbal), that person should start playing or singing just as they would during the service. No half-hearted performing is allowed. If the audio engineer notes that they are playing differently than they would during the service, they should politely point it out and request the person to perform like they normally would. And yes, vocalists must sing, not just say "test 1 2 3."
- The audio engineer first sets the level and basic EQ in the house system, adjusting the main gain knob to get the best results for the PA system. This is because the gain knob also affects the levels in all the monitors. If you do the monitors first, and then find out you don't have enough channel volume for the house and change the gain, you now need to set the monitors again. It's at this point where you also deal with any problems of not getting a signal from that channel, or the signal being noisy. In an ideal world, a second audio person (referred to as the A2) would be on stage and ready to help fix any problems.
- Once the gain and house level is set, if the audio engineer controls the levels in the monitors as well (there are systems like Aviom and MyMix which give this control to the musicians instead), the level is then set in each monitor on stage. At the church I worked at, the music minister helped inexperienced performers judge the correct level in their monitor, and helped to keep the overall level from getting too high.This is then repeated for each input to the sound system.
Once basic levels are set in this fashion, the entire band should play a song they are very comfortable with to see how the monitors sound as an ensemble, and requests for changes are accommodated. The audio engineer will also check to make sure he really does have enough gain for each channel to get the mix they are looking for, and adjusts if needed.
For a small band where things don't change from week to week, this can go quickly if everyone is on time and focused on getting through it as it's more of a verification that everything is still working as it should. For a large church where things can completely change from week to week, this can take a while.
On the weeks where we had a full band, eight vocalists, a brass section and a horn section, the sound check could easily take an hour or more.
Yes, this is a lot of time to invest. But the alternative is a rehearsal where instead of actually rehearsing, it's a chaotic mess of people trying to be able to hear what they need in their monitors.