I always feel that if we do our best to plan and prepare, that being able to handle the last-minute needed changes comes easier and handled more professionally. It's not just that, but what if your teams have had a chance to really fine tune all the details and already have an instinct for the event?
There's a good chance things will not only go off extremely well, but your teams will be doing it from a much more creative space, rather than a space of just trying to keep up.
So how does one get to running their weekend service from a place of creativity? The answer would be how you prepare, communicate and work as a team.
I can't emphasize those key points enough.
Being able to work toward nailing each area every week will bring your team closer to achieving smooth services week in and week out.
Let's just say, it takes a lot of hard work, before anyone gets to come in for just the sound check. Let's look over some key areas that we can strive to improve in to make the sound check moment all come together.
Planning to plan
There is a great deal that can be done in advance prior to sound check. Having a clear path of communication is key across all teams involved with weekend services to having enough time to plan and prepare. Just to be clear here. God already knows what you are going to be doing for your weekend services. For some churches, the biggest struggle is simply getting information to teams for weekends in advance to prepare.
And yes, pastors I'm talking to you.
I have news for you folks, Sunday comes every seven days. It's very predictable that that seventh day will come, and there is no reason we can't set a schedule for preparing for that day.
Create a weekly schedule with deadlines to decide songs, turn in sermon notes, or any other content that needs to be turned in for weekend services. Likewise on the receiving end, make sure there are people scheduled to receive all the various service items to begin their preparation.
Planning to prepare
Once information has been put out there for the teams, there are several things that can be done to make sure when it's time for sound check, everyone can smoothly get to the actual sound check process.
Stage plots and input lists should be available and can help both band and tech know where people are to be on stage. If you are using Planning Center Online, place those PDFs for everyone to have access to.
Audio should have all cables, mics, direct inputs (or DI's), consoles patched and labeled, presets recalled, and any other service item you can think of in place and line checked well in advance of the band coming in. Your song lyrics should already be in place and if possible, reviewed by your worship leader.
Planning to do it
It's almost time for sound check. It's OK if I come in a little late, right?
No. No, it's not.
In fact, those that don't take sound check time seriously impact everyone across all teams involved in a very negative way. I do mean that, it holds up tech, it holds up everyone on stage that suddenly has to do another sound check, because someone came in 30 minutes late.
Sound check downbeat time should be taken seriously. I do want to state, sometimes grace needs to be given for some reasons, sometimes stuff just happens and is out of our control.
Musicians, I can't emphasize enough, audio will likely spend a good chunk of time, sometimes hours on end, in advance to have your area set up. Arrive also well in advance of your sound check's start time. Make sure all your connections, cables, and devices work prior to your arrival, and also that you have enough time to troubleshoot issues before sound check downbeat.
Singers, all you have to do is sing, which means that you can sneak in a few minutes late, right? Instead, make sure to arrive early, locate your mic, stage location, music, your in-ears, a water bottle, and IEM pack or personal monitor mixer.
All tech members should also arrive on time, if not early as well. Maybe ProPresenter and camera operators are not really needed until after sound check. But use this time to get your station in order, power things up, look at the stage plot, look at where things are on stage, talk to the tech director or video director to get additional suggestions for your service, and look over Planning Center.
Executing the plan
Everyone is here, let's sound check!
Let me put something out there for you all, sound check is as much for the band as it is for tech. Yes, it has a lot to do with getting the musicians monitors that need to be dialed in.
However, it has as much to do with the front of house audio configuring their settings, lighting to start updating positions and cues, video to begin dialing in on shots and angles.
This is an all team event.
Even if you don't have fancy cameras and lights, sound check will be equally about audio as it is the band on stage. Work together as a team, and be gracious to requests from each side of the stage.
A few tidbits to help audio get you through sound check faster and more accurately;
- Singers, stand up, on your mark, and sing full volume, please.
- The monitor engineer needs direct communication with the band on stage. Failure to do so can cause frustration for those on stage, as the monitor engineer can over/under shoot some mix needs.
- With large bands and a lot of people not on mic, often it's easier for one voice to communicate changes to monitors on behalf of the band, like an MD, particularly when the band is playing at full volume.
Perfecting the plan
Sound check is done, band and audio has worked through and dialed in a few songs.
We're all set, right?
But have you run-through everything in order to make sure you have all the transitions and details ironed out?
You just invested a lot of time, throughout the week to plan, hours setting up the stage, practiced at home, studied Planning Center, you've sound checked and rehearsed some songs.
The band doesn't feel like they need to do any more they got it, right?
Remember this is a team effort. If you have not yet been able to implement a full service run-through (minus the pastor, because it's not practical to have them teach their entire message), you really should look at setting a goal of doing so.
Often in a full run-through the entire team, both band and tech, will have to navigate transitions, possible stage props, hand-offs, video cues, lighting cues, audio snapshots, and things maybe you didn't think of. It also gives everyone a chance to fine tune all the service elements.
By doing that, you get into a polished phase that can place you in a position of no longer feeling like you are just trying to catch your breath to now being able to be a creative artist. You'll find the entire team gets in the groove, they can handle quick changes, and it becomes a much more enjoyable environment for staff and volunteers alike.
That sounded like a lot right? No doubt it's hard work.
But it's hard work broken down into steps that can allow all teams to walk through together.
It'll build greater trust with each other, knowing everyone is in it together and supporting each other. Not only that, it will allow staff and volunteers to be more successful in their roles to provide more confidence to handle the unknown.