Once the initial excitement of working in church audio production wears off, it leaves one with a few unfortunate realizations. I’m not saying audio work stops being fun. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I still have fun. I only wish someone would have cracked open the secret envelope and let me see the truth before being up to my knees in XLR cables.
This post reveals these “secrets.” At the end, I’ll explain what can be done so everyone is back to having fun, albeit a lot wiser.
What They Don’t Tell You About Church Audio
1. Worst-case scenarios really do happen.
If it can break, blow up, catch fire, power down or in any way outright fail at the worst time possible, it will. I’ve had a mixer blow a fuse. Just last week, a wireless mic battery failed mid-service for no apparent reason. Green light to DEAD—no red warning light in between.
Worst-case scenarios can force the tech to learn parts of the church audio system normally left untouched. Mix engine reboots, digital mixer configuration settings, understage cabling, whatever is normally taken for granted will eventually fail—usually during the church service.
2. Church audio production is hard work, and mixing is only part of it.
For some, this is a big revelation. Mixing is only a part of church audio production. Stage setup, battery replacement and cable maintenance are all part of the job. And if that’s not enough, see point #1. Oh, did I mention it requires working with people!?! (Only sort of a joke for some of us.)
Mixing isn’t always easy. For example, the church has two guitarists and a singer. That’s all they’ve had for years. Next weekend, they will have their first full-size worship team. Time for a new mixing strategy. This isn’t impossible, but it does require learning amp miking, drum miking and a new way of mixing.
3. It requires your A-game, AND there are distractions.
Live church audio is no place for slacking. Once, from the pulpit, a pastor called my name TWICE before I snapped out of a daydream. Talk about embarrassing. Focus is crucial.
Distractions will come. During a service, I’ve have congregants ask me questions. I’ve had to fix a video-production issue. I even had someone complain about the volume DURING a worship set. The sound booth is not a place free from distractions.
4. Great mixing doesn’t guarantee great worship.
There are days when the band is great and the mix is great and everything seems perfect. Yet, not everyone is worshiping and praising God. Good church audio production helps create an environment conducive for worship. That’s all it can do.
5. Converting the worship leader’s vision to a mix is crazy important.
The worship leader (and the team) spends time picking songs and setting the arrangement. Many times, they have a vision for a song’s style or keep to their own style. They set a vision for what the congregation should experience, and the sound tech has the final control over that vision.
There are limits to what can be done with the given equipment. And three singers with harmonicas can’t sound like Hillsong. But when the worship leader presents an attainable vision, it’s up to us to make it happen.
6. People talk during the music. (DRIVES ME CRAZY!)
Sitting in the sound booth gives one the ability to watch people. Watch who comes in late and who leaves early. Watch who is texting, playing Candy Crush or checking Facebook. Watch the talkers. Sometimes, they are close enough to be heard. The band is playing, people are worshipping, and then a Mr. or Mrs. decides it’s time to talk.