- Start with each musician and bring up what they need to hear in their monitor, assuming the front-of-house is sounding good. You do not want, or need, to put everything into each monitor. My rule of thumb is only acoustics and vocals unless there are no amps or the amps are offstage. Backing vocals only need themselves and the worship leader/instrument. Every other instrumentalist only needs the lead vocal/instrument plus perhaps their instrument. If they have an onstage amp, it should be barely loud enough for them to hear. Remember the goal here is to provide clean sound to the audience. No matter what you’ve heard or been told, the front-of-house system is usually more powerful and better sounding than any of your amps or monitors. Along those lines, everything should feed into the sound board to let the tech team mix all sound signals together. Amps should not be used independent of the sound board because it muddies up the sound. [Note from Chris: I’ll add drums for staying in time, but as long as the lead rhythm instrumentalist is keyed into the drums, then it’s not as important. The trick is having a logical order for building the mixes.]
- Review the stage volume and house levels. You should have a pretty good balance between the stage volume and front-of-house levels where sanity has been restored. Keep in mind, I’ve geared this toward worship teams that are still using speaker monitors as opposed to in-ear monitors. This is also geared toward churches that have either electronic drums or drums treated with a drum cave where the drum volume is easily controlled.
- Walk the room. Listen for any hot spots that may not have been noticeable. There will be areas where the bass will be substantially bigger than in other parts of the room. That’s OK, and it’s the nature of the frequency wave in rooms that aren’t acoustically treated. The goal is that the bass isn’t overwhelming the music all over the place. More importantly, compare the sound at different parts of the room to what it sounds like in the sound booth. You need to mix for the sweet spot in the room, not for what it sounds like in the sound booth. Also, the only way to do that is to notice what it sounds like in the booth when it sounds right in the audience. Remember it’s a matter of perspective and perception. You’re not mixing for you. You’re mixing for the congregation.
- Have the worship team come out one-by-one and have them listen to how things sound, once you get things sounding good and the pastor agrees. MAKE SURE you are using a replacement for the team member who’s out listening in the audience. The worship team’s perspective and perception of what things sound like when they’re playing and levels are set properly is critical to getting them to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing in the booth.
Only by understanding the other person’s perspective, and by doing that, understanding their perception of sound, will you be able to achieve a harmonious working relationship between the worship team and the tech team. Each side brings unique talents to the table that the other side doesn’t. Respect that and work as a team and worship will become more than a sum of its parts.