By Sebastian Ammon –
Church is often seen as ‘safe space’ especially in the context of volunteering. Here volunteers can offer their already built skill-set or acquire a new set of skills in order to help make church gatherings possible every Sunday. However, sometimes churches lack the desired number of technically skilled volunteers, especially in areas such as production and music. Of course this depends on the level of training one received from the team.
I sometimes find that specifically for musicians the only true requirement is that he/she can play an instrument properly or sing well – mind you, those are both really important requirements – but minimal emphasis is placed on the more advanced and technically challenging techniques. These need not be a requirement from the start but they must be addressed early in the training process because they can not only help musicians become better, but make the life for sound engineers easier and ultimately lead to a happier congregation. Here are my top 4 things church band members should understand.
1. Correct mic technique
This is important for a number of reasons but the most important one is simply this: If you don’t treat the microphone correctly, it won’t treat your voice correctly. It starts with holding the microphone where it is meant to be held as seen figure below. Holding it any other way changes the characteristic of the mic and thus changes the sound it reproduces.
Next, it is important for singers to understand the proximity effect. What this means is that as a sound source moves further away from a microphone the low frequencies become less prominent. Sometimes this is desired, but for inexperienced singers this will make their voice sound thin and lack warmth. On the other hand a singer should also not eat the microphone. Admittedly it’s all a fine balance and one won’t get it right the first time but it’s important to remember these things and become aware of them. It will only make you a better singer – remember, the microphone is your friend.
2. How to use your in-ears properly
There is actually a fantastic article written by Dan Wilt called ’10 best practices for using in-ears in worship’. In summary these are the biggest take-aways;
They are meant to be in your ears and don’t make it obvious that you are wearing them (don’t run the cable in front of your clothes)
Wear them properly during rehearsals
The more time you spend during rehearsal the less time you’ll need during worship
This is true not only for personal monitoring systems but even if your church uses stage monitors. Tell the sound engineer exactly what you need. The more you add to the mix the less you might hear yourself. Add only what makes sense musically and use the pan function (where possible) to create a sound space for each instrument.
3. How to roll up a cable
Believe it or not but there is actually a right way to roll a cable. Not just a microphone cable but even your cellphone cable, extension cord and garden hose can be rolled in this way. This help preserve the lifespan of the cable and reduced things such as kinks and twists in the cable. See the video below:
4. Play your instrument correctly
This one might seem obvious but there really isn’t much more to it than playing your instrument correctly and consistently. I don’t mean that you should learn that a guitar isn’t strum with drum-sticks or that a violin is played with a bow and not a saw. What I mean is that one should learn to be consistent. At home a small mistake might go unnoticed, during worship on the other hand your instrument as well as your mistake is amplified.
Lastly, consistency is also important for soundcheck. During soundcheck the sound engineer will set the levels, EQs and dynamics according to the musician’s playing style, if a musician decides to play differently during worship, so will the instrument sound different. This could be detrimental to the mix and really shake up the congregation.
Sebastian Ammon leads the sound department at God First City Church.