Every worship band has to figure out the sound check in a way that works best for them. Whether you’re a portable church or in a permanent building, worship teams must develop a standardized sound check process to be efficient and effective. Many worship bands rotate team members, which adds a weekly variable of change and monitor needs. Additionally, unlike other bands, worship ministry bands often add creative components, videos, special music, and dramas that all add many levels for the sound tech team. Here are a few general tips for sound checks:
Know the Band Configuration
The sound tech needs to know the set up, the special tech needs and if something has changed. As much as it possible, band members and vocalists need to stick to commitments to be there when they say they will. Information about special set up needs must be communicated in plenty of time.
Start and End Times
Either this needs to be a published schedule or at least a general amount of time in the worship leader and sound techs mind. You don’t want to use up valuable rehearsal time for what should be a relatively simple sound check.
Sound Techs Arrive Early to Prepare for the Band
When the sound team arrives early, half the battle is won. Getting things hooked up correctly, making cords neat and knowing which channel is which is much easier when the band isn’t standing around trying to start a rehearsal. Great sound teams help prepare for the band in advance.
Pray Before the Sound Check
If at all possible, circle up and pray before the sound check. What a help it is to be reminded of the reason you are here in the first place. Prayer helps center our hope and purpose on God and his power in our lives and through our team. Spending time in prayer also builds community with the band, vocalists and tech team.
Address the Sound Operator by Name
Instead of just hollering out monitor needs or other issues, address the sound person by name. It creates a more personal culture and develops the team mindset. Often the sound guy is isolated – this helps bring him into the group each week.
Don’t Talk or Play While Other People are Sound Checking
Use discipline and common courtesy when doing a sound check. Don’t play while others are trying to hear.
Check Only One Instrument or Vocal at a Time
Check one instrument at a time and be ready for your turn. Don’t just sit by idle, fill your time with quiet prep – organizing music, tuning (if you’re not an acoustic instrument), straightening cables, or whatever else might be helpful.
Steer Clear of Sarcasm
“If I put more in your monitor, you’ll get a big head.” “If you would play quieter, you wouldn’t need more.” Comments like these may seem fun, but they are really amateur. The sound check is important and since it is typically happening just as the band is getting ready to lead in worship in the next hour or so, it is important to encourage one another. Whatever you do, don’t yell out sarcastic sound check comments into the mic. The band and sound guy may know you’re only joking, but the person who happened to be walking by in the back may not pick up on the humor and see it as rude.
After the Initial Check, Play Through a Song
After setting levels on an individual basis, then play through a song to give the sound operator time to adjust and listen. After the song is finished, you can start requesting tweaks and changes to the monitors.
The Sound Tech Drives the Sound Check
The sound guy needs to let the band know what is needed. If possible, use a talk-back mic through the monitors to speak to the worship team. Though the sound guy drives the sound check, it’s ultimately up to the worship leader / ministry leader to make sure it gets done and things are good to go for church. The sound guy / worship leader is a unique partnership and needs to be developed and nurtured.
Sound-checks are a Team Sport
One way to help ease the tension of weekly sound checks is a change in mindset. The worship band needs to be thinking that the sound check is for the sound team – so their job is done well. The sound techs need to think about the sound check being for the band – so they can sound their best. The sound tech is a serving role. The worship band is a serving role. The sound check is a team sport.
When it’s all said and done, worship band sound checks are for the congregation – to help create the best possible atmosphere for the service. Invest the needed time to teach your people the value of an effective sound check. It will help every service you lead be better.
Some bonus tips for traveling worship teams: Since our team is often guest worship leaders for churches and other events, here are a couple points specifically related to that world:
1) Always learn the sound guy’s name. If you don’t know his name, don’t ask for anything to be changed. There is nothing worse that hollering back commands with no relationship at all.
2) Don’t criticize set up or gear. Every church has it’s own way of doing things. By the end of the weekend, you may have had the opportunity to share some advice, but for the most part, stay away from phrases like, “That’s an antique!” or “Remember when we used to use these DI’s?”
3) Be flexible. There’s a good chance the monitors won’t be perfect. Live with it. Get it to the best possible and then just go for it.
4) Meet with the sound guy in advance. Chart out a quick diagram with names of band members / instruments. It makes it much easier for the tech person to call out instruction.
5) Be easy to work with. I love when people say we are easy to work with. Shoot for that kind of compliment every time. Enjoy the opportunities you’re given. Be professional. Be specific about what is needed – don’t just say everything is “cool”. But be flexible with the equipment, the operators and yourself.