A Sunday In The Life Of A SoundTech Person

When my good friend Bob first trained me to be a part of the sound team at church I was only 14 years old. He began by giving me an overview of the soundboard. Then proceeded to walk me around the sanctuary while blaring loud tunes through the system to show me how the various sounds waves intersect, where the dead zones are and how to be sensitive to it’s impact on the audience depending on where they are in the room. Finally he brought me up to the platform and with great care explained how important it was to keep the cords nice and tidy, coiled up near the stands, but not too tightly as to break the wiring on the inside. Recently he posted an essay on Facebook titled, ‘A Typical Day In The Life Of A Sound Tech At Church.’ With permission I’m sharing it with you. Hats off to the real silent heroes of Sunday morning. People don’t even notice you, unless of course someone on stage points a mic to a speaker and a godawful screeching sound reels through the building. Then you get all the attention.

A Typical Day In The Life Of A Sound Tech At Church

I warn you … you will not like it!!!

1) The Sound Tech (hereafter referred to as the ST) always arrives first. They turn on the lights, stoke the fire, apply power to the entire system (then the mixer, amps first, then any other peripheral gear like CD players). Since they are really nice people, they also turn on the video projector and boot the computer (preferably in that order).

2) Before turning on the mixer, the wise ST will scan the board – and bring down any sliders that may have inadvertently been turned to max (by very little children, of course). We do not want blown tweeters or horns, minutes before the show.

3) The ST will now don their running shoes and jog (must stay in shape!) to the platform and make sure that the musicians actually cleaned up their cords, re-wound all mike cables, replaced all music stands and picked up any broken guitar strings. The musicians will have done this OF COURSE, but the ST will double check, JUST IN CASE. Before they leave the stage, it will look immaculate – as if the Grammy Awards were about to happen – only better because this is for the Lord and His people. The wise ST will also listen for any weird hums, hisses, crackles and other rude sounds that indicate the stage is about to burn down. They will correct these, faster than Scotty can fix the Enterprise and Samantha Carter can blow up a sun. Neater too!

4) The wise ST will now test each mike, bringing up its slider and running down to the stage (you DID NOT remove your runners, right?) and doing the infamous “check” test. They will have placed a piece of masking tape right underneath the slider on the board and will then write whatever cryptic note is required to actually pair the mike with the channel.

5) Since you have now run 16 times to the stage (and back), you must rest for a few minutes. Several hits of strong coffee at this point have been shown to bring you back to life (four out of five doctors have reported this, nineteen times out of twenty). However, if ONE drop of that coffee hits your sound board, you had better be prayed up.

6) The ST will now run a sound file or CD through the system, first through the mains and then through the monitors, making sure that each speaker is actually saying something. Check any recording devices … are the levels good? Adjust tilt … er … levels to suit. Any crackles (especially high end)?

7) By now, the band will begin to wander in. Resist the urge to gloat about how committed you were for being early. Resist the urge to punch out the worship leader who has just informed you that there will be three specials happening, each requiring four mikes … plus a 22 voice choir. “Oh, and we really want to re-arrange the stage to put the drummer in the middle”.

8) As a ST, you are so prepared that you have printed out a bunch of CUE sheets. Fill one in now, and thus detail the order of everything that is going to happen. A CUE sheet makes life so much easier. Make copious notes. What singer needs which Back-Up track? Was it high, medium or low? They want HOW much monitor??

9) Set your main outputs to 0dB, if possible, and then adjust each mike gain so that the slider is zeroed as well. Remember that you can use the PAD button to attenuate a signal if needed, as well as the GAIN control. Adjust each monitor send. Be careful of monitor multiplication. Everyone wants more monitor. Watch that the monitor volume does not bleed into the house mix (i.e. becomes louder than the house). Remember, monitor speakers can be moved closer to the ear. Most feedback woes will come through monitors set too hot.

10) ST’s never rest. During the practice, walk around the auditorium and LISTEN. Are all the vocals balanced? Instruments too hot? Overall volume too soft?

11) During the show, repeat this mantra (and practice it):

a) I WILL shut off all unused mikes

b) I WILL watch for musicians who are contorting their faces (a sure sign that they can’t hear). I will watch for hand signals (previously determined of course) so that the worship leader doesn’t have to jump around so much to get my attention that the audience thinks she has to go to the bathroom.

c) I WILL ensure that there are no booms in the system by cutting mikes off that are about to be picked up or put down. There are better ways to wake Brother Smith in the third row. (spit-balls come to mind)

d) I WILL continually listen to the mix for proper balance

e) I WILL be sharp to pick up any faint ringing and eliminate it

f) I WILL be proactive and effectual – no pussy-footing around. It is time to be bold.

g) I WILL take this thing seriously and will avoid the temptation to add three seconds of echo and a cool low frequency growl to Sister Smith’s solo.

12) At the end of the program, I will bow with the rest of them. However, I will do it in the sound room, where no one will see. I must be satisfied with the knowledge that without me, everything would have bombed. (I really do have the power to make that guitarist who has practised for 24 years sound like a squawking turkey – I just choose not to wield it (⇐Tweet That). With great power comes great responsibility … )

13) The good ST will now gather their equipment that has been spread all over the church, carefully wind every cable (according to its natural flex) and hang it up, shut down the equipment (amps, then mixer, then peripheral equipment), go home and pray for restored sanctification (unless you have reached perfection, you Wesleyan, you) and get plenty of rest, so that you will be equipped to do it all again next week.

– Bob Williamson
Facebook post, Feb.6, 2016