You’d be shouting at a football game!

crazy-football-fans-17.jpgIf I’ve been to one, I’ve been to a hundred church services where someone will by hyping the crowd up, and I can bet $100 they will say something to the effect of: “If the Cats were winning you wouldn’t be quiet right now!”

Am I the only man that cringes when taunted with this?  Am I the only one that want’s to set the record straight about why a dumb basketball game is nowhere near on the same plane as worship?  Am I the only one that is appalled that the person trying to get me to add to the collective hype in the room doesn’t have a clue of the depth of my faith?  I could go on!

Nothing wrong with praising God and being excited about what God is doing.  Shouting with a loud voice, dancing, clapping, etc is all mentioned throughout the Bible.

BUT don’t shame me if I’m standing there like a bump on a pickle.  Not moving. Looking up. Looking around. Breathing.  Thinking.  Being still.  Don’t judge my praise, or my lack of outward expression.   And for real, don’t make me bring my connection with my Creator DOWN to the level of a stupid sports game!  If I want a moment of respect for the One who sent someone to die for me so he can overlook everything I’ve done wrong as if I never had anything to do with those things – Let me have it, and forget about having a photo op or a hyped crazy moment involving me!

By the way I  love attending a church that’s hyped for Jesus.  If someone wants to jump, scream, shout, dance, cry, be still, not do a thing, or do all of the above – and they have the freedom to do it in your church – I’m all in!

Anyone else feel this way?

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Sound advice

My Favorite question “How do you know what all those knobs do?”

Those of you who know me, know I’m an audio geek.  It doesn’t pay the bills, but I love working “Front of House” mixers (the sound board that the crowd hears in a live venue).  In most venues for me it’s really an “All of House” (does the main P.A., monitors, and recording all in one spot), but it sounds cooler to say I’m working FOH today.

My main gig of course has always been houses of worship.  I haven’t mixed for large crowds, but I’ve mixed for some rowdy ones and with bands and configurations that could be dropped into a crowd of thousands.

With that being said, I have some advice for sound techs and church leaders trying to make sense of the sound man (or woman).  None of this is in any certain order.

  • Take it seriously.  I’m serious.  The PA system is not a toy, and can make or break a worship experience.  I’m all about some fun, but when the real deal is going on, it’s not about me, the band or even the preacher. It’s all about those people in those seats having an un-distracted experience with their Savior and with the Word of God.
    • One of the most embarrassing times I’ve had in a sound booth was when I didn’t take what I was doing seriously.  I was in my short stint at Bible College, and was on rotation to sit at the sound board for one of my classes.  All it required was making sure the lecturer had a mic with a good battery and that everyone could hear.  That’s it.  One channel, turn it on, turn it up and don’t let it feed back.  Nothing to it.  Got it, team leader!  So what did I do? I decided to play with the effects unit thinking no one would notice.Unbeknownst to me, this female speakers voice was reverberating, delaying, and even probably talking in demon sounds for the people in the front rows.  I couldn’t hear it though because I was too far back to realize it was coming through the main speakers.

      At the end this guy came back to me and said “Hi! My name is Mike.”  I stuck my hand out with a goofy grin and said “I’m Teeee…” He interrupted “and that was distracting” and grabbed his wife’s hand and walked on past me.

      It was one of those moments that replays in your head 25 years later and makes you slap yourself everytime you think of it and say “stupid, stupid, stupid!”  BUT I won’t forget the lesson: Take the job seriously, no matter how large or small the task!

  • Be prepared, be on time and be available.   Find out ahead of time what’s on the song list, or what the event plan is.  Find out ahead of time what is needed for that event/service. Is it going to be an unplugged/acoustic set, or will it be a full band with tracks, cues, click and everything else.  Set up a rough layout of the sound board before everyone is ready to start practicing.  Don’t hold up the rest of the practice or event!  Have you heard of a nickle holding up the dollar?  Well, you my friend are the nickle if you don’t take it seriously enough to be prepared.Being available means for things that aren’t your job.  A good example is a couple Sundays ago, we were at announcements and offering time at our church and some people came in who couldn’t find seats. The ushers were busy getting ready for that. Simultaneously, the worship director and I both noticed these people needed seats. So the lighting guy (who also happens to be my son Luke) and I jumped out of the booth and grabbed a dolly load of chairs and went to work!  You’re a part of the team, not just a production tech. Be willing to jump in there and help wherever needed and whenever there’s a gap to fill.
  • Be sensitive. I don’t mean wear your feelings on your sleeve.  I don’t mean lose track of where you are and just “lose it in His presence”.  I mean be sensitive to what is going on in the moment, in that experience.  Is it a song the crowd is getting into?  Maybe bring the master fader back and let the congregation become part of the mix.  Is it invitation time?  Don’t let the band give everyone volume shock between the speaking and the invitation song.  (I literally have the band/vocals halfway down below their normal position during invitation). At Big Church, our subs are along the front of the stage.  During prayer time, people come up there to pray.  So if people are up there, the subs come down a lot so it’s not my mix “shaking their burdens loose.” Is the speaker exhorting the congregation while they are shouting or the band playing?  Make sure you turn that mic up WAY above the crowd and /band, and bring it down as they come down.
  • Be Humble. Don’t buy a t-shirt that says “I’m humble” to prove you are humble.  Just be humble. While I always joke that when I turn the bass up, everyone gets saved, the sound tech is there to give as much of a distraction free experience as possible.   You are a team member, a vessel, and someone God uses.  BUT keep in mind, God used a donkey in the Bible too.
  • Not all venues/churches are alike. Your church may not have tracks, clicks, and cues with in-ears and foldback screens telling everyone what to do.  Your church might be a piano, and an organ with a 12-voice choir.  Your church might have that 1960’s campmeeting style congregational singing.  Don’t expect to mix the same in one setting that you would in another.  Think about what makes THAT type experience sound the best in its own style and deliver!
  • Keep one eye on the worship leader, and one eye on the pastor.  Is the worship leader struggling as if they can’t hear something?  Is a singer grabbing an ear because they can’t hear their own voice?  Grab your trusty headphones and solo their monitor mix and see what they might be hearing! Is the worship leader changing songs spontaneously?  Gotta watch at all times!The other person I’m ALWAYS watching for is the person speaking.  In our church it can be one of 3 people at any given time.   So I’m watching the side stage in case they decide to step up and say something spontaneously, or for when they are ready to step on stage to preach. I NEVER have the speakers channels muted.  They’re only turned down just a hair to prevent feed back transitioning from the floor to the stage.  I do this so I’m not caught off guard and there are never waiting on me to turn on their channel, and the crowd isn’t subjected to squeals and screeches out of the blue.
  • The vocal is in front of the mix.  Now we get to the details of how I mix.  Drums/bass ride together and have a foundational element to the mix. Pad tracks and keys are a glue that bring a horizontal feel to the song.  Electric guitar is distinct and sits just above middle if you think of the audio spectrum from top to bottom, highs to lows.   Vocals are out in front.  Doesn’t mean its necessarily louder, but often times it is.  It I always mix the band, and then make a vocal mix that I make sure is coming at you, just in front of everything else.  Even in a mono P.A. this can be done if you practice enough.One trick I use, I learned from watching this video by Dave Rat.  He’s FOH engineer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I compress the band in subgroups, then my vocals individually to control them but yet to give enough headroom to stay out font.  Having a digital board, at least a Behringer X32 makes it easy to accomplish this without having to ride faders.
  • Set it and leave stuff alone!  Get your mix together, and trust it.  Make small adjustments when needed, such as when lead vocals change, or the style of song changes.  But for the most part, let the mix breathe on its own.  You shouldn’t have to flip, twist and slide every fader on every song.  Don’t worry about adjusting stuff that already sounds good and has found a place in the mix.  Electric guitars are one thing you shouldn’t have to mess with.  If that guitarist has a good processing rig, just set it flat, get your gain set and blend it in.  You shouldn’t have to do much at all!

Finally..

HAVE FUN!  You should feel like you are part of it.  Laugh and enjoy your time, and the power of making things sound good.

Well, here’s really the last one…

When all else fails, blame the lighting guy.

I got a text message from President Trump!

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

I know, EVERYONE got a presidential emergency alert test message on their phone.

Not to ruin anyone’s fun, but the government isn’t “Hacking” into your phone. President Trump isn’t going to be hammering your phone with unwanted messages about his displeasure with Rosie O’Donnell (but that would be funny).

What was it then?

Easy description, The Presidential alert is a notification they are adding to the Emergency Alert System (EAS) using a single source of alert (read the nerdy stuff below). What they tested yesterday, was the way this message is distributed across the country at the same time. 

WARNING: NERDY STUFF IN THIS PARAGRAPH!
All communication providers, tv, radio, cable, mobile phone have an EAS System in their network, and already use it to notify you of Amber alerts, Tornado’s, Tsunami’s, Hurricanes, and such.  Now there’s a single national data feed that thos same EAS systems monitor, and relay messages from.  That data feed is called Integrated Public Alert Warning System (IPAWS) using the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). A message gets into the IPAWS system, and all EAS Servers relay that message to their corresponding users. This way your TV Station, Cable provider, Cell provider, and Radio station are relaying the same exact message directly from the source with that provider being the only middle-man.
What most people don’t know is President Trump didn’t have anything to do with this.
Nor did it come from the 8 years of Obama’s administration. Nope, it was over 12 yeas ago in June 2006, after the public outcry of FEMA’s response with Hurricane Katrina. President Bush signed an Executive Order ordering the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a new program to integrate and modernize the nation’s existing population warning systems. 3 years later the DHS and the FCC came to an agreement how this would happen. 2 years later, the IPAWS system was implemented, but it was finally this year that you finally got to see it fully integrated across all public/EAS systems.
Talk about progress (this is my real point of all you just read)!
If it takes 12 years to set this up without congress or succeeding administrations to be involved in any way, Is there any wonder why they can’t get complicated things like healthcare, taxes, and such done with the constantly changing agendas between each election? For real, this years congress enacts plan 1, next years, enact plan 2, which gets vetoed, then the next president promises to get it done. Plan 3 comes along, and the next president signs into law, but then the midterms come along and that group in congress repeals it. And the madness continues! Get ANYTHING done, and 2 presidents later of the opposing party that was in the same congress voting against it will take credit for its success during his administration.
And this is why on social media I hide, block, unfollow 95% of those who post anti-this and pro-that political noise. It’s the SAME madness no matter who is in office.
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