How To Help Your Sound Tech Improve Their Mixes

Many churches have volunteer sound techs who haven’t received a lot of professional training. This leaves the audio quality of our church services sounding a bit less than desirable. What can we do as worship leaders to help train our sound techs, not just in the technical side of sound, but also in the artistic side of sound design? 

This question came from our Worship Leader Mentorship.  APPLY for our Feb 2021 Session


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Alex Enfiedjian 00:00 Hey everyone, Alex Enfiedjian here at worship ministry training. One of the ways that we train worship leaders besides the podcast is in a live 10 week mentorship program online, of course, where I take a small group of worship leaders through all the necessary skills and mindsets that they need in order to have a healthy and thriving ministry. And if you’re interested in finding out more about the mentorship, you can visit worship ministry slash mentor and see what’s included there. But one of the fun things about the mentorship is the interaction. And so as I’m teaching my lessons, we often stop along the way to answer questions, or have discussion. And I thought some of those discussions would be helpful for you to hear. And so I’m going to share them as bonus episodes for you here on the podcast, because I found them to be very fruitful and helpful. And I think you will, too. This question today actually comes from a private coaching call that I did with one of the students, his name is Austin, he’s awesome. And we do the coaching calls. That’s part of the mentorship as well. You can call me as many times as you want pretty much during the mentorship. But he wants to know, how do we inspire and train our sound technicians to move beyond the technical skills into the artistic side of audio to really making things sound great. So let’s hear his question. And then my responses from this private coaching call.

Unknown Speaker 01:14 So we have a guy who, who used to be a worship leader and other church and so we’re kind of plugging him in on soundboard because he’s like, the most skilled guy we have for it. And our church has just always been and I think a lot of churches probably suffer from the same thing where the sound and tech department kind of suffers. You know, there’s not maybe a person that’s designated for it. And so we’ve had a bunch of people try to come in and fill that, but there’s never been consistency. But now, you know, my job is like worship in tech. And so I’ve got to figure out how to train them properly, because we can show them and cave young has a pretty good masterclass on it. So we’ve shown everybody his stuff, but then I think there comes a level when the volunteers like you show them all the tech stuff. And then it’s like, okay, but now you have to have the musical side of it, you know, to understand why you’re doing some of this stuff. And so I don’t know, I was curious how I listened to your podcast with them. Yeah, Goslin. And it was really good, some good stuff. But I was curious how you guys go about like training your soundboard?

Alex Enfiedjian 02:22 Yeah, so we have like an audio director who’s kind of like turning into our production director. And this has always been something like my heart has always been big on training. And so I’ve been wanting to find a audio director who like really, really cares about developing people. But so far, all of the different audio directors I’ve worked with don’t really have that same heart. So if I was in charge, I would, I would do it differently. But if I could own it, this is what I would do. I mean, I would honestly, I would have like midweek, like sit downs with whoever is my primary volunteer audio tech, I would have them come in every single week for training with me, like just one hour a week, every week for you know, two months or something like that. And I would go through different things with them each week, because here and we’re gonna, I’m gonna kind of give you a hint of where next Monday’s mentorship is going to go. But basically, if you take four months, and you invest in somebody every single week, for that period of time, when you get to the end of that 16 week window, you’ve got somebody who can now stand on their own two feet, and you don’t need to invest in them anymore. But you’ve made that part of your ministry stronger, then you pick another person and you do the same thing. And you invest in them. So I would have like a midweek training and I always wanted our audio people to have midweek trainings with our audio volunteers, but they never have yet what I would do during those trainings, I would probably listen to music with them on some good speakers and be like, okay, let’s listen to this album. Do you hear how the kick in the bass are balanced against each other? Do you hear how that the punchy ness of the kick sounds and the end the fatness of the snare? Like that’s the sounds that I want us to try to get here. So you basically give people something specific to aim at, like, I want it to sound like this I want because if you don’t tell them then they’re going to just do what they think sounds good. You know, and, and so like listening to like really good worship albums that are mixed really well like and then pointing out specifics like I would probably start just with like listening exercises, and kind of like, this is what I want our kick to sound like, this is how loud I want the bass compared to the kick drum. You know, this is where I want you to bury the guitars like acoustic guitar should be buried, like like high hat level, not like not above the electric guitars and then just kind of like talking through balanced stuff while you’re listening to it. Right, that would be the first step. Then I would I don’t know if you guys record your services. But another aspect of after you show them like good albums would be like to listen to your own mix. So they you know, you record your mix, and then you play it back and you say, Okay, so what do you hear? What do you think should be different in this mix, you know, and start to just like, dissect their own mixes. So I what I used to do, that’s brutal. It is it is, but there’s no other way to get better, right? Yeah. What I used to do is I used to send mixed notes after every single service. So after we had service, I would go back and I would watch the live stream. And I would send the live stream link to my team and say, Hey, guys, it was great worshiping with you love your heart, and here’s the live stream link. So you can watch yourself and see where you can improve, then I would listen to the live stream. And I would start typing up notes for my audio engineer, whoever makes that service, I would say, first song, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, this that this that, then I send next song, blah, blah, blah, and I would type specific notes. And I can try to find one of those chats for you that to kind of give you an idea of what I would say. But I would give specific feedback after each service that they mixed. And then they would take it and kind of like put that into their own brain and then make different decisions the next time that they mixed. Now you can’t just do that, like out of the blue, you have to tell them in advance like hey, yeah, yeah. Hey, just so you know, I really want to start focusing on developing our audio engineers. So one thing I’m gonna start doing is I’m gonna start sending you mix notes. It’s not meant to be taken offensively or this or that. I just want to share what I want, because you don’t know what I want. And if I don’t communicate to you what I want, it’s not fair. And so, yeah, so I would start sending that every single week and I used to do that every single week until we hired somebody to be our audio director. So that is the other thing I would do then I would have them come in. And do you guys have digital soundcheck on your on your x 32? Um,

Unknown Speaker 07:00 we should I mean, but I got Ableton linked up to it right now. So I can record things. I haven’t set up the digital soundcheck yet though.

Alex Enfiedjian 07:08 Okay, well, that’s gonna be pretty much like one of your best friends because you can train them to mix while you’re standing back there with them instead of just hoping it sounds good in the house. So you can have them come in on a midweek and you and him can play around with the balance of the levels panning EQ, and you can like tell him from the back of the room while you’re listening to it. That’s exactly what I want. That’s perfect. You hear that you hear where you put the harmonies, that’s exactly the level I like to hear. So when I’m not on stage, we don’t have Believe it or not, our board doesn’t have virtual soundcheck. But what I do is when I’m not leading, I’ll go stand in the back because we have a new part time sound guy, young guy just getting started. And our main audio guy is mixing broadcast because right now during quarantine, everybody’s watching for home. So he makes his broadcast, and then the young guy mixes live. And so I go back to the back of the room and I just tell him, I want to hear more vocals, or do you hear how the overheads a little too loud, and it’s kind of like just making everything sound noisy. So I kind of give him feedback, just what I want to hear. But you could do the same thing from Digital soundcheck. So that’s another thing you could do in the middle of the week with this person. And then one thing that I’ve done in the past, like when I was at a smaller church, and we didn’t have like a full time sound guy that was actually good, is I would hire like a professional to come in like once every two months. And I would have hit that person mix the service. And I would have him like dial in the cues like everything, compression gait, gain all of it, I would have that professional dial in a great mix for the service. And then I would digitally save that file. Right? And I would also tell our sound person to watch this professional do it. And I would tell the professional Hey, can we can our audio guy watch you and ask you questions while you mix. And of course they say yes, most of the time. So then you get this like professional come in and blow your audio guys socks off. And they he’ll inspire your audio guy. And then he’ll be able to also pass along the information to your audio guy of how he’s doing it. And then you also get a saved file, like a baseline template that you can, you know, you can recall it. And I would just have I would have that guy come back every two months. Because he can keep refining the mix and you keep saving it and then you keep improving your baseline mix. So that’s another way to do it. And then the last way Oh, all of your stuff every week. Like do you have like a default that you would call every week? No, I see. Again, I’m not in charge. I mean, I guess technically I am in charge, but I just let our audio guy do what he wants to do. And the last two guys, they don’t like to save a default. Whatever. He’s our guy. He’s phenomenal. He’s like, the best audio engineer I’ve ever worked with. And so I just trust them. But you know, in my mind, I’m like, Yeah, why wouldn’t you save a default? Yeah. Now one thing we are going to be doing is we’re going to be moving to waves plugins for our broadcast. Cool. And so he’s probably going to dial in some, like pre saved settings for each vocalist. And that way he can recall those, you know, those channel strips for like this female vocalist or this worship leader. But in my mind, I’m always like, why don’t we just always do that? Like, even if it’s not using waves, plugins, but whatever, I don’t care because he gets a great mix. You know what I mean? The other two things I was gonna say. And actually, it’s still, the last thing I was gonna say was like, maybe send your audio engineer to, even if it’s volunteer, send them to like an amazing concert, where they’re just like, so blown away by the sound where they’re just like, Oh my gosh, like, I’m so inspired. I want to do that, like I can do that, you know? So those were some of the thoughts that I had when when I was thinking about your question, you know, awesome. Well, hopefully that was helpful to you and you can begin implementing those things with your sound tech at your church. And if being part of the mentorship and receiving these types of private coaching calls sounds like it would be helpful to you and beneficial to your ministry. You can sign up today at worship ministry training comm slash mentor, worship ministry training comm slash mentor m e n t o r. Alright, see you guys on the first of the month for another helpful episode. God bless