Audio

FRONT OF HOUSE AUDIO  ENGINEER

An engineer’s job is seldom seen but always heard.  In fact if the audio ministry team does its’ job well, you may not notice them at all.  The sound engineer balances the gift of music, performance and the spoken word for every event in the church.  It is an ultimate and ongoing challenge to create an atmosphere for everyone in the sanctuary to worship.  Nowhere can the engineer’s knowledge and talents, or lack thereof, be heard more clearly than in the music mix for the worship service.  The mix of our music in a particular service should reflect our style of worship.  It is here that the knowledge of music through study, listening and experience is paramount.

The church community is more sophisticated and more educated in listening, than ever before. We are accustomed to hearing recorded music with the best technology,  the most experienced hands and state of the art equipment to create an amazing work.  We are drawn to excellence,  so why not strive for  the best.  An engineer’s understanding of music will help to communicate the goals of the worship leader, the worship team and the musicians.  It is important the engineer have some musical background.  It is here the mix will be more sensitive to the spirit, the arts and will incorporate different elements in the mix that will clearly lead the congregation into worship.  At times the music is very majestic and passionate, therefore the mix commands powerful dynamics. Then there are moments that only a whisper is needed to create a certain intimacy and tenderness.  An engineer must be attentive and sensitive to the needs of the music and the pastor.

I think of the mix as a pyramid, a layering of the instruments and voices.  The first or bottom layer are the rhythm or low frequency instruments.  This would include drums and bass guitar.  In contemporary music this is the very core and foundation of the mix.  The pianos and organ would be the next layer, to act as the driving force behind the orchestration and to move the music forward.  If a small orchestra is used then the cello, bass viola, timpani and lower brass instruments begin to flesh out this layer.  In the layer just above these instruments would be rhythm guitar, trumpets, woodwinds, synthesizers and percussive instruments.  The next layer is more or less a creative stream, having the lead guitars and different musical instruments taking the lead, floating in and out at various times within the musical composition as it builds and swells. This layer is known as part of the “passion quotient”.  Key changes are also a part of the “passion quotient”.  The next layer is the choir and just above them are the praise teams.  The top level is the worship leader. His voice can be tucked into the mix at times, but in order for the congregation to follow along, his voice should be more predominant.  It is so important for the sound engineer to be attentive to the voices.  The voice is an instrument as well and can be demolished by a bad mix.  The ideal mix to strive for is one that every instrument and voice is clearly heard.  I was once told by an engineer for “Disney” to think of the desk or sound board as an instrument.  It must be played. Sound is always in motion, therefore both hands and ears, the mind and the heart is on deck at all times.

The congregation should be considered a part of the mix as well from a musical standpoint. It is important and thrilling to a worship service.  If the PA system is too loud it can destroy corporate worship, however, worship may never develop if the system is too soft.  There is a fine line to play on the part of the engineer.  A sensitivity to dynamics and spirit allows the service to flow.  I think common sense and respect comes into play here.  There’s no need to run the worship service as a “rock” concert.  We are in a sanctuary and in a worship service.  Concert levels are definitely wonderful in their setting and very appropriate, however, those volumes can be offensive and uncomfortable for some. Your entire worship team and pastors have different styles of delivery.  The engineer must “ride the gain structure” on all the mics.

There is a reason Jesus sent the disciples out two by two. {Mark 6:7} It is important for the FOH to have a good tech.  Another set of ears and eyes. When Paul was preaching, Silas was always getting things together. Although both are very important to the process, they both have different jobs.  It’s the FOH and the tech’s job to work in tandem. In the world, it’s the engineer’s job to let the audience hear the band. In the church, it’s the engineer’s job to let the congregation hear the music and most importantly the pastor. If the pastor begins to get loud, he is obviously trying to get someone’s attention, so don’t turn him down. Instinct tells us to turn the volume down.  He is God’s messenger, it’s not your place to turn God down. When you turn the pastor up, it gives him more confidence and he will automatically back his own volume down after he has made his point. There are ways of making him more comfortable as he leads the congregation. There are certain pieces of equipment that allow you to help him. (Tubes, soft compression, learn about gain structure) It’s your job to learn to use them. Do not set the pastors volume and leave it. Remember, the voice is an instrument and it changes.  There is an intimate relationship between the pastor and the FOH engineer.  It’s your job to remain sensitive to what is being said, to follow his lead and to keep your hands, your mind and most importantly your ears on what he is doing at all times. There are times that your sacrifice of praise may be compromised in order to make the service better, so pay attention!

The sounds of a church service have to be shaped and formed every-time there is a service. They are never the same and it is the operators job to adjust the mixes accordingly. Serving in an audio ministry is not a job to be taken lightly. An engineer has obviously spent a lot of time just “listening”.  An experienced ear and an intuitiveness is an absolute, thus striving for a polished performance, as in a recording. This allows the musicians, vocalists and pastors to be comfortable with you and therefore more comfortable in their delivery. There has to be a level of trust established for the entire team to do their best. Cooperation and mutual respect are necessary for the worship team to achieve their goals.  They trust your ability to accommodate their talent, therefore everyone enters into a wonderful worship experience. As they leave, they will always leave “wanting more of Christ.”  Our job is to create a “heartbeat” in the service through an unforgettable sound.

 

 

Music architect, Minister of recorded music

Who would ever start construction on a building without an architect? Some would but not many. The same holds true for music. How can one expect to explore the next level of music in the Spirit, without some kind of infra-structure for the vision to ride or glide upon? You cannot move the stone without the wheel, unless it is round like a wheel. Why do some programs seem to move forward, while others seem to stall? As Christians, we all serve the same God. The answer is, vision. “Without a vision the people perish.” (Proverbs 28 verse 18) That vision is both primary and paramount in importance. The architects job is to oversee the vision, to help solidify it within the leadership, as they enable their elders, deacons, helpers to carry the message forward to the people. Therefore, if communications are explored thoroughly, everyone ends up on the same page. No matter how difficult the task, it can be accomplished through clear communication of the vision. It’s the architects job to listen to the leadership, grasp the vision, then through continual prayer, present and execute a clear, concise way of  accomplishing these goals. The Music architects job is to give clear recommendations on stage, lighting, sound and multi media design, directly affecting the presentation of the Gospel. A design that is built to give the vision a strong foundation from conception to realization. It’s for sure, God doesn’t need any help in getting His message across. However, “He has given us wisdom and knowledge. “(Proverbs 8 verse 12) {It’s like fishing, some people fish with a cane pole and fish in one spot, others use a bass boat, going all over the lake to catch. Both are very good ways to fish, it just depends on what God has called you to do}  As the vision becomes clearer within the musicians heart, soul and mind, his hunger for God increases. Therefore, he becomes bent towards the heart of God.  As prepared musicians, begin to lead in praise, a spilling over of God’s love, grace, forgiveness and power become apparent, not only from what they are experiencing today but also from their heritage as being a member of the tribe of Asaph, Heman, or Jeduthun!  (I Chronicles 25 verses 1-7)   There are instinctive qualities of the spirit…. in this tribe…. that are passed from one generation to another. The coming of the “Holy Spirit”. (Acts 2 verses 1-4) At this point the dwelling of the “Holy Spirit” in the musicians hearts can no longer be contained…. and begins to spill out or overflow….. I say spill out because, most of this tribe consist of broken or cracked vessels. (Psalm 51 verse 17, Isaiah 57 verse 15, Isaiah 66 verse 2) “The good thing about a cracked or broken vessel is you don’t have to fill it to the top before it begins to leak or spill it’s contents. The more broken the vessel, the larger the leak. In this case these vessels are being filled with the Holy Spirit.” As the congregation begins to witness the spilling of the overflow or…. the float as it is sometimes called….. they realize the praise takes on the appearance of…. “streams of water in the desert” (Isaiah 32 verses 2-4) turning into worship…. that becomes “a river whose streams….. make glad the city of God.” (Psalm 46 verse 4) which leads to….. the “Holy of Holies”…. where all living things receive healing. If one is present, when this phenomenon happens, it is much like the waters of a Tsunami, impossible to avoid being caught up in the move of God.

 

Minister of Recorded Music

Music design, (sometimes, known as a thumb print of the house, or a signature sound), falls under this heading. Music should be designed to capture the heart of God.

It should weave a beautiful mosaic of the pastors sermon, message, the massive power and tender intimacy of the relationship between God and man.  Projecting the highs and lows of each  moment of the love affair between Christ and His beloved Bride, is the goal of every musician. Just as the bride writes down in her diary, her every moment with her beloved, so is there the desire to record each moment, minute, every hour, each day and year with Christ. Every Joy, miracle, sacrifice of praise, time spent with the creator of the universe is worth recording. (Hak. 2 verse 2) The minister of recorded music should be a person who has the ears to hear the masters voice and the ability to guide the musicians towards the calling. He should be a person of musical skills, and someone who can hear in the ear of his heart, (h-ear-t) the voice of our Savior Jesus, the Father and His holy spirit.  As these moments pass, it is our desire and  responsibility to expound on these happenings or cleansing’.  Much as a young bride will have the look of longing for her husband, so the church longs for hers. With each moment of music, produced, recorded, played and sung, it is the churches way of preparing herself for her wedding, to the bride groom. There is a special dress, something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. (a true scribe) Music has a great deal to do with the preparation of the bride of Christ.  How the music is presented is the bride’s dress, a psalm or familiar song is something old, a new song is something new, and the color of the music can be blue, as in the hottest part of the flame, her love for Him. As more and more of these moments are recorded and recalled, God begins to reveal a certain fragrance, only present between He and His bride. It is the minister of recorded music’s responsibility to record as many of these minutes as possible. A recording of the minutes is not just for business meetings but for all of God’s creation. This position is much like a floor manager or an executive assistant to the greatest artist of all time. Always, asking the others involved; “, did you see that, did you get that, did you write that down, did you feel or experience that, can you believe he could do that, how wonderful, how amazing. More a witness or a recorder of God’s great moments. Which is every moment.