Clarity In the Mix: Improving Communication at Sound Check

The sound staff needs to put customer service first, but as a musician, don’t assume that the engineer knows exactly what it sounds like in your head. It can take a little work figuring it out the first time or two.

Clarity In the Mix: Improving Communication at Sound Check
A female musician sings at Crossroads Community Church at Fitchburg, Massachusetts recently.
Credit: Thomas Neforas, Crossroads Community Church

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Clarity In the Mix: Improving Communication at Sound Check

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If you like what Adrian has to say with regard to this topic, he will also be a speaker discussing various subjects at WFX in October. Click here for more info.

The biggest problems I’ve seen in professional sound are often not purely technical, but a breakdown in the ability of the sound engineer to talk to the band.

And vice versa, for that matter.

Church production is a collaborative art, just like a movie. Everyone is needed to make it the best service possible.

Sound is first and foremost a customer service industry. Most of the successful people in sound that I know, sincerely want to make the musicians and audience happy. However, not everyone is great at expressing that desire. Likewise, musicians don’t always know how to tell sound guys how to best help.

Let’s look at a few ways to help build a bridge.

Before You Hit the Stage…


Talking to the band in advance is not something sound guys learn in a club or festival environment.

When you see five bands a night or 20 bands a day, you have some general goals, like a good mix for the crowd, and a fast changeover between acts.

In most churches, though, the sound staff must only please one band, and even get a rehearsal! This should foster a closer relationship and you should work to understand the goals of your band for each song. Learn where the solos are, and who has them. Find where the harmonies carry the song. More importantly, you can learn where a singer might need a little extra monitor, because they have a difficult part.

Talk to your band leaders and you can make specific notes for each musician and song.

If you are in the band, make it clear what you need. If you like to sound a certain way, tell your engineer. If you don’t know how to ask for it technically, that’s OK. It’s good to say something descriptive, like “I don’t want it to sound muddy.” Usually your engineer will translate that to “use subtractive EQ on the low mids.”

Please tell them, though, if they got it right, or if they need to keep working on it.

Your sound is important to everyone, but what sounds good is subjective. The sound staff needs to put customer service first, but as a musician, don’t assume that the engineer knows exactly what it sounds like in your head. It can take a little work figuring it out the first time or two.


More About Adrian Gates
Adrian Gates is the Media Director for Crossroads Community Church in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. In his 16 years as a media professional, Adrian has served many different roles, including music producer, web master, videographer, consultant, social media “expert,” sound guy, lighting guy, stage hand, and roadie. His clients have included some of the largest tech companies in the world, New England churches looking to modernize, and dedicated weekend warriors. Adrian is a graduate of the New England Institute of Art and Communications.
Get in Touch: [email protected]    More by Adrian Gates

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Article Topics

Technology · Audio · Team Management · Leadership · Spiritual Health · Team Development · Volunteers · Audience · In-Ear Mix · Microphones · Monitor · Musicians · Sound Check and Rehearsals · All Topics

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