Your Mileage May Vary

I get asked the same question—albeit in many variations—all the time; “How do you do ______?” I’m always happy to answer the question, because many times the information is useful. But I often included our favorite phrase from the EPA, “Your mileage may vary.” Because I know a lot of other techs at large churches, I know they get the same kinds of questions, and often give the same disclaimer. 

Perhaps the best-known disclaimer ever.

Perhaps the best-known disclaimer ever.

It’s natural, I guess, to ask those at larger churches how to do things. Presumably, because we have more full-time techs on staff, we have more time to work out our processes, we have more time to choose gear, and by virtue of the fact that we spend most of our time doing this stuff, we would have some good ideas on how to do things. This is all good.

What is important to keep in mind however, is that we often work our processes, choose equipment and decide how to do things based on our churches unique situation. Because while we all do basically the same thing, we each do it a little differently due to staff, budget, ministry philosophy and leadership style. 

Just because we don’t have guitar amps on stage doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to eliminate them. We do it because we can, and our guitarists led that charge. If they really wanted amps, we would have found another way to deal with it. That’s just one example.

How we hang out lights, how we do projection, IMAG or stage wiring is all based on what we do each weekend. To be sure, I’ve borrowed ideas from other techs, and have adapted quite a few more. But everything gets filtered through the lens of “what do we do, and how can we do it better.” 

For the first few years of my technical ministry, I looked to larger churches as the ones who have it all figured out. And to be sure, many do. But just because they do something a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it. The best advice I can give is to ask around, learn what others are doing and take what you can adapt to your situation. Sometimes the things we do at a big church are unnecessarily complex with no obvious benefits for a smaller church. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that various techniques can be employed to varying degrees depending on the situation. The way I use parallel compression works in my room; but it may make a mess of your sound. It may work for me because of my equipment, my musicians or my acoustics, but that doesn’t mean it automatically works for you. That’s why I don’t normally put all my settings online—it’s not because I’m protecting some proprietary secret, it’s because they don’t matter; it’s simply what works for me.

Learn all you can from others, pick up what works for you, but always remember, your mileage may vary!

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