I keep a running log of ideas for blog posts. At any given time there are probably 75 or so ideas there, some of which are terrible. Today’s post has been staring at me for a long time. It’s been there so long that I don’t know where it even came from. But every week when I sit down to write, I see the prompt. For that reason, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. At long last, it’s turned into a post.
I generally hate doing numbered list posts, I really do. Maybe because the internet has become full of six keys to this and five principle for that. Ten things you can do to be better at this and seven things your spouse doesn’t know you need. Blah, blah, blah. But in this case, these three words keep coming back to me. So for better or worse, here are three things I believe you need to be a better technical artist.
Working in the technical arts of any discipline is tough work. The hours are often long, we tend to be unappreciated and the pay is not great. Thus, you really have to want to do this. To be sure, it can be incredibly rewarding. Putting up a great mix that empowers a congregation to worship their creator is an amazing experience; one I never tire of.
Because getting really good at this gig takes so long, you really have to want to put the time in. To be really great as a technical artist is no casual endeavor. If you want to show up on Sunday, push the faders up and stick your hands in your pockets, that’s OK, but you’ll never be a great engineer. I love hearing from younger guys who discovered ChurchTechWeekly and went back and listened to every episode. That is literally hundreds of hours of time invested in furthering one’s skill set. That’s desire. Or someone who is a glutton for punishment…
You’re never going to get far in this business without hard work. The guys I know who are killing it put in some long hours at times. This is not a sit around and wait for things to happen career. Of course there has to be balance, and we need to take time off to stay healthy. But when we work, we work hard.
When I work with people who are half my age and who start complaining about it being a long day once we hit 10 hours during Christmas prep week, I am pretty sure they are not cut out for this. In contrast, the ones who are there before I get there and stay after I leave are the ones who I am quite sure are doing great things.
This one is a bit tricky. You don’t start off with skill as a technical artist. You develop skill as you put in hours. At least that’s what is supposed to happen. I occasionally meet guys who have standing behind the soundboard for 20 years and are just as clueless as the day they started. They never bothered to learn—really learn—what they were doing. Sure, they could push faders up at roughly the right time, but that was about it. Doing the same thing over and over for 20 years doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve developed skill.
Skill is a weird mix of experience plus knowledge. Both take time and energy to develop. For some of us, the technical arts come pretty naturally and we pick it up quickly. But it still takes plenty of time to really get good at what we do. It’s that whole 10,000 hours thing.
Skill doesn’t just happen, though. It’s intentionally acquired. You learn from other people. You experiment. You read. You listen.
Now, I’m not going to suggest these are the only attributes of a successful technical artist. However, they are traits that all the successful ones I know possess. Something to think about as you ponder your calling…