Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: March 2015 (Page 1 of 2)

Don’t Miss This Week

As crazy as it was, I sort of miss sitting in this seat...

As crazy as it was, I sort of miss sitting in this seat…

This post is sort of becoming a tradition here at CTA. In past years, I’ve written it as a reminder to myself as much as anyone else. This year, as I’m not going crazy getting for Easter services, I thought I would post this again to encourage you. As much as it’s hard sometimes, what you do is important. Don’t miss out of the great opportunity you have this week to serve our Lord!

Easter week is one of the toughest weeks of the year for most church techs. Typically, we’re gearing up for a bigger than normal service on Easter (and typically more of them). Many of us  also have a Good Friday service or three to produce. And for some reason, it seems that the rest of the church staff has no idea that our workload goes up by 50% this week and so all kinds of other stuff gets scheduled between Palm Sunday and Easter just for fun.

I have had a hard time with Easter (and Christmas, for that matter) week for quite a while. For a long time, I looked at it as just another super-busy week that was going to keep me at work for 12-14 hours a day for a week. In the last few years however, I’ve come to see it differently. I’ve said before that it’s struck me recently that we get to do this. By that I mean, we have such a unique opportunity to share the gospel with hundreds or thousands of people this week in a very creative and compelling manner. 

We get to do that!

Moreover, this is a week that we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We mourn his death on Good Friday. And we celebrate his resurrection on Easter. 

Go back and read that again. It’s quite a week! Easter week is the culmination of what Jesus came to do on this earth. He came for this very specific purpose, to die in our place and pay the debt for our sin.


For my sin.


For your sin.


That’s significant. In fact, it’s everything. It’s why we do what we do. It’s why we work late, prepare, rehearse and plan. It’s why we have extra services. It’s why we settle in to the tech booth for hours on end.

Don’t miss that! 

Don’t miss what we’re celebrating. 

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, his disciples asked him to quiet the crowds. He told them,

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

It has occurred to me that every week, our job as the Church is keep the stones from crying out. Jesus will be praised; the question is, will it be by His people or by the rocks and stones? We get to be part of keeping the stones quiet. 

Don’t miss that!

Finally, remember the words of Jesus,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

For many of you, this has already been a long week. But it will be an amazing weekend. If we truly understand the truth of what we’re celebrating, we can’t help but be changed by it.

What else would you rather be doing this weekend?

Today’s post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

Tech Guys–Help Your Worship Leader

This week we’ve been talking about how to strengthen the working relationship between the musical and technical artists of the worship team. And I phrase that very intentionally. I really do see us as one team with two disciplines. It’s important to maintain that perspective as we try to solve the challenges that we face whenever people are involved.

Last time, I shared some ideas on how the worship leader can help the technical staff serve the whole team better. This time, I’d like to share some things I learned in my nearly 30 years as both a volunteer and paid technical artist.

Be Prepared

This may seem somewhat in contradiction to my previous post in which I implored worship leaders to communicate early with the technical folks. However, the two go hand in hand. Once your worship guy tells you what the weekend will look like, make sure you can pull it off. You should have time in your weekly routine to set up for the weekend in advance (or at least early) and make sure it all works before the band arrives.

Of course there will be last minute adjustments from time to time, but we can handle them because we are prepared. If you can be ready for the 80% you know, the 20% you don’t know about isn’t so stressful.

Be Early

The question from a conference goer last week was about how he could get his sound guys to show up on time and be prepared. This sort of frustrates me. We need to take it upon ourselves to be there not on time, but early. The entire stage should be fully set up and ready to go, and line checked before the band arrives. Nothing frustrates a worship leader more than having to wait for the sound team to get their act together. Folks, this is unacceptable. Show up early, do a great job and watch how much better the whole weekend rolls along.

Get Out of the Booth

So often, I watch tech guys sit back in the booth, arms crossed about their chests while the band comes in and gets set up. If someone on stage asks where to plug in, the sound guy will use the talkback mic to tell him, “The cable!” That is not how it should be.

Get out of the booth, go down on stage and be there when the musicians arrive. Talk with them, find out about their week, help them set up. Make sure they have what they need to be successful that weekend. I have done this for years and I can tell you without reservation that those 15 minutes of “extrovert time” will make a huge difference in the weekend. And not only the weekend, but in the way you are perceived and treated overall. Yes, I know it can be hard. Do it anyway.

Be a Team Player

I’ve heard tech guys spend most of the weekend tearing down those on stage. I can assure you that is not the way to win friends and influence people. I like to joke about worship leaders not knowing the lyrics to the songs they are leading as much as anyone (and that’s probably another post), but when I’m in the booth, I do my best to encourage those on stage.

The truth is, being up there, exposed, in front of the whole congregation is hard. Most artists, despite how they act, have big confidence issues. If you can build them up and let them know you have their back no matter what, they will do a better job. That, in turn, makes your job easier.

One of the nicest going away cards I’ve ever received was from one of our younger vocalists. She specifically thanked me for always encouraging her and putting up with her goofy requests. She told me how much that helped her and built her up, which made it easier to lead worship. That kind of stuff makes a lasting impression.

Like I said last time, this is not an exhaustive list. There is a lot more we can do, but I’ll leave it here for now. Oh, and one more thing. To quote my friend Andrew; Don’t forget to not suck.


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Worship Leader–Help Your Tech Guys

Last time, we talked about relationships. You’ve heard me say it before, but it’s all about relationships. Last week, I was at a conference helping to lead a class on music-tech team dynamics. The first question raised was about getting the tech team to be on time and ready for sound check. That got me thinking about ways the worship leader can help the technical group do a better job—which helps you do your job better. That means there really is some incentive for you to do this stuff.

Communicate. In advance.

Tech guys are usually planners. We like to know what is happening before it does. We like to know how many musicians are going to be on stage and what they will be playing. We like to know how many handheld and bodypack wireless mic’s we’ll need. And we like to know it before Sunday morning.

Years ago, I worked for a church that had Saturday rehearsal for a Saturday service. We really didn’t know until we showed up at 2:30 who would be on stage at 3:00 practicing for the 5:00 service. This created much stress. So I started asking the worship leaders for a band list on Wednesday. That way, I could think through how best to accommodate all the needs for the band in advance.

It took a while for them to get used to the idea of planning ahead, but once they saw the results—faster set up, quicker sound checks, smoother rehearsals, better services—they were all over it.

You’re probably doing this anyway with the musicians, so simply let the tech guys know. This is especially important for smaller churches that may be on the ragged edge of capacity for their systems. Having a few days to figure out how to get everyone in the board will make your tech’s—and thus your—lives easier.

Communicate. As a Team.

As I said, you’re probably already communicating with the musicians and singers throughout the week anyway. And if you’re not, you should; but that’s another post. Why not simply include the tech guys and gals in that email? Make sure they know what songs you’re doing and how you want to do it. That helps them prepare, and they may even have ideas that will make it better.

One worship leader of mine always sent out an email to the entire weekend team every Thursday. It was a short, simple email most weeks that included the theme for the weekend and some encouragement for being involved. It’s not a huge deal, but it helps everyone know—techs and musicians alike—that we’re all in this together.

Equip and resource the tech staff.

I hear from worship leaders often who are frustrated that their sound guys (for example) don’t do a great job. I always start by asking, “How do you train them? When was the last time you brought someone in to do some real training on mixing?” That’s when the line goes dead on the other end.

Look, the technical arts are hard. If it weren’t hard, everyone could do it. Most cannot, and even after someone knows what the compressor threshold does, learning how to use that properly takes years. You cannot expect pro-level results from volunteers who have never been properly trained.

Figure out how to get them some training and ways to practice their craft. This will cost money. Get over it.

If the team is working with outdated and severely compromised equipment, figure out how to get it serviced or replaced. As a worship leader, how long would you try to lead worship on a guitar that refused to stay in tune for more than one verse? How long would you lead from a piano that had 12 keys that only occasionally produced sound?  I would guess a weekend. You would get it fixed or replaced because it’s important. Making your tech guys fight with equipment that only occasionally works will not help them help you.

This is not an exhaustive list, but if you start here, you’ll find your technical artists become more helpful and less grumpy. Next time, we’ll look at it from the other side of the booth.

Today’s post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

Worship Team Dynamics

Photo courtesy of  handjes

Photo courtesy of handjes

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Northwest Ministry Conference. As part of that event, I sat in a panel with Duke to talk about the sometimes-strained relationships between the tech and musical parts of the worship team.

Several questions came up during that class that I would like to address again here. I say again because we’ve talked about this before. But like many things, it bears repeating. Before I get to some of the specific things, I want to set the tone for this series.

It’s all about relationships.

Often, we get questions that start with, “How do I get my tech guy to do…” You can substitute worship guy for tech guy with similar frequency. It comes up a lot, and people are usually looking for a simple solution to solve a functional problem. If we were troubleshooting a technical system, this might work. But people tend to be more complicated than that.

The only real way to get someone to work with you is to build a relationship with them. That can be hard, and it takes time. But when you invest both the time and energy, it always pays off.

Of course, if the worship leader simply plays the boss card, he may get what he wants in the moment. But it will never be a good long-term solution.

Part of the problem is that we all tend to assume that everyone else is like us. So, we tend to treat people the way we like to be treated. Which can be good, however we’re not all the same. The personality types that tend to gravitate toward tech represent about 1-4% of the population. In other words, we techs are not like most people. That usually makes us really good at what we do, and makes it really hard to interact with others.

The effort is worth it.

Building relationships with those on the other side of the tech booth wall is worth it for both parties, but it’s not without cost. I tell both technical artists and musical artists that you need to take the initiative to build that relationship. Go to lunch, go to coffee, just hang out somewhere. Yes, it may be awkward at first, but you have to push through.

It’s important to keep trying when beginning to build those relationships. Sometimes a worship leader will ask a tech guy to lunch and he will say no. Don’t give up. Keep asking. It’s easy to think that because we said no we’re not interested. But if you stick with it, you’ll find we actually value being included.

Duke pointed out that we’re all trying to achieve the same goal; help our congregations experience a great worship experience. We come at that goal differently because of our skill sets, but we are on the same team.

One thing that you might not be aware of is that when there is tension between the technical artists and the musical artists, everyone in the room knows. They may not be able to articulate it, and no one will likely ask about it. But they know something is off. Plus, when there is tension, nobody on the worship team really enjoys coming to church. And that’s kind of a problem.

We are one worship team.

I also like to remind people that we are all one worship team. The technical side and music side are two sides of the same coin. Neither can exist without the other, and if the two disciplines aren’t working together, neither will live up to their full potential.

I get that we are different, I get that there can be struggles with those differences. Just keep in mind those same differences are what make the team great—when we are working together.

It doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it shouldn’t be hard. But it does take effort to build the relationships, and create understanding. In the next two posts, I’m going to share some things that the worship leader can do to help the technical artists, and then some things the technical group can do to help the music folks. Stick with it; it’s good when you put the time in!


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Be Authentic

Image courtesy of  Dee Bamford

Image courtesy of Dee Bamford

This is a topic that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It came up last week when I had the opportunity to attend at the Seeds Conference at Church on the Move. I heard it in several of the sessions, and I experienced it all week long. Everywhere we went on campus, people were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about helping us out. There is a joy in serving at COTM that seeps out like the fragrance of a flower. We all know that everything rises and falls based on leadership, and this joy in helping others clearly comes from Pastor Willie George himself. Throughout the week, I saw him sitting and talking with various pastors and church planters. Unhurried and undistracted, he encouraged those guys with no expectation of anything in return.

The creative elements of the conference were also authentic. If you look closely, and talk to the team, you will find out that much of the production elements are based on something else. Whitney George said in his session that there is nothing new, but there are new things through you. Those guys are masters at taking something they saw somewhere else and adapting it to their situation. 

Don’t Simply Copy

One of the big mistakes I see churches doing is going to another church or a conference, seeing something cool and trying to straight-up copy it. That seldom works out well, mainly because the church doing the copying usually doesn’t have the resources of the big church or the conference. 

The other problem with simple copying is that everything looks different. The people who are best at adapting ideas will make sure that whatever it is they are doing fits the ethos of the church. When you try to copy without adaptation, your people will feel the disconnect between what the church should be and what it does looks like

Know Who You Are

Of course, being authentic presupposes that you know who you are as a church. I feel like many churches today suffer from multiple personality disorder. The lobby was lifted from one church, the sanctuary from another, the set from another still, the kids area from still another. Because all the ideas came from different places, there is no consistency. And when the various ministries are silos unto themselves, there is no consistency of message there either. 

As the technical leader, you may not be able to solve all your church’s split personality issues, but you can be sure that everything you do on your stage matches the mission and vision of the church. This means adapting ideas to suit your church’s culture. 

For Example…

Andrew Stone and I both grew up in the ’80s and share a fondness for lush, rich reverbs with long tails. Having heard his mixes and talked with him about his process, I set about to take the essence of his technique and apply it to my church. Now, you have to know that there was not a fondness for long reverbs at my church. In fact, it was more like whatever the opposite of fondness is. 

Thus, I couldn’t just layer up three or four reverb units with 5-8 second reverb tails on them like he does. But what I was going for was the essence of his technique. The thing I found so intriguing was the layering effect of stacking multiple reverbs, each to deliver part of the frequency spectrum. So that’s what I did. I stacked up a few reverb units, played around with the high and low pass settings, and pretty much everything else until I came up with a great sounding reverb that didn’t sound like too much reverb to my leadership. 

Had I simply insisted on copying the technique with the justification of “this is what COTM does…” it would not have gone well. But as it was, everyone loved the sound, and I was able to create a more expansive vocal sound that still fit with our church’s ethos. Was it my own personal preference? Not necessarily. Was I happy with the result? Yes. 

Of course, being authentic takes time, energy, thought and work. Which is probably why so few bother. But if you’ll put the time in, the results will be worth it.

Today’s post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.


Photo courtesy of  MeganLynnette

Photo courtesy of MeganLynnette

This post is another in the series of things that I took away from last week’s Seeds Conference at Church on the Move. They do a great job of bringing in speakers who can speak to larger issues of the church, and those issues can almost always be distilled down to concepts that apply to production team. Such is the case today.

Patrick Lencioni spoke on Thursday and not only thoroughly entertained everyone with his humorous, ADD style, he spoke some great truths. There was way too much content to summarize in a single post, so I’m going to focus on a single facet of his talk, Four Disciplines of a Healthy Organization. I’m going to change healthy organization to healthy production team. These concepts work if you’re fully volunteer, fully paid or a hybrid. In fact, these concepts work for pretty much any team. 

Create a Cohesive Leadership Team

Nothing will demoralize and drive a team to dysfunction like a dysfunctional leadership team. And when I say leadership team, I’m talking about whoever is leading the technical/production teams. That may be a TD, a volunteer TD or a team of staff. Even if you are the only staff member, it would behoove you to recruit one or two volunteers to be part of your leadership team. It’s imperative that as leaders, you are all on the same page. 

When a team senses that it’s leaders are at odds with each other, they will either play one against the other to get what they want, or give up and go home. Neither is a good option for you. 

Create Clarity

Lack of clarity is the second thing that will drive a team crazy. When people don’t know why it is they are doing what they are doing, they are not effective. They can even be destructive. The vision of the production team needs to be crystal clear so everyone knows exactly why they do their task. This is important for the big tasks like mixing and the small tasks like setting the stage. The why questions are the most important, yet we tend to spend the least time on them. When building up your team, spend as much or more time on the why as the how. Once people know the why, the how will come.

Over-communicate Clarity

Most leaders don’t like to over-communicate anything because they think it’s redundant. But here’s the thing—and I’ve said this before—most of your team doesn’t spend their days dreaming about the vision of the church or production team. They have jobs, families and friends. They have their own dreams and plans for the future. If you want them bought into your clear vision, you need to share that vision all the time. 

Reinforce Clarity

Seeing a pattern here? When you see someone who is doing what you want them to do, reinforce that. Publicly. Look for as many teachable moments as possible. If one of your audio guys takes the initiative to straighten up some cables on stage, thank them for that, and remind them why it is so important to maintain a clean, safe stage. It will feel like you are saying the same thing over and over, but remember, many of your team only volunteer once or twice a month. You may say it six times a weekend to different people, but that may be once a month for each person. When you start hearing your team repeat the vision to new team members, then you’re making progress. Just don’t quit, because they need clarity reinforced, too. 

Author Samuel Johnson said, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” It’s up to us to do the reminding.

Patrick has a new book out called The Advantage and while I haven’t read it yet, it’s on my list of books to read this year. If you want to be part of building a better team at your church, I suggest you give it a read. I’ve read several of his books and have yet to be disappointed.


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Creativity Re-Imagined

Photo courtesy of  Sean MacEntee

Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee

As most of you know, I had the privilege of attending the Seeds Conference at Church on the Move in Tulsa last week. It truly is my favorite conference of the year, and I again came away inspired, challenged, encouraged and humbled. We had the opportunity to meet many of you and I was touched by all the words of thanks and encouragement. 

While COTM does some amazing production work, that is never the focus of the conference (or their services, for that matter). As I found two years ago when I was there, this year, the best content of the week was delivered in the sessions. The speakers talked on a variety of topics, most not directly related to technical production. However, I’m going to translate several of them for you into how we can improve our technical ministries. This will take a few days. But it’s going to be good.

One of the first sessions was led by Whitney George, Executive Pastor of COTM. He was formerly in charge of the creative arts teams, and as you know, did a bang-up job. He spoke on the concept of creativity, and challenged us to think differently about it. 

Creativity Is Not Art; It Is Problem Solving

A lot of people will tell you they are not creative. That’s because we’ve typically defined “creative” as creating art—graphics, paintings, video, music, sculpture or the like. But Whit defines it differently. In his mind—and I tend to agree—creativity is problem solving. And that manifests itself in many ways. 

Most of the best technical directors are incredibly creative. They may not be Photoshop or InDesign wizards, but the way they approach production problems and challenges is amazing. Figuring out how to get the band on in-ears with an extremely limited budget takes creativity. Coming up with a cool set look that enhances the series takes creativity. Helping a volunteer figure out the proper timing for advancing song words takes creativity. 

Technical artists are some of the most creative people I know; that’s why I often refer to them as technical artists not just techs. Elegantly solving the myriad of problems that come up every week takes incredibly creativity. If this is you, take heart, you are a “creative.” 

Creativity is a Discipline, not Magic

I really like what Whit said about this one:

“There is an implication that if the process is magic, then I can’t be held responsible for doing bad work. If they have access to some magic I don’t have access to, I’m off the hook.”

He told the story about Joel Houston who was apparently mugged in New York City. While he was willing to give up his wallet, he hated to lose his phone because he had hundreds of song ideas on it. Whit asked how many of us had “hundreds of ideas” for anything? 

I get asked all the time how I come up with ideas for blog posts, especially 3x a week. My answer is that ideas are everywhere. I have a couple of lists that I maintain with what is probably close to 100 ideas. Many of those ideas will never be written because they’re terrible. But I know I have a few dozen that will work. I have developed the discipline of looking for ideas everywhere I go. I even still keep an Evernote notebook of set ideas even though I’m not creating sets very often anymore. Just do it. 

Creativity is Not the Absence of Limitations, it’s Leveraging Those Limitations

Many of us see our pastor as a limitation to our creativity. If only he would let us use haze, then we could go great lighting work. If only he would let us turn up the volume, then we could deliver great mixes. If only he would let us use motion graphics, then our song words would look cool. 

It’s easy to get large-church envy, especially when you’re in a smaller church. If you only had the PA Andrew Stone does, or the lighting rig Daniel Connell does, then you could do great work. But I know those guys, and I know that while they fully appreciate what they get to do, they have also had to work on some pretty crappy rigs during their careers. But that didn’t keep them from doing great work. 

I’ve had the opportunity to mix three shows on crappy PA’s with crappy mixers over the last few months. Each time, people came up unsolicited and told me they had never heard anything sound so good in those rooms. The lack of a Digico SD5 and an L’Acoustics PA will not keep me from delivering a great mix. This is because I’ve learned the secret to leveraging what I have. 

Don’t let limitations be an excuse. Find ways to make it great regardless. That is when your creativity really shines. 

There was another whole section to his talk, but you’ll have to wait for another post, or for it to appear online to get the goods on that.

Today’s post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

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