A few weeks back, I got to participate in my first competitive pistol shooting meet. I’ve been wanting to do this for years, and the time was right to give it a shot. See what I did there? I showed up not knowing anyone—or that it was a low-light match, me without my flashlight—and had a great time. Being a newbie, they let me shoot in full light and coached me through the stages. 

At the end, I didn’t do too badly. I placed third (out of ten) in my class and tenth overall (out of twenty). And that was after making a hash of my first run. I was so nervous having never done this before that I made several errors, botched a reload and had two jams. So how did I go from that bad to not bad? Pre-visualization. 

See Yourself Doing the Tasks

I’ve written about this before, but there is a huge benefit to visualizing yourself doing a series of complex tasks. One of the great things about being the new guy at this match was that I went last. I got to watch the veterans run the stage before me. I noticed the guys who were really good were using every break between shooters to walk the stage. They would move back and forth, simulating the angles they would shoot the targets, do virtual reloads and figure the whole thing out ahead of time. That way when it came time run the stage, they weren’t trying to figure it out, they were running the program they built in their minds. 

I’ve done the same thing when mixing for years. I applied the pre-visualization technique the match and each stage I ran, I did better than the one before. When the pressure is on and seconds count (literally), you can’t be trying to figure out what to do. You need to know what you’re doing and just do it. 

Transitions are for Go

I read a post recently about training for matches and the author said, “Splits are for show, transitions are for go.” What he meant was two quick shots on one target is one thing, getting to the next target just as quickly is another (and will make a bigger difference in your score). 

A church service is similar in some ways. I could rephrase that to “Mixing is for show, transitions are for go.” Transitions are what often make or break services. People won’t notice a mix that’s not perfect. But blow a transition and almost everyone knows. I talked about this a few weeks ago. 

Let’s take the opening of the service as an example. I’m not sure what you have to do, but here’s a rundown of the tasks I complete in the few seconds before the service starts and a few seconds afterward.

  • Verify we’re on Walk In snapshot
  • Check Reaper to make sure it’s recording
  • Check battery levels on wireless
  • Put one IEM in
  • Solo stage announce so I can hear producer countdown
  • Hit Next Snapshot to fade out walk in music and start worship leader welcome
  • Pull out IEM
  • Tweak WL vocal level if needed
  • Clear solo
  • Hit Next Snapshot to start first song
  • Stop walk in music
  • Mix

That all happens in about 30-40 seconds. It’s important to note that order is important. Obviously, if I hit stop on music playback before the fade, it will be really apparent. But also notice that I prioritize pulling out my IEM before checking the WL’s mic level or clearing the solo. That’s because to accurately set the level, I want both ears open. The solo clear can wait; I’m not likely to use that again for a a while, if at all during the set. 

Also notice that I don’t bother to stop the walk in music until the first song is under way. I figure I can spare a few seconds hitting the space bar right after the song starts up. I don’t want to just let that roll in case somehow that channel gets pulled up in the band’s ears or even worse, in the house by accident. But it’s a task that can wait a little bit.

Like walking through the stage at my pistol match, I walk through the motions at FOH a few minutes prior to service start. Going through the motions helps me identify anything that might cause a bumble or slow me down. I make sure my keyboard is in place and Spotify is on top so when I hit space bar Spotify stops, not Reaper.  I make sure my console is clear and I’m on the right snapshot (most times anyway, see that other post…). 

Don’t Just Wing It

Like I said, I was the last one to shoot each stage, so I saw the whole field go before. One thing I noticed is that some guys tried to just wing it. Those were the guys who ended up doing unexpected slide-lock reloads because they ran the gun dry in the middle of a target sequence instead of reloading while moving between positions. Those guys also shot the same target from multiple positions because they didn’t think a sequence through. All those things cost them valuable time.

Some weekends, especially by service 5, I think I can just wing it, too. That usually doesn’t go well. Most of the service starts I’ve botched I’ve done so because I didn’t go through the motions first. It’s easy to get flustered once things start going wrong and it can quickly spiral out of control. But when I take the time to walk through it once first, it’s pretty seamless. 

The other thing I did while at the match was ask other guys how they would shoot a particular target. I learned a lot doing that. But that’s probably another post.

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