The 3 Secrets to Becoming a Good Sound Engineer
by Caleb Chan
“Sound Crew Recruitment - no experience needed!”
Does that sound familiar? What is it about ‘doing sound’ that scares potential volunteers away? Whatever the reason, churches all over the world are always in desperate need of more sound crew as many are starting to recognise the importance of this unseen ministry.
I started my journey towards a sound mind (sorry, bad joke) when I was 14, answering a need in my church. I was then in a church of about 150 members that had a sound team of 3. The existing team consisted of one older guy who had a background in electrical engineering & two other youth. I was asked to serve when one of the youth entered O’ levels year & so in I went. All it took was availability & a willingness to serve. This is probably the story of many sound volunteers, even those who have gone on to make a career out of this.
Having been involved in the area of sound as a volunteer & a full timer for more than 10 years has taught me many lessons - technical & non-technical - that have shaped the way I view the sound engineer role in the church. Funnily enough, being skilful isn’t on top of the list.
Just like every other ministry in the church & in anything we do in our lives, we must always first position our hearts to serve God. Especially so when it comes to doing sound, which is often a thankless ministry! The layperson will hardly notice the sound engineer unless something goes wrong. We serve God by giving our utmost best, even if it means no one’s going to notice us.
Serve the Worship Team.
That’s right, serve your worship team! YOU are part of your worship team! YOU are a worship leader! Make your team feel comfortable, whether it comes to serving them technically or in the way you communicate with them. Are they able to hear themselves? Are they comfortable with how they sound on stage? Everyone has their preference & we should start to take note of them. This is where some technical training & knowledge could come in handy, knowing how to best optimise the system you have to work with.
Serve the Congregation
Mix with your congregation in mind. You want to help create an atmosphere for worship & eliminate distractions during the service. This can translate in many ways: unbalanced volume levels, too much drums, reverb & delay galore & so on. Remember, as long as nothing you do turns heads towards the sound board, you’re probably on the right track!
To sum it all up, everything boils down to your ability to LISTEN. I have been asking the following question recently - What makes a good sound engineer? - & almost all of the responses I got were non-technical! Worship leaders, musicians & pastors said that good interpersonal skills were vital, followed by the “need to know their stuff”.
So what does it take? Skills - not so much. Have the heart & attitude to serve & to learn. Be willing to give your best. Skills can be learnt, but good sound engineers love & serve everyone but themselves.
Caleb is a resident mentor & the in-house sound engineer here at Awaken Generation. He graduated from SAE with a Diploma in Sound Engineering in 2007 & has mixed sound in a wide array of venues & events since. He was the recording engineer behind AG's most recent recording project, "The Sons & Daughters Live Recording".