When we go to a concert, we expect the audio, lighting and visuals to be over the top. If the sound is anything less than punchy and precise, we’re apt to be disappointed. Fortunately, the engineers handling the sound for major touring artists know exactly how to get the “suck” out of the system so fast that the audience seldom has time to notice.
In the worship setting however, issues with the audio can create a cloud of sonic fog that distracts from the Message. It may be something as simple as the Pastor’s mic needing an EQ tweak, or the reverb…verb…verb.. being turned…turned….turned… way up… up… up on the Worship leader’s mic… mic….mic…. And, unlike the pros who handle sound for the big acts, those in the church sound booth often lack the knowledge and experience to fix it on the fly.
Buzzzz, hummmm, feedback, and instruments falling from the mix are just a few of the obstacles on the road to great sound for a group of people I respectfully call “Sunday Morning SoundTechs.” This is a dedicated army of faithful volunteers who have answered the call to serve in churches small and large across this great land. They are committed to their task—and eager to learn all they can about getting the sound right.
In-Person Is Best
While there are dozens of excellent books, videos and other resources available, nothing rivals an in-person, hands-on training session—which is why Doug Gould’s Worship MD training program has been a Godsend for Sunday Morning SoundTechs hungry to become Masters the mix.
WorshipMD training has been offered at Worship Conferences and Houses Of Worship through out North America for over 15 years. Multiply that by 35+ conferences annually times 200 attendees (or more) and the alumni is in the thousands. Having attended three of his presentations myself, I have to compliment the quality and quantity of material taught—which I would describe as a mix of technical, physical and spiritual. “The hardest skill for new Soundtechs to acquire,” Doug explains, “Is how to listen… how to develop their ears—which they can do at home. I encourage them to listen to music instead of the TV or talk radio. This way they’ll be learning what to listen for so when they adjust the controls on a mixer they will be able to get closer to what they hear in their head versus what they might stumble on by accident.”
Wanting to make sure every one who attends his seminars gets the utmost out of the experience, Doug strives to maintain a balance between the essential information for beginners, and that aimed at the more experienced members of the group. Considering the size of the turnout that can be a challenge, so Doug continually sharpens the content to pinpoint the needs of the majority. Still, one thing that has been missing is a real hands-on experience.
On February 4th of this year, that changed when Doug introduced his first Advanced Audio Seminar held at Family Life Ministries in Bath, NY. Among the crowd were representatives of churches from all points within Family Life radio’s extensive listening area—some driving 2 hours or more for the seminar.
“The host wanted to create a more advanced event with hands-on training”, Doug recalls, “The number of mixing consoles I could muster would severely dampen attendance—so we compromised. We agreed that we could manage 200 attendees if we split them into four groups of fifty. I knew I could get enough mixers so that everyone would be able to get their hands on a console. While one group would be working with the mixers, the other three would be rotating through modules for Microphones, Monitors and Loudspeakers. Jon Taylor from PreSonus Commercial taught Loudspeakers; Ed Frebowitz, owner of Production Monster and former monitor engineer for many well known artists taught the monitor section, and Tim Chamberlain, of On The Road Marketing and the Audio-Technica Rep of the Year for 2016, and who lives right down the road from the venue in Elmira, NY, taught Microphone Basics.”
On hand primarily to write about the event, I spent much of my time learning about the attendees as they completed the 60 minute mixing module, led by Doug. To create the hands-on experience, PreSonus had set-up a network of 13 StudioLive 16AI Mix Systems. With 16 tracks of pre-recorded audio being fed through a Dante network, those at each mix station could not only build a great mix, but could also gain some rudimentary knowledge of the capabilities of digital mixing.
Most whom I spoke with were from churches with congregations struggling to reach 100 on any given Sunday, but regardless of the size of the congregation, the majority had multi-member Praise and Worship teams and lots of questions on how to improve the sound. The experience level of the “students” ranged from knowing “zero,” to a few who were on par with the presenters. Some adapted easily to the PreSonus control surface, while others needed a little guidance in understanding the similarities between the digital boards and the more familiar analog units they had back at their church.
Once everyone had advanced through the four modules, it was time to put it all in a practical perspective. With the one of Western New York’s top Christian bands, Good Little Giants, taking the stage, FLN resident sound tech Jamie Heale and Jon Taylor walked through an input by input sound check, followed by an impromptu concert.
At the end of the day, the comments on the four-track format were most positive. Asked how it could be improved, Doug replied, “I would really like to see more time on the mixers. One hour is not enough. I would like to see an event where we have a group of fifty in the morning for four hours and another group for four hours in the afternoon, and repeat this two days. The soundcheck and rehearsal portion was a new addition from the previous events and it was a big hit. People loved observing the way that a soundcheck and rehearsal can go when everybody is cooperating and on the same page and all working towards the same goal. You could see the lights coming on. We had to cap the attendance at 200, but Family Life had another 200 that wanted to attend. So we are planning a similar event for the fall for those who couldn’t get in this time.”
Doug Gould talks about how The WorshipMD Program came to be:
In my previous position as Market Development Manager for Shure, I would to talk to end-users about our applications. I taught microphone and wireless concepts, in-ear monitoring (I co-wrote the primer Shure still distributes called Introduction to Wireless Systems and Personal Monitoring for Houses of Worship), live sound and recording applications. Because the Church employs volunteers to staff the band and the tech team, typically with little or no professional or vocational experience, I found a segment that needed help in a big way (versus the other verticals such as education, recording studios, touring production companies, integrators, theatre).
Professional audio folks gather at InfoComm, AES, Tape Op, etc., and they, being pro engineers, wouldn’t need someone like me telling them how to do stuff—but I I could be at a different worship training event every week working with people who could use my help.
As expected the Church was hungry for knowledge and with the Shure banner I was able to participate in many events that Doug Gould might not have been able to enter. The Shore brand was my ticket to teach at many events in the early days and then I just kept getting asked to come back. Word spread and more conferences invited me to teach their attendees. Classes were developed around Shure products.
When I separated from Shure and began Worship MD it was an easy transition because of my reputation at Shure. Audio-Technica was the first to call and wanted to work with me but was unable to offer full time. The idea was developed to be a Market Development resource for multiple companies who would share the cost of compensation and travel expenses. I would like to say I came up with a job description but the credit belongs to the Lord. He made the way. He put it all together. After that Presonus and Aviom came on board. They are all still with me and remain very happy with the progress. My clients don’t want me to necessarily be a commercial or a marketing mouthpiece for their products, rather to teach audio concepts and applications as generically as possible while utilizing their products as my tools.