Make a new best friend …. with the sound guy
One thing I have observed at churches is there is a lot of division between the stage and the booth. Let’s face it. Sometimes musicians and sound guys can be tough to work with. However the reality is that we all are trying to serve in the church, and create the best possible worship experience. A simple way to improve worship in the church is to improve these relationships. Over the last couple of years I have noticed that some of my closest friends have been sound guys. These relationships have given me a much greater understanding of the ups & downs of audio in that church. It has also opened up a consistent line of communication for improving guitar tone in the mix. I try to ask the sound guys every week how my guitar sounds and if there is anything I can do on my end to help. When they see something can be improved it allows me to adjust to the overall sound rather than just my own personal preference. A very important part of this is to actually MAKE THOSE CHANGES! Don’t just listen to their opinion and then completely ignore it. Sometimes its as simple as messing with the EQ on my amps/pedals or even playing certain parts an octave higher or lower. Either way these simple questions have shown the sound guys that I care about how my tone affects the overall mix, and that goes a long way
Listen …. a lot
One of the best classes I took in college was Critical Listening. This class was designed primarily to listen and identify frequencies. Listening to white noise over and over again was very redundant but it is one of the most beneficial classes I ever took. The goal of the class was by the end to be able to identify frequencies and how they affect different sounds. This class allowed me to understand where my guitar needs to lie in the mix and how to quickly improve my tone. I have seen on too many occasions people who know what sounds good but don’t know how to get there. Today I have a much better understanding of what I am listening to and if I need to adjust on the fly I can make educated decisions rather than going by trial and error. This also helps me in communicating with the sound guy. Instead of just telling the sound guy mixing monitors my guitar sounds muddy and hoping he can read my mind and guess what I want, I can ask him to pull down 400hz 2 db in my monitor. Quick educated decisions are always better than trial and error.
Be a team player
I wish I didn’t have to write this one since it is so blatantly obvious but be a team player. Understand that we want to bring the best possible worship experience and sometimes that means laying down your pride, tone, style, or parts that you worked hard on. I had many times that I was playing at church and the other guitarist was completely stepping on my parts. I played with a blues player once who is very used to playing at all times and riffing throughout the song. If I played the lead parts I normally do it would mean 2 lead parts happening at times and no rhythm. So instead, I switched up playing all the parts I practiced, and I switched over to rhythm when the song needed it. Too many times we think the best sound is the most complicated sound. Worship music is very very simple, and that means the best thing for the song could be not playing at all or just strumming a simple chord every bar. Be humble and play what is best for the song not what is best for you and your style. I can tell you that I am not a “shredder”. I am not gonna go up there and blow your mind by my licks like Mateus Asato but I can tell you that I will play something that enhances the song. Maybe it’s doing swells, playing a basic arpeggio, or cranking my distortion pedal to 11. Be a team player. It goes a long way not only musically but also relationally when others see your desire to work as a group rather than just playing what you think sounds coolest.