Who's the Boss?July 27, 2011
I recently have been a part of some discussions regarding the worship mix of various churches and the question frequently comes down to who should have control over what the mix sounds like and how much influence various other people should have. For me this is fairly simple and I thought it was worth some discussion here.I think the first place to start in this discussion is always the Senior Pastor. As the leader of the church the Senior Pastor must be happy with the sound of the worship. The Senior Pastor will generally not have a great deal of direct influence on making the mix what it is, but as the saying goes, "if the boss ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." So whose job is it to make sure the boss is happy, and who is this person that should have the direct say and influence on how the mix is set up?
You Might Think It's You!
If you are new to running sound in the church you might think that as the sound guy you should have the final word in what the mix sounds like. Not so much, but that's not a bad thing. Whether your technical staff and/or teams work under the worship leader or not, the person ultimately held accountable for the style and sound of worship by the Senior Pastor is almost always the Worship Leader. The Worship Leader is the one who meets with the Senior Pastor to create a song list that flows with the service, who is held accountable for leading the congregation in worshipping God and is the one who should be in tune with the culture of the church in order to do so. The job of the sound guy is plain and simple: to be a support to the Worship Leader in the role of the mix musician.
What is a Mix Musician?
I did not invent the title of mix musician and I don't know who came up with it so I don't know who the credit belongs to. I do know that in the context of worship (and I believe it applies for all situations) the role of the sound guy is similar to that of any musician or singer. The Worship Leader has a specific sound that he is targeting and his role is to get the entire team on the same page in order to create that sound. Not only that, but the music must flow together and be engaging for the audience, which means each person must do their part in order to bring that vision to life. This is why I believe in the concept of the mix musician and that the person crafting the mix must be as much a part of the team as every other person on stage.
All of the Pieces are Critical
The atmosphere of worship can be killed by any member of the team, be it a drummer who frequently changes tempo unintentionally, a guitar player who can't get the lead line down, or even a vocalist who can't hit the right notes or remember the words. All of the pieces are critical to the success of the group. The same is absolutely true for the mix musician. This person has the responsibility of crafting the final outcome of all of the hard work put forth by the musicians and singers by layering and blending sources together to create the outcome that the Worship Leader is attempting to create. Just like any singer or musician, the mix musician should be working to help bring the vision of the Worship Leader to life and if that person cannot or will not submit to the leader, they should not be a part of the team. Please hear me on this. It doesn't mean the mix musician is simply a drone or button jockey. Just like a guitarist or keyboardist there are creative decisions that need to be made and mixing sound is certainly a form of art that needs practice, attention and dedication. There are solos to be pushed up, blending that needs to take place, as well as dynamics and effects that need to be effectively mixed to help engage the congregation in worship. The key is that the Worship Leader is the one accountable for the overall sound and therefore should have the ultimate influence as to what the overall mix should be.
A Freeing Concept
The idea that the Worship Leader has the authority and accountability of the final mix should not be a limiting factor for the mixer, but a freeing concept. The Worship Leader, not the mix musician, is the one ultimately accountable for the volume, the aggressiveness of the worship style, the music being guitar driven vs. piano driven, the mix being instrument heavy vs. vocally heavy or somewhere in between. The mix musician should not feel like they have to carry the burden of the complaints that typically come with being the sound guy because that person is simply carrying out the vision set before them. For those of you who have been doing this for any length of time and have endured the complaints – take comfort in knowing that you are a person under covering and authority, meaning the complaints are not on you, assuming of course you are doing what you are supposed to be doing.
A Successful Partnership
Now for this to be a successful partnership you have to have the back of your Worship Leader and earn their trust and respect. You also have to know that you can trust the Worship Leader to have your back and take responsibility for the decisions they make. Your submission to the Worship Leader's vision shouldn't be a license for micro-management of the mix from the stage, but these are topics for another post.
Wrapping It Up!
Being the mix musician can be one of the most enjoyable experiences you can have as a sound guy and being a part of the team leading people in worship is an awesome responsibility. Keep in mind who is accountable for the sound and feel of worship, and make sure you do what you can to support your Worship Leader in their vision. I can't promise that it will always make the mix sound the way you want it to, but you'll be blessed greatly for being a part of the team leading worship.
Church Relations Director
Duke has over 12 years of experience as a technical artist, trainer and collaborator for ministries. Duke travels around the country for CCI Solutions and is available to help your ministry. Join Duke on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ccisolutions.