Whenever I ask a Pastor what their greatest concern is about the sound system in their church, the most common response I hear is "inconsistent sound quality from week to week".
Now, that could be an equipment issue, but we have found that most often it is a training issue. The reality is that one cannot deliver consistently high sound quality in each service without a working knowledge of the equipment they are driving coupled with a firm grasp of some key concepts that help them deliver on that promise of consistency.
With that goal as our mission, we have designed our Church Sound Boot Camp to help church sound techs rise to the occasion, to fill in the blanks of their knowledge and understanding, to help them grasp those key concepts, and even reveal some trade secrets along the way.
Don’t get too excited. We are not going to be able to turn your fledgling sound team volunteers into masterful sound engineers in a weekend class. But we absolutely can lift the veil on some mysteries of the gear and quite possibly correct some misconceptions of how it all operates that they may have been carrying around with them for some time.
Seriously, we often hear back from our students who say that they took just one or two concepts that they learned in the class, implemented them that very next day at church, and heard a distinct improvement right away. During our time together we will examine in some depth every component of a sound system.
The class is fun, fast-paced, and filled with teaching moments that will stay with you for a lifetime. You will return home understanding not only HOW to improve your church's sound, but WHY you are taking each step.
Come join thousands of CSBC Grads who have found a renewed passion for technical excellence that will serve you and your church well for years to come. Plus, you'll have a great time learning alongside fellow believers!
HTGTS is held just one time each year. It was created for those who have either attended our CSBC class, or who have a similar level of experience, and are ready to dig deeper and learn more.
In this class, we assume that you have the basics down, that you understand microphones and polar patterns, that you know how to drive a console, that you know at some level how to apply compression and signal processors, and now you're ready to learn new techniques that will take you to the next level.
Most church sound classes only have audio techs talking about how to use the equipment. For this class, we turned the tables by inviting seasoned musicians to come and show us how they get their sounds and how we can collaborate on delivering a great sound for your congregation to enjoy.
Our path to raising the level of sound quality in your worship services starts on Thursday evening as we dive into learning how to get a great drum sound. The art of tuning a drum set is elusive. I've worked with hundreds of drummers during my career, many who have been playing for years, and yet I am continually surprised how many struggle with getting a great sound from their own drum set. I learned early in my career that when mixing a contemporary song, if the drums don't work the mix won't work. So our work together will focus both on learning how to tune a set of drums, mic technique, and using console EQ to capture a sound quality that really works for your worship team.
One thing you will learn throughout your HTGTS class experience is that the choice of mic and its placement are crucial to capturing the sound that you’re looking for. That will become readily apparent on Saturday morning as you get to hear a live A/B/C comparison of the drum set miked with three different sets of mics.
Then we move to electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and bass guitar. Here again, I've worked with a great many electric guitarists who play quite well, but the tone quality of their guitar sound almost qualifies for audio abuse.
Of course, the foundation of any rhythmic contemporary song is the drums and the bass guitar. And yet how many church services have you attended where the sound of the bass guitar was muddy and indistinct? We want clean, clear, tight bass guitar sounds with great pitch definition, and we will show you what it takes to deliver on that promise.
Next we turn our focus to electronic keyboards. As a keyboard player myself, I have always used various effects to extend the textures that an electronic keyboard can bring to a song. Our keyboardist will introduce you to some options that you’ve likely heard on recordings but didn’t know how they were achieved.
And as part of that same discussion, we’ll explore the world of using multitrack stems during live worship. Keyboardists in large churches have been using carefully chosen multitrack backing tracks for decades to make their worship sound huge. That process used to be expensive, but today a church of any size can access the same technology at a fraction of the cost.
We will also invest time listening to various techniques for miking a grand piano. We will mic a piano with at least three different approaches and let you hear an A/B/C comparison of those choices.
We couldn’t talk about microphones without a focus on vocals. Of course that includes Solo vocals. Ensemble vocals. Choir vocals. Kid's vocals. We'll talk about it all, including a tech's need to keep re-training vocalists how to properly use a microphone, good choices of mics, blending vocal harmonies, miking vocal ensembles. And while we’re at it, we’ll talk openly about the relationship between the techs and the worship team.
What about choirs? Glad you asked. We realized that it would be tough to get an entire choir to come in and sing just for our class, so we did the next best thing – we recorded a 60-voice choir with 18 different microphones (that's not a typo), and you will get to vote for your favorite in class! Always a fun and revealing experiment.
Saturday morning expands our education and understanding of mic technique by studying orchestral instruments, including strings, woodwinds and brass. Granted, fewer churches find themselves using orchestral instruments these days, but a seasoned sound engineer must still understand how each instrument produces its sound so they will understand how to approach miking them.
After that we'll start to put it all together as we dive into channel equalization. Truth is, with great talent, great instruments or a great voice, and quality microphones, sometimes you may not need to make any further adjustments to their sound. They may sound great on their own. The other truth is more often than not we can improve on the sound character of a certain voice or instrument by slight (and I do mean slight) adjustments to their channel EQ. So we will illustrate what to listen for during this session.
Our CSBC Grads have been introduced to the basics of dynamics processing, but there is great potential for shaping and refining the sounds in your mix that you may not have tapped into. So on Saturday afternoon we'll dig deeper into the finer points of how to use compressors and expanders in a subtle yet very effective way. You will learn how we can refine and bring more punch to our mixes with those tools.
The tasteful use of effects like reverb, echoes or chorusing helps you add depth and character to your mix. "Tasteful" means knowing when to use certain effects and how prominent they should be in the mix. So we'll show you what to listen for, how much is too much, and maybe just as important — when not to use them.
With all of that under our belt, we'll put it all together through some analytical listening. And then we'll demonstrate before your very ears how to build a great mix, what to listen for, tricks to make it simple, pitfalls to avoid, and optional approaches to building a mix. Of course, your work doesn't stop with creating a great FOH mix; you may also find yourself having to (quickly!) put together multiple monitor mixes for floor wedges and for in-ear monitors.
We are glad to stay and talk about mixing as long as you want to (and as long as our gracious host church will allow)!
If you've read my comments about the class this far, I think you now realize that this truly is a unique church sound workshop. Not only is our approach different, but finding great players who can also teach is rare. Let me just say that these players are phenomenally talented musicians AND they can teach! We are blessed. You will be too!
This isn't a dry, boring class. You'll have fun, your approach to mic technique will be stretched, you will make new friends, and we'll send you home with the knowledge you need to make a positive difference in your next worship service.
More importantly, I want you to take back control of your sound system before you start to rehearse for and present your next major musical production! Christmas and Easter are the only two times each year that many will even walk into a church, so we need to put forth our best effort to reach them. While I can't be there to help each and every one of you personally, I can teach you the techniques and solutions that have worked consistently for me throughout my career as a professional sound engineer.
Make no mistake. This class is unlike any other church sound workshop you have ever been to. That is a bold statement to be sure. But it's true. In fact, to my knowledge no one in the country has even attempted to teach the kind of techniques we will be showing and demonstrating to you in this three-day seminar format, especially in such an interactive way.