Reverse Sound Check

Kent Morris is a rock star. Actually, he's the AV genius behind rock stars. And he was in my neighborhood a month or so ago doing a seminar for Peavey's Sanctuary Series line of sound systems. (Ended up having lunch with him, which was fun. But that's for another blog.)

During the seminar, he suggested we do our sound check backwards. At least - it seemed backwards to me. So that meant it was probably right.

Here's what Kent proposed:
Turn off the wedges. Play through your first song as best as you can, which allows the sound tech to dial in a solid mix. After that, the tech asks, "What's missing? What do you need to keep you on-time and on-pitch?" At that point, we add to the monitors only what's necessary to meet the true need: the basic stuff to keep us on-time and on-pitch.

So we tried it. (My sound guy made me tell the band what we were doing. I didn't blame him...) We played our first song sans monitors and few things happened:
1. We listened to each other. For the first time, ever, I think people in the band were really listening for what the other person was doing.
2. We got a great house mix and a lower stage volume. There was less "more me" - which meant less overall monitor volume.
3. We spent far less time "tweaking" monitors than our usual method.

If this scares you, let me throw a few things at you:
If we're trying to approximate the house mix in our wedges, we're asking too much. Strip it down to what's absolutely necessary to keep us together rhythmically and sonically.

When you take more for yourself on stage - more "me," more piano, more whatever - the more your monitor becomes part of the main mix. Ever heard the backside of a wedge? (Just saying backside of a wedge brings up an unpleasant picture for the sound.)

If our role really is to serve the congregation, we need to put that into practice when it comes to our monitors. And didn't Jesus say something about this backwards sound check?

April 5, 2011


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