Planning, practice, line-check, sound-check and rehearsal: how musicians and technicians prepare for a church service

Understanding what leaders, musicians and technicians do when they prepare for a church service - and how and work together at each stage of the process.



In churches with more than a one-microphone-sound-system, it is usual for the the audio and visual technology systems to be looked after by a separate team of people.

But it's helpful is the two "sides of the house," ie technical and musical, are aware of each other's roles, and what they are doing at each stage of the service planning and preparation.

Each church is different, but generally the planning and preparation are organised as described below.

The church-service-technical-preparation template  - available here - can be used to record specific dates, times and responsibilities.

And the following notes explain the different stages, who is in charge, and what needs to be acheived.


In the days, weeks and even months before the service


Planning

Music leadership decides what items will be included in the service, based on the immediate needs and the church's longer term plans.

Technical leadership (audio, visual and lighting) decides what equipment or training / work-practices changes are needed for the service, based on the immediate needs and the church's longer term plans.


Practise / Preparation

Music leaders, musicians and singers:
  • Prepare or purchase any special sheet-music, arrangements etc - including copyright permissions.
  • Learn their parts for each item, 
  • Learn how to perform them together. Also they ensure longer-term instrument maintenance is done (eg the piano is tuned, guitar strings are replaced).

Audio / visual / lighting technicians:
  • Assess what resources they will use to support the particular service and the works (songs, performance, etc) that have been chosen
  • Do any maintenance, purchases and  logistics-planning that is needed
  • Prepare any resources (eg slideshows, cue-sheets)

On the day of the service


Equipment check / line check:

During this period:
  • Technicians check that all the sound, video and lighting equipment is set up and works - and that they are getting signals where they are supposed to.
  • Musicians and singers check that their instruments are in good order (voices warmed up, guitars and violins tuned, pickup battery working, etc)

It usually works best if these checks happen at different times - or in the same time in different places. For technicians, this work needs to happen inside the church or worship centre / worship-space where the equipment is being used.

For some instruments (eg violin, guitar) and climates, it can be important to tune in the same place and temperature that they will play at.

Sound check

During the sound check:
  • Sound technicians build the gain structure, FX, EQ, etc, set monitor mixes, assign subs and find a good level for each instrument.
  • Musicians assist by being in position, and playing samples etc when asked.

Rehearsal

These two items must happen a the same time.
  • Musicians do a final "run-through" of the items in the service, iron out any last difficulties.
  • Technicians set the mix: adjust the overall levels for vocals and then instruments (electric guitar and keyboard, acoustic guitar, bass, drums)

Are the sound-check and rehearsal the same thing?   Definitely not.   During the sound check, the technical team are in charge - musicians do what they ask for.    During rehearsal, it's the other way around.
 

Service

Musicians prayerfully perform their assigned items, and support other team-members as needed (eg play their own solo, cover for another person who has an unexpected string-break or similar)

Technicians keep the mix balanced. Emphasise certain items (eg guitars, keyboard, vocals as needed in each item - based on the approach agreed during practise and planning.

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