Top Ten Ways to Annoy Your Sound Engineer

The importance of sound engineers on Sunday mornings cannot be overstated. You, your team, your choir, your musicians, your pastors, and your pet turtles can rehearse every day of the week, but if your sound engineer falls asleep on Sunday morning or decides to blast the congregation with 15 seconds of screaming feedback, nothing else can matter.

So then it’s important not to annoy them. You want to be on the same team, striving for the same goal, building one another up in love, and not harboring resentment or frustration. An annoyed sound engineer will either (a) quit, (b) not care, or (c) both.

Some worship leaders might not realize how they’re annoying their sound engineer. Here are ten ways:

Unplug your guitar without making sure the channel is muted first. News flash: your sound engineer often has 89 things on his mind. Catch his eye and make sure he’s muted your guitar before you unplug it and make all the old ladies jump out of their skin.

Look at your sound engineer like it’s his fault when you do something stupid. I’ve mastered the art of this one. Let’s say I unplug my guitar before the channel is muted. Old ladies then jump out of their skin, and parents throw themselves on top of their children to protect them from the sounds of gunfire. What do I do? I look at the sound engineer like he should be ashamed of himself. For some reason this annoys them…

Always ask for more. I need a little bit more of my voice. OK now I need less Susan. And can I have more of my guitar? OK, now I need a lot more of my voice. I’m still hearing too much keyboard. Can you turn my guitar up please? Now I could use less electric. I can’t hear my voice. Is my guitar in this thing? (kneel down and put your ear to the monitor) I don’t think this monitor is on. Can you turn me up in it? I just need a lot less of everybody else and a whole lot more of me. Yes, just turn me up. Turn the rest of the band down. I could still use a lot more of my guitar. Can you give me some reverb please?

Assume that your request is the most important thing in the whole wide world. News flash: your sound engineer often is having to deal with burned out batteries, bad cables, setting gain structures, EQ, feedback, running monitors, recording the sermon, making sure the preacher has a mic, fixing the projector, dealing with complaints, and guitarists who are unplugging their guitar before the channel is muted. Just because you’re the worship leader and your guitar is too loud at the moment doesn’t mean he can drop all those things to attend to you.

Can you come down here and move this monitor three inches while I stand here with my guitar and watch you run down from the sound desk and back again? Sure, I could move it myself, but I’m the worship leader and I have to protect my hands.

Assume that your sound engineer can read minds. You want your back-up singer to start off the third song? Do you think you could tell your sound engineer ahead of time? No, it’s probably a better idea to keep that a secret and let him read your mind.

I know that you’re a sound engineer and have been setting up for three hours and have carefully considered mic placement and how to avoid feedback, but I’m the worship leader and I’d like to move everything around please. I’ve done this and it’s not pretty. You’re now moving beyond the realm of annoying your sound engineer into provoking his wrath and indignation against you.

Expect your sound engineer to defy the limits of the sound board. OK, so this Sunday I have four vocalists, 2 guitars, an electric, a bass, drums, keyboard, hand percussion, a small choir, a trumpet player, a synthesizer, and flute. Nevermind we have an 8-channel board and 2 monitor mixes. Jesus multiplied the fishes and loaves, right? Get on it, sound engineer. Work your miracles.

Treat your microphone like it’s contagious. I like to sing with my mouth 8 inches away from the microphone. That way it lets the “space” get into the sound. Treat the microphone like it’s contagious. It’s awesome. It’s the new thing. My sound guy loves it. But for some reason it’s never loud enough. Go figure.

Oh, yeah, I’m sorry, we didn’t tell you that we decided half an hour ago to change the order of the service and what person was assigned to speak at different times. There was a moat filled with hungry alligators that was keeping us from reaching the sound desk, and those alligators had cell phone blocking technology which kept my text messages from going through, and those loud popping noises you heard were the hungry alligators unplugging my guitar when the channel wasn’t muted. You should really be more attentive.

Top Ten Ways to Cover Up a Worship Leading Mistake

Last week at my church we hosted a dinner for worship leaders at other Anglican churches in the Northern Virginia area. Our ice-breaker question was to describe a worship leading mistake, or awkward moment, or an all-out train wreck. There were some great stories. Missed modulations, hornets attacking organists, a worship leader saying that we’re brought “out of darkness into shame”, and one of my stories which I’d rather not put online.

They got me thinking. What are the best ways to cover up worship leading mistakes? Here are some ideas.

1. Blame it on the sound guy. He didn’t have the processor on that handles the compression in the subwoofers and so the gating was all out of whack and that’s why you heard that wrong chord.

2. What mistake? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

3. Blame it on the drummer. Oh, those crazy drummers. You just can’t tame ‘em. He’ll get better with some more rehearsal. He just threw me off. That’s why I shouted like a cat before the bridge of “Happy Day”.

4. I was too busy worshipping to notice.

5. Blame it on the Holy Spirit. I just really sensed really strongly that the Holy Spirit was really leading me to take the song to the next level of worship and so that’s why we sang the chorus twenty-eight times. We were breaking down walls, man!

6. We were just trying to break the ice. That’s why we had to stop the song and start over. Didn’t it just really change the dynamic in the room?

7. Blame it on spiritual warfare. Why else would my D string always break when I lead worship? Maybe because you use cheap strings, or use the wrong gauge, or need the bridge to be smoothed, or never change them? No, it’s spiritual warfare.

8. The congregation just needs to get more into it!

9. Blame it on how smart you are. I’ve got the song lyrics to like 400 hymns and 4,000 contemporary songs all right here in my head. And I know the chords by heart too. When we got to that third verse of “O for a Thousand Tongues” I was remembering the other hymn that Charles Wesley wrote, “And Can it Be”, and so that’s why I started singing the verse from a completely different hymn. It’s because I’m a walking worship encyclopedia.

10. Seriously, it really was the sound guy’s fault. 

More Backgrounds That Make You Say “What?”

A few weeks ago I had some fun with some hypothetical backgrounds for worship song lyrics. My point was that most of the time, pictures behind song lyrics is more distracting than helpful, and I used some extreme examples to illustrate.

And I just can’t resist doing some more.

This first one is fairly self-explanatory. What on earth could make you hungrier than a nice juicy cheeseburger? This picture would help people feel hungry for God.

Just imagine how free these horses must feel when they’re finally allowed to run! Likewise, Jesus sets us free from sin.

From what some of the Christmas carols tell me, Jesus was born in a snowy, late-December Bethlehem. And the Bible says that angels announced his birth. So what could be better than a snow angel? It’s got the best of both worlds.

At the Worship God ’11 conference, Bob Kauflin mentioned that the second verse of the song “Our God” made him think of a Phoenix in flight. That really moved me. So here it is.

To be perfectly honest, the second verse of “Mighty to Save” has always confused me a bit. Am I giving my life to follow Jesus? Or am I giving my life to follow everything I believe in? Am I surrendering myself or am I surrendering everything I believe in? I don’t get it. Oh well. Here’s a picture of delicious chocolate cake.

Just in case people can’t picture what a shepherd looks like, I moved the lyrics around so we could help them out.

Nothing gets me worshipping better than seeing a picture of people with their hands in the air.

And finally, is there anything more beautiful on this planet than a triple rainbow?

Backgrounds That Make You Say “What?”

I tend to think that when and if churches project song lyrics during a worship service, they should take some time beforehand and pay attention to the little details in order to remove as many distractions as possible.

I wrote about ways churches can practice “projecting excellence” here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Some churches take the opposite approach and don’t pay much attention to the projection at all. In many of these churches, one hallmark of their use of backgrounds.

I’m all for using a background – if it works well and isn’t distracting – but usually have a hard time with different pictures popping up on different slides as if a picture of a man in a field of grain with his hands stretched to the sky is supposed to help me engage with God any better.

A friend of mine recently visited a church like this and it got me wondering. How tacky can you get?

Let’s explore.

Here we have the classic hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King” over an ice sculpture of two swans, creating a heart shape in the middle. Poignant.

Or how about the chorus of “How Great is Our God” with some cute kittens to help you worship?


And what could help us think about how everlasting our God is more than the space shuttle shooting into space!

This picture makes me feel peaceful. And Jesus returning will make me peaceful. This is a great combo!

All kidding aside, what on earth could make you want to worship Jesus more than chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven?

God walks with me even in hard times. Blessed be his name.

That reminds me. Dogs are a man’s best friend!

I think I will save this one for the opening song next Easter. People will go crazy!

And finally, this one is self-explanatory.

On second thought… maybe pictures are too distracting as backgrounds. I think I’ll stick with simple.