Choosing Sound Technicians
The sound technician is a vital part of the worship team or public speaking situation. No matter how good the musicians, how expensive the equipment being used, or how excellent the teacher/preacher, the sound technician has the ability to make a mess of everything. This means that it is important to choose the right sound technicians.
There are many attributes which the perfect candidate should possess, but one of these is more important than the others: the candidate must be teachable. Being teachable is not only a reference to being able to learn, it is also (and more significantly) a reference to one’s willingness to be taught and then do things a new way.
Helpful attributes to look for when selecting sound technicians include: musical training, experience playing in a band, good hearing, electronics training, and familiarity with the music to be mixed. There are also attributes which are sometimes erroneously examined and this article won’t dwell on them; although, my favourite bogus reason for the selection of a particular individual to run the sound system was that he owned an expensive home stereo.
When considering candidates to train as sound technicians keep in mind that there are several roles to play: running the house mixing board, the set-up and tear-down of equipment, and running the monitor mixing board. Each of these roles requires different strengths and so as long as selected candidates understand their personal limits, not everyone needs to be able to fill every role. It is up to the leader to ensure that selected candidates have been told what to expect, and if they are being selected for a subset of the possible roles that this is communicated before the candidate is asked to participate.
Good hearing is important for running the house mixing board. The person creating the house mix must have hearing that is considered normal. If the sound technician has suffered hearing loss of some sort he/she will be unable to know whether or not the mix has been properly created. Hearing the mix is a key to creating it.
While this all sounds very logical, it is one of the most overlooked questions to ask when considering candidates for use in volunteer situations. For candidates who have hearing loss—and who accept their loss—but who are otherwise very technically competent, they can be paired with someone who can hear but is not technically competent for non-complex mixing situations.
Note that hearing loss does not present a problem for those setting-up and tearing-down equipment. Good hearing is also not required for running a monitor mixing board: the musicians direct the sound technician doing the monitor mix, and the technician generally cannot even hear the specific monitor mixes being created.
It generally takes many months and sometimes several years to become very skilled at running a sound board and producing a great sounding mix. This means that others will be giving the technician input over an extended period. If the sound technician resists input from others then this both creates friction and means that the sound will never be as good as it should be.
The sound technician must have an attitude of service. The sound technician generally is the first one to arrive and the last one to leave, and having the wrong attitude will cause the sound technician to become resentful of those he/she is serving. No matter how masterful at mixing sound the technician becomes there will always be equipment to carry, cables to run, batteries to change, etc. The sound technician must never be above these so-called menial tasks.
Having a basic understanding of electricity, signal flow, acoustics, etc. is very helpful to the sound technician. Knowledge of these areas serves as a tool when deciding upon how to set things up, troubleshooting problems, learning how to use new pieces of equipment, etc. Basic troubleshooting skills are also important, and is often taught in technical programs as part of formal training programs.