Audio Musings

Projects, Reviews, and Thoughts

Advice for Worship Leaders

Even though I chose to walk the behind-the-scenes engineering/technical road for the last few years, I’ve spent a significant portion of my life thinking about the challenges of planning and leading public events/worship services.  I’ve been heavily involved as a worship/song leader and dabbled in some acting and public speaking before it became necessary to turn my focus to the technical aspects of production. The following advice is a collection of lessons learned over the years through direct experience, classes (public speaking/speech or theater), conversation with and being led by talented leaders, or observations of great leaders.  Hopefully this will inspire someone out there to lead with a little more confidence.

  • The “Energy” or feel of a room often has little to do with the tempo/arrangement of a song or how much you’re dancing on stage;  If done correctly, the energy and emotions of the worship leader will contagiously radiate outward due to his/her connection to those he’s leading.  A slow, quiet song can be just as intense, powerful, and full of energy as an upbeat song, or it can turn into a lullaby and be the longest 3.5 minutes of your life. While the tempo and arrangement play a part in this, it is not the source; you are.
  • Connection with your audience is where your main focus should be, not on how well you’re playing your guitar.
  • Be prepared. The music, chords, and lyrics should be 2nd nature and all come naturally; Screens should only be used as a backup to recall a memorized lyric.
  • Don’t underestimate the time it takes to plan a song set/service.  It was normal for me to spend many hours, if not days agonizing over a 4-5 song set.  Planning considerations include:
    • Flow
    • Lyrical content and how it fits with the rest of the service
    • Musical arrangements and “road maps”
    • New songs and how to integrate/teach them
    • Song keys/tempos
    • Transitions (how will you make it from G at 120 bpm to C at 80 bpm without that awkward pause?)
    • Talent (can your team of musicians play your masterful arrangement?)
    • Scheduling of Talent (communication takes time and lots of phone calls/texts/emails)
    • Communication of expectations (make sure the team has arrangements and specific notes in advance so they can practice and be ready)
    • Expected/intended emotional/spiritual response and what happens if it doesn’t go the way you expect
    • Technical considerations (can the tech team support your grand vision?)
    • “Political” considerations (will your grand vision ruffle too many feathers? Sometimes feather ruffling is ok and needed, other times… not so much)
    • Presentation (someone has to put together the PowerPoint/ProPresenter script; often it’s the worship leader)
    • Etc.
  • Plan everything but be ready and willing to abandon the plan in the moment if needed.
  • Don’t underestimate the challenges and importance of rehearsals. Rehearsal considerations include:
    • Sound Check (devote the time to let the tech team work out any issues)
    • Community (leave some time before/after for laughter, prayer, mentorship, and community with your team)
    • Arrangements/songs (be clear and concise with what you’re trying to accomplish; rehearsal is RARELY the time to make it up/be creative)
    • Transitions. Practice them.
    • Be positive. No one wants to play or be led by a slave-driving perfectionist.
    • Keep expectations high, but achievable; if presented in a healthy way, the team will rise to them.
    • Practice what you’re going to perform. Try to avoid the “I’ll bring it/fix it on game-day” mentality
  • Film yourself leading or grab the video of a service you led. Watch it; critique yourself.
  • Don’t acknowledge or draw attention to mistakes from the stage.  If you miss a chord or lyric, get back on track and act as if it didn’t happen.  Chances are good the majority of people won’t notice unless you point it out to them.
  • Don’t let the unexpected rattle you.  If you break a string or your battery dies in the middle of a set, stop playing and continue to sing/lead confidently.  If there’s feedback on a mic, push through it and give the sound guys a chance to get it under control (or stop pointing your mic at your floor monitor). NEVER stop and point it out. Acknowledging those things just breaks what’s left of the cohesion of thought and worship that you’ve created and is ALWAYS an incredibly awkward and potentially embarrassing moment.
  • Learn to take constructive criticism from those you trust.
  • Develop a thick skin and a soft heart. You can’t please everyone and you can bet people will express their opinions when they don’t like something. Learn to love the complainers anyway.
  • Lead in confidence, with humility.  This seems like an oxymoron, but I believe it is possible to exude confidence without cockiness.
  • Respect and serve your team; they will respect and honor your leadership in return.
  • Be the lead worshiper, not a worship/song leader.

The people you lead will only go as far as you lead them.  If you don’t put in the extra time, hard work, and devotion to your craft, don’t expect those you lead to be very inspired and motivated. But if you do, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a loving, inspiring team of people, worshiping passionately with the body of Jesus followers you serve.

By the way, the church where I work is looking for a full time worship leader.  Check out the job description here if you’re interested…

September 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm Comments (0)

Relationships

I wrote an article for Church Technical Leaders on relationships.  Read it here.

September 23, 2012 at 2:48 pm Comments (0)

Twitter Gives Back: Floor Pockets vs. Sub-Snakes

I asked the twitter community about their opinions on floor pockets vs. sub-snakes (for a permanent stage) and received quite a few responses.  In an effort to consolidate the “data”, I’m compiling them here…

From @BryanTalbott: “depends on the stage layout.. I like both. Snakes for drum/keys risers with QD, pockets for downstage”

From @Ossmac: “floor pockets on the front of the stage and snakes in the back.”, “pockets might not alway be in the right place, but can be handy for power, video, cat5, & a few mic inputs…”, “mostly I like a center pocket near the main speaking position for events that want to run a laptop from stage.”, “trough is good for flexibility. Just got to watch ladies with heals and the cable out holes.”

From @JonLillie: “both”

From @jcaustin87: “3 6 channel pockets across downstage. Sub snakes coming from up stage for everything else. 2 amp channels and 2 returns per pkt”

From @jdcastellente: “both…for sure! Use floor pockets for stuff that’s close to them, subsnake for drums, or anything that needs alot of inputs.”

From @Thejonfoster: “both. our new pockets have override snakes. It’s been a lifesaver time & time again.”

From @soundguybmw: “floor pockets in the front and snakes in the back. There’s a mullet joke in there somewhere.”

From @wallygrant: “depends on a few things can u easily patch at or before console if so both if not I would say sub snakes only”

From @robbmactavish: “Floor pockets w/ Audio, Video, Com, Cat5 & Power. #ftw”

From @marcus_burge: “both=covered pockets with power+ a 3″ pipe trace going to patch bay. Flexibility of sub snake without the snake cable dressing”

From @Shortie: “stage pockets in area’s that are visible like ds and other area’s and snakes for us for drums gar’s and keys”

From @FOHTony: “”floor pockets on the front of the stage and snakes in the back.” I second this.”

From @pmawson: “Depends on stage, we have floor pockets at front of stage but our stage doesn’t change size and don’t have a lip to hide cables”

From @leefields: ”sub snakes. All the way. Pockets will never be where you want them.”

From @tkaneshiro: “sub snakes for sure. future flexibility over current need”

From @natekrause: “my new favorite is the front of stage trough. Add the gutter cleaning irobot and you’re set!”

From @fohdave: “I don’t like floor pockets. They’re never in the right place. I wouldn’t do them again on one of my stages.”, “[front of stage pockets are] great in theory, but they often end up right where a podium needs to go.”, ”I like having a trough. Lots of flexibility.”

From @GordMillar: “We set our floor boxes about 10 feet either side of centre in the front for that reason.”

From @Ossmac: “trough is good for flexibility. Just got to watch ladies with heals and the cable out holes.”

From @bradduryea: ”I like upstage pockets & subsnakes for everywhere else. Downstage pockets can be helpful, e.g. for a wired podium or wedges.”, “I also like the upstage pockets to have both XLR’s and multipins for subsnakes. Can mult the multipins and XLR’s to save cable.”, “However, I think trying to do pockets everywhere for everything is not productive or clean. Main lines upstage; a few downstage.”

From @JordanWhyt: “How often does your stage set up change? floor pockets are so “permanent”… having a snake that can move wherever is nice!”

 

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March 25, 2012 at 11:55 pm Comments (0)

Hill School

I recently had the opportunity to do some work at The Hill School, a small middle school theater in Middleburg, Virginia.  This school has one of the most impressive small theaters I’ve ever had the opportunity to work in and for the most part a pretty solid AVL system.  I was hired to overhaul the audio system and replace a projector, which included neutering a post-console gain stage for the AMX system that had been causing problems in the gain structure with the operators at the school.  Another oddity was the way the audio system was designed, with a center cluster that was supposed to be used for different programs (speech, music, etc) but was implemented poorly.  I turned off 3 of the 4 middle speakers, carefully mixed it into the stereo system as a center fill, and tuned the whole system.  This greatly simplified the operation for the operators at the school, and greatly improved the overall sound quality of the audio system without any additional cost.

In addition to the audio system, I replaced an aging Proxima projector that would only run for 20-30min before overheating.

 

March 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm Comments (0)

Tech Arts Network Interview

I had the opportunity and pleasure of being interviewed by Van Metschke (Technical Arts Director of South Hills Church in Corona, CA) for the Tech Arts Network Church TD Profile podcast. If you would like to know more about me in my current role as a Technical Producer, check it out here.

October 19, 2010 at 9:43 pm Comments (0)

Microphone Comparisons Featuring the DPA-4098H

Recently, I had the opportunity to design a new audio system for a local high school, and one of the client’s requests was a pair of low profile choir/ambient microphones.  Thanks to my friend Mike Sessler, there was one microphone at the top of my list that I thought would fit the situation nicely: the new DPA 4098H.  At the time, there wasn’t much information available other than the review Mike wrote, and there definitely wasn’t any information related to price or availability, so I decided to go to the source and called DPA.  I was fortunate enough to be connected to Bruce Myers, president of the US division, with whom I spent at least a half hour discussing the history and merits of this specific microphone.  Before we were done talking, he generously offered to let me demo a pair of the 4098′s, which led to this review.

During the 3 weeks I had the microphones, I did my best to put them through their paces and really see what they could do.  During the day, I’m the Technical Producer at Christian Fellowship Church, where I am also interested in implementing the 4098 as an ambient microphone for IEM’s and recordings.  The first two weeks I had them they lived on the front of the stage pointed out towards the audience, inserted into the bands IEM’s.  The feedback was mostly positive, with the only complaint being that it was now possible to hear the coughs and sniffles of some sick guy.  The audience feedback in the sermon recordings was clear and natural, just what an ambient mic should sound like.

Now, you’re probably thinking that that’s not much of a review, and I completely agree.  As an engineer, it drives me crazy to go to forums and read thread after thread about how “warm” or “sterile” a microphone is, or the countless “which speaker is best” arguments about how “open” and “airy” a particular cab might be.  I put very little value on posts with no data and a lot of vague adjectives describing someone’s experience with a piece of gear, especially when I don’t know the person that wrote the review.  Therefore, before I returned the microphones to DPA, I decided to take a few measurements and sound samples with several different microphones that I have available that could be used in similar situations as the 4098 and present the data here where you can make your own conclusions on whether or not these microphones are right for you.

The Setup:

- Acoustic source: Tannoy Power V8

-Audio source and software: MOTU Traveler, Smaart v7, Reaper

-Microphones: DPA4098H, Rode NTG-2, Shure SM81, AKG C3000B, Earthworks S30

The Procedure:

-The microphones were set up at a distance of 3 feet from the Tannoy V8, directly on axis with the loudspeaker.  The Earthworks S30, with its flat frequency and phase response, was used as a reference mic and once physically placed was never moved during the tests.  One of my main interests in the 4098 was its off axis rejection and response, so I decided to take 3 frequency and phase measurements for each microphone, one directly on axis, one 90 degrees off axis, and one 180 degrees off axis. (all transfer function measurements were referenced to the Earthworks S30)  I would have captured additional angles, but I started this project around 9pm one night and didn’t think the additional data would be worth the extra work.  In addition to the measurements, I recorded a 1.5min clip of two songs that I spliced together so you could audibly compare the different microphones.

Now, please understand this isn’t intended to be a scientific study in an anechoic chamber.  It was recorded in my office, which definitely isn’t a perfect acoustic environment, but my intention was to record the same song in the same manner so that several different microphones could be COMPARED.  I believe the measured responses to be pretty accurate due to the proximity to the loudspeaker, but if there are differences from the datasheets, it could easily be the reflections from walls, etc, or the fact that the the SM81, C3000B, and NGT-2 are used microphones.  All the microphones in this test were measured exactly the same way, in exactly the same physical location, so whatever effects the environment had on the measurements were consistent across all microphones.

The Data:

As you can see, the DPA 4098H is well behaved on axis and even 90 degrees off axis in its frequency and phase response.  At 180 degrees off axis, the coherence trace dropped quite a bit, and you can see by the coherence blanking that the data is a little less accurate with that trace.  This was common to all microphones tested, but was most evident with the 4098.  I believe this is mostly due to the small capsule size in relation to the XLR adapter, which is causing interference issues, especially in the upper frequencies where the wavelengths get pretty short.  It’s worth noting the dip in response around 110Hz that appears in all 0 degree and 180 degree measurements, yet not the 90 deg measurements.  I suspect this is due to a room cancellation, but I need to brush up on my acoustics before I commit to a definite explanation.  Also, notice the rise in response with the 4098 starting about 8kHz, which lines up pretty will with the published specs from DPA.  Out of the tested microphones, this is unique to the DPA and helps with ambient “sparkle”.  (What’s that? Is that an ambiguous adjective? It may seem so, but here I’ve defined “sparkle” as an elevated response from 8kHz-10kHz+, so it’s ok)

The Rode NTG-2′s frequency response is pretty consistent on or off axis, but the phase response starts wrapping (almost 360 degrees) around 800Hz as you move off axis.  This may not be a problem if only using this mic on a single source on axis, but if it picks up sounds from off axis that are also directly mic’ed, you could possibly have some cancellation issues to deal with.  Additionally, I thought it was interesting that the frequency response and SPL level for the 90 deg and 180 deg was very similar.  I initially expected more drop in level at 180 degrees…

The Shure SM81, a standard in the industry, is very well behaved on axis and at 90 degrees, both in frequency and phase response, although the 90 degree trace is about 6dB down from the direct on axis trace.  At 180 degrees, however, the phase response starts wrapping pretty fast in the lower frequencies before it stabilizes around the 2kHz mark.  Frequency response drops as well, but the odd thing here is that starts rising about 6kHz to the level of the 90 degree trace…

The AKG C3000B, like the SM81 and the 4098, is very well behaved at the 0 degree and 90 degree positions, with a 6dB separation between the two, and a very acceptable phase response.  Similar to the SM81, the 180 degree trace shows pretty severe phase wrapping, but not quite as bad as the Shure.  Notice the slight bump in frequency response in the midrange from about 100Hz to 1.5kHz, and almost 9dB increase around 11kHz…

The Audio:

I’ll let this section speak for itself, but I wanted to point out the hiss in the recording of the DPA 4098′s. For some reason that I can’t quite explain, the 4098 mics picked up this strange hissing and noise with a fundamental somewhere around 1.7kHz. Strangely, this didn’t seem to affect the Smaart measurement, as the amount of noise in the recordings was significant and would have shown up in the traces.  I had some issues with the mics regarding a 60Hz hum when connected to my installed snake that disappeared when connected directly to a console. Bruce sent me a variety of adapters to try to see if it was the prototype 4098′s that I had, or if it was the adapters causing the problem. An older passive design of the XLR adapter fixed the hum, but didn’t make a difference in the hiss on my recordings. I now wish I had spent additional time with the mics trying to problem solve, but it was late, I was in the middle of a dimmer rack install, and I needed to get the microphones back to DPA.  (If you have any ideas or suspicions what might have caused these anomalies, please let me know.  I hate unsolved mysteries)   I do plan on purchasing a couple of these mics, even with the issues I had, which I believe was unique to the mic’s/adapters I was loaned. (at least I hope so. Others using these don’t have these problems) When I get my hands on a new set, I’ll repeat the recordings with the new mics and update this post. Enjoy…

Reference Track Get Adobe Flash player

Earthworks S30 Get Adobe Flash player

DPA 4098 0deg Get Adobe Flash player

DPA 4098 90deg Get Adobe Flash player

DPA 4098 180deg Get Adobe Flash player

Rode NTG-2 0deg Get Adobe Flash player

Rode NTG-2 90deg Get Adobe Flash player

Rode NTG-2 180deg Get Adobe Flash player

Shure SM81 0deg Get Adobe Flash player

Shure SM81 90deg Get Adobe Flash player

Shure SM81 180deg Get Adobe Flash player

AKG C3000B 0deg Get Adobe Flash player

AKG C3000B 90deg Get Adobe Flash player

AKG C3000B 180deg Get Adobe Flash player

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*EDIT:  Here’s a clip from a sermon recording I did using the DPA4098′s as ambient mics.  I personally think they sound pretty awesome…

DPA 4098 Ambient Sample Get Adobe Flash player

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October 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm Comments (2)

New Site!

Welcome to audiomusings.org, the place where I will attempt to document my experiences as a professional audio consultant/designer/engineer.  I’ve already collected data for a group of microphones I recently tested and plan to do a post comparing the differences in 4 different microphones, complete with Smaart traces and audio samples.  I have plans to share my projects and designs here, as well as general audio thoughts and experiences as I encounter unusual and unique problems.

I hope this site will be useful, informative, and in some small way inspire you to be a better sound guy, whether you’re a volunteer in a church, or chief engineer/consultant for a major sound company.

October 13, 2010 at 12:15 am Comments (0)