Tech Team Training vs. New Gear

Last week, our team had the opportunity to visit with several worship and production team members from our local churches in here in Fort Collins (Thanks to Jessica over at Crossroads for planning these events). Staff and volunteers from a variety of churches meet together to share what is working and what isn’t working in the worship and production fields.

Timberline Church in Fort Collins

Whenever I attend one of these meetings, the topic of gear always comes up. And I love to talk about gear. I want to know what console different organizations are using and what kind of speakers and amps are driving the audio. And I’m certainly not the only one! Tech team members (and tech directors) love to talk about gear as well.

Gear talk

But there is a downside to all this gear talk. If we hear about all the latest, greatest gear enough, we genuinely start to believe that gear is all we need to produce great services and events. “If we can just get the nicest speakers,” we think, “we will be able to make this event sound great!”

Now don’t get me wrong. Having nice gear to do the job is great. And it can help improve the overall quality of an event significantly. But in order to get the most out of the gear, you need to have staff and volunteers who know how to use it properly. Without a great engineer, the best PA system will sound like garbage. I know this because I’ve heard it.

Even the best gear can sound bad

A couple years ago I was setting up and operating an IMAG system at a conference. The house audio engineer was a personal friend and had worked hard to get the system setup properly. And this was a nice system! Great overhead, even frequency response, and plenty of power to fill the arena.

When the guest band arrived, they brought they own engineer. This engineer had never mixed on a system this large, and (unfortunately) he had rather poor technique. Everything was compressed and lacked dynamic range. It just sounded bad. He made a $250,000 PA system sound worse than your low-end typical bar or nightclub PA.

Make training a priority

In many organizations, tech team training isn’t a priority. Everyone believes that it is important. But wiring new mics or fixing the DVD player in room 121 takes priority. Staff are busy and overwhelmed by the small tasks they need to perform and taking several hours a month to provide training isn’t feasible.

An even more dangerous scenario is when there is no one who is able to provide the training. I’ve worked in churches where the person who installed the system left for some reason, now no one knows how it works. Volunteers may know how to turn the system on and off, but that’s it.

That’s like giving the keys to a Ferrari to someone who has never driven a stick-shift. It’s still a Ferrari, but you’re not going to go very far very fast. If I’m in a hurry, I’d rather ride in the Sebring with a good driver than the Ferrari with someone who doesn’t know how to shift. It isn’t just about the gear, it’s about learning how to use the gear to its full potential.

We believe in education at Mixcademy. We believe that creating a great mix takes a lot of practice, but it also takes a lot of knowledge. By learning how other people mix, how sound works, and how to setup and tune a system properly, we want to help make even the most simple system sound better. If we can train people how to mix well, everyone benefits regardless of the quality of the gear.