As an audio engineer, whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, there are valuable lessons and insights to be gained from the experiences of others. Having recently filled in for a friend on tour, and reflecting on my own journey behind the console, I want to share some advice that I wish I had known earlier. While these tips may not instantly improve your worship audio mix, they will help you engage with those around you and foster a successful and fulfilling career – whether you specialize in audio, or you’re helping train up an impactful team behind the soundboard.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions: One of the biggest mistakes we can make is hesitating to ask questions when we don’t fully understand something. Let go of the fear of appearing ignorant and embrace the opportunity to learn. Seek guidance from experienced engineers, whether it’s the house engineer at a festival or a colleague who has more familiarity with the equipment you’re using. Asking questions not only helps you gain knowledge and improve your skills, but it also demonstrates your eagerness to grow and engage with the audio community.
- Prepare, Prepare, Prepare: Mixing is an art form that requires both technical expertise and creative expression. Just as musicians prepare by practicing their instruments, it’s crucial for audio engineers to thoroughly prepare for each service or event. Take the time to listen to the songs and familiarize yourself with their structure, instrument solos, and vocal parts. Make notes and create visual aids, such as PowerPoint presentations or Keynote slides, to have key information readily available during the performance. (I especially love this one for big events like the Christmas concert). Being prepared allows you to flow with the music and anticipate changes, instead of constantly reacting to what you’re hearing.
- Communicate with and instill confidence in the band: As the audio engineer, your role extends beyond the technical aspects of sound mixing. Take the initiative to engage with the band members and build rapport with them. Talk to the guitar players about their desired tones, inquire about the drummer’s playing style, and ensure the vocalists feel supported. Establishing a connection and showing that you’re prepared and invested in their success helps instill confidence and fosters a collaborative environment.
- Test your connections and equipment: To avoid any embarrassing moments or technical mishaps during a performance, make it a habit to thoroughly test your connections, cables, presets, and overall equipment. Prioritize functionality and reliability by ensuring that everything is in proper working order before the rehearsal begins. By doing so, you’ll be better equipped to troubleshoot any issues that may arise during the performance.
- Embrace collaboration and mentorship: In the world of audio engineering, it’s important to let go of territorial attitudes and embrace collaboration. Share your knowledge and experiences with others, and be open to learning from them as well. Allow the next generation of engineers to gain insights and hands-on experience, fostering their growth and passion for the craft. Additionally, welcome input and suggestions from fellow engineers or volunteers, as their fresh perspectives may bring new ideas and techniques that enhance your mix.
- Brush off negativity and stay focused: In this line of work, it’s inevitable that the crowd will only notice you when there’s a problem, or you may encounter armchair sound engineers who feel compelled to offer their opinions. Remember that criticism and negativity are part of the job, but they should not discourage you or hinder your passion for what you do. Stay focused on your craft, continue to learn and grow, and brush off any cynicism that may come your way.
1. Ask questions
3. Communicate well
4. Test everything
6. Stay focused
Being a successful audio engineer requires more than technical proficiency. It involves embracing curiosity, continuous learning, and effective communication with the band and fellow team members. By asking questions, being prepared, fostering collaboration, and staying focused on your craft, you can navigate the challenges of the audio engineering world and set yourself up for a fulfilling and successful career behind the console.
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