Frustrated with sound checks? Are they taking too long?

I am pretty sure that every worship team member has been fed up with sound check at some point, if not every week.

Although there are probably several ways to perform an efficient sound check, I’ll walk you though the process I have settled into after ten years of leading worship.

Step 1: Check Gain Levels

Most churches have the luxury of the same team members week after week. Others have rotating musicians or will occasionally have a new member on the team. When this happens, the first step is to set the gain for everyone who was not on the team the previous week.

You should also develop the habit of checking gain on every channel at the beginning of every rehearsal, even if they were on the team last week. There is always a good chance that guitar amp or keyboard settings are not in the same place they were last week.

There is a lot of confusion around the gain knob, which is why I wrote an entire post to clear things up. If you are unsure of gain’s purpose, be sure to read this post:

How to Set the Gain on Your Mixer

Step 2: Set the Monitors

If you do not have the technology that allows band members to adjust their own monitors, you will need a pair of headphones on hand. Before taking orders from each band member on what they want, have the band play through an entire song.

While they are playing, put on the headphones and listen to each monitor mix, making adjustments to give them a nice, even mix. Of course, if it is a vocal monitor, have the vocals a bit louder than the instruments and vice versa.

Once this is done, ask if anyone needs changes and adjust accordingly. But, don’t let band members abuse this privilege or way too much time will be spent on monitor mixes.

Not sure how to listen to monitor mixes in the headphones? Look for a PFL, AFL or Solo button next to your Aux or Bus send master volume knob/fader. When engaged, you will be hearing the monitor mix instead of the main mix in your headphones.

Step 3: Set the Main Mix

Now, simply have the band continue practicing. The more they play, the better. You may need to communicate this to the worship leader if too much talking is taking place.

At first, I like to start with the faders all the way down. Then, as they are playing, use the following sequence to get a solid mix.

  1. Bring up the kick drum and bass guitar until you have a nice solid foundation with plenty of energy in the room.
  2. Bring up the guitars and keyboards to the appropriate place for the song. At this point, the sound should fill the room.
  3. Bring up the snare drum until you feel its energy and punch. Then, mix in the toms and overhead microphones to complete the drum mix.
  4. Mix in the background vocals so that they blend in with the instruments.
  5. Bring up the lead vocal until it sits right at the top of the mix.

Keep in mind, you will need to use EQ to get everything married together instead of clashing with one another. Here are a few posts on EQ to help you out:

Step 4: Set It and Leave It (just kidding)

So, you achieved a great mix – awesome! You can just set it and leave it, right? Wrong. Every song should have a different sound. One song may have a prominent electric guitar while the next may have a prominent keyboard part instead.

A good sound tech listens to each song several times through so they understand how it should be mixed. Here are some things to listen for:

  • What is the lead instrument? Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboard, synth?
  • Where do the other instruments fit in the mix? Are they audible or so blended you can’t even pick them out?
  • Where are the background vocals? Are they right under the lead vocal or mixed in with the instruments?

Diagnosing Problems

No sound?

If you have a microphone or instrument not working, the best way to diagnose is following the signal path. For example, start by changing the microphone. If that doesn’t work, change out the cable. Then, change channels on the stage snake. Finally, change channels on your mixer. At this point, you should have been able to narrow down where the problem is and fix accordingly.

Feedback/Ringing Microphones

The best way to ruin a worship service is to struggle with feedback problems, which is why I wrote this post to help you eliminate them:

3 Ways to Eliminate Feedback During Worship

No Energy

Energy comes from the drums and bass guitar. Start by bringing up the kick drum and bass guitar. Then, bring up the snare until you feel its punch. You also want plenty of the toms (especially the floor tom). Finally, use the overhead microphones to complete the sound scape with high frequencies.

Keep in mind, if you do not have a good set of subwoofers, energy will always be lacking. You may find this post helpful: Does your church need a subwoofer?

Too Loud

The answer to this problem may seem obvious (turn things down, right?), but often times it is an EQ problem. Revisit the list of EQ posts above to make sure you are using EQ to its fullest potential.

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About the Author

Kade Young

Kade Young brought Collaborate Worship into existence with a dream of helping worship leaders around the world fulfill their calling with excellence. He has been leading worship since 2005, is a graduate of Rhema Bible Training College, and currently the worship leader at NoLimits Church in Owasso, Oklahoma.