Qu16-comp

The topic of the day is audio compression. Compression is a common tool found on digital mixers, dedicated outboard units and audio software. Compressors can be tremendously helpful, but they are intimidating at first. This is partly because they seem to be doing lots of math, hidden behind complicated terminology. I’m not going to lie to you: compressors are not simple. They are probably the most advanced tools you will ever use in a mix. But I’m confident you can learn to use them and that’s why we’re here. To start, we need to understand what compressors do:

Compressors reduce the dynamic range of a source to help it sit better in the mix.

“Dynamic range” is the difference between the softest and loudest sounds in a source. A compressor reduces this range, evening out the levels of a performance and often making it sound louder in the end.

How does it accomplish this? Continue Reading…

In-ears-brighter

Over the next six months we will be switching all our sites to in-ear monitors. We made the move at our Production Site a number of years ago and we haven’t looked back. The clean looking stage and the clean sound both for the crowd and the band have been fantastic. But the transition is not always easy. In-ears take some getting used to. This is especially true for vocalists who will hear their voice in a whole different way, and often for more experienced musicians who have grown accustomed to performing with stage monitors.

By some miracle of providence, I’ve been involved in transitioning bands from wedge monitors to in-ears four times in my career. As a musician and a tech, I’ve experienced both the stage and the mixer, big venues and small venues, big bands and small bands. And I am a big fan of in-ear monitors. I have some ideas for easing the transition and getting the most out your monitors.

What are we talking about, here?

Continue Reading…

The-Worship-Media-Handbook---Two-iPads

This past Christmas Eve, in search of the perfect visuals for a giant 18’x32′ projection screen we brought in, I subscribed to the Church Motion Graphics Monthly Mega Pack. We ended up using the content for nearly every song in the service and couldn’t have been happier!

The man behind Church Motion Graphics (CMG) is Jeff McIntosh. @jrsmcintosh and I met on twitter and we’ve crossed paths at a conference or two. I love Jeff’s passion and his focus and I think he’s one of the best designers in the business. I also love that his company was birthed out of a passion for the church, and he still serves at C4 Church in Durham, Ontario — just on the other side of Toronto from our Production site. Continue Reading…

Part 3 of 3 in the series Freedom Within Structure

Blueprint Blog

Finally, let’s get into the details of how I find freedom within structure.

I had this conversation with my band at rehearsal on Tuesday: “So, this Sunday is communion Sunday. We normally have a little bit of flexibility within our service times (our lead pastor and I give and take time from each other every week), but when it comes to communion, we pretty much need to be scheduled to the second.

Do you remember me talking about that church in Texas that schedules their services so tightly because every minute they go over affects the whole city? Well, every minute I go over with my music set on communion Sunday is a minute less the tear down teams have to clear out at the end of the service; it’s a minute closer to the time that movies start in those same theatres. We need to hit our times and it needs to be precise.

So, how do I take my 9 minutes, ensure I land the set to the second (or close to it), and yet still make it feel like we’re not rushing through to a clock?  Continue Reading…

Part 2 of 3 in the series Freedom Within Structure

Forest

You’ve heard it said, “you can never lead someone somewhere that you’re not going yourself.”

Let me paint you a picture.
Imagine with me for a minute that you were out for a walk one day. You saw beauty in creation that you had never seen before. God was showing you life in things you had never seen – things you had never known about Himself! Colour was bursting to life right before your eyes! Really, imagine yourself in that moment of awe with me for a minute.

You would head back home and you would be a changed person! You would live life differently and you would be in awe of even the smallest things around you through the rest of your day or week.

Chances are, at some point you would be so excited about this experience that you wouldn’t be able to keep it to yourself. You would want to bring some friends on this walk with you. So, you all strap up your hiking boots and you’re off to show your friends the beauty and glory of God that you had just experienced.

You head back into the woods with your friends and God’s beauty is overwhelming you once again. In your excitement and passion you dive into an even deeper place of awe between you and God! Eventually, you get back home again and turn around to discover that your friends aren’t arriving home with you. In fact, your friends had lost you long ago when you were deep in your own experience back in the woods. Continue Reading…

Part 1 of 3 in the series Freedom Within Structure

Timing

I have found that there is a spectrum of stylistic approaches to worship leading between two polar opposite ideas:

(1) “I don’t know how we’re going to do each song, I don’t even know what songs we’re going to sing, but I do know that when I get on stage, the Spirit will lead us. It’ll be awesome and God will be glorified!”

(2) “I know the songs we’re singing, I can tell you exactly how we’re going to do them, I could even tell you (to the second) how long the entire set is going to be. It’ll be awesome and God will be glorified!”

I haven’t met many people that solely live on one pole or the other.  I would also say that many of us wouldn’t find ourselves at the same point along the spectrum every single Sunday. Sometimes, our sets feel like they’ve locked into a groove and we feel GREAT about knowing exactly where we’re going to go. But the very next week, we could find ourselves hitting a wall within our planning and we come to a place where we know we just have to read the moment when the moment comes and move forward with flexibility.

I’ll be honest, I am one that leans more towards knowing where things are going to go over starting a set unsure where we’re going to finish. In fact, the unknown freaks me out so much that I don’t sleep on Saturday night if I have a set that lies more in the unknown than the planned and practiced.

We’re starting a series that is going to talk about finding freedom within structure. Continue Reading…

Part 3 of 3 in the series The Message of the Stage

empty-stage-new

In this series, we’re applying the concept “the medium is the message” to our modern church services. Last time I covered some recent church history and told you about some changes we made to our services at The Meeting House. This post will wrap up things up with some practical advice.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, I’ll assume you agree there’s tension between between the form and the content of a modern church service. A room set up like a rock concert sends a message that’s a least a tad out of alignment with Jesus’ humility and self-sacrificial love. But, as I’ve already hinted, I’m not ready to throw the whole thing away.

Under the Old Covenant, worship had a particular form based around tabernacle and temple. But, under the New Covenant, the gospel spread faster than any cultural form could keep up with! It’s no surprise that, after a few years, the early Christians backtracked to hash out some of the cultural implications of a movement that was rapidly losing touch with its Jewish roots. If you want to read up on the history, have a glance at Acts chapter 15.

I believe God can reach anyone precisely where they’re at, and He’s not afraid to roll up His sleeves and get His hands dirty. So I don’t believe there’s any disqualifying style or form of doing church. But that’s not the same as saying the form doesn’t matter. I believe it matters a lot. Continue Reading…

Part 2 of 3 in the series The Message of the Stage

 

©2013 Joss Monson

©2013 Joss Monson

In this series, we’re applying the concept that “the medium is the message” to our modern church services. Last time I said that every form of communication has an embedded message that can’t be separated out. The challenge is that we get used to our forms of media and start to think our content is all we’re communicating to our audience.

According to Jesus “… all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) So I think it’s fair to ask the question – do our stages, lights and cameras exalt us or humble us? Remember, we’re not talking about content yet, just the message inherent to the form of communication. I think it’s practically a rhetorical question: by their nature, stages, lights and cameras exalt people. So, if we’re teaching people about Jesus from the platform, there is going to be a real tension between the form of communication and the content.

So is that it, then? Should we knock down our stages, turn off all the lights and dress in giant brown paper bags? As much as I would love a career shift to the fast-food industry (my only other real option) I do have some ideas to share.

But first a history lesson. Continue Reading…

10 Things

When I’m up on stage, there are a few things that I wish I could just stop and say … but have never had the guts to:

10 – I’m probably going to forget the words at times … To “cover it up”, I’ll sometimes just make random vowel sounds until I realize what I’m supposed to be singing again.

9 – We’re probably not going to sound like those guys that you were listening to in your car on the way to church You’ll have to wait till that band tours through town to hear them.  But even then, you’re listening to a produced album (even if the album is “live”), we’re giving you the “non-overdubbed, not singing to tracks” version of these songs.

8 – When I back away from the microphone, sometimes its because I’m leaving a space for everyone to sing together … Other times its because I have to burp and I don’t want to rip it into the microphone.

7 – I know it’s the weekend and I know it’s morning, but chances are, I was up earlier than you today, so let’s all try to wake up a bit. I think we should all agree right now that what we’re doing is more important than the coffee you’re holding.

6 – There’s more to what we’re singing than just a list of songs. Have you ever realized that the songs we sing are actually thematically building on one another?  That maybe there’s a reason why we had everyone shouting out “How Great Thou Art!” only AFTER we sang about God as the creator of the universe?  When you tune out for a minute during the musical worship set, you might miss out on a truth about God that we’re going to be responding to in a couple minutes.

5 – I’m not here to perform for you.  I’m here to sing WITH you.  We don’t need the show to worship our God together in this way!  (If you’ve missed the conversations over production levels during weekend services, you can check it out here)

4 – I’m not intentionally doing “those things” so that I can receive “those e-mails” on Sunday afternoon (If you’ve been in ministry long enough, you know what I mean). We’re likely trying to accomplish the same goal. We might just be taking a different approach towards that destination.  We’re on the same team.

3 – Even though we can’t make you show up on time, musical worship is not viewed as optional around here.  For those who prefer the teaching over the music, hopefully you realize that there is the huge potential for teaching moments within the music set and the songs we’re singing. You may not feel comfortable joining in this way that may seem weird by our culture’s standards, but really, we’re declaring with our voices, out loud, that we are not God, He is Great, and we submit to His leadership today and forever.  Of COURSE it’s uncomfortable …

2 – When you’re walking in late, talking with others, or even just reading your program, you’re distracting more people than just yourself.  Those who are trying to engage might be pulled out of the moment by hearing your conversation or seeing you walk across the front of the room.

1 – It’s not my job to prepare your heart.  I’ve heard and have even agreed in the past with the statement that Sunday mornings are a glass of fresh water to take in to refresh you and energize you for a week.  Then we come back again the next Sunday to be filled up to be sent out again.  I don’t necessarily agree with this statement anymore.  Instead, I would be in the camp that says our hearts should be so full of joy and excitement for what God did in, through and around us all throughout the week that our Sunday mornings are a community celebration of joy over the goodness of God!  If you haven’t thought twice about what God is up to in your own life before walking in on Sunday morning, than chances are, you might not “feel” it by the end of the 15-20 minutes that I’ve got with you.

Continue Reading…

Part 1 of 3 in the series The Message of the Stage
© 2013 Joss Monson

© 2013 Joss Monson

I’m often asked why we don’t use _________ at the Meeting House. Why no moving lights or haze? Why don’t we use video backgrounds or show camera shots of the band? It’s a great question. I mean, we are a fairly big church with modern and relevant services. If technology is just a tool, shouldn’t we have the best tools possible? And we own lots of these tools already, so why don’t we use them “to their full extent”?

I’d like to challenge the notion that technology is “just a tool”. It is a tool, yes, but I believe it’s much more than that. It is a form of communication – a medium. This brings to mind Marshall McLuhan’s famous expression, “the medium is the message.”

McLuhan was at the leading edge of media theory when network broadcasting was booming in the 1960s and he predicted the World Wide Web decades before it became a reality. McLuhan taught that the form of communication is imbedded in the message and can’t be separated out. Whether it’s speech, braille or 3D movies we need a form of media to communicate content. And media is not neutral – each form comes with its own message.

Think about these examples: Continue Reading…