With the regular guitarist on vacation and the singer/guitarist out for surgery, I spent the last three weeks playing guitar in the church band instead of my regular post behind the mixing board. It has been a great experience, and a lot of fun. Not only that, but I learned a few things that I will be taking back to the mixing board next week.
Learning the music was relatively easy, since I have heard the Band play the songs many times, plus I have built up some chart-reading skills over the last few years. The
challenging bit was a couple of guitar solos I had to put together. Unfortunately, most of my improvisation practice has been with the minor pentatonic and mixolydian scales, so it took some preparation to put together a solo in a Major scale.
One of the interesting things I experienced in transitioning from the mixing board to the band was how quickly I lost focus of the whole sound of the band and refocused on my performance. What I have learned from this is that I need to be more proactive in soliciting feedback from the performers on the monitor mix. When the guitarist has his head buried in a chart, he is unlikely to complain about problems that might limit his ability to hear the rest of the band – so I need to ask him!
Another thing I learned was how important the role of the mixing engineer is to the final product and making everything run smoothly for the band. At one point, one of the vocalists had a solo, but since nobody was behind the mixing board, there was no way to bump her mic level up to match the level of the previous vocalist. One of the pastors tried to hand her another mic, but at that point here solo was over. For that reason, I am going to try to find other people who are interested in running the sound so that the next time I am needed to fill in on guitar, we will have somebody experienced behind the mixing board!
And I am going to be paying more attention to the rehearsal chatter before the service on Sunday. I have been taking notes when I hear the band discuss solo order so I can have my finger on the right fader when a solo is about to begin, but I have discovered there is a lot more information I can use from the band to produce a better experience. Last Sunday we were rehearsing a standard for the band called “Open Me” which we usually play
early. I was strumming the chords of the song when the violinist suggested I play it like Green Day – so I dove right into a strumming pattern and groove similar to “when I come around”, and the idea caught fire with the band. We ended up playing the song Green Day style as an instrumental. That kind of last minute change would have caught me off guard if it happened a few weeks ago. If it happens in the future I will be ready to add to the experience by tweaking the faders since I will know what the band is up to…