5 Mistakes To Avoid During Technical Difficulties

  • Written By 
  • Keith Duell

The use of technology has dramatically helped improve the way we run worship sets. From the use of digital instruments, increasing production quality and streamlining information, technology has given us amazing new ways to express our worship. Unfortunately, we all know that this tech can be a double edged sword, especially when we least expect it!

While we love having smooth musical transitions through the use of pads, or being able to hone in on our parts through the use of in-ear monitors, what do we do when these things fail? Or better yet, what should we NOT do?

After having my fair share of musical catastrophes, I wanted to share 5 Mistakes To Avoid when everything goes wrong and the tech you trusted in has now abandoned you!

And don’t forget to click the link at the bottom of this page to receive your FREE MAINSTAGE PATCH we made just for you!

Mistake #1 – Freak Out Or Panic

The scene: You’re in the middle of Oceans by Hillsong, you are playing a pad that is creating a nice musical atmosphere and the congregation is deep in worship when….BAM! Your keys rig crashes are you are left hanging to dry in the wind.

If something like this happens to you, the first thing to remember is to not freak out or panic. The overwhelming urge to show our disbelief on our face, or mumble irritatedly under our breath will be strong, but stay calm.

The catastrophe seems much worse to us on stage than it does for anyone else in the room. Take a minute to just assess the situation, find out what actually went wrong, and know that while this may seem like a huge problem from your point of view, there’s a very good chance a large portion of the congregation/band members haven’t noticed yet.

Our main goal is to keep the continuity of the worship service, which brings me to the next mistake.

Mistake #2 – Disrupting The Set/Service

Before attempting to fix the problem, make sure to remember to avoid doing anything that will disrupt the worship set or distract anyone who is currently worshipping. Despite having technical difficulties, we are still on the stage functioning as a worship leader. As far as everyone in the audience is concerned, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

We want to avoid making this problem about us and keep in mind that whether our tech works is not as important as whether people are able to freely worship without distraction. Keeping that our main focus will help us make decisions that will fix our problem in a discreet manner without disrupting other people’s experiences.

Now don’t get me wrong… Just because we’re being careful to not be disruptive doesn’t mean we have to move slowly. Once we’ve realized something has gone wrong we should move as quickly as possible to solve the issue.

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Mistake #3 – Wasting Time

Quickly isolating the problem should be our main priority now. If our keys rig went down or we’re not getting any sound through our in-ears/monitors, our next step should be tracking down the source of the problem.

It’s possible the software plugins crashed on our computer or maybe the computer overheated and is too hot to process everything in real time. Sometimes it can be as simple as someone else tripping and disconnecting a power cable or audio output cable. Maybe the problem is outside of your control such as a monitor blowing out or issues with the mixing/monitor console.

Whatever the issue is, the biggest thing is finding out whether this is something YOU can fix, or if it’s something that someone else needs to fix.

If the solution to the problem is in your control, then avoid wasting time and work on a solution ASAP. If the problem is not blatantly obvious (like a computer crash or loss of power), then start from the front end of your signal chain and start working backwards to see if you can isolate the problem. This may take some time, so starting right away is your best bet at getting things up and running in a timely manner.

If the problem is out of your control, or if you need help fixing the current problem the next and probably most important thing to do is to let someone know.

Mistake #4 – Forgetting To Communicate

This is probably the most common mistake when things start going wrong during technical difficulties. Actively communicating the information you have will help you and others solve the problem as quickly as possible.

One example of communicating would be: Letting your guitar player or another instrumentalist know that they need to take the lead for the upcoming song since you won’t be able to do the transition with your pad.

Now obviously you can’t just shout across the stage in the middle of a set. The best way would be to get the attention of whoever you need and then use discreet non-verbal gestures to communicate your situation. If everyone on stage is paying attention and aware of the situation, this should be a fairly quick and easy process.

Chances are your sound engineer has also noticed the problem just as quickly as you. Sometimes all the communication you need is simply strong eye contact with them back at the console and they will more than likely start on a solution or send someone up to help you.

A lot of the communication difficulties can be solved though by thinking through possible problems ahead of time so you can be prepared if you have technical difficulties.

Mistake #5 – Being Without A Backup or Plan B

Not being prepared is one of the easiest mistakes to make, but also one of the easiest to solve. We never expect tragedy to strike during our worship set since we put a lot of faith into the electronics within our computers, keyboards, guitars, and cables. However the reality is that these CAN and WILL fail from time to time. Taking steps ahead of time to mitigate these issues will go a long way and help give a you a peace at mind during the service.

One of the simplest things you can do is to have extra cables. If a cable goes bad or shorts out, having an extra nearby gives you the chance to swap it out without disrupting the team.  For keyboardists that are using a computer based rig, it’s a great habit to always run direct audio lines out of your keyboard if you have built in sounds so that if your computer rig crashes, you can just let the sound guy know and you can then finish out the set using the internal audio on your keyboard. 

If you use in-ear monitors, a great way to be prepared is to have a couple wedge monitors on stage to fall back on should anything happen to your monitor feed. Keeping an extra guitar nearby or keeping extra batteries for a microphone are also great habits to use.

If having extra backup gear isn’t an option, then simply communicating with team members before the service will help. Having a plan in place of who can take over the lead of a song will help keep your set flowing smoothly.

Technical problems can really throw you for a loop, but hopefully with these tips you can avoid making these common mistakes and get your gear and rigs back online and running as quickly as possible!

And for the keyboardists out there, make sure to enter your email below and we’ll send you a FREE MainStage patch for use in your next worship set! 

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