The Factor of Time

I believe it’s important to put the right people on stage and get the right people behind equipment to achieve great results. However, there is still another important factor that is often taken for granted: time. A very large component in the level of results we achieve week-to-week comes down to the amount of time we spend preparing for Sunday. I was recently having lunch with a friend when he mentioned that he didn’t think most people understand how much time we spend rehearsing and mixing for Sunday. A couple days later I was asked about our rehearsal schedule so it seemed like a good idea to walk through the time we spend preparing for Sunday.

Before I get into my own specifics, I want to highlight something I think a lot of folks aren’t aware of by using another professional reference. I believe that the primary reference of what music is supposed to sound like in this day for an average person living in a western civilization is recorded music. Most of us spend far more time every week exposed to recorded music than live music. It’s on TV, the radio, in restaurants, at the mall, etc, etc, etc. Recorded music is everywhere, and that’s where most people build their ideas of what music is.

In the recording world it is not unusual to spend a day or longer mixing a single song for a major release. Top-tier record mixers like Chris Lord-Alge, Bob Clearmountain, and Jack Joseph Puig probably average 1-2 songs a day on a typical rock song, and these guys are probably not working more than 8 hours a day. Also note that time is after their assistants have spent their own time getting things ready. As productions grow in complexity, the amount of time it takes to mix increases. In live sound, having that much time to work on one song is a luxury very few engineers ever have, but the reality is that it still takes time to do what we do and record mixers are setting a benchmark that affects us.

So how much time do we spend at North Point getting ready for Sunday? You can read in detail about our Wednesday rehearsal process in a post I did last year so I’ll just skip right to some facts and figures and feel free to ask specifics about process in the comments:

  • Soundcheck averages about 15-20 minutes each week.
  • A typical weekly music set is about 3 songs.
  • Our bands rehearse on stage for about 60-75 minutes at Wednesday rehearsals.
  • On Sunday morning the band is on stage rehearsing for about 30-40 minutes every week.
  • Including Wednesday and Sunday rehearsals, the band runs each song in full with no stops a minimum of 4 times before the first service.
  • Our FOH engineers average an additional 2 hours using virtual soundcheck to refine the mix after rehearsal on Wednesday and Sunday morning before the band arrives.
  • Our FOH engineers will sit behind a console approximately 4-6 hours mixing the band, soundchecking musicians and speakers, testing videos, and running transitions before the first service starts.

    These numbers are just averages for us. Some weeks take longer to get ready and some are shorter. It often depends on the complexity of the band and how much music is happening in a given week. Some might look at these numbers and see them as excessive, but I actually think it’s a pretty healthy amount of time.

    Of course, I’m not saying you have to spend this amount of time getting ready for Sunday. In fact, if you spend less time rehearsing and everyone’s happy with the results, then more power to you. However, that isn’t the typical story I hear from other church techs and musicians. So if you’re racing through rehearsals and missing the bar your teams want to hit, maybe it’s time to consider spending more time preparing for Sunday.

    So how much time do you spend getting ready for Sunday?