So far in this Tips and Tricks series we have discussed getting the perfect keyboard sounds, using drum triggers to get the perfect gate settings, properly setting up wireless guitars or extending drum cables, and last week we talked about getting the most out of your tracks channels. This week we are going to discuss using online services to expand and enhance your support and documentation. We all have heard of these website and services but throughout my career and conversations it seems like so few of us utilize them very well. I’m sure there are many more options but these are the ones that I use at this moment.
The first online resource that many of us use but more should probably be using is Planning Center Online. PCO is also the only one of these services that is a paid service. I will be the first to say that it is worth whatever you pay for it let me be clear. Every church in America, including my own, could probably improve how we schedule volunteers. PCO is the best tool for this. Volunteers can put in blockout dates (this is key on my team) so that when I go and schedule I can know right then and there if they are available. You can also have them fill in contact information with at least an email so they can schedule through email and not even have to log into the app or the website. At a glance I can look at the schedules for the next 90 days (yes that’s how far out I schedule my sound team) and start the game of musical chairs so that by the time we get down to 30 days out, I’ve got a team locked and loaded and tuned for the obstacles that are coming down the pipe. This also allows me to schedule with the lighting and video teams because many of our volunteers serve on more than one team so I can be sure not to always be using everyone only on audio, we can plan the big weekends so that every team is staffed to meet the challenge. If you’ve never used PCO you can reach out and get a demo which I would highly encourage you to do. You’ll be hooked, I promise!
The next resource is free, it’s soundcloud.com. For a long time we were looking for ways we could improve the potential for our worship teams to practice between our rehearsals and the weekend. The biggest hurdle was just that we don’t have recordings of how we sing each song each weekend. There are some up there that can be used but even then, sometimes we sing songs differently or change the number of a given element so it’s difficult to practice too. Since we were already multi-tracking our rehearsals for playback/prep and archiving, we decided to set it up to record our broadcast mix (could just use your Main Mix as well) and then upload that to soundcloud. The free service has only one limit and that is just the number of minutes of audio you have up at one time there is plenty of room for the entire run-though to be recorded and uploaded. Than when rehearsal is over, we normalize and upload to same soundcloud account every week named for our church. Beyond that, then we go into PCO and email the entire team with a hyperlink to the page where the recording can be heard and practiced with. Than, our worship bands have recording, with transitions, with exactly how we are going to sing and play the songs each week. It’s also good for guitars and vocals to hear themselves and be able to make changes before the weekend comes.
The last resource that I don’t see enough people use is google drive (as a part of gmail). Not only are gmail accounts free but they also come with 15 gb of storage. If you need more it’s incredibly reasonably priced. But for us, 15 gb is more than enough. We have a few gmail accounts setup for the different tech areas that are in place. With Google Drive sync setup we can automatically backup critical templates and show files with ease so that no matter what happens to our production computers, everything is backed up. The other great thing about google drive is the live documents. We use this to keep a log of passwords for our various services and software downloads, patch lists for our larger venues, and even IP address tables for our tech subnets so we can keep track of what is where on our network. Because they are live at all times, the instant I make a change, it’s instantly propagated to all other windows. Because documents can be easily shared amongst gmail accounts, we shared all of those documents to the entire team so that we can all have access to all the documentation that our team needs on a day to day basis. Personally I use google sheets to generate organized quotes with purchase links for each project I manage and than archive them when completed so when a similar project comes along (perhaps the same thing but for a different regional campus) I already have the majority of the work completed. I just have to bring it up, be sure prices and links are up to date and I’m done. I find this incredibly helpful when I’m building our production PCs so I can be sure they all have compatible parts (if you want to read more about what I do with my production PCs check out this link!).
Well that about wraps it up for this post and series. I hope you have learned something. There are always things that as technicians we can do better so even if you haven’t been able to identify with these, find the area in your work that you can improve upon, figure out what you can do, and just do it. Commit to improving yourself professionally so that as you work, artists want to have you around. If you do have any questions about what we did talk about please don’t hesitate to use the contact form below or email us at email@example.com.