Some of us have been here – it’s the third song in the set, there is an atmosphere, people are deep in worship, and suddenly the main vocal monitor gives a hiss and a pop and vanishes from the aural landscape…
Luckily in our case the example above occurred in the rehearsal before the service, but here are some quick ideas for how a worship set could be rescued by thinking on your feet. Feel free to comment on your own disasters and how you managed to pull through!
Breaking a guitar string
I’m not a guitarist, but apparently if you do break a string in the middle of a set, your best bet is often to stop playing altogether as the change in tension on the guitar will usually affect the tuning of the other strings. Having a backup guitar is great, but not always an option in a worship setting.
Loss of monitoring/front-of-house sound
With sound, quite a lot can go wrong. Cables can have intermittent faults, amplifiers can overheat and shut down, your sound guy might be having a bad day… The list goes on. Normally loss of monitors would mean loss of front-of-house sound too, unless the problem is between the mixing desk and the monitors (or amplifiers). In my experience (I’ve done church sound for a few years), most problems happen before they even hit the mixing desk – and unfortunately that means you’ve got no sound at all, monitoring or otherwise.
If it’s a vocal mic that has failed, you could swap mics so that your lead singer has a working mic. A dead mic for a backing vocal may not be a huge problem. A dead DI box or cables failing for guitars or the bass may be a problem – but depending on the situation you could just keep playing and very few people would notice.
Loss of lyrics/projection
Projectors can fail, PC’s can crash… Windows can install automatic updates without being asked… When your lyric display goes away, the congregation will have trouble following along unless your set is filled with many well known songs. Sometimes some prompts by the worship leader can help the congregation follow along – eg. in the lead-up before a verse or a chorus the worship leader could just call out the first few words of the verse or chorus – this will help many churchgoers back into the groove of the song. If you are able, a quick change of the setlist may help a lot, substituting more well known songs (perhaps swapping around the order of the songs hoping that the projection comes alive again).
With a few people around that can think on their feet, even a major disaster in the middle of a set may not end up causing disruption to a church service. Be creative, smile, and move on!