More Thoughts on Excellence

by Curt Taipale

Is it okay for the parking lot to be littered with fast-food wrappers as your congregation arrives on Sunday morning? Do we mow the lawn, rake the leaves, allow weeds to grow in the flower bed at the church entrance, shovel the snow off the sidewalks? Do we bother to clean the coffee stain in the main lobby? Do the bathrooms get cleaned and sanitized each week? Do we replace the lamps in the projectors when they're just not working properly? Do we just let the blown HF driver in the house left loudspeaker stay blown (for the next two years)? In other words, where does one draw the line on technical excellence versus mediocrity?

My sense is that most audio engineers are hard enough on themselves when mistakes are made. Still, there is a good side to that if we learn and grow from those mistakes. One reason that people like my mix is because I've made an awful lot of those mistakes over the years and managed to learn from them. I've also found that my mix sounds the best when I let go and just let God mix (through me).

One should not be too hard on oneself when we've made a few mistakes, even when we're literally the only person in the room who realizes that something wasn't just right. Blatant mistakes may be called out during the production meeting later that week. But most of our "mistakes", things that in our mind missed our intended reach for excellence, are things that only we would notice.

I was standing on the stage one day during rehearsal, adjusting a mic position, and overheard extraordinary bassist Abe Laboriel ask producer Tom Brooks if he had intended for a particular chord to have a flat-5. It struck me that what other bass guitar player would be listening so close to the chords flying by on Tom's keyboard on a fast tempo song that he would notice that one chord included a flat-5 instead of a major 5. (BTW, the smile on Tom's face at that moment, a guy known for his attention to detail and precision in music, having had one of his rare mistakes discovered and pointed out to him was priceless.)

Now, I made my living as a professional musician for 12 years, have a degree in music from one of the best schools for music in the country, spend most of my life listening analytically to music and sounds in general, and I didn't notice that one wrong note. Wonder if anyone else in the room caught it!? But those players are good enough that their definition of excellence may be different than someone else, especially someone who just came to worship that evening.

A friend signs his emails with the phrase "Adequate isn't." While we should not allow a couple of minor mistakes during a service to ruin our day (or our week), we should also never stop trying to be the best we can be at the craft God has gifted us for.

The challenge is finding that balance between our pursuit for technical excellence and not taking ourselves too seriously when we've made a few mistakes.

Toward that end, allow me to share some stories that are sure to make everyone feel better. Enjoy.
My Most Embarrassing Moments, Part 1

Copyright 2015 Taipale Media Systems. All rights reserved