Every church has a sound system, right? Even if you are a church plant, one of the first things you bought was probably a sound system. Though just because we have a sound system doesn’t mean we know how to best utilize it, so lets look at some simple fixes to make our sound system really rock.
What Can You Turn Down?
We all have that vocalist who complains about not being able to hear their own voice, so we turn them up, then the keyboard player can’t hear the bass, so we turn it up, then—well, you get the point.
Instead of always turning something up, find ways to turn other things down. Once you find your balance between your instruments and vocals, you can adjust the master volume to a comfortable level for your room.
As much as possible, reduce your stage volume. This would include amps for your guitars, monitors and louder acoustic instruments like drums or piano. This is especially important when your room is small. When your stage volume is too loud, it forces your main levels up which will reduce comfort and clarity in your auditorium.
What About the Drums?
If you have drums in your band, you need a solid kick/snare presence to support the rest of the players, but it doesn’t have to give you a heart attack on every down beat. Find a way to control your drum volume as much as possible, whether that is an enclosure for an acoustic kit, or an electronic kit. Even if you can’t fully enclose the drums, try a drum shield and a fabric backdrop. The more you can contain the drums, the more you can control your mix.
Identify Your Musical Hierarchy
When you build your mix, start with the kick/snare and set a solid bottom. Then identify which instrument is going to lead the congregation and bring it to the front. Then just fill in with everyone else from there.
This is also true for vocals. While your vocal levels should always be just above the instruments, it is best to identify who is going to lead the vocal team on the platform. They should be the most identifiable voice.
Understand Your Console
If you are the audio engineer (aka “Sound Guy”), chances are you are a volunteer. You likely don’t have any training, or the small amount of training you received was from the guy who installed the system and it lasted about 20 minutes.
Take the time and responsibility to learn how to effectively use the EQ system, auxiliary sends and buses as well as any effects processors like reverb. The Internet is full of tutorials and helps. Invest the time to understand what all those knobs and sliders do and how they work best.
If you can afford it, hire a local freelance audio engineer to come spend a few hours with your volunteer team during a rehearsal and give some on-site training.
We’re thrilled to partner with Creative Missions (our nonprofit parent, the Center for Church Communication, handles the Creative Missions finances). Learn more about Creative Missions and this year’s trip to Alaska and consider a financial donation to help church communicators help other churches communicate better. For an insider’s perspective, check out Colt Melrose’s experience on the 2012 trip to Northwest Arkansas and Joplin, Mo.
For more helpful tips like this, check out Dangerous: A Go-to Guide for Church Communication. It’s a booklet of articles by Creative Missions alumni offering a crash course in church marketing basics.