3 Keys To Better Church Sound
by Caleb Chan
This wasn’t an easy article to come up with. When I was asked by the team to write this, I felt it was tough to narrow everything down into pointers that were concise, yet informative and applicable.
Here are some things (technical and practical) to think about as you plan for growth for yourself or your ministry team!
This should be a no-brainer! One of the most important factors in a good mix is clarity. Our congregation needs to be able to clearly hear what is spoken, sung, and played on stage. We have to ensure that anything communicated is done so with as few hindrances as possible!
Surprisingly, I still find that many churches face the issue of muffled or boomy vocals, especially during sermons (and quite a number of them seem to have accepted this as the norm).
Sound Tip! Remove what you don’t want! If your sound is muffled, there are frequencies responsible for that. So before you go ahead and boost the high frequencies hoping to bring out the clarity, remove the lower frequencies that are muffling your sound!
When you cook or bake, the ingredients used are usually measured out in order to achieve a certain combination - or balance - of flavours. Too much of one flavour can throw off an entire dish.
Similarly, when we talk about mixing in sound, balance is vital. Too much of an instrument or too little of the song leader throws the mix out of balance.
I talk about 2 types of balances whenever I teach/train: Volume Balance and Frequency Balance.
Volume balance does not mean every instrument and singer is set to the same volume. Good volume balance is ensuring that what needs to be heard can be heard.
For example: The songleader needs to be most prominently heard in a mix (even if the electric guitarist is playing an amazing, face-melting riff).
Frequency balance is about creating balance along the entire frequency spectrum; Low-Mid-High. Again, this may differ from church to church, and even between services within a church.
For example: A youth service may require (or perhaps, ‘desire’) more heart-pumping low frequencies, but this wouldn’t work in a more conservative or traditional service.
Sound Tip! Music has dynamics and is always ‘moving’; it takes listeners on a journey. Therefore, your balance should always be ‘moving’ with the band. If you like to just set initial levels and leave them, I highly encourage and challenge you to take it a step further - start moving the faders together with your band!
Awareness is not something commonly talked about, especially in the context of sound. However, it is something that really sets good sound operators apart!
Even if you’re able to EQ a mic to sound amazing, but unable to un-mute it in time for when the Pastor picks it up and speaks into it, you already risk causing a distraction, even if just a tiny one.
Another common scenario is when the band or a musician on stage has an issue and is frantically trying to get our attention. But our eyes are buried deep in the mixer, or worse - we’re not even there!
As sound crew, it’s key that we do our utmost to ensure the service runs smoothly and seamlessly in the area of sound. Yes, sounding good is important, but so is ensuring mics and instruments are muted and un-muted at the right time.
Some areas to prepare:
- When will the service anchor / Pastor come up on stage (either to open the service or takeover from the band)?
- Which mic will the pastor be using (especially if your church has multiple wireless mics)?
- Will any of your musicians be connecting/disconnecting their instruments?
- Is there going to be a video played that requires audio?
Sound Tip! Yes, there may be lots to keep a lookout for, on top of having to focus on mixing, and yes, there may be unforeseen and sudden appearances on stage that may catch you unawares. If these are some of your concerns, work in pairs! Have more than one pair of eyes (and sometimes ears). There are many roles besides mixing, such as passing the right mics to the right people, or having someone position themselves near the stage, ready to assist the band. Some things to think about!
Click here for more information and to apply to our Sound Stream, where students will immerse themselves in a practical course focused on developing their technical ability and training their ears to achieve an effective sound unique to their church. Students can expect to grow in their understanding of how the effective use of a technical area like sound can greatly affect, build, and enhance the atmosphere of worship.
Click here for more information on our Sound Training Packages, specifically catered for churches who want to invest in the training of their Sound & Audio Teams for their worship services. Our Sound Consultant will train and mentor your sound teams to grow in their technical and practical knowledge of creating ideal environments for the worship context.