The Four Elements Of Church Sound Redux – Part 1

photo © 1900 Swedish National Heritage Board | more info(via: Wylio)

photo © 1900 Swedish National Heritage Board | more info(via: Wylio)

Several years ago, I wrote a series of posts on the “Four Elements of Church Sound”. In this next series of post I will revisit those post and make some new observations. Since those original post, I have had a lot of new questions put to me and, hopefully, I have learned a few things along the way. So hear goes…

True or false? “The sound system and sound people in your church is the same as in mine.”

The answer to this question seems so obvious, but the sound system in each church was designed, purchased, and installed using very deferent criteria, one from another and many sound people have learned most of their audio knowledge with the sound system they work with every week. If this system is not properly set up from the start the operator’s ability to provide good sound is immediately compromised.

There are FOUR elements to good sound in any venue;

1.The sound system.

2.The sound people.

3.The room acoustics.

4.The program material (which includes the instrument quality, the talent of the musicians, and the arrangement of the songs).

Let’s go through these one by one to see the reality.

THE SOUND SYSTEM

Most sound systems in contemporary churches were set up in one of four ways.

1. Components were donated from a band that is no longer together (or no longer practicing in their garage,) and their sound man (or lead singer) comes over, sets up the system, and in 15 minutes dispenses all his knowledge about how the system works. This meeting usually ends with him saying “Good luck!” and BAM! the church has a sound system. Note that generally none of the microphones for the worship singers are the same model or even the same brand and the system does not have any way to optimize it, like equalization (except on the channels of the mixer, which are only fixed high, mid, and low). Rereading this, I stand by the brutal reality….

2. The music Pastor pours over industry magazines or websites then takes a fateful trip down to the local music store where he or she buys not what they want, but whatever the store has in stock because “there just isn’t any more time” or the budget does not permit.

3. The pastor or a well-meaning board member picks a sound company on line or out of the phone book, usually alphabetically, and has them bid a system based not on what will work for the church, but the budget. Usually in this scenario the music pastor and the existing sound people are not once consulted, but expected to operate with this system and perform flawlessly at the next service. This goes for the entire church building process, the first building is build on BUDGET and the second is built on PURPOSE.

4. One or two of the sound team members persuade the Pastor and board members to buy the equipment, usually out of a catalogue or on the internet, hanging speakers wherever and using microphone cable from their favorite consumer electronics shack in the mall. This system never works correctly but everyone is afraid to admit it.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? It has been my experience that all of these methods start out with the best intentions in mind, but end up causing friction and frustration in the music ministry, not to mention inadequate sound. Remember that the great Pastor Charles Spurgeon called his music ministry “The War Department.”

I will continue this thread with Part: 2 "The sound people."