Does Your Church Have A Sound Plan?

Church Mix Sound Plan At Rocking Gods House

Abbie Stancato At Rocking Gods House

Churches plan everything, often by committee. They will choose the music director, assist with the construction of the praise team, organize budgets, choose the sound system, and market for service attendance. So what happens when the congregation fills the seats and the band goes live? What happens if, after all that expense, the band sounds terrible? The lead guitarist is too loud. The worse singer is the only one heard. You can’t hear the lead singer or the entire choir. Now what?
GRAMMY® and Dove Award nominated producer and engineer Paul Dexter of Churchmix has experienced these issues too often. Paul says, “About ten years ago I had a well known industry guy bidding against me to put a new system in a 2,500 seat church in Orange County, California. I decided to look at systems he installed in other churches. His systems were amazing with all the right equipment, and when the worship band began to play, the most dominant instrument of a twenty piece contemporary worship band was the tambourine. I was baffled. What could the board tech be thinking?”
This is the reason why Rocking God’s House was created. I created the website to educate the novice on a sound board, often way beyond their skill level. I have written numerous articles on this subject. So I was excited when I learned about the existence of Churchmix.
Churchmix was founded to instruct church personnel how to understand and dominate an entire church PA system with the use of online videos. Their service provides an awesome set of tools. Churchmix has created a curriculum for lay people to mix sound — people who are not behind a sound console on a daily basis.
However, before you jump on the Churchmix bandwagon, you need to get your ducks in a row and develop a “Sound Plan!”
Paul Dexter summarized the need to prepare in one short phrase: “you Cannot mix on a broken system.” In some cases, this may require the church tech guru to simplify the PA system making it more user friendly for the novice sound person.

Here are four questions to ask yourself:

1. Is your room optimized?

This is a question usually best answered by a professional acoustical engineer (Here Is a Series of Articles “How To Set Your Room”). Additionally, some companies, such as Auralex, will perform a free room analysis.
However, there are some early red flags to consider. Is your sound person elevated above the band and PA system? This is a major no-no. Too often churches are in a large gym and desire to convert an available upper room for the sound man and equipment. If this is the case, I suggest you move the sound board or consider a remote app to get your sound man on the floor level. My church has this problem. I integrated a remote iPad allowing them to sit on the floor among the congregation and make volume and EQ adjustments remotely to the soundboard. Two-thirds back from the stage is a great place to be, most systems don’t fully reach the back wall, so you wind up blasting high frequencies to make up for this- aside from the low frequency buildup on the back wall.

2. Do you have the band going in the wrong direction of the room?

The praise band should ALWAYS play to the long side of the room. There are many sound issues that will work against you otherwise. Although this might create some headaches if you have to completely break down and rebuild the room layout and chairs, it is worth the effort.

Paul Dexter noted: “As system designers we enjoy the challenge to build a system with even coverage in either configuration. We agree with the leaderships reasons to orient the room in either way, but have to accept the challenge to make it work.”

3. Sound treatment: has any attempt been made to condition the sound of the room?

If your walls are bare, you will produce large amounts of multiple frequency reflections called reverb. Too much uncontrolled reverb will cause the sound to be muddy. You can spend more money than you can imagine on sound treatment. However, some is better than nothing at all.

The pros from Churchmix can’t fix your system, but they can teach the staff how to listen and identify room or equipment problems. Paul Dexter offers a very simplistic room litmus test: “Play a CD through the PA, how does it sound? If it sounds great, you’re on the right track. Otherwise, you have equipment or room problems.”

Paul equates mixing sound to a Nascar. “A Nascar is incredibly hard to drive, much less if the car pulls to the right, second gear’s not working, and the brakes are squishy until you hit the bottom of the floor board. A lay person could barely drive the car if it’s in perfect condition, not to mention if it’s in poor condition. Most of the companies installing worship sound systems will only teach you what the knobs do. They don’t teach you how to creatively construct a mix. Church Mix teaches how to drive or best operate a sound console.”

4. So what is a sound plan?

Church Mix At Rocking Gods HouseThe best plan is implemented prior to the installation of the sound, lighting, and production system. However, If you’re like most worship facilities, your system is in place and in use.

Here are a few steps to take to construct your sound plan:

  • Document everything. From the stage setup to the PA wiring, to song notes. Don’t forget to include notes on electrical wiring. Know the maximum amperage of each circuit, where the different circuits reside and the breaker box. When a grounding problem is occurring or power goes out in the middle of the service, that is not the time to learn the layout.
  • Create a folder containing plastic pockets to hold your pages. Set up a tab for each major category. Why? To reduce downtime when all goes wrong. And eventually it will!
  • A great sound person will know his or her craft and will work from notes the same as the worship team. Notes should include the balance of guitars, vocals, effects, volume levels, and EQ.

Perhaps you’re not in a place to understand and develop a sound plan. Sometimes you just need time and experience. Churchmix is a wonderful place to begin….

Follow this link for Part Two of the ChurchMix Series – ChurchMix: Overcome Inconsistent Sound Quality in Worship!