Here we are my friends, a brand new year and I am excited to be in it. I know that there are some people who believe that 2012 is the last year for all us humans. However, as a believer all I can say is “Bring It”! But on a more practical and serious note, a new year is like a new start. And like most of you, I plan on doing everything better this year.
We all resolve to make improvements in our lives but how will we accomplish those resolutions? That is obviously a rhetorical question but I can tell you part of the answer would be found in prayer. So, after you finish those prayers let’s look at how we can improve the sound of your worship space.
We all know that everyone in our congregations wants to hear the worship music balanced and the message clearly but we don’t always know how to make that happen. Well my friends and believers, I am going to tell you some of my personal methods for improving the sound of any house of worship. Before we get to the steps, we need to think a bit about sound waves, the cycles per second known as hertz which make up the spectrum of sound frequencies that we hear.
Generally speaking, we hear frequencies from about 50Hz (hertz) to 16kHz (thousand hertz) in our worship houses. The human ear can hear a slightly wider range of frequencies but it has been my experience that the aforementioned frequencies cover 99% of the house sound systems out there. That said, I will try to keep this information as simple and useful as possible. I know a lot of you already know this stuff but there is nothing wrong with a little review.
OK let’s get on with it.
Step 1: You will first need to really know your how your worship space sounds. Get to service early (God will already be there) or make a visit to your worship house on an off day (with the permission of your pastor). Put on some music through your sound system and listen from different areas in your worship room. Walk up and down the aisles; check out the balcony (if you have one). Listen from one side of your room the other. Find the areas where the sound is best (the sweet spots) and identify (using your ears) why those areas sound so good. Seek out other areas where it does not sound so good and do the same (using your ears again). The idea is for you to know the sound of your room as well or better than anyone in your church. Once you know the sound of your space, then you will have a reference point from which to work.
Step 2: We are now going to adjust the equalization of the main speakers so they will sound better in the room. I am going to assume you have a stereo graphic equalizer (mono will also work) that controls the main speakers. If you don’t have a graphic EQ, please get one for the new year. Now, push each band up and down and listen to the changes it makes to your music. You are adjusting the individual frequencies and your goal is to make the music sound good in as many places in your worship space as possible. It doesn’t matter if you have a 15 band or a 31 band graphic equalizer. Just keep in mind that the more bands you have, the more accurate you can be in the frequencies you adjust. If there is no EQ in you worship house or in your immediate future, adjust the equalization knobs on the individual channels of your mixer. Make that canned music sound as good as possible.
Step 3: Now that we have the room sounding as great (or just better), we will work on the Pastor’s (priest, preacher, rabbi, etc.) microphone. If he or she uses a wireless microphone, take the mic and speak into it from various locations in your worship space. Walk around and listen to the quality and clarity of your own voice. Then use the individual EQ on that microphone’s channel and adjust the mic until it sounds good everywhere in your worship room.
Should your preacher deliver the message through a wired microphone, put an extra XLR cable (or two) and walk through the room testing the quality of how the spoken word sounds. As with the wireless mic, make that microphone sound the best it can in every location.
This same exercise can be done with any of the other vocal mics used in your worship space. Once you have got all your vocal mics sounding good it’s time to take a listen to the individual instruments. In my experience keyboards are the easiest instrument to make sound good. You will plug the keys into a direct box or right into your mixing board. Because you do not use a live microphone on the keys you do not have any outside sounds polluting the keyboard signal.
Miking an acoustic guitar (without a pickup), I find to be the most challenging. Position the microphone near the sound hole but don’t interfere with the player’s hand. There are a lot of overtones with regards to an acoustic guitar sound. So, take your time and adjust the EQ of this instrument until you are happy with the sound. Of course there a lot more instruments and micing techniques with regards to worship music but I will save the topic of microphone placement and choice for another day.
For now, try these suggestions and listen if the overall sound improves. As you follow these steps, your ears will become better trained to listen in your space and other spaces for that matter. Remember you can do these exercises as many times as you want. Improve your ability to hear and the sound of your services will improve.
Good luck and God bless.