Is your sound system ready for Easter?
As you know, there are several factors that go into making your mix sound great. You probably already know about some of them. But there are a few on this list that may surprise you.
Paying attention to these five important topics can help you deliver great sound for Easter.
Ready? Here goes!
Easter Sound Tip #1 – The biggest priority
What is the most important audio component of ALL church sound?
Think about this for a moment.
This is critical – even if you don't have a sound system!
Clear sound from the pastor or any presenter of the Word is an absolute must.
So how do we ensure great sound from the pastor's microphone through the sound system?
First, we need to know what good reinforcement should sound like, then we need to stop the causes of poor-quality audio related to speech reinforcement.
The four big things you need to work with and control for good voice quality are:
- Microphone Placement
Here is a post with a lot more detail that shows you exactly how to get great sound from the pastor's microphone.
Try just one of the tips listed, and I bet you'll get better sound from your pastor very quickly.
Easter Sound Tip #2 – How EQ can help
This one can be subtle, but it is very important!
You and I both know that feedback can be a major disruption and distraction in our services.
But the tone and quality of sound from your vocals and instruments can be just as distracting if things aren't adjusted properly.
A few simple adjustments on the EQ can be all it takes to improve the quality of your mix and deliver a distraction-free audio experience.
Let's consider two common scenarios where EQ can be used to clean up the mix and cause fewer worship distractions.
It’s totally possible to have a great sounding guitar tone that is full and powerful, but when the worship band kicks in, the guitar can get lost in the mix or muddy up the overall sound.
To fix this, try applying some basic EQ settings.
You may find that cutting out some of the mids or low-mids (somewhere around 300 - 900 Hz) from the acoustic guitar will allow it to sound more prominent in the overall mix.
Or if you need a little more clarity from the guitar, try a small boost around 3 - 5 kHz.
These are just suggestions for where you can start. Each guitar will have its own "sweet spot" and each band arrangement will have its own mix requirements.
Practice with the EQ for your instruments to help them fit in the overall mix without competing for acoustic space with the other instruments.
One of the most distracting part of reinforcing live vocals, and one of the easiest to fix, is a boomy or tinny sound.
While the fix for this can seem like a relatively minor adjustment, it has the potential to cause listener ear fatigue. Ear fatigue is what happens when we need to strain to listen or understand what is being spoken (e.g. having a conversation in a very noisy room).
There are two primary frequency ranges that cause ear fatigue when it comes to vocals (singing and spoken word): Low-end rumble or "boom" and high-end brilliance or "tinny" tones.
The best way to get rid of boomy vocals is to roll off some of the low frequencies. Start by engaging the low-cut (or high-pass) filter for all vocal channels. This takes out frequencies below about 100 Hz depending on the console.
Additionally, you can cut the range from 200 - 300 Hz to take out some boom and bottom end depth. Be careful though, or you'll start taking out some of the supporting "body" of the vocal sound.
On the high frequency side, you'll want to cut somewhere in the range of 4 - 6 kHz to take out anything that is too bright or if the vocal is sounding really thin.
And one more vocal tip: the primary intelligibility range of most vocals is between 900 Hz and 3 kHz, depending on the vocal (male/female, soprano/tenor, etc.). Try a slight boost in the upper end of this frequency range to increase the clarity of your vocal channels.
Again, these are just suggestions for where to start. Each vocal and mic combination will have different sounds and tones you'll need to deal with. Experiment to find what works best. Using an analog sweepable mid or digital parametric EQ is a great way to sweep across frequency bands and find the sweet spot for your sound.
To learn a little bit more, check out this great post with 3 EQ Tips for Better Sound.
And of course, feel free to leave a comment below with any questions or your own suggestions.
Easter Sound Tip #3 – Why organization matters
A lot of churches go “all out” for Easter Sunday and the days and weeks leading up to it. It can be a lot to plan and coordinate.
Your church may have special programs, drama events, add a few more services to the schedule, or all of the above.
With all the busy activity in the days and hours leading up to Easter, it can be hard to keep things organized and tidy – on stage and off.
This is really important, and not paying attention to a few key details could actually present a serious safety hazard to your presenters, performers, and team members.
If you're on the tech team, you know that many special requests that come with a few technical requirements.
These special needs can cause us to rush or overlook certain things that we otherwise might be vigilant about. Things like:
- Organizing cables on the platform and taping down any cable that crosses a pathway or could be tripped over
- Marking areas where presenters or performers will walk or stand
- Preparing our tech accessories for rapid deployment (are all of your mic stands in good shape and do you have plenty of fresh batteries?)
- Coordinating special cues with lighting, media, worship, and other ministries involved in the service
Paying attention to things like taping down loose cables on stage will not only make you safer, but you'll be more prepared for other special requests that may come up at the last minute.
And being prepared means having less stress. Which is really helpful when you finally "go live" in front of a full sanctuary!
Write down a short list of things that will help you be better prepared for Easter tech requirements.
- Do you have a stash of fresh batteries?
- Need more gaff tape or board tape?
- Are your flashlight and a Sharpie handy?
- Did you fix that broken boom stand?
- Are all of your cables in working order?
- Have you received a full order of service from the pastor or other team leader?
- Did you test everything that will be used in the service or event?
Be safe and sane out there. And remember to take time celebrate the real reason for your service this Easter.
(Note: Need to stock up on a few "backstage" items? Check out some of my gear recommendations here.)
Easter Sound Tip #4 – It’s all in the mix
Mixing is like painting.
You start with a blank surface, build a base layer, then add supporting elements and color to create the texture and final feel for your masterpiece.
When you create your sonic masterpiece you simply:
- Start with a blank mix,
- Build your base with fundamental and prominent instruments,
- Then add all the supporting elements to the mix to add texture and sonic character.
Now, there are several ways to build your mix, and your approach may depend on the style of music your feature for a service or event.
Think of a pyramid with your fundamental rhythm instruments at the base. As you move up the pyramid, you start adding melody and lead instruments. Then you add your vocals to the top of the mix.
This is the way a lot of audio engineers start their soundchecks.
Maybe this method works for you.
Or you may want to think of your pyramid a little differently.
Try building your mix around the lead vocal and primary instrument. Maybe this is the worship leader and acoustic guitar or keyboard/piano. Add other instruments under this "priority" mix until all instruments and vocals are layered in the order or sonic importance you desire.
If you know anything about mixing sound, you know that there are no hard and fast rules for getting a mix that sounds great.
Well.... Maybe there is one.
Work out different mixing techniques during rehearsals or soundchecks. And include your worship pastor or team leader in the listening process.
- Is it the sound you're after?
- Does it suit your music style?
- Is the mix clear and balanced?
It helps to regularly listen to the type of music your worship team performs so that you can learn how to layer different instruments, adjust tones, and shape the overall sound of the mix to work for the musical genre and style.
Easter Sound Tip #5 – The most important part of tech
Tech tips don't always have to be about "technology".
This one is about you – The Tech!
It can be easy to get caught up in the business of running sound, managing technical details, and preparing for a service or special event. But are we taking care of ourselves and our team?
As a technical volunteer, I can tell you how important it is to just have someone in leadership say a simple "thank you" – especially in the sometimes-hectic preparations leading up to special services or events.
And this gratefulness goes both ways!
Remember to thank those around you for the services they are providing. Reach out to other ministry teams and members to make sure they are appreciated by you.
Do your special Easter services feature new tech volunteers or worship team members? Be sure to make them feel welcome and important.
Remember the important quote from Carl W. Buehner:
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Another important tip for the tech:
Get Good Sleep!
You may be laughing at me right now, but this is important.
Getting a good night of sleep is critical for your physical and emotional health.
Your brain will be sharper, you'll ready to engage with those around you, and you'll be better physically prepared to handle the challenges of fast-paced live sound events.
One more thing... with good sleep, we'll be more present in the moment. And if we're not able to be present in the moment, then why are we here?
Sleep on it, then let me know what you think :)
To summarize those 5 Easter Tips:
- Get the spoken word sounding great
- Use EQ to dial in your sound
- Organize and prepare in advance
- Paint with sound and practice your mixing skills
- Take care of you and your people
I hope you have a blessed ~ and great sounding ~ Easter weekend.