Tips on Running Sound for Your Church

Basic Sound Essentials
Step One

Gain (Top Knob)
A key component to setting proper sound is setting each channel’s gain correctly
(Note: Gain is sometimes referred to as trim on some mixers.)

Since all instruments and microphones require a different amount of power to run properly, the gain is used to specifically provide the necessary power to each channel so that everything can be equal.

The gain is often mistakenly used as a volume knob. This can cause severe problems to speakers. Too much gain causes feedback. Too little gain causes volume loss and distortion, as well as a very “thin” sound over-all. Once properly set, gain should be left alone unless needed to fix a feedback problem.

To set each channel’s gain using LEDs. (Lights)
Main left and right sliders should be up just past half-way. Set all other sliders down and all EQ knobs set straight up.

Have someone sing into a microphone or play the instrument for that channel. No sound will be audible. Look for a yellow, green, or red light to blink as the microphone or instrument is used. Adjust the gain so light is always green. Yellow light=more gain. Red light= less gain.

Repeat for each channel being used. For simplicity, turn gain all the way off ONLY for channels never being used (empty channels). When an instrument or microphone needs to be added, follow the same steps above to set the gain for that specific channel.

After gain is set for each channel, it’s time to use the sliders to hear what we have. If any channel squeals (feed-back), simply lower that channel’s gain just until the squeal stops.

Some incorrect methods of stopping feed-back are:
1. Using the slider or the main volume to turn the channel down just to avoid feed-back
2. Lowering the High EQ knob to eliminate the feed-back.

These methods merely fix the symptom but not the problem. They also compromise the over-all sound. Only the gain should be used to fix feed-back. (Note: Microphone placement is also essential. Never hold a live microphone directly in front of a speaker. If you see a singer or someone speaking, especially with a wireless microphone, not paying attention and walking towards a speaker, keep your hand on that channel’s gain immediately to avoid disaster.)

Common EQ Settings (based on 3 band EQ)
Step Two

Being able to hear the vocal clearly is not just a matter of more volume. Many times volume can be adequate, but a bad EQ setting makes the vocal muddy and indistinct. After EQ is set, it should be left alone unless that channel’s input source is to be changed. Follow these general EQ settings for the following scenarios to ensure clear vocals and instruments.

Male Vocal
High 2 o’clock
Mid 10 o’clock
Low 12 o’clock

Female Vocal
High 2 o’clock
Mid 10 o’clock
Low 1 o’clock

Keyboard/ Piano
High 1 o’clock
Mid 10 o’clock
Low 12 o’clock

Acoustic Guitar
High 1 o’clock
Mid 12 o’clock
Low 1 o’clock

Electric Guitar
High 2 o’clock
Mid 12 o’clock
Low 12 o’clock

Harmonica/ Violin/Flute
High 2 o’clock
Mid 10 o’clock
Low 10 o’clock

Additional Recommendations

Only channels that are empty and never used should be muted. Once each working channel is set correctly, there is seldom a need to mute them during a service. Leaving the channels un-muted insures that all instruments and microphones will be on and available in a moment’s notice when a song leader needs them. Microphones and instruments have either an on/off switch or a volume control from the platform should the need arise.

Rather than using colored tape that is difficult to distinguish or is often covered by the vocalist’s hand to identify a microphone, it is helpful to use plain white surgical tape on the microphone and mixer, writing the vocalist’s name on each for identification. This way, each vocalist uses the same microphone every time, so re-adjusting Volume, EQ, and Effects settings is unnecessary. It is much easier to identify an individual singer quickly by sight than to determine what color tape they might be holding. (Note: Guest singers, for example, may simply be instructed to use “Linda’s” microphone or whichever one is going to be available.)

98% of interference can be avoided by these simple steps:
1. Never cross instrument or microphone cables with electric/ power cables. When this is unavoidable, place a non-metallic barrier between them such as a piece of wood, plastic, or rubber.
2. If a microphone is not being used consistently, remove it, its cable, and stand to storage for when needed. This makes for a cleaner and safer platform area as well as less confusion and noise. It can always be added as needed.
3. Use the shortest length cables possible. Using 25 ft microphone cables to reach singers 5 feet away creates a tangled mess and potential for noise. 10 ft microphone cables would provide plenty of slack and would eliminate as much as 45 feet of excess cable on the platform.

Also, some very nice panning effects can be utilized when running stereo which would make the group sound fuller without excess volume. (Example: The lead vocal would be heard in the center, the back-up vocals would be panned left and right respectively, matching the side of the platform they are standing on. Piano would be heard in the center while auxiliary instruments such as guitars, drums, back-up keyboard, etc� would be panned in similar fashion. The end result is the music has more depth and clarity.

Ultimately, the worship team and sound personnel must work tightly with one another. Even if the sound tech believes everything sounds fine in the back of the room, this is of little value if the worship team is unable to hear well. The sound tech is an extension of the worship team, not a separate entity. Measure by measure, the quality of the sound greatly influences the worship team’s ability to facilitate a spirit-filled flow for the congregation to tap into.

Growth is often accompanied by growing pains. But with a little patience, open hearts, and working together, any group will benefit from these focused efforts as you put your best foot forward to provide the best possible sound.

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