Is Sound Subjective? - Amazon Web Services

Is Sound Subjective? - Amazon Web Services
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BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE EDITORS OF LIVE SOUND INTERNATIONAL
Is Sound
Subjective?
Going beyond the obvious answer
JUNE 2016 | PROSOUNDWEB.COM
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In This Issue
JUNE 2016
FEATURES
6 IS SOUND SUBJECTIVE? Going beyond the obvious
to a deeper discussion. by Mike Sessler
24 THE RIGHT FIT Andrew Stone: injecting a passion
that translates to production success. by Erik Matlock
DEPARTMENTS
12 KNOWLEDGE BASE
Are your loudspeakers broken? The answer is often
“yes.” by Curt Taipale
16 PROJECT PROFILES
Details on a diverse range of recent church sound
system installations. (Continues on page 34 and 46.)
by Church Sound Staff
6
20 STRAIGHT PATH
A logical, intuitive approach to setting up the mixing
board. by Chris Huff
28 FUNDAMENTALS
Microphone techniques for a wide range of
instruments. by Craig Leerman
36 TROUBLESHOOTING
Identifying and correcting troublesome noises in sound
systems. by Mike Sokol
38 TRANSMISSIONS
Producing quality voice-based podcasts of sermons
and more. by Mike Sessler
24
42 MIX ESSENTIALS
The beginning of the path to becoming a master of EQ.
by John Mills
44 Z’S CORNER
Not so random musings about sonic imaging and
in-ear monitors. by Gary Zandstra
IN EVERY ISSUE
4 ED NOTE
48 THE WRAP
34
2
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
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ChurchSound
Ed Note
JUNE 2016
Welcome to the second Church
Sound supplement from the editors of Live Sound International and
ProSoundWeb.
This publication is a true joy to put
together. Our authors, with more
than 125 years (conservatively) of
experience with sound reinforcement
in church/worship applications, bring
both superior knowledge of the art
and science of audio combined with plenty of good cheer.
The results of all of their dedicated work, and the willingness to share what they’ve learned, is what really makes it all
worthwhile – a journal that’s full of information of high benefit
to anyone working on the front lines of church sound tech.
As you’ll see in this issue, the focus is on the technical and
non-technical sides of the equation. Simply, it takes success
with both to reach an effective and fulfilling role in the quest for
excellence. Technical knowledge is powerful and much needed,
but it does far less good if it’s not shared and combined with
an understanding of the bigger picture.
As I noted in this space in our previous issue, also please
take advantage of the Church Sound section of ProSoundWeb,
where we host more than 700 reference articles, free and
available to anyone who visits, 24/7. There you can find all of
the articles from our first edition of this supplement as well.
Further, expert advice regarding all aspects of church tech
can be had by visiting the Church Sound forum on PSW. And
on top of all that, many of our authors also run insightful
blogs/websites devoted to sound for worship, and I heartily
encourage you to visit them as well.
I hope you enjoy and benefit from this second edition of
Church Sound, and please don’t hesitate to contact me with
your thoughts and ideas via my e-mail address.
Keith Clark
Editor-in-Chief
Live Sound International/ProSoundWeb/Church Sound
kclark@livesoundint.com
A supplement of Live Sound International
111 Speen Street, Suite 200, Framingham, MA 01701
800.375.8015 | www.livesoundint.com
PUBLISHER Kevin McPherson, kmcpherson@ehpub.com
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Keith Clark, kclark@livesoundint.com
SENIOR EDITOR M. Erik Matlock, ematlock@livesoundint.com
SENIOR CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Craig Leerman
cleerman@livesoundint.com
ART DIRECTOR Katie Stockham, kstockham@ehpub.com
CONTRIBUTORS Chris Huff, John Mills, Gary Zandstra, Mike
Sessler, Mike Sokol, Curt Taipale, M. Erik Matlock, Craig Leerman
ProSoundWeb.com
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Keith Clark, kclark@prosoundweb.com
SENIOR EDITOR M. Erik Matlock, ematlock@livesoundint.com
PRODUCT SPECIALIST Craig Leerman,
cleerman@prosoundweb.com
WEBMASTER Guy Caiola, gcaiola@ehpub.com
ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Jeffrey Turner
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REPRINTS: Wrights Reprints
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On The Cover:
Renkus-Heinz VARIA arrays
flying and a networked
Yamaha CL5 digital console
at front of house at The
Church at Liberty Square
in Cartersville, GA.
4
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JUNE 2016
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Houses of Worship where volunteers are a vital part of the ministry, with this family of consoles,
learning how to mix on one series teaches you the fundamentals necessary to mix on the next.
Whether transitioning from a remote campus to the main worship center or upgrading your church
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Yamaha Corporation of America • P. O. Box 6600, Buena Park, CA 90620-6600 • ©2016 Yamaha Corporation of America
Perspective
IS SOUND SUBJECTIVE?
Going beyond the obvious to a deeper discussion.
by Mike Sessler
YOU CAN TUNE A PIANO, BUT...
When it comes to PA tuning, ask 10 people how to do it and you’ll get 11 answers.
But it basically boils down to two main
schools of thought. The first says the system should be as linear as possible; that
is, what comes out of the console should
also come out of the PA. When you look
at a transfer function graph of a system
tuned for this goal, it should be pretty
close to flat across the audio spectrum.
Before we go any further, note that
in an actual live room, a system is never
totally flat. There are always slight anomalies. Even if you do manage to get it
totally flat, it can change significantly
simply by moving the measurement
6
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
COURTESY OF CAMILLE KING
T
he other day I was pursuing
one of the many online audio
groups and came across a question from someone who I believe to be
a volunteer sound tech at a church. He
was asking if sound is subjective. He’d
been dealing with various other leaders
in the church and was struggling to come
up with a consensus on whether there
was “good” sound or if it’s all in the ear
of the beholder.
As someone who has been party to
many of these discussions, I’m going
to provide my thoughts. First, there’s
the topic of sound system (PA) tuning,
because without a well-tuned PA, good
sound is much harder to achieve. And
as you might expect, there are plenty of
opinions on how to tune.
Second, I want to dig into the difference between “subjective sound” and
“personal preference” when it comes to
mixing. I think these concepts are often
confused, and when we assert one as “correct” we get into trouble.
microphone about 3 feet. So when I say
a linear system is “flat,” I mean in general.
The other school of thought is to build
some tonal shaping into the system. This
normally includes what some call the
“bass haystack” – a 6 to 12 dB bump at
the low end that looks somewhat like
a haystack, and it usually also includes
some roll-off (cutting back) of the high
frequencies. How much is rolled off and
where it starts will vary, but it’s usually
in the order of 1 to 2 dB per octave above
1 to 4 kHz.
WHICH ONE IS RIGHT?
Many will argue to the death about which
method is correct (or present their own,
far superior method), because this is
that important. (That was sarcasm.) As
is often the case, much of it is personal
preference. I’ve heard and mixed on systems tuned both ways, and I (and my
ears) prefer the latter approach. I find
it to sound more musical and less harsh.
However, good friends of mine will
argue that mixing on a system tuned
this way is like mixing with blankets over
the loudspeakers. I can appreciate that.
Their approach to mixing is different
from mine and while we achieve similar
results, we go about it differently. I think
it’s possible to get a great sounding mix
either way.
Folks in either camp should agree
that the overall tune of the loudspeakers should be accurate. Aside from a
haystack (or not), and a subtle, linear
roll off of the high frequencies (or not),
the system should pretty much deliver
what comes out of the console. So while
we may be able to build consensus on a
couple of different ways that are “correct”
to tune a PA, there are a lot of ways to
really goof it up.
WHAT CAN AND CAN’T BE TUNED
Part of the problem stems from too many
badly (or not at all) designed systems
that simply cannot be tuned. I’ve seen
seating areas fully covered by two to three
www.ProSoundWeb.com
PERSPECTIVE
movement among some to assault the
audience with low end. In my opinion,
these mixes aren’t pleasant, and if we
listened to the band in a small room
(where there’s no need for a big PA), it
wouldn’t sound like that.
However, some bands want that sound.
As engineers, we’re an extension of the
band. If we’re doing our jobs correctly,
we’re delivering to the audience the
band’s vision of its music. This might
mean that we mix in a way that’s different from what we would prefer.
There’s a big “but” in that previous
paragraph. While there are preference
issues, the truth is sometimes we hear
mixes that are just horrid. A bad mix is
usually the result of a lack of training,
a lack of a musical ear, or someone who
just doesn’t care. One of those things
can be fixed. We also hear mixes that are
“OK,” but not very good. Sometimes it’s
an experience thing, other times it’s a lack
of understanding how music works. Not
everyone can do this – that’s one thing
we should all agree on.
OBJECT OF THE EXERCISE
Here’s an example. I don’t really listen to modern worship music outside
of church. I don’t like the way most of it
sounds or the way it’s mixed. However,
when I’m mixing in church, I do it the
way the band wants, which is usually the
way it sounds on the album. I listen to
the tracks we’re going to do for the weekend for a point of reference and try to
enhance that (and maybe move it a little
bit toward my preference), but overall, I
work hard to deliver what the band (and
worship leader) want.
It doesn’t really matter that much
what we as engineers like. If your personal music preference is the Gaither
Vocal Trio, and your church loves to do
Bethel, don’t try to make Bethel sound
like Gaither. Make it sound like Bethel
or find a new church.
Finally, the mix is only ever going to
sound as good as the band on stage.
GIGO is a computer term that means
Garbage In, Garbage Out. Basically, if
you put bad data into a computer, you
get bad results. The same goes with putting a bad band on stage – pretty much
all the mix engineer can do is make them
louder, not better.
I’ve seen pastors berate the sound
operator when the real problem is on
stage. I’ve wanted to tell them, “Pastor,
it’s not his fault, the band is just terrible.” One time a person emailed me
to ask what plugins or mics would get
that “huge drum sound” heard on some
album. I replied, “First, hire that drummer. Second, have him bring his drums.
That should get you pretty close.”
Generally speaking, the point of live
music mixing is to reproduce (reinforce)
and make louder what is happening on
stage, and to do so as accurately as possible. I say generally speaking because there
can be things happening on stage that
aren’t pleasant, and a good mix engineer
either fixes or eliminates them.
In addition to making it louder, engineers can also enhance the audio experience by using things like effects and
various mixing techniques. But they’re
never the goal; no one comes to a concert
to hear the engineer’s super-groovy plate
reverb on the snare – they come to hear
the band.
W hile most engineers will agree
with this, in practice there’s quite a
bit of deviation. For example, there’s a
8
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
COURTESY OF DEFKREATIONZ
loudspeakers that are at radically different distances from the seats. The comb
filtering that ensues can’t be fixed with
electronics. I’ve also seen systems with
loudspeakers that are entirely wrong for
the space. Sure, they make sound, but it’s
so uncontrolled there’s no way to make
it sound good. And I’ve seen entire seating sections completely off-axis of the
loudspeakers, and there’s no electronic
fix for that either.
Then there are the crazy frequency
response traces from systems I’ve been
called in to fix. These are usually the
result of someone with just enough
knowledge to be dangerous playing with
all those “cool” EQ controls inside the
DSP. And I’ve observed, uh, interesting
curves on 31-band EQs on the master
buses of consoles. Cleaning all that up
makes a huge difference.
The bottom line is that while there’s
some space for preference and individual
taste when it comes to tuning a system,
putting 10 top-notch sound people in
a room with a competent system tech
will result in a general consensus of what
sounds good and is easy to mix on. And
it will be relatively easy to spot ways not
to do it. Now let’s delve into the tricky
world of mixing.
GETTING WHAT YOU PUT INTO IT
www.ProSoundWeb.com
PERSPECTIVE
THE POINT
Before closing, I want to touch on the
concept of politics. Not nation-state
politics, but the internal politics of the
church. We don’t like to talk about this,
preferring to believe that everyone is one
big happy family. Sometimes that’s true,
but often it’s not.
Where we run into trouble – especially
in church – is when there are multiple
objectives. Usually this is the case when
the leadership isn’t on the same page
when it comes to the musical portion of
the worship service. I’ve worked in these
environments and it’s no fun.
When the senior pastor wants All Sons
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and Daughters and the worship leader
wants Hillsong Young and Free, the sound
engineer is stuck in the middle. We can’t
serve two masters, especially if they want
very different things. When the pastor
keeps saying, “Turn it down!” and the
worship leader is yelling, “Crank it up!”
it’s a losing proposition. To be clear: this
is a leadership issue, not a mix issue.
It usually happens when a church finds
itself aging, so to appeal to a younger
crowd, leadership brings in a younger,
cool and loud worship pastor who immediately changes the musical style. This
leads to all kinds of conflict, and as
noted, the sound people get caught in
the middle.
Another big challenge is when a pastor
won’t tell the sound and worship teams
what he wants musically, but will tell
them what he doesn’t like. You start to
hear comments like, “I don’t like that,
it doesn’t fit our culture.” When asked,
“OK, what would you like to hear?” the
reply is, “I don’t know, but I’ll tell you
when I hear it.”
This drives me nuts. You’re not leading
when you’re simply saying “no” all the
time until the team stumbles on the “yes.”
Pastors, if you want to continually frustrate your teams and make their lives miserable, don’t give them any direction, just
shoot down everything they do because
you don’t like it.
One of the easiest ways to settle the
“sound problem” is to choose a musical
style that fits the culture of the church.
Not every church is cut out for Bethel.
Not every church does well with traditional hymns. Find the style that fits the
congregation and mix appropriately. If
you do that, the other problems get a
whole lot easier to solve. CS
Mike Sessler has been involved with
church sound and live production for than
25 years, and is the author of the Church
Tech Arts (churchtecharts.org) blog. Based
in Nashville, he serves as project lead for
CCI Solutions, which provides design-build
production solutions for churches and other
facilities.
29/03/16 10.56
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ARE YOUR LOUDSPEAKERS
BROKEN?
The answer is often
“yes,” and there are some
simple solutions.
by Curt Taipale
W
hen was the last time that you listened analytically
to the loudspeakers in your sanctuary and perhaps
other spaces? I mean really, truly listened to them?
The reason that I ask is because easily 80 percent of the church
loudspeaker systems that I’m invited to evaluate and re-voice
(“tune,” “EQ,” “optimize,” etc.) have something seriously wrong
with them – something that the church sound techs and pastoral
staff are totally unaware of.
Sometimes sound techs might be suspicious that things don’t
quite sound right, but they just can’t pin their finger on what it is,
let alone which loudspeaker has the problem. Often they say that
they haven’t had time to sort it out. And the reality is that most
don’t own the test gear to help them dig deeper into the problem.
Think there might be a problem here? (Figure 1) The relatively
“flat” black trace is the frequency response at a main seating
section. The purple trace is the frequency response of the same
model of loudspeaker aiming at the adjacent seating area. Those
seated in the house left section receive a good quality sound, yet
those seated just across the aisle hear no high frequencies at all.
Although this might be just a loose wire, more than likely the
high-frequency driver in the loudspeaker aimed at the house
right seating section is blown. The worship pastor and tech team
Figure 1: Comparison of two loudspeakers covering adjacent
seating areas.
12
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
just knew that the sound coverage wasn’t even, but didn’t know
why. You can imagine the raised eyebrows when I revealed this
fact to them!
THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS
On the same trip, I visited another church in a town 150 miles
away where I discovered that one of the stage monitors was
wired out of polarity. I walked on stage with the four monitors
lit up and knew within three seconds that one of them was
out of polarity. It’s an unmistakable sound character that can
anyone can identify quickly once they’re taught.
Now, I knew that one of the monitors was wired incorrectly,
but I didn’t know which one, let alone where the incorrect
connection was. It could be anywhere. So I took a moment to
prove it out with a TEF analyzer.
I’ve turned off the frequency response trace in this graph
(Figure 2) to focus on the phase (it wasn’t pretty). The green
and magenta traces show the phase response of those two floor
monitors. Note that one of the two traces shows a polarity reversal
as compared with the other.
A little investigation and frankly some head scratching ultimately pointed to the fact that the wiring inside the floor box
was inverted on one of the four Neutrik SpeakON connectors.
The astute reader quickly grasps the fact that this system had
been wired this way for years and yet no one had recognized
there was a problem. The vocalists on stage had simply accepted
the fact that this was normal.
Miswiring a connector is easy enough to do if one is in a hurry
and doesn’t have a magnifying glass to read the ridiculously
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small numbers stamped into the connector. But that’s no excuse
for not confirming proper polarity with the wiring. The installer
has a 50/50 chance of getting it right the first time!
On top of that, often the company that installed the system
didn’t pull individual cables to each loudspeaker. As a cost/
labor saving measure, many will parallel the loudspeakers if
they’re flown. Sure, this saves money, but the shortcut makes
it impossible to listen individually to each loudspeaker.
PAY ATTENTION TO POLARITY
A couple of years ago a well-known sound contracting company
was installing systems I’d designed at two separate projects.
Everything they installed in the main sanctuary worked perfectly.
But when I went to test the subwoofers in the gymnasium, there
was virtually no output.
The two subs were placed next to each other in a solid “bunker” built into the front edge of the platform, right on the center
line. So I asked them to pull the subs out of the bunker and
check the wiring, and sure enough – one of the two subwoofers
was wired out of polarity (i.e., the wires to the “positive” and
“negative” connection were reversed). Once the wiring was
corrected, the subs delivered the expected output.
As a sidebar: Remember that when a microphone picks up a
sound wave, the mic turns the acoustic energy into an electrical
signal. Every piece of mic information that I’ve ever read states
something to the effect that “a positive acoustic pressure applied
to the microphone diaphragm will produce a positive voltage on
pin 2 with respect to pin 3.” The sound system should be wired
such that when that condition exists, the loudspeaker drivers
push “out” towards the listener.
Of course that electrical signal is an alternating current (AC),
and the loudspeaker drivers are going to push out and then back
in response to that alternating acoustic pressure. But ideally we
would like the sound system energy to agree with the acoustic
energy it’s receiving.
If the entire system were wired in reverse polarity, it could
be argued that few listeners would hear the difference. The real
problem comes when one loudspeaker is wired out of polarity
with respect to the rest of the system, and its sound waves
interact with sound from other loudspeakers in that system.
Keep reading and I’ll share another story that clearly illustrates
what can happen from such a simple wiring mistake.
IT HAPPENED AGAIN...
Fast-forward to a second church clear across the country, where
a different installation crew from the same sound contractor
company was installing another system I’d designed. What
are the odds that this other crew would repeat the very same
mistake that their counterparts had done one week before?
You guessed it – one of the guys had wired one of the two subwoofers out of polarity, and I had to have them pull them out
of the bunker and correct the wiring mistake.
14
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
Figure 2: Two loudspeakers wired out of polarity.
The bottom line is that, despite what we might think otherwise, this stuff happens. Far too often. Often enough that I’ve
found that I can’t just trust the crew doing the install. I work
with some great installers, and they’re driven to make it right
the first time.
But even the best of us can get in a hurry or get lost in the
forest of cabling and accidentally invert the wiring. It happens.
But without someone taking the time to check on things before
the project is considered “complete,” you don’t know for certain
that everything was in fact done correctly. Worse, if you weren’t
around when the system was installed and you’ve “inherited”
it, you may have also inherited some surprise mistakes.
CONSTANT ATTENTION
Oh the stories I could tell, but I’ll save those for another time.
For now, what’s a church tech to do? For starters, never stop
listening analytically. If at all possible, at least once a year make
it a routine preventative maintenance step to go through the
loudspeaker system and carefully listen to each one individually.
Further, if possible, turn off all but one of the power amplifiers
so you can isolate and listen to (hopefully) just one loudspeaker
at a time. At least minimize what you’re hearing so that the
sound from the other loudspeakers isn’t masking the problem.
Loudspeaker drivers tend to fatigue over time. That is especially true for systems driven really hard. And if they’re driven
too hard, things can break. You may be absolutely convinced that
your system has never, ever been driven loud at all. Could it be
that maybe, just maybe, someone is in your sanctuary tonight
cranking up the loudspeaker system at 3 am when you’re sound
asleep? Stranger things have happened.
Your congregation deserves to hear the Word preached clearly,
as loud as needed, and without concern for feedback or muffled
sound. Don’t hesitate to hire a qualified professional with the
knowledge, the skills, the experience and the test equipment to
ensure that loudspeaker systems do their part with excellence. CS
Curt Taipale of Taipale Media Systems heads up Church Soundcheck.com, a thriving community dedicated to helping technical
worship personnel, as well as the Church Sound Boot Camp series
of educational classes held regularly throughout the U.S.
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Project Profiles
First Southern
Baptist Church
Pratt, KS
Faith Bible
Church
The Woodlands, TX
16
CHURCH SOUND
THE NEW SANCTUARY for this 800-member congregation has bypassed the ongoing shrinking of
the UHF spectrum by integrating six channels of
Audio-Technica System 10 PRO rack-mount digital
wireless systems operating in the 2.4 GHz range.
Specifically the church is utilizing four handheld
transmitters, as well as two body packs working
with earset microphones, for music and spoken
word applications.
Advanced Sound & Communication (Kansas City,
MO), which provided much of the new church’s AV
systems, first tried working with the existing wireless
system package. “The previous contractor did not
perform an on-site scan. The quantity of simultaneous systems was not recommended by the
manufacturer, and the frequencies chosen weren’t
recommended for Pratt, Kansas by the FCC,” explains
Brent Handy of Advanced Sound & Communication,
also noting how the area’s agricultural enterprises
take up much of the UHF spectrum for field communications and wireless internet. “After doing
research and scanning for a week, we could not find
enough UHF frequencies to work reliably,” he adds.
The situation changed when an Audio-Technica
rep visited Handy’s office and suggested the System
10 PRO. “It worked,” he says. “In fact, it worked so
well that I didn’t have to break the receivers and
antennas out of the chassis and mount them closer
to the stage; they’re actually in a rack underneath
the counter by the front of house mixer. You can
take those mics outside the building and they still
work. And just in time, really.” CS
THIS NEW FACILITY built for a thriving community just
outside Houston offers a fan-shaped auditorium for
approximately 1,000 worshippers, with a measured
reverb time of about 1.4 seconds, most active in the
lower frequencies. “It gives the room a beautiful
natural warm sound,” explains Bruce Simmons of
Texas-based contractors Hairel Enterprises. “As a new
build, we advised the church to engage the services
of acoustical consultants Jaffe Holden to design a
perfect worship environment, allowing for amplified
music and occasional choral performances.”
The system design offers a left-center-right (LCR)
deployment: three identical hangs of the smallest d&b
audiotechnik line array model, the T-Series Ti10L, with a
pair of J-SUB subwoofers flown immediately behind the
center array. “Imaging was the big challenge, but true
to d&b’s credo of ‘democracy for listeners’ we found
when we modeled in ArrayCalc, feeding the system
in mono produces a focus on center,” Simmons adds.
“The little E6s we arrayed across the stage lip for front
fill helped pull the image down for those first rows.”
Faith Bible Church house engineer BJ McGeever
states, “I don’t place a big emphasis on being
extremely loud, but rather being extremely clear.
One of my highest priorities was making sure that,
within reason, every seat in the room received a
clear and dynamic sound. Further, I naturally emphasize vocal clarity in my mixes – bringing the vocals
front and center was wonderfully easy. Even now,
months later, I’m often struck by how well covered
the room is, especially in the low end.” CS
JUNE 2016
www.ProSoundWeb.com
First Baptist
Church Of
Redlands, CA
Woodstock
City Church
Woodstock, GA
www.ProSoundWeb.com
THE CHURCH’S CURRENT HOME, built in 1952, is a
beautiful Spanish-style building housing a 480-seat
sanctuary, but the room’s classic architecture creates
problematic acoustics marked by poor intelligibility.
A recently implemented new system headed by
Renkus-Heinz Iconyx Gen5 loudspeakers, designed
and installed by Ireland Sound Systems (Upland,
CA), has solved the issues.
“The biggest requirement was superior intelligibility for spoken word,” recalls Patrick Ireland, owner of
Ireland Sound Systems. “However, the congregation
also has a praise band that plays at services, as well
as a choir and an organ. The Iconyx Gen5 system was
a clear choice because it handles both speech and
music extremely well, and it has plenty of power for
the praise band.”
Iconyx Gen5 is the company’s fifth generation of
digitally steered array technology, offering a wider
selection of configurations and added precision.
For the main front-of-house system, Ireland chose a
pair of Iconyx IC16-RN digitally steerable line arrays,
flown about 11 feet above the floor to the left and
right of the stage.
The layout of the sanctuary was a major consideration in choosing Iconyx Gen5. “The room is like so
many churches of this era, and covering that kind of
space with a conventional system is very challenging – consistent coverage to every seat is difficult to
achieve, and getting a system to convey natural sound
is problematic,” says Ireland. “But with Iconyx beam
steering and the added flexibility of the new Gen5
series, we didn’t have to compromise.” CS
BRANDON THOMPSON (pictured here), production
director at this campus of North Point Ministries, has
chosen to utilize Waves SoundGrid technology, along
with Waves Tracks Live and Waves plugins.
Specifically, he’s running the Waves MultiRack on
a DiGiCo SD9 digital console, joined by the Waves
Live bundle, Studio Classics Collection, Jack Joseph
Puig Signature Series, Analog Legends, CLA Classic
Compressors, C6 Multiband Compressor, EMI TG12345
Channel Strip, dbx160 Compressor/Limiter, and H-Reverb – all running on a SoundGrid Server One.
“Additionally,” Thompson notes, “we’re running
Waves Tracks Live as our preferred recording and
playback solution. The DiGiGrid MGB has been
super-useful to use with virtual sound check duties
for our DiGiCo SD9.”
He concludes, “Utilizing the MGB for 64 channels of
MADI audio, we copy all incoming stage rack audio to
the MGB. Then we track the rehearsal to Waves Tracks
Live running on a Mac Mini, and using the ‘Listen to
Copied Audio’ function on our SD9, and listen back
to all tracked audio right after the band has finished.
We spend a few hours working on mixes, adding in
Waves plugins via SoundGrid, and then bounce out
of the SD9 to an MP3 recorder, which is then posted
online for the band to listen to.” CS
JUNE 2016
CHURCH SOUND
17
Project Profiles
Christ
Presbyterian
Church
Edina, MN
Hillsong
Australia
18
CHURCH SOUND
THE 1,000-SEAT main sanctuary was recently outfitted with a new sound reinforcement system
designed and installed by REACH Communications
(Champlin, MN) that incorporates NEXO components.
A main line array includes four GEO S1210 modules
and one S1230 module, and two side arrays each
have two GEO S1230s and a GEO S1210.
REACH also added four of the new NEXO GEO
M620s for front fill along with ten PS8s for under
balcony fill. Three NXAmp 4x4 and two 4x1 amplifiers
power the loudspeakers, joined by five NXDT104 controllers. “The NEXO family was chosen for a variety
of reasons for this particular project,” says Brad
Van Voorst, project leader for REACH. “The room
is a highly reverberant space that really benefits
from the low frequency pattern control that a true
line array offers as well as the consistent phase
response between the different models within the
NEXO family.
“Being able to smoothly transition from the GEO
S12 array to the M6 front fills and the PS8 under-balcony fills was an important feature. Dante (networking) integration in the NXAmps kept the entire signal
chain digital, which helps to reduce the overall noise
floor. Speakers with a white finish were necessary,
given the traditional décor of the room.”
Last year, REACH had installed a Yamaha CL5 digital console with two Rio3224-D input/output boxes
in the sanctuary, and during the recent loudspeaker
installation, a BSS London BLU-806 processor was
added to the system so that Dante networking can
run directly from the console to the BLU806 and
then out to the NEXO amps. A Waves Server One
and a Waves plugin package were also added. CS
THIS MULTI-SITE CHURCH with campuses in Sydney,
Brisbane, Melbourne, Newcastle and several others,
as well as numerous international campuses around
the world, has partnered with Adamson Systems for
sound reinforcement at multiple venues.
“It started with our looking for a new system that
would better meet our needs for the City Centre
worship space in Sydney,” explains Hillsong production facilities manager Steve Le Roux. “At the
same time, we knew that there were existing systems in other venues that needed to be upgraded,
plus new churches under construction that would
require sound reinforcement. It made sense to be
incredibly thorough – we sat through many, many
product demonstrations – in order to decide upon
one manufacturer to work with for everything. In the
end, Adamson came out the clear winner.”
The main campus upgrade consists of E12 and
S10i line arrays as well as the recently released E119
subwoofer. “The subs are both compact and extremely
powerful – ideal for our City Centre space,” notes Hillsong head of audio Ricki Cook. “They provide serious
low end when needed while blending seamlessly with
the PA.” The majority of Hillsong sanctuaries planning
to install new sound systems in 2016 are mid-sized
venues. Most of those systems will rely upon S10i
arrays and S119 subs for sound reinforcement. CS
JUNE 2016
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Straight Path
CONSOLE ORGANIZATION
A logical,
intuitive
approach to
setting up the
mixing board.
by Chris Huff
I
t was a mix engineer’s nightmare. Vocal microphones for
singers were spread out across
console channels 2, 7, 10, and 13. To
make matters worse, they were labeled
across as C, A, D, and B – not even in
alphabetical order. The rest of the channel
assignments were no better. I wept. (Not
really but I felt like it.) What better way
to guarantee frustration and a slower
mixing process?
The tech at the church in this example
had employed a method many use when
new to live audio production – assigning channels in an order matching where
things are located on stage. Though this
might seem to make for a speedy way of
finding a channel, there’s a far better way.
The best console channel layout
approach makes channels easy to find,
easy to control, and easy for the next
person to use the board. No matter how
the stage is set – and musician placement
will change – it shouldn’t require channel
reassignment.
Think of it this way: when a pianist
reaches for a key, he doesn’t hesitate
because the key might have been moved.
In the same way, reaching for the snare
channel on a console should be as effortless.
LOGIC TO THE PROCESS
The standard order of channels is; drums,
bass, rhythm instruments, piano and
20
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
keyboards, percussion and other instruments, lead vocal, backing vocals, choir,
pastor, extra speaking microphones, and
finally, playback devices (CD, DVD, or
audio feed from the production room).
My personal preference is to have
empty channels after rhythm instruments and backing vocals. This enables
adding a channel if the band grows or
a guest musician or band comes in and
extra channels are required.
Drums have a specific order: kick,
snare, hi-hat, tom 1, tom 2, tom 3, overhead left, and overhead right. Where
a mic isn’t used, don’t leave a space, so
a minimal drum miking setup could be
kick, snare, and overhead. An alternative
drum order is by frequency (low to high);
kick, tom 1, tom 2, tom 3, snare, hi-hat,
overhead left, and overhead right. The
overheads are capturing everything, but
for channel assignment purposes, having
them at the end makes the most sense.
Rhythm guitars are arranged by type,
so a large band might have acoustic 1,
acoustic 2, rhythm electric, and lead electric. Specifying lead and rhythm is great
because when the band changes and different musicians take the stage, the channels
are routed according to their role. Need
to boost the lead guitar? Not a problem.
Guitarists can change roles within a
song or within a song set and it’s up to
the engineer to decide how to label these.
Using digital scribble strips and scenes,
labels can change per song. My preferred
method is to identify the guitarist who
plays lead the majority of the time and
label that one as “Lead.” Then, it’s a matter of knowing the song arrangements
come mix time.
Piano and keyboards come next. Keyboards can be set for a variety of uses, from
melody lines to synth pads. When a musician dedicates keyboards to these uses,
label them accordingly for easy mixing.
www.ProSoundWeb.com
This is followed by extra instruments,
from percussion instruments to violins
to whatever else is used. Order these by
usage popularity. For example, a band
with a regular percussionist and an
occasional violinist would have channels
assigned from left-to-right, with percussion and then violin.
Now we arrive at vocals (singers), and
the lead is first. For churches, I place the
worship leader in the first slot position
and label it “WL” (Worship Leader). I’ve
had many occasions when the worship
leader does not lead a song but will speak
when transitioning between songs. Also,
this channel will be excluded from mute
groups – more on that shortly. All other
vocal channels are labeled with the singer’s name.
Choir mics are best listed by their order
on the stage. And while it’s easy to think
all choirs mics should be set with the
same gain, fader level, and EQ, that’s usually not the case. Bass singers might be
all on the left side, while sopranos could
be off-center. Whatever the situation,
using the stage order aides in providing
a proper choir mix and easy tweaking.
(Trust me on the tweaking.)
Pastor mic labeling can go a few ways.
If there’s one pastor, the channel can
be labeled with the pastor’s name or as
“Pastor.” On analog consoles, I use the
generic term, but on digital consoles I
use their name. All other speaking mics
should be listed next. If there’s a dedicated
spare microphone, place it at the end of
this section. Remaining channels will be
assigned to input devices and can be listed
in alphabetical order, nothing complicated.
boards, guitars, and backing vocals. If
there’s a percussionist with several mics,
add a percussion group. I add the bass
guitar to the drum group because I don’t
want the bass to disappear if I boost the
drums. Another option is to add a low-
Before starting, review
the console for channel
layout, mix groups, and
mute groups.
MIX GROUPS
Once all channels are assigned, these
channels can be assigned to mix groups
which allow for easy control over multiple
channels like boosting a balanced drum
mix, adjusting backing vocals, and making other mid-song adjustments.
Create mix groups for drums, key-
end group just for the kick and bass.
Mix groups for backing vocalists need to
be adjusted when the lead singer changes.
With the scenes provided by digital consoles this is easy. With analog consoles,
I put all singers (lead included) into the
vocal group and make sure to tweak the
channel level balance between songs.
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STRAIGHT PATH
MUTE GROUPS
An open mic at the wrong time can be
disastrous and muting all of the required
channels can be a chore in itself. I’ve seen
a sound tech muting channels when the
band was leaving the stage but the guitarist unplugged before their channel
was muted. Pow!
Mute groups provide the ability to
mute multiple channels at the same
time. Assign channels to mute groups
in much the same way as mix groups
with a few exceptions. Keep the pastor
and worship leader out of mute groups.
A worship leader may lead the congregation in communion or be the last voice
Use this standard
channel layout and
mixing will become much
like playing a piano –
reaching for channels
instinctively rather than
hunting and pecking.
of the service while the rest of the band
is exiting the stage. Much the same can
be said of the pastor.
Mute groups and mix groups are especially helpful with digital consoles that use
channel layers (banks), such as when a console has 24 channels but only 12 faders. The
less jumping between layers, the better.
UPHOLDING STANDARDS
Use this standard channel layout and
mixing will become much like playing
a piano – reaching for channels instinctively rather than hunting and pecking.
In cases where there’s an audio team,
make this standard layout mandatory.
Not only does it improve mixing speed
and provide added controls, but when a
sound tech calls in sick (not like that ever
happens), another tech can step in and
not miss a beat.
I’ve been called at the last minute to
mix an event, and a standard channel
layout made my job easy. But I’ve shown
up with the console in complete disarray,
making my job so much harder.
Before embarking on this process,
review the console for channel layout,
mix groups, and mute groups. It might
mean a few changes must be made or
it’s time to start from scratch. Whatever
the case, it will lead to easier mixing and
bring order to an aspect of mixing and
sound operation that demands it. CS
Chris Huff is a long-time practitioner of
church sound and writes at Behind The Mixer
(www.behindthemixer.com), covering topics
ranging from audio fundamentals to dealing
with musicians – and everything in between.
22
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
www.ProSoundWeb.com
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In the Trenches
THE RIGHT FIT
Andrew Stone at front of
house at COTM in Tulsa.
Andrew Stone injects a passion that translates
to production success. by Erik Matlock
C
hurch on the Move (COTM) in Tulsa is the home to
Pastor Willie George, a passionate minister who was
first introduced to me through a series of videos that
my oldest daughter watched in children’s church. That was over
20 years ago, and COTM has since grown into one of the most
respected and well-known churches in America.
At the helm of the church’s seven-day-a-week schedule, assuming responsibility for all aspects of live production, is another
person I’ve found to be equally passionate about his mission:
Andrew Stone. He claims to have never even held a “real job,”
only audio and production gigs ranging from touring engineer
to consultant, and his present position bears the title of production manager for the 300-acre campus with 18 staff member
schedules to manage in his department alone.
A LONG ROAD
Originally a drummer who toured internationally with the Oral
Roberts University ministry teams, Stone eventually transitioned to the other end of the snake. His skills and passion
landed him at the front of house position for a diverse range
of bands, both Christian and secular – Third Day, Kitaro, and
24
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
Psychedelic Furs, to name a few.
Born and raised in Oklahoma, but at that time residing in the
Nashville area, he was contacted by an old friend from the ORU
touring days, seeking a recommendation. “The church needed
help in production,” Stone explains, “and basically wanted to
know if I knew anyone who might be a fit for them.”
After he met with the church staff and spent a week consulting
on production changes and improvements, they had a different
question: Are you the guy? The timing seemed ordained. He
and his wife Natasha were in the process of contemplating the
future and whether or not touring was to be their life, as well
as thinking about returning to Oklahoma to be closer to family.
Without knowing it at the time, their lives were about to make
a drastic change, with Stone repositioned directly in the path of a
new career in church production. He took on the new role at COTM.
FOCUS ON WORK & HOME
He also operates Rock Productions to provide freelance production services, and in addition, is involved in helping other
churches to achieve a more professional level, working with
partners Lee Fields and Jeff Sandstrom on MxU (mxu.rocks),
www.ProSoundWeb.com
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IN THE TRENCHES
which travels the country training church technicians on the
latest technology and techniques.
“What we began to notice,” he says, “was that with many
of the church technical conferences, a lot of people who were
attending still didn’t feel secure about what they were doing.
So in creating and providing the type of training sessions that
we wanted to attend, we make sure that everyone leaves with
something that makes them more confident.”
Stone also contributes to COTM’s Seeds ministry (seeds.churchonthemove.com) which makes useful tools and techniques available to assist other growing churches. He places a heavy emphasis
on training his team as well as others, joined by an intense passion
for taking personal matters as seriously as his ministry life.
“One of the biggest challenges for me is the fact that I really
enjoy what I do, and I’m also surrounded by a team that feels
the same way,” he says. “Part of my job, in scheduling these
folks, is making sure they’re taking time off and focusing on
their home life; literally making them go home sometimes.
“Taking a day of rest is still one of the Ten Commandments,”
he continues. “We have protect ourselves from burnout by
separating ourselves from our work and resting. If we fail to
follow that simple rule, it affects everything including our
families and home life.”
graduate from; it’s pure on-the-job training. Safety and techniques are covered, skills are assessed, but the real education
comes from getting hands on the gear and working. “I don’t
really know how the other churches do it. This is how we do it,
and it works quite well,” he says.
STAYING ENGAGED
There’s also a transition underway at COTM as Pastor George begins
the process of moving his son Whitney into the senior pastor role.
This against a backdrop of the church also pulling back on outward
projects in an attempt to focus on its own internal health.
Much like Stone’s passion for maintaining boundaries and
protecting home life, the church itself is taking a season to rest
and care for its own. Still, the focus remains on not getting
complacent, to work diligently at constant improvement in the
pursuit of consistent technical excellence.
“I try to remind everyone that they do have a voice,” he notes.
“Everyone has something to contribute. Speak up and engage.
All these people have great ideas. We’re creative beings, and
some of the most creative people are on the tech staff. I don’t
GRANTING RESPONSIBILITY
Stone also makes a point of telling tech team members to speak
up, whether with problems at church or at home. “We’ve been
purposeful in making them know that this is a very busy place
and they have to let us know if there’s an issue,” he points out.
“It’s so much better to have a relationship where they can let
us know when they’re tired or having problems.
“I make sure they know that speaking up is their responsibility,” he adds. “It’s tough when someone waits five years and
all of the sudden they’re burned out and just want to quit.”
Another piece of the puzzle is offering salient advice to technical
directors for leading their teams and recruiting volunteers. “If I
interview a potential volunteer, I’m much less enthusiastic about
someone telling me how they’ve done things as compared to someone who is asking about how we do things,” he points out. “What
I’m most interested in is finding people who are eager to serve
instead of someone who is eager to perform. Performing makes
it all about ‘me’ while in production, it’s all about serving others.”
He has a process that has been developed over years of experience for training new tech volunteers. It starts with finding
the lowest common denominator, their baseline of experience,
whether it be on camera or with stage crew, and then putting
them into a worship service to see how they fit.
“Any kind of training we do, involves immediately immersing
them in the real situation,” he says. “There’s no classroom or blackboard. We will have them shadow someone who’s already doing the
job and see how they pick it up and respond in real time. They may
only be listening in on a headset, but they’re part of the action.”
So from the first day, interns are on the job. No courses to
26
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
Stone staying busy
in the midst of one
of COTM’s production-heavy services.
want to see someone just standing there with their hands in
their pockets when they might have the exact solution we need.”
With this expected assertiveness comes responsibility in being
proactive to improve the team and production quality. “We never
have to ask permission to take responsibility. I don’t want to hear
anyone tell me that something isn’t their job or their problem.
It’s never someone else’s problem. Own it, take responsibility.
Start being part of the solution. The people who engage and take
responsibly are the ones who find real success. The best leaders
are there because they spoke up and contributed.”
In the words of a pastor I once served under: “Success without
a successor is ultimately failure.” Church on the Move seems to
be a prime example of success built on developing passionate
successors. CS
Senior editor M. Erik Matlock has worked in professional audio
for more than 20 years in live, install, and recording, including time
as a church tech and media director.
www.ProSoundWeb.com
Fundamentals
CHOICES & PLACEMENTS
Techniques
for miking a
wide range of
instruments.
by Craig Leerman
G
reat sound starts at the source,
with the proper microphone in
the right position to capture
the sound of the instrument and vocals.
A “proper” mic doesn’t mean the most
expensive; many modern mics priced
below $200 work very well for live sound
applications.
The difference between a good and
great mic can be quite audible when heard
over quality monitors in a recording studio but may be less audible when heard
over a sound reinforcement system in a
reflective room full of people. A proper
mic is simply one that has the required
pickup pattern and frequency range for
the intended purpose.
Since the majority of the mics available
from reputable manufacturers do what
they’re designed to, I look for rugged
models with low handling noise that can
handle high sound pressure levels (SPL)
for use on stage. A key is using directional
mics and placing them in good positions
where they pick up the intended sounds,
and reject other sounds onstage like stage
monitors or adjacent instruments.
In fact, before even selecting mics
for the stage, I take a look at how the
instruments are set up and what that
will mean in terms of stage volume and
the leakage of sound from one area to
another. The goal, as much as possible, is
to prevent unwanted sounds leaking into
mics by moving instrument amplifiers or
even pointing them offstage, or placing
28
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
blankets or plexiglass between amplifiers
and acoustic instruments. In addition,
monitor wedges should be positioned
so they point into the null lobes of mics.
(The null lobe is where a mic picks up the
least amount of sound.)
PRINCIPLES OF OPERATION
Once the stage is set, it’s time to select
the mics, a process of selecting the “best”
model for each instrument from my kit.
But first, here’s a quick primer.
Mics are usually categorized by the
conversion process that’s used to turn
acoustical energy into electricity. The
most common type used on live stages
are dynamic designs that work on the electromagnet principle where a coil of wire
is attached to the diaphragm and moves
by a magnet, creating electricity as the
sound waves push against the diaphragm.
Dynamics can be very rugged and resilient
An Audio-Technica ATM650 hypercardioid
dynamic mic on a snare drum.
to rough handling, but because there’s
added mass attached to the diaphragm,
they may not respond as quickly to
changes in sound pressure as other types.
Condensers have gained in popularity
in the live world, with many newer models robust enough to withstand abuse.
They have two plates with a voltage
between them. One plate is made of very
light and flexible material, and acts as the
diaphragm. The diaphragm vibrates when
struck by sound waves, changing the distance between the two plates, which in
turn changes the capacitance, producing
an electrical signal.
Condenser diaphragms are not connected to a coil mass. They respond to
transients and higher frequencies very
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well, enhancing sensitivity and the ability
to capture high-frequency detail with
more accuracy. A variation of the condenser is the electret, which uses a fixed
charge on one of the plates. Note that
condensers require a power source (phantom power or batteries).
The vast majority of mics are unidirectional, with pickup patterns including
cardioid, supercardioid and hypercardioid. In general, they reject sounds from
directions other than the front (at various degrees), and this is highly desirable
given all of the noise on a typical stage
as well as from the room.
Cardioid mics have a wider but directional pickup pattern with a large null
zone at the rear, so they’re a good choice
for general miking as well as vocalists.
Supercardioids are more focused to favor
sounds from the front and have greater
attenuation at their sides – about 10 dB
– exhibiting minimum sensitivity 140
to 150 degrees off-axis, with a minor
secondary response lobe at their rear.
Hypercardioids are even slightly more
focused and distinguished by minimum
response 110 to 120 degrees off-axis at
the expense of a slightly larger rear lobe.
Another way mics are categorized is
by their intended use on instruments
or vocals, but many (applied properly)
sound good in either application. One
phenomenon that comes into play is
proximity effect – the closer a mic is
to a sound source, the more the lower
frequencies are pronounced. Some mics
address this issue with acoustic tuning,
low-cut switches, or electronic processing.
serve a lot of different types of shows
with visiting engineers, and while they
may request a particular mic for an
instrument or vocalist, if I don’t have it,
they can still get the job done with my
familiar models.
As a result of decades of this work with
so many types of performances on a wide
range of stages and in an equally wide
range of venues, I’ve been able to formulate mic choices and placements for
instruments that work well or that can
at least serve to get you started.
Acoustic guitar. Place a small-diaphragm condenser at about the 12th
fret position, approximately 8 inches
from the guitar, and point it toward the
sound hole. This location gets a good
balance of the instrument while being
out of the way of the musician. Roll off
everything below 70 Hz and above 16
kHz, and pay attention to the 100 to
250 Hz region because it may need a bit
of a cut as well.
Ukulele. These small instruments
have become popular in recent years
and range from baritone to soprano.
A small-diaphragm condenser pointed
between the sound hole and the neck,
about 8 to 10 inches away from the body
of the guitar, is a good starting point.
Roll off everything under 150 Hz and
above 16 kHz.
Electric guitar amplifier. Position a
dynamic mic about 2 inches away from
the cabinet, pointed about halfway
between the center of the speaker cone
and the edge of the speaker. For amplifiers with more speakers, just mike one
of them. Move the mic toward the center
of the cone for a brighter sound. As with
an acoustic guitar, get rid of everything
under 70 Hz and above 16 kHz. With
more than one guitar player (and amp)
on stage, try to give each instrument its
own distinct tone so they both fit in the
mix. If a player uses heavy distortion,
thin out the sound by decreasing in the
MATCHING IT UP
As a general rule, it’s preferable to use
larger diaphragm dynamics on low-frequency instruments like kick drum,
floor tom or bass guitar; medium-sized
dynamics on more general instruments
(such as guitar amps) and vocals; and
small-diaphragm condensers for higher
pitched or softer-sounding instruments.
My company’s “mic locker” contains
mostly common industry standard models that most sound people know. We
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A single-speaker guitar amp and a quad-speaker amp, both miked with a single dynamic.
JUNE 2016
CHURCH SOUND
29
FUNDAMENTALS
70 to 150 Hz so there’s room in the mix
for the kick drum and bass guitar.
Acoustic bass. Normally, upright bass
players have a pickup or mic already
installed on their instruments if they
use an amplifier, so just tap off the mic
or use a direct (DI) box for a direct feed.
For instruments with no pickups, and
if the player doesn’t move around a lot,
place a large diaphragm dynamic on a
short stand, pointed at the middle to
top of the sound hole (the F hole) on the
low string side so it’s positioned above
the bridge. Some folks like to position
the mic on the treble string side, but
I find that the high notes seem to be
a bit louder on most of these instruments, so I opt for placement on the
low string side.
If the player moves around a lot, clamp
a small mic on the instrument (And be
sure to ask for permission from the musician before doing this.) I have some older
small condenser mics with gooseneck
horn mounts that, while designed for
brass, work well attached to the bridge
of a bass pointing at the sound hole. I’ve
also found a variety of other small gooseneck instrument mics that do the trick.
If you don’t have any small clip on
instrument mics, a trick using rubber
bands can be employed. Loop one rubber band around each side of the bridge
so the end loop of each band is hanging
toward the middle of the bridge under the
strings. Then wrap the band ends around
a small dynamic or condenser mic that
points up toward the neck. The rubber
Multiple mics applied to capture a typical
drum kit. And note the sandbags ballasting
down the overhead stands.
bands act as a suspension mount and
by securing the mic’s cable to the bass
tailpiece with gaff tape, the mic is secured
into a stable position.
Electric bass. While a DI box is normally placed between an electric bass
and the amplifier, my preference is
to also mike the bass amp if an extra
channel is available, especially if the
bass player uses effects in his/her signal
chain. A large- and sometimes a medium-diaphragm dynamic usually works
well for this. As with a guitar cabinet,
position the mic about 2 inches away
from the cabinet, pointed about halfway
between the center of the cone and the
edge of the speaker.
Several mics handling a percussion section.
30
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
Drums Kits. The only way to attain good
drum sound is to start with a well-tuned
kit. As a sound person who also plays
drums, I’ve been known to “help” drummers get their kits in tune. The goal with
mic placement is to get a quality, natural
sound from the drum you’re trying to
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pick up while rejecting the sound of the
others as much as possible. This generally dictates utilizing mics with tighter
polar patterns. There are a wide range
of quality options available in terms of
mics that are primarily designed for drum
applications. And unless the kit is in a
small room/space, my approach is to mike
each drum individually and also employ
overhead mics.
Kick drum. Employ a large-diaphragm
dynamic that can handle high SPL. If the
drum has a hole in the front head, position the mic just inside to just outside the
hole, depending on the sound, and point
it toward the center of the batter head. If
there’s not a hole in the front head, opt
for a batter head placement, positioning
the mic between the kick pedal and the
edge of the drum head.
Some mics for kick drums have a
flat response but many have a contour
designed to enhance the sound with
minimal EQ changes. No matter the
mic, pay attention to the 60 to 100 Hz
region, because this is usually where the
There are entire book
chapters devoted to
miking pianos, but I
stick with a few simple
methods.
kick sound will set in the mix. For more
punch, try adding a bit of compression,
with a 20 to 40 millisecond attack and a
2:1 ratio, and set the threshold for just
a bit of gain reduction.
Toms. Smaller dynamics do the job here,
placed 2 to 4 inches from the drum head
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Snare. Again, smaller dynamics work
well, placed similarly as on the toms,
about 2 to 4 inches away, near the edge,
and pointing in toward the center. For
more snap, a mic for the bottom head can
be added, usually another dynamic but
sometimes a small condenser. It should
point at the drum’s snares, about onethird from the edge of the head. Be sure
to swap the polarity on the bottom mic
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near the rim and pointing in toward the
head, out of the drummer’s way. This
provides a complete picture of the drum
fundamental (center of the head) and
overtones (closer to the edge). I prefer to
use drum clips and claws for attachment
because they present a cleaner look. In
addition, I don’t like to gate toms (or any
drums for that matter), but will gate rack
toms if the snare is really loud and bleeds
into the tom mics.
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JUNE 2016
CHURCH SOUND
31
FUNDAMENTALS
(by using an adapter that swaps XLR pins
2 and 3 or the often mislabeled “phase”
switch on the console channel) so the
sound doesn’t get too thinned out.
Hi-hat cymbal. A small condenser is preferred but if one’s not available, go with a
dynamic. Place the mic so it doesn’t pick
up a lot of snare or toms, and try to make
sure that any instrument amplifier near
the mic is in a null zone. Roll off everything under 180 Hz and above 14 kHz.
Overheads. These are useful in helping
to pick up cymbals as well as the overall
kit sound. Most engineers choose small
condensers for this application. Position
the mics at a height of 7 to 8 feet, with
one pointed at the ride cymbal and the
other aimed at the cymbals on the other
side of the drum kit. Roll off everything
under 200 Hz, and place sandbags on the
mic stands so they stay in place.
Percussion. These instruments come
in three flavors: struck by hands (i.e.,
congas and bongos), struck with sticks
(i.e., timbales), and handheld (a.k.a.,
“toys”) that are shaken or struck (i.e.,
tambourines and maracas). Close mike
hand- and stick-played percussion, with
the mic positioned 2 to 4 inches above
the head near the edge, looking in toward
the center of the head. Roll off everything
below 100 Hz and pay attention to the
2 to 5 kHz range in the EQ to help bring
the instruments out in the mix if need be.
For percussionists who sing, their vocal
mic can double as the toy mic, and if not,
place a cardioid dynamic on a stand for
the handheld instruments and roll off
everything under 150 Hz.
Grand Piano. There are entire book
chapters devoted to miking pianos, but
I stick with a few simple methods and
they all seem to work well depending
on the situation. For a grand piano, if
it’s feasible to open the lid to the highstick position, place two condenser mics
about 12 inches above the strings about
8 to 10 inches away from the hammers.
32
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
In addition to stand-mounted mics, several manufacturers also offer clip-on miniature mics for
instruments that work well.
They can be located together around the
middle of the harp, with one pointing
at the high strings and the other aimed
at the bass strings. If the middle strings
seem too loud, separate the mics a bit. If
the lid can only be at the low-stick position, try side-address condensers in the
positions above but place them a little
closer to the strings, then separate them
as needed to get a balanced volume across
the keyboard.
Another option with the lid at lowstick position (or with a closed lid) is to
use surface-mounted “boundary” microphones. This method will work with any
type of flat boundary mic. Tape a mic to
the lid about halfway between the middle
of the keyboard and the highest string,
and then tape a second mic about halfway
between the middle strings and the lowest string. Try to keep the mics at least 8
inches from the hammers and dampers.
Being closer to the hammers results in a
brighter sound and attack but if they’re
too close, they can pick up mechanical
noises from the dampers on soft musical
passages.
Once for a theatrical production, the
lid had to be closed. I taped a boundary
mic inside the lid at about the middle
of the piano, and then pointed a medium-diaphragm dynamic at the back of
the soundboard to help pick up the bass
strings. It worked well, providing a nice,
balanced sound.
Keyboards. While electronic keyboards
and synthesizers get DI boxes, there can
be acoustic keyboard instruments to deal
with, such as harpsicord and celeste for
an orchestral production. Use a two-mic
approach for the harpsicord, placing the
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mics about 12 inches above the strings
and 4 to 6 inches away from the jack
and plectrum. The plucked sound of the
string is what you want to amplify. A
celeste is basically bells that are played
by keyboard and not with sticks or mallets. (Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar
Plum Fairy” melody from The Nutcracker
is played on a celeste.) Position a pair of
small diaphragm condensers about 12
inches away from the resonator chamber,
located about one-third in from each side.
Organ. Not a traditional church organ,
but rather, a Hammond B3 model with
a rotating Leslie speaker. It has a woofer
that down fires into a rotating baffle and
a compression driver that fires up into a
rotating unit with two horns. If possible, utilize three mics, but if not, two can
work. One is positioned 8 to 12 inches
away from the bottom baffle, and it
should be a medium- to large-diaphragm
dynamic because it’s capturing the lower
frequencies, similar to the choice for bass
amplifiers. With the top horn, place a pair
of small condensers, one at each cabinet
corner, making sure they will not be hit
by the rotating horn. Panning these mics
can result in a rich stereo sound, but a
single mic here can also work well if it’s
moved back from the rotating horn about
12 inches or so.
Brass. My rule of thumb is the bigger the
horn, the bigger the diaphragm. Trumpets and coronets get a dynamic that can
handle high SPL. I ask performers not to
let the mic get inside the bell, and roll off
Don’t hesitate to
experiment and develop
your own optimum “go
to” mic placements.
everything under 150 Hz and above 10
kHz. Trombones can use the same mics as
a trumpet or step up to a larger diaphragm
model. Roll off everything under 75 Hz
and above 8 kHz. Tubas and Sousaphones
can be captured well with a mic suitable for
kick drum. Roll off the low end at about 30
Hz and get rid of the highs above 6 kHz.
Strings. My preference is to “distance
mike” violins, violas and cellos so the
mics don’t get in the way of the performers. Violins and violas are handled
with condensers about 2 feet above the
performer, with the mic looking at the
strings above the bridge. The key is to
stay out of the way of the bow. Cellos can
be captured with a condenser placed on
a short stand about 2 feet in front of the
performer, with the mic pointed at the
strings above the bridge. Roll off everything under 100 Hz and above 16 kHz for
violas and violins, while with cellos, the
range is under 75 Hz and above 10 kHz.
Please note that these are all general
guidelines, intended to provide a useful outline that serves as a starting point. Don’t
hesitate to experiment and develop your
own optimum “go to” mic placements. CS
Senior contributing editor Craig Leerman
is the owner of Tech Works, a production
company based in Las Vegas.
personal monitor mixer
Deliver the music:
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Consistently.
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Clarinet. Some of the sound comes out
of the bell and some comes from the open
key holes, so a larger diaphragm dynamic
is usually my choice but any quality mic
can work in a pinch. Position it about
halfway up the instrument, a foot or so
away. Roll off everything under 100 Hz
and above 10 kHz. (This same approach
also works well for straight soprano
saxophones.)
Saxophone. A medium cardioid dynamic
will usually do the trick. While some of
the sound does emanate from the keys,
a pretty good tone can be captured just
from the bell by placing the mic about 6
to 8 inches from it. Roll off everything
under 75 Hz.
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JUNE 2016
CHURCH SOUND
33
Project Profiles
Alleluia
Lutheran
Church
Naperville, IL
Church Of The
Incarnation
Dallas
34
CHURCH SOUND
THE MAIN SANCTUARY on this 80,000-square-foot
campus in suburban Chicago is now outfitted with
a Yamaha Live Sound TF5 digital mixer, allowing
the existing Yamaha LS9 digital mixer to find a new
home in the church’s youth center. Alleluia Lutheran
provides four services each weekend, one traditional
and the other three contemporary with various band
configurations, running some 22 to 25 input channels
to the new mixer.
Audio technical director Ryan Russell (pictured
here) notes that the church wasn’t originally in the
market for a new mixer. “The music staff – the band
– wanted the ability to control their monitor mixes
from the stage,” he explains, and exploring a number
of hardware solutions, “I had this crazy idea after
reading a little bit about the TF5. We don’t need to
upgrade our console, but why don’t we update to
the TF5? It gives us all the iOS app capabilities, so
then the band – whoever has in-ear monitors – could
be mixing from their iPhones.”
A generous donation allowed the church to procure its new TF5 from McCormick’s Enterprises
(Arlington Heights, IL). Now the worship leaders and
members of the music staff are using the Yamaha iOS
MonitorMix app to control their individual monitor
mixes during performance. And while the TF5 offered
a convenient solution to the monitoring issue, it has
presented other benefits as well.
“It [the TF5] is way easier to use than the LS9 for
my volunteer staff,” Russell states, referring to the
multi-touch display. “I was able to teach them in
15 minutes the basics of the console, and they are
doing far more on this board than they ever did. It’s
been awesome.” CS
THE NEWLY constructed
500-seat worship facility presents several
requirements for the
sound reinforcement
system – it needs to be
heard but not seen, flexible enough to handle a
variety of types of music,
and because it's a highly
reverberant space, sound
must stay off the walls to
aid vocal intelligibility.
In response, Dallas-based design firm
idibri specified a system headed by Eastern
Acoustic Works (EAW)
Anya loudspeakers, with just two modules left and
right proving capable of meeting the specific challenges. “The church is gothic looking, a long narrow
room with traditional high ceilings and a slightly
cruciform design,” explains Ryan Knox, consultant
with idibri. “Aesthetics were a priority. They had two
insets to the left and right of the alter for sound
reinforcement purposes that they hoped would
accommodate a contemporary sound system that
could handle full range music. I’ll admit, it was a
pretty tall order.”
Anya adapts all of its performance parameters
electronically, with the modules hanging straight
and without any vertical splay, so it proved the right
fit within the limited footprint for loudspeakers. “We
specified two Anya modules for each array for two
reasons: we thought that would be more than enough
system for the room, and also because that was all
the space we had,” Knox says. “Anya solved a lot of
problems from a design perspective and from an
audio perspective.”
He used EAW Resolution 2 software to dial in asymmetrical output that delivers coherent, full-range
response across the coverage area. “I was really
pleased when we went to tune the system that it
required very little work beyond configuring the Resolution 2 software,” Knox adds. “The engineering
behind it is really impressive.” CS
JUNE 2016
www.ProSoundWeb.com
Canvas Church
Irvine, CA
Free Chapel
Spartanburg, SC
www.ProSoundWeb.com
FORMED IN 2011 “for people who don’t like church,”
the original congregation quickly more than tripled
in size and relocated to a larger home, occupying a
warehouse space in an industrial park that’s outfitted
with a sound reinforcement system highlighted by
a PreSonus StudioLive AI Active Integration console
and StudioLive AI loudspeakers.
“We do a sort of post-contemporary service, and
we’ve typically got anywhere between four and nine
musicians up on the stage,” explains Norman Gordon
(pictured here), the parishioner who specified the system and can typically be found running front-of-house.
“It’s a full band: bass, drums, guitars, keyboards, and
a few vocalists. There’s a lot of stuff going on.”
Gordon recommended the StudioLive 32.4.2AI console, along with StudioLive 328AI full-range loudspeakers and a StudioLive 18sAI subwoofer. “The AI
series really had everything we needed,” he says.
“We had a 24-channel analog console we’d been
using, and even though we really didn’t need the extra
channels right away, we went for the 32-channel mixer
because it was the first console released in the AI line.
“Having been an ‘analog guy’ most of my life, I really
love that warm, English, analog sound,” he continues.
“It’s something I wouldn’t have expected with digital.
I have to say, though, I was really, really pleasantly
surprised at how warm and open the console sounded.”
Gordon adds, “While we were waiting for the speakers to arrive, we had a couple of different loaner systems in here. It didn’t sound bad, but when we installed
the StudioLive speakers and fired them up for the first
time, the difference in clarity was just amazing. Articulation is really, really important to me – the ability to
understand both the singing and the spoken word.” CS
THE FOURTH AND NEWEST campus for the Gainesville,
GA-based church has a 3,000-seat worship space
purchased from another church and completely
overhauled, including a new sound reinforcement
system. Free Chapel called upon Mankin Media Systems (Franklin, TN), which specified and installed
L-Acoustics Kara loudspeakers as the key components.
Developed with input from L-Acoustics Soundvision
software, the design utilizes left and right arrays
each comprised of nine Kara enclosures backed by
subwoofer arrays of three SB18. In addition, four SB28
subs are on the ground, positioned under the stage,
while eight coaxial 8XT mounted just under the lip
provide front fill. Four LA8 and three LA4X amplified
controllers power and process the system.
“First, weight and power requirements were critical
because the original facility was not designed with
the production capabilities in mind that Free Chapel
required to execute their weekend service environment in the space, “ explains Tim Corder of MMS. "We
needed to maximize performance while minimizing
the structural loads on the roof, as well as the current
draw. Other manufacturers’ options that we considered
were both heavier and power-hungry in comparison.
“Second, we knew this was going to be a ‘phase
one’ renovation and, as the church continues to grow,
there will be further expansion of the seating layout,
as well as additional spaces and systems added to the
campus. As such, we needed a flexible system design
that would also allow them to grow into the space over
the coming years. L-Acoustics provided a complete
solution that included sonically-matching main arrays,
front fills and subwoofers, as well as future out fills.
The system fit the room like a glove.” CS
JUNE 2016
CHURCH SOUND
35
Troubleshooting
HUM & AWE
Identifying and correcting
troublesome noises in sound
systems. by Mike Sokol
O
ne of the most common questions that comes up on many
live sound forums is how to
stop noises in a sound system. I’ve been
doing a lot of experimenting on this subject over the past several years, plus I’ve
been battling sound system noise such as
hum in the field for more than 45 years,
so here’s my observations on sound system noise and what to do about it.
Before having any chance at stopping
any kind of noise in a sound system,
first we need to define what it is. Here’s
a short list of noises that often appear in
live sound systems and what we call them.
Hum – A steady-state bass noise at 60 Hz
(cycles per second) without any significant harmonics. It sounds like humming
with your lips closed, and is very close to
low B-flat on a bass guitar with all the
treble turned off.
Buzz – A steady-state noise that’s typi36
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
cally at B-flat as well, but it also includes
a lot of harmonic overtones with a lot
higher pitch. It sounds like a noise you
would make with your tongue at the back
of your teeth though open lips. Or just
touch the tip of your guitar cable while
it’s plugged into a stage amp that’s turned
on. The sound you hear will be a buzz.
Hiss – A steady-state white noise that
sounds like rain on the rooftop or steam
coming from a kettle. You can simulate it
by blowing air though your lips without
quite making a whistle. This is actually
white-noise, not the pink-noise you might
use to tune the sound of a room using a
real-time analyzer (RTA).
Hash – A pulsating “buzzy” noise that
can sound like bacon frying or buzzes
being modulated. Sometimes it’s steadystate, while other times it will have a
modulation period depending on the
cause.
SOME FIXES
Believe it or not, you can make a pretty
educated guess as to what causing any
of the above noises in your sound system by listening to the actual quality of
the Hum, Buzz, Hiss or Hash. So here’s
what usually causes each type of noise
in a sound system and simple steps to
correct them.
Hum is most often caused by some
sort of ground loop current between
two different pieces of audio gear. This
typically occurs when you’re forced to
plug stage and sound gear into multiple power outlets around the room.
For instance, if the main sound system
power amplifiers are plugged into outlets next to the stage, while the mixing
console is plugged into a convenient outlet at the back of the room, the small
difference in ground voltage between
the two outlets can cause a rather large
current to flow in the shield of your XLR
connector. And that current can get into
any amplifier or powered loudspeaker
and make a lot of hum.
A quick fix is to run a long extension
cord from the amplifiers’ outlet to the
mixing console’s outlet. A longer term
solution is to add an Ebtech Hum Eliminator inline between the output of the
console and the input of the amplifiers,
which will break the current loop and
stop the ground loop hum.
This same ground loop current can
flow between DI boxes on the platform/
stage and the mixing console. So that’s
the time to use the ground-lift switch on
the DI box to lift the ground loop hum.
(I’ll focus much more on detecting and
correcting this particular type of noise
in my next article.)
Buzz is most often caused by an
unshielded audio cable connecting two
pieces of audio gear. For instance, use
of a non-shielded loudspeaker cable to
connect between a bass guitar or keyboard and its stage amp will likely produce a really big buzz. Thus double-check
to make sure you haven’t accidentally
used a loudspeaker cable instead of an
instrument cable.
www.ProSoundWeb.com
Note: Buzz can also be caused by a floating safety ground in your sound system
that can become a shock hazard if you
don’t pay attention to this warning sign.
Hiss is usually caused by mismatched
audio levels between interconnected gear.
There’s a general design rule that most
sound gear’s input and output level controls should be run about 75 percent of
the way up. (This implies between 7 and
8 on a scale of 10.)
When you turn something
on and the noise
begins, that’s a hint
as to its origin.
So if you look at any mixing console’s
faders you’ll probably see a highlighted
area right around three-quarters of the
way to the top marked as Unity Gain or
0 dB. That’s the sweet spot to shoot for.
If the input faders are near the top, in
order to attain enough sound level, it
implies that you didn’t give the pre-amp
enough gain. On the other hand, if the
output faders are down very low to keep
from overdriving the amplifiers,
that’s a hint that you’re likely
distorting the internal mixing
bus within the console.
This level mismatch can
occur after the signal leaves
the mixer. For instance, if
you use a line-level output of
an aux send to feed the miclevel input of a video camera,
you’ll be forced to turn the aux
output level control down to near zero
to avoid distorting the camera input. That
will usually cause all sorts of hiss to show
up in the sound going to the video feed.
Hash is typically caused by switchmode power supplies contaminating
the audio ground. For instance, many
laptop computers use internal switchmode power supplies to generate a bunch
of different voltages for the screen, CPU,
hard drive, etc. In fact, many times you
can hear this hash change frequency
based on hard drive access.
The best way to correct this is to either
use an external USB audio port such as a
Whirlwind pcUSB, or connecting the computer’s 1/8-inch headphone output to a
special transformer-isolated DI designed
The Radial Stage Bug
SB-5, a transformer-isolated DI designed
for interfacing computers and sound systems.
Is this an instrument or loudspeaker cable?
Better check and find out or a ”big buzz” in
the system might be the result.
for the output of a computer, such as a
Radial Stage Bug.
With careful listening and a little detective work, you can make any sound system noise-free. Identifying the type of
noise you’re hearing will put you on the
path of discovery.
Of course, there are likely to be multiple types and causes of noise in larger
sound systems. In these situations, turn
everything off, and then turn on each
component one at a time, slowly. When
you turn something on and the noise
begins, that’s a hint as to its origin. Correct that noise, then continue turning
on more things, one at a time, until you
encounter the next noise. Fix that and
continue until the system is quiet with
all components turned on. Then it’s time
to make noise of a different kind!
Next time I’ll detail more advanced
testing procedures using a clamp-amp
meter to look for the causes of ground
loop hum in your building’s electrical
system. And we’ll also discuss video
hum bars that show up on your monitor
screens, also with much more. CS
Mike Sokol is lead trainer for Live Sound
Co. in Maryland, and lead writer of the Live
Sound Advice blog. For more than a decade,
he led the HOW-To workshops, teaching
thousands of church sound techs, and he’s
also an adjunct professor at Shenandoah
Conservatory in Winchester, VA.
www.ProSoundWeb.com
JUNE 2016
CHURCH SOUND
37
Transmissions
THE SPOKEN WORD HEARD
Producing
quality
voice-based
podcasts
of sermons and
more.
by Mike Sessler
I
like to go for a walk just about
every day, and ever since buying an iPod years ago, I’ve really
enjoyed listening to various sermon and
tech-related podcasts while walking. It’s
been great – most of the time.
Recently listening to a well-known
pastor’s podcast (you’d recognize his
name), I have to say that the message was
great, but the audio was not. It was clear
the original recorded audio was rather
marginal and the MP3 encoding bit rate
was so low that the artifacts were very
distracting.
As a long-time audio geek with a
great desire for quality audio, I thought
it helpful to share the process we use at
the church where I serve to put together
a really good-sounding podcast.
SQUASH IT
I can’t stand music that is overly compressed, with all of the dynamic range
taken out (which is why I tend to listen to older music). However, when it
comes to podcasts, I really don’t want
dynamic range. When I’m strolling down
the street, or huffing and puffing on the
elliptical, or driving down the road, it’s
annoying to have to keep turning the volume up when the person speaking gets
quiet and having my ears blown out when
38
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
he gets loud again.
Others may disagree, but I want to
limit the dynamic range of sermon
podcasts as much as possible. It makes
the audio far easier to listen to via earphones, on the computer, and in the
car. There are many ways to get to a
limited dynamic range. A big concern
with squashing dynamics is losing the
verbal cues that come from varying levels of speech. As the pastor speaks more
softly to make a poignant statement,
logic dictates that it needs to be quieter.
However, I’ve found that the tonal qualities of the voice can convey those cues
regardless of the level.
And let’s be honest, people are going
to be turning the volume up to hear it
anyway if they’re in the car or working
out. So my philosophy is to do the work
for them, and keep the volume consistent.
MINIMIZE SIZE, MAXIMIZE QUALITY
We try to limit sermon podcast file sizes
to (and even better, below) 15 MB. They
download quickly, even over 3G networks, and don’t take up a ton of room
on an MP3 player. To get there, we use
the LAME MP3 encoder, which is one
of the best available. For a long time,
the choice was VBR (Variable Bit Rate)
encoding of podcasts, with the quality
level set to 20 (which equals roughly 48
kbps, average).
However, we’ve switched to CBR (Constant Bit Rate) encoding. After doing
some tests, I found it very difficult to distinguish between VBR at 20 percent and
CBR at 48 kbps. Either method sounds
more than acceptable on both my Ultimate Ears UE18 earphones and Equator
Audio D5 monitors, and further, I hear
no difference through the loudspeakers
in my MacBook Pro. So for now, CBR it is.
CLOSE TO THE SOURCE
If you’re working with a digital console
and running a virtual sound check system, you’re already in great shape for
recording the message. That’s how we’ve
done it for years, using an RME MADIFace to run the audio directly after the
A/D conversion into a MacBook Pro running Reaper. We record a 2-track board
www.ProSoundWeb.com
mix of all services, and a discreet track
for the pastor on each Sunday morning
service. The discreet track is for the podcast; the 2-track is backup only.
Since we’re recording speech (for this
purpose anyway), there’s no concerns
about 192 or 96 kHz; 48 or 44.1 kHz at 16
to 24 bits is just fine. Our system runs at
48 kHz, 24 bits, so that’s what we record
as a series of WAV files. WAV or AIFF
files are uncompressed, which is what
you want at this stage.
If it’s an analog system, don’t fret.
Use the direct outs – or in a pinch, the
output of the insert jacks – to come
directly out of the pastor’s microphone
channel to the recorder. It’s best to pick
off the output before EQ, compression,
or other processing. The reason is that
most times, you’re making EQ and compression adjustments on the console for
the room, which is where most people
are listening. However, those same settings may not work for the recording,
and there are advantages to making
some EQ and compression choices specifically for the podcast.
Material can be recorded to a CD, but
it’s preferable to record straight to the
computer/recorder since you’ll be editing
and processing the files there anyway.
Even an inexpensive USB interface like a
Lexicon Alpha provides very good sounding direct recording. Combine that with
a laptop, Mac Mini or inexpensive PC
– and a copy of Reaper – and you’re in
business.
The best, most full vocal quality will
come from a headset mic (or a handheld
if the pastor prefers). Lavalier mics pick
up a lot more room noise, and podium/
lectern mics can be tricky to get dialed
in. Don’t skimp on the mic; it’s on for
more time during the service than anything else.
Limit it to a second or even a bit less. The
same goes with the end of the message.
If the band is underscoring, I’ll look for
a musical place to fade out so it doesn’t
sound abrupt.
NORMALIZE
In our recording structure, normalizing
is critical. We always leave 12 to 15 dB of
headroom when recording. Remember,
this is digital recording; once you run
out of bits, you’re done. Distortion
is quick and nasty. So give yourself
some safety margin.
Note that recording this way means
that there’s the need to bring the peak
levels up closer to 0 so the rest of the
processing goes smoothly. Normalization
will bring the peak level of the entire
clip up to a level you specify. It’s like
turning up the volume, only smarter. I
normalize to -2 dB so we don’t saturate
in the next step.
PROCESS FOR THE WEB
What works in the room may not work
online. Some experimentation is necessary here, but we tend to high-pass (filter)
our pastor fairly high (up around 130 to
140 Hz), and boost the upper mids by 1
Headset mics help in capturing a quality
vocal signature.
to 2 dB. The goal is adding a little bit of
clarity to make it easier to listen to in
loud environments. But be careful here
because it can easily be made to sound
annoyingly harsh.
I suggest trying some settings, encoding a section of the sermon, and listening
QUICK EDITING
This is pretty easy. Find the beginning of
the message, back up a second or two and
put a fade up on the clip. Something that
drives me nuts is hearing podcasts with 5
to 8 seconds of silence at the beginning.
www.ProSoundWeb.com
Remember, settings for the room may not be best for recording spoken word.
JUNE 2016
CHURCH SOUND
39
TRANSMISSIONS
to it on several platforms to evaluate the
results. EQ settings that work with nicer
headphones may not work for a cheap
set of computer loudspeakers, so check
it out. And don’t forget that many people
will listen to the podcast with Apple’s
“inexpensive” white earbuds.
We record pre-EQ, with subtle changes
to make the voice easier to listen to. Then
it’s hit with compression. Currently, we’re
using an R-Channel plugin from Waves
to do both EQ and compression; it’s one
of the more transparent compressors I’ve
heard. In our setup, it hits 12-plus dB of
gain reduction and it’s really tough to
hear any artifacts.
Before acquiring the Waves plugin, we
achieved results almost as good with a
combination of ReaEQ and ReaComp,
both plugins that come with Reaper. Most
DAWs (digital audio workstations) have
basic EQ and compressors built-in, so play
with those first before spending additional funds. However, it’s worth signing
up for the Waves mailing list because the
company often provides super deals on
individual plugins.
LIMITING AT THE END
The final step is running the signal
through a mastering limiter to really
clamp down the dynamic range. We’ve
above 11.025 KHz (the Nyqvist frequency
of 22.050), and halving the frequency
effectively doubles the bit rate on the
frequency range we care about. It’s both
efficient and better.
EXPERIMENT
Screenshots of Waves L3 UltraMaximizer
and R-Channel plugins.
it over the limit.
The combination of the two works
well and sounds pretty good once things
are dialed in. Most recently we’ve been
employing a Waves L3 UltraMaximizer,
which is easy to use while delivering
pretty stunning results.
RENDERING TO MP3
Most DAWs can render out to an MP3
file. If you have the option to use the
LAME encoder (which is available in
Audacity or Reaper), use it. It’s a great
Investing a few hours to work on a chunk of the
message to get the processing settings right, then
tweaking the rendering settings, will produce a solid
(and likely better) result.
used JS: LOSER MasterLimiter (included
with Reaper) for quite a while, along
with Ardaz Maximzer5.
MasterLimiter allows setting a maximum level (I go with -.01 dB); it’s a “brickwall” limiter, meaning that nothing gets
over that setting. It will also do some
compression to keep the signal level up.
Maximizer5 supplies some other magic
to raise the overall level without driving
40
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
encoder that produces better-sounding
MP3s at lower bit rates than most other
encoders.
As noted, we use the 48 kbps CBR setting and render in mono. I haven’t had
any problems with mono files anywhere,
and as spoken word, stereo unnecessarily
doubles the file size. The sampling frequency is set to 22.050 Hz. There’s not
much useful content in the human voice
We got to these settings by doing a lot
of experimenting. I’m intentionally not
telling you all of our EQ, compression,
and limiting settings because they don’t
really matter – they’re all specific for our
pastor. Investing a few hours to work
on a chunk of the message to get the
processing settings right, then tweaking
the rendering settings, will produce a
solid (and likely better) result. Then save
those settings as presets so you can use
them next week.
RECOMMENDATIONS
I’ve mentioned a ton of stuff in this
article, but here’s a recap of what I recommend for this process. If you have
something else that works, by all means,
keep using it. If you’re looking for a place
to start, consider this list:
❚ Audacity (free recording/editing software; good, basic and free)
❚ Reaper (full-featured DAW; $60 for
non-profit use, incredibly powerful,
still easy to use)
❚ Lexicon Alpha (simple 2-track USB
audio interface; about $65)
❚ Ardaz Maximizer5 (free maximizing
plugin)
❚ Waves L3 UltraMaximizer (amazing
maximizing plugin; $350, but look
for it on sale)
❚ Waves R-Channel (amazing channel strip; $175, but look for it on
sale) CS
Mike Sessler has been involved with
church sound and live production for than
25 years, and is the author of the Church
Tech Arts (churchtecharts.org) blog. Based
in Nashville, he serves as project lead for
CCI Solutions, which provides design-build
production solutions for churches and other
facilities.
www.ProSoundWeb.com
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Mix Essentials
DIALING
IT IN
The beginning
of the path to
becoming a
master of EQ.
by John Mills
W
hen I first began doing sound, I bought a great set
of headphones, thinking that if I was going to be
expected to make something sound good, I should
probably know what I was shooting for. Then I started listening
(like crazy) to CDs. Not just bands or styles I liked, but anything
and everything I could get my hands on.
I listened to the lyrics, chords, melodies and harmonies, and
also to how it all fit together. I concentrated on the space that
each instrument was taking up. I noticed that certain instruments seemed always to be sitting in a certain spot – not to
where they were panned, but to the frequencies they occupied.
HOW TO GET THERE
When building a mix, we need to think of the song as a line.
Each instrument makes up part of that line. If we have too many
instruments or frequencies trying to take up the same space
our line gets bumpy and the mix gets muddy.
Where a variety of elements exist in the frequency spectrum.
42
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
Listen to each instrument and think of a space for it on the
line. Keep other instruments away from it (EQ wise) and you
will have an easier time hearing that instrument. You wouldn’t
want to have a really bassy, heavy electric guitar because it would
be taking up a lot of the space the bass guitar really needs. Try
to keep each instrument in its place.
Think of each instrument as to what the fundamental piece
of it is. For instance, the fundamental of a kick drum will be low
frequencies. That’s not to say you don’t need highs to make it
cut, but there really isn’t much midrange going on with it. Try
to carve out some of the midrange of the kick to make room
for the low midrange of the bass guitar.
I always tell new engineers never to be “done” with the mix.
Listen for changes, and more importantly, listen to make sure
that everything is in the mix and working together. Focus less
on the actual sound of the individual instrument and more on
how it interacts with other instruments in that same range.
There are no “magic” numbers that work every time because
all instruments are a little different. The equation gets more
complicated when we use different microphones or the instrumentalist changes patches on their keyboard, but trust me,
none of that is really important. What is important is focusing on getting a natural sound that blends nicely with the
competitors for the same space. Following are some general
guidelines to consider when you’re trying to find your space.
20 Hz to 80 Hz: This is the sense of power in an instrument
or mix. It’s the stuff you feel more then hear. The kick drum
and bass guitar are in this range.
80 Hz to 250 Hz: The area where everything comes together.
This is where a lot of things can go wrong, and too much in
here will make a mix sound sloppy.
250 Hz to 2 kHz: Most of the fundamental harmonics are
in this range. These are some of the most critical frequencies
to building a solid mix. Learn what instruments are most
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dominant in these frequencies and clean up around them.
2 kHz to 5 kHz: Here we find the clarity to almost everything. But be careful, too much of a good thing can start to
sound harsh. This is an area where subtly is the key.
5 kHz to 8 kHz: Mostly sibilance and “s” sounds. Most of
the vocal consonants are defined in this range.
8 kHz to 20 kHz: Brilliance is the word here, the top end
of cymbals.
Now let’s move along to frequencies with respect to
instruments.
Kick Drum and Toms: Cut 500 Hz to get rid of the cardboard
box sound. Add 5 kHz to make them cut through the mix. Add
a little 60 Hz to 80 Hz to make them really thump.
Snare: Usually I take out a little around 600 Hz and add a little
around 4 kHz, and maybe even boost some 200 Hz to make it move
a little air, but that really depends on the drum and how it’s tuned.
Hi-Hat: I generally cut all the lows and a good chunk of low
mids. There isn’t anything down there anyway.
Bass Guitar: Players and basses are so very different. Usually
if it’s muddy I cut 160 Hz to 200 Hz, and possibly add a little 700
Hz to 1 kHz if I can’t really hear their notes. But be careful because
there are a lot of other instruments fighting for that space.
Piano: This is a beast that can take an entire article to discuss. It depends mostly on how the piano is miked. However, in
general, if it’s boomy then cut 200 Hz to 315 Hz. If it’s kind of
barking, then cut more up near 400 Hz to 500 Hz. Judiciously
add a little 2 kHz to 4 kHz to make it cut a little more.
Voice: Boomy? High pass at 150 Hz. Too thick? Try cutting
at 240 Hz. Need it/them to poke out a little more? Cut other
instruments around 2.5 kHz. In my opinion, never add 2.5 kHz
to a voice, it sounds harsh and unnatural. Having trouble hearing the syllables? Try adding a little between 4 kHz and 8 kHz.
Background Vocals: Sometimes I like to let the lead vocal
shine by dulling the top end of the BGVs. Try a shelf around 4
kHz and cut by 3 to 5 dB. This will let you turn up the BGVs and
surround the lead, while the lead still sounds more forward.
TRUST YOUR EARS
The most important question is, “Does it sound natural?” Does
it sound like the CDs you’ve been listening to? More specifically,
does it sound like you’re sitting in front of the real instrument?
Keep this in mind throughout the performance.
I constantly glance down all the channels and think about
each input. Kick – does the kick sound right? Bass – does the
bass sound right? Guitar – does the guitar sound right? Piano –
does the piano sound right? Vocals – do the vocals sound right?
Then I think about it all again and ask if the guitar and vocal
are walking over each other. Can I hear the piano? Is it because
the guitar has too much midrange near the piano part’s midrange? Then try taking a little low-mid out of the guitar instead
of turning up the piano. I think you get the idea...
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It’s almost impossible to make the initial adjustments to
instruments or vocals in the mix with the whole band playing.
Instead I try to have a mental snapshot, acoustically, of what
I think the instrument should sound like, kind of like a target
for my EQ choices.
Learning to EQ confidently means you know where you’re
heading. That’s why I recommend listening to CDs with a good
set of full-range headphones. And please, no cheap earbuds.
TURN, TURN, TURN
Want to know a bonafide trick of the trade? Turn some knobs!
I mean actually get in there and turn the heck out of the EQ
knobs and listen to what they do.
Here’s simple technique to use in sound check. Grab the gain
(Figure 1) on the mid EQ of an instrument and crank it up a
bunch, then grab the frequency (Figure 2) of the mid and sweep
it up and down. You’ll hear a spot where it makes that instrument
or voice sound horrible. Once you find it, take the gain back to
zero, listen for a second again, and then cut out about 6 dB of it.
It’s amazing how much better that instrument sounds when
you “get the junk out” as I call it. This is a great way to learn
what frequencies sound like and the technique will eventually
train your ear to hear the junk without boosting it first. CS
A 20-year veteran of working live sound everywhere from churches
to top touring artists such as Kenny Chesney, John Mills is now the
education & development manager for Morris Integration in Nashville.
JUNE 2016
CHURCH SOUND
43
Z’s Corner
NOT SO RANDOM MUSINGS…
Imaging is everything,
IEMs for smaller churches.
by Gary Zandstra
T
he public image of a church is important, but there’s
another kind of image – of the sonic variety – that’s
also significant. During a recent worship service, I got
to thinking about image in terms of where sounds are coming
from on a stage, and where I actually perceive them as coming.
Specifically in this case, there was a choir singing, and it was
located far left. In fact, I had to turn my head almost 90 degrees
from the main stage to see the choir. The reinforcement for the
choir was coming from loudspeakers flown centrally above the
stage, and from where I was sitting, the reinforced sound was
louder than the acoustical sound of the choir. Thus my attention was drawn to the stage, which was void of any performing
musicians, rather than the choir.
My “sight brain” was telling me the choir was far left, but my
“hearing brain” was forcing my attention toward the stage. This
is an imaging issue, and it was driving me nuts. Now, if I’d been
located closer to the choir, where the acoustic energy of the choir
would likely be louder than the reinforced sound, I would have
“localized” on the choir and likely would have interpreted the
reinforced sound as an “effect” – a quasi-stereo image.
Or if I had been located more toward the right side of the
sanctuary, the reinforced sound would have seemed more “in
line” with the location of the choir. Even though the reinforced
sound would still be louder, it would make sense in the sightsound-brain equation, because the acoustical image would be
more in direct line with the choir.
Side note: the room was a small enough that the distance
from the choir to the loudspeaker covering the right side of
the room was not great enough to cause the listener to perceive
much, if any, delay between the acoustical and reinforced sound.
The next time I visit this church, I’m either going to move
to my left (closer to the choir) or to my right, far enough over
to align the reinforced sound with the acoustical image. And,
to improve this situation, my suggestion to the church is to
add a secondary loudspeaker(s) that hangs above the choir
that will help clear up the imaging problems. The acoustic and
amplified sound would be coming from the same direction.
A hand-drawn diagram by the author showing the layout of the
church where he found the imaging to be problematic.
44
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
ON THE OTHER HAND...
Fast forward a couple of weeks. I attended a hymn sing/brass
www.ProSoundWeb.com
SHIFTING GEARS...
While recently discussing in-ear monitoring (IEM) with a colleague, he made a statement that struck me: “In reality, it’s
the smaller church that needs in-ears much more than the
larger ones.”
A couple of things came to mind. Larger churches/ministries have the funding to get IEM, and they (often, at least)
have paid technical staff that can properly set it up. And larger
churches also have large stages in large rooms, and stage volume
is frequently not as much an issue as it is in smaller churches.
However, here are some (now rather obvious to me) reasons
why a small church might invest in IEM:
� Stage volume is a huge issue. In some cases, 70-plus percent
of the congregation probably hears more stage volume than
sound coming out of the main loudspeakers.
� Because of the stage volume, there are continual complaints
about loudness and that the vocals cannot be heard over
the instruments.
� Many small churches have singers and instrumentalists
that have never played on a stage and are perhaps self-conscious about their abilities. IEM allows them to better hear
themselves and other musicians.
� Feedback can be a constant issue because the vocal monitors always need to be turned up too hot so the singers
can hear themselves.
So how can smaller churches move into IEM? Fortunately, costs
have come down in recent years. Further, an investment can
be made in just a few systems, with more receivers added over
time as funds become available.
www.ProSoundWeb.com
COURTESY OF SENSAPHONICS
concert in a different worship center. During one song, five of
the brass players went up to the balcony and played from there,
echoing the players on the stage.
It sounded incredible! At times it had the feel of a question
and answer session, where the stage musicians would play,
answered by the musicians in the balcony. Other times they
both played together, and if felt as if I was in the middle of an
entire brass section. This was excellent imaging.
The reason the imaging worked is because it was set up as an
effect. The antiphonal response of the brass in the balcony was
a purposeful image shift that enhanced the musical piece. One
on my pet peeves is listening to a band playing over a left-right
stereo system, and the toms on the drums are panned to give
separation. But when I look at the drums, rather than the sound
going from right to left – following the drummer as he runs the
toms – it does the opposite. Again, imaging makes a difference.
Another thing that I like to do when I’m mixing in a stereo
situation is to try to move the image of the instrument relative
to where the musician is standing on the stage. If the guitar
player is on the right side of the stage, I will pan the feed of the
guitar slightly to the left, and so on.
Not just for the “big guys”?
I suggest starting with singers; although they’re not the
loudest thing on stage, in general, their monitors tend to be
loudest. So a good starting point might be purchasing one transmitter and enough receivers for all of the vocalists. Then later,
purchase a second transmitter and put the band on that mix.
Issues to keep in mind with IEM:
� They do take a bit to get used to, so use them first in multiple rehearsals.
� Mixing for “ears” is different than what is needed with
standard floor monitors.
� Without ambient/audience mics feeding IEM, musicians
will initially feel isolated and perhaps frustrated.
� Just like conventional monitors, when multiple musicians
share a mix, there will be issues!
To help make the use of IEM successful, the person providing
the mix (usually the house sound operator) should use a set of
headphones (or ear pieces) that match the ones the musicians
have when setting up the monitor mix on an aux send of the
console.
Also, the operator should try to make sure there is an ambient microphone (or two) to feed that aux channel (and not the
main mix).
I’ve found that placing a mic to capture some onstage sound
as well as a mic to capture the audience/house sound usually
works the best. Dialing the amount of each mic into the mix
is a matter of personal taste – work with the musicians on
this one.
In-ear monitoring is not a total solution to all stage monitor
problems, but it’s a valuable tool that can help when deployed
carefully and correctly. CS
Gary Zandstra has worked in church production and as an AV
systems integrator for more than 35 years. He’s also contributed
numerous articles to ProSoundWeb over the past decade.
JUNE 2016
CHURCH SOUND
45
Project Profiles
CEPAD
Salinas, Ecuador,
South America
Flatirons
Community
Church
Lafayette, CO
46
CHURCH SOUND
THE CENTRO EVANGELIST Peninsular Assembly of
God, an outdoor church with a seating capacity of
5,000, offers two services every Sunday. Both services
blend traditional and contemporary formats, the lat-
ter including a band consisting of two keyboardists,
electric and acoustic guitarists, drums, percussion,
three main vocalists and 12 choral singers.
A recently implemented new sound reinforcement system for the church, designed and installed
by Muzeek World (Orange County, CA), is fronted by
a Yamaha CL digital console working with companion Rio3224-D and Rio1608-D input-output boxes.
“The Yamaha CL console was chosen because of its
scalability and network capabilities,” states John
Sardari, owner of Muzeek World. “Dante (networking) played a big role in the decision as well, and
the fact that Yamaha is the leader in the digital
console world.”
The new system also incorporates 14 NEXO GEOS
1210 line array loudspeakers, two GEOS1230s and
three NEXO RS18 Ray Subs all driven by NEXO 4X4
amplification. The entire system is covered each
week, and in the event of rain, it is taken down and
moved to an interior worship center. “The church
staff is super happy, and the quality and coverage
of the NEXO GEO S12 system is just amazing,” Sardari
concludes. CS
THE CHURCH ATTRACTS an average weekly attendance of about 20,000 people to multiple weekend
services at its three Denver-area locations, with
the 4,000-seat auditorium on the main campus in
Lafayette recently expanding its Lectrosonics Digital
Hybrid Wireless system stable.
“We have two new 6-channel Venue 2 frames fitted
with 12 channels of VRT2 IQ dynamic tracking filter
modules," states Bryce Boynton, audio director for
the church. "We also have an original Venue, because
we bought our first system over a year ago, so we
now have three Venue receivers. We also now have
six handhelds – one HHa, the new model, and five
HHs – and we have six LT belt packs.
One feature of the LT belt packs Boynton emphasizes is the ability to switch between instrument or
microphone mode. In instrument mode, the transmitter presents a 1 megaohm impedance to an instrument
input with a piezo type pickup. This improves the
sound quality and gives the same effect as plugging
into a premium DI.
He adds that he didn’t choose the Venue 2 receivers
specifically for the wide tuning range, but the capability has certainly turned out to be useful. “Lafayette,
which is east of Boulder, isn’t a major metro area
where I’m trying to run 40 channels – although I just
did at Easter,” he notes. “The point is that the wide
tuning bandwidth of the newer system, bands A, B
and C, is really helpful. It was nice at Easter, when
we did have 40 channels, that I was able to coordinate the Lectro channels last, because they have the
widest tuning range and most flexibility. I don’t need
for them to change frequencies in real-time, I just
need them to be flexible.” CS
JUNE 2016
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The Wrap
FOUNDATIONAL STUFF
The point of dedication to
working in worship tech.
by M. Erik Matlock
D
o not read this article. We have many fine authors
in this publication. They’re the church sound gurus.
Not me. I’m just the guy who writes the foundational
stuff about survival on ProSoundWeb. Dealing with pastors
and leaders and the congregation and your own families. All
the stuff we already know but sometimes forget.
But since you’ve already read this far, perhaps you want that.
The first statement told you not to read this, yet here you are.
FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS
It’s an area that obviously needs work, since I just told you not
to read the article. (That’s meant to be humorous.) But the fact
is, church sound is a support ministry. Nobody comes to church
to watch us work.
I was taught that the only reason anyone knows we’re there
is because we goofed something up. Forget to turn the pastor’s
mic on, allow feedback to roll around, leave a bad cable plugged
in to make the same annoying noise for two weeks in a row...
That’s when everyone wants to know who we are.
We exist to support the ministry and help translate the vision
of the pastor and worship leader to the congregation. We make
the magic happen by doing this professionally and with a good
attitude. We do it by learning and growing, by asking questions,
and by listening.
TREAT IT LIKE A MINISTRY
To me, at least, ministry really means service. It doesn’t mean
a spotlight on us, nor does it mean making all of the decisions.
It doesn’t mean we fail if nobody sings our praises at the end
of service.
It’s not a foot in the door to “real ministry” or a stepping stone
to something better. If that’s how you see it, don’t get comfortable.
You’re pretty much guaranteed to move on. One way or another.
LEARNING TO MIX
To new tech people, this seems like the entire reason we’re here.
Like the person who joins the Air Force to fly planes. There’s a whole
lot of training that has to happen before just anyone is allowed
to take a gazillion dollars worth of jet fighter out for a joy ride.
So unless you really enjoy the thought of crashing and burning, slow down and go through the process. If you aren’t willing
48
CHURCH SOUND
JUNE 2016
to roll cables, clean up the stage and sound booth, and show up
on time and do the small stuff, then you shouldn’t be trained to
mix. Show yourself faithful in the details and then, eventually,
you’ll be shown how to work with the big toys.
Mixing is an art form. It’s a balance between multiple skills.
Technical skills to understand what’s being controlled and how
to do it. Musical skills to feel and hear the balance, as well as the
blending of tones that’s faithful to the musicians. Diplomatic
skills to understand the people we’re serving, as well as becoming a part of the team. All of that comes together when we mix.
Possessing just one of these skills is not enough, and none of
them are learned overnight. And don’t just jump into mixing
with a full congregation or audience. Assist the front of house
tech, watch him or her work. Learn the monitor system and how
the sound check works. Mix rehearsals. Work the conferences
and classrooms. Earn your way up through the ranks so you’re
actually prepared when it matters.
TROUBLESHOOTING
Ah, yes. That awe-inspiring ability to find and solve any problem
that arises. The spectacular skill-set that allows someone to “just
know” what’s wrong and spring into corrective action. Reaction
time and deep knowledge of a sound system do not happen
spontaneously. The ones who solve problems faster than most
even acknowledge them have been doing this for a long time.
Troubleshooting comes down to true understanding. Simple.
If you’ve set that system up hundreds of times, you know how
it should work and why it doesn’t.
THE BOTTOM LINE
No matter how long we’ve been doing this, we need our foundation to be solid. It’s built on everything I’ve covered here, and
doing it right will help in maintaining a position for as long as
you desire while being of genuine service. CS
Senior editor M. Erik Matlock has worked in professional audio
for more than 20 years in live, install, and recording, including time
as a church tech and media director.
www.ProSoundWeb.com
NEXO GEO M6 delivers full-range sound with maximum clarity.
Let your message be heard with a sound system that
doesn’t compromise the aesthetics of your space.
yamahaca.com
Yamaha Corporation of America • P. O. Box 6600, Buena Park, CA 90620-6600 • ©2016 Yamaha Corporation of America
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