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The 90% Church: Letting The Room Create The Sound

One of my favorite sayings is “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.” Remember this and you can really make your life in the sound booth a lot easier. For example, let’s say you have eight vocalists doing a special. Now, assuming you have eight microphones and eight open mike channels on your board, you could hand them each a mic and run them through the system. But is that really necessary?

In most churches that seat 350 or less, eight singers on stage—and I mean singers as in knowing how to project—can easily fill the room without any amplification. The sound will be unified and the natural reverberation of the room will only add to the quality of the performance.

But what if one or two of the singers just aren’t that strong?

Then give them the microphones and bring their levels up just top the point where you can hear them above the others, then drop them back so you keep the unified sound.

A few weeks ago, I was informed that the sunday special would feature four acoustic guitars, one electric guitar and four vocalists. While I could have just plugged all the guitars in via direct boxes and miked the singers, I decided to leave all but one of the acoustics out of the system. The electric guitar was then set to play through an amp, and the remaining guitar, a 12-string, was run through the board. It took a several ttys at rehearsal to get the balance just right-mostly because the electric was playing over everybody—but when we got the balance right, it sounded really sweet. The final result was a very lush sounding guitar background with a few highlights, and vocals that really stood out. It was a lot of sound to have on the stage of a small church, and the best way to get the sound I wanted was to think not about how to run everyone through the system, but rather how to keep as much out of the system as possible and let the room create the sound.

The bottom Line: There’s a lot more to being a Sunday Morning Sound Tech than just sliding faders and turning knobs. You true task is to make sure everything sounds as good as it can, so don’t hesitate to be creative and even make radical suggestions like “Why don’t we leave this acoustic?”

Thanks for listening! – Robert

About the author

Bruce Bartlett

Audio Engineering Society member Bruce Bartlett is a recording engineer, audio journalist, and microphone engineer (www.bartlettaudio.com). His latest books are "Practical Recording Techniques 6th Edition" and "Recording Music On Location."


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