It’s the end of another sunday service. The pastor presented a great message, the praise team was right on (mostly), and the mix was perfect—at least from where you were sitting.
So why did you get several complaints that it was “too loud?”
Being in the sound booth week after week requires a bit of a thick skin. Even with a congregation of 200 or less, you can’t please everyone. While it’s tempting to dismiss most complaints as unfounded, there are times when they can be useful.
First, what do they mean “It’s too loud.” On the one hand, they may mean exactly what they said —in which case I refer you to this recent article by Jamie Rio.
On the other hand, they may mean there was too much bass, too much high end or too much something they didn’t like. Hmmmmm. But it did sound fine up in the booth.
While drastically dropping the volume may appease a couple of folks with hyper sensitive ears, it’s probably not the answer. The first thing to do when you get a volume related complaint is to ask where they were sitting. You may start to see a pattern.
Then, start making it your routine to get out of the booth and walk around. During practice, once you have your mix set up and while the team is working on the set, walk around the entire sanctuary. Put on your critical listening ears and walk slowly up and down the aisles and in and out of several rows. What do you hear?
Older church buildings (and even some new ones) are infested with acoustic anomalies. Add to this the fact that many of these churches offer limited options for speaker placement, and the problem is compounded. Using a dB meter, note where and how much the sound can drop off. Listen how corners and cubicles tend to trap bass. While you can only do so much to correct the sound in problem areas, you can tweak the eq a bit so that it’s not as pronounced.
The challenge can be identifying the offending frequencies so that they can be reduced without destroying the overall sound. One little trick I employ is to use a tone generator app on my iPhone. When I identify an area where there’s a problem, such as muddy sound, I use the tone generator to match what I’m hearing. Once I have identified the frequency, I can then adjust the eq and try for the best compromise. Keep your adjustments small, and remember, come sunday when the church is once again full of warm worshippers, the audio picture will again change.
The important thing is to understand the characteristics of your church. The more critically you listen and observe how sound changes in different parts of the sanctuary, the better you will be at keeping the worship experience positive for everyone (good luck with that). — Bob