Fundamentals of Church Sound

Houses of worship have their own particular live sound needs above and beyond the usual rock-and-roll gig.  The idea is still to reinforce the sound to the point that the audience can hear clearly and comfortably.  However, in most worship settings, this is a much lower volume than even the smallest of gigs.  Also, there is typically a larger focus on speech than in most other PA system uses.  Speech demands near 100% clarity to be easily comprehended by the audience.  These challenges and more can make the job of a sound engineer more demanding and arguably more rewarding than the same job in a live music venue.  Here, at Seismic Audio, we’ve gathered some tips and recommendations on equipment to make it all easier.

 

The most important step, always, is getting the proper equipment for the situation.  A typical sanctuary already has great acoustics and, again, the need for pure volume isn’t very high so it is better to focus on sound quality rather than outright power when choosing your PA components.  We offer the Arctic Series to fit this need specifically.  Available in 10”, 12”, and 15” versions, both powered and unpowered, the Arctic line can all be used as mains or monitors.  Pole mounts and fly points are included, as well as a crisp white finish, to make discreet installation a breeze.  The real story is the insides, though.  Each Arctic is equipped with the highest quality components we could find.  This minimizes noise and maximizes clarity.

 

After speakers, you should choose a soundboard that is capable of handling all the sound sources you are ever likely to have.  A 32-channel mixer is the most common choice.  Not only will the band need enough channels to use, but there is likely a multitude of choir mics, mics for the pulpit, and for any other speakers.  Other sound sources may also need to be included.  Organs or A/V sources, such as CD players or computer video systems, are most common.  Many of these microphones are likely to be wireless.  Making sure no signal conflicts exist can save you an embarrassing moment during the service.  All these microphones and pieces of sound equipment will usually lead to a lot of monitor mixes, too.  Consider the number auxilliary sends and monitor outputs exist on the board you choose.  Make sure you have enough.

 

In the church setting, you will commonly run across performers or speakers with no previous experience.  It’s your job to coach them on the things they need to know.  How to hold the microphone, how to address it, and how to avoid feedback.  For musicians, they will probably need to hear about proper stage volume and not to face their amplifiers towards the audience.  Attend practices and use that time to hone the sound of the band and perfect your monitor mixes.

 

Use the best cables and accessories possible.  Our premium SAMIC cables are a great choice.  Shorts in cables will create horrific pops that stop any service in its tracks.  Use cable organization options like stage snakes and zip ties to create a clean look throughout.  Sound systems in houses of worship are generally intended to disappear as much as possible.  Don’t leave large unorganized cable messes around the front of the stage, despite all the microphones and monitors.

 

For larger sanctuaries, our line array options may work best.  The main advantage of line array over point source is the clarity over long distances.  Being more vertically directional, it is easier to avoid echoes off the back wall and the issues that can cause.  Line array is scaleable, so you can get exactly the right amount of power and coverage for the room you will be working in.


Those are the basic fundamentals to get you started in church sound.  For some additional reading check out this article with general tips for live sound and this article with a unique way to organize cables.  You may ask questions in the comments or share your own tips and, as always, our experts are ready to help at 877-347-6423.

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