Sound Philosophy

Posted: January 5, 2013 in Pro Audio

Once many years ago I presented a top 10 list for philosophy of sound in the church.  Ok… being a software engineer in one of my incarnations allows me to count down to zero, so there isn’t a mistake in the numbering.  This is that list:

 10. Practice.  Practice mixing.  Practice listening.  Practice with your processors.  Practice Practicing.

  9. Practice listening some more.  And listen to different styles: rock, classical, country, talk, gospel, choral, etc.  Listen to them at your church over your system.

  8. Don’t believe the soloist who says their accompaniment tape is “all cued up.”

  7. Know your signal path ‑ be able to describe the *entire* path to someone both forward AND backwards.  Learn what every control along that path does.  Learn the strengths and limitations of your gear.

  6. Don’t over‑process.  Many times processing (whether EQ, compression, effects, etc) are used to fix problems that could have been avoided by proper technique.

  5. Learn your stage.  Know what the people on the stage have to deal with when they are preaching, leading performing, etc.  Figure out how much gain you have to work with before feedback, where the dead spots and hot spots are.

  4. Learn your floor.  Know what it sounds like in the front row center vs. rear stage right vs. balcony.  Know what music sounds like vs. spoken word.  Learn what it sounds like empty vs. filled.  Know how the sound decays, which instruments/voices sound good and which sound bad.  (see Practice listening above)

  3. Use good technique.  Good mic technique, gain setting, gain structuring of the PA, panning and EQ will prevent a lot of problems that would otherwise have to be fixed further downstream.

  2. Don’t assume that just because the pastor starts preaching you can sit back and relax.

  1. Be systematic.  Have a fixed system for startup, shutdown, sound check, etc.  Make sure it uses good principles and stick to it.

  0. Develop relationships.  Really get to know the pastor and WL.  What their beliefs about worship are.  How they like to approach services.  Be available for rehearsals.  You’ll learn how the musos and vocalists work and what to expect from them.  They’ll benefit from your feedback (as opposed to the system’s, that is).  You’ll be able to anticipate problems and have fewer surprises.

 You might think I left out something important in this list: prayer.  That’s because it’s not *one* of the items.  It is EVERY item on my list. Everything you do needs to be bathed liberally in prayer.  Pray for calm.  Pray for patience.  Pray for God’s glorification.  Pray that your work is a fit offering.  For the Congregation.  Pastor.  Choir…. you get the idea.  :‑)

There are so many “top 10’s” possible that it’s not even funny.  Top 10 for EQ, monitoring, mic’ing, etc., etc., so I focused on your request for sound philosophy.  I’d suggest doing a search of the archives for any specific type of technical application such as gain or compression, etc.  The important thing is to keep calm and bite off just a bit at a time.  Especially as you are learning, keep things simple and stick to the basics.

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