Dealing with the Pink Elephant in the Sanctuary

I’ll be honest - I’m frustrated.

Log on any social media platform and you’ll see 10 articles about what’s wrong with worship leading, what worship leaders should do, why churches aren’t singing, and so on and so forth. But that’s not necessarily what’s irking me. Some of it is on point and much needed! My frustration stems from the pink elephant in the sanctuary.

No one wants to acknowledge it. We pretend it’s not that distracting. We assume it would cost too much to fix it. We grumble in the shadows, but fail to raise it as a practical issue needing to be solved.

Bad sound.

It’s a problem that’s apparent to the majority of congregants and most churches have had complaints about it.

“Everything is too loud. “

“The sound is too soft. “

“I can’t understand the preacher.”

“I can’t hear the singers. “

Most congregants don’t know how to properly communicate exactly what they feel is wrong with the audio, but they know something is off. Now, understandably not all of these complaints can be solved easily (and Sister Susie may just need to turn down her hearing aid), but if your congregation is struggling to understand what those speaking from the pulpit are saying, I would think that’s a pretty major issue, right? 

Now I understand most churches don't have an unlimited budget, especially when it comes to technical equipment. So, what can we do about it without spending an arm and a leg on a completely new system?

Here are 4 suggestions for making immediate improvements on a budget:

1.     Manage your use of wedges. 

Keep an eye on wedge placement in relation to vocal mics and be sensitive to how loud the monitor wedges are. The more volume you ask for in the wedges, the more difficult you’ll be making your engineer’s job. And also remember, sound on the stage finds it’s way out into the sanctuary and that sound is much less clear because it’s been bouncing around. If you’re having a lot of struggle with muddy sound, this might be the place to start!

2.     Practice proper mic technique. 

There is nothing more challenging for a volunteer audio engineer than trying to manage feedback on a mic that is being used improperly. There are plenty of resources (Including this great one from Shure!) that can help you understand the rules a little better.

3.     Train your volunteers.

I’m not talking about having your worship leader teach them how to slide the faders and hit the mute button. Find a sound company or a credible audio engineer who is familiar with your specific soundboard. Have that engineer come in for a group lesson on the art of mixing. Yes, he should teach them the basics of the board, but he can also help your volunteers know what they should be listening for. Mixing is more than just avoiding feedback and hearing a little bit of everything. Having a pro explain it in layman’s terms can be incredibly helpful and inspire your volunteers to aim higher!

4.     Have your system tuned. 

Most churches can’t afford to update their entire sound system, and often don’t need a complete overhaul, but getting a simple re-tune done by a credible engineer can make a world of difference without paying an arm and a leg. It can help balance out the sound if you have trouble with the high end or the low end dominating the mixes, and it can improve clarity so that voices are easier to understand.

Any other ideas for dealing with the Pink Elephant without breaking the bank?

 
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