When it comes to audio production in churches, there are a few things to consider, such as church congregation size, serving team size, and equipment.
In this article, we will unpack the importance of considering each factor, as we learn how to have an excellent audio production at any location, on any level.
The size of your congregation matters in terms of how much equipment you will need, to accommodate the number of people in your space. For instance, a church of 100 people will generally need fewer speakers and subwoofers, than a church with 1,000 congregation members, and a church of 1,000 will generally need fewer than a church of 10,000, and so on.
As you determine the size of your congregation, be sure to include the church’s vision. If the vision is to create a space that is accommodating to more people than you currently have, take that into consideration in your planning and preparation.
The number of people you can serve within each worship experience will be partially limited by the number of people you can fit into the worship room or auditorium.
As you prepare to purchase equipment, be sure to consider the size of the room you will be mixing sound in. It is difficult to get a desirable sound with too limiting a sound system.
Also, among aspects to consider, as you begin your planning and preparation, is the budget that you will be working with.
There are many entry-level options for sound systems and mixing boards, as well as industry-standard and professional-level options. Be sure you are clear and open about your budget, and you should be able to build a system that best fits your needs.
Serving Team Size
You will also need to consider the size of your worship ministry. The size of your mixing console will vary, depending on how many different things you need to accommodate.
As you consider the size of the band, and the number of speaker/MC mics, you will need, be sure to also assess the size of the production team that will be serving.
If you are the only front of house engineer, you will solely learn the system and need to teach it, as you develop others. If you have a larger team of capable FOH engineers, you will want to be sure you choose a system that best suits your needs.
Part of being a leader in any capacity, and in any ministry, is that you take on the task of developing other leaders. As you go through the process of researching equipment, to purchase the proper things necessary for your church, be sure to learn enough, to be able to teach the information to others.
Now let’s talk about the equipment that is required to accomplish an excellent audio production, for any given church service. Virtually any setup can be utilized to create a decent-quality audio production, but there is one uncompromising factor in the midst: your ears.
Let’s face it, some people just don’t have the ears for mixing audio, but those that do, can create a good mix with just about anything.
After you’ve determined the size of the room you will be operating in, the number of people you will be serving, and the budget you will be working with, you will then be ready to purchase your equipment.
If you’re reading this and you already have your equipment, this is where you will learn what you need to do, to make it work for you.
Start at the source. The simple flow of sound begins with the source, is moved or translated into a mixing console, and is released into the room through a speaker or subwoofer.
If the source is giving you poor quality audio, there really isn’t much you can do to improve it.
Whenever possible, encourage quality instruments, quality cabling, and provide quality mic’ing.
Beginning with a good quality source is an easy way to achieve a great mix. Also, the more instruments/voices/pieces you have control over, the better.
If possible, mic every piece to the drum kit. (You could probably get away with a couple of overhead mics for the cymbals.) Regardless of the individual volume of any instrument, mic’ing or cabling it in, will give you more control through the system itself.
Depending on your church budget and needs, the next thing to take into account will be the mixing console. First, you will have to make the decision of whether you will be using an analog or digital board.
From there, you have many options, beginning with entry-level boards and ending with the top professional-level boards. As you research which board to use, be sure to keep in mind how many inputs/outputs you will need, and if there are any on-board features you will need to have, such as effects.
After you have selected a sound board that suits your needs, you will need speakers (and subwoofers). The size of your room is very important here. The room size will tell you how much air volume the speakers will have to move, to produce the proper amount of sound. This will determine the type of speaker you will need, as well as how many you will need.
Once you have your system in place, you are ready to begin mixing.
As I stated before, everything has a source and a signal flow that it follows, before it is released into the room.
Before you begin a rehearsal or service, be sure to check all mics and lines to ensure that they are placed properly and sending a signal to the right places.
As you go through each instrument/vocal, begin with the gain structure. It is best to have everything sending signal consistently at around the same level to ensure easier mixing later.
Once you have adjusted the channel’s gain, move onto the channel EQ. Here, you will be able to subtract any negative sounds and make alterations to the instrument/vocal to achieve the desired tone quality.
At Central Church, we tend to add a high-pass filter on most things, cutting as much as possible without affecting the audible quality of the tone. This ensures that we cut out as much of the unnecessary noise floor tones as possible. Next, depending on the instrument/vocal, move onto gates and compressors. We tend to adjust these during the rehearsal, to keep things moving along during the line check. We also add in reverbs/delays after the line check is finished.
Finally, you can adjust the overall sound quality of your room by having it treated acoustically and/or by using a master EQ on your mixing console.
The more control you have over the room (i.e., the less reflective surfaces and reverb present), the more precise of a sound you will be able to create.
If acoustic treatment isn’t an option, you can test your room by playing frequency sweeps through your sound system and using a master EQ to notch out the frequencies that ring or reverberate.
Again, it all comes back to your ears.
We can buy the greatest equipment available but end up still producing a horrible sound, if our ears aren’t trained properly.
I encourage you to train your ears, and to continue to develop your gift as much as possible.