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The Role of an Audio Director: Achieving Accurate Reproduction of Sound

Unfortunately, many churches don't place appropriate emphasis on the Spoken word mic. In a perfect world, all of our microphones will be of a premium quality. But if you must choose, put the highest quality mic on the pastor.

There are a lot of similarities when you compare some large church services to a large-scale rock concert.

To ensure success, the sound engineer must be in control and have the backing of the pastor in-charge. If he or she doesn't, the production may veer off the rails.

I would say, though, that there are more variables in the church production. There are the obvious, common items, such as sound, lights, crew communication, and wardrobe to name a few.

However, in church production, there are items like the spoken word, live music, theatrical presentation, inexperienced and experienced end users, Q&A, testimonials, and the list does not stop there. You could have a great band playing one minute with the perfect live mix, and then the guest speaker comes out.

From there, the speaker then approaches the mic like a dangerous animal or a close friend. They end up screaming into the mic as they appear to be eating it, or you find that they are 3 feet away, looking up at a PowerPoint presentation, way off mic and at a low-level.

The perfect storm for unintelligibility and feedback conditions.

This is how it goes, and how it changes for church tech teams from week to week! There are a lot of things that could go wrong. Having procedures and tools in place are a great starting point.

If anyone on staff (besides the pastor) needs to mimic the Christ walk, it is the sound supervisor. He is the vital cog in which all elements of productions pass through.

For starters, he must be organized, and pleasant to those who are in a stressful situation. In addition, they must be able to handle a myriad of production situations, while juggling all aspects of the day's events. All while maintaining good management of the engineering staff.

A church that does not take sound serious, is the one that loses attendance due to a lack of consistency and unintelligibility.

Close your eyes. You're at a worship service. The visuals are gone, and all you have left is sound.

That's where the information happens.

The Silent Servant Laws.

Yes, in any church, the sound engineer is central to the outcomes of the worship experience (good or bad).

The sound engineer, volunteer or professional, is central in the wheel of activities.

All activities in these types of facilities rely on sound, whether it's a choir, worship band, pastor's sermon, or a video playback from a foreign mission trip.

There needs to be a person to lead this process.

It's the responsibility of the sound engineer to facilitate the techniques to ensure a successful production, whether it's instructing the field team how to use boom and body worn microphones in harsh conditions, or working with the band to achieve a clear monitor mix for the band.

The sound engineer needs to know what the challenges are why someone isn't comfortable speaking; why someone seems shy near the microphone; why the band is so loud.

They can ask themselves questions like does the pastor have the right microphone on? Or, do I need to teach proper microphone technique to all users?

To ensure success, the sound engineer must be in control and have the backing of the pastor in-charge. If he or she doesn't, the production may veer off the rails.

The engineer needs to remain calm and deal with multiple personalities. And really, we all want the same thing: premium sound. We want a service that sounds as if there are no microphones at all: Accurate. Intelligible.

Finding Dollars For Your Needs

When it comes to budget concerns, the pastor's mic shouldn't be up for discussion. Providing a premium spoken word experience comes with a price tag.

When capturing speech, a great microphone will sound as if there is no microphone at all only a transparent, accurate reproduction of the speaker.

Considering that many church facilities have imperfect acoustics and some attendees may have hearing issues it's imperative that this first step (acquisition) is a premium one. Everything that follows will attempt to enhance or fix this signal. This process needs to be consistent through the team of engineers.

Unfortunately, many churches don't place appropriate emphasis on the Spoken word mic. In a perfect world, all of our microphones will be of a premium quality. But if you must choose, put the highest quality mic on the pastor.

There are more ways than one to reach the masses. Which of the following analogies are akin to your pastor's style?

1.The walker.

They're comfortable using their hands, and they walk around to "get in the zone." For them, a wireless headset mic is a great fit. Whether they're at the pulpit or roaming, this mic is closer to the sound source: their mouths.

2.The hugger.

They prefer to stay at the podium while preaching and use the mic as their center point. Sometimes, they constantly reposition the microphone, which can negatively alter sound and damage the mic over time.

For them, I recommend podium mics that are available in many lengths, choosing the correct one will produce consistent sound among multiple users.

Uniformity around the mic capsule is also very desirable, as it lets them turn their heads slightly or look down and up to their PowerPoint presentations without sounding off-mic. Without this uniformity, intelligibility and sound reinforcement suffer, as the sound level goes up and down.

3.The unpredictable preacher.

They use PowerPoint presentations, show a video, or both. One minute, they're at the pulpit; the next, they're walking into the congregation! They move a lot looking back or up at the PowerPoint, sipping their coffee

Here again, a podium microphone is a great fit. I've seen pastors walk five or six feet away from the pulpit and still be understood, if they use a premium microphone designed for this type of use.

Another option is a wireless directional headset, or lavalier lapel mic, or both. Yes, maybe this preacher needs two mics.

When he's in the moment, your sound team should be equipped to technically follow the production.

4. A few band thoughts.

When it comes to mixing a worship band, using proper techniques can ensure premium sound for the vocalist and band. Every microphone should receive the same amount of care and consideration as the pastor's microphone, if your budget permits. While some members of the congregation may prefer the sermon from the pastor, others may desire the hymns and sounds from the choir or worship band.

A very important aspect of clear accurate sound is setting up monitor mixes for the band. This requires training the band members to listen to their stage volume with the monitors turned off. Let them tell what they can and cannot hear. That is where you can keep the unwanted sound out of the monitor wedges, and therefore create a great environment for musical intelligibility.

If left to the band, they will tell you that they want everything in their monitors and that will surely prove destructive and sound horrible. Achieve better audio management by designing what you do not want to hear in the room!

Train the performer and the volunteer engineer by giving them both confidence in having dialogue with each other, instead of never talking about the production workflow.

Confidence breeds confidence.

Don’t be shy, Good sound is critical to all who attend the service!

Proper management of these techniques will document these practices to ensure repeatable success with all sound mixers. The smart worship center will always have a sound supervisor appointed to oversee this process!

5. Getting great sound is subjective.

These suggestions are meant to be a good starting point. Remember: a confident performer will always sound better!

In a worship environment, it's all about information. We can close our eyes and get the information we need just from the sound and that's why it really needs to be accurate.

Remember: There's no right way to do the wrong thing.

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