I've been surprised at how many churches I go into don't do a sound check before their service or rehearsal.
I've also been surprised at how often pastors, the worship team, or sometimes even the techies don't find it necessary. So, let's talk about sound checks today.
There are three main purposes of the sound check.
- First: Make sure that when the input channel is turned on for that instrument or person, you get sound out. This is how you know that all the cables are connected properly, and that there isn't any noise present on that channel.
- Second: Get an appropriate input level set for that channel. This needs to happen before you start setting levels in monitor speakers as the input level adjustment affects both monitors and the house PA system. If the correct level isn't set it will either cause distortion, or prevent you from getting that input loud enough in the mix to be heard.
- Third: EQ each channel to sound its best without having to try and hear it over the other band members. A lot of volume complaints in a church are actually EQ issues, with a vocalist or instrument having piercing midrange levels that could be EQ'ed outif the audio tech can hear who the problem is during a sound check.
Many churches say they don't need to do a sound check because nothing changes. The problem, of course, is that things do change all the time, even if it's the same band playing week after week.
For example, most instruments like guitars, keyboards, electronic drums, etc all have volume controls on them. If someone touches their volume knob, they just changed the input to the sound system.
Something else that changes is the people themselves, even if it's the same person. Last week Bob got a good night sleep and had three espressos on his way to rehearsal. This week he was up until midnight watching the baseball game, overslept, and didn't even have a chance to pick up a single cup of coffee. I'll guarantee Bob's playing isn't going to be the same as it was last week. The same goes for vocalistspeople sing differently based on sleep, mood, and general health.
And how's the weather? Weather can greatly affect the sound of a microphone. At the church I worked at in Illinois, we had a rip-roaring thunderstorm blow through between the drama team rehearsal and the service. Humidity levels, air pressure and temperature all changed radically. What were perfectly EQ'ed drama channels with any feedback issues eliminated turned into a horrible sounding, squealing mess during the service. So, mics that were EQ'ed great last week aren't necessarily EQ'ed right for the exact same person this week.
Church Life Happens
Gear fails, goes missing, or is abducted by another ministry. When it is returned it’s not connected properly.A scheduled sound check gives you time to address these issues without cutting into rehearsal time as much.
And lastly, how protected is your gear? I've seen small, inquisitive hands rearranging the wiring on the back of a church's mixer or turning knobs with glee when mom and dad were busy socializing.
Sounds checks are a basic tool in making sure your ministry will be as effective as possible Sunday morning.
And oh, yesPastors, it's for you as well. Want to make sure: your wireless headset mic is going to work when you walk out to preach? There won't be feedback? And you won't sound like your talking from the bottom of a 55 gallon drum?
We do that during sound check before the congregation starts entering the sanctuary, when we have time to fix it before the service starts.
That's why sound checks matter. Next time, we'll get into what running a sound check might look like.