Friday, January 25, 2008

Fix Your Sound/Lights - Fix Your Sound/Lights

I love to visit new churches: new to me anyway. As an in-demand player in the upstate SC area, I spend a lot of time at different churches and ministries. Each one has strengths and weaknesses. The one major factor that spreads like the plague: poor quality in the worship service.

If you are the creative director of a church or the sound or lighting tech, there are a few easy and inexpensive things you can do to fight this epidemic. Let's look at some common things to fix with your sound board.

Get rid of reverb and delays - they should only be used sparingly. I recently visited a local church plant (we'll call it Church A) and was shocked at the poor quality of the service. The vocals at Church A were dripping wet in reverb. You could barely hear the worship leader talk, let alone sing. The reverb was also soaking the electric and the acoustic guitars. If you are going to use reverb or delay, start with only a little on the vocals and make sure to turn the effects off when the music stops. Church A left the booming reverb on for the announcements and the speaker sounded like he was in a baseball stadium.

For a cleaner mix, cut out the bass frequencies of all instruments and vocals except the bass guitar and kick drum. Many sound boards have a "low-cut" switch that eliminates all frequencies below 100Hz or 75Hz. If you have it, use it! By cleaning up your mix, everything will magically sound clearer and less muddy. Also, vocals typically need a little highs and mids boosted so they can "cut through" the mix. Adjusting the EQ is sometimes more effective than just pushing the volume slider up.

Let's also look at your lighting setup. Let there be "focused" light - the everything-bright-look should be saved for your local grocery store. When your congregation worships, don't let them feel out in the open. Church A had the window blinds wide open and bright light filled the entire room. I've not felt that exposed and uncomfortable in awhile. A simple solution is to close the blinds and install a few gooseneck lamps on the ceiling with dimmers and point them at the stage. A dimmer congregation and brighter stage helps focus attention forward and creates a sense of warmth in the worship service.

You may want to install floor lamps or hang some other lamps from the ceiling pointing at the walls to give the room more ambient light. Dimmers give the ability to raise the lighting level during the sermon.

Lastly, avoid fluorescent lighting! These lights have a cold and harsh color. I prefer incandescent lights - they provide a very warm and natural tone.

Try these simple tips to improve the mood and ambiance of your service.

>Adam Fisher's new website helps home recording hobbyists:

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