Sound guy vs the band – conquering the great divide, part 1

When in a smaller church situation (and frankly this extends to the outside world too) there is often a great divide between the front-of-house engineer and the band on stage.  If you are a bigger church you may even have a few different sound guys, and even types of sound guys (FOH versus monitor etc).

In this multiple part series I’ll be looking at a number different issues experienced, and some ways to address them.  Working as a team is an absolute key requirement if everything is to run smoothly in your services.

“I know you want more of yourself in that monitor, but the stage is already too loud!”

This must be the #1 request of all time, and probably the one that band members get most upset with.  In a church environment the sound levels are normally subdued, we don’t hit the kind of levels that you’ll find at rock concerts.  Because of this, the stage volume can often influence the sound heard by the congregation.  Also, rather unfortunately, the bass frequencies are non-directional so they travel in all directions, while treble is only heard in front of the monitors.  So the monitor spill the congregation will be hearing will be muffled – not great.

There are two possible solutions to the problem – the first is to turn the stage volume down, and the second is to turn the house volume up.  There is obviously a limit to the house volume because at some point the congregation will feel it is too loud, ruining their experience.  When this limit is hit, the stage volume has to come down, there is no real other way.

Some of the volume from the stage is also not under the control of the sound guy – such as acoustic drums and electric guitar amps.  With drums, acoustic treatment may be necessary.  Electric guitar amps may need to be turned down.  Remember, the FOH technician is only asking you to turn down your amp because the front of house sound is suffering.  When the sound is well controlled and equalised, the sound guy can often get better tone through a mic via the house speakers than your amp will output directly to the congregation.

The same thing counts for drums.  A well EQ-d close mic-ed acoustic kit will sound great over the PA, while a loud kit with no mics will just sound loud and have no “fatness” to the kick and snare.

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