There are lots of churches which struggle to get consistent and excellent sound, week after week from the sound system. Today we are going to discuss it in detail in this blog post
The principles which we are discussing in this article will work for any sound system.
So what is a sound system, believe it or not, all sound systems are just trying to do what a little sound system in your home studio or in a small recording studio does, which is to take a bunch of sound sources like microphone or the sound from a guitar and mix those inputs and add some EQ to tunnel changes, may be some effects and then amplify the sound and reproduce the sound through the speakers so the audience can enjoy it.
In the normal sound system, it can mix up-to 3 inputs, a vocal mic, a guitar and may be a serif for backing.No matter how big or small your system is it gonna be basically doing that a small sound system is doing .
For live performances and world tours of famous music bands there will be lots of massive equipment. It is really just a big version of the small recording setup in our home and the large sound systems are basically accomplishing the same thing.
When we are using a mixer it could help you to mix dozens of channels. Taking into account of situation having a mixer with 24 channels then we could connect it with 8 drum mics, 3 guitars, 3 keyboards, 6 vocalists and will be 4 open channels for other inputs
Lets’ look at an overview of the standard sound system, a typical sound system you will have your sound sources, that feed into a mixer, which then feed into some amps and then on to the main speakers. There are effects and monitors which we look at another time.
But now, we will discuss about how we connect all of the mic or the sound sources in the stage to connect to the mixer located in the middle of the room, now you can run a bunch of messy cables with all the inputs, you are going out on with individual cables but there are far better way to would be by using a snake or multi-cable.
There are few different ways for the signal to get out from the stage, there are fan to fan, fan to box or a wall plate. There are also even digital snakes or panel on the stage area and all those signals are transferred using a single network cable, which is really cool way to save on the bunch of wires.
It doesn’t matter which type of cable you use, the principle is the same. Get all those sounds from the sound sources on the stage to make their way to the mixer so they can be mixed and then send out to the AMPS and to the speaker.
You could imagine all those inputs coming from the stage to the stage input box. We usually connect a mixer to the stage input box which waits for all the sounds from the sources in the stage.
Assume that the stage input box is receiving signals from 8 drum mics, 2 Guitar AMP Mics, Direct out from Bass AMP, Signal from wireless router of Acoustic Guitar and from 5 vocal mics.
The snake that goes from the mixer to the input box can send signal in both ways. When the signal is send back to the stage from the mixer then the musicians can hear themselves.
Musicians could have hard time hearing themselves, as all the main speakers are aimed out to the audience and if no speaker is aimed at the performing band then the only thing that they hear is the reflection of the sound which reaches half a second later to the performing band, which is not really good for keeping time.
The way to fix is to send some of the mix back to the stage using on stage monitors or in-ear monitors where in a different mix of sound is send back to the performing musicians and the vocalists using he monitor sense feature in the mixer.
The musicians and vocalists on stage may need completely different mixers may be the vocalists wants little drums for timing lot of piano to help with pitch and a little background of vocals. May be the base player doesn’t need any drum because he is physically standing right next to the drummer, he can hear him perfectly just through the air. The base player may need little bit of vocal and a bit of rhythm guitar because the guitarist might be standing 20 feet away.
Also think about this way sometimes there are really large stages and the guitarist is about 50ft away from the drummer, if the rhythm guitar is hearing the drummer through the air then the guitarist might be hearing the drummer a 50 milliseconds late as the sound travels at about a foot a millisecond.
Look at the picture that is shown below that displays the signal flow from the microphone makes its way through the input-box then to the mixer and through aux sensor or a monitor sense out to an onstage monitor or an in-ear monitor.
So if you are looking at the signal flow, where are the places that you could fail, first thing i would look at is the input box and at the back of the mixer, these are the classic places for the things to fail, if you can’t here the microphone or you can’t here the microphone through the monitors. Have a look at the input box and have a look at the back of the mixer because lot of people start plugging things and unplugging things as these are the first places to look at.
If everything looks good from there and if you actually getting the signal into the mixer, the next thing i would look at is whether the master send is up and also the master of the master send up the next i look at is the AMP that feeds the in-stage monitor and all those connections are OK.
In the in-ear monitor area there you could deal with things like the wireless trouble shooting are they both on the same frequency, transmitter and the receiver.
These are gonna be the good ways to look at the signal flow right from the microphone and all the way through input box to the back of the mixer then to the speaker and the monitor.
Let’s imagine that we have some one with in-ear monitors and they say that they can’t hear the hi-hats, the first thing you have to ask them is that can you hear everything else. If the person says that he hears everything else but no the hi-hat the first thing you can do is to check whether the in-ear receiver is working and the transmitter is working, check in fact the line that is feeding the transmitter is working everything looks good and everybody else hears the hi-hats.
So what has gone wrong, it is guaranteed that the Aux (Monitor) send on hi-hat is not up, turn that up and everything will be fine.
The above mentioned tips are those which we can use to trouble shoot the sound system in your church and the techniques are applicable to other live performances and concerts as well.
More tips which you can use
Keep it clean.
I’ve had nightmares after seeing some stages where all the mic cables are piled up next to the snake in no particular order.
Start with power.
Whenever you start wiring up a stage, start with running power to all your musician locations.
Traditionally running power and signal cords next to each other hasn’t been the best idea.
In most churches drums are the loudest acoustic instrument on stage.
Think of your stage as your front lawn; make it as beautiful as possible.
Use the right cable
The beauty of audio is that we can use just about anything with two conductors to send signal.
For those of you who break down and set up every week, it’s crucial to prewire as much as possible.
Every speaker has a dispersion angle. The more expensive speakers have really narrow dispersion angles, which tend to throw sound like a beam.
Self monitoring in ear systems are the way to go.
Once your sound system is wired up and fully functional, don’t feel the need to keep the amps cranked all the way open.
In our course syllabus of 1 year Diploma in Sound Engineering we cover the topics mentioned above and more advanced techniques which are essential for setting up audio systems for churches and to get consistent sound from the system. As our students learns about audio trouble shooting the students will be able to trouble shoot the audio system in almost all the cases.
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Do you have any other interesting and useful tips to share, type it in the comments section below.
Happy Sound Engineering