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Church Sound: Sometimes It’s The Simple Things That Matter Most
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I can’t believe that I’m writing about such a simple thing. 

It’s something that should be a given, a natural for every sound person to do for every gig.

Yet I find novices to seasoned pros not doing it—and then paying the price.

What is this one simple thing? Checking every input before the service or event starts. 

By checking every input, I mean either using headphones or turning up each input one at a time and listening to see if the input is working, and further working properly (no noise on the line, etc…).

By the way, this test should also include checking the battery level on all wireless systems.

I’ve made it a habit to have each pastor talk over the sound system right after I give them their wireless mic. This check usually happens one hour before the start of the service while the musicians are rehearsing. 

Depending on the pastor, and the trust level we have with each other, I ask them to keep the mic on or to promise that they will turn it back on before the start of the service. 

If it’s a guest pastor, I usually turn the belt pack on and then tape over the switch so it can’t be easily turned off.

It’s also best practices to do a “line check” prior to each service/event, listening to every input on headphones using the PFL (pre-fade-listen) on each channel.

Generally, I do this somewhere around five minutes before the start of the service. My logic is that it’s close enough to the start to make me feel comfortable that nothing will go wrong or change. It also leaves me with enough time to correct or change the plan if something is not working properly.

One last thing: if we’re planning on showing a video during the service, I have the video guys run the entire video with audio playback going through the main sound system.

This is done for two reasons. First, so that I’m not surprised by a jump in audio level during the service, and second, to make sure that the video won’t freeze while being played in the service.

As I noted at the beginning: this is all simple stuff! But I bet it’s happened to all of us at least once, if not more. And we’ve all been at events where a person gets up to speak and the mic’s not working.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff” is a common bit of advice, but perhaps it would be more accurate to say, at least for sound operators, “Sweat the small stuff ahead of time so you don’t have to sweat when it counts.”

Gary Zandstra is a professional AV systems integrator with Parkway Electric and has been involved with sound at churches for more than 30 years.

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