Some of this is due to an “old school” musical position that “good vocalists” (whatever that means) don’t need a sound system to project their voices. Those facing this problem need even more practice with the system.
Sound system operators, pastors and worship leaders need to be cognizant of these folks’ deficiencies and help them through their difficulties.
But if there’s little improvement after everyone has tried their best, then with utmost respect, another place must be found for them to minister in the church.
Recognize The Signs
Now the difficult one: talkers who don’t seem to care. “How can this be?” you may ask, “This is the one place where there should be more care about everyone being able to clearly hear.”
It’s such a quandary, and one that needs to be concentrated upon by everyone involved with talking and singing at a church, starting with the pastor. But first, it helps to be able to recognize the signs of a talker who may not be giving it the best effort.
—Talkers who walk up to the pulpit or lectern, stand next to rather than in front of the mic, and begin by loudly saying something like, “I think everyone can hear me just fine without this” or “can everyone hear me O.K.?”
Of course, no one would think of shouting “NO WE CAN’T” from the back half of the sanctuary, so fielding no negative replies, these talkers proceed to move the mic fully out of range and talk at whatever level they please.
—Talkers who move about on the platform, in and out of the pattern of the mic. This is most common in “fan-shaped” sanctuaries, where talkers try to maintain eye contact with various seating areas, and in the process (if not wearing a lapel mic) are “off mic” much of the time.
—Talkers who refuse to wear a lapel mic (mostly in the case of men) at more than the halfway point of their tie or clerical robe. The further the mic is from the mouth, the harder it is to get any kind of acceptable gain (volume) from the system before it goes into feedback.
Cutting The Distance
Further, these talkers tend to bend their heads forward to read or pray, cutting the distance between the mouth and mic in half. The result is a very noticeable increase in level, but only until the head moves back up, straight and tall, with the level then decreasing again.
Of course, this is a nightmare for sound operators, putting them into frantic gain-riding mode as they try to compensate for the widely varying levels provided by the talker. And most likely, it leaves everyone straining to hear or wincing because of the constant threat of feedback.
What’s the solution? It comes back to awareness, practice, patience, cooperation, and if all else fails, for the pastor or worship leader to have no hesitation in correcting a situation that’s not getting better.
Anyone with the heart to talk or sing in services deserves respect and should be provided an opportunity. At the same time, they in turn must respect the opportunity, be open to suggestions, and work hard to do their absolute best for everyone who has come to hear a worship service.
Charlie Moore has been involved in management positions at various professional audio manufacturers and large installation contractors for more than 40 years. He also has first-hand experience in live mixing, system design and installation and has been active as a volunteer in a number of church sound system operations.