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Church Sound Files: Does Your Mix Sound Natural?

Allowing each instrument to have its own space is key, but so is having musicians that know how to play together and complement one another.

By Gary Zandstra May 16, 2011

For the past year I have been attending a weekly bible study that meets in a church multi-purpose room. 

The group is rather large, around 400 people, and includes a 40 minute lecture so sound reinforcement is needed.

For my taste, the sound reinforcement always seems a touch loud. It’s not painful or anything like that, but I find in annoying. I think the main reason it bothers me it that it doesn’t feel natural. It sort of feels like the person lecturing is yelling.

Normal conversation is usually around 60 dB. So, when there nominal level is in the upper 70’s (a normal vacuum cleaner at 10’ is in the 70’s) with peaks hitting into the 80’s (a car passing by at about 10’) it just doesn’t feel right.

I also was also recently in a church service where they added a violin and horns into the normal rock band (drums, guitar, keyboards, and bass).  The horns sounded great, but I found myself not enjoying the violin much. 

After the service I talked with the front of house guy and he told me that because of the stage volume and the fullness of the mix, he had a hard time bringing the violin out in the mix. 

To allow the violin to breathe, he ended up making it sound thin and attempted to lay it on top of the mix. Again, it just didn’t sound natural.

Recently, I also visited a service where three acoustic guitars were used along with keyboard and some auxiliary percussion. After the service I went up to compliment the front of house sound guy for the excellent job that he did, knowing how difficult it is to get three acoustic guitars to sound good together.

When I inquired how he was able to make it work so well he told me that individually the guitars didn’t necessarily sound that great, but all together it worked. I thought about it and it really makes sense. He eq’d each guitar so it would have its own space in the mix so when they all played it sounded like there was just one guitar being played.

In closing, he added this important zinger, “I would like to take all the credit, but it really helps when you have musicians that know how to play together and complement each other, not fighting each other for the same acoustical space”.

Well said, and if the front of house sound guy knows his job and can assist in making things sound natural he’s definately a winner in my book.

Gary Zandstra is a professional AV systems integrator with Parkway Electric and has been involved with sound at his church for more than 25 years.

About Gary

Gary Zandstra
Gary Zandstra

Consultant, Dan Vos Construction, Writer for Worship Facilities and ProSoundWeb
Gary Zandstra has worked in church production and as an AV systems integrator for more than 35 years. He’s also contributed numerous articles to ProSoundWeb over the past decade.


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