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Church Sound Humor Files: Unintended Amendments To The Laws Of Physics

There seems to be a lot of people who attempt to apply mythological advice to problems with the sound.

By Curt Taipale April 17, 2019

Image courtesy of Gerd Altmann

It’s clear to us that God’s laws of physics must operate differently inside a church than outside.

After several moments of grueling research, painstaking addition, and… Well, we offer these amendments.

Regrettably, they are true stories passed along by members of our ChurchSoundcheck Discussion Group. They arrived via email, so you know they’re true!

Amendment #1: We’ve been pointing microphones in the wrong direction!

A friend of ours went into church early one Sunday morning only to find that all of his choir mics had been meticulously turned around so that they faced away from the choir and towards the congregation.

As it turns out, some overly helpful church members had decided to take things into their own hands and fix some audio problems.

This article is provided by Church

Their explanation for this change was their belief that all mics should be pointed in the direction where the sound is going, and since the choir is projecting their sound into the congregation, that they should point the mics toward where the choir sound is being projected.

Amendment #2: Sound is like artillery fire – it must be lobbed out into an audience.

While on a consulting visit at a church several years ago, I noticed that the main loudspeakers were hanging from some columns at the front edge of the stage, and aimed up at about a 5-degree angle. When I asked the sound tech at the church why they were aimed up, he said that a previous consultant had positioned them that way.

Apparently the consultant was convinced that sound responds to God’s law of gravity, and therefore must be “lobbed” out into the audience. After careful consideration of this principle, I think we can safely assume that the trajectory would be similar to that of a cannon ball.

Important Note: Amendment #2 appears to be in direct conflict with Amendment #1, therefore suggesting that the laws of physics are somehow denominationally dependent. Further research is warranted.

Amendment #3: New units for decibels.

The previous example requires that we add a new unit to the decibel. If the sound is turned up to 80 dB, then the cannon ball, or I guess I should say sound ball, must weigh 80 pounds. If we turn up the sound to 100 dB, then the sound ball must weigh 100 pounds.

I suppose that should actually read 100 dB-SP, for sound pounds. We must further assume that sound reaching a level of 130 dB-SPL would be considered at the “threshold of pain.” Go ahead and test it. Drop a 100-pound anything on your foot and my bet is that you’ll be in pain.

Amendment #4: Bigger wire slows down current flow so I should be using smaller wire on the loudspeakers.

Clearly, power loss and damping factor work differently inside a church building. I have a doctor friend who often tries to convince me that any food eaten while visiting at a friend’s house has no fat or calories. I think those two theories are somehow related.

Amendment #5: Sound rises, therefore microphones on stands should always be pointed up.

Watch any highly regarded acoustical consultant measure a sound system, and you’ll probably see the mic pointed up. They’re spent years studying acoustics and sound systems, so they must have determined that sound rises. Why else would they point the test mics up?

Amendment #6: How Electricity Really Works

The following startling theory was sent to us by Daniel A. Wells with the comment “… submitted to me by a friend who saw it in an issue of the ISA newsletter.”

“So simple! So obvious that we couldn’t see it! Leo discovered how power circuits work. He says smoke is the real thing that makes power circuits work because every time you let smoke out of something electrical, it quits working. He claims to have verified this with thorough testing.”

“Of course! Smoke makes all things that are electrical work. Remember the last time smoke escaped from a transformer? Didn’t it quit working? I sat and smiled like an idiot as more of the truth dawned. I remembered when I’d witnessed the awful destruction of a four-kilovolt breaker and bus at Sunnyvale. The breaker and bus had leaked out so much smoke that they actually melted and quit working.

“See, it’s the conductor that carries the smoke from one device to another. It starts at a power plant where the stuff is burned to produce smoke. The smoke we see coming from the stacks is excess that the system doesn’t need. The smoke is then sent down the conductors to transformers.

“Transformers are big and require lots of smoke to work properly. That’s why the conductors are so big. If those conductors spring a leak, it lets the smoke out of everything, and then nothing works! Forget about electron theory!”

“I plan to spend more time with Leo on some of his other theories!”

Where do they get this stuff?

There seems to be a lot of people who won’t volunteer to work on the sound team, but who think they have the answer to the problems with the sound. I think that most of them mean well as they attempt to apply the mythological advice of their friends and neighbors.

Many thanks to Bob Lewis, Daniel Wells, and others for offering up these absolutely true stories upon which this exploration was based. Some people actually believe this stuff. Don’t you?

The end (for now…)

About Curt

Curt Taipale
Curt Taipale

President, Taipale Media Systems
Curt Taipale of Taipale Media Systems heads up Church, a thriving community dedicated to helping technical worship personnel, as well as the Church Sound Boot Camp series of educational classes held throughout the U.S.


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Jon says

Well, I'm not in the least surprised...After all, they believe in a whit haired, bearded dude that lives up in the clouds that they've never seen....makes sense to me.

AnonRecordingGuy says

Those who really understand #6 know that it's the magic BLUE smoke that makes things work. My colleagues once, while setting up a control room, rested the speaker cable banana plugs on an aluminum bar. They forgot the power amp was powered on and let out all the magic blue smoke, rendering the amp useless.

Also you have a typo in #5 "They’re spent years studying acoustics..." should probably be "They've"

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