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Church Sound: When To Address EQ Problems, And What To Do

Don’t let gain-before-feedback completely drive how you EQ

By Gary Zandstra October 11, 2011

In taking with the sound operator at this church guy (a great guy with a servant’s heart), he explained that it was also common practice for the musicians to come back during rehearsals and make EQ adjustments. (And he had been instructed not to change it!?!)

I walked in, turned down the aux gains feeding the monitors by about 6 dB, and then hit the bypass buttons on all of the EQs.

The band started playing, and soon said “wow, the monitors sound great!” 

The stage was also far quieter than it had been before.

Sometimes it’s best to just zero things out and start over.

Case #2

Problem: Vocalists/talkers who sound like “mini mouse.”

Solution: Dial back some of the radical adjustments on the channel strip.

I was testing out a sound system in a church for an upcoming event, and turned on the pulpit mic and had someone talk into it. The person honestly sounded like mini mouse. The channel strip showed a 20 dB cut at 800 Hz, and the low-shelving EQ was turned all the way down.

First I flattened the EQ, and immediately found out that, yes indeed, there was an issue at 800 Hz. The main loudspeaker hanging above the pulpit was dumping a lot of 800 Hz into the microphone. 

I then began making minimal cuts at 800 Hz while the person was taking, taking it to the point where it sounded as good as it could without going into feedback. 

My wife, who was also at the church with me, immediately noticed how much better it sounded, and she also said it was much louder.

The gain and fader on the channel were lower, but the cuts were less. In addition, because the voice was now more “full body sounding,” she perceived it as louder.

Bottom Line
Don’t get trapped into the idea that you can’t make any changes. If you’re really nervous about it, take a picture and/or write down the EQ settings. You always have the option to return to the place where you began. 

Also, don’t let gain-before-feedback completely drive how you EQ (and mix). Yes, it’s important to not have feedback, but you can accomplish this by running the system a little softer with a more full sound.

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.

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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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tlmp says

Well, anytime you have people in positions they shouldn’t be in there are going to be problems - that goes for outside as well as inside the church. When I came to the church I’m at now, they were having many problems. As I took over and began to fix the problems, the band all said it sounded a lot better, but a few in the church, including the Pastor, would sometimes challenge me as to how I had the board set up - they weren’t USED to that. One elder even moved the master fader back down to where it was SUPPOSED to be, while I was sitting behind the board. The thing is you cannot train a person to be an audio tech, it comes from the heart. In my 25 years of being in the church, I’ve never actually seen anybody pick up a book or go study something online - they just all sit there waiting for the Holy Spirit to do everything. In your article you say “Don’t get trapped into the idea that you can’t make any changes.” Well, I feel that if you have to say that to someone, then that person doesn’t belong in that ministry. When I came to my church I tore everything out and never once asked permission. I then put everything back together in a sensible way. Now the whole system is stable, quiet and feedback free. Our Pastor can even go out in front of the boxes without me having to reduce his volume.

So, for me, it’s very frustrating to read your type of articles which pander to church laziness. No one should be allowed to touch the sound system unless they can prove they have years of experience and know what they are doing.

Carly says

@timp. You’re totally right. we should never take on young people who want to learn but are afraid that they may damage expensive equipment, and encourage them to experiment and try things out. We should never get older people on who have a heart to serve and want to learn a new skill. We should never deal patiently with people who have been taught something and haven’t had it explained to them why there is another way of doing things. We shouldn’t have to respect the pastor, the congregation, or the volunteers who make what we do even possible. We should just bull into our churches, do everything our way (because that’s the best way), and screw everyone else. Because we know everything.


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