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Install Your Own Church Sound System? Here Are Some Cautionary Tales

It isn't exactly rocket science, but you need to do your homework

By Curt Taipale September 11, 2018

Image courtesy of ddzphoto

The Role Of Timing

Part of the angst of Duane’s project came through the scheduling. All involved wanted the system to be in place in time for their Easter pageant. Flying the loudspeakers meant having to move scaffolding into the room in order to pull wire and hang loudspeakers.

During the same time frame, the drama and music team needed access to the stage for their pageant rehearsals several evenings each week, so having scaffolding on the stage was a problem. Just try sharing a stage with those two groups.

The installers had to remove the scaffolding and all of their stuff each evening so that the pageant rehearsals could continue as scheduled. That process added undue pressure on the volunteer sound installers.

Not So Fast

You wouldn’t make the same mistake?! I’m sure that’s what Duane felt. Happened anyway. Nobody lost their salvation over it, but it’s certainly something they wouldn’t do on purpose again.

Before I continue, please understand. The guys that find themselves in these predicaments aren’t dolts. They’re bright, sharp, astute, focused, detail-type personalities.

But by the time they realize that they’re in over their heads, it’s too late to drop back and do anything else about it. They’ve got to see it through and get on with life.

So what makes such a rational, educated person think that they can install a sound system just as well as a seasoned sound contractor? Contractors have years of hard-won experience they can draw upon every time they hang a loudspeaker or wire up a rack.

As well meaning as they are, churches who set out to do this work on their own are in no better position than that sound contractor on his very first install.

Not Quite…

I talked recently with my new friend, Rod, who was just then receiving the equipment that I specified and he ordered. His conversation with me then was filled with the usual confidence that both Duane and Warren shared in their first dialogs with me.

Rod was certain that he could have the cluster in the air and ready to get sound out of it within the next couple of weeks. I tried my best to cool his optimism while still being encouraging. I knew that if his experience was anything like most of the others, he’d be in for a real surprise!

Well, I just spent this past weekend commissioning the sound system that I designed and that Rod and friends installed. I called him last Thursday night before I left to make sure that he was really, truly ready for me to be there, and he assured me that all would be fine.

When I arrived in his town, I called again and his response was, “Well, we’ll be ready, but don’t hurry over here.” As I walked into the church, he had just finished making the final connections in the amp rack. To their credit, our system voicing process wasn’t delayed.

Rod finally realized – just like Warren, and Duane, and others have – that installing a sound system properly isn’t as simple or as easy as many want to think early on in the process.

Yeah, But …

Look, I know your church is different. I know y’all won’t make the same mistakes that most other churches make during this process. And I know your church will end up with an award-winning sound system that will make every sound contractor green with envy.

But just humor me. Tell me you’re at least going to consider hiring a first-rate sound contractor for your next system installation. It’ll make me feel better.

For what it’s worth, I also know that there are some contractors out there who shouldn’t be in business. Frankly, you probably could do the work better than some sound contractors out there.

Even though we’re not professional painters, I think that my wife and I do a more careful job of painting our house simply because it’s our house – we live there every day and care about it more than your typical painting contractor would.

Harder Than You Think

But as much as I know about electricity and electronics, I’m not going to volunteer to wire our next house. I might do some extra stuff – like putting lights in the closets, adding phone outlets in all of the rooms, and so on. But I’m not interested in doing the entire job myself.

While installing a sound system isn’t exactly rocket science, it is more complex than painting one’s house. That’s one reason why you need to do your homework on the contractors you’re considering.

Please at least seriously think through all of the realities before you let your church go off the deep end in their eagerness to simply save some money. They may save a few dollars during the installation, but the toll that the process exacts from the church’s volunteers may not be worth it in the long run.

People are more important than money. And it may be that later on y’all will find yourselves doing the work all over again.

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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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Scott Frazier says

I'm trying to get our name out in the audio field a bit better I know its nor perse your forte being an advisory but if you have a lead or something that would be valuable to either your's or my clients please let me know.

Charles B. says

I'm that guy. The only one who will work to make a project a reality. My pastor and I want to enter the modern world and webcast our services to publicize our church, and serve homebound parshoners. Also, our sound board, etc. was cool for the 1970's. How much do I know about getting tech installed? Not enough. However, I know how to ask the vestry for money. I need a plan and professionals. Do you have any advice for me?

Lawrence French says

I need a comprehensive discussion on sound and LCD video screens operated by bluetooth.
Any suggestions?

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