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Proven & Workable: A Hybrid Approach To Instrument Reinforcement

Working effectively despite limited stage space and/or the need to reduce on-stage volume from amplified sources.

By Frederick Ampel September 10, 2019

Of all the various issues that generate the most questions from potential and current clients in the church sound market, creating and managing the musical aspects of services are definitely at the top of the list. It matters not whether it’s a simple guitar and piano accompaniment at a traditional service or a full-on praise band with a top-line high-energy evangelical style service – the same issues present themselves.

The two that seem come up most often are: How do I achieve a balanced presentation? And, how do I achieve a natural sound with enough volume to cover the congregation?

On the surface, these appear to be fairly straightforward issues that should have reasonably easy solutions. What is not obvious to the majority of church tech staff is a critical element of the equation: the worship space.

Key Issues

Every worship space will create a “room mix” of whatever sound is being generated within that space. This is a fact and there is nothing any hardware/software or technique can do to significantly alter what that mix is. The physical characteristics of the room create it and those are not likely to change, so that particular sonic signature is your starting point for everything else that must happen to create a quality experience for all your worship-space needs.

With that inherent mix as an established part of the acoustical environment, what remains for any tech staff is: How can they work with what already exists to achieve the best overall presentation of their service’s content? This means matching the needs of both the spoken word and musical content to their resources and finding the ever-elusive happy middle ground for both aspects of the service.

In some of my other articles, I’ve discussed the needs of the spoken word aspect of a worship service and the criticality of getting and keeping a high speech intelligibility focus.

However, it’s often far more difficult for technical staff and volunteers to balance the musical content, especially when the facility contains large fixed musical sources such as a pipe organ or choir. Those elements are already a part of the mix in the room and what needs to be handled is inserting the rest of the musical sources into the room mix and balancing their inter-relationships.

Further, there’s the overall balance between speech and musical content that must be established and carefully adjusted. In essence, no matter the worship style or complexity, it will require a large measure of the art of compromise since it’s unlikely that all the participants will get exactly what they need.

The goal is not perfection, but a reasonable – and most importantly – consistent presentation.


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About Frederick

Frederick Ampel
Frederick Ampel

Dr. Frederick J. Ampel has been involved in the professional A/V industry for more than 40 years, working as a systems designer, consultant, sales and marketing professional and market researcher. Presently he runs Technology Visions Analytics, a consultancy and market research firm.
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