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Church Sound: Everything Is Amazing, And No One Is Happy

Acknowledging how awesome all this technology is, and cutting it some slack when it doesn't work right.

Editors note: This article goes back to 2012, but it’s a subject worthy of repeating…

Louis CK has a bit in his routine where he describes some of the miracles of modern life, and how we’re never happy with them.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when a few of our musicians got to complaining about the trouble they have communicating with each other during rehearsal now that we’re all on ears.

I thought back to three years ago when I arrived at Coast (my church). We had 7-12 monitors on stage that typically generated 88-90 dB SPL at front of house, 90 feet away with the main PA off.

The sound was pretty dreadful back then, the stage was a mess, the piano was rarely in tune and had more drums in those mic’s than piano, sound check typically took more than an hour and at the end, people were rarely completely happy.

This article is provided by ChurchTechArts.

Today, we’re so dialed in that sound check can be done in 20 minutes if everyone cooperates, stage volume is almost 0 and by all accounts, the sound in the house is better than it’s ever been.

The piano sounds great, and by changing out most of the mic’s so does everything else. Oh, and with the M-48 personal mixers, the musicians can usually get a great mix; one that’s tweaked exactly for them.

Everything is amazing, and no one is happy.

I’m guilty of this too. I regularly complain about our mix position and PA. But then I visit a church where the mix position is so far under a balcony that the engineer can’t even see the speakers (let alone hear them), and the PA is a bunch of portable loudspeakers chained to the ceiling by their carrying handles (I know…yikes!).

I mix on an SD8, and we have the best personal monitoring system out there. The PA actually does sound pretty good, at least at mix position, and we’ve learned how to make it sound acceptable in the room. Sure, I have to run up and down stairs a lot, but that does help me burn off the amazing breakfasts our hospitality team provides every Sunday. And it’s a good excuse to get an iPad every couple of years (speaking of which…).

Everything is amazing, and no one is happy.

We do this with other technology as well. Take the iPhone 5, which is, apparently, a “huge disappointment.” It turns out that if you take a picture of the sun, you get a purple lens flare. #epicfail! Never mind the fact that I bought my first digital camera about 10 years ago and it cost almost $300. The pictures it took don’t even begin to compare with the photos I can now take with my phone. The one I carry in my pocket all the time. And can use to check e-mail, surf the web, update Twitter and navigate to anywhere in the country (using Motion-X Drive, of course, because Apple Maps suck).

Everything is amazing, and no one is happy.

Maybe what we need is a little perspective change. Instead of complaining about every little thing that isn’t exactly what we think it should be, perhaps we should pause to consider what amazing times we live in. Most of us carry more computing power in our pockets than was used to launch Apollo 13. We can video chat with people anywhere in the world, any time, for free.

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Twenty years ago, we were using transparencies and overhead projectors for song words. We now have amazing tools like ProPresenter and Projector. So what if they crash once in a while; they’re freaking amazing! Back then, we were using Hot Spots for monitors. We now have these incredible 40 channel personal mixers that you can customize to the hilt.

I know this is tough for us as techs, because we tend to be perfectionists and strive to do amazing work all the time. But what if we took the lead on this and started to acknowledge how amazing all this technology is, and cut it some slack when it doesn’t work right. I’m not sure about this, but perhaps we’d be less grumpy and more grateful.

I don’t know…it’s just a thought.

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