Whatever the method or capacity for projecting the message, our sound systems can be a blessing and a curse. How do we keep the environment from sounding like a goose getting sucked into an oversized vacuum hose or the equivalent of an audio apocalypse from the feedback of a 1,000 hearing aids at a geriatric convention? Glad you asked.
Tip #1 – Position your Speakers
If you have speakers mounted on stands or hanging from the ceiling, you can stop by your local pet store or dollar store and pick up a small laser pointer for less than $10.
Hold your laser point on the top corner of your speaker and you will be able to see on the back of your auditorium approximately where your speaker is pointed.
Do the same for the other side of the platform or speaker cluster. You will want your points to land roughly at the same place on the back wall, not crossing over or pointing too far out. If you draw an imaginary line, you would create a triangle from one speaker to the other, to the point on your back wall and back to your speaker.
Tip #2 – Lapel Placement
You have multiple options for microphones from a handheld, head-worn-microphone (following the outline of the jaw), or lapel microphone. Lapel microphones are best if you have a limited budget or if you tend to perspire a lot…hand me a hanky.
If you happen to use a lapel, make a fist with your hand, place the edge of your thumb under your chin, and situate the lapel microphone just below your pinky on your shirt, tie, or lapel of your jacket.
Tip #3 – Punt to a Professional
Contact your local music/sound technician store for help on setting up your sound system or getting the right levels on your mixer board. In my case, our volunteer sound guy was able to meet with a local sound tech from a music store and he came out to our church. We paid him for his time and consultation. He does sound professionally on the weekends for events and works with sound systems every day at the music store. Look for a music/sound store near you or contact another church in the area. They may have an experienced sound crew that could give you some pointers.
Tip #4 – Use a Portable PA (Public Address) System
So you don’t have a sound guy and you’re getting started from scratch? Check out some great setups that can work for any budget.
If you are running the service by yourself as the pastor or your pastor asked you to lead up the “sound ministry,” check out this article from MusicCritic.com about 13 Best Portable PA Systems of 2018. Start small and as you have need and money to grow your sound system, you will find you can crawl, walk, and then run.
Tip #5 – Record Your Sermon
Start recording your sermon and archive your messages or produce a podcast. It all starts with an affordable and durable setup that will get the job done.
You can find a great setup that will work with your smartphone. See more about lapel microphones here on Amazon.com. With almost 2,000 reviews at a price just south of $30, this is a great buy for a tight budget.
You can use your voice memos app to record right to your smartphone. If you have an Apple phone you will need to have the microphone jack to lightning adapter.
For other smartphone microphones, check out this list of the best smartphone mics on the market.
Tip #6 – Know How to Set Your Audio Levels
If you are a do-it-yourself and want to skip on punting to a pro, be sure to get the best sound by understanding a little bit about mixing. You can find a great article and tutorial on understanding sound terms and techniques for the beginner here.
Tip #7 – Have a Plan in Place
Questions to consider when thinking about your sound ministry: Why do you have a sound ministry? What do you, as the pastor, expect of the sound crew? What do you, as the sound crew, expect from the pastor? Who is allowed to use the sound equipment? If a piece of equipment is broken, what’s the protocol to get it fixed? Do you have a backup plan or redundancies in place if a speaker, microphone or God forbid the soundboard goes down? How and who communicates with the sound booth/crew about mic levels and feedback during a service, program, or presentation? Do you have a sound check the night before or the morning of the service?
Put a checklist in place and a quick protocol guide so the pastor, worship leaders, and sound crew are all on the same page.
One more for good measure…change your batteries bi-weekly. We’ve gone with switching out every other week. You can also consider getting rechargeable. Or put a piece of white electrical tape on the body pack of the mic and write the date down when you last changed the batteries.
Don’t sweat the hiccups.
Every ministry big or small, professional or volunteer crew encounters problems with their sound. So if you have a weekend with no problems-Praise the Lord! If you do, chalk it up to a janitor maybe sucking up a goose in the vacuum cleaner.