Tag Archives: Audio

Your Church PA (Pt4)

In ‘Your Church PA’ we get a peek into some of the audio/production setups at local churches in South Africa. We get to ogle over some photos of gear, share ideas, and learn from the wisdom and experience of those techs who keep the systems running week-to-week! For more detail look here.

This week – Matthew Pierce and Lisa Bell from Glenwood Community Church share their setup with us.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“We are currently using the Behringer DDX3216 Digital mixer. It is a 32 channel mixer. It has served us very well considering that Behringer hasnt had the best track record for mixers especially digital ones. We are able to run 8 monitor mixes and the effects board in the unit is sufficient for where we find ourselves currently as a church.”

The FOH stack is a 900W JBL AC25, and it’s powered by a USA Q10 power amp. They use Behringer HA8000 headphone amps as their in-ear monitor signal distribution system.


Tech Workshop Dates are out!

Monday 9th May 2011, 6.30PM, Auditorium, Grace Family Church (Umhlanga Campus)

Audio Workshop:

“Fundamentals Of Sound Reinforcement”: The Principles of Sound Reinforcement; The Human Ear; Your Sound System; Basic Mixing Techniques; Dynamics; Advanced Mixing Techniques; FAQ.

This workshop also includes access to the “Open House” on the Thursday night, when you can come through to the Umhlanga Campus to observe a rehearsal, and ask audio or other production-related questions.

Note: This workshop is free and open to all. If you are interested please let me know! I can only confirm this workshop only once we have sufficient numbers!

Thursday 12th May 2011, 6.30PM, Grace Family Church (Umhlanga Campus)

Lighting Workshop & “Open House”

“The Language of Light”: Lighting Fixtures & Lighting Control Explained. Design, Programming, & Operation Discussion. Energy vs. Focus.

This workshop will include access to the “Open House” on the Thursday night at the Umhlanga Campus, when we will run lighting during a rehearsal, to get practical experience on the console.

Please contact me to confirm your attendance, or for any other quires.

Kind Regards


Epic (tech) Fail

I’m including these short pictorial posts for a bit of a light-hearted look at some common tech ‘fopars’. Feel free to post you own!

How many times have you seen these ‘washing line’ style speaker cables? Disaster area! This shocker was taken in a hotel conference room in Durban.

Eyes on the Road, Buddy!

I was watching an audio guy recently who spent most of the rehearsal studying the console in front of him like the touch-screen held the answers to life. I wondered what amazing show I was missing – but I also wondered how the band was going to communicate with him when they needed to. (and when he was going to realize that a PAR can had started a small fire onstage)

I see this a lot (the sound guy, not the fire). And let me be clear. In my humble option, your head’s DEFAULT position should be looking at the stage. This kind-of goes back to my post around sources – but honestly, you can glean almost as much information about the mix from what you see on the stage, as from the blinking LEDs in front of you.

Once you get past the basics (sound and mixing 101), you should be thinking about if what you are hearing matches up to what you are seeing on the stage. Because lets be honest – that is the experience your congregation is having. Blame MTV or whomever you want – but music today is an AUDIO VISUAL experience.

When an electric guitarist breaks into a rambunctious lead, he often needs to be unnaturally loud in the mix, to compliment his appearance. 30-piece choir dominating the stage? It needs to sound like 30 people singing. Watching the band closely can also help in isolating potential problems before they became serious issues.

Sadly, none of these visual cues are available on the top of the ‘aux 3 master control’ knob!

Keep your eyes on the stage. Give it a try – I guarantee it will add a dimension to your churches worship experience.

Check your Sources

Check out the cab stacks!

Ok, I posted a few days ago: “In my travels I’ve discovered many church audio guys who think their work begins and ends at the sound desk. Live audio starts at the source (the stage), and if you aren’t spending SIGNIFICANT time there, I would argue you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance of creating a good mix!”

And I feel like I need to elaborate a bit, cos this is something I came back from my trip having very clear in my mind, and feeling very strongly about.

Sources are everything. Everything.

“Garbage in = Garbage out”  – is such a simple principle, but somewhere along the way the equation became:

“Garbage in + Latest digital mixing desk = Hillsong United out”

Now I know I don’t have to explain how crazy this is, but I feel like often in our environments (South African churches) there is a lot of emphasis on “the gear” – that ‘silver bullet’ mixing desk, or line-array PA, or in-ear monitoring system that is going to “solve our bad sound problem”, when that’s often not the real problem.

What we do as sound techs is reproduce what is being produced by our musicians on stage. That has to be where our work starts. And if what’s coming off the stage isn’t working, you could have all the gear that money can buy, and not have a hope of creating a good mix.

So let me be clear. A sound guy can’t make bad musicians/instruments sound good.

At this point you maybe asking how this information could practically help you – there’s nothing you can do about the quality of your musicians! (or their instruments) They are volunteers after all!

…but before you wash your hands of the ‘audio mission impossible’, let me challenge you, that you may have more to do with the quality of your musicians than you think…

1)     Be Professional in your own Role.

Show up ahead of time, and be ready for the band so they aren’t waiting on you. Familiarize yourself with the music that is on the set, and the order of the music – know where the ‘lead breaks’ or ‘instrumentals’ are. Be ‘present’ at rehearsals (i.e. not smsing/facebooking as soon as the first song is done). Band members (especially newer members) will take their cue from you.

Inspect all the sources before a note is played: Check the drum mics are all in the right position, check the electric amp mic position, check the eq on the backline, check that all the musos have the right cabling and the vocalists have the right microphones. This will help make sure the band is good to go, and save TONS of trouble-shooting later.

2)    Develop Relationship with your Musos.

This one thing could improve the quality of worship dramatically in churches all over the world. And it’s free.

Develop relationships with your band. Check-in with each musician. Ask them if they are comfortable, and are hearing what they need to hear.  Serving the band is the most perfect example of the Mark 9:35 principle I know of. Do you want to have a great mix? Serve your band. Building relationships with your musos means you can understand better why they are doing what they do, and earn the right to have unique input based on your ‘objective’ position at the FOH. Make opening constructive dialog between the sound booth and the stage an objective of every rehearsal.

3)    Be a Jack-of-all-(audio)-trades

Maybe you are a musician yourself. Maybe not. But if you want to be decent sound guy, you need to be able to help your musicians, and talk their language. You need to know how to tune a drum, you need to know how to fix the ‘tone’ on an electric guitar amp, and you need to know what a 3-part vocal harmony sounds like. Get online and start the homework!

*Disclaimer* before you start fiddling the settings on your electric guitarists amp, make sure you have got step 2 down first!

Obviously all this is work. Many tech guys (myself included) are not ‘people persons’ and so developing relationships with musos doesn’t always come easy. As we know – ‘the curse of the tech guy’ is that when the worship sounds great, the worship leader is congratulated, when the worship sounds bad the sound guy is berated… I’d encourage you to rise above this.

We are called to do what we do, we are gifted to do what we do, and the Kingdom needs us to do what we do. My challenge is to the washed up, inert, passive church sound guys out there – to reassess their commitment, and embrace their calling!

In a Rut?

One of our audio guys at Grace reminded me this week, that we learn something new every time we get behind an audio console. And really – how true is this!?

If you aren’t learning something new, or trying something different with your audio mixes, or your lighting design, or your worship leading on a week-to-week basis, you are missing out on half the fun of this ministry we have been called to…

Don’t be afraid to experiment and learn – your church needs you to be all you can be!

Skinning Cats and Micing Drums

I won’t lie to you. I’m not a drummer, and I’m not a drum guru either. Which is tricky for me as an audio guy, cos lets be honest, the foundation of a mix is won or lost in the drum and bass relationship. And we weren’t happy with ours…

*aside* In my travels I’ve discovered many church audio guys who think their work begins and ends at the sound desk. Live audio starts at the source (the stage), and if you aren’t spending SIGNIFICANT time there, I would argue you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance of creating a good mix! 

Up until very recently, we have been micing up our Pacific Drums CX Series Kit with Shure A98Ds on the toms, a beta57A on the snare, a Beta52 in the kick, with a KSM32 on overheads, and an sm81 on the hats.

I started researching and experimenting with different combinations over the course of about 3 or 4 months (inspired in part by Dave Stagl at Northpoint – who says he doesn’t feel like he is doing his job right if the drum mic setup isn’t always changing!)

I realized that trying different combinations/positions doesn’t cost anything, (especially if you have friends or vendors who will let you demo mics) and the results can be surprising. Seriously – moving a mic an inch away or towards a drum can mean the difference between a great sound, and a RUBBISH sound. There are LOTS of ways to mic a kit, and a lot of good info available online.

I discovered I’M NOT A FAN of the A98Ds, as acclaimed as they are. I found them to be poorly designed (plugs always coming loose, even when GLUED on – and being phantom-powered they make a massive noise when loose) AND they didn’t sound all that great on toms. Move those large diaphragm KSM 32s to the toms though, and you kits sounds like its twice as expensive!

There are lots of opinions around micing snares. I’ve had lots of success with the beta57 on the top, and the A98D on the bottom. (Top gives you that great tone and crack, bottom gives more crack and sizzle). I must add though, having tried half a dozen snares – a snare drum has a personality – you will have to find the one that best fits your style of music, your drummers, your drum mics, and your room.

We added a second kick mic the Beta 91, inside the kick, giving us the kick attack, and tone, leaving the beta 52 free to capture the beef of the kick.

I decided to move the hi-hat mic up to the overhead position – and I haven’t missed it! Hats can be tricky – I for one find ‘splashy hats’ to be one of the most obnoxious sounds on the stage, and although we had a mic on them, we seldom used it in the mix. For the most part now I pick up a drum mix, with crispy cymbals and hats through the overhead very successfully.

Watch out for phase issues when under-micing drums and using open overheads, flip those phase switches and have a listen!

Ok this post is waaaay to long, and I have a lot more to say…  (I’d love to post on drum mic compression and gating someday) but for now I’ll just finish by encouraging you to experiment more with your drum mics and micing techniques! You’d be amazed what a difference it makes, not just to the drum sound, but to the entire mix.

P.S. Just a few weeks ago I got to switch the toms over to Senhiesser MD421s. What a difference. I couldn’t possibly say enough nice things about these brilliant, classic mics!


Hey Guys

Just a quick one – but I wanted to let you know as early as possible.

I’m going to be running two technical arts workshops early in May. One on audio, and one on lighting. They were originally specifically for Grace people, but I’ve decided to widen the scope a little cos I’m convinced that churches can learn from each other!

I’m also hoping to include an ‘open house’ night as part of the workshop, so you can sit-in on a Grace rehearsal and see us do what we do.

Spread the word. The workshops are free, and I’d love to see as many churches represented as possible.

Dates to follow shortly.
Exciting stuff guys! Looking forward to seeing you!



Well its been more than 3 weeks since I got back to a very busy season at Grace. I got to attend the “Gurus of Tech” technical arts conference in Chicago, as well as spend a couple of days with the team at Lakepointe Church in Dallas, and a few more days at Willowcreek, South Barrington.

Many people have asked how the trip was, and its really hard to quantify the experience into a sentence – other than to say it was game-changing.

To sit in a room with 500 other church technical artists, and to learn from them, to hear about their struggles, and to bask in the presence of like-minded people was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

To see the excellence, the intentionality, and the dedication these churches put into their work is inspiring. It turns the “anything-will-do” attitude on its head, and really forces you to go back and grapple with the ‘why we do” questions.

I have started and restarted this specific post for weeks, trying to summuries what I learned, and I’ve realized that it’s not going to happen in a paragraph. So I’m going to crack-on and keep the posts coming, hopefully ill get to expand on one facet at a time, and share what I learned in a way that you guys will find useful!

Have any of you visited a church recently that challenged you to think about how church could be done better?
I’d love to hear about it!

Awesome resources part 3…

www.goingto11.com – Dave Stagl’s blog. FOH guy at Northpoint. You can learn tons from this blog whether you’ve been working in audio for 10 mins or 10 years!

www.creationswap.com – formally creative cmyk. Lots of free and paid Christian design material. Often the first stop for our DTP people.

www.churchmarketingsucks.com – Sad but true. Check out the site to see what you can do about it!

www.productionmusings.com – Stunning stage design and audio blog. Only just getting into it. Thanks to Grant Leonard for the link!