Tag Archives: Tech

Your Church PA (Pt3)

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 – Grant Leonard from Grace Family Church’s Riverside Campus shares their setup with us.

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“Grace Family Church Riverside has been operating for a year now and we have gotten great results from the PA we chose.

What we put in the auditorium were two EAW KF394’s that are flown from the ceiling and two EAW SB180 subs that are on the floor, one each, below the two individual hangs.

A Lab Gruppen FB+10000Q amplifier powers the four cabinets and for speaker processing we use an EAW UX3600 Processor that we had time aligned and tuned for the response of the room.

The PA in the room looks really small but we get a good sound and great coverage all the way to the back of the room. While the room is essentially a rectangular box, we have been very lucky in that there aren’t any horrible “hot-spots” or “dead-spots” and we have seemingly no trouble with standing waves. Miracles do happen!

Grace Family Church Riverside is a “multi-site” plant of Grace Family Church in Umhlanga and as a result it made some of the decisions, as to what gear to get, a little easier. Two of these things in particular are the sound desk and the “In-Ear-Monitoring” (IEM) system. In order to get a measure of similarity or unity across campuses we chose the Yamaha LS9 mixing console and Aviom personal mixers for IEM. This goes to serve our sound guys, tech volunteers and worship team volunteers, as moving from one campus to the next doesn’t carry the burden of learning a new desk or new IEM system.

We have an Aviom 16/o-Y1 card that’s plugged into the back of the LS9 which is connected via cat5e to the Aviom A-16D Pro distribution unit onstage, from there the signal is split out to the seven Aviom A16II Personal Mixers.

We discovered very early on that the room is incredibly live, so controlling the onstage sound, drums, guitar and bass amps was a huge priority.

The Aviom system took care of our onstage sound.

We then decided to build our own drum screen with a roof, as opposed to buying one, which was a huge cost saving exercise. Then much to the dismay of the people who play bass at Riverside, we swapped the bass amp for a BSS AR-133 active DI box and we moved the electric guitar amp to a separate room behind the stage.

Once we had gone through all these motions, the affect it had on the FOH mix was invaluable, the room seems a little less live and the congregation aren’t getting there ears mutilated by the obnoxious SPLs of drum kits and guitar amps.

Overall we are really satisfied with the results and the equipment we went for.”


Your Church PA (Pt2)

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 – Dean Wilke from Olive Tree Church shares their setup with us.

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“Like most churches our system has evolved quite a lot over the years. This year saw a massive overhaul of our stage and drum booth.

At the moment we are running 4 QSC K12 speakers (2 downstairs and 2 for our balcony) and 2 K Subs mounted between the two K12s on each side. All of those are running through a DBX Driverack PX. We mix on a Presonus StudioLive 24.4.2 desk. Our stage and hall are too small for wedge monitors so we run an in-ear monitoring system. We recently upgraded for the Hearbacks to the Behringer Powerplay system. A Powerplay P16I rack by our desk and 7 Powerplay P16M mixing modules on stage running through CAT5 cables.

We moved and rebuilt our stage earlier this year and decided to use stage boxes at strategic points on the stage with XLR, Jack and CAT5 connections in them. We had these custom built and have proven to be one of best investments. Under the stage we are running Klotz microphone cable and Mogami instrument cable. The instrument cables are for electric guitars and go into an amp room to the side of our stage.

We also had a double-pane glass drum booth built after realising the Clearsonic one we had just wasn’t cutting it in our small hall. It has been amazing from a mixing point of view. It has given us way more control over the drums and has allowed us to get a much cleaner mix.

And that’s the gist of our setup. We’ve tried to keep it fairly simple while still aiming for great sound quality.”

Let there be light!

I think lighting is the most overlooked technical art in churches today.
Sound we get – because feedback is unbearable.Video we get – because between TV and YouTube we spend hours a day absorbing video. Even graphics we get – We all know what a bad PowerPoint looks like!

When it comes to lighting though, many churches I’ve worked with couldn’t possibly be less interested.

I am a huge fan of lighting in church work. And not just for your youth services either! Lighting has the power to do two critical things: 1. Focus peoples attention, and direct it where you want it, (minimizing other distractions) and 2. Control energy and atmosphere in your room. This is something that’s easier to demonstrate than to explain, but trust me, if you are interested in engaging your congregations attention, and/or creating environments that ‘feel’ conducive to worship – you need to be thinking about how you are using light.

Here’s the paradox of stage lighting in churches. Like most technical art in church arenas, a lighting system needs to exist to bring attention to something other than itself. Makes sense right? When it’s done right, you didn’t really notice it, sure it looked beautiful, but more than that – it just ‘felt right’. It ‘felt easy to worship’, the congregation was ‘into it’, and more people were engaging. The lighting has helped create an atmosphere conducive to worship – by focusing attention on where the worship leaders are taking the congregation, and using color, light and shade to complement and enhance the dynamics of that journey.

Again – this is easier to demonstrate than to explain, but like-it-or-not, music today is an audio-visual experience. As I described in a previous post – the ‘worship experience’ is as much about what you are seeing as what you are hearing.

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!