Top Ten Reasons for Church Audio Problems

church audio problemsLooking beyond just a bad mix, there are several reasons for a bad sound.  Primarily, it's because modern praise music is just plain wrong.  Just kidding.  There are a variety of factors that can kill any attempt at creating a beautiful sound for the congregation.  Let's jump in…  

Reasons for Church Audio Problems

1. Excessive stage volume.  When the stage volume level is too high, everyone suffers.  The volume bleeds too far into the congregation so they hear more of the stage volume than the house mix.  The musicians are likely not hearing the sounds they need because their ears are being blasted with more sounds than what they need.  And the sound guy has to try and mix with the stage volume as part of the house sound.  

2. Poor microphone usage.  There is the singer who holds the microphone a foot away for one song and then right up to their mouth the next.  There is the microphone hanging down into the middle of the amp cone.  There is also the case of "I don't need to mic that instrument" as can happen with a piano.  No microphone means no control in the mix.

3. Poor monitor usage.  Too loud.  Not loud enough.  Not the right mix of instruments / vocals.  The performer stands in the right location for setting monitor volume during the sound check but once the performance starts, they move back a few feet and then wonder why they can't hear anything.

4. House volume too high.  No, I'm not getting too old if it's too loud.  A house mix that is too loud will negatively affect the congregation.  It can kill the worship mood.

5. House volume too low.  A sound guy did a simple experiment.  He raised and lowered the overall house volume during some music sets.  The result?  It was almost like the congregation members were puppets on a string.  When the volume level was too low, people didn't have their hands raised in praise.  As the volume went up, so did the hands.  When the volume went too far up, hands started dropping.  Um…I don't mean their hands fell off their arms…just to be clear.  

6. Bad room.  Acoustic treatment exists for a reason.  I was at a church recently where the sound guy told me that at one point, low end frequencies were causing headaches for people who sat in certain areas.  Whether it is hot spots in the room, echo, or a variety of other possibilities, a room with bad acoustic characteristics is a killer.

7. House EQ not set properly.  The acoustic characteristics of each room are different.  Therefore, the house EQ needs to be set to account for these characteristics as well as account for the type of sound most common in the church.  

8. Blown / damaged speakers.  Depending on if it's damaged or blown, the quality of sound can vary greatly.  A blown woofer will make crackling / popping sounds.

9. Bad sound guy.  I'm just saying.

10.  You tell me!  What would you add to this list?

In future articles, I'll cover how you can overcome some of these problems.

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  1. Chuck Hunter says

    I would submit bad or worn cables, mics, etc. to go along with the blown or bad monitors/speakers. Also non conditioned power or stage setup that includes power bleed into the audio cables.

  2. Chris says

    A year ago, I read about a person who was talking with a pianist about suggestions.  No matter how kindly they spoke, the tears rolled down her cheeks.  In some cases, there is no way to do it without offending or having an emotional impact.  That being said…

    Try creating a sound document that can be shared with the band/audio team to convey purpose of what you do (both as an audio team and as a band.  Include statements such as "musicians should use the best industry-standard techniques, such as vocal microphone techniques…."

    The overall tone of the document should convey "the best sound presented to the congregation comes from the best techniques by band members and the best techniques by the audio team. 

  3. dan m says

    Our biggest 2 problems are singers who are afraid to get too close to their dynamic mics, and a bass player who’s concept of the right volume is overpowering the rest of the band.

    Any advice at working on these more psychological and less technical issues? I’ve found that some of the band members get really emotional at any suggestion for improvement, even when it’s given in the most loving way I can think of.

  4. Bobby M. says

    Bad Sound Booth, I am currently working with a church to move their sound booth out of the nursery. Which is an isolated room in the back of the church with a window. Having a sound booth in the sanctuary is a plus, no muddy sound, visual contact, don’t have to rely on headphones.

  5. says

    it is a common problem when using cardioid pattern mics and singers who want the monitor at their feet. I use an Audix f5 Fusion hypercardioid mic in this case. the tight pattern allows me to make their mic hotter forcing them to hold it away from their mouth and gives me more head room on the mix. I have had occasion where I had to set the mic on a stand and install a pop filter to get the singers lips unstuck from the mic to brighten up the input. a trick i use some times is garlic flakes in a windscreen till they learn you smell it your too close. the projector does help a lot. tipping their head up helps them sing better and gets them on axis. check out my study on mic to face alignment on my web page
    I love it when a group comes in and knows the songs. it turns into a worship service instead of a practice

  6. DAVE says

    One problem I run into is the singing like to place their music stands between them and the monitors and don’t understand why the sound boomy.We have cut down on this by adding a video screen to the back wall.Now the singers have their heads raised and are projecting much better. Also it is a big help if the band comes in knowing the songs before rehearsal starts. The sound people need time to build a mix and not spent all of the rehearsal time spent listening to someone learn the song over and over and over.

  7. Josh Schultz says

    he he he your giving out all our secrets to everyone lol. I’ll send more info in an email (after I’m done my homework), but I know some others who read this will have some curiosity so…

    So heres whats up at the moment. I’ve got a great 12 year old girl at Church who sounds really good (voice and piano), as suggested by Fuzzy, I offered an idea of doing a CD with her and said we can probably have it for Mothers day. She has excitedly said yes and I’ve talked to her dad and he thinks its a great idea, and so in order to keep mom out of this project, I also need to talk to the 2 sisters (which it sounds like they know about it….you know how sisters brag….one does for sure…). By having the rest of the family involved, it will allow me to have more chances to get together with her to record/listen/whatever else we need to do to make the recording rock! And I’ve talked to the pastor to confirm that I can use the Church equipment….even though there would be almost no chance of the pastor saying no since I’m the only one who knows what there doing lol…

    I’m also thinking about talking to our drummer from Church and to ask if he would be willing to “make something up” so that we can have the songs be a little bit more exciting….I might talk to a guitarist too….not sure quite yet….but of course this will be up to her as well….

    Should be fun! Can’t wait to actually start recording! :D

  8. Josh says

    I actually did try it out a couple of weeks ago…needed 2 guitars and 1 computer between 2 di’s, but the one guitar that had one of those hole pickups(??) I just couldn’t get a good signal going through to the board I think….can’t remember….at least he plays fairly loud usually lol….if I turned it up too much I would get a lot of airy noise….when I get some more money in my pocket, I’m gonna get another di ( and a few other things…that di seems to be really good for its price….quite stable and durable and has 2 20db pads, lift, phase, and a filter (I believe hpf)…so I’m gonna pick up another one soon…

  9. says

    last month I was given an I-pod with all the songs for a choir I was lost! it was the first time I ave ever held an i-pod much less know how to work it. I went out and got a walkman mp3 player and loaded 1400 songs on it so I could get use to using that kind of media.
    last week I listened to one more bad sound guy (that is what I do ,teach) he had all the sound in the monitors and down fill speakers and nothing in the mains in the room. their pastor was ticked.

    Josh I do not remember, do your di boxs have 2 1/4″plugs? did you try 2 guitars in one di yet? I had to dubble up 2 base players last week at a wedding. I had them both on the same monitor and told them to keep their guitars balanced it works good