The answer to this question is easy. The problem is you might not like my answer. How loud is too loud? What a great topic for a Monday morning…
The problem in giving the correct answer to this question is that, first, it depends on who is asking the question. Typically, a congregation member will want an answer of “you’re right, the sound tech is wrong” whereas a sound tech will want the answer, “you’re right, the congregation member is wrong.” Honestly, it depends.
I recall getting this question from a congregation member and based on their scenario, the volume level really was too loud. I’ve also had the question from church sound techs and I agreed their volume level was good and it was just a matter of a particular congregation member. But in some cases, I’ve told them just the opposite.
You are dealing with a very subjective question. How do you define “too loud?” Who defines “too loud?” What if your definition of “not loud enough” clashes with another person’s “too loud?” Therein lays the answer.
How loud IS too loud?
It’s too loud if;
- The pastor says it’s too loud
- Multiple people complain week after week
- The louder you make the volume, the less people sing along
- You are mixing for yourself and not the demographic of the congregation. You’ll likely see this in less people singing along…or people glare at you after the service.
- Parents take their kids out of the service (yep, I’ve heard about someone in that scenario).
Enough with the bullet points!
The answer to “how loud is too loud?” comes down to this;
If it’s not conducive to worship for the majority of the congregation or you are told by the pastor to turn it down, then it’s too loud.
THE WRONG QUESTION IS BEING ASKED!
The more and more I hear from people with this question…well, I think the wrong question is being asked. Ask yourself the question “what’s the best volume level for worship?”
- The best volume level for worship depends on the demographic of the congregation.
- The best volume level for worship depends on the song the band is playing.
- The best volume level for worship depends on the mood the worship team wants to project (exalting, introspective, somber, etc.)
The “best volume” might have an average for YOUR PARTICULAR worship service, such as 96 dBA. But it’s just an average. It’s nothing more than that.
Desire to reach the best volume for worship by the church body and that’s however loud it happens to be.
One simple method to volume control and testing
Volume control for a full band can be simple. Start by placing all the instruments into a subgroup. Then place all the vocals into a subgroup. You might call them VCA’s instead of subgroups. You now have complete control with two faders. Want the vocals to be prominent in the mix? Bring down the instrument fader. Want to push the instrumental energy? Bring up the instrument faders. Bring both up / down and watch the congregation. If you’re not comfortable with subgroups, use the master volume fader.
Using just the master fader, or the subgroup faders, actively adjust the volume from one song to the next. You might even do it during a song if you feel it calls for it.
Active volume mixing gets you focusing on getting the best volume for worship.
Question: Which question is more helpful for you…how loud is too loud…or what’s the best volume for worship?