theChurch Sound Sur vival Guide 1Chu rc hSoundlavivruS G u ideWhat you need to know to Run Church SoundSG001Bob Kilpatrick
Church Sound Sur vival Guide 2The Church SoundSu rvivalGuideWhat Yo u Need To Know ToRu n Chu rch Sou ndbyBob KilpatrickA step by stepexplanation-in plain Englishof the partsof your sound system,what they do andhow to work with them. 2004 Bob Kilpatrick Ministries, Inc.Copying this material is both illegal and immoral. Copy our address instead;Bob Kilpatrick Ministries, P.O.Box 2383, Fair Oaks, CA 95628
Chapters1- A Bird's Eye View Of Your Sound System2- Speakers & Power Amps & Monitors- Oh, My!3- Testing.Testing.Is This Thing On?! (mics & instruments)4- Apollo to Earth. We Have Lift-Off. (the mixer)5- Once Is Enough (the gain knob)6- How To Make Everybody In Church Hate You (the EQ controls)7- Daddy, Why Does The Preacher Sound Like God? (effects)8- When She Thinks She Can Sing (pan, solo & mute)9- And Then We Put It All In A Bowl. (basic mixing)10- Elephants In The Pews (feedback)11- When All Else Fails (troubleshooting)Church Sound Sur vival Guide 3
Church Sound Sur vival Guide 4Chapter OneA Bird's Eye View Of Your Sound SystemIf a bird, with its limited intelligence and simple thought process, flew over yourchurch building after the roof had been blown off, here's how he would see your soundsystem-Instruments-Mixing Console-Speakers.And really, that little bird has it right. There are only three aspects to your sound system, as simple or complex, big or small, as it may be. There are the parts that MAKEnoise; there are the parts that MIX the noise together and effect (change) it; there arethe parts that BROADCAST the noise.The parts that make the noise- the microphones, instruments, CD players, 8tracks- have to get IN to the mixer. The mixer mixes them together in some (hopefully)pleasing combination. The mixer sends this combined sound OUT to the parts that makeit loud- the power amplifiers and speakers- and they broadcast it to the world. or atleast to the tenth row.On the next page there is a diagram of a sound system. Remember, no matter howcomplex a system is, it still just has these three parts. And remember this, too; it workson the flow of electricity. Every microphone and instrument has some sort of wire connecting it to the mixer, as do the speakers, effects units and every other device. Even thewireless units will eventually plug in via wired cables. It pays to respect this fact. It alsohelps to transition to a metaphor I find useful in describing how sound works.Sound systems are like sprinkler systems. Just as the water flows into the heart ofa sprinkler system and is sent to various watering stations, so your sound is flowing intothe mixing console and will then be sent in various directions. Just as the water eventually comes out a sprinkler and is broadcast over the yard, so your sound must eventuallyend up somewhere- coming out a speaker, going on to tape, feeding headphones, etc.So, how does the sound from the noise-makers get into the console? There aremany kinds of connectors- Cannon (XLR), phone jack, mini-phone jack, RCA, Elko, banana plugs, USB, light-pipe, firewire- but the two most common are Cannon (XLR) andphone jack connectors. I don't know why they're called Cannon plugs. Maybe it's because
Church Sound Sur vival Guide 5The Whole SystemINOUT &Back INEffectsMixing ConsoleOUTPower AmplifierPower AmplifierMain SpeakersMonitor Speakers
Church Sound Sur vival Guide 6they're large, round and look like small cannons. I do know, however, that XLR stands forground (X), left (L) and right (R). Cannon plugs look like thiswhile phone jacks/guitarthis.cables look likeMost microphones will use an XLR, while most instruments use a phone jack/guitar cable. There is a difference in the impedance at which they function, but I have noidea how to explain that in technical- or even layman's- terms. Let's see. XLR cables arelow impedance (low Z), which means that they offer little resistance to the signal as itmoves down the wire. Phone jacks are high impedance (high Z), which means they offer alot of resistance to the signal. (For more information on this subject, ask a tech-nerd.)The real world application is that you can use XLR cables for long distance runs,but you can't do the same with guitar cables. Because the console is generally furtheraway from the stage than you can run a guitar cable, you need a way to drop the impedance of the signal and make it able to get to the console without losing the purity of itssound. Enter the DI (direct injection), better known as a Direct Box. Atypical direct box looks like theseexamples (my fave- the LRBaggsParaAcoustic DI. Can't be beat forguitar and most other instruments, and they make a bassmodel, too.)The purpose of the direct box is to get the signal strength of your instrument up and tothe console sounding real good.Advice: try to resist using cheap direct boxes- sometimes called line transformersbought at a shack that mainly deals in radios. Many times, the temptation to save a fewdollars will cost you in the quality of your sound and the reliability of the product. Buygood stuff.
Church Sound Sur vival Guide 7In a normal church system, there will be a snake between the stage and the console. There is no need to fast and pray. You want this snake there. This is the highly technical term for a bundled bunch of cables with various sorts of connectors at each end.Sometimes these are installed in the stage/platform, so you'll never see the snake itself.In many churches, especially the onesthat meet in rented facilities and mustset-up and tear-down for each service,the snake is laid out on the floor for all tosee. It will look something like this. This isonly a way to getyour cables on the stage- and sometimes your speakers- connected to the console.Generally, you want to convert all your signal from high to low impedance at thestage, before it goes into the snake. The cable ends (connectors) on the snake will eachbe assigned a number or letter. These correspond to the numbers and letters at the otherend of the snake (surprised?) This is what we call organization. The simplest, most foolproof system of organization is to plug cable "1" into channel "1" on your mixer, cable"2" into channel "2" and so forth. If you come up with a better approach, please contactme.Advice: invest in a cable tester. These are inexpensive and will help you easily find out ifa cable is working or not. It just makes sense.Advice: if you're experiencing difficulties in your sound, start with the simplest, mostconvenient possible solution and work toward the most complex and least convenient.Again, it just makes sense. Make sure everything is powered up and volume is up first.Next check your console settings. Then check your connections. Then check your cables.Crawl around under the stage after that.The Mixing Console goes by various names; soundboard, board, mixer, console,mixing desk, desk, "you stupid thing!", etc. We'll just refer to it as the mixer. It is called amixer because it takes all the individual elements that will make up your overall soundand mixes them together into one (mono) or two (stereo) sends. It will generally have theability to shape the sound through equalization and effects, and it will generally havethe ability to send sound to various places, ie., to main speakers, monitors, a tape deck,the mother's cry room. This is where the noisemakers and the broadcasters meet. You'vegot your noisemakers plugged in. Let's move on to the power amps and speakers.Unless it has a built in amplifier, a mixer puts out an unpowered signal from itsspeaker or main outputs. Hence, the need for a power amplifier. Be careful not to send apowered signal to a power amp. Crazy things can happen. The good news is that if crazythings happen once, they probably won't happen again; you'll have fried your amps orspeakers. The bad news is that this can be an expensive lesson.On the back of the mixer there will be one or two outputs marked "Mains," "Main
Church Sound Sur vival Guide 81 & 2," "Speaker Left & Right" or simply "1 & 2" or "Left & Right." These should be sent toyour power amplifiers and on to your main speakers, sometimes called house speakersor mains. Many new speakers have power amps built in. These are called "self-powered"speakers. For small to mid-sized systems, these make good sense and sound great. Eitherway, though, your signal is first going to a power amp and then out the speakers. Thesame will be true of your on-stage monitor speakers. Mixer- power amp- speakers, inthat order.When connecting all these parts, it's a good idea to have the electrical power offand the volume levels everywhere all the way down. Bring the volume levels on the poweramps (or the back of the speaker cabinets, if they are self-powered) up before you bringup the volume on the mixer. I'd also suggest playing a CD through the system first beforeturning up mics and instruments. This will allow you to get an idea of the relative volumewithout injuring anyones ears.Your on-stage monitoring system can be comprised of speakers, in-ear phones ora combination of the two. Either way, as with the main outputs, the mixer will send anunpowered signal, so you'll need to power that to the speakers or headphones. Warning!:headphones and speakers don't take the same amount of power! Use a headphone ampfor headphones.On the back of the mixer, you'll find outputs marked "Aux 1," "Monitor 1" or something like that. "Aux" simply stands for auxiliary, meaning it's an additional output.There is no mystery to this. Remember, it's like a sprinkler system, helping you to get flowto various stations. The volume to the monitors will be somewhat independent of yourinputs and (hopefully) completely independent of your main outputs. You should be ableto turn down your main speakers and still hear the monitors. Try this with a CD player.We'll talk more about this in the chapter about Aux sends.You may be using an external effects unit (It's called external because it's not inside your mixer.) If so, you'll need to send signal out to it and back in to the mixer so youcan combine the sound it makes with all the other sounds. This creates what is called aneffects loop, simply because it loops out and back in again. On the back of your mixerthere may be an output specifically marked as "effects send." I'll tell you a secret; this is,in almost every case, just an Aux send with another name. There's nothing special aboutit. The manufacturer is trying to helpfully guide you. You could use this output to sendsignal anywhere you wanted. If there isn't a specially marked output for effects, useone of the Aux sends. If your mixer has more than two Aux sends, find the ones that are"Post" (more about this later) and use one or two of them for your effects loop.
Church Sound Sur vival Guide 9Chapter TwoSpeakers & Power Amps & Monitors- Oh, My!Sound is traveling through your cables in one direction- from the noisemakers, tothe mixer, through it to the power amps and out to the speakers. When connecting yourgear, "Input" means that's where the sound comes in to this piece of gear. Conversely,"Output" is where it will leave and travel on.Whatever signal you send through a cable will appear at the other end of thatcable. This sounds rudimentary, but I'm surprised at the number of sound folks whothink that they can send a main mix AND a monitor mix through the same cable to thesame power amp and expect each of them to be different coming out the speakers. Theycan't, unless you're using a stereo cable, which is really two cables in one sheath. You willneed one amp for mains and another for monitors.Let me explain something about "mono" and "stereo" at this point. "Mono" is, ofcourse, one signal. "Stereo" is simply two monos traveling through a system, or down acable that has two different wires carrying two different signals. Even though you canmake them sound very much alike, they're still two mono signals with completely discreet paths. Some power amps are stereo, meaning that they have two separate monoamps at work powering two different signals. This means that you can use each of thetwo independently of each other. If you like, you can run your mains out the left side andyour monitors out the right side. Even though they may be marked "Left" or "Right," thisis, again, the manufacturer trying to provide a helpful guide. There is nothing uniquelyleft or right about them. They're both mono channels through which your noise can passthrough to the speakers. They are completely separate power amps in one housing.If you can, however, you should have two different power amps for your mains andmonitors. Again, they can't share a power amp, otherwise they'll produce the same mixof sounds. You'd like the monitors to be independent of your main mix for a variety ofreasons. Here are some;- Your guitar player is deaf and likes his instrument very loud in the monitors.- You are playing a track for the choir to sing with.- You are sending a "click track" (timing metronome) to the drummer that you don'twant heard by the audience.- You want a way to talk with the performers during the performance without beingheard by the audience.- You are trying to make a tone deaf diva wannabee sound good by letting the trackdrown her out in the mains without her knowing it.
Church Sound Sur vival Guide 10In the section on the channel module we'll be talking more about the Aux sends,but let me say at this point that your mixer is capable of producing completely differentmixes through the various outputs it has- main, monitor, Aux, effects, etc. Just like yoursprinkler system, the flow is sent in a certain direction and is handled differently at eachstation. Your monitor mix should be completely different from your main mix. If you areusing an Aux send for your monitors, each little volume knob on each channel stri