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Church sound

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Church sound

Postby jonny irregular » Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:18 pm

Hi,

After successfully failing to be in the music business for years now I have unexpectedly found myself, bass guitar in hand, at the forefront of dealing with my church's audio woes that demand all the skills I haven't accumulated. We have a system that feels like it's been cobbled together and every week is a hard slog to get levels right, monitor with success, avoid awful feedback through a dodgy induction loop system, etc. We're recognising money needs spending but I don't know where to start.

Can anyone recommend/suggest companies that specialise in this kind of thing, bearing in mind we're almost certainly going to need to be at the cheaper end of the spectrum?
Cheers
john
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Re: Church sound

Postby Jon Mardlin » Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:42 pm

Where are you based Jonny?
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Re: Church sound

Postby seablade » Mon Nov 19, 2012 2:51 pm

And you will want to define exactly what you mean by 'the cheaper end of things' as that can mean all sorts of different things believe it or not.

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Re: Church sound

Postby clube » Mon Nov 19, 2012 5:37 pm

John, there are a number of companies out there but "cheap" is not a reason to go to them because you are effectively buying a whole project from them: visits with expenses, design, project management, equipment, installation.

If money is tight then it has to be the self-help method and there is no quick fix. Standard rules do apply though:
1) Pray
2) explain the need to the congreagtion that becasue the gospel is a spoken message that the sound system is a really vital investment - quote Romans 10 "how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?", adding 'and how can they hear if they don't invest in PA?' Have a gift day.
Buy the gear:
2) Mixing desk, powered speakers, mic stands, mics and cables.
For the mixer and speakers look to companies like Mackie and Yamaha to get the bang for for money. Samsom mics are not neutral but work very well indeed in a church situation and you can get them around £50 a time(make sure they're high output dynamics or condensers). You'll need about £2000 minimum to do this with acceptable quality gear Cheaper is a false economy that will leave you with the problem you have now. I've seen too many chueches do that and IT DOES NOT WORK.
2) Loop System - I hate those things because they cause the most unpleasantness for the poor sound man whose job is never one to attract nice comments in the first place - older people can be really grumpy but then I'd be grumpy too if I lost the best part of my hearing. Any old amplifier ought to do the trick. You just attach it to a long piece of wire to make the loop work.

Once these two matters are sorted, you can start building the system as funds allow - Sennheiser Freeport wireless mics, snake to get the mixing desk at the back, powered foldback (a luxury - don't let nyone tell you any different).

AND before I forget, on the matter of saving money - tell the singers to buy their own hymn books and their own music stands, and preferably their own Mics and foldback speakers if they want the latter. When they complain remind them that the musicians bought their own instruments and amplifiers! That's the cost of wanting to perform.

hope that helps
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Re: Church sound

Postby jonny irregular » Mon Nov 19, 2012 5:45 pm

Hi Seablade,

Well, I don't know how you would price these things so I'd struggle to come up with a figure, but I'm thinking there are some essentials to be done, and some luxuries that would be nice to have, but budget will decide those.

Essentials: relocating mixers and outboard from the organ loft and where the band play at the front, all to floor level rear of church, replacing existing individual cable runs with a multi-channel stage box, checking out our induction loop system as it is causing the guitarists feedback problems, some basic training on how to use our existing kit better (compressor, the induction loop, a feedback destroyer)

Luxuries: maybe a new larger mixer, better monitoring for 10 people, proper vocal mics x4, and a perspex wall for the drummer (though I could come up with a much, MUCH, longer list!).

I've been in other churches (modern evangelist types) where I've seen very slick presentations - proper stage rigging, monitoring, light arrays, digital mixers. That would be lovely, but I know we're a long way from that and I'm trying to be realistic about what we ought to aim for.
Thanks
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Re: Church sound

Postby jonny irregular » Mon Nov 19, 2012 5:56 pm

Hi clube,

Thanks for your comments - helps loads, some great ideas in there. We're already there on some fronts, far away on others. We got sold some duff gear a few years back (before my time) and we're trying to learn from that. We have some mics that I'm sure a for *recording* choirs, not micing up live vocalists. I found the compressor is on an aux send, and the feedback destroyer is not even wired in (nice for a paid-for set-up from a local bloke).

Getting the ear of the congregation is a nice idea - only tried the vicar so far and we do have his ear, but like the world over we're one of many competing for the money - fingers crossed (sorry, that's too pagan - hands joined!).

We've got some stuff that's okay, like the actual PA and mic stands and music, no problem there but good suggestions on the mixers and mics - will remember those.
john
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Re: Church sound

Postby jonny irregular » Mon Nov 19, 2012 5:57 pm

Hi Jon - sunny Bolton
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Re: Church sound

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:51 pm

Hi Jonny

Advising churches on this sort of thing is something I do a lot - particularly those who have to operate with very limited funds.

I'm based in Oxford and work on an 'expenses only' basis for churches. I haven't counted, but guess I must have advised over 20 churches on aspects of their sound systems from 'what vocal mics are best?' through to a complete specification and project management service. I am not tied to any supplier - I don't sell gear - so my advice is impartial. I have an association with a fully trained and accredited installer who would do a superb job for you. I also offer training as a standalone or as part of a broader package.

I would advise you not to try and 'do it yourself' if you're not experienced and to choose with care who you listen to.

Sad to say that some (thankfully not all) who operate professionally in the area of church sound provision are not as professional as they should be and, in my experience, provide dubious information, recommend overly complex and expensive gear, charge uncompetitive prices and leave a lot to be desired with their installations. Ho hum!

Anyway... if you want to pursue this drop me a PM.

Mike
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Re: Church sound

Postby Random Guitarist » Mon Nov 19, 2012 11:31 pm

The most useful upgrades are not always the dearest, for my local church we did four things. In order of effectiveness they were:

1. Replaced lapel mics radio with lightweight wire sets that put the mic next to the mouth, better intelligability and no volume changes when the speakers turn their heads. We were able to get new mics that fitted the existing radio packs, so it wasn't too expensive.

2. Put in Wharfedale WPM1 monitors. They have a very useful set of control on them so the user can set the level of the foldack mix, their mic and their instrument in their own monitor with out changign levels to the PA, a very good cure for the 'i can't hear myself issue.

3. Put in a pair of QSC K10 main speakers, much better clarity than the previous kit. I think they are doing some kind of DSP level based processing, because they sound great at low levels as well as quite loud.

4. Put in a Fostex LR16 digital mixer /recorder. This has the advantage that the brain can go with the musicians where they plug in and the mixing borad needs only a cat 5 cable from the brain to make it work. Easy cabling.

Strangely enough they are also in order of ascending cost.

One thing I would advise is think it through carefully, and take your time before making a decision. The trouble with getting a commercial supplier in is they will want to assess/recommend/sell/install quicky, which is fair, they are a business. But a longer period of planning may help you avoid pitfalls specific to your own situation.
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Re: Church sound

Postby turtles » Tue Nov 27, 2012 9:08 pm

If you're in Bolton, and looking for some relatively local advice, Tim Mortimer at Wigwam has been really helpful in our revent build.
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Re: Church sound

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:58 pm

Wigwam... good guys!

Only known them for bigger and complicated churches with budgets to match, but well worth talking to them. I've had a couple of conversations with Mike Spratt (one of their head honchos) about church sound: well-grounded, sensible and a really nice bloke. Recommended.
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Re: Church sound

Postby jonny irregular » Wed Nov 28, 2012 12:56 pm

Cheers Turtles,

Someone else did mention them to me so I checked out their website. Like Mike says they seem to thrive off cases with bigger budgets than we're likely to have, but there's no harm in investigating.
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