Some of the most frustrating problems we encounter as vocalists or worship teams are issues with sound reinforcement. Not only do we get frustrated at not being able to hear ourselves properly by having the stage too loud overall, we often feel helpless. Most of us have very little working knowledge of how the entire audio/technical side works. To help vocalists with this, I gathered together a few great sound techs and put together a “how to” DVD for singers. The DVD was designed to teach singers how to understand and affect sound issue from OUR side of the mixing board to make things better without ever touching a dial or a switch. I wanted to help singers feel like there IS something they can do to help the sound in their venue. In this article, I will cover a few of the highlights on worship team setup.
Mics & Monitors For Worship Team Setup
“I CAN’T HEAR MYSELF!” This is probably one of the most common problems we face as singers. There can be multiple root causes for this situation, but many of them can be identified and even solved by trying a couple of these tricks with moving something or someone. So many times, the problem we face on a platform can be something as simple as a misplaced item.
Many people don’t understand the simple dynamic behind “proximity effect”. In simplest terms—the closer you get to a microphone (or speaker) the louder it will be. (That is NOT the scientific definition, but it works for our purposes!) This means that one of the reasons you can’t hear yourself could be that you are not close enough to your microphone, consistently, to offer your sound tech the opportunity to adjust your mic properly. Make sure that you are using GOOD mic technique ALL the time. A good gauge for most microphones is to keep your lips aimed directly into the center of the mic, about an inch away.
Monitor (Wedge) Placement
Another thing that is largely affected by proximity is the monitor speaker. Many times when I do a vocal consultation at a church, the first thing I will notice is that the monitors are placed in a position that would work perfectly if my ears were located by my knees. It is important to be able to have a direct, unobstructed line from the center of the speaker to your ear. If you can’t see directly into the speaker to the center, it may very well be misplaced. We also often find that too many people are trying to use one wedge—making it impossible for each individual to have clear and direct access. If this is your situation, consider moving the speaker and/or adding one so that the singers can all get good coverage.
Where a singer stands will have a huge impact on what he/she hears. We often place singers directly in front of other instruments. These can be very loud in and of themselves, making it very difficult for a singer to hear themselves over the instrument. Oftentimes, we place the drum set in the center of the platform for visual balance. However, this can be disastrous for overall sound issues and can be especially devastating to any singers placed directly in front of them! Try to take into consideration what you can hear in addition to your own voice and the other singers, then assess what might be done to help from a strictly acoustic sound perspective. Additionally, when a singer stands in front of another instrument, their own microphone often becomes a secondary mic for the instrument behind them creating all kinds of havoc.
Where the sound tech is stationed will determine what he hears (most of the time). Sometimes the sound booth is erroneously placed making it very difficult for the sound techs to get a realistic read on what things really sound like across the audience. It is very important for a sound tech to MOVE all around the room. But what is more important for you is that the sound techs actually get up on the platform to hear what YOU are hearing—especially when you are having an issue that you need help with.
Get The House Right First
Is your stage too loud? Think about this; professional sound techs do things differently than we do in the church. When preparing for a performance, they start by getting the sound to the “house” the way they want it. THEN they work on the stage sound/monitors. We can learn a lot by trying this. You see, monitors are a relatively new invention. Long before monitors, all musicians sang and played only to what they could hear going to the room. This worked to a degree because our ears are designed to adjust to sound much like our eyes adjust to light. So after awhile, we begin to hear according to what is available (to a degree of course). So if you are having a hard time hearing yourself on your platform, try playing with NO MONITORS, during sound-check, for about 10 minutes. After your sound techs have gotten the sound to the house the way they want it, ask them to give you some help in your monitor. But only ask for what you can’t already hear in the room! Don’t try to get a perfect CD mix in your monitor. That’s NOT what they are designed for. Instead, look for STP: self, time, and pitch. This is all you really need to be able to perform. Too much stuff in your monitor will make it even MORE difficult to hear your own voice. Make sure you have learned how to recognize your own voice in the mix–that will also help you immensely.
I pray these small tips will help you on your way to a better sound experience in your church! (To get even more tips, check out the DVD here: http://sherigould.bigcartel.com/product/mics-and-monitors-for-vocalists )