I just spent a good deal of time reading the Discussion on Sound Levels and Volume in worship ... So many people mentioned that a balanced EQ would solve volume complaints, I thought it would be a great discussion on its own.
1) How do we achieve the right balance of sound?
2) What are your suggestions for our particular sound quandary: Our stage volume is loud; our sanctuary is rather small (we seat 130 or so). We have a young congregation and we want the room levels to be loud enough to encourage participation - instead I am routinely hearing that it isn't loud enough.
We have a small platform but a full band complete with three amps. (No "back stage," no rooms off the side - I have heard of people moving their amps off stage). Our front row is about 6 feet from the platform so we have a hot spot in our first few rows (combined volume from the stage and the two mains) and then the volume drops off in back. We already added a third speaker near the back to fill out the sound there.
One contributor to the problem is our electric guitar and amp. The amp is as low as possible to still maintain good distortion, but certainly creates a hot spot for the 5 or 10 people within range of its aim. We currently have nearly every other channel maxed out to balance with the electric guitar level. I asked if we could turn up the mains (the volume level on the speaker itself), but our sound man said they crackled (static) when we turned them up higher. The mains on the board are usually up all the way too.
We do not have a large budget, but I am open to all discussions, ideas, and home remedies. :)
I hate running a board and trying to match levels with instrument amps on stage. (Then again, I like control bwa ha ha). For the electric guitar, do you need the amp for distortion? I use a small amp that has a decent overdrive even at low levels. The amp has an output jack to put the sound right into the board if I want, otherwise it gets a mic, So a smaller amp might work for you. Also, look at effects gear that might give what he/she wants and allows the amp to be mic'd and so controlled in the mains.
You also mention 3 amps - what are the others (Bass is one of them I suspect)? If everyone is running their gear really hot then it might indicate some better monitor equipment is needed. People tend to turn their gear up when they can't hear themselves and a vicious circle starts.
As for the board settings, make sure your gain levels (top pot on channel) is set so that your sliders are running -5 to +3. This should elimate the distortion.
Another thing to look at is the acoustics of your room. If you have hard walls, then your sound is bouncing around and will be harder to control. Some sound absorbing wall hangings will reduce this.
Having the volume sliders below -10 brings the volume into the 'coarse' adjustment range of the sliders. A small adjustment makes a large change. Having them around -5 to +3 is optimum and give you fine volume control - a large adjustment makes a small change. Over about +3 and your starting to overdrive the board channels and you'll get distortion and not the kind you want.
The best we can do is turn the amps sideways - simply not enough room on the stage to put the amps in front of the musicians and turn them backward. Unless we do like Mike suggests and point them back at the wall ...
If we use the amps as the only source of sound for the instruments, it will be too overwhelming for the stage volume I think. It is already loud enough up there.
thanks Mike ...
Our room is rectangular (longer than wide). Well, actually, it is L-shaped ... I am attaching a pic so you can see the layout - it's hard to explain. We put our third speaker in the un-seated "jut" area to help to add volume to the back seats and couches.
The electric amp is on an amp stand, tilted up, but as Rick said it only goes so far - we have it pointed upward toward the electric guitar player. He doesn't have the best hearing ... would it be a problem turning the amps toward the wall even if they are a couple inches from the wall? We just don't have stage space to bring them out further than that.
Tricia, I'm looking at a picture from your church website, and yes, you do have a small stage! A couple of things I see...
All your amps are facing the audience...not good. In my experience that always produces hot spots for the audience. Your lead player has his turned a bit and raised...but it's still coming from behind him. Hard to hit the ear like that. I would bring it around more and face it back towards him or at least off to the side. Also tip it more so that it points right at his ear. That way it can be turned down while still being heard. Right now it's aimed at his chest.
The other two amps (bass and 2nd guitar) are underneath or behind the players. How in the world can they hear them? Again, bring them around in front and tilt them back up towards the players. Once the line of sound is improved, you'll usually find that you can turn the levels down. If possible, stuff a pillow or put something on the backside (drape a cloth?) so that the audience doesn't get that horrible rear of amp sound. I would even turn your bass amp towards the drummer a bit so he can hear it (if he wants to!)
If you start to get too much sound bouncing off the back wall, try hanging something there to absorb it.
As mentioned by others, the lead guitar player may have to go with other gear to make it work. Some guys think that without the amp sound all is lost, but sometimes you just have to find a way to work with it, if your goal is to work as a team. There are some VERY good effects boards and pods that produce amazing sounds and amp modelings. Even the purists have a hard time telling the difference (and these are words right from Lincoln Brewster's mouth...).
If you're not going to improve on locations, then you may even have to look at in-ears. Good luck! Hope this helps.
Thanks Rick - you can see the diagram I just posted (above), too, to give the full picture of the whole room.
I will definitely get the electric guitar turned more to the side (my poor keyboard player!!). :)
We do have the banner-Edge-thing hanging on the wall of the platform - We probably can't add anything more. But we can figure something out.
Our other two guitars hear themselves more from the monitors than from the amps. The "hot spots" their amps might be creating are minimal when compared with the electric amp - which is leading more often than not. Perhaps we should go direct into the snake again with the acoustic guitar - I think we switched to an amp for them b/c they have wimpy pickups and could never get enough volume. Also, the acoustic amp has some echo effects and such which are cool to use.
Hi Tricia. I'm not sure why the amps can't be put in front of the respective players (bassist and lead guitar). It would put them near the front where your monitors are already...
For sure I'd turn put that bass amp out in front and turn it towards the bassist and drummer, then knock it down to the low end as mentioned.
And yes, I'd put the accoustic back into a direct box. Buy a good one - it's worth the money. I also had a problem with my old Tak guitar that had a non-active pickup (i.e. no battery). To make it loud enough I had to go through its own floor eq unit made by Trace Elliot. Worked great. And if the accoustic needs echo, add a chorus or reverb pedal. In my experience, most accoustics are through the house system.
For your lead player, try taking the amp off the stand, put it on the floor at his feet and lean it right back on a pillow if you have to so that it points right at his ears. If the rest of the house has to suffer through it, so should he (I don't mean this disrespectively, so don't quote me!). If nothing else, it will get turned down...
Tricia, these are stormy waters...a lot of folks can start to get bent out of shape, from guitar players to sound techs. Tread carefully and make small changes. Then celebrate each improvement, no matter how small. Over time you'll get there.
"these are stormy waters..." Amen brother. Sound setup issues and changes create an unbelievable amount of conflict and drama on my team. I can't think of anything that creates as much turmoil for us.
One idea we are using is I've checked with other churches in my area and found a professional sound engineer at a much larger church that is willing to come in and 1) help us set up our sound system, amps, monitors, etc correctly for our space and 2) train/explain to EVERYONE how the sound needs to be run. This part is as much for my musicians as my technicians. He's a great guy and it's costing me a free lunch.
This is a really good idea, Pete, as it may not only solve a lot of sound issues, it will also help with the "buy in" factor. Because it's an outside professional (especially if you pay them something, even a token fee) you'll find that the band and the sound techs will often respect his/her opinion more and take the suggestions to heart.
You just have to make sure you find someone who knows what they're doing!