No-Budget Tips to Improving Your Sound

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No-Budget Tips to Improving Your Sound

by Eric Chancey, @BigDaddyDecibel

So, what exactly are “no-budget tips to improving your sound”? This article is the first in a series about making improvements to your audio mix - improvements that don't require you to spend a dime on new gear.  

I realize that these tips may be basic to you but profound to others. Along the way, I'll bet that you find something that you can use.  I hope to add a new tip every week...until I run out!

Today's tip: Mic Placement

The best place to start to improve any sound is at the source, but it’s not always possible to replace a whole drum kit, or a player's favorite instrument. Besides, the challenge of sound reinforcement is to accurately reproduce the sound coming from the instrument.  

Move the microphone around.  

If the sound you are getting isn’t working well for you, the first thing to do is to try moving the microphone around in proximity to the instrument.

For example, if your kick drum doesn’t have enough attack ("click" from the beater), move the microphone closer to the batter head. To deepen the kick sound, move the microphone away from the batter head and you’ll get more low end.  

Warming up or clearing up your vocal sound can be just as easy.  If you have a vocalist whose voice sounds dull... (click the link below to read the rest of the article)

Read more: No-Budget Tips to Improving Your Sound


Go Widescreen!

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Big changes, big benefits - for you!

Over the past few years, the transition to High Definition digital television has had a dramatic impact on technology for worship and presentation settings.  We've seen unprecedented improvements in both video and audio-for-video quality, and we've seen price reductions that make wide-format projectors, switchers, and screens affordable for most churches. 

So what's the fuss about wide-format projection? Should you make the change? If so, why? 

What I hope to explore in this article are the benefits to using wide-format projectors and screens from a practical standpoint.  Current 4:3 standard format video and data projection systems are certainly very good and serve us well. 

Let's talk about four reasons that wide-format systems could be a benefit to you, especially if you're starting from scratch. 

HDTV - It's fairly obvious that most new video content, whether movies or television, is being produced for wide-format 16:9 displays.  New televisions are all 16:9.  New program material shot in 4:3 NTSC video is a thing of the past.

New computer screen resolutions - For years, XGA (1024x768) has been the standard screen resolution for virtually all PCs and Macs.  In just the last couple years, we've begun to see a W added and now have WXGA (1280x800) and other wide-format computer graphics resolutions.  The computer that I'm currently typing on has a native screen resolution of 2560x1440 - which is both 16:9 and beyond-HD resolution.  We frequently see that computer screens are wider in order to accommodate video uses.  1280x800 and 1920x1200 are also common. 

Wider screens are also typically easier to retrofit into older buildings.  Most new worship spaces are designed with video and audio systems in mind.  That hasn't always been the case.  What we find in older buildings are often low ceilings and awkward spaces into which to integrate a screen.  Standard 4:3 screens often have to be installed behind the platform participants, so projected images are consequently blocked from the view at least some of the congregation.  Quite simply, wide-format screens can be mounted higher above the platform floor and offer a greater degree of effectiveness. 

Easier to read - The most important factor that you may not have considered is that wide-format video equipment will allow you to display more words on each line, to use fewer presentation slides and to have more natural line breaks.  Take a look at these images below and you'll see what I mean.  


4:3 Ratio Screens

16:9 Ratio Screens

Notice that phrases break more naturally on longer lines and that the layout becomes much more open, attractive, and easier to read.  

In just the last year or so, prices for wide-format projectors and switchers have come within reach of many churches.  Right now, we have several products that offer you a high-performance yet affordable point of entry to wide-format projection. 

In the realm of projection, the Sanyo PLC-WXU700A is a fantastic choice for a starting point.  With 3800 ANSI lumens, it offers wide-format, lights-on performance on screen sizes large enough for most auditoriums and sanctuaries.  It also features wireless connectivity for those times that you might have a guest presenter with a laptop.  The PLC-WXU700A also allows streaming of motion video to the projector over its 802.11 WiFi connection.  

If you have multiple video sources like DVD, a computer (or two), video cameras, and maybe an old VCR, the Kramer VP-728 will help you keep things straight.  Its scaling function allows you to match the variety of sources to a single output resolution for better consistency.  Your computer, DVD, VCR and potential video camera feeds will be formatted to fit your new screen, even if you have as many different formats as you have sources.

Think of the VP-728 as a format conversion devices to help you make seamless transitions between different devices and one that will keep the "No Signal" blue screens from being a part of your worship time. 

At $2199 for the PLC-WXU700A and $1196 for the VP-728, you'll find that affordable, high-performance equipment is within your reach.  And if it's not, we have other options for smaller screens and less-elaborate set-ups.  Wide format projectors start at $939.95 for use on smaller screens. 

For more information on how to integrate wide-format images into your worship setting, please call for more information.  We're happy to answer questions and to help you get on the road to making the good decisions when faced with the future of the video side of your worship experience. 


A note from Randy Lane - Carrie Underwood's Sound Engineer

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In a recent talk with Randy Lane, he offered part of his secret to making country music superstar Carrie Underwood sound her best.  “I like to make sure that Carrie’s vocal is the focal point, but I’m also trying to make sure that what the band plays on stage is conveyed accurately to the audience,” he says. “ To that end it all starts with the source and the mic reproducing the instrument accurately. Heil mics absolutely are faithful to the source and translate drums, guitars, and bass guitar, as well as Carrie's vocals, accurately and dependably every night. She has a top-notch band with her and I’m trying to capture exactly what they play and just stay out of the way.”

Carrie_Mics“Carrie is absolutely one of the best vocalists I’ve worked with,” Lane adds. “She comes in for every sound check completely prepared and delivers a soundcheck vocal as if thousands of people were listening. Every day at rehearsal, she was 100 percent ready for what she was doing with each song. It’s an absolute pleasure to see that level of professionalism and it certainly doesn’t hurt that she can belt it out. She can take a song from an intimate whisper to one of the most searing vocals you have ever heard in your life in the space of a heartbeat and the Heil RC35 delivers that vocal impeccably. ”

The RC35 is replacement microphone capsule that will allow you to use the Heil Sound microphone capsule used on the PR35 vocal microphone.  If you have questions, please call.  We stock virtually all Heil microphones for immedaite delivery.  We also have demonstration models for you to try in your setting.  Call for more information.




Getting Control of Your Church Band Sound

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by Brian Smith

isopacB_thumbIt is no secret that many church music programs have been incorporating contemporary praise bands into some if not all of their services over the past several years. While the amplified guitars, bass, keyboards and drums help to add energy and excitement to a service and help draw the younger set into the church, many organizations find themselves fighting a new problem: over-powering sound levels with the acoustic drums seeming to be the lead culprit.

There are three main issues contributing to the problem: adverse room acoustics, insufficient acoustic separation, and insufficient isolation of the loud instruments.

Unfortunately, very few sanctuaries have acoustic properties conducive to loud instruments. Most rooms are designed with no regard for acoustic performance or with pianos and organs in mind, not percussion and amplified guitars.

Read more: Getting Control of Your Church Band Sound


Headphones - every mixer needs a pair.

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Before I knew what a fader was, I watched the sound guys at church put on their headphones at the beginning of the service and keep them on until the end, never or rarely listening to what the rest of us were hearing.  They'd watch the meters, and the congregation had to live with something that might have sounded good to the sound crew, but didn't necessarily sound good in the sanctuary.  That made absolutely no sense to me, so until a few years later, I wouldn't have been caught dead with a pair of headphones because no one ever taught me the value of using headphones correctly.

As a live sound mixer, you need a pair of headphones.  There's no negotiating that point, but make sure that you use them the right way.  Your primary job is to make sure that the system sounds good in the room, not to make sure that the board mix sounds good for the recording.

In the standard live sound set-up where you can hear the speakers directly, here are a handful of reasons to add a pair to your setup, if you don't own  a pair already.

With a good pair of headphones, you can use the PFL (pre-fader listen) or Solo button on your console to listen to any one channel or group of channels.

Why might you choose to do that?

Have you ever needed to cue a CD, DVD, or taped accompaniment without everyone in the room hearing what you're doing?  PFL means that you can listen to a channel in the headphones with the fader shut off.  As a rookie sound mixer, I used to cue accompaniment tapes using only the meters on the cassette deck, and sometimes I cued things up to the wrong point.  Not smart.

In the similar manner, a pair of headphones allows you to isolate a channel in order to find a hum, buzz, or noisy guitar amp.  Make sure to mute the noisy guitar amplifiers during the sermon and/or use a noise gate.

With a pair of headphones, you can figure out who's singing off-key and keep them back a little in the mix, and you can tell if whether someone is really playing their instrument or singing.  From 50-70' away, it's often hard to tell exactly what's going on.  Sometimes, the keyboard player isn't really playing or a vocalist isn't singing.

When the guitar player wants more guitar in the monitors, you can quickly listen to his or her monitor mix to see whether more is needed or if you can achieve the same thing by reducing the level of something else that's covering up the guitar.  It's a fact of life; guitar players always want more guitar.  If you continually give everyone more of themselves, you'll soon have monitors that are too loud, which causes other problems.

A really good pair of headphones might set you back $150 or so, and there are plenty of good alternatives, even as low as $50.  Whatever you do, if you don't have a pair of headphones and if your console has a headphone jack and PFL/Solo buttons, make sure that you get a pair.  You'll wonder how you ever lived without them.

Take a look here for some great headphone options.


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What others say

Thanks for the great job you all have done!  Thanks for suggesting and sticking with the digital board. The benefits are awesome.

We are so pleased with having great sound, lighting tech...etc in the building.  I have been in many new churches where the sound is squeaking, squawking etc. and it ruins the services.  We have had few to no glitches. There are still many things that I would like to do.

By the way the remote clicker for the Power Point worked great, reached from the platform to the back of the room.

I am looking forward to continuing a working relationship and a growing friendship.

Pastor Steve Hubbard
Ebenezer Baptist Church