Yes, Your Worship Music IS Too Loud…
There is one question that, I can assure you, you will never get right for 100% of your congregation. That question is this:
“What is the acceptable volume to do our music sets at?”
Good luck with that one. For some, it will always be to soft. For most – it will always be too loud. Still, there has to be an acceptable answer that will at least satisfy the majority, right? The good news is…there is. Before, however, we start to understand exact decibels and the craft of running sound – we need to understand what “too loud” translates to in real life. For that reason – I will give you “Jason’s 4 D’s of Worship Volume”…and we will include some friendly insights from Robb West – one of my former F.O.H. Directors…and suggest to you that your worship music is too loud when it:
1. Distorts what is going on musically: Don’t ask me why – but this tends to happen with less experienced musicians and worship leaders. They overcompensate their lack of experience or their lack of preparation in rehearsal by playing louder. They seem to think that playing louder or with tons more distortion either gives the impression that they are just “playing all out in the Spirit” or that it will overcompensate for areas they are less confident on. Even more experienced musicians and worship leaders will do it from time to time thinking that it sounds good. The truth is – what you hear on the stage is not always what is never what is heard in the audience. The words of a song that you can hear clearly because you’ve practiced the song (hopefully) lots may become garbled mud to those in the audience who may not be as familiar to hang on to each word.
“I always suggest building a mix from the vocals down since in the worship environment the lyric is the most important element. I set the vocals where I want them first, then I add the drums and bass, after that I bring in the other instruments.”
2. Detracts from what the focus is: Improper mixes occur frequently – especially in smaller churches that utilize an electric guitarist that knows one volume – “CRANKED PAST 11!!!” Without the ability to regulate the guitarist from the house system, the guitarist has full control. The worship set is going great until that first diamond from the guitar shreds through. Two bars later…its solo time. Somehow, the focus becomes the guitar instead of worshiping God.
3. Distracts the listener altogether: When levels get out of control – there is breeding room for feedback and room resonance that can reek havoc on the eardrums. Think about the last time you were in an audience and heard a roar of feedback soaring through the mains. Forget about “detracting from the focus” … you forget what you are there listening to altogether!
“Some guitarists insist running their amp loud makes their tone sound right! Is it more important that the guitarist gets his way, or that the mix is good for the congregation?”
4. Degrades health and hearing: Your mother warned you as children to turn the radio down – lest you go deaf. She wasn’t too far off base. Listening to prolonged loud noises can degrade your hearing. Its serious enough that OSHA has guidelines about “how much is too much.”
“I often say it is the FOH engineers responsibility to be good stewards of the ears of the congregation. It is a very important to realize that as a FOH guy.”
So now that we’ve addressed the 4 “D’s”, what do we do to remedy and regulate sound? We’ll look at that tomorrow as we dive into Part II in this series!