The sound booth is the ultimate control room for any performance, whether it’s in a local theater or on your worship stage. Whoever runs the audio board has a powerful influence over how the event or service will be received. He or she also should be careful to prevent hearing loss among musicians and the congregation as a whole.
Musicians who use ear pieces or are consistently in the range of a cranked-up speaker are especially at risk of hearing loss. Many lifetime musicians have acquired tinnitus, a continual ringing in the ears, just from the constant exposure to loud sounds. There’s no reason, however, for anyone to be injured while worshipping if you make safety a priority when dealing with sound.
Having an experienced person running the soundboard is one way to avoid problems. Good “sound guys” are more valuable than most churches realize. They know how to keep the instruments and vocals balanced and just loud enough, but not so loud as to cause hearing damage.
Many churches use volunteers who are willing, but not always capable enough, to get the job done. An experienced sound technician should be involved in the setup of your sound system and should understand how to make the system function for an entire band (guitars, drums, vocals, etc.)
Technicians also should know a few backup plans if the traditional setup isn’t working on a given Sunday. Some people take multiple years to learn the ins and outs of the sound world. For others, it only takes a fraction of the time. It’s best to choose a sound person who has at least a few years of experience and is fully confident that he/she can handle any problem that may occur. It’s also a good idea to have a willing, even if inexperienced, volunteer train with this person. This can help prepare an understudy if your usual sound person is unavailable.
There are tools and apps available to monitor the decibel level of your music. A level of 85 decibels is widely considered the point where sound has a damaging potential. Exceeding this level for shortened periods of time is acceptable, but exposing musicians and the congregation to it for long periods of time is dangerous. Just one second at 130 decibels can cause permanent hearing damage.
With instruments like the drums, sound can be difficult to control, since they are loud on their own. With drums, a screen should be used to keep the volume in check. The glass panels provide a fence-like structure around the instrument that muffles the crashing of the drums and cymbals and help to align them with the volume of the rest of the band. Drummers and other musicians also should develop the habit of using earplugs. Certain earplugs are designed to reduce noise level while not reducing sound quality. In the long run, they can prevent hearing loss or ear damage.
Nearly all worship leaders have experienced what’s known as the “pop.” The “pop” occurs when a musician tries to plug in his or her instrument before the soundboard can be muted, resulting in a loud cracking sound. The “pop” not only might damage hearing in weaker ears, but it also could do serious damage to the speakers or the instruments being used at the time. To prevent damage to ears, equipment, and instruments, it’s best to press the mute button on all channels on the soundboard and instruments before plugging or unplugging anything. This also will help prevent any similar noises if someone trips over a cord and pulls a plug. You can cover cords on the floor with tape or a rug to protect them.
Music is central to nearly every church service, especially Sunday morning worship. It is extremely important that audio technicians control the volume to keep from damaging their hearing and that of others. Besides the safety factors, good sound quality and control ultimately help establish a God-centered, spiritual worship experience.
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