“It’s too loud!”
“It’s too quiet.”
“It’s too trebly.”
“It’s too boomy.”
“All I hear is the guitar.”
“I can’t hear the guitar”
… Yadda, yadda, yadda …
It’s all about perspective and perception.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve gone into a church and heard three or more different perspectives on the way things sounded, I’d be pretty well off by now. Don’t think your church is unique with your own sound problems. I’m here to let you know your church is no different than any other church in this area. So take heart: This isn’t an unsolvable situation. In fact it’s a very common problem, not only in the church sound world but in the secular world of touring professionals.
Perspective and Perception
Sound is very much a matter of perspective and perception. No two people hear the same thing the same way. Everyone has their own natural biases based on their environment, their physiology and their flat-out personal preferences.
Likewise, the perception of what we hear depends significantly on the emotional impact of what we hear, especially when it relates to worship music. Because worship music, by its very nature, is designed to get you in the very dark recesses of your heart and soul, what we hear when we listen to worship music is very, very personal. What one person likes in a worship song performance can be totally different than what someone else hears in that same song.
People hear different things. You can play the same song through the same equipment, having people sit in the same spot and get different perspectives from every single person. Now contrast that perspective/perception idea with how we, as church technicians, listen to our mixing. We’re used to thinking in terms of bits and bytes. This thing called “sound” throws us a paradigm shift in that we have to feel instead of think. We go from digital, 1′s and 0′s, black-and-white thinking to analog thinking; wavy, lots of gray feelings. Standing behind the mixer, you are making judgment calls as to what is right in the mix. You are ruling, “This is right for this music set, for this congregation, for this moment.” It’s a tough thing to do because of our personalities, introverts that we are. But it’s something we need to conquer if we’re going to be good at what we do and bring the congregation into transparent worship.
Part of the uniqueness of the church environment is that volunteers are often thrown into the deep-end with the technical as well as the worship side of audio production. Thus, whether you are a musician or a sound tech, you don’t know what to expect from the other side of the sanctuary, and they don’t know what to expect from you. Therefore, each person incorrectly forms their own perspective of what they need, or feel they need. After a while of back-and-forth wars (for want of a better phrase), a perception appears that both sides don’t care about the other side.
The Worst-Case Scenario
Considering each person’s unique perspectives, perceptions and expectations, conditions are ripe for total disaster when no one is ready to step up and strive for resolution. Let’s consider the worst-case scenario …
Let’s use an example where, from the perspective of the techs, the worship team is a bunch of prima-donnas that always want more of themselves in their monitors and don’t understand what the techies are trying to do. From the perspective of the musicians, the techs never listen to their needs and only want to hobble the worship team.
Neither perception is accurate!
The problem is, because each side is only looking at the situation from their perspective, feelings get hurt, animosity builds and the transparent worship that is needed to draw people into Christ … it gets lost.