From the moment that contemporary church services went electric (and probably before), congregants have been making a lot of noise about volume control. How can your team get the best mix, the musicians the best sound, and everyone else the best experience?
The answer: the Quiet Stage. It has come to encompass the use of electronics to lower stage noise, a function of:
- Personal in-ear monitors replacing floor or stage monitors
- Amplifier modelers replacing traditional amps
- Electronic instruments replacing acoustic ones (drums and keyboards, for example)
If the Quiet Stage is good for the house of worship environment, then why aren’t more churches doing it? Cost is one reason. With existing stage monitors and amps already on hand, it’s hard for a church with a small budget to justify the additional expense of a basic in-ear rig that can run into the hundreds of dollars. The pain of change is another. Musicians are accustomed to the sweet spots provided by their stage monitors.
With personal monitor systems offering more features at lower prices than ever before, now is the time to take the plunge, if you haven’t already. Here’s a step-by-step approach for getting started.
Step One: Be the Champion
Going “Quiet” demands an advocate who can champion the cause with those controlling the purse strings, and if possible, demonstrate the audible differences of clearer, more intelligible sound at reduced volume levels.
This person (you, maybe) also will be the one who works with your local sound contractor or music instrument retailer to develop a gear list and a budget. If you’re the one who’ll be wresting monitors and amps from the arms of your performers, get ready for a little pushback, and prepare to be the trainer. You’re the expert. You’re going to make it happen, even if it will be rolled out over time.
Step Two: Eliminate Floor Monitors
This should be easy, but many churches are still using them since old habits die hard. Personal monitors are a vast improvement over floor monitors, but new users sometimes feel cut off from the audience. Often, to compensate, they’ll remove one earbud. A better approach is to include in their mix ambiance from audience and stage mics, and have that level ride below the dry signal. Most advanced systems let the user hear two different mixes and also control the levels of the mixes.
Musicians reap the rewards of high-fidelity stereo sound at lower volume levels with less interruption from outside noise. Since the sound quality with personal monitors is superior to wedge mixes, singers can save their voices and focus on their musicianship. When performers create their own mixes with a personal monitor mixing system, the audio crew can focus on the house sound.
Another important point: Acoustic feedback (squealing) occurs when a microphone picks up the sound wave from a nearby loudspeaker. Personal monitors reduce the likelihood of acoustic feedback by putting the “loudspeaker” in the user’s ear rather than on the floor.
Step Three: Eliminate the Amps and Speakers
Most electric guitar and bass players learned to play with the comfort of a nice little amp nearby. Anyone with a Hammond B3 has great affection for its massive partner, the Leslie speaker. Take these away, and you’ve essentially exiled some old friends.
Along with Shure and Yamaha, Aviom has been evangelical in spreading the gospel of the Quiet Stage. Here’s Aviom’s Chandler Collison:
“Guitar and bass amp modelers, for instance, are very effective substitutes for traditional amps. Because the tones are generated digitally, high acoustic volumes are not required to get the tight sounds guitarists and bassists want from their rigs.
The outputs of the modelers are run directly into the sound system. Because there is no acoustic sound, engineers have complete control over the levels in the house mix, and performers all have complete and independent control over the levels in their personal monitor mixes. Stage volume is dramatically reduced without detracting from the performers’ experiences.”
Step Four: Ditch Your Drum Kit
You’d never want to replace your vocalists with synthesizers, but so many improvements have been made in electronic drums that the house mix won’t be negatively impacted by this switch. Collison’s suggestion:
“Mount a bass enhancer such as a Bass Shaker or Butt Kicker to the drummer’s throne or to the underside of a small platform for the bassist. This will restore some of the low frequencies lost in the personal monitors and give the performers the feel of standing in front of a loud bass cabinet or playing a miked kick drum.”
Step Five: Start Small If You Have To
Even if your congregation needs to build the Quiet Stage piece by piece, eliminating amps and wedges one by one will have an audible difference in the house mix and the overall quality of your worship events.
There are other benefits, too:
- Consistent sound quality
- Stereo imaging
- Less vocal strain for singers
- Protection against hearing damage
- Cleaner stage, free of bulky floor monitors and amps
- Increased gain before feedback
- Lighter loads for portable churches that need to transport and store gear
Contact MCC’s Audio Visual Solutions Division today to learn more!