Church Acoustics and Church Sound Systems

Hear and Understand – Speak and be Understood – Sing and be part of a Blessing


  • JdB Sound Acoustics

    Ph # 519-582-4443

    email: jdb@jdbsound.com


    Delhi, Ontario, Canada


    Working with Churches around the World.

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A Rant about Church Bible Studies and Mid-Week Meetings!

Posted by jdbsound on May 14, 2015

I know I’ve had my head buried in the sand successfully getting people to come to church on Sundays.  Better acoustics and better sound does indeed equal more people coming to Sunday worship but what ever happened to the mid-week meetings where people can study the bible and have open discussions? Where do people go if they want something more than just Spiritual Milk and Pablum as what is mostly taught on Sunday mornings?  What do you do if you want to add some spiritual meat into your diet?

In recent years I have started looking at church bulletins, their web sites and have spoken to many church pastors.  Since I travel so much, it has been hard for me to get out to my own church but I do get to speak to other fellow Christians all the time.  Couldn’t help noticing that the most common thing missing from many churches is the mid-week meetings for adults.  Cell groups were popular for a while but they seem to be disappearing as well.

When the question about mid-week meeting was put to some pastors they gave some of the strangest answers ever.  In their replies they say things like, “You’re supposed to feed yourself” or “you can’t control those in the midweek meetings as it seems they all have secret agenda’s.”  or “I don’t have time to lead it.” or “people are too burned out for mid-week meeting with all of their other non-church activities” and so on.

Then I started asking ordinary church members if they would go to a mid-week bible study.  Most said yes and some liked the idea of a later evening study time between 8pm and 10pm rather than programs starting at 6:30 or 7pm.  Late enough for a parent to slip out after putting the kids to sleep and not so late to get up early the next morning.  Where it would be a social time as well as a study time, where a light snack and something to drink would be included.  Where it could be in a person’s home or in a room other than the worship space unless the worship space is the only room large enough to gather in.

Has social media, which I don’t use much, replace the need for human interaction?  Am I being old fashioned about how churches were growing 30, 40 years ago?  Is it just me or has the church given up on the basics in how to draw people back to church?  Do you quit bible studies just because only one or two people show up?  Are we so caught up with technology that if we don’t get rewards every 8 seconds, it’s not worth doing?  Has our attention span as Christian been reduce to something less than the attention space of a Gold Fish?

A while ago, there was a weekly bible study started by a minister’s Son.  It was for both men and women and it was not organized by the church.  The well planned and prepared bible studies were very successful and it went on for years. Suddenly it was cancelled.  The reason wasn’t really clear but there were suggestions like, half the people were from other churches, they were growing inwards and not outwards.  A few people said that the program was self-sustaining but it was not generating any income for the operations of the church.  Seriously! The church was more concerned about profit!

After the first few years the bible study grew to a few hundred people.  Then the bible study stopped growing but it stayed strong for a number of years.  No one was certain if the growth peaked because the room they were meeting in was not large enough for more people, or because there wasn’t any more room for parking or because no one was sharing what they learned.  There was about a 15 to 25% annual turnover of people.  That makes for a very successful program considering some churches have an annual turnover of 50 to 60% for Sunday morning services which suggests there is a lot of spiritual milk being served and little to no spiritual meat being offered any other time through the week to keep people there. This bible study had both milk and meat delivered in the right order as described in the bible.

As it so often happens, this very successful program gets cancelled and another program with good intentions tries to replace it.  The new program fails and now, three years later the church is desperately trying to reboot the Bible study because since it was stopped, overall church attendance and tithing during the Sunday worship services dropped 50%.  Who knew that a bible study program not supported by the church was in fact helping the church indirectly in a huge way.  This church seats over 1000 people.  Just because you can’t see or understand how a successful mid-week bible program works or a weak midweek bible program works, doesn’t mean it won’t have an impact on Sunday worship or church growth.

There has been other events that suggests a strong desire of people interaction.  Should a Monthly men’s prayer breakfast replace weekly bible studies?  What happens to people after getting through an Alpha Meeting program?  Some churches are good at promoting 12 step programs but what is the follow-up to that?  Where do Christians go if they want something more than just milk?  Seriously!  Feed Yourself!  Nowhere does it say that in the Bible but there are many times where God says he will send a shepherd to feed his flock.  Where are the teachers to guide us through the milk to meat or even strong meat?

So if the church is not providing places for people to get something more than just milk, where do people go to seek spiritual meat?  Promise Keepers, Full Gospel Businessmen’s association, Women’s Coffee Break, Woman Alive are just a few of the many great organizations. I get the impression that the attendees are mostly people who want more than just getting milk at church on Sundays.  I think a lot of the people who go to these groups are people who are looking for some meat.  The thing is, can you receive meat in large groups?  The Bible says no.

Heb 5:11 – 14 and 1Co 3:1 -3

Meat is for mature people.  Mature people become teachers.  Teachers start with milk and later teach the meat until those who grow become mature people.  Maturity is not about age, it is about knowledge, experience and being well grounded in the Word.   Jesus by example gave us the Sermon on the Mount which was mostly milk and later he preached meat to his disciples.  Preachers spread the milk and teachers give the meat.  So where does that happen?  Not by just attending Sunday services.  It is by being involved with follow-up teaching.  People are asking for more teaching but many churches have stopped.  Meanwhile I have discovered that some churches have never stopped and those are the churches that quietly move forward.

It is high time that the midweek bible study gets restored and restored soon if we want to see churches be sustained or even grow in North America.  If the church you’re attending is growing and there is no mid-week meetings, how long will that last when there is a change in leadership?  As an observer of many churches, congregations can survive and thrive without a pastor.  I’ve seen churches build a brand new facility without a pastor leading the way but a church will fall apart if there are no teachers and where there is no meat being passed on for those to become mature in Christ.

By Joseph De Buglio

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What is the difference between scattering sound and diffusion of sound? Are Diffusers Programmable?

Posted by jdbsound on April 26, 2015

The simple answer is as follows.  Half, quart or third round devices or objects individually just scatter sound.  A single barrel diffuser or tube radiator as I often call them just create a very uneven distribution of sound.  As single units, it gives about the same amount of performance as placing a flat object of the same size and placing at a 15 to 35 degree angle on a wall.

When using barrel diffusers in various sizes and/or in spacing varying from 0 to 30 inches and apply them to all of the walls in a confined space, you are creating a diffusive field.  You’re turning the church walls into a phase coherent sound field – like churches of yester year built between the 1400’s to 1700’s.  When barrel tubes are used as a system you can program them to only manage the acoustical problems you want to get rid of and at the same time create a more desirable sound field like real reverberation that is musical and supportive to congregational singing.

Barrel tubes spaced too far apart just scatter the sound and reduces some bass but does nothing much else.  Instead, you can program the diffusers to manage standing waves, bass buildup, notch a frequency or two and equalize a room.  You can also program them to lower stage noise, manage monitor spill into the audience and improve congregational singing.  They can also be programs to make the sound system perform better.

The software to program barrel diffusers is still in development.  In the meantime, a test room, and a data base of real world testing is the best way to predict the final outcomes.  Try and program a digital EQ to cut 350 hertz 40dB.  It can be done but it sounds awful.  When you program tube radiators to cut 40dB, it sounds sweet.

Joseph De Buglio

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Stone Mason Gets Passed Over

Posted by jdbsound on April 23, 2015

What does a Stone Mason and a Church Acoustics expert have in common?

http://www.jdbsound.com/art/stone%20mason%20gets%20passed%20over.pdf

Would you know if the best person to do a job was a person from your church or church community?  What if that person was one of the most skilled persons in the world for that service?  Would you know it and would you hire them?  Would you rather hire someone who is worldly, charges huge fees, who give the best sales pitch over someone who is better skilled, who charge less because they want their work to be accessible to any church, not just churches who can afford the big buck and the hype?  Is it possible for a Christian to be the best in world at something else other than being a Christian?  Hope you enjoy the true story of a Stone Mason.

Blessings

Joseph De Buglio

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Church Sound—Another Perspective On Lousy Audio & Related Issues

Posted by jdbsound on April 21, 2015

Found this article that is a good read.  Enjoy.

http://www.worshipfacilities.com/article/church_soundanother_perspective_on_lousy_audio_related_issues

Blessings

Joseph De Buglio

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I Hate Mute Switches!

Posted by jdbsound on April 19, 2015

At my church, we still have an analog Mixer.  It has 24 channels, 4 sub groups, Left/Right and Mono out.   We use the sub groups.  Vocal, Drums, Instruments and Leadership mics.  The mixer has mutes on every channel, on each of the mute groups and on the 3 master outputs.  Fortunately, we have a church were the acoustics are stable.  We can run all of the mics open without feedback for normal worship levels. Monitors are stable and so on.  It is also a good sound rig.  When I run the mixer, I turn every channel on and shut off any mute switches.  I control all of the levels with the sub groups.  I don’t want any surprises.

This Sunday it was my turn to run the mixer as we are on a weekly rotation.  Thursday night was rehearsals.  Missed the rehearsal.  Friday night the Youth used the sanctuary and someone used the mixer.  Things were changed but it only took about a minute to set everything back.

As usually, you arrive at the church early for a pre service warmup. Dialed up a great monitor mix.  Everything seem right and as typical, we rehearse and warm up with the FOH speakers off.  When the worship team stopped it was time to turn on some background music.  Turned on the CD player, saw activity on the channel, raiser the fader for the channel and the channel was assigned to the Mono Main Out.  Raise the mono out and nothing happened.  What!!!

Checked the power switch to the powered speakers.  Check to make sure the processor was on and passing a signal.  Nothing.  Called the head tech for the church, he checked everything out. He checked the mixer and he agreed with me and thought that the power switch was faulty.  He removed the power switch and bypassed it.  Still no sound!  Double checked and found that the power lights on the back of the powered speakers were indeed on.  The head tech and I stared at each other confused wondering why there was still no sound.  Then he looked at the mixer again and this time noticed that the Mute switch on the Master Mono Main out was engaged.  He hit the mute switch and the rest of the sound system came to life.

In the year of mixing at the church, the Main Left/Right and Mono outs have never been muted.  The mixer is a spilt mixer where 16 channel are on one side of the mixer, 8 channel on the other side of the mixer and the Groups and master outs are near the middle of the mixer.  For some reason we were blinded in not seeing the red mute lights in that area of the mixer as there are other red lights in the area for other things.

Later I learned that a recently hired youth leader came from a church were the sound system was so unstable that you had to mute everything all the time.  They muted anything that wasn’t needed and because they left the mixer on 24/7, they had the habit of muting the master outputs as well.  The head sound tech and I had a good laugh at the whole experience.  For me, I should have known better as this is about the 3rd time something like this has happened.  This is the first time with powered speakers, but before I had people thinking there was something wrong with the mixer.  So please, unless you have a wonky unstable system, please don’t use the master mute switches.  They are great for a studio but not for live sound.

Joseph De Buglio

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Singing at 105dBa!

Posted by jdbsound on April 10, 2015

Congregations can sing at 105dBa.  At least that is what they do in churches that I have fixed and that does happen in other churches too, that perform well.  When they do sing that loud, what do you do?  Or, what do you do when the congregation is starting to drown out the sound system?

  1. Keep pushing the sound system to keep up with them.
  2. Keep the sound system at 90dB and let the congregations voices dominate.
  3. Lower the sound system FOH levels so that the congregation can enjoy what they are doing.
  4. Push the sound system to drown out the congregation as always regardless if the sound system is distorting or not.

Please tell us what you do when mixing.

Joseph De Buglio

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Question! What would you do to fix the Acoustics of this Church?

Posted by jdbsound on April 1, 2015

You have a church that seats 750 people.  It is a simple rectangle room with 30 ft walls, 40 ft to the peak, 80 ft wide and 140 ft long.  The reverb is 2.2 seconds at 300 hertz and 1.3 seconds at 2000 hertz.  An Energy Time Curve test show reflections over 30dB at one second on the ETC in the 300 hertz range.  The floors are carpeted and the pews are padded seats and backs.  All of the walls and ceiling are insulated drywall on 12 inch centers.  Basically there is about 30dB of excess energy at 300 hertz.  300 Hertz has a wave length of 3.75 ft. The church has already tried 4 different sound systems over 10 years and all of them were designed and installed by companies that are supposed to be the best in the business and they all started off saying that the room needs to be fixed – but church board members vetoed anything that would change the aesthetics of the room – but it was OK to hang 2 ugly line arrays which lasted only 6 months.

The church is now asking for another sound system but this time all of the professional audio companies turned down the project and said to the church don’t call us back until you fix the room.  Now the church board has relented and they are allowing acoustical panels to be mounted on the walls. What acoustical method or system would you use to fix the problem?  What will reduce energy 30dB in this space?

For all the walls in the church, between windows, doors and bulkheads, there is only 35% of the total wall space available to mount acoustical panels on. Major issues are – Stage noise, floor monitors as loud as main speaker system in the first 10 rows.  Only 20% of the congregation is ever singing. Speech intelligibility is below 85% in full range – if you roll off the sound system at 200 hertz speech intelligibility improves to 88%.  Gain before feedback is very poor after 3 or more microphones are turned on at the same time. Subs never really sound right.  Pastor hears echoes all the time off the side walls when preaching. Drummer can never hear himself or the other worship team members – even with the headset monitors. The are currently using electronic drums but they have tried drum shields and booths without much satisfaction.

The church used to have a 40 voice choir but they never sounded very good and now with over $150,000 invested in a praise and worship team with all the latest state of the art technology and higher trained sound engineers, they sound no better than what the choir did years ago – but they are better at entertaining people!

(note: this is a fictional church but this is based on actual events that have happened recently in three southern Ontario Churches.)

Joseph De Buglio

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Are Churches growing or shrinking?

Posted by jdbsound on March 23, 2015

Being in the church sound and acoustics business for over 33 years, you get around enough to see firsthand if the church community is growing or shrinking.  After all, when all of your income comes from providing a service exclusive to the church community, you would want to know if your services will become obsolete or not.

The question stands, is the church community growing or shrinking?  The short answer is – – – – the church community is growing and church attendance is growing.  Churches for the last 100 years have been growing on average about 10 to 14% every year.  That is the good news.  Unfortunately, that 10% growth annually is not the same as 10% of the population.

It seems that sometime around the mid 1970s the population started to grow in North America (and the rest of the world for that matter,) at a fast rate than what the church was growing.  In order for the church to grow at the same rate as the rest of the world, the church would have had to grow up to 25% annually.  So while the number of Christians in relationship to the total population is declining, the church continues to keep growing.

What also makes it harder to keep track of church growth is the number of breakaway churches that leave the umbrella of the denominations where church growth is not often recorded to any national data base.  In my work, I get to see both denominational churches and independent churches.  At the end of the day, it seems that there isn’t much differences between them.

Many people who were part of denominational churches often leave to get away from the institutional, the bureaucracy, the rules, the regulations and static growth burdened by years of complacency.  The problems I am hearing from people who have been going to these larger “growing independent churches” is that after a while, they complain about the same institutional, bureaucracy, rules, regulations and push for more growth burdened by years of complacency.  The difference is that they are inside the same bureaucracy that they left years ago and often don’t realize that they are now the cause of why people are leaving the independent churches are starting unsupported breakaway churches.  Who is keeping track of those numbers?

Then there are the non-registered home churches that are out there. There are thousands of them that average about 12 people each.  Who knows how many of these groups are there but, at the end of the day, overall statistics pegs church growth at 10 to 14%.  That is good news.  Will the “church” ever be more that 10% of the population again?  Most likely not.

By Joseph De Buglio

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Church Aesthetics

Posted by jdbsound on March 19, 2015

Acoustics decides the Aesthetics of a church. If the acoustics are bad, the aesthetics looks one way. When the acoustics are good, the aesthetics looks another way. Did you know that the average person without training can virtually tell what the aesthetics looks like in a church by how it sounds? Did you also know that churches with good acoustics when first built often have better aesthetics that lasts the lifetime of the worship space?

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Church Acoustics Advertising :-)

Posted by jdbsound on March 19, 2015

Do you have an echo problem?  We have a fix for that!

Do you have a reverberation problem?  We have a fix for that too!

Are you struggling with your sound system?  We have a fix for that as well!

Having problems with your rectangle shaped church?  We have a solution for that!

Having problems with you round church?  We have a fix for that!

Having problems with you octagon church?  We know how to fix those too!

Having problems with your fan-shaped, oval-shaped or square church?  We have custom solutions just for you!

Are you not happy with your commercial warehouse, storefront or converted mall space church?  We know how to fix that!

Have you already fixed your acoustics 9 times before and your still not happy?

We can fix any church that is absent of any acoustical planning and treatment.

We can also diagnose and fix any church that has the wrong acoustical treatment to get it back on track.

We have never been to a church that we couldn’t fix but we have had churches that were not ready to make the needed changes to get what they desperately wanted.  Oh, did you know that acoustics has always been the deciding factor in the aesthetics in a house of worship whether the acoustics are good or bad.  God taught us that beginning with Solomon’s Temple. (1 kings 6:29 (NIV)On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers.  (Please read my article about Solomon’s Temple http://www.jdbsound.com/art/art570.html))

Churches are not temples but they are dedicated as worship centers and houses of learning.  For worship and learning, you need tools. One of those tools is acoustics. You need a system of managing the air between the teacher and listener for the best worship and learning experience.  While a sound system is also a tool it cannot manage the air. It relies on acoustics for it to work. The better the acoustics, the more effective a sound system is.  Without the right acoustics, what are you really hearing or understanding?

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