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Passive versus Active Worship. Is there a difference?

Posted by jdbsound on July 26, 2021

Within the Church community, when someone speaks of worship styles, they will often refer to one of these terms, Traditional, Contemporary, Blended, Liturgical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic. These terms are not exclusive, but they are an accurate description of how worship is conducted. When you look at congregational singing, all churches fall into one of two groups: Active Worship or Passive Worship. Active worship is defined as congregations that always have more than 50% of the people singing. Passive worship is when less than 50% of the people are singing all the time. In most churches, less than 30% of the congregation is singing all the songs. This single observation is the most common link that is driving many churches to turn to an entertainment style of worship. Let us look at why many churches are going in this direction.

Traditional Passive Worship

Under the Traditional, Contemporary, Blended, and Liturgical styles, there has always been a commitment to an active style of worship – meaning – where the congregation is expected and encouraged to sing.  In some houses of worship, they sing acapella, while other churches will have a person conducting with the traditional piano and organ.  Some will add a guitar and bass.  While the focus is on the people actively singing, even if only 20% of the congregation is singing, it is accepted.  For these churches, the musical instruments are downplayed, even though they unintentionally perform louder than the congregation.  For these churches, the focus is on the Gospel message within most hymns and songs they sing.  This leaves some people with the idea that worship is boring or lame.  Some think that this style of worship is old, outdated, and needs to be modernized.  For the churches that have tried to modernize, the level of active congregational singing has not changed, and the impact of attendance decline continues.

Contemporary Passive Worship

Under the Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic worship styles, we should include churches that also use the word “contemporary” in defining their worship.  For these churches, it doesn’t seem to matter if the congregation is singing or not. The service, being conducted by a music team or band, will have the sound levels of their performance dominating everything.  The worship leader will choreograph songs and some Bible verses to get more people in the mood to sing.  Words are projected onto a screen where some people just mouth the lyrics.  Others attempt to sing loud enough to try to hear themselves and hope they are making a joyful noise.  Regardless of how much effort is made to get the congregation singing, less than 30% of the people are actively singing.

Some Evangelical and Pentecostal churches fall under a conservative style of worship.  What makes these churches conservative is because everything is focused on the coming sermon.  For these churches, it can take up to 45 minutes to get to the sermon.  Between prayers, announcements, scripture reading, someone making a presentation in song or words, and 3 to 5 songs that take up 20 minutes for their worship, the emphasis is on Jesus, the Gospel, or a lesson the congregation needs to learn.  Attendance in these churches is often directly linked to the preaching skill of the pastor, regardless of if they are conservative in their messages or not. 

The New Age of Passive Worship

Churches that have heavily invested in technology and worship teams, come under two groups.  They are either part of the conservatively lead churches, where the sermon is the main event of the worship experience, or they are the hyper evangelicals where the music portion of the worship service is 30-90 minutes long. Often the music is as long as or longer than the sermon. 

For a growing number of churches, there has been a dynamic shift in worship styles.  The transition is a style of worship where the visual experience is synchronized to music. Where lighting, video, and moving images are synchronized to amplified music.  Churches are adding motorized lights that can change colors and video walls to create an atmosphere ripe to deliberately stimulate the senses.  In this environment, the song leading is crafted to guide people into a manufactured energetic form of worship.  Even if people are not singing, at least some are swaying to the music, and others are raising their hands.  For such churches, the music has become the event, not the teaching of the Gospel.  Furthermore, in such churches, the Gospel is hardly part of the message. 

Rather, it is a message that is mostly about what God can do for me and a strong focus on how I can become a better person.  These messages promote programs and steps that if you follow them, you will have a better life.  The teaching is, if you tithe, you serve at the food bank and help people more, you will become a better person.  Asking God into your heart with a promise to do better is a ministry of works, not salvation.  James 1:19-27 clearly explains how we are to Love God first. Then we are to follow His laws (notice that it doesn’t say to obey them). We are to be doers of the word.  Because we love God, we do what the Bible teaches.  Sadly, many ministers teach it the other way around.  Their message is, do the work for a spiritual experience to make you feel better about yourself.  If you feel better, you are saved! 

There is nothing more deadly than a carefully crafted message of false hope and a message for a better life by doing things that include something holy, sacred, spiritual, and secret, and never knowing what true salvation is.  These are people who have never experienced being transformed by the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised everyone who accepts Him as Lord, who is our sin sacrifice, and a new life as a born-again Christian.  When you accepted Jesus as Lord, did you change?  Have you ever returned to your old life, your old ways, and enjoyed it, or did you ask God to forgive you and told yourself never to do that again?  A person who is Born again will have the Holy Spirit helping you stay on the narrow path.  A person who thinks they are Born Again and continues a life of sinning without a second thought may not be saved at all.  This is the trap of false teaching and teachers.  The addictive entertainment style of feel-good music and messages is crafted to create a manufactured artificial spiritual experience found nowhere in the Bible.  Anyone promising a better life by following a recipe outside of the teaching of the scriptures is a wolf.  That includes teaching where scriptures are taken out of context to say whatever message the composer wants.

Passive Worship is turning into Secular Style Entertainment

How are so many ministers getting away with preaching such a distorted message?  Mostly through entertainment.  Have you ever been to a healing service?  How long was the music program? Thirty to ninety minutes long?  During that time, you are hearing promises and testimonies that raise everyone’s hope up high into a feverish pitch.  They shout out repeatedly, “Your faith will set you free!” followed by, “You pray, and God will give you whatever you want!” Where in the Bible does it say that God serves us?  Rather, we choose to serve God because He protects us from going to Hell when we love Him.  When people get stimulated enough, the focus on true Biblical teaching gets diverted with shrewd speech.  The message is focused on the “new golden calf,” on the promise of miraculous healing on demand. Here is when the blinded follower will do almost anything to get what the fake healers are promising or selling.  It is common that during such an event, the collection plate is passed around more than once, and the first time is before the healing service begins. The second or third time is during the healings and then at the end of the service/show.  They talk you into continuous tithing for a miracle, but, they are diminishing your faith down to nothing more than a “faith healers’ lottery game.” Faith and salvation are not a game you can bargain with.

The Elephant in The Room

This carnival-like atmosphere over time has moved from healing services into an entire worship program that gets people engaged into the most important person in their lives – self.  This artificial entertainment style of worship has progressed into an alternative to confronting the elephant in the room, “room acoustics.” Room acoustics controls how many people will actively sing during congregational singing.  Who wants to sing in a room where you can’t hear yourself, nor the person next to you, no matter how much you try to engage?  The room makes you feel alone.  Sure, there are many times in almost every church where more than 50% of a congregation will sing a very familiar song, especially to celebrate an event. Such singing happens only a few times a year.   For most churches out there, regardless of size or attendance, only 15% to 35% of the people sing 95% of the time.  With such low participation, no matter how good the song leader and worship team is, getting people to engage in the worship singing becomes an effort of futility.  Out of desperation, people will do whatever will work. 

The church is not built on Programs

Many churches have chosen an entertainment style of worship to draw more people into the flock.  With enough technology, anyone with modest musical talent can create an energetic rock concert-like atmosphere to get people to be passively engaged, if not actively engaged.  The difference is, people can be stimulated with sight and sound to trigger the senses to release those feel-good drugs the body naturally creates called dopamine and endorphins.  How often have you started tapping a hand or foot when you heard a familiar feel-good song?  How do you feel if several of those songs are played back-to-back, and then the music changes or stops?  How do you feel after that?  You want more. 

Music can be used to trigger the body to crave more.  If the music stops, you had better have a good message to follow up, and what better message than one that can keep the dopamine and endorphins flowing by focusing a message on self.  And what comes before the sermon and after the music?  Most churches pass the collection plate—what better time to get people to give than when they are all pumped up.  There are church leaders and pastors who have been trained in the art of knowing how to carefully manipulate people with music and feel-good messages. They will hire professional musicians who have had some success in the concert music world to craft the beginning of a church service to hyper-stimulate people to get them addicted to participating in passive worship.  People are so pumped up, not realizing that even though they are surrounded by many people and enjoying this passive form of worshiping, deep down, many have this subtle and distressing feeling that they are still all alone.  The common thread in all these churches is acoustics.  The people are in a room that cannot support congregational singing.  Everyone wants to sing but they give up because of how the room makes them feel.  Before worship starts in some churches, the young people are encouraged to put their hands up and sway to the music as they scatter throughout the audience.  When people see the youth doing this, it looks so spiritual.  That is when peer pressured sets in and more of the audience joins in to make the appearance they are actively worshiping.  Watch any YouTube video where people are raising their hands in worship and it will be the youth, spread throughout the audience, raising their hands up first.  How artificial is that! 

Active Christian Worship

However, that is different than being in a worship space where the acoustics are so good; over 50-80% of the congregation sings without being self-conscious.  They are singing with complete freedom to express themselves as a coral of congregational singers expressing themselves, often with four-part harmonies. This is what active worship is like all the time.  When the acoustics of a church is good, it is easy to have enough people engaged in singing to the extent that there is no need for an entertainment style of worship to lead the congregation.  When the worship space properly supports congregational singing, people will also sway and raise their hands for many of the traditional and modern hymns.  The people will do this spontaneously because they are free to comfortably show their love for God.  They don’t do this to make themselves feel good, but it does feel good when you truly want to show Him your love in song.  This is not about getting rid of worship teams, but where the job of the worship leading is reversed.  Where the worship team follows the congregational singing in a support role rather than leading and overpowering anyone who is singing, even if their joyful sound is just a whisper.  This is different than when music is used to manipulate the audience into hyper stimulation and feeling better about themselves. 

History on the Order of Worship

Another item that will be seen as controversial is the notion that music should follow the reading of scriptures and the teaching rather than before the sermon.  The Gospel message, when properly taught, is never a feel-good message, but rather, it is supposed to be about reinforcing our love for God as a community.  The message is about keeping the believers on the straight and narrow path.  It is about following God because we love Him, as He has always loved us.  It is about following His laws to be safe.  When Jesus ended the Sermon on the Mount, He didn’t end the lesson as a feel-good message.  When Jesus finished preaching from a boat in Matthew 13, that message also ended as a warning.  In preaching the Gospel properly, the end of most sermons will either be a warning or a lesson in how to be a follower of Christ.  There will be teaching on sin, repentance, and change.  There are no feel-good messages in the Gospel. 

And when should the scriptures be read?  Through Jesus’s own example in Luke 4:16 “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” In most cases whenever the Pharisees or scribes confronted Jesus, He would answer with a scripture verse first, then a rebuke or teaching. 

Here is the dilemma, people get emotionally hyped with feel-good music at the beginning of the worship services, only to be brought down to earth by the end of the sermon.  The pastor closes with a 1- or 2-minute prayer.  Then out of consideration or desperation, the closing song is for blessing or to brighten things up.  There is no time for reflection or meditation on what you just learned.  If anything, the song is more of a distraction than comfort.  It’s no wonder people hardly remember what the sermon was 10 minutes after worship.  The reality is, you need several songs to lift people, but with everyone already investing over an hour into the worship service, most people are not in the mood to be comforted by three to five more hymns or songs again.

Worship service should begin with the reading of a complete scripture passage of the Bible by an elder or someone who has rehearsed the passage, or a person is talented at reading out loud to an audience, The passage or passages should reflect what the sermon will be about.  Next is the sermon; after that is a time of prayer to reflect on the sermon, and engage the congregation further, a short Q&A lasting 5 to 10 minutes to secure the understanding the minister taught everyone, then announcements.  Finally, 3 to 5 songs to lift people up as a group where their unison of singing strengthens them in the message they just heard, regardless of how hard or direct the teaching was.  Biblical singing is about celebration with God and His teaching.  The Sheep will flock to a full Gospel message while the goats will run.  If you read about church history, it wasn’t until the 1820s where worship music moved from the end of church service to the beginning.  This was done deliberately to get people excited for the following feel-good message.  Yes, even 200 years ago, getting a congregation to have more that 50% of the audience singing was a struggle and if you look at church history further back, congregational singing has always been an issue.

Bound in a False Spiritual Trap

Sure, there are some charismatic ministers who can start off with a feel-good message without music to get things started, but the reality is, without the music, people are not going to stay for an hour for a feel-good message unless you are a guru at motivational speaking.  People who participate in extended music programs become hyper-stimulated. They become malleable in teaching them whatever message you want to brainwash the followers into- whatever cult or false teaching you want to bind them to.  The hidden message here is to divide and conquer.  Fill the building with goats, call it church and watch the sheep scatter.  Making the sheep feel like they are failures. 

Having people worshiping in a room where the acoustics cannot support authentic congregational singing, and by having an entertainment style of worship, you can keep people trapped into being happy and feeling alone at the same time.  The false hope is that if you keep going to the church, the feeling of loneliness during worship is replaced with “works” by helping with random feeding programs, community projects, staging drama and music concerts, small groups programs, volunteering, tithing, and hoping for a holy or spiritual experience.  The entertainment style of worship draws in people with good hearing, which is mostly younger people.  Older people are excluded, and without elders, the person leading the church can get away with preaching whatever they want. There is nothing more contentious than a church full of young people without older people who will demand accountability when the leadership becomes questionable.  For an entertainment style of worship, where lighting, video walls, online TV video cameras, a huge sound system, paid musicians, and drama performances are as good as shows people would see in Las Vegas, acoustics doesn’t matter.  The whole program is set up to entrap people, take their money in an artificial religious experience where people come and go like a revolving door.  None of this is from the Bible, but the Bible is hyphenated to create a false message, blinded by the heavy use of technology.  Sadly, those who leave such a church often want nothing to do with Christianity again. This cycle of keeping people from the message of salvation must end.

The Bible is the Source for Meaningful Church Growth

Room acoustics that supports congregational singing does not need any gimmicks.  It quickly becomes apparent as good worship spaces become distinguished between being drawn into a ministry of salvation and loving God, or an organization of false teaching and false hope.  The Bible is the source of everything we know about God.  The Bible is also the source for knowledge about church acoustics if you know where to look for it and how it applies to modern church buildings.  Did you know that 95% of all existing church buildings cannot support active worship?  This is why the whole church community is struggling.  The churches that are trying their best to stay on the straight and narrow path Jesus taught are losing to churches that are filling buildings void of the message of salvation.  Entertainment is the new gospel, whether it be a seeker sensitive, purpose-driven, or a self-help preaching message.  Church acoustics that cannot support the kind of congregational singing that can unite people is the single common thread all of these church buildings share and it leaves the church vulnerable to false teaching and teachers.

The good news is that the Bible has a universal plan that can fix the acoustics of any existing church from passive to active congregational singing and maximize speech clarity at the same time.  If you start looking in the Bible for answers to these two acoustical problems, there you will find who designed such a system – Jesus – the author and finisher (John 1:3, 1 Chronicles 28:19, Hebrews 12:2).  Bad acoustics allow false teaching and teachers to hide in plain sight within the walls of a building where worship service looks more like worshiping a false god – the minister who is playing the audience like the Pied Piper.

Other clues of false teaching are:  Are you encouraged to bring a physical Bible to worship services?  Are most of the song’s choruses?  Are some of the choruses repeated more than three times?  Do the verses of the songs have true Biblical teaching or are they about making you feel better?  Are the song leaders swaying to the music back and forth with their eyes closed, looking like they are in a trance?  Are all the texts the minister uses conveniently posted on a large screen, so you don’t have to look them up?  Does the minister read full passages of what they are teaching, or are they just quoting fragments of the scriptures, hoping no one will read their Bibles?  Does the sermon begin with reading a complete passage of scriptures, and start teaching from what was read, or does the speech begin with a story – often with the minister involved?  (2 Timothy 4:2-4, preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.)  For those who follow such teachers, things don’t end well. 

Seriously, Acoustics can help fix the Church!

A church with good acoustics that can support proper congregational singing, in most cases, can expose the sheep from the goats and those wolves in sheep’s clothing sitting next to the sheep.  There are many people giving up on the church, as attendance seems to be declining. Fixing the acoustics of a church for better congregational singing is one way to fight back dwindling attendance that doesn’t involve innovative outreach programs or turning to an entertainment style of worship.  If anything, it helps the minister to feed the Lord’s sheep and to fulfill the promise; when Jesus said in John 10:25-29,  “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.” 

Church acoustics is a tool, much like hymnals, Bibles, pianos, organs, choirs, and sound systems.  Good acoustics can’t fix the health of a congregation, but a better worship space will expose false teachings and make the preaching of the Gospel easier.  Some churches are not prepared to see the congregation separate as in the sheep from the goats, for once the goats leave, where will the sheep come from?  Have faith that the Gospel message will bring the sheep back, and before long, the flock will grow with new sheep.  That is the true work of the Holy Spirit.

For the Record

From the firsthand experiences of many churches that have already upgraded their acoustics, the change begins with a healthier fellowship through congregational singing.  Active singing during worship can be the difference between following Christ and hearing the preaching of the whole Gospel message and worshiping in a place that divides the church community by not addressing the elephant in the room.  This may sound like a stretch, but after seeing hundreds of church buildings transformed, and observing with following-up visits how acoustics directly contributes to a growing congregation, the impact is unmistakable.   If there is any good news here, it is a fact that in following the Bible for true acoustical change, any church can afford it, regardless of the size of the sanctuary.  The secular community can’t make that claim ever.

For those of you who have read this far and know that your church building doesn’t support active congregational singing, have some faith.  In Mat 17:19-20, “Then the disciples came to Jesus apart, and said, why could we not cast him (the demon) out?  And Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief. For truly I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Move from here to there. And it shall move. And nothing shall be impossible to you.”” You can make a difference by letting those in leadership know that there is a Biblical way to bring real Christian worship back into the Church and start by attracting those distracted and wandering sheep who know His Voice back into the flock.  Then, have faith that Gospel message will do the rest.  What happens after that is all about leadership and who is the head of your church.

Copyright © Joseph De Buglio 2021

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The Average Church Buys Ten Sound Systems

Posted by jdbsound on July 15, 2021

Do churches really buy that many sound systems?

The first sound system

The first sound system is the cheapest system the church can afford and is installed without much knowledge or research about system design, by someone with good intentions. 

It does amplify sound, and everyone adjusts their hearing and puts up with it.  Every time the system is turned on, it sounds different.  This sound system lasts only until the minister threatens to leave, when church members do leave, or enough people complain about it.

The second sound system

The second sound system is by a church member, or a friend of a church member, or a person, who does church sound on the side or as an extension of their secular business.  The new sound system is better behaved but, in the end, the overall performance is only slightly better that the previous system.  The minister is annoyed by people asking him to repeat or explain parts of the sermon almost every week.  The person or company installing this sound system are under the notion that at the end of the project, they will have a modest profit. Did anyone see a Profit! Oh! What a novel idea! 

The third sound system

The third sound system is a sound system designed and installed by a professional, meeting most of the goals promised in a verbal agreement.  While some parts of the sound system are performing well, other issues become more noticeable.  Yes, there is less audio feedback heard, but speech clarity for people over 40 has not improved.  Amplified music sounds mushy.  The minister’s confidence takes a hit every time people talk to him after the service or through the week, asking questions as if he is not preaching the Gospel properly, when it was the sound in the room that changed the words that left his mouth and arrived to the listeners as being something else.  Some people returned because the sound was more stable, not because it is much better, and for others, it is more likely they miss their friends.

A written agreement is never offered or requested because we all know the myth and lie, that the outcome is too unpredictable and rarely lives up to expectations.  Often this sound system is in whole or in part paid for from a single donation or is bequeathed from a persons will.  The professional thanks the churches he helps for upgrading his car every few months.

The fourth sound system

The fourth sound system is designed and installed by another professional promising to do better.  In making some parts of the sound system better, it came at a compromise of something else regardless of the cost.  The church buys additional hardware for the system from someone else and it does provide some marginal improvements, but not enough to satisfy most of the church members.  The designer had suggested for acoustical improvements but downplays it so that the acoustics would not impact the sound system profits.  People with hearing aids that have the “T” switch like the loop system but even in the hearing aids, real sound clarity is not there, even with the high quality digital technology used to make a loop system work so much better.  While these people are not straining to hear because of loudness, understanding the message does come into question.

Another mythical illusion that is often perpetuated, is that there is more profit in audio hardware than in supplying acoustical treatments and proper acoustics fixes are too expensive for the average church to afford.  The professional thanks the church for the new motor home. 

The fifth sound system

The fifth sound system is installed by a well-known professional who also expresses a warning that the acoustics must be fixed too.  After the installation is completed and after the honeymoon phase of the upgrade has passed, you realize that things that have improved did get better, but other problems showed up, limiting the sound system’s overall performance as being no better.  You call him to come back, he offers you more gear, but you cannot afford it. 

Many people say they like hearing the MP3 playback of the message in their car, on their computer, or Bluetooth, and most of them quietly wish they could have understood the message while at church, so as to being able to ask the minister meaningful questions at the end of the service to expand their understanding of the Gospel.  Church elders notice a high turnover in church attendance. They attribute the turnover to social and economic reasons, certainly not because of sound.

Inside of all the fancy professional paperwork, there was supposed to be a professionally written performance agreement, which was never included, so the church has no recourse.  The cycle of stepping two steps forward is met with surprise when everyone finally realizes that they also took an equal two steps back.  The professional keeps your money regardless of your choices and swims victory laps in his new family swimming pool.

The sixth sound system

The sixth sound system is installed with great promise by a high-end professional with the same warning that the acoustics should be addressed.  The proposal included an acoustical design that came from a person who is a professional at noise management, and has never designed a successful performing acoustical space in any of those type of projects.  The church ignores doing the acoustics, banking on the new “state-of-the-art” devises that are filled with promises of improvements to make the sound problems go away. 

In silence, the church leaders accept another expensive system upgrade that shows just a minor change that hardly justifies the cost.  There was hope that the congregation would be more involved with singing, but they are just as passive as before.

The high-end professional takes your money without hesitation so he can have bragging rights to sell to other churches.  These professionals know that the majority of churches do not talk to each other or check references.  They also know that most churches are too stubborn to get their acoustics fixed first.  The professional upgrades his home theatre to schmooze and impress his secular clients who are harder to sell products and services to, because they have specific performance goals written into their contracts that they will not compromise on. 

The seventh sound system

The seventh sound system looks impressive, and it also includes a different acoustical design.  The professional suggests that the bigger and “better” new sound system would be a great sales gimmick to attract more people from the church across the street.  More people do come, but because the Church board, did not implement the acoustic plan, congregational singing languishes, and more hardware is purchased to do entertainment style worship, leading most of the people into getting engaged in the show.  The rock concert quality sound system, the video walls, motorized lights, smoke machines, are all adding to the entertainment elements that distract people from the subpar sound quality.  The professional now travels first class.

The eighth sound system

The eighth-sound system the professional designs is used as a gimmick along with multi-media to compete with other online ministries.  Additional digital technology is used to mask the real sound of the church from the online service and to broadcast publicly. The equipment does an excellent job in preventing people from hearing echoes and the poor-quality reverberation of those who have attended church, have learned to put up with.  For those who attend regularly, they like the weekly show.  The right acoustical treatment would have been cheaper, but the enslavement of technology blinds everyone from seeing the bigger picture.  The church continues down the path of substituting worship with entertainment – but still calling it worship because they include words like Jesus, Holy Spirit and God in some of the songs.  After all, it is all about Him.  We can get saved later.  Right!

After getting a contract and deposit, the professional, who used an expensive rental car during earlier visits, shows up in a new luxury car, demonstrating that high end sound systems are needed in every church, regardless of whether they make any meaningful improvements.

The ninth sound system

The ninth sound system the professional designs is to keep the church growth momentum moving forward to attract more people from the other side of town.  Again, acoustics is ignored.  Since most of the other churches have subpar acoustics, most people attend the church with the best music show, the best motivational preacher, the best coffee, the best free food, the shortest sermons, or all the above. Such churches get people addicted to the drug like effect when dopamine and endorphins are released after following a specific ritualistic, high energy program.  Who can pass up that kind of drug and alcohol free high every week? 

Scientists call dopamine and endorphins the Happy Drugs the body naturally releases when stimulated.  A galvanizing, well planned choreographed series of songs, music, visuals, and storytelling events trigger the natural drugs in the brain.  Many people are hooked to this type of worship.  Whenever the show becomes too routine and it does not have enough stimulation, many will look for other churches to get the same buzz.  When that stimulation isn’t enough, then they go back to the first church and start over again.  Biblical teaching becomes secondary or nonexistent and any teaching from a Bible is focus on ways to keep people stimulated by focusing most of their attention on themselves. 

Who knew that sanctuary acoustics could lead to secularizing the church worship into worship entertainment?  Many churches, look and sound like a business rather than a place where Christians come to show their love of God through a holy time of gathering of the faithful – and not the addicted?  Some churches have bought different versions of the ninth sound system purely to attract those who thrive on that kind of stimulation which is a cheap way to get rich in a religious business.  Oh, didn’t you know!  Most people with a higher income greatly support churches that make them feel good.  Being saved or born again, is assumed or skipped over if you give a lot and the message makes you feel better.  That is no different than those high priced motivational speakers living very wealthy lives entertaining people with their secular version of the health, wealth and the prosperity gospel.

The professional tells his neighbor how another church paid for another addition to his house.  If you want to soar with eagles you have to be an eagle.  In case you didn’t know, eagles are classed as scavenger birds.

The tenth sound system

The tenth sound system is designed by an expert.  This is the final new sound system most of us never hear about.  It is a sound system that will never have to be redesigned again.  All that is required in the future is that as equipment ages, you only need to replace what is broken or upgrade the technology as more capabilities become available. 

This sound system is designed the same as the 3rd sound system following the upgraded acoustics designed by someone who does church acoustics and sound systems exclusively and gives a written description of how the worship space will perform after the upgrade.  Even though his professionalism is lacking, everyone is thrilled that congregational singing was finally fixed since the church opened at no added cost.  The acoustic upgrade, which costs a fraction of any of the other sound systems allows this older sound system design to outperform all the other six previous sound systems by 400 to 2500%. (Audio improvements follow a logarithmic scale.)  If your church is past its third sound system design or upgrade, stop, save your money, and fix the room.  The room is essentially screaming that it needs to be fixed and the sound system is always amplifying the problems.

There are a lot of sound contractors who will keep designing, selling, and installing you a newer sound system so they can buy a newer cottage, a bigger home or take another cruise ship vacation this month. The expert looks into the full church and prays that another soul hears the Gospel message and starts living a life with Christ, than seeking religion.

The facts

The fact is, not many churches will really buy 10 sound systems.  Few churches will start with the tenth sound system.  The majority of churches skip steps, but the outcomes are no different.  Many churches start with the first sound system while many newer and wealthier churches start with the 3rd or 4th system.  Other churches go from the 4th, to 7th, or 8th system.  Some churches are on the 3rd or 4th version or the 9th system.  The shortfall of these worship spaces are all predictable by the mere fact that any room that doesn’t have any acoustical treatment or the right method of managing church acoustics, means  the results are always the same.

Equipment

Churches that are on system 3 through 9, often have individuals who are gadget and technology driven.  To some of them, fixing the acoustics is like putting the brakes on technology.  If anything, visit any church out there that has upgraded their sound system in the last 5 years and you will find lots of perfectly good hardware that was deemed useless because it didn’t live up to its promised performance.  The truth is, all of that hardware that is still working or repairable would have never been bought in the first place had the acoustics been ideal.  With good acoustics, the tendency is to buy higher quality technology less often because you know it is going to work the first time and every day after that as the manufacturer designed it.  Every piece of audio hardware is limited by the acoustics of the room it is used in.  That is a hidden secret every equipment manufacturer knows about and intentionally leaves out of their manuals.

If you ask any audio manufacturer these days, many will admit that 50 to 60% of their equipment ends up in churches.  Yet after 70 years of churches with sound systems, in all of that time, the quality of worship hasn’t really improved.  The only change is that in more and more churches the worship is switching from active participation in the pews and seating, to passive worship.  That really isn’t worship – that is being entertained.  That is like being addicted to feel good messages and a focus on what you get out of worship rather than worshiping because you have a true love for God.

What should worship look like, Matthew 22:37-39 He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the lord your god with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like unto it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 

When you are at church, during worship, do people sing and pay attention to the sermon with the focused attention of someone loving God with all their heart, mind and soul, or does it look like people having a good time, swaying to the music, sipping coffee during the sermon, remembering the jokes and the story at the beginning that often has little to do with the short message? 

After working with churches for a long time, these are some of the stories some churches have shared on their journey to getting the performance from their worship space and sound system their congregation deserved.  The ongoing myth that eventually audio technology can replace or put off the need to complete or fix the acoustics of a church is one of the most expensive decisions a church can make.  For some churches, the repeated cycle of redesigning sound systems to reach that elusive goal of perfect sound every few years, costs more than replacing a parking lot, a roof,  more storage, employment for a second pastor or church staff, and so much more.  Technology improvements comes with the illusion that it has the power to defy the laws of physics when it comes to church sound systems. 

A sound system can only perform as well as the room allows it.  You do not have to take my word for it.  Look at any concert hall or performance space that is profitable and it will have acoustical planning, panels or features that help to turn any performance into a memorable event.  The same applies to recording studios.  The better the acoustics, the less time it takes to complete a project, the lower the cost to the customer.  The quick results and lower costs lead to a higher rate of returning customers for future projects.  Recording studios and concert halls depend on repeat business and the single most common elements they have are acoustics.  Why would this model for sound excellence be any different in a church?

What is the difference between an expert and a professional? 

The church sound professional is the knowledgeable salesman with business degrees and higher education, often in unrelated fields for his business or company.  While their company does a lot of churches, church work is not exclusive and is no better than anyone else’s results.  Everything that they do is profit driven.  The professional knows how to say what the customer wants to hear, manipulating the customer into believing they are the best.  The professional shows an extreme level of patience, well-rehearsed business etiquette, confidence, quick with the paperwork, and makes the promise that whatever you ask for, they have the talent to do it.  Professionals count on repeat customers who remember their professionalism that masks their recollection on the unimproved results. 

The church sound expert is the person who works exclusively on churches.  He knows how to accurately diagnose the problems, and is compelled to tell you the truth, whether you like to hear it or not.  He believes that the more informed the church leaders are, the more likely the church will make the right decisions that will save the church thousands of dollars in the future.  He can precisely predict the results before anything is done and rarely makes mistakes.  He can back up the results from past experiences.  The expert will be honest and care more about getting you the right solution that will work the first time, at the expense of any illusion of being a fancy, smooth talking professional.  The expert is often not profit oriented, he cares more about your reputation within the church community, by getting results that count.  He often gets referrals or is asked to fix other rooms in the same church, and never gets a repeat customer.  If the expert must go back and fix the room again, he is not an expert. He is a “professional expert,” you know, the jack of all trades, passing himself off as an expert.

Who is fixing your church today?

A PDF Version of this post is here. the average church buys 10 sound systems photos_s.pdf (jdbsound.com)

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Does sound quality in a Worship Space –

Posted by jdbsound on June 22, 2021

  • Affect church attendance?
  • Affects church finances?
  • Affects church health?
  • Affects a church’s reputation within a local community?
  • Affects how people respond to the Gospel message?
  • Affects what a minister preaches the Gospel?
  • Affects how a minister preaches?
  • Affects people emotionally?

Myths vs Facts: 

According to various hearing organizations such as the American or Canadian Hearing Societies and other health organizations, 8 to 25% of people will have hearing loss or impairment within any community. For some people, the hearing loss is in one ear or both ears. For other people, using a hearing aid does make up the difference so those people can interact socially with others without needing to use sign language. The bottom line is, if a person can have a normal conversation in a living room but has trouble hearing and being engaged in conversations in larger rooms, these people are less likely to attend a church with less-than-ideal acoustics and amplified sound. Hearing loss, the invisible disability, does make social gatherings awkward for many. Numerous people with hearing loss resort to the practice of self-isolation from social events, including weekly worship services. Sound does have an impact on church attendance for those who have any kind of loss or impairment.

Good acoustics and sound system design in a church make the worship space much more accessible and appealing for those with hearing loss within any community. That is why churches that follow the Bible, when it comes to worship space acoustics, experienced a consistent and sustained 10% attendance increase on average 6 to 18 months after upgrading, while churches that just upgrade their sound system and not the acoustics realize a short-term increase of 5% and 2% over long-term follow-ups. Churches that upgraded both the acoustics and sound system saw no significant attendance changes when compared to churches that just upgraded the acoustics. (However, some churches did reinstalling the existing speaker system to take advantage of the better acoustical conditions and expand the performance of the sound system.)

These facts have been consistent with churches where the pastor, church leadership, and local economies had not changed from 3 years before to 5 years after upgrading the acoustics. The conclusion is, no matter how good or popular your pastor is as a preacher and leader, if the acoustics and sound system are not up to Biblical standards, there are many people who are being excluded. Depending on your point of view, some people see this as a denial of service.

Another thing to consider is that an attendance change of 10% also adds up to a 10 – 15% annual increase in tithes and offerings. For a typical 400 seat church, that could represent an income difference of $208,000.00 over ten years or enough money to replace a church roof.

(Fact: Most churches will sell parts of their property, including their parking lot, to pay for building repairs such as roof replacement.)

Church Size400 seating
Before average weekly church attendance230 people
People returning to attending because of hearing improvements10% or 23 people
Average giving per person (Health Research Funding Org. May 2020)$17.00
Weekly giving increases$390.00
Monthly increases$1,564.00
Annual increases$20,280.00
Over 10 years$208,200.00
Stats are provided from client follow-ups of 5, 10, and 20 years which followed the Biblical method of managing church sound.  The sample size is from 130 of the 400 churches that upgraded their acoustics between 1994-2019.


Not knowing if the acoustics of your church are up to Biblical standards could mean that your church is denying people from attending your church more frequently or from ever returning.

While there are many personal and spiritual reasons for people not attending a particular church, our records show that good acoustics combined with a quality designed and adjusted amplifying sound system constantly translates into higher attendance and tithing. For some churches, the better-quality sound translated into higher giving from people who did not have a hearing issue which was unexpected in our research. These were people who responded to a questionnaire where one of the questions asked, if they noticed the higher quality of sound and whether it affected their tithing. The most consistent response was that when the church board invested in its members by making the worship experience better with quality acoustics, then they felt it was worth investing in a church that took care of its own first, and out of the excess, they could better support others including missions. Church sound is not just an emotional experience; it is a physical experience that directly impacts church attendance and finances.

The Biblical standard for church sound comes from the Bible and specifically in the Story of Solomon’s Temple. In following the story literally, we find that what God designed through the hand of King David is a house of worship that makes it possible for modern sound systems to perform at their highest levels. This makes the room compatible for people with all ranges of hearing loss, and it provides ideal sightlines for people who start to learn lip-reading as their hearing declines with age. Solomon’s Temple is also compatible with ADA (access for Disabilities Act) and other similar laws around the world as the Temple had no steps in the sanctuary, making the worship space wheelchair friendly, even before wheelchairs were invented. Solomon’s Temple doesn’t just set the standard for church sound; it sets the standard for all aspects of church worship and building planning.

You should get your worship space assessed and know it’s acoustical score. If there is room for improvement, have a plan in place when your church can afford to upgrade. On the other hand, some churches have upgraded their acoustics as a last-ditch effort to remain relevant in a local community. All of the churches that made such a desperate move are still open, healthy and have expanded their status in their local community. The knowledge we now know about Solomon’s Temple can benefit your church today.

Then there is the issue of quality versus quantity or loudness. Do people want their sound louder or of better quality? Research suggests that most people choose quality over quantity, hands down. This is especially true for people with hearing problems. While those with hearing loss and using aids to help them hear, a loud sound with distortion renders their hearing aid less capable of help than a clean sound at a lower volume.

Sound systems that have too much distortion at any level are a turn-off because distortion can become painful as the sound levels increase at certain frequencies. Many expensive high-end sound systems are distorting long before reaching their maximum loudness levels. Young people who hear distortion tolerate it better than people over 25 years of age. They often have the mindset that if you turn up the sound system loud enough, the distortion goes away. What they are really doing is desensitizing their ears while damaging their equipment at the same time. Ears have a limited natural way to protect themselves by tightening muscles around the ear canal and drum for short-term excessive noises. For older people, these muscles are not as effective, and distortion becomes intolerable, assaulting the ears at lower volume levels as people age. On the other hand, when the sound quality is high and free of distortion, people of all ages enjoy the louder amplified music, considering that an unamplified congregation can sing over 100dB in a good room without complaints.

The quality of the acoustics, combined with a professionally designed sound system, does impact a church in many ways other than just attendance, tithes and offerings. That impact of sound quality can affect church attendance as little as 8% and some churches up to 18%, and that is just by attending to the physical needs of people. Unfortunately, we have no way of measuring how sound affects people emotionally and spiritually and whether that influences attendance. On the other hand, many movie theatres have upgraded their seating, installed higher-quality speaker systems, add substantial amounts of sound-deadening materials, and other details to enhance the movie viewing experience. Judging from the higher ticket prices people are willing to pay, there is little doubt of an emotional experience tied directly to sound quality.

The secular community has tested how sound affects people numerous times. By simply changing the quality of the sound, it affected how people judge the quality of the picture they saw on the screen. In one well-known test, two identical theaters were made to look the same in every detail. The projectors were the same as well as the popcorn and other items people do when watching a movie. While both theaters had carpeted floors and padded seating, one theatre had very visible acoustical panels and hardware on the walls and ceiling, the other theatre had fake panels that had no acoustical properties but looked identical. After having two groups of people listened to the same three movies over three days in both theatres, the majority of the listeners judged the theatre with the proper acoustical treatment to have a better picture and they remember much more details of the movies. Additionally, some thought the seating was more comfortable, the popcorn and drinks tasted better. Some also asked to see some of the movies again in the theatre where they found the seating more comfortable. As a caveat, the sound in the theatre without the acoustical treatment could not perform as loud, even though both sound systems were properly equalized, so the sound levels were set to a lower volume. The acoustically treated room with bass traps was able to perform to lower frequencies without any distortion which augmented the sound quality. This is a clear example of how sound quality affects people emotionally in a big way.

Finally, can the number of people responding to altar calls, faith healings, being slain in the spirit, speaking in tongues, and experiencing holy laughter be attributed to sound quality? For churches seating less than 400 people, that depends. Churches this size or smaller should have good enough acoustics without a sound system if the worship space meets the Bible’s acoustical standard. When the room cannot support quality sound acoustically, the church will resort to using sound systems to make up for the room’s failure to perform. At best, a typical professionally designed and installed sound system can raise the performance by a mere 10 to 15% of the room’s potential performance. When the room is acoustically upgraded, the room performance often improves 50 to 60%. In a bad room, at best, 1 or 2% of the people will respond to a worship service event. In a good room, you can add another 2 to 3% response to such church activities. Sound quality, along with uniformed sound coverage, will impact more people. Whether this translates into adding more people to the church, that is up to the church leadership and how supportive they are in helping people in understanding what just happened.

For larger churches, the sound system is very much part of the worship service all the time, and without the sound system, large churches cannot have worship, let alone get the responses that they may have. The larger the room, the more critical the acoustical management of the space becomes. In larger churches, sound quality has a larger impact on people responding to church events. The responses double between good and bad rooms.

When people like Billy Graham evangelized in outdoor stadiums, the sound was often fairly good everywhere because there were no surrounding room surfaces creating interfering reflections. Nothing was getting in the way of the spoken words. Even the echoes heard were not a problem because those effects were often 15 to 20dB lower in volume than the direct sounds from the sound system speakers. Seeing thousands of people responding at outdoor events is rarely duplicated percentagewise indoors, where the acoustics do not meet Bible standards. That also explains the higher response levels to outdoor events when no tent is used versus using a tent. When Jesus spoke to the multitudes, it was always outdoors. Except for when Jesus confronted the Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, and scribes in the Temple and Synagogues, almost all of the teachings to the crowds were done outside. Teaching the disciples and close followers was whenever Jesus knew they were ready to listen and save that knowledge for later when the Holy Spirit gave them understanding.

Church sound does have a huge, long-term impact on churches affecting their growth, health, unity, and support by members and the local community. What a church does after they have upgraded their sanctuary, is up to the leadership whether to promote the improvements or fall back and take sound for granted. From our experience, there has been no downside to making existing, and new worship spaces meet the Bible’s standard. True, no acoustics or sound system can save a person’s soul, but the quality of church sound can make a difference in reaching that soul.

In the end, upgrading the acoustics that will automatically get the best performance possible from the sound equipment of a church to help people with hearing issues alone. This should be enough reason for making such improvements. Upgrading to solve the congregational singing issue is another good reason. That solution is in the Bible too. The number one reason to upgrade is to have a church where no matter who walks through the doors in your worship space, when the person hears the Gospel message, there will be no doubts in what they have heard and no excuses in saying I didn’t understand the message. That said, no sound system or acoustics can remove the veil over someone’s eyes. That is the work of the Holy Spirit and whether the person’s heart has been opened to understanding and receiving the truth.
When Jesus taught, people either fled away or were changed by His teaching. Those who were being changed stayed and kept following Him to learn more. Those who fled, Jesus knew that they would never change because they loved or believed in something they thought was better, believed in other false gods or a lie. When that Gospel message competes with unmanaged reflections of sound in a worship space, those bad reflections will interfere with the person’s ability to understand the Gospel message. That is something that no one can measure. The idea here is to remove any possibility of bad acoustics and sound from keeping someone from understanding the message as no one knows the battle that is going through a person’s heart and mind when they are hearing a sermon at church.

Many times, ministers had shared with me how their ministry changed before and after the acoustics were upgraded. Some ministers have said, knowing a certain person who was at a point in their lives that they needed a push to understand salvation, the minister would prepare a sermon to reach that person. Before the upgrade, such efforts often lead to some people going to other churches, where they became born again. Perhaps the sound was better over there, or the minister was better at preaching. Who knows? After the acoustics were upgraded, most of those efforts in tailoring the sermons not only reached the person the minister was praying and preaching for, but sometimes other people responded to the same message. Sound quality can impact the confidence in efforts of the minister and everything else that happens at the front of any church. Who would have ever thought that sound quality in a church could affect the confidence of a minister’s ability to teach?

Sound quality does impact every part of church worship more than what people realize. It affects people physically, emotionally and it impacts how they respond to the Gospel. It is time for churches to get their houses in order and follow what the Bible teaches in something that we should not take for granted. If your church is dedicated as houses of worship to God, shouldn’t it SOUND like it is dedicated to God?

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Bible Flow Chart from Solomon’s Temple to Modern Church Design

Posted by jdbsound on June 4, 2021

Here is an updated flow chart from Old Testament to New Testament, to help lift churches out of limiting themselves to entertainment styles of worship.

I think many people would agree that there is no experience better than singing in a church, with a congregation, and where everyone wants to sing.  Can you imagine singing in a church where 70% or more of the congregation sings all the time!  What a concept to be singing in a room where you know that your voice is contributing along with everyone else’s. Singing in unison or in harmony sounds just as heavenly and exciting—singing in a church where it sounds just as good with or without musical instruments contributing or leading the worship.  Many people dream of such a church sanctuary that performs like this.  Do such worship spaces exist?  Can a church be transformed into having such qualities?  

When only 20 to 30% of a congregation is singing, and the rest are passively swaying to the music, some with hands in the air and others almost dancing on the spot, is that the kind of worship the Bible describes?  Why don’t more people sing?  Is it because of the music, the hymns, the sound system, or could it be because the room is not able to support the kind of congregational singing described in the Bible?  If the room can’t support good congregational singing, that becomes an acoustics issue, and when most churches try to fix their worship spaces, they often kill the room to make the sound system perform better which makes the congregational singing worse – never better.

Evidence shows that it is easier for a church to resort to an entertainment style of worship because the secular community has not demonstrated any method of fixing the congregational singing issue in existing churches, and new churches opening these days are void of such performance qualities.  That then begs the question, is the entertainment style of worship honoring God?

In the Bible, there are no examples of musical instruments leading the singing, rather, the instruments followed the singing of the people.  When there is a worship team performing in most churches, the worship leader prompts the congregation to sing, and the performers who play instruments, follow the lead singers, not the congregation.  Often it is because they can’t hear the congregation singing at all, and they use floor or IEM monitors to follow the lead singers.  The reason the musicians and singings can’t hear the congregation is because of a room problem.  This creates a room full of people passively worshiping rather than actively worship.  That is not much different from going to a music concert.  Is worship in music as long or longer than the sermon? 

What does the Bible say about any of this?  God designed a house of worship in the Old Testament.  Why?  Why didn’t God leave it up to David or Solomon to design something that they wanted?  Why was God so heavy-handed and specific to its design.  Was this house of worship to be a relic of the past, something for the future – and something for the present? 

If the temple was to be a relic, then why are there so many specific details?  Why were those details preserved for over 3500 years?  What if in those details are solutions to many of the problems many churches have today – not just with sound problems, but other issues churches struggle with today? 

Study the flow chart. See what happens when 3500 years of history collide with science.  If there are any errors, let me know.  This work is a result of 27 years of fixing and documenting over 300 churches with another 100 plus churches that copied from the 50 church examples posted who informed me of their successes and from studying over1400 churches since 1983.  Visit my blog if you want to know more about the results in following God’s way to design churches and manage sound.

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Half Round Diffusers vs. Phase Gradient Diffusers

Posted by jdbsound on May 20, 2021

Many people ask how the panels will look before looking at how they perform when it comes to acoustic solutions.  Here is a short video compare two acoustic treatments that can get similar results and the cost differences without looking at the aesthetics issue. Our experience shows that most church members change their opinions on aesthetics when the acoustical fix does a great job at fixing the room.

Congregation members of most churches do agree with one idea. It seems that if the acoustic system fails at improving congregational singing, the panels on the wall have to look good as wall furniture. If the acoustic treatment
improves congregational singing, how the panels look doesn’t matter. The aesthetic issues disappear.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them below, and we will respond to them right away.

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The great church carpet debate!

Posted by jdbsound on April 23, 2021

Should churches have carpet in the sanctuary and should there be padded seating?

Here is our latest video on this important issue.

Here are the details of how those values came to be.

The standard for a worship space to have a signal to noise ratio of 20 to 25dB and a flat response from 80 to 8000 Hertz comes from studying worship styles and working on hundreds of Churches.  First, you have to look at all of the various elements of worship.  They include:

  • Main Elements (Based on Scriptures and by Jesus Example)
    1. Reading of Scripture
    2. Preaching and Sermons
    3. Questions and Answers
    4. Prayer
    5. Celebration of communion
    6. Congregational singing
    7. Offerings
  • Secondary Elements (items that churches have added to worship after the reformation period.)
    1. Choir or choral music
    2. Music to support congregational singing
    3. Music lead by a worship team
    4. Announcements
    5. Sharing of testimonies
    6. Sharing of prayer requests
    7. Singing performances
    8. Music performances
    9. Music Rehearsals
    10. Child participation
    11. Congregational meetings
  • Event Elements (non-worship uses of a sanctuary.)
    1. Weddings
    2. Funerals
    3. Teaching Events
    4. Conferences
    5. Concerts
    6. Fundraising events
    7. Music Lessons

These are all of the main elements of how the church sanctuary is used over its lifetime.  Not all churches will practice these elements, but the first seven elements in the main portion are universal.  Now here is an aspect that is least understood.  If you have the ideal acoustic conditions for the first seven elements, the worship space can support all of the other elements that all churches will practice at one time or another.

For the rest of the article, here is a link to the PDF file on Carpeting in Churches.

Article by Joseph De Buglio

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There is only one way to solve sound problems in a church, God’s way or the other guys’ way.

Posted by jdbsound on April 16, 2021

If you don’t want to see the video, you can read the story below.

God has a plan to manage and solve every sound problem apart from technical issues such as bad wiring, blown up speakers or damaged microphones. However, God’s plan for church sound does solve all of those performance issues most churches run into.

The other guys’ plan for church sound is to make church sound good enough for entertaining people and good enough to make people think that your sound problems cannot be fixed or you can’t afford to fix them.  The other guy wants churches to be great entertainment facilities to attract people who like the idea of being a Christian but never knowing what a real relationship with Christ is.

The other guy likes to make church sound good enough for people to hear a false message and yet be bad enough to confuse people if the full Gospel message of Jesus Christ is spoken.

The other guy wants you to hear a substituted sermon that includes an indirect feel-good message.  The other guy wants to make the pastor fearful about telling people that they were born sinners in need of repentance, and before becoming born again, you need to acknowledge that speaking such words will make people flee the church.  That is a lie.  The truth is, those who don’t come back are the people who will never let go of their sinful nature.  Those who stay understand their sinfulness and have come to love God more than sin – more than the other guy.

God’s way of managing sound begins with worship spaces that will give you a better building at no extra cost. There is no better way to manage church acoustics at any cost doing it God’s way, and the results are guarantee by Him. God’s way to manage sound works every time. You can trust God. The evidence speaks for itself. Do you really want to trust the other guy? God’s way of doing sound solves all of the problems any existing church may have apart from really bad building design. Yet even in a bad building, applying God’s method of managing sound will give the worship space 100% of the performance the room design can offer, which is better than putting up with such an inadequate space.

The other guy convinces churches to build expensive buildings that don’t support speech or congregational singing. The other guy doesn’t want you to fix the room because a room that doesn’t support real congregational singing discourages those who want to hear the truth from going to such places.  Instead, it makes the room appealing to those who are left behind who have itchy ears.  A room that makes you feel all alone during congregational singing is the ideal room for entertaining people as they do in rock concerts where people sway to the music, raise their hands, mouth the words and become caught up in the moment – that is what you do in a secular concert.

Real congregational singing is when you can hear yourself and your neighbours around you.  Real congregational singing is where you can sing and hear four-part harmonies in every seat in the worship space.  Real congregational singing is when the congregation can sing louder than the sound system or drown out the piano and organ, whenever the audience decides to do so.   Real congregational singing is when you don’t need a worship team and song leader to encourage the people to sing.  Real congregational singing is hearing every word and message clearly when sung.

Real congregational singing doesn’t need a song leader to whip up the audience into a trance-like state to subdue the audience to become receptive to any kind of message.  Real congregational singing doesn’t need repetitive words and phrases to get a subversive message across.  Real congregational singing does not make people feel alone, as if they are the only ones singing praises to the Lord.

God’s method of managing sound is a tool that helps in the preaching of the Gospel message.  The other guys’ method of managing sound causes sound system instability, hotspots and deadspots and subpar intelligibility where words are misunderstood.  The other guy wants words that are misunderstood to create chaos and confusion that can eventually cause division within the church.  The other guy works hard in making everyone from the pastor, the church leaders, the church board, and members feel insecure.  The other guy wants churches to have confidence in relying on programs to try to fill the pews.  The other guy wants the church to water down the gospel message to make the sermon confusing to the unbeliever. The other guy wants to fill the church with unbelievers who think they are Christians to displace the true believers. 

The other guy likes to divide the church by driving the believers into small groups, cell groups, and home bible study groups so that their words will fall onto deaf ears.  Smaller cells are dividing the true believers until they are no longer the influencers of the congregation and where their words are never heard by the others. 

The other guy likes his church pastors to be elevated above others, to be protected because of their imaginary supernatural gifts and the phony hyper connection to God and the Holy Spirit.  The other guy likes his pastors to proclaim the subtle messages of new age teachings of which the other guy, Satan, began in the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 3:4-5 “The serpent said to the woman, “You certainly will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God, knowing good and evil.”” The other guy is a seller of the kind of fruit that promotes the message of elevating self.  Promoting self includes wealth and prosperity and a fake feel-good born-again experience. The other guy is the father of people being “holy” on Sundays and living like sinners Monday to Saturday. 

God’s way of managing sound in a church does a better job at separating His sheep from the G.O.A.T.s. God’s way of managing sound helps to build HIS church, not the other guys’ churches. God’s way of managing sound helps people to be confident in the Word and to let their light shine every day of the week. God’s way of managing church sound prevents bad sound from getting in the way of the message.

Church sound affects everyone, whether you realize it or not. You just read how God’s way of managing sound and the other guy’s way of managing sound works.  Do you know whose method you are following when it comes to church sound?  Did you get your information on church sound from the Bible?  If not, what are you going to do about it?

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There is a saying that makes its rounds from time to time and it goes like this.

“Never be afraid to try something new. The “Ark” was built by Amateurs but the Titanic was built by professionals.”

Seriously? Who designed the Ark? God designed the “Ark”, not man. Who designed the Titanic? Man designed the Titanic. When it comes to church acoustics, shouldn’t we be using the acoustical system as shown in the Bible – a design guided by God over all other acoustical systems?

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When to Equalize the sound system of a new church

Posted by jdbsound on April 6, 2021

Whether a new church, after a church renovation or when converting a commercial building into a new church, the sound system is susceptible to humidity changes. The speed of sound changes as humidity changes. Learn about how humidity affects the performance of a church sound system and what you can do to keep your system in peak performance.

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What costs more? Drum Booth or Fixing a Sanctuary?

Posted by jdbsound on June 10, 2020

What costs more?  Or, what will give you the most bang for the buck?  Did you know that for less than the cost of a fully enclosed drum booth, you can fix all of the acoustical issues of a typical sanctuary?

Here is a typical drum booth churches are buying.  This booth retails for $4,300.00 and is often on sale for $3,000.00 plus shipping.

Here are all of the sound problems the drum booth solved. Keeps the drums out of the mix and the people in the front of the church have less noise from the drum kit. The downside to all of this is that often, the drummer plays louder which leads to many getting tennis elbow, and hearing damage often occurs.  There is one extra cost to include.  Often drummers need headsets or floor monitors to hear everyone else on stage.  What is often overlooked is that churches should have the drummer sign a liability waiver that the drummer will not sue the church for premature hearing loss and permanent damage to their arms due to tennis elbow.  Drummers often have to play louder in order to hear themselves inside a drum booth or shield.

 

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Here is an example of a modest church that decided to fix the worship space instead of getting a drum shield or booth.  The material costs including the paint were $1,000.00.  Three people over 3 Saturdays completed the installation.  If you look carefully at the photo below, six months later, and there is no drum booth around the drummer.  They don’t need one anymore.

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The following is a list of the planned sound issues solved:

  1. No more standing waves
  2. No more deadspots or hotspots
  3. Eliminate flutter echoes often heard off the back walls on stage.
  4. No more excessive bass

Bonus fixes included and no extra cost:

  1. Better speech intelligibility
  2.  Increases the signal to noise ratio to 21dB throughout the room
  3. Most of the floor monitor spill was gone
  4. Less sound system distortion
  5. No more bass distortion
  6. Equalized the room to remove excess energy at 400 Hertz -20dB
  7. Went from 18 inches to 38 inches of before feedback,
  8. The room is +/- 1.5dB throughout the room
  9. Makes the room easier for the musicians to perform
  10. Improved sound for people with hearing aids
  11. Before about 15% of the congregation was singing, now its around 60% after 4 months
  12. The sound team is having an easier time mixing.
  13. No drum shield of any kind
  14. Drummers are playing quieter without being asked to.
  15. The drummer can hear everyone on stage with minimum floor monitor support
  16. The pastor is less fatigued after preaching
  17. No more sound complaints if the sound is too loud
  18. The sound system sounds so much better
  19. The bass from the sound system is much more dynamic
  20. The bass from the bass guitar is cleaner and not overpowering any of the other instruments

These are all of the comments various church members, musicians, and the sound team shared after the first 4 months of the acoustical changes.  All they were hoping for was less bass drowning out everyone on stage, to eliminate hotspots and deadspots in the audience area and on stage, and to stop the loud reflections off the back wall affecting the musicians and the pastor when preaching.  The diffusers gave them 23 improvements instead of just three of them.  There is no other custom or “off the shelf” acoustical system that can do all of that in one step unless you have unlimited cash at 30 times the cost.

Drum Shield or Fixing a worship space.  For the cost of a drum booth, you can fix a church up to 800 seating with some sweat equity.

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Hot Spots in Worship Spaces

Posted by jdbsound on May 25, 2020

Hotspots and Deadspots are sound effects most often created by unmanaged room reflections that are out of synchronization with direct sounds from a pulpit or preaching position, and made worse when the wrong sound system design is used.

To learn more of what you can do about it, read this article.

In case you don’t know this, sound systems cannot eliminate deadspots if it is created by the room in the first place. Adding more speakers will degrade the overall performance of the sound system, including making other areas of the worship space harder to hear clear sound.

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Church Sound. It’s all about cause and effect.

Posted by jdbsound on May 20, 2020

Sound system design has nothing to do with the equipment you use. It is about the location of speakers used to broadcast into a room and the interaction of the room onto the speaker system design.  It doesn’t matter if you are using line arrays or point and shoot speakers, if speakers are placed in the wrong position, both systems will have the same limitations.  It is all about cause and effect.  A sound engineer needs detailed knowledge, experience, and wisdom in understanding room acoustics or when to know enough to ask help from an acoustician to understand when to use which system.  Did you know that the room will tell you where the best places are to put speakers? 

The room will tell you when to use one of the following techniques:

  • Distributed Sound System
  • Central Cluster or single speaker system
  • Left Center Right system or cluster
  • Left Right System
  • Live Stereo Hybrid System
  • Hybrid Distributed Sound System

The geometry, reverberation, surface materials, acoustical management system, and room volume all have to be accounted for before creating a sound system design profile.  After all of this is done, you can start to determine the size of the sound system needed. 

If you think you need to do some acoustic treatment or the church has already been treated, it should not be using the spot treatment method, which means placing a few panels on a wall or two.  Whenever you add something to one wall or any part of a wall, it affects the whole room.  This also includes the placement of screens, lighting, and other items related to multimedia.  Even room renovations change how a room sounds. It is all about cause and effect. The acoustics of a church must use a planned system that treats the whole room.

A spot fix is when enough panels are added to solve one problem.  In acoustics, when there is a problem, there are always other glitches than masked other difficulties that you can’t hear and often are not shown in acoustical measurements.  Here is an example: Placing sound absorbers on the front face of a balcony will get rid of an echo.  However, the added absorption often makes the mids and bass stronger, which usually makes speech and music sound muddier.   This then requires adding bass traps, which are expensive.  While you can use aggressive equalization to make the sound system better for speech, you will need a different equalization for music.  While these efforts can somewhat help with amplified sound as long as someone remembers to switch the EQ settings, the congregational singing is degraded until bass traps are added.  Add the bass traps.  It is all about cause and effect.

However, you may have noticed at after treating the front face of the balcony and adding the bass traps, there is now a softer echo off the back wall or the reflections off the side walls are much worse depending on the shape of the room.  Reflections off the side walls are detected when clapping from the front of the center stage.  Those reflections from the sides or back interfere with speech and music intelligibility.  It is all about cause and effect.  Change the EQ of the sound system.  Helps for speech, doesn’t help for music at all.  In spite of changes to the sound system, speech is worse in the back half of the room.  Add speakers to the back half of the room.  It helps people with good hearing and doesn’t help people with hearing aids.  Add a delay to the speakers.  People with hearing aids do better, but they are still no happy because someone is sitting in their spot where they know the sound is better. 

Should you apply something to the sidewalls, then the echo off the back wall becomes much more pronounced and interfering with hearing on stage.  Switch to in-ear monitors.  It’s all about cause and effect.

Now the drums are too loud. Add panels to the stage or get a drum shield that costs more than fixing all of the acoustical problems in one step.  With the drum shield in place, the drummer plays louder because they can’t hear themselves properly.  The insides of the drum enclosures are easily overloaded, making it harder for the drummer to hear all the different drums and cymbals.  After additional dampening to the drums, the drummer playing even louder, getting elbow and wrist injuries.  Sound is still bleeding through the shield, even after adding a roof to it.  Some churches have turned the drum shield into a self-contained room with air-conditioning as a permanent fixture on the stage.  It is all about cause and effect.

For the time being, congregational singing has become a chore for most, resulting in less than 20% of the audience singing.  To get people singing again, you pay singers and musician to lead the worship, and to keep the talent to stick with the music entertainment program.  This helps for a while, and before long, you are back to less than 20% of the audience singing.  Bring in larger screens, add lighting effects, and use lighting to help create a mode to encourage people to sing.  Again, this helps for a while, but participation drops back to 20% again.  These objects change the acoustics of the room, and everyone just puts up with the sound degradation.  It’s all about cause and effect.

In the meantime, the sound system has been replaced, church attendance is up, but fewer people come to prayer meetings or Bible studies.  Turn to home groups.  At first, home groups bring in more people, but as the church continues to grow, more people are slipping through the system and are not included in the home groups or any spiritual support.  Fewer people are growing as there is no alternative for mid-week meetings at the church.   The preaching is dynamic; the entertainment is awesome, fewer people are actively involved in the church, and more people become adherents with no real motivation to join, and become members, and learn more about their faith.  The church is full of Sunday worshipers unable to defend the Gospel, but they know and singing the choruses sung by the church all the time.  It is about being part of something that is free of guilt, responsibility, and not knowing what salvation really is about.  It’s all about cause and effect.

Wait a minute, what does any of this have to do with acoustics and sound system?  The sound system is just equipment and technology.  The room is just a set of walls, floor, and ceiling.  When empty, they do nothing.  When energized with sound, there is an immediate cause and effect that impacts on every part of the worship service.  Sound affects how people react to events in a church.  Consider how people respond to movies at a theatre.  When the sound is excellent, the audience will tell you how good the picture looks.  When the sound is poor, people don’t come back.  How much more does that impact a church?  Again, it’s all about cause and effect.

Next, check the acoustical condition of your church.  Have your church properly tested for all aspects of worship, not just the performance of the sound system and hardware.  Test for congregational singing.  Test for audience participation for prayer and testimonies from the seating area of your church.  Check for the signal to noise ratio on the stage and in the audience.  Check the frequency response of the room and ignore the reverberation time of there is more than a 20dB difference in the response of the worship space.  If your worship space passed, then you don’t need any help.  Your sound system is already working perfectly.  If you have any concerns or want better performance from your sound system, fix the room.  It’s all about cause and effect.

After the sound system and worship space has been upgraded, start mid-week Bible Studies at the church.  If people come to the church mid-week, the congregation will become stronger and healthier.  Congratulation, you have just successfully upgraded the sound of your church to meet all what a congregation needs.

The story you have just read happens in many churches.  It is based on the testimonies of hundreds of churches around the world.  If this doesn’t sound like your church, have your worship space tested anyway if it hasn’t ever been properly tested. The results can be a surprise or a blessing. 

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What happens when Church Architecture, Technology, Science, and meets up with the Bible.

Posted by jdbsound on April 24, 2020

The Bible has a lot to say about how a modern church should be designed.  Solomon’s Temple was not just a house for God to dwell in, it was also meant to be a tool to help preach and spread the Gospel in the present.

After reading this article, please pass it on and make comments below.

***  Article: Gods Authority in Church Design ***

This article is the most comprehensive study of King Solomon’s Temple I have ever written.  If you believe John 1:3, then you know who really designed Solomon’s Temple.  King David only penned the details of the new temple.  King David told his son Solomon that it was the hand of God that guided his hand.  What was so important for God to design the temple rather than letting a man design in with whatever came into his thought?

This article gives a stronger case for what the “Inspired Word of God” means.

Winning people to Christ is not a game or something given to chance.  We need all the tools possible to have an impact on this world.  Jesus is Lord, and if your church is dedicated to God, Jesus is Lord over your church building too.

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Increasing the quality of Streaming Churches Messages from Home or office

Posted by jdbsound on April 22, 2020

With all of our churches closed, many have turned to YouTube or live-streaming of church messages. After listening to many of them, there is a sound quality issue I want to bring up. Many of the videos I have seen and heard, sound like there were recorded in a cave – a bad room. If you are limited in the quality of the room, perhaps you can use cardboard tubes to get the best sound quality out of your message. Adding carpet on the floor will quiet the room down, but often it makes the room bassy sounding. To balance that out, add the tubes on all the walls, as shown in the photo below.

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You don’t have to be as fancy as this, but getting the best clarity in your voice is important in communicating such an important message online.

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This is the most effective to make the space you are working in to have a sound quality that most people are accustomed to hearing every day.  If you are like me, when the sound on my favorite shows is of poor quality, I switch to something else in the first 30 seconds.  Good sound is more important than a good picture.

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Stop Sharing your Toothbrush/Microphone

Posted by jdbsound on March 17, 2020

Back in 2006, I wrote this original article about how sharing microphones can pass on colds, flues and other illnesses. In 2009, the manufacturer, Point Source Audio asked to update the article to promote good microphone etiquette after the SARS in 2008. Now with Covid-19, this is another opportunity to educate people about how to better protect themselves from communicable infections.  Since Jan 12, 2020, thousands of people have read or downloaded the article.  I thought it was time to dust off the original post from 2006.

Here is a link to the original article. Personal Microphones as toothbrushes 2006
The footnotes are interesting. Here is an example. I can’t authenticate this clip, but it is a great story.

There was a story about Elvis when recording – all morning they did take after take, none sounded right. During lunch, someone pulled the windscreen off his special mic, rinsed it in the sink – to find a bunch of black junk coming out of it. Did that a few times, put it on a low-heat hair dryer, put it back on the mic. After lunch, Elvis “hit it” with just one take.
From Blake Engel, All Church Sound

*** UPDATE ***

I’ve mentioned on other posts about using plastic food wrap or balloons over microphone capsules and windscreens.  This idea only works great if the plastic is removed between the uses of a microphone.   Passing microphones around is not a good idea either.  If you can get a second mic, the better.

 

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How to restore Congregational Singing Permanently in Churches

Posted by jdbsound on March 6, 2020

Congregational singing is perhaps the third most important part of worship.  Prayer and preaching of the Gospel come first and second.  In many church publications and websites, there are many articles about how to improve congregational singing.  When you say improve congregational singing, what are you truly asking for?  In almost every case, they are asking how to get more people singing.  And the theory is, the more people sing, the more they will be engaged. 

Here are some of those titles. 

  • 7 Tips To Encourage Singing in Your Church – Gavin Adams
  • Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship
  • 12 Things to Avoid for Better Congregational Singing
  • Fifty Ways to Guarantee Poor Congregational Singing
  • How to improve congregational singing: 4 suggestions to …
  • A Simple Way to Improve Congregational Singing: Get Rid of the Carpet

There are many more.

The ideas recommended are extraordinary, and most of the time, they are putting the bulk of the blame on the church leaders, including the pastors and song leaders, this is so wrong.  The truth is, all of the recommendations outlined are the result, such as trying to put a square peg into a round hole.  There is a simple solution to all of this.  When you read the articles, what church leaders are doing is a direct result of compensating for poor acoustical conditions.  Choosing the right keys to sing in, choosing a better selection of songs, hiring professional singers, and performers, in the end, it only helps things slightly.  The thing is, what the audience keeps telling me is that when they are singing, they feel like they are singing alone, it creates a sense of loneliness.  People feel as if no matter how loud they were singing, their efforts have no contribution to the overall volume of the congregation.  When you can’t even hear yourself, most people just give up and don’t bother singing.  Some may just mouth the words.

Sure, there are times when we see people at a concert singing a particular song, and it sounds impressive, but the reality is, those people will not sing the whole show at that volume.  It is more about having an emotional high and nothing more.  It is doing something to capture a moment for personal gratification and bragging rights.  That is not worshiping in any sense of the word.

My take on how to get the congregation to sing is by first identifying the source of why people don’t sing in your church.  In 90% of the churches that I have helped solve their congregational singing issue, it has always been around one reason – acoustics.  Here is some background you should know.

This is a new church with diffusers built into the walls. The quality of this room is such that when this photo was taken, the congregation drowned out the Pipe Organ. The organist said he pulled all the stops and he could not hear the organ for some of the songs they sang. At one point he stopped playing. With a sound meter recorder at the pulpit, the congregation hit 105dB several times and no one complained that it was too loud.

The struggles of congregational singing started long before the sound system was invented.  It is my belief that Choirs were formed originally, because when Christians first started to worship in existing pagan temples, (after the edict of tolerance,) most likely, those temples had such poor acoustics that the congregations back then had the same problem of not hearing themselves.  Then some talented singers found that if they stood in a particular part of a room, they could hear themselves and create an awesome sound of choral singing within the pagan temple.  That talent was later included as part of the worship.  When Christians started to build churches, when the buildings were finished, they asked the better singers to go to the part of the worship space where their voices were effective in creating this big sound where a few people would sound like many.

In the end, as more and more churches were built, the choir became the focus of congregational singing, and even though the congregation was encouraged to sing, the choir was the focus, not the congregation.  This continued throughout church history in one form or another.  Sure, some large cathedrals have these amazing sound effects. (Sound effects do not support congregational singing or speech.) Still, in the end, it is the choir and the organ that dominated worship, not authentic worship singing or hearing the Gospel.

Throughout the Reformation period to today, churches have been experimenting with worship space designs to discover the Rosetta stone of church acoustics.  Churches have been trying to create a worship space without any acoustical planning.  It hasn’t happened yet that we know of and if there is a church out there that works, where is it?  Why would it be kept as a secret?    When the room helps the singing of the congregation, the congregation will sing, and they will sing as loud as they are inspired to.  The same properties that makes congregational singing work, speech will be equally as good.  Around the world if there are such churches that have the proper balance of sound, for speech and congregational singing, why has no one documented these jewels or studied them to see what makes those churches better than others.  No one has made permanent records for future churches to follow. 

It seems that when a church gets known for its musical performance quality, it usually suffers from speech, and for years people have been brainwashed into believing that you can’t have a worship space that is good for both speech and music.  That comment is true, for a musical performance space or concert hall.  This is not what a church needs. A church needs a room to support congregational singing, not musical performances. 

When I get hired to fix a church, one comment that is repeated often is, we can’t afford or don’t want a concert hall.  That is the whole point.  You don’t want a concert hall, and it would be detrimental to a church to have such a space.  Concert halls do not support congregational singing, none of them do.  Concert halls are awful for speech.  If you look at most concert halls today, when it comes to speech, they close curtains, expose absorption panels, and they rely on costly sound systems to broadcast speech events.  Concert halls are either-or spaces.  They cannot support speech and music equally.  Furthermore, they don’t support audience singing at all.  How do I know that?   When I go to most of the churches that I have fixed in the past, when the attendance is around 90%, the congregation can drown out the pipe organ, the electronic organ, and the amplified worship team.  Yes, it is possible for the congregation to drown out a sound system with professional Christian performers leading the music.  That is what good acoustics can do in a worship space.  When people try to sing like that in a concert hall, it sounds like chanting in a sporting event.  It is not very musical and singing in four part harmony is out of the question.  In a worship space, a well-motivated congregation can sing over 105dB with the sound system off when the acoustics are managed for congregational singing.  If only the sound system could perform that loud without distortion and without the congregation complaining about the loudness.

Consider this, the invention of the sound system and its introduction into churches merely ushered in over time, the ability for contemporary worship, with the goal to get more people singing.  Yes, many churches tried amplifying the choir as a means to get the congregation to sing, it didn’t work.  When it came time for speaking, the sound system failed as well to amplify speech properly without feedback – This created a dilemma.  To make the sound system perform better for speech, churches add absorptive flat panels, and that usually means killing the room, which in turn, discourages singing.  The sound system was believed to be the solution to improving worship, but the truth is, the sound system can only amplify what the room allows.  In this struggle between the sound system and church worship, no one looks at the room as being the limiting factor.  Instead, observers and people asking whomever as to what can be done, the fingers point to the technology, the pastor, the song leader, and the soundmen who get all the blame.  All of the other recommendations are meaningless until the room is fixed.

The only complaint this church has is that congregational singing is much louder up front.

As I mentioned earlier, I fix the sound in churches all over the world.  Without changing the leadership, the pastor or song leaders, and without changing how worship is conducted, with the methods I use, most congregations go from 10 to 30% of the audience singing to 65 to 90% of the audience singing when the room is fixed.  That happens because there is a way to make the room very responsive to exactly what people need to hear and feel during the singing portion of worship.  At the same time, the same system improves the quality of speech, and as a bonus, the performance of the sound system increases substantially more.  Doing church acoustics correctly, is being able to have a room that does both speech and congregational singing equally well.  It also winds up being a good room for Christian concert and drama performances.  Is it really possible to have a worship space that does everything well?  Yes.  Should you think that this is about a compromise? Think again, it is not.

The method of sound management that I have been using in churches is not of my design.  I cannot take direct credit for these successes.  I learned from an expert in Church sound.  This sound management system that is now in over 450 churches, is the same method as originated by the hand that guided the fingers of King David, who designed King Solomon’s Temple.  The acoustical system that I use is the same system that was designed by God.  As I said, I can’t take credit for the success in the churches that have this system.  Here is condensed version of how I learned about it.

Years ago, I had read or heard this verse in 1 Kings 6:29, which says that on all of the walls within and without, there were carvings of Cherubs, Palm Trees, and open flowers.  Then one day and as the pastor was reading this passage from the pulpit, it dawned on me that the palm trees seemed out of place.  They have no aesthetic value.  There is no spiritual, nor ritual reason for having palm tree carvings on the wall.  Then the acoustical knowledge I was learning at the time kicked in.  If there was no acoustical treatment within the temple, the Levite Priests would have not been able to understand each other.  That room would have been ringing well over 5 seconds.  Under those conditions, even at 24 inches, the reverberation would have made it difficult to impossible to understand speech.  It says that in the large room of the temple called the Holy Place, that the priests taught, they read the laws, they played musical instruments, they sang and prayed.  They also did rituals that would have involved speaking.  What was in the room that allowed them to do all of those activities, which are also the same actions we do in churches today?

After doing a lot of testing and experimenting, I discovered that the shape of the palm tree could be mimicked with cardboard, wood or plaster tubes which come in a range of costs, depending on how important aesthetics are and the budget your church can afford. This changes the performance of any existing church into a high-quality worship space that supports both congregational singing and speech.  Before installing any churches with cardboard tubes, we tested a number of churches.  For the first church tested with cardboard tubes, we used 10 and 12 foot long tubes, leaned them against the walls of a church and left them there for three weeks.  At the end of three weeks, not only was speech so much better, but the number of people participating in congregational singing doubled.  This was a huge surprise, and it was unexpected. We repeated this test in a dozen churches, and all of them had similar results. With those outcomes, I started recommending churches to use half-round tubes around their worship spaces, and every time as a new installation was completed, the results were almost all the same. (Let’s face it, some room shapes are better than others.)  Speech improved, and congregational singing always was much better.

In most cases, at the 6th month follow up to an installation, the contact person would tell me two things.  The first was an attendance increase.  The second was that 65 to 90% of the congregations were singing every song.  In most cases, there was no change in leadership, or order of worship or how singing was conducted.  All of the deadspots in the room were gone.  Now you could sit anywhere and sing out and feel like you are part of something big.  Sometimes I also got glowing reviews of how the sound system was fixed when nothing was done to the system except for some equalization. 

Since around 1994, over 450 churches have applied this method of managing the sound in their worship spaces.  All of them have reported similar results.  The interesting thing was, most of these churches didn’t hire me to fix their congregational singing.  They hired me to improve the performance of their sound systems.  They wanted better speech intelligibility.  The half rounds tubes are the most cost-effective solution to improving the performance of any sound system.  This method fixes the sound system much better than using any absorptive panel. 

There is also a unique feature that half-round tubes have that no other acoustical system can do.  The half-round tubes, when laid out in a specific pattern, can equalize a room.  By adjusting the spacing, the sizes, and when using prime number sequences, if there is enough wall space, you can cut up to 40dB of excess sound energy from 50 to 1200 Hertz.  If your worship space has excess energy, for example, at 400 Hertz and it feeds back there all the time, you can space the diffusers to cut out that frequency range.  No other acoustical system in the world can do that.  The most powerful acoustical system in the world comes from the Bible, and it is designed by God.  Many people say that the Bible is sufficient in all things, and this is another example of that Biblical truth.

We have to stop blaming worship leaders, song leaders, and pastors for the lack of congregational singing.  Saying things like changing the key to sing in or changing the order of music is blaming the worship leaders, and because of acoustics, all of their efforts cannot get any significant results because the room will cancel their efforts.  Song leaders are always searching high and low for answers, and if you watch them carefully, they are constantly trying new things to get the congregation to engage more.  Sure, for the short term, they might get an additional number of people singing, but after a few weeks, it goes back down to where it was before.  It’s not that people don’t want to engage; it is because the room will not allow them to participate in group singing.  This is the real reason why so many churches with contemporary worship styles have sanctuaries that are as good or better that performance clubs in Las Vegas.  So many churches have turned to an entertainment style of worship.  How un-Biblical is that!

On the internet, there are plenty of videos of young people in churches with hands up in the air and swaying to the music, but if you look closely, most of them are just mouthing the words, they are not singing.  That is not worship.  When what goes on in a sanctuary looks more like a rock concert, it is not church or worship.  It is just clean, mostly unspiritual entertainment. 

If there is any blame to go around, here is an uncomfortable truth.  When I am hired to help a church, congregation members always tell me how, for years, they have been complaining to the church elders.  Since churches are so reluctant to share their experiences about sound to other congregations, most church elders feel helpless because there are no standards for church sound and acoustics for them to turn to.  When they ask consultants for help, they say, ask 10 sound guys what to do, and you get 10 different answers.  This madness has to stop.  The Bible has the answers to church sound, and it is a solution that is superior to any other system at any cost. 

The best way to improve congregational singing is by fixing the worship space to the same standards as outlined in the Bible.  In the end, this is the only option.  If your church already has more than 65% of the audience singing, you are most likely not having an issue of the congregation being engaged in worship.  For the rest of the churches out there, seek out what God can do for you.  You don’t need an expert or acoustical consultant or sound system engineer to have a successful transformation.  Churches can do this on their own.  All you have to do is look at the examples on my website and copy whatever layout you see.  If you need more help and can afford the cost of a consultant, hire one who understands the Biblical way to solve church sound problems and congregational singing.  There is no mystery or formula or program when solving the congregational singing issue God’s way.  Congregational singing is also a spiritual issue.  It is what binds up together as believers.  Stop solving spiritual problems using mans’ ways.  God’s way always works.  Don’t take my word for it.  Trust God.

(c) By Joseph De Buglio March 2020.

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What are your Church Priorities about sound when it comes to preaching the Gospel?

Posted by jdbsound on February 25, 2020

Is the performance of your worship space a priority?  Is the message always crystal clear in every seating position, and over 60% of the congregation is singing all the time?  If you say no to either or both questions, and you want your church to sound right for speech and music, the biggest obstacle is often the acoustics.  The second is money.  The third is aesthetics.

Fix the room!  How?  Follow what the Bible says, and you will not be disappointed.  After all, it is God’s plan, not man’s idea.  Do you think that the results will be less than perfect if you follow His plan completely? Isn’t the Bible the Living Bible?  Since when did the Bible stop teaching us new things about science?  Check out Solomon’s Temple, and the answers are there.  They always have been. It’s just taken a while to join the dots.

But it costs too much!  Oh, you mean the cost of a few floor monitors or a couple of wireless microphones considered too much?  That is often the cost of the Bible’s way of fixing the acoustics or about $3.50USD per seat for a 300 seat church. (Not including the price for the knowledge of knowing what to do.)  Replacing a mixer costs about $15.00-21.00 per seat.  Replacing pews for chairs cost about $75.00 per seat.  Buying 10 Shure SM58 mics with cables and mic stands – costs about $1,500.00.  Fixing the acoustics of a church is cheaper than you think.

If the look of any acoustical treatment is a concern, ask yourself this.  Are you there to worship God or the building?  Fixing the acoustics is like saying you are more interested in hearing what God has to say through your minister.  Putting up with acoustical problems, poor quality congregational singing, and accepting a sound system with limited performance is like saying the building is more important than the message and having fellowship with other believers.

It all comes down to priorities.  The primary purpose of any building that is a dedicated House of God is the preaching of the Gospel.  A place where the Gospel message can be spoken without distortion or interface.  That includes making the room behave as God would want us to have it.  The second priority is the breaking of bread and drinking of wine in remembrance of what Jesus did for all of us.  The worship space has to support this event as often as each church chooses to remember.  The next priority is congregational singing.  There isn’t any other experience that can replace the joy and excitement of a room where more than 75% of the audience is singing.  Songs that tell stories of Jesus, his atonement of our sins, and of people who follow Jesus are powerful in bringing people together.  It takes the same quality of acoustics to hear clear speech as well as great congregational singing.  These are the things that matter when you are a part of the Kingdom of God.

While I do have a business about church acoustics and sound, there is no possible way for one person or one company to fix all of the churches out there that need help.  By making this public, it means that no one can patent it and force churches to pay a license fee. It means that no one can control it and inflate the cost of fixing existing and new churches.  Churches should use the Bible’s methods with confidence, to apply in faith what God teaches, even without expert help.  When churches take such a leap of faith, in most cases, the results are outstanding.

This information is being shared because I care more about winning people for Christ through better sound than creating a business empire.  By revealing what the Bible teaches, by showing that science backs it up, that it is affordable for every church to have excellent acoustics, this is all part of the Great Commission.  If more people with a passion and skills like mine, were to apply what the Bible teaches about sound, we could make a difference.  Mat-7:15.  Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (KJV)  If you have the chance, read the rest of what Jesus said in Mathews 7:15-20. Don’t trust me.  Trust the Bible.

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Is your minister preaching a distorted message unintentionally?

Posted by jdbsound on February 17, 2020

When sharing the Gospel, so many times, someone has said that they didn’t like what the minister said during a worship service, so they left the church.  They thought the minister was preaching a false message.  Some people have told me that they walked out of a worship service upon hearing the distorted message.  I would ask them if other people left the service at the same time.  In every case, they said no.  That is when I try to retrieve the audio record of that specific service.   As it turned out, on the recording, the minister said the right things, but why was it heard in the sanctuary as something else? 

The next step was to play the recording over the sound system and sit in the same spot the person complained about what he heard.  Sure enough, the same gibberish that got the person upset was heard in that spot.  When you moved several feet over in any direction, the sound was clearer, yet in other places, different words were being twisted.  With the recording on a loop, we found dozens of other places where the minister’s words were warped into something else.  Doing this exercise did get one person to try church again, but in most cases, when something like this happens, most people will not return to a church where the Gospel is preached.

Sound quality matters.  What good is excellent speech intelligibility in one spot and a failure in another?  Sound quality can save people and their souls.  I have never met a person who was saved by a song, but I had met many people who were saved when they heard the clear and undistorted message of Jesus Christ and become followers of the Messiah because the message was clearly understood. 

I often wonder how many other people have experienced hearing something different than what the minister said in a sanctuary. For many ministers and church leaders, it would never occur to them that the sound system was the cause of some people not returning to church.  The unfortunate truth is, many churches have questionable acoustics, and when a person sits in a spot where words, syllables, or the sound volume is too low, what was said and what is heard were not the same.

Sound systems cannot fix the acoustical problems of a church.  Adding more speakers or applying the latest state of the art technology tricks are no match to Architectural failures in room design and unmanaged sound sequencing around a room.  Absorptive panels are often the first weapon used to tame a room.  Cutting down on the noise and reflections with absorption cannot fix deadspots or hotspots.  Absorptive panels cannot change the path of sound reflections that causes uneven sound distribution. Absorptive panels have been known to make the sound harder to understand in those poor locations throughout the room, not better.  What is needed is a different weapon to defeat poor sound.

To eliminate hotspots and deadspots, you need to be able to distribute sound more evenly.  Scattering the sound is the most effective way to create a unified sound field throughout the whole sanctuary.  When sound is managed in this way, not only does it eliminate deadspots and hotspots of any speech problems, but it makes congregational singing, praise and worship bands clearer, the stage sound is corrected, and for many churches, they bring back choral music because it sounds better than what a worship team could do before the room was fixed.  In most cases, scattering the sound costs less to do than absorbing sound. 

Acoustical solutions for churches that work should be common knowledge as these concepts have been around for years. Fixing a church can often be restricted by how a solution may look. It is high time that the aesthetic police take a back seat from preventing the Gospel message to be preached clearly.  If aesthetics are a big deal, alternatives are always possible.  In the end, it is all about priorities. You have to choose between hearing the Gospel or have a Church that looks good.  What will your church do?

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The Father of Modern Day Acoustics, Wallace Sabine and Solomon’s Temple

Posted by jdbsound on February 5, 2020

Introduction

In the field of acoustics and sound, many have said that Wallace Clement Sabine is considered the father of modern-day architectural acoustics. His scientific work was not only the foundation for concert hall acoustics, but few are aware of how his work has impacted the church community around the world. According to several sources, he was raised in a protestant home, but as an adult belonged to no church and professed no religious faith, yet his work has impacted churches in ways even Wallace could not have imagined. Wallace’s work included figuring out a prediction model of how to apply absorption to tame a room. He also proved that the reverberation time alone is not enough in helping performance spaces with their sound needs. He laid down a foundation, showing that you need much more detailing and care to create suitable sounding spaces, not just for concert halls, but for full Christian worship too.

Shortly after his discoveries and successes, most acoustical experts, Architects, engineers, and audio experts have focused on one thing, the reverberation time of a room – ignoring much of his actual contributions to modern acoustics. When Wallace created the first equation to calculate how much absorption is needed, most people thought that this equation was something magical. It was almost as if a single number could solve all sound problems for concert halls and performance spaces. While such a numeric value is essential, it was a small part of a much larger picture. Sure, Wallace did devote a lot of his time to such studies. Unfortunately, the absorption calculation moved from being a small tool as part of a broader view of performance acoustics to becoming the only thing that mattered. This equation gained mythological-importance to the point that for many laypeople….

To read the rest of this article, download the PDF file with this link. https://www.jdbsound.com/art/father%20acoustics.pdf

Once again we see science and the Bible in almost perfect harmony. Within science, there are many tools. For acoustics, there are specific tools. With the help of the Bible, it requires a set of tools that are unique to churches. For concert halls, recording studio’s and other entertainment venues, there are a set of tools for each one. Most of those tools do not apply to churches. When the tools of an acoustical consultant don’t use the Biblical tools exclusively, you will always get the acoustical performance of what those tools were based on. If you have only concert hall or studio or entertainment tools, then the results will not meet all of the needs of the church. If you use Biblical tools, you wind up with a House of Worship as the Christian community should have, but most churches don’t have a clue of what they are missing out.

Solomon’s Temple was very detailed in how it sounded. If you believe in the Trinity as I do, because of John 1:3 you know that Jesus design the temple that Solomon built. Without the acoustical planning in Solomon’s temple, the Levites would of had to have super natural powers to hear each other within the walls of the temple. There is no record of the Levites having such powers. What did they do to the temple to make it possible for people to hear in such are large space?

Here is something to consider. If Solomon’s temple is a myth, then the details of how the temple walls were completed should not have survived over history. After all, there is no record of the interior of Herod’s Temple other than some carving on the ceiling that Herod ordered which is not in the Bible. If someone says the Scriptures are not the inspired word of God, then the details of Solomon’s temple wouldn’t matter. But what happens when you apply the details of Solomon’s temple to an existing church? If it is a myth, nothing should happen. If it fixes a church, doesn’t that prove God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit? What does that mean if over 400 churches have applied such a system in faith, using the same methods from the Bible to make the acoustics of their churches as best as they can be?

The details of Solomon’s temple matters. Nothing in the Bible is about trivial nonsense. Everything in the Bible has a purposes and the details of Solomon’s Temple is a roadmap to fixing existing churches and it should be a template for new churches today now that we understand why such details were persevered for us in the scriptures today. How many more churches need to be convinced before it becomes a normal way to complete our houses of worship?

If anyone with normal hearing in a church has trouble understanding what is being said in God’s House of Worship, the Bible has the solution for that. And that solution is very affordable. Please enjoy the rest of the article.

The Father of modern acoustics

By Joseph De Buglio (c) 2020

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Is Church Acoustics Easy?

Posted by jdbsound on December 23, 2019

There are two answers to this question. When you follow just the science, the correct answer is no. When you follow what the Bible teaches, the answer is yes.  Church acoustics is simple, but many will tell you otherwise. While it is easy to change how a room sounds, it is another thing to change the sanctuary to perform appropriately for a complete Christian Worship experience regardless of the denomination or congregation you belong. Christian Church worship is unique and the acoustical requirement of any church cannot be found, practiced or learned outside of any church community adequately.

Concert halls, recital halls, recording studios or any room where non-Christian people revere as great places for music or live stage performances and entertainment, these places have clouded, (Mat 7:15) the judgment of churches communities all over the world for years of what Christian worshipers need in a large room. When we turn to the Bible for the kind of worship space we are supposed to have, the answers most Christians are looking for are right there.

Science has not caught up with what is required for church acoustics. It is not able to predict the perfect acoustics a church needs. In each generation of computer modeling, it is getting much better. The good news is that we don’t have to wait for science to catch up to modeling proper worship space acoustics. The Bible has always had the solution as a tool to solve or plan church acoustics, even in the 2100 century. When such planning is applied the outcome is still what a congregation wants and needs. Here is a prime example of Biblical Scientific Foreknowledge at work. When we look past the Golden walls and floors and peel back the details of how Solomon’s Temple was designed and finished, we discover a worship space that every Christian congregation should have today.

The Bible has always had the proper teaching or formula for large room “Worship” acoustics. Did you know that without God’s design for acoustics, the Levites would not have been able to do any ceremonies or teaching in the temple? In Solomon’s Temple, there was an acoustical system given to Solomon that was applied. When employed in modern churches today, it solves almost all of the acoustical problems we can often hear and it makes the worship space better for congregational singing every time. Hundreds of churches have already been fixed or planned in this way. How many more before we can trust the Bible for modern church sound needs?

For church worship, whether in a classical or modern church structure, a commercial space, or converted space, there are many performance requirements to obtain the full worship experience which includes hearing the Gospel unfiltered by the poor acoustical performance of a sanctuary. (Poor acoustics acts like a changing filter that pollutes the Gospel. It can make similar words sound different which changes the meaning of what was said. For people familiar with the Bible, this may not be that big of an issue but for a person who has never been to church or is unfamiliar with church speak/language, when the room changes the pronunciation of a word, it can change the meaning of what they thought they heard. A church with the proper acoustics will prevent most of these mistakes regardless of what a sound system can do.) There is preaching, prayer, congregational singing, testimonies, choirs, worship teams and worship concerts. All of these parts of worship have to perform equally.

Church acoustics is not straightforward without the Bible. It is very complicated and any person designing an acoustical change should be including all aspects of worship, not just making a quick fix because of an irritation. As more churches recognize this truth, many are fixing existing past acoustical treatments that were done with good intentions and without help from the Bible. For example: Many people working in live sound don’t know that most hotspots and deadspots are acoustical problems and made worse when the wrong sound system design is installed. If your church has the right sound system design and there are still places where the sound levels and speech intelligibility is a problem, the sound system is telling you or screaming that it is a room problem -even if there is not feedback noise.

Church acoustics can be confusing, even with Biblical help. Experience has shown that there can be three churches that can have the same shape, dimensions, and age, and all three worship spaces different acoustical fixes. On the other hand, you can have three churches of different shapes, different dimensions, the same seating capacity and from three different ages and yet the acoustical solutions look almost the same to get the best performance for speech, prayer, congregational singing, choral singing and worship team performances. These differences in acoustical treatments are not easy to figure out regardless of the sound system design, equipment, and operating skills.

If the reverberation time is too long, don’t just fix the reverberation time. There are always at least two to five other problems that are being masked by the long reverberation or long time of noise. Correcting only the long reverb time, in most cases, exposes or creates bass problems that weren’t audible before, but the acoustical measurements said that such a predicament would happen. When the subs don’t sound good, you put a cage around the drums and you can’t mic the choir. When the floor monitors are too loud or as loud as the FOH speaker system and you are forced to get in-ear monitors. Then you have to get the worship team members to sign a waiver to not sue the church for premature hearing loss. Fix the room properly to meet all aspects of worship and you can avoid all of these issues.

Church acoustics is complicated and people who do Recording Studio, Concert Hall, Recital Hall, and noise control acoustics all have good intentions in wanting to help out a church. If their solutions are not based on what the Bible teaching, sure, they can change how a room sounds, but will their fixes be what a congregation needs? The choice is yours.
What is rarely taught or shared except on this website, is that a sound system is a magnifier of how a room performs. If the acoustics and shape of a worship space work, the sound system will tell you by how well it performs. If the acoustics are wrong, the sound system will be limited in what it can do. If after changing the sound system twice in the last eight to ten years, didn’t make that much of an improvement, do you really think a third sound system will be any better?

What is also not taught is that it is cheaper to bring a sanctuary up to worship space requirements that support all aspects of worship than to upgrade a typical church speaker system that can only make an incremental improvement for amplified sound. Fixing a room that meets worship space requirements often makes the current sound system perform profoundly better (unless the sound system is so poorly fabricated that it needs to be redesigned and reinstalled if the hardware is up to the task.)

Church acoustics can be easy when you follow the scriptures. Jesus never spoke of this because he already has given us the plans. Jesus said in Mat 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The Bible also says that all things were made through Him from the beginning. Jesus could not abolish the laws He created with His Father and the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-4.) There are many churches out there with poor sound, poor acoustics and have members who want to experience the full Christian life including the complete worship experience we all should be having. When you look past the gold and wealth surrounding Solomon’s temple, you will discover a blueprint from Jesus of how all worship spaces should sound. If that means duplicating Solomon’s Temple, that is what we should be doing. How is that so different in the fact the every church practices communion in one form or another. Every church has prayer, singing, reading of the scriptures, sermons and fellowship of its followers. Every part of a person’s life is in the Bible, whether any person can follow it 100% of the time or not. The same should apply to the houses we call churches that are dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Joseph De Buglio
A Servant of Jesus Christ.

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Does Your Church Need help with Sound?

Posted by jdbsound on August 1, 2019

Here is a collection of 445 photos of 46 churches that completed most or all of their sound system and acoustical plan.  My job is to design a solution that will solve all or almost all sound problems in one step.  For most churches, this means getting the most accomplished in one step as most churches can’t afford to keep chasing sound problems without truthful help.  The road back to great sound in the church is in the Bible, and that is what these churches did. 

All of the installations of the acoustical systems and the sound systems were completed by church members or local contractors when those churches were able to afford professional installers.  The final appearances are what those churches selected.  I work closely with all churches for alternative aesthetics regardless of any budget limitations.  When a church has to choose between aesthetics vs. performance of the 400 plus churches that have just simple painted cardboard tubes on the walls, those churches spoke with what they installed. 

These churches demonstrated that they care more about hearing the Gospel than having a sanctuary that looks good.  There is a high spiritual cost for poor acoustics and sound system designs.  Poor sound does get in the way of people hearing the Word, and for some, it can deny people from understanding the Gospel message of salvation, and that is a cost no church can afford.

For professional, no compromise help, we can provide the highest level of expert assistance that will fulfill the Great Commission as Jesus taught. Having the skills of the world helps but God’s plan for churches demands His way of doing Church Sound. Without that knowledge, the worlds way of doing church sound always comes up short in meeting the standard that God demands of us.

Click the photo above or the link below to see what other churches have done to have great sound for speech, congregational singing and total worship in general.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdbsound/collections/72157627021000982/

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Seeking the Truth

Posted by jdbsound on July 18, 2019

As an expert in Church Acoustics and in the pursuit of the truth, I have also been passionate about finding ways for all churches to afford an acoustical solution that will solve just about every sound problem most churches run into. What can be more exciting than knowing that the cheapest and best acoustical solution in the world for all churches comes from the book that all Christians follow and obey – the Bible. When a church uses the Bible’s method for acoustical management, sound problems almost all go away and in most cases, a sustained higher church attendance happens after around 18 months. God is the author of Church Acoustics and it is time for churches to seek God first for answers and God will reveal His way to solve sound problems in His Houses of Worship. Whenever a church is dedicated to God, doesn’t it become His House?

Joh_14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If we take that a step further, Jesus was present in the design of Solomon’s Temple. While Millions have already been saved in the past, present and hopefully the future, how many more can be added if all Houses of Worship were built or brought up to the same acoustical standards as in Solomon’s Temple? Since most churches don’t have that quality of room acoustics, I guess we may never know!

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Watering Down the Gospel

Posted by jdbsound on July 8, 2019

Years ago, someone wrote these two sentences to make a point about the quality of sound.

How to wreck a nice beach?

How to recognize speech?

In many churches, when these one of these two lines are spoken over the sound system quickly, regardless if they are using a headset mic, lapel or lectern mic, most people guess wrong when these two line are projected onto a screen.  You can have the best pastor around but if the acoustics are not up to Solomon’s Temple quality, the room could be watering down the message more than what many may believe.  The priority for sound in a house of God should always be quality of sound over quantity of sound.

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1 + 1 = 3 or When is Doubling the Power, not +3dB?

Posted by jdbsound on June 17, 2019

Here is a simple test anyone can do to determine the acoustical condition of a church.  Physics says that when the power* is doubled or when doubling the number of speakers, the sound level will increase 3dB.  This result is real when outdoors.  This outcome can be false indoors.  When it is false indoors, it is because there are acoustical problems.  Please notice that it is problems, not a problem.  When adding a second speaker failing to increase the sound 3dB, this test shows that it is never a single acoustical issue.  It is not a sound system problem.  The sound system is exposing the root problem. (If the second speaker is wired out of phase, the sound will decrease in level.)

Outdoors, sound follows the basic rules of physics.

When outdoors, if there are two loudspeaker playing with the same volume of pink noise side by side or up to 6 feet apart, and set up a test microphone or SPL meter 30 feet away. (An iPad or phone with testing software can be used if it is calibrated.) When the second speaker is turned on or off,  the sound level will change 3dB.  This result is constant in physics.  The reason this is always true is that there are no barriers around to limit the sounds from spreading out or returning from a reflection that can interfere with the direct sound.

When indoors, depending on the size of the room, often this is not true.  This failure is noticed the most with Subs and sound energy below 500 Hertz.  Doing the same test at 30 feet inside of a church, the sound level change is often 1, 1.5, or 2dB.  If the result is 3dB, there are either a lot of open windows, lots of doors that are open, the church has more than 3000 seating or the church has great acoustics. 

Indoors, sound is confronted with many other rules of physics which changes how the first rule works.

Here are the most common reasons for the sound failing to increase 3dB when doubling the power or speakers.

  • Standing waves
  • Dimensions of the room
  • Too much-stored energy in the corners
  • Too much high-frequency absorption

Standing Waves

Standing waves are excessive amounts of energy between parallel walls within a confined space. The effect of standing waves are not always apparent. Standing waves are usually excess mid and bass frequencies of energy that masks the highs. You can’t hear a standing wave but you can hear the effects of it. To identify if your church has standing waves, go between any parallels walls. Stand about 4 feet from one of the side walls. Make a loud, sharp noise like a hand clap once. If a person hears any rapid pinging sounds, this is a sign of the presence of standing waves. The sound heard is often a higher range of frequencies, and they usually called flutter echoes. Flutter echoes are a symptom of standing waves. Bass sounds, which have longer wavelengths can’t produce the same volume of sound to hear as a flutter between parallel walls. Whenever a person hears flutter echoes, excess bass energy present too. This result is also true for all other room shapes when flutter echoes or flutters from a simple hand clap occur

A second clue to standing waves is when standing at a pulpit or where a minister preaches from. With a hand clap, if the reflected sounds are coming from the side walls or behind you, the standing waves are the cause of it. The standing waves are masking the highs, creating the effect as if it is preventing a large portion of the sound from reaching the other side of the room, and what is reflected back is being canceled out by the standing waves a second time which in turn prevents you from hearing the returning clap. Standing waves have other detrimental effects too. It has the effect of isolating everyone from each other in the room. This result is also why the drums seems to sound so loud and yet, this is also why most drummers strike the drums harder than they have too. It is because they can’t tell how loud they are playing at any volume level. This outcome is also why many people sitting in the pews comment that they can’t hear themselves when singing, and it makes them feel alone in a room full of people. This is the number one cause of people being discouraged from singing.

Any church with parallel walls will have standing waves if there is nothing to manage them

The reason the sound doesn’t increase 3dB when adding a second loudspeaker is because of the excess bass energy created by the standing waves in the worship space.  The excess air pressure is like putting a finger lightly on the woofer.  The excess air pressure acts as an acoustical load on the woofer, and that dampens the amount of sound coming from the loudspeaker.

Standing waves can only be removed with diffusion or some form of sound scattering. 

If people try to use absorption to fix this problem, while it will remove the flutter or in some cases, shift the flutters to a lower frequency, the untreated bass energy will make the standing wave problem more pronounced.  It will increase the feeling loneliness and discourage the congregation from singing even more.

The dimensions of the room

In churches with low ceilings or seating less than 200 people, the room is too small to be free from surface related sound inference reflections.  In a larger church space with a flat ceiling less than 16 feet high, the room will have standing waves floor to ceiling which limits the ability to increase sound 3dB with just doubling the speakers.

The reason the sound doesn’t increase 3dB when adding a second loudspeaker is that the room is limiting how much the space can support.  The excess air pressure from the extra speaker is like putting a finger lightly on the woofer.  The excess air pressure acts as an acoustical load on the woofer, and that dampens the amount of sound coming from the loudspeaker.

The only option is to diffuse all of the room if a small church.  If a low ceiling, diffusers will have to be added to the ceiling.  Acoustical tiles and drop ceilings cannot correct this issue.

Too much-stored energy in the corners

Another principal of physic is how sound is affected by boundaries.  A loudspeaker on a 10-foot pole measures 60dB.  We call that free space.  When we put the speaker on the ground, the speaker will be 6dB louder.  That is referred to as “half space.”  When we add a wall and the floor, we call that “1/4er space” and the sound increases 12dB or doubles in loudness.  When we add a second wall to the floor and create a corner, that is “1/8th space,” and the sound rises 18dB. 

Corners collect the air pressure that is created by longer wavelength sounds that accumulate on the flat surface of the wall.  With nothing to direct the sound, the sound pressure moves in all directions.  Eventually, the excess bass energy makes its way to the corners.  Depending on a lot of variables, the amount of energy that builds up is often too much.  Churches will low ceilings, large flat walls, or flat ceilings tend to have too much excess bass in the corners.  All other church shapes, except for domes have varying levels of corner issues if not managed.  Excess corn energy has a similar effect as standing waves.  When there is too much bass, it masks the highs.  This, in turn, creates hotspots and coldspots throughout the room. Hotspots and Coldspots are frequency dependent. If the sound level changes are of a narrow range of frequencies, it was most likely found them with instruments.  When a person notices them with their ears,  it means anyone with a hearing problem will miss out on some of what is being said, or what they heard and what was said was different. 

When the front of a church is in the corner, everything is either 18dB louder or 18dB quieter when compared with churches that have the front on an end wall.

The reason the sound doesn’t increase 3dB when adding a second loudspeaker is because of the excess bass energy created by the bare walls in the worship space.  The excess air pressure is like putting a finger lightly on the woofer.  The excess air pressure acts as an acoustical load on the woofer, and that dampens the amount of sound coming from the loudspeaker.

Keeping excess sound out of the corners is best done with diffusion.  It cannot be done with absorption unless the absorbers are as thick as the wavelength of the sound waves.

Too much high-frequency absorption

Sound arrives at our ears as air pressure vibrating at a rapid rate.  The faster the air vibrates, the higher the sound pitch.  The slower the sound vibrates, the lower the pitch. The vibrations are referred to as Hertz.  Sound travel at 1130 feet per second.  At 100 Hertz, a bass sound has the wavelength of just over 11.3 feet.  At 1,000 Hertz the sound waves are 1.13 feet, and at 10,000 Hertz the sound waves are 0.11 feet or 1.3 inches.  

When there is too much absorption in the room, what is left is too much bass. The excess bass masks the highs. 

For most churches, carpeted floors and padded seating is all the absorption needed. When this much absorption is add, the congregational singing is very dull and people have to be super motivated to see more that 20% of the audience singing.

The reason the sound doesn’t increase 3dB when adding a second loudspeaker is because of the excess bass energy created by too much absorption.  The excess air pressure is like putting a finger lightly on the woofer.  The excess air pressure acts as an acoustical load on the woofer, and that dampens the amount of sound coming from the loudspeaker.

The fix for such a problem is by removing the right amount of absorption panels and replace them with diffusers.  Then complete the room by adding more diffusion throughout the sanctuary to correct the frequency response of the room.

These four issues are never a singular issue.  They are often in combinations or can include all four.  Along with these problems, there are often reverberation issues, echoes, excess late reflections, the poor frequency response of the room, and other room problems that have little to do with this simple 3dB test, but they are usually there as well.  These problems can be heard when a person learns what to listen for.  Looking at how sound system is equalized is another clue of room problems.  The issues have the result of the high numbers of the congregation not singing. (In a church with good acoustics, they will often have more than 80% of the congregation singing every they are familiar with.)

Getting two loudspeakers and doing this test is simple and easy to do.  If the sound doesn’t increase 3dB, this means that adding more subs or more speakers into a worship space will not get the expected outcome. For example.  If the goal is to increase the bass in a worship space 3dB, and sound system has only one subwoofer, do this test, If the bass increased only 1.5dB with the second box, then it will take two more speakers just to get a 3dB increase for a total of 4 boxes. Think of the cost of adding three speaker boxes and all of the related hardware required to support that.  An alternative would be to fix the room with diffusion, the gain will be 6 to 10dB of performance without doing anything to the sound system.  It would be equal to adding 8 or 16 subwoofers depending on other acoustical or architectural considerations.  

Science is amazing when appropriately used to provide real solutions. Pseudo-Science or fake data is often used under the disguise of science and can be used to lead churches to false conclusions.  Many experts in audio and acoustics who see the same data, know these problems are present.  If they are not being addressed, it is because they lack the experience in knowing how to solves such issues.  If a person has done this test and the sound system provider or acoustical expert is not addressing these issue, they are not qualified for correcting sound problems in a church.  It’s like asking a Doctor who specializes in kidney problems to do Brain Surgery. What is needed a Brain Surgeon who knows how to fix both the acoustics and to design a proper sound system.

Get the church correctly evaluated before investing in that next sound system.  It can save those responsible a lot of disappointments down the road.  Fixing a room can cost less than replacing a sound system, or it could mean reducing the size of the suggested new sound system.

* Doubling the power required calibrated volume controls or switches to set up correctly as a viable test.

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Ten years later Kingston Rd United Church

Posted by jdbsound on May 29, 2019

Kingston Road United Church had sound issues. They tried several sound system designs with no real success. Someone suggested JdB Sound Acoustics.  When I arrived, an elderly lady came to me and said, “If you can’t fix this room, then this church will not be around much longer.” Somehow, several people on the sound committee believed that if the church sounded better, they stood a better chance at keeping the doors open.

In 2008, I was hired to fix the room. I designed for them an acoustical and sound system solution. The sound system was completely replaced. The acoustics plan was using half-round tubes on all of the walls. The results were as several people put it – Amazing. Before, you could not understand anyone talking more than 15 feet away. After, you could talk end to end of the 120 ft — long worship space. The church seats 550 people.

Today in 2019, the church is thriving. It has become a place for concerts, drama and singing events. The church is growing in a location where there is only one parking spot. Church attendance may still be low, however it is higher than in 2009 and with all of the other activities, it has been more than enough to keep the doors open. Acoustics alone didn’t keep the church from closing, but it became a tool to attract new members and other forms of income for an inner city church. Good acoustics seemed to inspire the church leadership to have confidence in knowing that if people could have a good hearing experience, the greetings they would receive from the members would be that much better.  There is also proof that good sound means a greater chance for people to return.

A few years back. Cinemacoustic Solutions Int’l, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, did an experiment with two theatre test rooms. Both rooms were identical the same visually with one room properly treated acoustically, and the other was not. Room “A” was treated properly; however, Room “B” was not treated at all.

Here is a summary of the results.

“Funny enough, while many of the students made comments about the sound, stating they thought the speakers in room “A” sounded a little better than those in “B”, nearly all of them said, “the picture in Room “A” was far better than that of Room “B”. The properly treated room allowed them to see & hear content at a caliber they may not have ever experienced before, to which they naturally attributed to better equipment, as opposed to the acoustical treatment of any sort. The properly treated space relaxed their senses allowing them to enjoy the environment and what they were doing as opposed to subconsciously concentrating on what they needed to do to better enjoy their surroundings.

The same subconscious energy applies to an orator speaking in an untreated room vs. a treated room. Even a boardroom with executives around tabling important and perhaps complex company matters, they can concentrate better when not “fighting” bad room acoustics while conversing or passionately presenting their opinions, vying for votes. They would never attribute the lack of ability to concentrate on poor acoustics because they simply wouldn’t know to do so, however it can very well be a culprit.”

Good church acoustics matters. Kingston Road United Church is a fine example of how acoustics made their worship space a place where people want to do activities with speech and music. A place where people want to be and where hearing the Gospel is better understood. At Kingston, you spend more time understanding what was being said rather than spending all of your time deciding what words were being said or just trying to hear.

If you would like to see more photos of this church, use this link. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdbsound/sets/72157607243842820/

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Acoustics and the Gospel

Posted by jdbsound on May 21, 2019

Posted in Church Acoustics, Church Sound Systems | Comments Off on Acoustics and the Gospel

Churches are Tools

Posted by jdbsound on February 18, 2019

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Church Sound and the Gospel

Posted by jdbsound on January 28, 2019

The goal of any worship space and the church sound system is not about loudness, gain before feedback, intelligibility, special sound effects for the organ or choir, having the most talented performers in the worship team, how many wireless mics, number of channels the mixer has or the name brand of equipment you have. The goal of a church worship space and the sound system is to be a safe place where the Gospel can be presented clearly and with little to no blemishes. Where every person within the worship space can hear and understand the Gospel as clearly as when having a conversation with someone only 4 feet away and sharing the Gospel. Anything less than that goal means that the spoken word can be corrupted in the journey between the minister’s mouth and ears of all those who are listening. The Gospel needs to be broadcasted and understood as clearly as reading God’s written words.

If your church has hot spots, dead spots, good sound in these seats and poor sound in those seats, then the Gospel is not being presented equally to everyone. If your sound system has technical problems during worship often, then it is a distraction, and it can make the difference of understanding something important.

The chart below shows tangible results when your worship and sound system are tested. There should be three tests.

The first is with a test speaker. It is a point source speaker that is small enough to mimic a person’s voice.

The next test is feeding a signal directly into the sound system and test those results. This test is just about the playback quality of your sound system.

The third test is to use the test speaker 30 inches from an open microphone such as a pulpit or any microphone on a stand and test the combined results of the worship space’s acoustics direct interaction of the sound system and open mics. You can also do a second version of this test and place the test speaker 4 inches from a microphone where the microphone is 45 degrees off axis.

If all three tests are not in the Yellow section, the results will let you know if it is your sound system, the acoustics or all of the above.  This is also a better indication predicting if upgrading your sound system will improve the results you are looking for. This is also a strong indicator that your worship space needs some kind of an acoustical management system

sti alcons chart conversion

You can get your church tested. It doesn’t cost much, and the results can save a life or many lives, depending on your point of view. As an independent consulting company, we offer church testing and results with no obligation to use our services in the future.

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What will give you the biggest bang for the buck in upgrading the Sound of your church?

Posted by jdbsound on May 2, 2018

This 300 seat church already had a reasonable high-quality sound system.  It was properly designed for the room and professionally installed. The acoustics were not that bad.  At least it was thought that the acoustics were not such a problem.  The outstanding issues they were trying to solve or improve were:

  1. Gain before feedback,
  2. Elimination of the few deadspots that were not solved from the previous sound system when the current new JBL speakers were installed
  3. Reduce sound spill from floor monitors,
  4. Better control of the drums (when using acoustic drums) and
  5. They wanted 3dB more bass from the Sub-woofer.

These are all reasonable reasons to upgrade the sound system.

Good Speaker System setup_s

The church was considered the following upgrades.

  1. Replacing the professionally designed and installed 12-year-old JBL sound system.
  2. They considered going for IEM (in-ear monitor) system for up to 8 people. (This would have included a new digital mixer)
  3. The church considered making an air-conditioned drum booth or get an electronic drum kit.
  4. They also wanted to add a second twin 15-inch sub-woofer.
  5. Estimated total cost, almost $26,000.00 installed.

This is what the church actually did. They changed the acoustics of the room.  They installed an acoustical Tube Radiator system.

What did they gain by doing this?

  1. The sonic quality of the existing JBL speaker system was greatly improved. The improvement was noticeable better regardless of how much equalization was added or when the EQ was bypassed. (Definite proof that the acoustics of the room changed the performance of the speaker system from the day they were installed.)
  2. All of the remaining deadspots were now gone. (This was never a speaker system problem as the right speaker system design was already installed.)
  3. The performance of the speaker system was such that picking up a person’s voice went from 12 inches to 35 inches with a Shure SM58 mic before feedback would show up. (Again, acoustics limits the performance of all sound system. Sure there are some very expensive gadgets that can improve gain before feedback, but such gadget can cost more than the material cost of the acoustical fix.)
  4. The floor monitors are now well behaved. No matter how loud the floor monitors get, you definitely need to and to add the front of house to hear clear sound. As it turns out, the overall stage mix dropped around 10dB without the performers even noticing as they were now able to hear the stage mix from the monitors so well at a lower volume. You could say that the monitor spill issue is eliminated.
  5. This eliminated the need for IEM’s.
  6. Since the drummer can hear himself now, he gradually started playing quieter after a few weeks. The need for a drum cage disappeared.
  7. The Single Sub-Woofer was now able to play 9dB louder without distortion. It would have taken 3 more sub-woofers to get the same loudness without distortion. That was equal to spending around $15,000.00. (Standing waves and bass buildup in the corners added air pressure onto the surface of the cones of the subs drivers. This added air pressure creates distortion. When the subs distort, the sound quality and maximum sound levels of what the sub is supposed to be able to do, can drop up to 15dB in many rooms.)

Aylmer EMC Church Pano 2017_ss

Other improvements

Congregation Singing.

  1. The participation of people singing went up from 30% to 75%. (When people can hear themselves and the other people around them, it encourages people to sing more.)  s a resulting, the congregation is singing 8 to 15dB louder. (The more people singing, the louder they will become.)
  2. No more distortion from the speaker system with playing louder which means the perception of loudness is greatly reduced. (Standing waves and bass buildup in the corners added air pressure onto the surface of the cones of the bass driver of full range speakers. This added air pressure creates distortion. When the bass drivers distort, the sound quality and maximum sound levels of what the full range speaker is supposed to be able to do, can drop up to 15dB in many rooms.)
  3. After two years, the congregation is starting to add harmonies to their singing. (That is what happens when people can hear each other.)
  4. Now when people stand up to give testimonies or prayer requests, people can hear them whenever they forget to use hand-held wireless audience microphone.
  5. The front of house stage mix is so much better. Now you can hear all of the performers without having to blast the sound system. (A well-diffused room can make the signal to noise ratio improve from 3dB to 25dB. As the signal to noise improves, the easier it is to settle into a high quality.)
  6. The worship space is now concert quality for any high SPL event, recitals, choirs or orchestral events.

The total cost of the acoustical system including painting the whole sanctuary. $1,400.00
Since this as a DIY project, the money saved went towards a better headset mic for the pastor and the new digital mixer. Total upgrade, $5,000.00. If the church contract out the installation of the Sono Tubes, add $5,200.00. That is still 60% of the cost of upgrading a perfectly good sound system if everything is contracted out or an 83% difference.

Conclusion

One can honestly say that fixing the acoustics had a far better return on investment versus just upgrading the speaker system alone. Upgrading the speaker system can never make the room sound better, improve congregational singing and it would have not been possible to delete the deadspots without adding more speakers on delays around the room. This transformation is typical of the new worship experience when a church gets the acoustics they are supposed to have. In the battle between acoustics vs sound systems, acoustics always wins. It’s Physics. Try moving a wall with air? You can’t. Change the wall and hear what happens!

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Romanian Church gets Excellent Acoustics and Reviewed by Professional Sound Magazine Article

Posted by jdbsound on August 6, 2016

Churches don’t often get Reviews for their Acoustics and Sound System.  Kevin Young did such a review of one of my projects.  The installation company was CS Acoustics from New Hamburg, Ontario.  Here is the full Professional Sound Magazine Article about the Romanian Pentecostal Church in Kitchener, Ontario Canada.  Please leave any comments or questions below.

Should you have a chance, when your in the area, visit this church.  The people there will give you a tour. Better yet, go to a worship service.  it is different, but worth the experience.  Kevin Young is a Toronto based musician and freelance writer.

Joseph De Buglio

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Can Acoustical Spreadsheets Save Your Church Acoustics?

Posted by jdbsound on June 20, 2016

There are dozens of acoustical spreadsheets that come with the promise of a viable acoustical fix.  Some sheets are for studios and some are for home theatres.  There are also other spreadsheets for larger rooms.  As rooms get larger, (as in Christian Churches and worship centers) those spreadsheets become less accurate.  Sure, the better spreadsheets adds more variable to compensate for the limitations, but the limitations are still there. Furthermore, with all of the spreadsheets, you have to add an additional line to include a fudge factor.  In some spreadsheets you need to add multiple fudge factor lines.

When a person tries to use an acoustical spreadsheet, they are only looking at one parameter of the rooms acoustics.  You are only looking at “time.”  The problem is, for churches, and I MEAN ALL ROOMS WHERE MORE THAN 150 PEOPLE GATHER TO WORSHIP – there are other parameters that are equally or more important than “time.” Acoustical problems always come in layers.  The minimum number of layers of acoustical sound management in a worship space is 4 layers.  As a worship space becomes larger, the more layers you have to attend to.  “Time” becomes only a fraction of the real acoustical problems you are faced with.  Obviously you can’t see them but you can measure them if you are trained to recognize when you hear them.

Romanian Church Kitchener Ontario Pano 1.jpgThe problem with spreadsheets is that they are not looking issues such as standing waves – and every church – regardless of shape has standing waves (unless the space is acoustically managed in the first place which also means this article is not for you.)  Spreadsheets are not looking at excessive noise from early and late reflections.  They are not looking at bass buildup often found in the corners of a room.  They are not looking at flutter echoes and full syllable echoes.  These are all sound effects than can’t be dialed out with equalizers, delays, algorithms and the next miracle digital gadget or software. (Yet that is how most sound system designers try to deal with room acoustics.)

Regardless of a persons acoustical training, knowledge or experience,  a spreadsheet cannot tell you when standing waves are masking flutter echoes.  A spreadsheet cannot tell you when bass build up is masking a standing wave issue.  A spreadsheet can’t tell you how much the early and later reflections are reducing music and speech intelligibility. 

All that a spreadsheet can tell you is how much “time” it takes for a sound to decay in a room either as an average number.  Some spreadsheets are much more detailed and they have been written as an attempt to calculate a room in octaves or by 1/3rd octaves.  If it was only that easy.  Measuring and calculating time is just a sliver of the acoustical signature of a space people worship in. 

church of our lady small.jpg

It takes a lot of training to learn Church acoustics.  The same applies to Studio Acoustics, Recital Halls, Concert halls and lecture halls.  All of these rooms have specific acoustical needs and they all require a unique set of skills to properly fix them.   

What makes a church so complicated is in how a church is used.  When a church is designed as a “church,” it becomes the most multipurpose space there is because of all the ways a worship space is used.  When you say you want the worship space to be more “Multi-Purpose” or more flexible in it use, you are actually limiting what a basic worship space is supposed to be able to do. 

At the end of the day, an acoustical spreadsheet is only a small snapshot into church acoustics.  It can’t help with congregational singing, it can’t help with a noisy stage for a praise and worship team or choir and it can’t help with drum issues or speech intelligibility. 

What often happens is with the spreadsheet, it will guide you to a solution that is based on absorption.  When an acoustical fix is based around absorption, you wind up “killing” the room for all music – especially contemporary music and congregational singing – and the masking effects of the other acoustical issues get worse.  Sure, the room sounds more tame than it was before, but the ability to understand speech is either no better than before or it has gotten worse.  Before you know it, everyone gets in ear monitors and all of the members of the worship team have to sign an insurance liability waver stating that they will not sue the church for any future health problems with hearing loss.  Seriously, is that the kind of acoustical fix you want? 

Front view of creekside church_edited-1.jpgThat is what you get when you turn to an acoustical solution based only on spreadsheet calculations.  To top it all off, the results are not much better when using computer simulation software programs.  Simulation programs only show you the results at one frequency at a time.  The computer generated image may be 3D but the patterns they show are only one frequency at a time – even when it is averaged out.  To see large room acoustics in a simulation, you need to be able to see the results in 4D.  Hologram can’t show you 4D images.  That ability hasn’t been invented yet.  You need to be able to see sound in 4 dimensions because all sounds are complex.  Every sound made on earth is a combination of wave lengths that are generated at the same time. Some parts of a sound are measured in feet and some in inches.  There is no way to visually see 100 Hertz, which is 11 ft long, and 4000 Hertz which is 3.5 inches long, at the same time in the same place yet in real life, that is what is happening with sound.  We all take sound for granted but the complexity of sound is extensive.

But doesn’t sound follow the rules of fluid dynamic and other laws of physics?  Of course it does, but only when you examine one frequency at a time and that frequency is never a pure tone.  It is always complex.  The only place you can measure and see a pure tone is in a machine like an oscilloscope and the moment you launch that sound into the air, it becomes complex.  Just as sound is complex, so are the acoustical fixes for churches. 

jdbsound test room.jpg

This is one way to test an acoustical solution before you recommend it to a church.  Have your own testing facility.  Whatever research is done in this room, it mathematical translates perfectly when it is scaled up into a larger space.

As a mantra, remember this:  for all Christian churches, acoustical problems come in layers and whatever fix you choose, it has to address all of the layers in one step – which is possible if you want an affordable fix.  There are many tools in the Acousticians Tool Box to fix a worship space. There are diffusers, resonators, traps and other devices that can address the needs of a church’s acoustics. There are also stand-alone electronic solutions that work in certain worship spaces. You need a lot of training to know which ones you need, what combinations you need and how to use them, and the last place you want to do your training and experimenting is on your customers. 

If you are doing Church Acoustics or trying to fix your own church, don’t do it as an experiment and you know it will be an experiment the moment someone in your committee say something like, “lets try this as see what happens.”  With those words, the acoustical solution is already doomed.  Experts like myself can tell you the results the second you decide to try something and long before you apply the materials. 

History shows that after a church spends it’s money on a thing such as acoustics, it will not be able to afford to fix any mistakes for decades.  If the results makes the room worse or no better than before, then you are subjecting the church members to more sound abuse for years to come and we don’t want that.  Spreadsheets don’t fix churches, good training and expert help does. (It’s also cheaper in the end to get expert help.)

Finally,  consider this.  The internet has become a treasure trove of knowledge.  That knowledge is often presented as expert information offering sure fire solutions.  I scan the internet often to see what is out there.  There is a lot of great information and there are a lot of myths.  When you collect all of that info, it only holds a fraction of the total knowledge about church acoustics.  If we were to put a percentage on it, the internet holds about 2% of the total knowledge there is for church acoustics.  The books hold another 8% of what there is to know about church acoustics.  Church acoustics is so complicated that often, a seasoned acoustical expert like myself will have to fix one of a kind acoustical fixes often.  Those unique fixes are often not shared because others may think that the one of a kind fix would be needed in every other church that has the same problem.  You can have 10 churches with the same acoustical problem but in every one the fix has to be modified because of the other variables that have to be included.  The rest of the knowledge about church acoustics is held by experts because the church community hasn’t taken ownership of that knowledge yet and there is no system in place for churches to share their experiences in order to avoid mistakes in the future.  What is missing is the wisdom in knowing what acoustical fixes will enhance worship verse what acoustical fixes exchanges one set of problems for another set of problems. Problems which holds back and undermines the real worship experience the church leaders want you to participate in. 

All church can have great acoustics and sound.  If each church denomination or independent church were to set-up their own “Church Sound Standards” for the performance of their sound systems and worships space acoustics, churches will become the kind of places where people want to go.  Once a standard is set, every church will have a Worship everyone can enjoy and appreciate. 

Joseph De Buglio

Acoustician and Expert in Church Acoustics.

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