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Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Is the church community ready for the return to partial or fully attended worship?

Posted by jdbsound on September 8, 2021

These days, many Christians have been getting their Bible and Gospel teaching through the internet during the long-term pandemic lockdown because of the Covid-19 virus.  Hearing worship services or sermons online may not be the best way to experience church, but it does have its benefits.  For one thing, the quality of sound from a computer or TV will be surprising much better than the quality of the current condition of the live sound in most worship spaces. Should any words or phrases be misunderstood at home, a person can pause the video and repeat the segments they had trouble understanding.  A person can adjust the volume on demand to make spoken words as clear as possible.  After 18 months of hearing sound from a TV or digital device, how will people react when they return to church and find the sound much lower in quality than they are now used to at home?  Do they stay or leave?

It takes time to get people used to listening to the sub-quality amplified sound found in most churches.  Will people want to go through the learning processes of having to adjust their hearing again?  Will people want to stay home to hear worship where the sound is much better?  Many churches have made the best of a bad situation with this Covid-19 pandemic and imposed restrictions.  When people return to live worship, will they prefer to worship at church or the televised worship?

Shouldn’t it be that the live worship is of higher quality than the broadcasted worship?  Is it possible to get the live worship to be of better quality than the broadcasted or pre-recorded message without compromising anything?  Yes, it is possible.  The good news is that in 90% of the cases, the sound system does not have to be upgraded or other expensive changes.  What anyone can do is follow what the Bible teaches about large room acoustics.  The Bible has a clear and straightforward plan that can raise the quality of sound of any worship space and often for less than the cost of a wireless microphone system or two. 

Imagine for a moment of a church seating 200-350 people and spending less than $1,000.00 to make the sound in the worship space of equal or better quality than hearing worship at home. What about churches seating 350 to 500 seating? Would it be worth investing $2,000.00 to get better sound?  How about churches seating from 500 to 800 people? Would investing $3,500.00 be a reasonable price to pay to offer church members sound quality that makes coming to church a great experience?  How about investing less than $5,000.00 for a 1200 seat church?  How about investing $6,500 for a 3000 seat church, creating a sound quality as good or better than what people hear on the internet?

The Bible has always offered higher-quality sound in worship spaces. However, until now, people have been looking outside of the Christian community for answers.  The Bible offers a solution to transform any worship space to have superior congregational singing for hearing clear speech, and it draws out the highest level of sound system performance for speech and music regardless of the quality of the equipment.

If there is a concern about how people will react when they return to the sanctuary for worship, it is never too late to make such an upgrade.  To learn more about upgrading the acoustics of a church affordably by following the Biblical teaching of the scriptures, contact JdB Sound Acoustics today for assistance.

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Passive versus Active Worship. Is there a difference?

Posted by jdbsound on July 26, 2021

Introduction

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 studying 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, when followed, the members are promised a better life.  The teaching is, tithing, serving at a food bank, and helping people more, and the reward is a better self.  Just praying to God, the sinners prayer with a promise to do better is a ministry of works, not salvation.  James 1:19-27 clearly explains how people are to Love God first.  After learning to love God and becoming dead to self, then a person is properly motivated to follow His laws (notice that it doesn’t say to obey them).  Christians 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 feel better.  Feeling better, means being saved!  Right?  No!

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 begin a new life as a born-again Christian.  When a person accepts Jesus as Lord, what changed?  The change was going from hating or being indifferent about God to loving God.  This is it.  A person who is Born again will have the Holy Spirit helping them to 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.  Going to a healing service is like being at the circus?  It often begins with a short pep talk and then music for thirty to ninety minutes long.  During that time, promises are being made and testimonies from people who are caught up in the hype, raising false hope to 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 is a servant to man?  Rather, true Christian disciples choose to serve God as an act of reciprocating love.  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 the devoted followers into continuous tithing for a miracle.  The hidden message is that healings and miracles can be bought.  That money is the replacement image of God, but what they are really doing diminishing faith down to nothing more than a “faith healers’ lottery game.”  Faith and salvation is not a game that can be bargained 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 hearing one own voice isn’t possible, nor the person nearby, no matter how much effort is made?  The unmanaged room creates the feeling of loneliness.  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 and, in most rooms, it sounds dull and forced.  There is no return on anyone’s effort to sing with other people.  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 or worship teams are, 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.  Music can move people to started tapping a foot or finger when hearing a familiar feel-good song.  Music stirs feelings when several songs are played back-to-back.  When the music changes or stops, it often leaves people wanting more. 

Music is often used to trigger the body to crave more.  When the high energy and emotional music stops, there must be an equally good emotional message to follow up to keep the dopamine and endorphins flowing.  What better attention-grabbing message than 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 and engaged into a well-crafted program.  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. Those churches will hire professional musicians who have had some success in the concert music world to shape the beginning of a church service to hyper-stimulate people to get them addicted to participating in passive worship.  If this sounds like a seductive form of brain washing, rest assured, it is.

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 room physically 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 effortlessly, 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 do a slight sway and raise their hands for many of the traditional and modern hymns.  These people 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 help to feel a sense of peace to show God love in a respectful way.  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 the sermon.  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, it takes several songs to lift people up, 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.

As it was the practice until the 1800s, worship service in protestant churches began with the reading of a complete scripture passage of the Bible by an elder or someone who has rehearsed the passage, or a person who 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.  In researching 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 historically, congregational singing has always been an issue dating back to 4th century churches.

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 the pastor is a guru at motivational speaking.  People who participate in extended music programs become hyper-stimulated. They become malleable in teaching and brainwashing the followers into- whatever cult or false teaching they want to bind their followers 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 wrong type of acoustics cannot support authentic congregational singing, and by having an entertainment style of worship, people are trapped into being happy and feeling alone at the same time.  The false hope is that in going to the church, the feeling of loneliness during worship is replaced with “works” by helping with random, well-advertised “community” feeding programs, community projects, staging drama and music concerts, small groups programs, volunteering, tithing, and a hope for a taste of 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 who are not brainwashed to hold the leader accountable, the person leading such a church can get away with running the church like a business and do whatever they want. There is nothing more contentious than a church full of young people without older people who can 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, worship quality 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

The proper type of 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 the right type of church acoustics for modern church buildings.  When canvasing and testing churches, 95% of all existing church buildings in a giving community cannot support active worship?  This is a problem the whole church community is struggling with all over the world.  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 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 transform any existing church from passive worship to the right type of acoustics for active congregational singing and maximize speech clarity at the same time.  In studying the Bible for answers to the right type of worship acoustics, the scriptures say who designed such a system – Jesus – the author and finisher (John 1:3, 1 Chronicles 28:19, Hebrews 12:2).  Unmanaged acoustics is simply a noisy room and entertainment style of acoustics is where the room has no performance qualities for worship whatsoever.  It allows false teaching and teachers to hide in plain sight within the walls of a building where worship service looks more like a talent show to a false god, and the minister is playing the audience like the Pied Piper.

Other clues of false teaching are:  Are the people 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 creating warm and fuzzy feelings?  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 for a short time, not giving anyone time 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 who have read this far and attend a 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.”” Making a difference is possible 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 the 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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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.

Printable version of the flow chart with a bonus acoustical recipe

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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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Do Churches that build what they want, get what they need?

Posted by jdbsound on January 19, 2021

When it comes to houses of worship, there is one fundamental question that Christians need to be honest with themselves.  Do we design houses of worship based on what we need or what we want?  The evidence that we can see and hear as a person visits houses of worship is that Churches are designed and built around what they want, and after they move in, they expect the building to give them what they need.  Many Churches seem to spend unlimited amounts of money after they move in to make the room give them what they need, and the results almost always come up short. 

Since the edict of tolerance by Emperor Constantine, there has been a search for the perfect house of worship.  It is supposed to be an ideal place for Christians to gather, hear the scriptures, study the Gospel and sing praises to God.  After building millions of churches around the world since then, that perfect worship space has been elusive.  When it comes to worship space design, it looks like the church is following a world view of thinking, which is similar to those who believe in evolutionism, materialism and atheism.  The evolutionist believes that if we keep building enough churches with random designs, we will eventually get it right over an endless period of time.  The materialist believes that there is a yet to be discovered equation that can explain to us how to create the perfect sound for worship.  The atheist believes that we can design churches without needing God.  Not one of these world view designs has created a building that meets all of the needs of Christian Worship as detailed in the Bible. Yet, every church, church board, and building committee prays to God for help in designing new worship spaces, but they don’t turn to God’s Word for answers as part of the process.  No one is answering the question of whether we are to design for what we need or what we want!

Why are Christians looking for answers to this problem outside of the Bible, the book that changed their lives?  The Bible, a timeless book, has a design for a house of worship that does give the Christian church everything that they need –  yes, even in these modern times.  The Bible teaches that the scriptures are sufficient to give us what we need and not what we want.  God is our loving heavenly Father, who wants to take care of His children.  GOD gave us a blueprint pattern to follow, which was designed by HIM through David in the Old Testament.  It is a perfect space for Christian Worship today. Shouldn’t the Christian community follow the Bible in what we need as a house of worship and leave the idea of what we want to our personal lives?

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Did you know that there are Secrets in the Bible still being Discovered?

Posted by jdbsound on July 17, 2020

Does God say anything about modern church design?

What does the best sounding church for worship sound like?

Is it possible to have the best balance for speech, music and congregational singing?

Does the quality of the acoustics and sound system at your church honor God or Man?

The battle for a person’s soul is a constant war on many levels. The people involved are ministers, preachers, scholars, experts, archeologists, historians, prayer warriors, educators, and ordinary Christian people who provide different ways of bringing the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. The tools we have are Bibles, books, reading materials, colleges, universities, missions, donations, churches, multimedia, sound systems, and more.

Christians are taught in the sufficiency of scriptures. Many believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and never question it. Some of the knowledge in the Bible is still teaching us today. It is only now that we are learning how relevant it is for all Christians and Jews.

Since the beginning of when Jews, and later Christians, started to build larger spaces for teaching and worship, most projects would run into common problems. These problems have been like a plague for Synagogues and Churches alike. The solutions to those issues seem elusive or beyond reach and yet the remedies to most of those issues have always been in the Bible.

For the rest of this article,   Bible secrets in the open

By Joseph De Buglio

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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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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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Acoustical Quiz

Posted by jdbsound on April 9, 2020

  1.  What is the difference between sound absorption and phase cancellation?
  2. How many decibels is equal to a coefficient value of 1 in decibels?
  3. How much does sound decay when you double the distance outdoors in decibels?
  4. How much does sound decay over distance when indoors in decibels?
  5. When you double the number of loudspeakers of the same power, how much does the sound increase in decibels?
  6. When you have two loudspeaker side by side and wire one speaker out of phase from the other, how much is the sound reduction in decibels?

When you know the answers, write them in the comment box below.

In the meantime – – – enjoy.

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Article Published in Church Sound Magazine

Posted by jdbsound on March 30, 2020

Late last year, Kevin Young, freelance music and tech writer, professional musician, and composer ask to write up a profile article on JdB Sound Acoustics.  After several interviews, he submitting the article to Church Sound Magazine which is part of Pro Sound Web.  Pro Sound Web has published a number of my projects over the years and they are a great resource for churches for all things about church sound, lighting, and AV.

Removing Barriers: The Motivations Of Long-Time Worship Acoustics & Systems Designer Joseph De Buglio

Post below any comments, questions about the article or about church sound in general.

Link to a PDF version of the article. Removing Barriers

Thank you.

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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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The Scientific Foreknowledge the Bible Teaches about Church Sound?

Posted by jdbsound on July 26, 2019

Here is a fresh look at Solomon’s Temple and how it relates to Modern Churches today. Here is link to a 13 page article about church acoustics from the Bible’s point of view.
The Scientific Foreknowledge the Bible Teaches about Sound and Acoustics?

Introduction

The quality of church worship is critical to the health of a church.  The better the excellence of worship is, the stronger the church will be.  Quality of worship is not about packing the church full of people for the sake of filling a worship space so much that it becomes necessary to keep building bigger buildings.  We worship God, not buildings or pastors or knowledge.  It is the Gospel, the Bible that leads us to God.  It is God’s words that keep us in a relationship with Him.  The strength of a church is not measured in numbers in the seats or money.  Jesus taught us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and shelter the homeless.  The Bible teaches over and over again that we are to live by example (Psalms 1:1-6), to be a light in the world (Matt 5:16), when they see that we are different (James 2:14-26), it will be that difference that will attract people to God.

The strength of a church is measured by how people support each other, and by how much a congregation supports each other as a family first, as brothers and sisters, and then the local community.  Is the church feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and sheltering the homeless?  The modern version of Jesus teaching for us in countries with a democracy and wealth should look like this.  Is the church cutting lawns, clearing driveways, cleaning people’s homes, fixing up members and non-members homes?  How often are church members spending time with the widows, the singles who have never had a partner, or the elderly?  Are these not the things included in what Jesus told us to do?  Are not these the same teachings in the Old Testament?  This is just a small sample of how Christianity should look like to the secular world.

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After reading the full article, please comment on it. We want to get this right as the church community needs this knowledge. If you have any questions, want to learn more or see a presentation about Solomon’s Temple and the Modern Church, contact me here – jdb@jdbsound.com

You church may be one of those that has great sound for all parts of the worship service. If it is, you should let everyone know as it will help to bring more people in. You should let us know so we can tell others. If you find this article helpful, please pass it on. Pass it on to your pastor, your friends and family. Give them the chance to learn what God can do for them today!

Thank you.

All modern churches can benefit from Biblical Acoustics
All older churches can benefit from Biblical Acoustics

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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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The Best Worship Experiences

Posted by jdbsound on March 25, 2019

What would you prefer? A church were you can have the best worship experience or a church that looks amazing?

The organist of this church pulled every stop, pushed the peddles all the way down and the he had trouble hearing the organ just 20 feet away. At the back of the church at the sound booth, the organ was barely audible. I used a SPL meter, put it about 3 feet over my head at the back of the church and the congregational singing peaked at 105dB several time during a familiar hymn. There was no one behind us. There have been other times at other church where I designed or upgraded their acoustics were the congregation is singing acapella and they were peaking at 106dB. The good news is, singing like that doesn’t hurt your hearing.

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Acoustics are like an Onion

Posted by jdbsound on March 2, 2019

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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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Church Ceiling Height Chart

Posted by jdbsound on December 26, 2018

There are three key parts to what happens in church worship.  There is the spoken word, there is collaborative/congregational singing, and there is performance singing.  For a worship space to support these three events where speech is first, then congregational singing and performance singing, you need a specific design and dimensions to support these functions well.  High-quality speech should not come at the expense of the music.  Music should not come at the cost of speech.  There is a balance, and part of that balance is to have enough ceiling height to support both speech and music in a contained space.

Unfortunately, churches these days are building lower and lower ceilings in their worship spaces.  A person can assume that when so many churches have experienced only poor quality acoustics, many wonder what is the point of building a taller worship space.

When a church builds a low ceiling, it limits congregational singing and it makes you more dependent on technology, but guess what!  The same things that limit congregational singing are what also limits the performance of the technology we affectionately call the sound systems.  So, instead of getting 100% out of your high quality, expensive sound system, you’re getting only 40 to 60% of the sound systems’ true performance abilities.  It is actually cheaper to build higher than the added cost of un-needed audio technology to make up the difference.   The chart below should clear the air as to the minimum height your next church should be. If you can afford to build higher, do it.  Also, a taller worship space does not mean being stuck with longer reverb times. A higher ceiling means natural room reverberation can be adjustable and is tune-able.  With a taller ceiling, you can change the frequency response of the whole room without needing a sound system or equalizer.

Minimum Church Ceiling height Chart.JPG

Church height is important for a worship space.  One of the biggest parts of worship is singing.  Congregational singing to be specific.  When singing as a group, several elements are required for a good and healthy worship experience.  There is chorusing, harmony, sound volume,or loudness of the singing and being able to hear yourself as well as the people around you.  When all of these elements are in balance, the worship experience is like no other.  The majority of people get a lot of satisfaction from the singing experience during worshiping in rooms that have ceiling heights that match the size of the seating capacity of the worship space. The above chart is the minimum of interior ceiling heights.  If you want to build higher, you can as the singing experience gets even better.

High ceilings allow for better sound system performance with less expensive sound equipment. (A lot of pro audio contractors, installers and equipment manufacturers don’t like hearing this.)  Higher ceiling permits better gain before feedback and it becomes easier to isolate drums and floor monitors. The performance of the sound system is much better too when that is coupled with a good quality acoustical management system.

There are economic advantages too.  The higher the ceiling, the cheaper it is to heat and cool when using a vertical displacement HVAC type system which is specifically designed for large gathering spaces for people.  Such systems cost less to install, they use smaller HVAC components and cost about 30 to 40% less to operate annually.  In addition, the cooling systems last 2 to 3 times longer before needing to be replaced. In a way, building higher cost less both in cost and in operation over time.

Another thing to consider. If building new, don’t build a flat ceiling that is parallel to the floor. (and it doesn’t count of you put in a sloping floor.)  Many churches that are moving into commercial buildings are learning the hard way that flat ceilings limit the quality of live musical performances and congregational singing.  Sure, there are acoustical panels that can slightly improve the room for amplified sound, but the cost doesn’t justify the returns.  There is little that can help congregational singing even if you have the height. Vertical standing waves are harder to manage than a horizontal standing wave. If you know what you are doing, horizontal standing waves can be controlled to create an outstanding room.  It is part of the formula for that perfect worship space.  Funny though, most concert musicians that perform in a church that I have fixed, they often make comments like, “I wish our concert hall sounded and performed as well.”  That is almost like saying, “concert halls make for lousy worship space but worship spaces can perform better than a concert hall.”

Finally, there is the Biblical standard for church sound.  For a 160 seat church as detailed in the Bible, the Biblical standard is the width of the room is to be 50% of the length and the height of the room should be 75% of the length.  However, we now know that anything over 45 feet high and less than 2000 seating, the extra height is not needed.  It is the length to width ratio of 2:1 is key and a constant height of 45 feet or 13.7 meters.  For those who don’t want long rooms, because of sound systems, we can use a length of width ratio of 2:1.7 or a room that is 100 x 70, and you must always use the room lengthways or you destroy congregational singing and speech.

God gave us the laws of physics for a reason.  When we obey God, we reap the benefits.  When we ignore God’s teaching, you will have your reward here on earth.  The sanctuary of a church is a battlefield where the hearts, minds, and souls of people can be adding or subtracting people from the Kingdom of God.  The acoustics of a church plays an important part in either adding or subtracting people.  The change is slow and often not noticed, but when you visit hundreds of churches that have their worship spaces upgraded to the standards of the Bible as best as possible, there have always been an increase years later, ( unless there have been leadership or church split issues.)

If you can, to get a better picture of planning a new church, read this article on Gods Authority in Church Design.

*Note* In most countries that have freedom of religion laws, the worship space portion of a church building has no roof heights limits regardless of local city building height restrictions. 

**Note** The data is based on 1200 churches from around the world. 

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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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Dead Spots – Sound System or Acoustics?

Posted by jdbsound on April 9, 2018

An unwelcomed guest in any church is Mr. Deadspots. Unfortunately, deadspots in churches are more common than you think. There are two main types of deadspots. Some are frequency related/comb filtering interference and others are dips in sound levels greater that 6dB created by the room.

It is common to see frequency related deadspots in Left/Right sound system regardless if they are Line Arrays or point and shoot speakers. These deadspots are created by interference patterns in a mono speech system as a persons voice is always mono.  These deadspots are where you shift from one foot to another and notice a sound change. In these cases it becomes a problem when on one foot you hear the highs but not the lows. When you shift your position onto the other foot, you hear the lows and the highs disappear. People with hearing aids or early stages of hearing lose notice this the most. People with good hearing notice the change too but learn quickly to put up with it. Some young people think of it as a passive noise filter. If the music is too bright, stand to one side of your seating position. If the music is too boomy, shift to the other side of your seating position. Really! Isn’t that like buying a headset and controlling the sound changes with what angle you tilt your head. It might sound like a great idea until you find yourself with a lot of neck pain. No thank you.

Sound level dips are usually acoustically related. These are created with standing waves, bass building up, hollow walls, room corners, and parallel surfaces that include walls, ceilings and floors and concaved surfaces. In all of these cases, often mid and bass energy build up and the highs are absorbed with carpets, padded pews and people. By the nature of churches and how they are used, carpeted floors and padded seating often represents how the church sounds when it is 50% full. That means that if your attendance is often over 50%, the effects of padded seating and carpeted floors has little to no impact. If church attendance is often over 70% a carpeted floor makes the room more intimate during times of prayer and solemn reverence. In the end, carpets and padded seating is a good thing.

However, because of people in the room, once that room attendance is above 50% the people absorb enough highs that extra mids and bass energy is left behind as is being amplified between parallel surfaces. This excess energy automatically masks the highs. When the highs are masked, speech and music intelligibility drops. The kicker is, if you go around the room with a sound level meter, often the sound levels don’t drop much, even when you stand in a spot where the highs (when you measure just the highs) drop off over 6dB. That is because the excess bass energy is so strong that it fools the sound meter as the meter is reading an average sound level. When you take sound level readings by frequency, then you notice the high number of deadspots in the room. Get a tone generator in a cell phone or computer app and play a constant tone at 55dB at 500 Hertz, 1000 Hertz and 3000 Hertz and then start walking around. At 500 Hertz you shouldn’t notice much of change until you get close to walls. At 1000 Hertz you will notice more changes. At 3000 Hertz, if you are hearing a lot of changes, imagine what 25% of your church audience is experiencing.

Here is a church that had both acoustical and sound system created deadspots, with a central cluster. By nature of a central cluster, in a good room, it gives the best coverage and performance for speech. There is no better way to design a church sound system unless your ceiling is less than 14 ft. high. Choice of speakers, coverage patterns and speaker placement impacts sound too but these are mainly tone qualities and gain before feedback related. It may have up to a 2 or 3% impact on overall intelligibility as well.

corner view pano Ebeneezer Church_s

In this church example, it already has a fairly good quality speaker system in the ideal location for the room. It is designed as a central cluster and by nature, in this setup, it should perform well. However, it didn’t matter if you used the main speaker system or used portable speakers on stands, with any sound amplified you could find deadspots all over the room. On top of that, if you raised your voice in the room, once you were more than 18 feet from someone, understand what was being said was difficult to impossible depending on dictions of the person talking and how good is one’s hearing. When the proper acoustical fix was applied, all of those problems went away and the church didn’t need to upgrade the speaker system.

The church decided to leave the sound system alone as the gain before feedback improved and all of the deadspots disappeared. Since this is a traditional church that has no intentions to do anything contemporary, the acoustical fix was designed to not change the overall reverb time. Before and after reverb time remained about the same. 1.7 seconds.  It was the frequency response of the room that saw a major change. As the graphs shows below, where the mixer for the worship space was located, it was also one of many spots where weird measurements were recorded before. We found dozens of spots where the room measurements went squirrely. This is typical of the results of measuring a Left/Right speaker system, not a cluster system. These weird results were a result of room acoustics and not the sound system.  We used our own test speaker for all room testing.

Sound Booth Before and After

After checking our test equipment for errors, it was then realized that by just moving the mic over a few inches, you would get a very different result. In some places, the sound was perfectly fine but move over a few inches and it was not. Our ears are about 8 inches apart. In one row of seating, the largest distance we could move the test mic between a good spot and bad spot was 14 inches. Pew seating is 18 inches.  Every seating position had both good and bad sound. What we were measuring was sound masking in the mids and lows.  The energy was so strong that it masked the highs.  Not only that but the highs were most likely also being canceled from nearby wall reflection between 1800 to 5000 Hertz.  It gave the impression that there was something wrong with the sound system.

In this church, people marked their seating positions by placing personal pillows in spots where the sound was better. Sure enough, testing these spots showed better sound before the acoustical treatment was applied. After the acoustical system was installed, the sound was the same no matter where you sat including the sound booth.

Deadspots in churches are more often a result of worship space design and not a result of sound system design (unless you have the wrong speaker system design for your room). When a church replaces a well-designed sound within 10 years, and have little to no overall improvement after an upgrade, that should be a BIG RED FLAG that you most likely have a serious acoustical problem and no amount of money spent on the sound system can make those problems go away. Besides, these days, acoustical fixes cost less than sound system fixes. As a caveat, our experience has been this. Churches that have fixed their acoustics and then wanted on to expand their music programs, they were able to upscale their sound system with a much higher budget as they upgraded, it actually lead to better performance rather than an exchange of one set of problems for another.

Bottom line is, get your church properly tested. Have someone who knows how to properly diagnose the data, and then design your church a proper acoustical management system. Install the acoustical system and watch the congregation respond and grow. Don’t be surprised if other churches want to use your church for musical and recording events. Your property value may go up too.

Note – The acoustical system is made up of 8 and 12 inch half round plaster covered foam diffusers on 3 walls.  The side walls use a gradient pattern to maximize room performance. On the back wall there are 24 units of 7 ft. x 2 ft. x 18 inch plaster covered foam diffusers that are hollow which allows for additional passive room equalizing in the near future. Project completed by church members.

By Joseph De Buglio
JdB Sound Acoustics

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Where are the Carboard Tubes

Posted by jdbsound on August 28, 2017

Churches use a lot of Cardboard Tubes in acoustical room fixes because they are very effective in getting the room performance they want and need.  Cardboard Tube not only outperform all other acoustical products in churches but they are also the most affordable.  There is nothing that can do what half-round tubes can do, even at 40 times the cost.

Ok then, what if you don’t like the look of cardboard tubes around your worship space.  Here is an option some churches have been willing to spend a little extra for.

image10

These look like standard 5 inch deep absorbing panels.  They are not.  These are Sono Tubes mounted in a wooden frame and covered with cloth.

image9

The cloth was an added expense and it was worth it.  The fire rated cloth is expensive and before covering the panels, you want to make sure the acoustical system is going to work and work it did.  The church is very happy with the results and they are enjoying the room.

image8

This is what the installation looked like before it was covered.  The wooden frame has no effect on the performance of the half round tubes.  The cloth only affects frequencies above 10,000 Hertz which means they have no effect on speech or music.  In this installation, three sizes of tubes were used.

image7

At the bottom is a huge video wall screen.  On the wall are the Sono Tubes.  Yes, the tubes will work behind a vinyl screen.  If you notice the pattern of the diffusers on the wall. that pattern was needed to control lower mids and bass sound energy.  This pattern was pretested in our test room.

northside church video wall

Here is the finished installation of the video system.  It takes three projectors for each screen.  The center screen is a video wall.

Photos courtesy of Frederic Lachance of Northside Church in Coquitlam BC, 2017.

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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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New Church Sound System Equalization Schedule

Posted by jdbsound on February 17, 2016

Notice to all Clients of JdB Sound Acoustics.

If you are in a new church building or you have done major renovations in your church, you will have to re-equalize the sound system many times in the first few years.  Here is the schedule you should follow.

  1. First-year – After the 1st month, 3rd month, 6th month, 9th month and 12th month
  2. The second-year – After the 4th month, 8th month and 12th month.
  3. Third-year – same as year 2
  4. The fourth-year – after the 6th and 12 months.
  5. Fifth-year – same as year 4
  6. Sixth to the seventh year, every 1 each.
  7. After that, do touchup to do loudspeaker decay drifts. (as speakers get older, the surrounds and cone can become stiffer and less compliant and that changes the frequency response of the speaker.  Equalization often compensates for mechanical aging.)

It takes up to ten years for most buildings to fully cure or longer depending on how much concrete and wood is used in the walls and floors.  For that reason, the humidity of the church becomes lower and lower as the church ages which also changes the sound of the worship space.

Also, depending on the climate area you are in, you should be re-equalizing your church sound system for each season.  more so the further you are from the equator.  If you have a digital processor or mixer, you can have presets for the room changes.

If your church is somewhat airtight and the HVAC system is properly designed to maintain temperature, even during worship services, the tuning cycle after 6 years can be relaxed for Displacement HVAC systems.

Joseph De Buglio

 

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True of False about new Christians

Posted by jdbsound on December 4, 2015

True of False.

Most new Christian first heard about Christianity through a sound system when visiting a church or from TV or some other multi-media.

Please write your comments below.

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Connecting Cell Phones or consumer playback devices to a Sound System

Posted by jdbsound on November 8, 2015

Well, it finally happened to me.  After warning other people for years to use a Direct Box when connecting to a sound system, what did I do, connected an IPad to a mixer with an adaptor from 1/8th stereo to 2 channels of Balanced outs.  Then boom, the IPad headphone output was fried.  How?  The mixer had global Phantom power on all of the channels and because I went into the balanced inputs rather than line level 1/4 inch inputs, the voltage of the phantom power fried the IPad.

When I brought my IPad in for repairs, fortunately it was just the headset circuit that was damaged.  The owner of the repair store said that he had seen this problem before with other IPads, computers, portable CD players and cell phones.  With one person, their IPad was so damaged that the IPad had to have the main board repaired too.  Ouch.

Fortunately, there are a few direct boxes you can use that are purpose made for connecting from consumer to pro audio equipment.  What you want is a direct box that will give you 1/8th stereo and RCA two channel input to two channel stereo outputs via XLR’s.  Some model have a switch for stereo or mono outputs.  Pad switches and ground lifts are a must as well.

On this project we were firing up the speaker system for the first time. I needed stereo output and we used an older mixer that was in storage.  We hooked up to two channel and we were outputting to stereo (even though this will be a mono system.)  OK, I wanted to impress the people who were in the room at the time.  The demo and initial speaker setup was a great success but I happened to remove the connections from the mixer while the mixer was still on.  Not sure if the unplugging or the circuit that was heated up so much that when it cooled, it came apart that signed the connection failure but the next time I turned on my IPad to hear something, it would not work.

Either way, whether you are using a PC, Laptop, Cell phone, IPad, IPod or any consumer product that has 1/8 or RCA outputs, get a proper Direct box.  They range in price from $69 to $160.  That is cheap insurance considering that fixing my IPad cost about $100.00 and 7 days to get the parts to repair it.

For sound quality and extra insurance, get DI boxes that have transformers on the input or output side.

Joseph De Buglio

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

Posted by jdbsound on May 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heb 5:11 – 14 and 1Co 3:1 -3

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

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

By Joseph De Buglio

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

Posted by jdbsound on April 26, 2015

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

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

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

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

Joseph De Buglio

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