In many churches, the sound coming from the stage is louder than the house mix…and this is a problem. You will never experience a quality mix if stage noise is out of control.
There are three main causes of excessive stage noise:
- Uncontrolled acoustic drums
- Guitar amps
- Loud stage monitors
Good news is, there are simple ways to fix these problems so you can achieve balance between stage noise and your house mix.
When the acoustical energy coming from the drums is too much, you need some type of shield and sound absorption around the drums. You don’t need complete isolation, as some would believe. A five-foot drum shield with sound absorption panels behind the drums will make a world of difference.
Keep in mind, a drum shield alone is not going to help much. Without sound absorption panels behind the drums, a drum shield will just cause the sound to bounce around before reaching the listener at about the same intensity.
You also need to communicate with the drummer if they are playing too loud. I know, this is a hard thing to get across to a drummer that loves to beat the heck out of the drums, but keep at it. Find ways to help them realize that the drums actually sound better when control is used.
Important side note: Drums should always be mic’d, even if you are in a small room. There is no other way to get a full sound out of the kick, toms and snare. Learn how to mic and mix drums here.
An alternate way to make drums quieter is to use different sticks. Learn more here.
Guitar amps should be fully isolated. There really isn’t a benefit to hearing direct sound from the amp in the audience. There are several ways to take care of this:
Keep in mind, this will not do you any good unless you are using in-ear monitors. Otherwise, you will be running the guitar through monitor wedges and recreating the noise.
Stage Monitor Wedges
Most sound gurus would give you a hard time about using monitor wedges in the age of in-ear monitors. But, I prefer to use a mixture of in-ears and controlled monitor wedges.
At my church, all musicians use in-ear monitors and vocalists use monitor wedges. We find this to be a good solution because it enables the vocalists to ‘feel’ the room and engage with the congregation as they are leading.
If you are not using in-ear monitors at all, I definitely recommend transitioning your musicians. There is no other way to get control of the massive stage volume that comes as a result of your musicians needing to ‘hear themselves’.
Here’s a post on making the switch: Switching to In-Ear Monitors on a Budget
If you decide to keep the vocals on monitor wedges, here are a few things you can do to keep the volume down:
- Put ‘just enough’ of the instruments in the monitors for pitch/tempo reference. You don’t want the instruments fighting with the vocals in the vocal monitor…or they will just keep asking you to turn them up.
- Apply a low cut filter to the overall monitor mix at about 400Hz. Lower frequencies are omnidirectional, which makes them more prominent when it comes to monitors being heard in the congregation. Cutting low and low-mid frequencies will dramatically lower stage noise. You may even be able to go as high as 600Hz if your vocals don’t complain about it sounding too thin.
Keep in mind, I am in no way saying the vocals should only use monitor wedges. If your vocals are having a hard time hearing themselves without the stage monitors getting too loud, in-ears are probably the answer. Then, you can use ambient mics to help them ‘feel’ the room.
Did I miss something?
Is your excessive stage noise coming from something I have not mentioned in this post? Use the comments below to let me know.