I can’t begin to count the amount of times I have been told the sound for the church service, festival, program, or what have you was TOO LOUD! What are some possible solutions to this issue? Well, I hope to help give you a few suggestions I have found helped over the years. Let’s get plugged into leadership and see if we can turn up our leadership and turn down the volume.
You may find it helpful to read the conclusion first(strange I know), and then read back through the rest of the post.
I was working for a sound company a few years ago, and we were booked to run for the Mississippi All-Stars. They had their own sound engineer, and it was my job to help him do anything he needed. I was the system expert. If he needed any adjustments to the system, it was my job to make those for him. Basically, I didn’t have to do much. My experience had given me the tools to tune things in just right, which made it so all he had to do was a few personal minor adjustments and he was ready. It was a great show! At the end of the night, one person reached around me and yelled at the sound engineer “That was the worst show ever! It was way too loud!” Needless to say, the sound engineer didn’t take it too well! He snapped right back at the guy! I was left feeling awkward standing in the middle of the 2 of them. The experience I just had helped me to realize even the “big guys” get the same complaint.
I hope to give you a few things you can try that will at least have this complaint happen less often. There will always be people that just want to complain and set their sites directly on they sound engineer. I have found if you are getting this complaint from multiple people on a regular basis, there are a few things other than just “turning it down” you can try.
1. It’s too loud sometimes means, “there is too much low end”
Without going into too much detail I will help give you a context for what I mean. If you are a more experienced sound engineer you can skip the next few lines. An audio frequency or audible frequency is characterized as a periodic vibration whose frequency is audible to the average human. The SI unit of audio frequency is the hertz (Hz). It is the property of sound most determines pitch. (Source) Think of your radio in your car. There is a control for the low, mids, and high. The low is the bass frequencies(the thump), the mid-range is where most of the instruments sit, and the high is the really high pitched sounds. Try adjusting these next time you are in the car, and just listen to what happens.
If you are getting the complaint “It is too loud,” you might just need to turn down the bass guitar, kick drum, and the left side of the keyboard. People don’t often know enough to say this; they just know it hurts or feels bad. Personally, I like to feel the bass in my chest, but most people do not. In an attempt to change the discomfort, they complain about the volume, when really it is too much low end in the mix.
2. It’s too loud sometimes means, “The mix is bad”
The mix is the blend of instruments and their levels. There is a lot that goes into a “good” mix. There are many variables, too many to go into here. I was asked by a church to come in and “tune” their system. The first thing I did was to go to the drum set and started tuning the drums. The pastor that hired me walked in and complained I was just “messing around”. What I was really was doing, was getting the best sound at the source as I could. This would make it easier to mix at the board. With a good source sound and good microphone placement, the mixing at the board becomes a little easier. Again, people can’t really tell you what about the mix is making it “bad” so they just say that it is too loud. As an engineer, worship leader, or pastor if you are getting this complaint and really feel like there is not too much low end, it might be that your engineers need some training(something I could help you with). There are also some really great sites that help with training in this area. Groove 3 is by far my favorite one. Recording Revolution is another that I recommend. You could also have someone from a local sound company come in and give you some training.
3. “It’s too loud” sometimes means, “Turn it down”