The Beginner’s Guide to Sound System Engineering

All you need to do is set up all of the instruments (a voice is an instrument) so that they sound the way that they should, and blend with the other instruments ... Easy … right?

The Beginner’s Guide to Sound System Engineering
Too many engineers turn too many instruments up, until there is no room. This just makes it muddy and incomprehensible. Close your eyes and listen. Can you pick out each instrument?
The Beginner’s Guide to Sound System Engineering
Too many engineers turn too many instruments up, until there is no room. This just makes it muddy and incomprehensible. Close your eyes and listen. Can you pick out each instrument?

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The Beginner’s Guide to Sound System Engineering

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So, you just became the sound engineer at a new church.

We will assume that you have run sound before. You know how to turn up the microphone for people and instruments, but you want to take your skill to the next level.

It really is pretty easy.

There is a big debate among amateurs as to where to roll off, or should you roll off unused frequencies.

I know it doesn’t look that way, as you stare at all of those knobs in front of you, but if you take it one step at a time, you will see just how easy it can be.

In the beginning, it may not sound like you want, or very good, but it will. Trust me.

We purchased a new audio console a couple of months ago, and I am just getting things to sound the way that I want. When your system is installed, it is EQ’d for the room. All you need to do is set up all of the instruments (a voice is an instrument) so that they sound the way that they should, and blend with the other instruments, to give you the sound that you are looking for.

Then all you have to do is control the volume faders during service. Easy … right?

Once you have everything plugged in, you can begin.

Let’s start with the bass. Go to a computer and type bass equalization in a search window. Go down to where it says “The Art of Bass EQ,” at http://www.behindthemixer.com/art-bass-eq-using-eight-key-frequency-ranges/.

Chris does a good job of explaining EQ’ing and where this instrument fits into the mix. You can get more information from Chris here. I would also sign up for his guide: 32-Point Soundcheck Checklist. I give this to every new trainee.

Next, type in how to EQ instruments, and click on images. Find a few frequency charts that you understand, and print them out for reference. Also on this page, you will find a magic frequency guide.

Print it as well. It is very useful when setting up an instrument to bring out its sweet spot. Most people can hear 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.

So, we will stay in this range.

Let’s go back to the bass.

I start by rolling off everything below 30 Hz. It is my opinion that even with a good subwoofer, anything below 30 Hz makes it sound muddy. The bottom end of crisp bass is about 45 Hz. Add a little around 500-700 Hz and a bit at 2,500 Hz, then roll off everything above 8,000 Hz.


More About Ralph Hicks
Ralph Hicks is the Tech Director for the West Asheville Baptist Church, based in Asheville, N.C. He started serving in church when he was seven and has been a part of the volunteer staff ever since. After singing in church and running sound for 20 years, he moved behind the camera where he spent several years. He was the church's Front of House Engineer, before becoming the Technical Director six years ago.
Get in Touch: [email protected]    More by Ralph Hicks
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Article Topics

Technology · Audio · Team Management · Team Development · Equalization · Frequencies · Instruments · Mixers · Sound System Engineering · Subfader · All Topics

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Comments

By Susan James on April 24, 2017

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