It’s too loud!
I cringe when I hear these words and not because of the disparate views of how loud worship should be. What makes me cringe is the inescapable fact that it’s difficult to address volume issues AND make everyone happy.
Therein lies the rub. How do we achieve the mystical and elusive volume balance that pleases our congregation while satisfying the needs of our platform musicians and singers? Ultimately we all desire a musical experience that frees our people to worship with no distractions.
Too loud detracts from worship.
In a perfect world, the audio engineer would have complete control of what the congregation heard while each musician would have complete control of what they heard. What is this lofty concept!? Why dear pilgrim, it is known as The Quiet Stage.
Ah yes, the quiet stage. Ponce de Leon searched many years for the quiet stage, finally abandoning this hopeless quest in lieu of the fountain of youth (having come to the conclusion that the fountain was much more likely to actually exist.) But we have something that Ponce did not have. Modern technology can provide us the control we need to achieve this aural dream.
The quiet stage is just that… a collection of technologies that allow us to greatly reduce the on-platform volume in a given worship or ministry situation with the end result being the placement of ultimate volume control in the hands of the soundperson. Or… stuff that makes the stage quieter.
Audio engineers are often handicapped by the fact that stage monitors, drum kits and guitar amps on stage are so loud, they have to mix everything else above them. In the volume wars, he has already lost the battle. The concept of the quiet stage provides the weary audio engineer and the beleaguered congregation hope. Let’s take a look at two major benefits of the quiet stage.
1. The sound in the house is exactly what the audio engineer wants it to be and not a compromise between the main speakers and the on-stage volume.
2. The musicians and singers on the platform hear exactly what they want to hear at whatever volume they want to hear it.
Achieving these goals is easier than you think. If we break the quiet stage down into its component parts, it looks like this. The source, the monitor and the mix. The source is an instrument or vocal on the platform. The monitor allows us to hear our performance while the mix controls how much of each instrument or vocal we hear in our monitors. Current technology allows us to address each of these components in completely new ways providing the means to realize the quiet stage. It may not be the fountain of youth, but it will cut down on cringing.
Modern musical instrument technology provides for a digital equivalent of almost any existing acoustic instrument. When making the decision to replace any acoustic instrument with its digital counterpart, there are things to consider. Does it sound as good as the real thing? Is it more convenient to use? Then there are the artistic concerns. Does the drummer want to play digital drums or the guitarist give up their amp? Does the pianist feel as comfortable on a digital piano as they do on an acoustic grand? Almost any of these instruments, when approached on their own unique terms, can provide flexibility and expression far beyond their acoustic counterpart. Plus, when all the sound an instrument makes comes out of a pair of ” audio jacks, it is a simple matter to control the volume on stage…and in the congregation.
In-ear monitors are the heroes of the quiet stage allowing us to replace our loud stage monitors with small, nearly invisible headphones that fit in our ears. They are essentially private and the audience never hears what the musician is hearing. This is the point at which the quiet stage is realized. When you utilize digital instruments that produce no acoustic sound along with in-ear monitors, you eliminate volume altogether. Vocals, acoustic instruments and the tap of drum pads is really the extent of what is heard on stage and usually poses no problem for the sound engineer.
Wouldn’t it be great if you, as a musician, were given ultimate and complete control of what you heard in your monitor system? Never having to try to catch the sound person’s attention to get more of you, or less of someone else? Personal monitor systems currently available allow you to do just that. Depending on how elaborate a system you purchase, personal monitor systems can provide each musician their own independent monitor mixer and volume control.
The combination of virtually silent digital instruments played by musicians with control of their own personal in-ear monitor mix gives you a powerful arsenal of tools with which to fight and win the volume wars. In the next issue, we will take a detailed step by step look at creating your own vision of the quiet stage.