Turn the Volume DOWN!

Have you ever had someone threaten to leave the church if you didn’t turn the volume down during worship? I have.¬†During my tenure serving at EGC we had quite a few “ups and downs” in relation to volume levels. At one point, the issue got so hot the elders were called on to deal with it (for a church of nearly 1,000, that’s a big deal). To make matters more complicated, I was the one ultimately in charge of maintaining appropriate volume levels (though I’m not a sound tech). I’ve had lengthy conversations with leaders, members, sound techs, worship team members and irritated attendees about this.

In the next few posts, I am going to download some of the things I’ve learned about this issue. I hope you find them useful.

Turn the Volume Down!
Here are a few of the primary reasons why people want the volume turned down.

  • It’s too loud. (or the sound tech is deaf)
    OK. The fact is, sometimes it’s just too loud. The Master Volume needs to be turned down and the instruments should be remixed to a lower level. Excessively loud worship can be very distracting. There’s a point where the focus isn’t on the Lord, but on the clock – when worship will get over.
  • Bad mix. (or the sound tech is tone deaf)
    Unfortunately, this is often the primary reason people want to turn the sound down, at least in my opinion. Managing the audio for the worship team get’s more and more complex as you add people to the team. Complexity requires increased skill and experience. Many times, churches just don’t have someone of that caliber available. I know firsthand that what sounds like a ‘loud’ mix can sometimes be fixed with an experienced hand at the sound board. In these cases, turning the Master Volume down will take care of the ‘loudness’ in the room, and replace it with the problems I’ve noted in my next post entitled ‘Turn the Volume Up!’
  • Sensitive ears.
    One of my children has very sensitive hearing. What I’ve discovered is when there is going to be loud noises it greatly increases anxiety. It becomes distracting and on certain occasions, overwhelming. It seems to me that as people grow older they are either losing their hearing or becoming more sensitive in their hearing. That doesn’t mean loud worship only affects the older crowd, but an older crowd is certainly more likely to be impacted.
  • Physical challenges.
    When people have physical challenges that include migraines, anxiety, depression and the like, loud music can just be too much to handle. Often, these people won’t even go to church if they know there’s a chance their condition may get worse due to loud noises. I rarely have migraines, but sometimes struggle with bad headaches. When I do, things like the kick bass (the deep booming sound from the drums) seem to sound ten times louder than they really do.
  • Differing opinions.
    Years ago I remember taking my primary sound tech on a drive in my car. I turned on some worship music and asked him to adjust the bass the way he likes it (it was a bass button giving three bass options). He turned the bass to a 3 which blasted the bass as loud as it would go. After a moment of listening, I turned it to 2, which is where I preferred the bass to be while driving. Sometimes, the same is true in worship. Everybody has their own opinion on what worship should sound like – and many times the person running the sound has a different opinion than the pastor.
  • Bad equipment or acoustics.
    There is at least one more primary reason why people want the sound turned down – and it’s not because the sound is mixed wrong or the volume is too high. It’s because of substandard equipment or bad acoustics in the room. Unfortunately, quality sound equipment (speakers, microphones, stage monitors, cables, sound boards, amplifiers, etc.) costs a lot of money – and usually churches cut corners in this area either because they have to or due to wrong priorities. Additionally, there are a myriad of sound problems that may result from bad speaker placement, stage noise (the noise coming off of the monitors/amplifiers on stage rather than from the speakers), and bad acoustics. In these cases, ‘turning it down’ just doesn’t work. It will mean someone onstage can’t hear themselves or someone in the congregation can’t hear the worship leader. (see my next post entitled ‘Turn the Volume UP!’)

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