It’s Too Loud

Here’s a loaded question: How loud is too loud? Now we’re hitting on a touchy subject. There is no absolute or easy answer to it either. My approach to this issue is this:
I feel there are two levels of volume. The first being “Listening Level”. This is a nice volume level that allows the congregation to sit there comfortably and enjoy the show that’s going on, on the stage. This is perfect for some churches, maybe yours. The second level is “Participation Level”. This volume level will be somewhat louder than listening level. It tends to bring the congregation on to the stage instead of watching the stage. They will start to feel the music as it engulfs them. You need to know what’s best for your church.

I read an article written by Dwight T. Whitworth, Worship and Fine Arts Pastor of the First Commonwealth Church in Richmond, Virginia. I don’t know Dwight personally, but I really liked what he had to say on this subject …

“Your soundman needs to understand your heart and philosophy of sound. He needs to understand and hear it from you what your purpose is in mixing and giving a great ministry product to the people during the services. They don’t understand sometimes why people do not sing loudly or worship uninhibitedly when the music is too soft and people can hear them or everyone is looking at them because they are singing too loud. He needs to hear your instructions about why you want the music to “encapsulate” the worshipper to make him “feel” the music and enjoy his worship experience.”

Everything in life, including audio, requires balance. These theories, or opinions, must be adapted to your specific needs. What decibel level “Listening Level” and “Participation Level” is will vary from church to church and meeting to meeting. They are just an approach to find what works best for you and those listening.

I believe that a soundman needs to be spiritually in tune with what is going on as well. The Holy Spirit will guide you and give you intuition. I like what pastor Dwight has to say about this as well …

“ . . . if the (soundman) is not ready spiritually, the people will hear the music coming from the sound system with a lack of “anointing”. How can this be? I have found in my experience that when my soundman is ready spiritually, that he becomes a worshipper and wants others to experience what he is experiencing and will do everything that he can to see that they do from his perspective and advantage. He will keep and “eagle eye” on the praise leader or music director and watch him for directions and instructions while at the same time he observant to the congregation and how they are receiving the sound. If they seem lackluster and on the perimeter of worship, he might sweeten or fatten the sound or even increase the gain. Are you trying to “work up” something? No, I’m wanting the listener, in this case the worshipper, to not have to work at straining to listen and make it easier on him to enjoy the worship experience. Experience has shown that when sound technicians do this then people get so involved into worship that they couldn’t care less about how “loud” the sound was. Why? Because they were hearing it through the “anointing.” They were being fed sound through an anointed and praying sound technician.”

Keep in mind we don’t want to hurt people. if you are getting repeated complaints by more than one or two people you may want to pull it back a bit. If it’s just people complaining for the sake of complaining then they will eventually get over it and hopefully enter in to worship. Watch your congregation, their participation level will tell you a lot.