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Working with Stage Monitors

The Main Issue

Monitor problems in church sound systems are a very common concern. They provide a great opportunity to destroy the sound for the congregation and create feedback. The problem is usually that the monitor speakers are too loud. This causes the monitor sound to feed into the room, which messes up the main sound in the church. It can also cause feedback.

The Effect Monitors Have On Main Sound

With a properly tuned, professional church sound system, the main speakers are electronically balanced to provide accurate sound in your room. The sound from a good constant directivity speaker system gives even frequency response throughout its front dispersion angles. Beyond these angles, the high and mid frequencies roll off to a lower volume. The low frequencies however are hardly reduced at all. This means that you get a lot of "muddy bass" sound from the back of the speakers. If the monitors are loud enough, this sound will destroy the quality of sound for the audience, especially in the front rows.

A Contributor to Feedback

Feedback is caused by sound coming from the speaker into the microphone, back into the speaker, back into the microphone .... until it reaches the level of feedback. This can be caused by the monitor speakers more easily than the main speakers since they are closer to the microphones. For more information on this, please refer to our section on controlling feedback in your church's sound system under Sound Advice.

Properly Adjusting Monitor Mixes and Volumes

Here is what usually happens. You start mixing the sound for the musicians and singers, then someone says, "I can't hear the piano". Obviously, the thing to do is to turn up the piano in the monitors. Now someone says, "I can't hear the guitar". So you turn the guitar up on the monitors. Then "I can't hear the leader's vocal". So you turn up the lead vocal. And so on and so on ... You get the picture.

What you really need to do is determine if the reason they can't hear an instrument is because it is not loud enough, or because everything else is too loud. Often it is the latter. The solution is to keep the monitor levels down low. Don't let them get too loud. Once they get too loud, all you have is noise and feedback. You have destroyed the quality of sound for everyone.

Keep in mind that monitor speakers are intended to provide a reference for people to keep in tune and in time. They will never give you the mix of sound which people in the congregation are hearing. Do you need to feed all the instruments and singers into the monitors, or just the ones which will provide this reference?


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