Setting Up Monitors At Church
Being in a worship team for over 9 years now, I have really come to realize how important it is to have your own monitor. As a worship team, it is very important to be able to hear each other, as well as yourself. A drummer will not have this problem as much as the others; however it is still important for him/her to be able to hear others. As a drummer, it is very hard to play on time and with the right dynamics if you cannot hear the other members. For the melodic musicians, it is super important to be able to hear the specific key the song is in, as well as the notes they are playing. For the singers, it is crucial that they hear the band so they can sing in the correct key and tone. So with this being such an important issue, how do you set up these monitors to get the best results?
Who Gets A Monitor?
First things first, check how many working monitors you have in your church. The ideal set up would be giving each member of the worship team their own monitor. However, this can be very cost consuming, so there are ways around it. For example, if you have more than one singer, they can usually share a monitor, same goes for the rhythm section. If you have a conga player along with a drummer, they can usually get away with sharing one monitor. You can often get by with the bass player and dummer sharing a monitor. The most important musicians in the worship team are the leader(s), and the rhythm player(s). These are usually the ones who drive the music, so if they are having troubles hearing the whole feeling and sound may be lost!
Settings and Distances Between Monitors
With years of experience in this field, I have come to realize the importance of where you actually set these monitors up. The distance and angle can really change the sound on the stage, as well as the sound in the congregation (house). Ideally, you want to set them up so you can hear them clearly. For the drummer, you will want to set his/her monitor up to the left or right of them. Angle it so it is facing them, allowing a clear path for the sound to travel (try not to let music stands get in the way). The lead guitarists, singers, and other musicians that are standing, should have similar set ups. Make sure they are angled upwards to direct the sound towards their ears. All in all, the monitors should be around 2-4 feet away from the musician, no more. This will cause the musician to not be able to hear, resulting in a volume increase on the monitor. This could result in a muddy sounding stage. If you are experiencing this, gates often can help.
Make sure you spread the monitors out evenly. Clumping them together will mix the sounds up. Keep at least 5-10 feet between each monitor. If you have a smaller sanctuary, you may want to consider lowering the overall volume, or reducing the amount of monitors you use. You want to make sure you do not face the monitors any more than 45 degrees towards the congregation. This will result in an uneven mix in the house. The sound techs are equalizing 2 things, the stage sound for the musicians, and the house sound for the congregation. Having a monitor at an angle that faces the congregation will mess with the sound in the house. So make sure you have the monitors facing the stage only! If you are running an in-ear-monitor system, you gladly do not have too much to worry about on this matter.
Another key thing to remember when setting up monitors is the distance from the walls. Sound waves bounce off of walls and change direction. If you have a monitor that is directly facing the wall, you may want to turn it away. Hanging acoustic material can be used to absorb these reflections. This will avoid any unnecessary sounds bouncing the wrong way! Also, remember to hide those cords! Nothing is worse than a messy stage, so when you can, hide any cords you have.
The Monitor Mix
The mix is very personal to every musician. Remember that the whole point of monitors is to allow each musician to hear them selves first and the rest of the team second! Make sure you have an even sound in all the monitors first, capturing the whole team on an even note. This way you have a balance throughout the whole stage. Then, increase each member’s volume accordingly. Each person is different, so you may find some variety in the way each on sets up his/her monitor. Just make sure you do not over power everything. To high a volume on the monitors will not only sound bad on the stage, but it will encourage faster and louder playing for the whole team. Also, the sound in the congregation will be affected as well.
When every monitor is set up correctly, and mixed properly, the worship team will sound better, encouraging more energy and soul in the music. You will be surprised how much better a team will sound if they can hear each other well. The key to all of this is communication. Make sure you are communicating with the team throughout the sound check, asking what each individual wants.
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