"Sound systems"... musical instruments?
  • In a recent job posting here, the parish lists as duties of the selected person the care of the instruments: organ, piano and sound system.

    I don't want anyone to comment on the parish situation or the job listing. My purpose here is to ask the questions:

    1) Is a sound system a musical instrument?
    2) Are there many musicians who have enough skill to see to the proper care of the sound system? (Since tuning an organ and a piano will usually involve outside contractors, would care of the sound system merely mean remembering when to call the contractor in for maintenance?
    3) Among those of you who have sound systems, do you try to be involved with it, or ignore it, or respect someone else's responsibility?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • No, a sound system is not a musical instrument, but it can be used to an instrument’s advantage (or detriment).

    I have to control ours (well, not always but the buck stops with me) and it is annoying. I think it’s just that I’m the guy who works in the church, ergo, it’s my responsibility (especially since no one else know how to control it and I’m generically tech savvy)

    It’s a blessing and a curse. I can keep abuses in check, but it’s yet another thing to have to worry about during Mass, and if something goes catastrophically wrong (which happens once or twice a year and is beyond my control) I get the heat for it.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,029
    OK... yes... Serviam is right. It is NOT an instrument... when used to an advantage it is nothing but a sound reinforcement system.

    HOWEVER... IMHO, it truly should only be used for reinforcing the homily and that is about it. We have one... and sometimes the priest puts his mouth so close to the mic that you cannot understand what is being said because it is being distorted. (overblown)... leveling a sound system (making the EQ so it is flat, which means all the frequencies are the same volume level) requires a white noise system and then a spectrum analyzer to set the system so no particular frequency is overpowering any other frequency. This is the art of true acoustic reinforcement.

    If instruments are relying on a sound system to be heard, then the said instruments aren't appropriate for use in a Catholic church.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    Yup. I don't want to spin things in a circle again… but I was recently reminded that people who are opposed to removing microphones often bring up others, that is those with hearing issues who benefit from sound systems. The reality is that the average parish and the average usage is going to be more like Francis's situation, at best, rather than a thoughtfully-designed system that gently picks up the sound from the altar, the loft or wherever musicians sing, and especially the pulpit with users who are consistently knowledgeable about the system (and ideally unable to do things like put their mouths too close).
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 480
    1) Sound systems can be musical instruments, insofar as beatboxing is a thing. I would obviously not consider them a liturgical instrument, but rather a tool like the lights etc.
    2) Every musician in the year 2022 should know how to operate and troubleshoot sound equipment. In my ideal world of course, there would be no speakers in my acoustically-perfect ideal church, only a wireless T-coil setup for the hard-of-hearing to feed their hearing aids or earphones. But here we are in the real world, where carpets and outdoor Masses and budget deficits and so on are present. It’s really pretty simple stuff and all one needs to know to troubleshoot Fr.‘s wireless mic, swap out a dead mic on the ambo, or rig a temporary system with multiple mics and a keyboard for some special event outdoors can be gleaned online for free. Either you can learn how to do these things right and have the confidence that the system won’t fall apart on you in a disruptive manner during the liturgy, or you can leave it to someone else with greater zeal, little knowledge, and no awareness of what’s suitable for what you are trying to do.
    3) This has varied. My first church job, we were live on the radio every week, so I dialed in and established the connection, checked no one had messed with mic levels, and then started my prelude, and kept an eye on things to make sure all the appropriate blinking lights were still green. If something went haywire, I fixed it, but this was a well-designed sound system with a stable congregation that didn’t attempt anything beyond a reverent liturgy with the same cast of characters most weeks. Other jobs I was just the organist and the sound system was basically a switch Father threw on and off in the sacristy and someone from the company who sold the system came in to make any changes. One job had a team of FT and PT staff who ran sound and also multi-camera webcasts of multiple liturgies throughout the week, with one guy in the house mixing sound for the congregation, and two more in an isolated room mixing and doing video for the stream. They took care of it all, but I knew enough to troubleshoot and operate for the odd funeral or wedding or choir retreat where they weren’t around.

    Regardless, if you know how these things work, either you can effect the changes you want to be made yourself, or you can speak intelligently with a professional about what needs to happen. In one place with a mic’d cantor, said mic died after 30 years. I asked the vendor for

    -a precise type of mic (cardioid condenser, which rejects sound not coming from the prescribed direction, and puts out a steady signal)

    -in a certain kind of mounting (double gooseneck, shockmount, to fit any size singer and prevent noise from moving a book around

    -with a strict lo-cut set at 80hz to kill thumPing and BumPing

    -gated to pick up a singer at 6-12” away, but nothing else (the organ)

    -with very aggressive compression and a limiter on it, to prevent The Voice from ever becoming overbearing, but keep it from fading to oblivion when the singer looks down extra-long at some tricky psalm pointing.

    Otherwise you’re at the mercy of whatever a vendor sells you, or whatever a volunteer who used to be in a band thinks is good enough.
  • It’s really pretty simple stuff
    our system is controlled wirelessly by an iPad and has at least 30 discreet channels (prepared; not all are used) with all sorts of routing matrixes and submixes, etc. there’s nothing ‘simple’ about it, which is why I’m tasked with managing it. Another church I’ve played at a few times had a huge multi-thousand dollar mixing board. Overkill for a Catholic setting? Yes, but it was there at any rate and it wasn’t something that any rando could waltz up to and manipulate without consequences. We are far from the days of one power switch with one simple mic at the ambo.
    Thanked by 1MatthewRoth
  • Gamba,

    What's beatboxing?
    ) Every musician in the year 2022 should know how to operate and troubleshoot sound equipment.

    Why?

    have the confidence that the system won’t fall apart on you in a disruptive manner during the liturgy, or you can leave it to someone else with greater zeal, little knowledge, and no awareness of what’s suitable for what you are trying to do.


    When the sales department sells what the engineering department prepares....

    Otherwise you’re at the mercy of whatever a vendor sells you, or whatever a volunteer who used to be in a band thinks is good enough.


    Or, as with those of us who stubbornly refuse to purchase "smart" phones, you can make music without.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,029
    An analog 8 channel mixer is plenty for any Catholic Church. If you are required to put instruments in the mixer, I would flee for another position.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    I have to confess that this is all Greek to me, I do not understand anything that anyone on this thread is talking about, except, alas, beatboxing, nor do I have any intention of learning any of this gobbledygook to take up a DM position. Personally, I think that it's time to ban electricity from churches.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,029
    Yes... time to go back to hand pumped bellows on the real deal
    Thanked by 1DavidOLGC
  • Ok., Salieri, since Gamba hasn't seen my question: What's beatboxing?
  • Hand pumped bellows, and brooms for cleaning the floors too. And I hope there's nothing valuable in the church, 'cos the security system will be no more than a granny who lives across the street.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,647
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 480
    Beatboxing is a practice in hiphop; a beatboxer makes percussive sounds with his mouth, into a mic held right up near the lips, producing quite a mighty emulation of a drumkit or drum machine. The mic is an essential component, changing quiet clicks and pops into a thunderous beat.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatboxing
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,133
    Maybe it's just a thing in Slavic parishes, but Granny (Babushka) can be more effective than a high-end security system.
  • We could have used Granny Babushka at our early Mass today... had a nutter barge in and start shouting during the Agnus Dei.
  • Gamba,

    where carpets and outdoor Masses and budget deficits and so on are present


    Carpets and sound systems and outdoor Masses often cause budget deficits.