Using Microphones for Church Ministry
Dale A. Robbins
Most persons who serve in the ministry in any capacity
will have an occasion to use a microphone for public speaking, and consequently it is
important to know something about their use.
The most extreme example of this need can be
illustrated by this real incident. In a neighboring church during a Sunday School
promotion day, each teacher was asked to come to the pulpit to give a brief testimony. One
elderly teacher, visibly nervous, came up and was handed the microphone. With shaking
hands she took the mic, and to everyones surprise, she placed the mic up to her ear
and began speaking! She had never used a mic before and thought she should hold it like
her telephone receiver.
Selection of the
Simply stated, a microphone changes sound
waves into an electronic signal which is transmitted to an amplifier and then to speakers
or perhaps a tape recorder.
For the purpose of most singers or preachers,
the type of microphone most commonly used will be a cardioid type, which has a narrow
pattern of audio sensitivity. This unidirectional pattern will pick up sound from a source
directly in front of it, but will tend to avoid sounds from other directions. This is
helpful in preventing bleed-in to the mix from unwanted sounds or in the attempt to
control feedback, etc.
In those cases where you want to amplify sound
from all directions an omidriectional mic is used. Besides these basic pattern
characteristics, different manufacturers design specific characteristics and sensitivities
into various mics for different purposes, such as amplifying musical instruments. Choosing
the right mic is important to the nature of the desired results.
Omnidirectional - Sensitive
to sounds from all directions.
Test your microphone. What type of mic do you
have? Speak into the mic head from the front and then from the side. If the sound is
fairly even from all sides, you have an omnidirectional mic. If your voice fades when you
speak from the side, you have a unidirectional mic.
Mics are sometimes selected on the basis of
how they generate the initial audio signal. Condenser type mics require an additional
power source to operate either with a battery or phantom power supplied through the
cable from the sound board. They tend to be brighter, crisper and require less
amplification. In contrast, a dynamic mic uses only the sound source to
generate signals to be sent to the sound board.
Wireless mics use a tiny transmitter to send
audio to a receiver connected to a sound board. A limited variety of mic types are
available for handheld or lavaliere use. These mics are great but are not without their
drawbacks. They run on batteries (always use alkaline) which have to be changed regularly,
are sometimes subject to transmitter interference or dropout (a lapse in the
received signal), and do not offer the variety of types and qualities available to
A hard-wired mic is the standard type of mic
which has a cable wired directly into a sound control board. Most mics used today are of a
low impedance type (low resistance) which are resistant to interference and allow longer
A lavaliere (or lapel) mic is tiny, hardly
noticed mic clipped on a persons clothing, great for amplifying speech, but not so
good for the broad dynamic range of singing. Some preachers love these because they leave
the hands free and no cords to dangle others hate them because the sound is not as
good as a larger, hand-held mic and there is no dynamic control over the volume (by
lowering and raising the mic).
As in many other things, with mics you get
what you pay for. The better quality instruments are not cheap and they must be used
together with good quality equipment and acoustics to produce the desired results.
Using a Mic for
When used for vocal amplification, a
microphone should be mounted or held within a tolerance of between 3 and 8 inches of the
person. To keep a mic within these tolerances, a gooseneck or boom can be used on a stand
or lectern to adjust the vertical/horizontal placement.
When holding a microphone during singing or
preaching, its best to hold your mic approximately 3 to 4 inches under your chin. If
you hold the microphone father away, the sound operator must increase amplification, and
unfortunately, when excessive volume must be used to amplify your voice, it may also
amplify other surrounding sounds. This makes it difficult to mix or separate
your voice from other nearby sounds or singers which may bleed into your
microphone. Do not speak directly into the mic, but across the mic, in order
to avoid pop caused from your breath.
Another problem in obtaining good mic mixes in
church services is separating the volume of the drums. Drums (acoustic type) often project
so loudly (mostly the cymbals) that they can be heard through other microphones on the
platform. You can turn down the microphones (if any) used to amplify the drums, but
depending on the acoustics and type of mics used, their sound may be still heard through
the other mics of the singers. Consequently, the sound of the drums cannot be easily
separated from the other sounds of singers or musicians. (When such problems exist, a
drummer must reduce his playing volume or a clear acoustic shield must be placed around
Whenever other acoustic instruments are used,
it is very important for all singers to hold their microphone close to their mouth so that
their voice is what is heard through their mic, not all the surrounding
sounds. Even other singers can bleed into your microphone, making it
impossible to mix the individual voices. How important it is to hold your mic properly.
Holding a mic too close can also be a problem.
This can create distortion, which makes your voice sound fuzzy and
indistinguishable. Avoid a rubber arm. Practice holding your mic at an
acceptable distance and learn to hold your arm at a consistent arc which will keep your
mic at the right position. If your mic distance fluctuates much, so will your volume,
causing difficulty for the sound operator to maintain a good mix.
During moments that a microphone is not being
used, it should never be held randomly in any direction. If the mic is still
live and not used, it should always be held in an upright position, lowered
from your mouth if so desired until you need to use it again. Due to the concern in
delivering sufficient power to the monitors for the singers to hear themselves, the
feedback threshold is often stretched to its limits. By inadvertently pointing
the mic toward or near a speaker may create shrill feedback.
There is another problem which is caused by
holding two or microphones too close together. This is called phase shifting,
and creates unpleasant, unnatural sounds. It is advisable to never allow two live mics to
come closer than two feet from each other.
What not to do
with a Mic
1. Dont blow into a mike to see if
its on. This sound is annoying and you might blow harmful moisture (spit!) into it.
Its a better idea to say something or tap it lightly with your finger.
2. Do not speak directly into a mic.
Youll usually create a popping sound, especially if you make a P or
T sound. A wind screen on the mic will help to reduce this, but its best
to improve technique by speaking across the mic rather than into it.
3. Do not place a clip-on mic under clothing.
Although out of sight, the mic will pick up rustling noises as clothing rubs against it,
and it will muffle sounds. It is better to clip it on a lapel or wear it around your neck.
For stage or TV productions, lavaliere mics can be concealed under clothing if first
placed into a silk pouch which reduces noise-causing friction.
4. Do not wear or handle a mic when you step
into a baptistry. A hard-wired mic may deliver a serious electrical shock to a person
grounded in a pool of water. This danger doesnt exist with a wireless mic, however
water and moisture is an enemy to any electronic device and may ruin your equipment.
Its better to mount a mic above your head or in front of baptistry. In those
unique circumstances when nothing else can be arranged, a hand-held wireless
mic, sealed inside a zip-lock plastic bag can be used. The plastic will waterproof the
mic, but sound (somewhat muffled) will still pass through.
5. Dont abuse your microphone.
Dont drop it, subject it to shock, or hold it dangling by the cable, etc. It is a
delicate instrument and may be expensive to repair or replace. Store it in a clean, dry
place when not in use.
of a Sound Rehearsal
Whenever the sound system is to be used to
reinforce the sound for choirs, singing groups, orchestras, musicians, soloists, or
special speakers, a sound rehearsal is a absolute necessity.
Since the sound system is used as the means to
project the sounds of your speech, singing, or music, it is just as important to practice
with it as it would be to rehearse playing a musical instrument before a performance. Most
of us would not consider trying to sing a song in public without adequate rehearsal in
advance. Neither should we ever consider using the sound system with any less degree of
Many people are under the impression that the
operation of the sound system is an easy task, as simple as adjusting the volume on the
radio. But not so. It is a very complicated process. A 32 channel sound board has about 30
adjustment controls for each channel. This means that there are 960 different knobs and
controls with a combination ratio of 144,000 possible adjustment combinations. In addition
to the sound board, there are dozens of other components which have multiple adjustments.
A piano only has 88 keys while the sound board has 960. If we can understand the complex
art of playing a piano and how much training and practice it takes to become proficient,
how much more must we realize the need for rehearsal time with the sound system in order
to produce professional results.
The sound rehearsal is important so that the
operator can set volume and mix levels for the main speakers which deliver sound to the
congregation. But even more critical to the performer, the sound rehearsal is where the
performer fine tunes his or her monitor so they can hear their self and one another. The
monitor (or fold-back) system is in reality a separate sound system designed just for the
performers and is capable of customizing different volume mixes according to the
preference of the performers hearing. It is impossible for musicians or singers to
perform together if they cannot hear properly.
Note that in the last paragraph I said that
the performer is the one who fine tunes their monitor. This is so very
important to understand. The sound operator cannot hear your monitor speaker, and has no
idea of whether you sing better hearing yourself louder than the other voices, or visa
versa. The only way the monitor can be properly adjusted is by the performers
direction to the sound operator, and this can only be done during a rehearsal along with
the other singers or performers using the sound system. Once again, the only way a sound
operator can set the volume for the monitor speakers is during a rehearsal or sound-check.
It is not possible to do so during a service or without the directions of the performer.
Library of Church Technology
This article is copyrighted © by Dale A. Robbins, 1990, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA 95949. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple permission form. This writing is also available as an attractive tri-fold pamphlet, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us.