Worship Notes

"How Important is
Good Equipment?"

This is a subject that comes up quite often in music ministry.  Often times ministers of music desire the best, most state-of-the-art equipment available, but limited budgets make it difficult to acquire the desired equipment.  Churches, unlike some other types of organizations, rely solely on gifts and offerings for their income.  They are non-profit organizations, not commercial organizations.  So their income is not always steady.

One thing that I want to point out is this.  A music ministry is only as good as their equipment allows them to be.  In other words, you can have an absolutely great team (musically) and have poor equipment and your team will sound poor.  On the flip side, you may have top-notch equipment and poor musicianship and your team will still sound poor.

I believe that churches need to invest in quality equipment if they want quality ministry.  Quality does not necessarily mean that you have to break the bank to buy that $25,000 gold-plated microphone.  But it does mean realizing the importance of excellence enough to invest in excellence.  Remember that in just about every situation in life, you get what you pay for.

Now, before all of you music ministers go printing this page out to "show" your Pastors why they need to approve an extra $10,000 a month for your equipment budget, let me once again reiterate the importance of achieving excellence from your team.  If you are not rehearsing or at least attempting to stretch your team to fulfill their own potential, new equipment is not going to do you much good.  But if you can honestly say to your Pastor that you've done all that you can with what you've been given, then maybe some equipment upgrades are a good idea.

Another important thing about equipment is its operation.  If your sound person doesn't know how to handle your 12 channel Peavey mixing board, don't bother asking for a 32 channel Mackie.  If your drummer struggles with keeping a decent tempo, a $6000 set of Yamaha Birch Customs with a $400 DW-5000 Double Bass Pedal is not going to improve their playing.  As I have said many times before, make the most you can out of what you have been given.  If you are faithful in the little things, God will give you more.

You should also have a knowledgeable person install your equipment.  A 30 band equalizer won't do you any good if you don't have it set up correctly for your sanctuary using a pink noise generator.  Contact your local music store or sound system dealer about proper installation of all of your components.

The following is a short list of some good names in basic sound equipment components that may help bring your music ministry to a higher level of excellence.  Neither HJM or Heath Jarvis is compensated in any way, shape or form by these companies.  I have simply come to respect these companies for their products.  Before I give you the list though, I want to state emphatically that I do not recommend any equipment from Peavey whatsoever.  I strongly suggest that you steer clear of Peavey equipment.  I know I'm going to get letters for that statement, but I stand by it whole-heartedly.

Here's the list:

Amps - CROWN, CRATE, QSC - It's always good to over-amplify.  In other words the wattage of your amps should be greater than the wattage of your speakers.  "But I'll blow my speakers!" you may say.  No, you won't if you don't crank them.  Chances are that you will rarely or never push your speakers to their limit, but if you push your amp to its limit, it will start to distort.  Loud can sound good if it is undistorted and mixed well.

Speakers and Monitors - JBL, Community, YAMAHA - Stay away from Peavey and especially stay away from brands that are not known for speakers.  Let Fender stick to doing what they do best...making guitars and guitar amps, not PA speakers.

Microphones - SHURE, Sennheiser, AKG - I know that AUDIO-TECHNICA is a reputable name, but I have had trouble with them in the past and therefore do not recommend them.  I also do not recommend Samson for the same reason.  I am not extremely familiar with AKG, but have heard a lot of good things about them.

The SHURE SM-58 is the best selling microphone of all time and is a great hand-held mike.  The Shure SM-57 is also a great hand-held mike, but also makes a great instrument mike, especially for drums.  I am also extremely fond of the Sennheiser 100 Series Mikes. Countryman makes an excellent headset mike.

While we're on the subject of microphones, let me recommend that you stay away from VHF wireless mikes and only use UHF wireless.  They are a lot less prone to interference and usually sound significantly better than VHF.  Also (and this is just my opinion) I highly recommend staying away from lapel mikes.  No one has never, to my knowledge, ever made any lapel mikes that rival the quality of hand-helds.  They are prone to feedback and are just an overall hassle to get to work correctly.  Now I'll get off of my soapbox and back to the list.

EQ's - Rane, that's it...just Rane - EQ's are quite essential to bring the best sound quality out of the components you have.  Our church has two 31 band Rane Stereo EQ's that are used in equalizing the house and the monitors.

Mixing Boards - MACKIE, BEHRINGER, Allen & Heath - Mackie has recently gotten more competitive in their pricing, possibly due to tough competition from other companies.  You can get a really nice 32 channel Mackie with 8 buses for around $3000.  Add a meter bridge for $700 and you have a good recording-capable board.  Mackie even has some 24 and 32 channel boards for around $1000!

One more thing...budget proposals.  When presenting budget proposals, always leave some room for peripherals.  In other words, if you need 5 mikes, don't forget that you will need 5 mike cords, 5 mike stands, etc.  Also, don't forget that most music stores will haggle and/or price match.  Check out my links page for some awesome music/sound equipment stores that are great to use in price matching.  

Also, when you get a music department budget, spend every single penny they give you.  That way when you approach them next year they won't be able to say, "You want how much?  But you didn't spend what we gave you last year!"  Spend it all, but spend it wisely.  Remember that you are spending tithe dollars!  Also remember that if it's for God, it deserves to be the best that it can be.  That means 1) Getting the best equipment you can get; and 2) Making the most out of what you have.  God bless you in your endeavors to bring greater excellence to your ministry.