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Sound for Worship
by Steve Aries

   Times have changed for the audio needed at houses of worship. More and more are having contemporary services that include live bands, drama, and video. Big productions have now come to the little church in the village. This can be a nightmare for the inexperienced sound engineer. Lots of different inputs will be needed to handle the service.


   Keep your inputs in sections so you don't have to go looking all over the mixer to find things. Have your drama, band A.V. and alter mics assigned to different groups (or mutes if you have them) so you can switch between them quickly. Having an open mic when not needed can cause you trouble; remember this is not a rock show.


   Now that your church has the need for a high power sound system there are a couple of things you need to know. The sound system still has to have high speech intelligibility and power to handle the band and A.V. A lot of pastors are now using wireless lavaliere mics. These sometimes need special treatment. I like to assign the to their own group and insert a EQ or feed back eliminator to control all of them at once, you can then use the channel eq for fine tuning on a per mic basis. Tune the pa to handle the band and A.V. Some churches will install new systems and others will retrofit existing.


Do your homework on what your system will require new mixers, amps, mics, speakers etc. Most churches are on tight budgets shop around for the best gear for your buck. Make sure you allow for future growth once budgets are set it's hard to add $. 


Some churches have the sound system directly above or somewhat behind the alter areas this can be a problem for adding lavaliere mics when choosing lav mics I like to use cardioid or super-cardioid capsules for better control, omni mics can be trouble some. If you have acoustic drums you may need to purchase a Plexiglas gobo to isolate them if the drummer is a loud player. In this example the church is retrofitting the existing sound system. Looking over the needs and wants it was decided that a total rewire, speaker replacement, new amp and eq were needed. They already had a mixer and a good set of wireless mics. Custom built oak with E.V. components were supplied by Wright Sound Systems. Tuning the system was done in 3 different ways 1.Voice was most important. 2. Tape or CD music. 3. Live instruments. Because of budget An average was used to obtain the final result. Monitors were also added for choir needing to here on stage.


Usually the sound people at churches are students and adults that do not have a lot of pro sound experience. Once you have the system tuned, lock it up. Meaning don't give access to the main eq or any other system wide gear. The sound person will only really have to adjust things on the mixer and out board gear. A good rule of thumb is to keep it as simple as possible this will assure you of relatively good sound every time and you won't be getting a phone call on Sunday morning that something isn't working.


Steve Aries, Audio Engineer with 20 years experience. Toured with several major acts- Marvin Gaye, Triumph, REO Speedwagon, while at dB Sound. Independent engineer. Does consulting, theatre, 12 years at Paramount Theater in Cedar Rapids, industrial, and worship sound. Very special thanks to Steve Aries and Aries Audio. Look for this monthly feature in upcoming issues of Musicians Hotline.



Q & A Session with Michael Soldano


Hey Amp Man!
    I purchased a Soldano Hot Rod 50+XL and would like to get a reverb unit. What do you recommend? I know they make digital boxes. Boss makes one.
    My other question is your Lucky 13 has Accutronic three-spring reverb. Can this be purchased and installed in my amp?
    My third question is I have a Fender Blues Deluxe. Can I run this through the effects plug to pick up the reverb from this amp?
Thank you.
Rick Sexton (via email)

Hey Rick!
    If I may say, you have made an excellent choice in purchasing the Soldano Hot Rod 50 Plus. That's a very versatile and ruggedly built amplifier. Congratulations, and thank you for choosing SOLDANO!
    I'll answer the easiest question, involving putting an Accutronics three-spring reverb in your Hot Rod 50 Plus, first. Unfortunately, it is not simply a matter of purchasing the reverb tank and plugging it in to the amp. A couple of tubes, a transformer, and a bit of additional circuitry must be added to the amp to make it work. This can be done, we did one here as an experiment several years ago, but it was just way too much effort. It would cost you more than it's worth to perform this mod to your amp.
    As for using your Fender Blues Deluxe, no, you can't - well, technically you can, but it will sound real bad - put that amp through the effects loop to use it's reverb. The output level of the loop would most likely be too hot for the Fender's input and, unless there's a line out on the Fender (I can't remember if there is), the output of the Fender would overload the effects return, causing unwanted distortion. Also, you would have the problem of not being able to achieve a "flat" frequency response in the Fender. However, you could run a "stereo" set up by taking a signal from the "slave out" on the Hot Rod 50 Plus and running it into the Fender. You'd want to set the Fender's controls for a super clean sound, so that it becomes, in essence, a power amp with reverb. So you'd have the "dry" sound coming out of whatever speakers the Soldano is going through, and the reverb coming out of the Fender. That'd probably sound pretty good, I think.
    Your other option is one of the many digital reverb units on the market. There are hundreds of them out there to choose from, and I haven't had the time to try many of them, so I really can't suggest one that you should get. If this is the way you'd like to go, I'd recommend that you take your amp and guitar to the store with you, try some of these units out, and let your ears be the judge of what to get.

Hey Amp Man!
    I need to know if there is anyone that can help with my search for a builder for my modified Sound City rig. I called Peavey and Gibson but got the runaround. I built the front end and used a Bass 150 power section, no other amp comes close to the range of sound this thing will produce. I voiced it for an Orange 4x12 cab, other cabs do not produce the same full sound. I used the Sound City as a starter because of the additional punch-outs for 9 pin tubes. I have had several offers to mod amps to sound like it, but they do not respond the same on Fender and Marshalls. So please give me some help.
James (via email)

    Well, I don't get questions like this everyday, James. When you say you're looking for a "builder", you aren't clear whether you are looking for someone who'll manufacture the amp for you, to your specs, so that you can market and distribute it under your own brand name; or if you were just interested in selling your design for the big bucks so that you could retire early and live in the Bahamas. If it's the former, I might be able to help you. If it's the latter, and I suspect it is, then - and I don't mean to sound harsh - you need a reality check, James. You called Peavey and Gibson and they gave you the runaround? Of course they did! They're huge corporations, whose main objective is to make money for themselves and their stockholders. And you can't fault them, for that's what business is about. But, because of this, they aren't going to be real keen on the idea of investing a pile of money on an unknown entity, especially one with no brand name recognition. It takes HUGE amounts of time and money to take a prototype amp, such as yours, and develop it into a well finished, manufacturable product. And the vacuum tube guitar market is very competitive so, unless they know it's going to sell, they're not going to take the risk. And, finally, even if you did sell them on your design, you'll be amazed at just how little they'll be willing to pay for it. This I tell you based on my own experiences, and I have a very marketable name and reputation in this industry (no brag, just a fact).
    Please understand that I'm not telling you all this to discourage you. In fact, I think that if you really believe in what you're doing, you should go for it! I merely wanted to let you know what you're up against and the realities of this business. If you really want to sell this design of yours to one of these major companies, then that's exactly what you're going to have to do - SELL them on the idea. Show them that they're going to make money on it. Bring them a ready-for-production prototype, complete with parts lists, drawings, schematics, circuit board layouts, cost analysis, etc. Do some market research so that you can tell them who will buy these amps, and for how much. Tell them what kind of profit they're going to see. Convince them that this is a no-risk, no-brainer deal for them and then they'll talk to you. And who knows? Maybe you can call to tell me how full of it I am from your villa in the Bahamas! Ha, ha, ha!
    Now, if you're looking for someone to build these amps for you as an O.E.M. (Original Equipment Manufacturer), so that you can market and distribute them under your own brand name, here's where I can help you. I am currently the O.E.M. for Speedster Amplifiers, and am working on a design for another company as well. Basically, here's how it works: you tell me what you want or show me what you've got, I figure out how to make it in a cost effective fashion, I make you a production prototype and quote you a price, you O.K. it, and away we go. I charge time and materials for all the development costs and prototypes. This amount varies in proportion to the complexity of the design and how much of the work you are willing or able to do yourself. If any of this interests you, you can call me at (206)781-4636, and we can discuss it further.
    Best of luck to you!

Hey Amp Man!
    Being a player for quite a few years, I've decided to also pursue working on amps. Where do I start? Is there a school I can attend? A course? I can do basic things - tubes, fuses, set up guitars, etc....Thanks, point me in the right direction.
Mike Haun (via email)

    Yours is a question I get asked all the time, Mike, and I feel badly because I can never give a real concrete answer. The problem is that we're dealing with technology that is considered archaic and obsolete in the eyes of the "mainstream" electronics industry, which is what the trade schools and community colleges train for. So you're not going to have much luck finding any help there. However, I suggest that you take a basic entry level course at one of these schools so that you can learn about Ohm's Law, what a capacitor is, how to read resistors, how to use an oscilloscope and other test equipment, etc. This stuff is all the same and is necessary to know. Once you've got this basic knowledge, you'll need to learn about how tubes work, and this is where it is hard to get good information. If you're lucky, you might find that your instructor is old enough to have had experience with tube stuff, and maybe you could get him or her to give you some individual training on the topic. Unfortunately, I doubt that's likely to happen.
    So, you'll have to learn it the way I and most other tube nuts have, by reading books and experimenting a bit. There have been a lot of books written on tube amps in recent years, but I haven't had time to read any of them, so I would not know which to recommend. I would, however, suggest that you pick up a copy of Aspen Pittman's (of Groove Tubes fame) "The Tube Amp Book", it's got schematics galore and is a very good reference guide. As for myself, I learned everything I know about tube stuff from old radio books and electronics books from the 40's and 50's - when tubes were in their heyday. The reading is a bit dry, but very to the point. You should be able to find these in your public library, or possibly your local college library's technology section. Another good source would be used bookstores or garage sales. A good repair book, if you can track down a copy, is the "Electric Guitar Amplifier Handbook" by Jack Darr. The copy I have was published in 1968, by Howard W. Sams & Company. It is a small but very informative book, and quite easy to understand once you've got the basics.
    I would avoid relying too much on the Internet, because while there probably is some good and valid information out there, I've seen a lot of just plain bullshit being passed off as fact. I guess the anonymity of the net gives these self-proclaimed "experts" the confidence they need to spew their fiction on the masses, and with no accountability whatsoever. Until you gain your own knowledge it may be difficult to filter through all that, because some of these hacks can be pretty damn convincing.
    Finally, the ultimate experience for you would be to apprentice or work alongside a reputable tech, and get the information first-hand and hands-on. Look around where you live and see if there are any shops that do this work. Maybe you could convince them in letting you do an internship.