Wednesday, 13 May 2009

More challenges than you can shake a stick at

I'm really in the thick of things now. My new responsibilities as Worship Coordinator are unravelling themselves as each day passes. Its really exciting. I love a challenge and this is definitely my biggest yet. Having attended my first church council meeting this week I feel it is now official (technically it's not official until September - but that's just a administrative technicality).

The work also began last week in converting the church sports hall into our new worship space. You see we've out-grown the current church building and with the current global financial mess the new church could be a few years away.

Challenge 1 : How can you turn a barn like sports hall into an appropriate space for worship?

One word 'Carpet'. Okay, that's not going to quite do it but its a great start. There is an outstanding team of experts assembled (and me). Building and electrical experts, decor design geniuses and a techie wizard (not literally a wizard mind you, especially now he's shaved his beard off, but he knows his Peavey from his Bose. If it has a button, a knob or a flashing light, he knows what it does). My input so far his been a lot of nodding in agreement and telling them how big a platform we needed for the band. As has been established in the previous post I have not been asked to do any rewiring! God willing the grand opening of the hall will be the end of August.

Challenge 2 : How do you manage a nearly 50 person strong music team?

Answers on a postcard please!!!


Beat Attitude said...

Hi Neil.

Re: managing a 50 person strong music team... What a privilege and a challenge!

I would point out from the outset that you expect musicians to demonstrate an active desire to develop their skills, and that certain practical standards have to be met in order for people to join (or stay in) a worship team. Cultivate an environment where people are grateful to be involved, rather than expecting to be given the responsibility.

Remember that your job should be to work hard to manage your resources to ensure God is glorified, that Christ is exalted and the gospel is communicated. There is no one set method for doing this, but there is one set attitude, and that is to have a mindset that is humble and attentive to God, and a dedication to understanding what he is communicating to you.

Remind your team that you will be seeking to draw on the resources they are kindly making available. You will do this respectfully, as and when you see these resources as being the most appropriate for bringing about the glory of God, and not for any other reason.

Re: acoustics...

I recently replied to someone else looking to improve acoustics in a sports-hall type venue for worship services.

In case you are interested, here is my (extensive) response.

I’ve played in hundreds of venues in the past 10 years, and while I was very impressed with the (___) centre facilities the actual function room was one of the most difficult to get a good sound in that I’ve played in a while. The walls are hard panels, and the shape of the room is rectangular, which means sounds bounce about the hall and double back on themselves very quickly. This can be improved significantly, however, and doing so would ensure musical performances, speeches and other audio presentations would be much clearer and better sounding.

Basically, to improve the acoustics I'd recommend installing custom-made acoustic absorbers around the far end of the hall for definite, and ideally at the sides too. These are not "sound-proofing", (they won't significantly cut the level of noise going outside the room e.g. to the neighbours), but they DO help to absorb "reflected sounds". That is sounds which bounce off hard surfaces. Reflected sounds are a problem when you have a sound source (e.g. PA system) at one end of the hall, and the sound bounces off the opposite walls, creating a "ping-pong" effect, like a very fast echo. You hear it when you clap your hands: it’s the sound that happens straight after which you are trying to reduce.

High pitched sounds are worst affected by this, and if affects the clarity of things like speaking, when the volume is sufficiently loud to reflect off the back and side walls. I found that when talking over the mic, people could not always make out what I was saying unless I spoke extra slowly.

The ideal situation is one where only a small amount of sound gets reflected back from a wall, and to ensure this, you need to cover enough of the reflective surface area in materials which absorb sound more than they reflect.

Some rooms (e.g. concert halls) are custom built so that the acoustics do not reflect badly, but doing this involves precision design and great expense at the architectural stage. I've seen rooms where the walls are angled to reflect sound upwards to absorbent roofspace, too.

Some venues opt to minimize the acoustic reflectiveness of a room with curtains (usually down one wall, or closed over all the windows). This has certain aesthetic appeal, although may not yield the best audio results. Curtains, unless they are extremely thick, will only absorb the highest frequency sounds. Sometimes, this can "tame" a room to be adequate for general audio purposes, but it is not guaranteed. It can sometimes make a room sound “boxy"

Carpeted rooms are in a similar bracket to this, but obviously carpet has drawbacks too for cleaning etc...Also, once you have people in the room, they tend to absorb a fair bit of the sound around the floor area, so it's the space around head height and above you really want to address. The ceiling is high enough that it won't need any treatment: our ears don't get as many direct audio reflections from the ceiling as they do from the walls.

The acoustic absorbers I'm mentioning are basically like large wooden picture frames (about 6 or 8 inches deep) secured to the walls. These frames are filled with rigid fibreglass of a certain density and then covered with a suitable fabric. The fabric is for aesthetic appeal and to stop the fibreglass particles from shedding when disturbed (although shedding is extremely minimal, and if they're high enough up they won't get disturbed.)

As long as the fabric is breathable (i.e. you can blow air through it) then it will allow the sound to pass through it, get absorbed by the fibreglass, and therefore not bounce back into the room. The correct density of fibreglass will absorb a range of frequencies right down to medium/low sounds, which is your ideal situation. The fibreglass is relatively cheap and is used commercially for house sound and heat insulation, so it meets fire standards obviously. The covering fabric should also meet these standards.

This is the most cost-effective way of doing it. It involves hiring tradesmen to build the panels to your specification, but this is significantly cheaper than buying custom built panels which do exactly the same job at a much higher price. I would expect that to correct the worst problems in the hall you wouldn't be looking at much more than maybe £2000 including materials and labour. It's a sliding scale: you can put as much or as little in as you can afford.

If you want to discuss anything more about that, I'm happy to advise mate!

Neil Alton said...

BA, thanks for the advice mate. There is plenty that can be done. I'm sure that we could throw a stack of money at this problem to improve things. As we are on a pretty tight budget acoustic treatment is going to have to be fairly low on our priorities.

This is only a temporary change of venue (2/3 years tops). The majority of the money we are investing in the project is on equipment & resources that can be transfered to the new building. With the purchase of carpet (one of the only things not going with us), chairs and new sound equipment, there is very little budget left.

I think the only way to do this is to get everything else down and then assess how big a problem it is.

I'll keep you informed!

Neil Alton said...

I'll also stick a few photos up when I get a chance. Let you see the room in question