loud-music

By Jordan Richmond

If you have any semblance of modern, band-driven worship, I guarantee you’ve had complaints about volume. I had a guy who would stick toilet paper in his ears every week and obnoxiously pace the foyer during the music set.

Conventional wisdom tells us that more volume equals more energy. After all people don’t want to hear themselves sing right?

So what’s the perfect volume? In this case, Disney has the answer. Disney seems to have a knack for managing expectations and providing the best user experience on the planet. They can teach us a thing or two about worship. So during my last visit to Disney World I decided to conduct an experiment. Every show I attended I would take out my iPhone and fire up the RTA Lite app. This handy (and free) little tool let’s me measure the decibel level at certain frequencies. I can see the level of the bass, mids, and trebles. The results shocked me.

  • Decibel Level - At every show and concert, the average level was about 75 db. That’s pretty soft—about the same as a dial tone with the phone up to your ear. Occasionally it might pop up to 85 db (city traffic), but not much more (hearing damage occurs at 90-95 db with sustained exposure). It was amazing how an explosion or kick drum had incredible intensity when everything else was at a pleasant level.
  • Frequencies - The frequency spectrum was linear (as opposed to flat or the typical “smiley face” with enhanced lows and highs, and reduced mids). Bass was the loudest, and it would evenly taper off as it headed toward the higher frequencies. So the sound I heard was ultimately smooth. It had impact when it needed to, and was never shrill or brassy.
  • Other Factors - Admittedly the shows I attended were family friendly—inviting young and old. EPCOT did have more concert/dance adult-oriented venues later in the evening. These were significantly louder (too loud for my taste). Also, every Disney venue featured Meyer arrays and trained sound men, so the end product was excellent.

So what did I learn from Disney?

I observed everyone, babies to grandmas, enjoying their experience. They participated. I also realized that sound is something we cannot escape. We cannot turn off our ears. We can look at something else if a light is too bright, but we cannot divert our hearing.

I attended a church service that weekend and felt almost assaulted by the sound (around 90-95 db). Admittedly I’ve subjected my church to that numerous times and wondered why they didn’t participate as actively. By all means pump the volume for youth groups. But for the large corporate service featuring all age groups (or children’s worship), it might be a good idea to bring the volume down.

More volume does not necessarily equal more energy. It insults your listeners, and robs you of the head room you need to emphasize dynamics and impacts when you need to. Turn it down. Smooth it out.

How loud is your church? Would you respond differently if the volume were different?


Jordan Richmond is the worship pastor of Cayman Islands Baptist Church in beautiful Grand Cayman. He has also served local churches in Florida and Kentucky.

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Comments

  1. Andrew says

    75 DB is really, really quiet. Hearing damage at 90-95 DB only sets in after 8 hours of continuous exposure. I think running an average of 90-95 DB is totally fine, as long as there aren’t too many annoying frequencies.

    • Barbara says

      I’m an audiologist and if you sustain 90-95 dB SPL you will cause noise induced hearing loss in some of your people. “Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the time period before NIHL can occur. Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss.” Although being aware of decibel levels is an important factor in protecting one’s hearing, distance from the source of the sound and duration of exposure to the sound are equally important. A good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are “too loud” and “too close” or that last “too long.” STATEMENT BY NIDCD

      • Andrew says

        From what I understand, the exposure has to be quite extended to do any kind of damage, at least according to OSHA. If a service is running at 90-95 db, there won’t be hearing loss for anyone after 30 minutes.

    • Ron Bartels says

      Your claim that loss begins “after” 30 minutes duration is valid for the very young as in typical concert attendees, where the studies are taken. That study is not valid at older ages. Older attenders at church services suffer ear canal inflammation within mere minutes, if they do not have preexisting earn drum damage. Personally at age 67, I could clearly hear at below 10 decibels at the hearing lab of a well known otolaryngologist. 10 decibels is the sound of a pin drop. Yet, when I attend church, after the new speakers were installed, I and many of the other people aged 61 to 83, with decent hearing, all experience major to severe ear canal pain, which has lasted for me up to 2.5 hours after the service. I feel the pain begin in less than one minute duration so I can’t even sit in the service anymore. They have the treble turned up far to high now so I cannot even endure the speaking part of the sermon after 4 minutes duration after avoiding the music. Who “wants” to change churches? Yet many of us have already left and are trying to find another church to feel at home in, support (after we are sure about their money management – avoiding the get rich preachers) It is terribly frustrating. It is cruel when the pastor is so misinformed, just as the writer of this report I am responding to.

      • Shere Kraus-Yao says

        Please read my reply posted a few hours ago. I am sorry for your experience. I will need to ask some great portion of it to be removed.
        Thanks for letting me know after you have read it so that I would ask for the removal.

    • Mrs. Ron (Debra) Magrann says

      CAN YOU HEAR ME?
      CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

      I AM AMAZED AT THE WAY “WORSHIP” IS EXPRESSED IN THIS GENERATION. THE CASE FOR MIND-NUMBING, LOUD MUSIC CANNOT BE JUSTIFIED. AUDIOLOGISTS KNOW THE SCIENCE BEHIND NOISE INDUCED HEARING LOSS AND THEY KNOW THE PHYSIOLOGY OF THE INNER EAR. FACT IS, LOUD MUSIC (>75dB) IS DAMAGAING WHETHER IT IS A SHORT SPURT OR LONGER. PLEASE DO NOT JUSTIFY LOUD MUSIC IN THE CHURCH: IT IS HARMFUL! GOD HEARS A SPARROW’S SONG, SO DO YOU NOT THINK HE DELIGHTS IN THE VOICE HE GAVE US? WHY DOES THIS GENERATION BELIEVE THEY MUST BLAST THE FLOCK WITH ELECTRONICALLY AMPLIFIED SOUND? DOES THIS GENERATION UNDERSTAND THAT IN 20 YEARS THEY WILL EXPERIENCE A CONTINUAL RINGING IN THE EAR, IF JESUS DOESN’T RETURN? ARE YOU HEARING ME NOW?

      Can you hear me?
      What about now?
      Do you see the difference? I was “shouting” at you before. Now I am talking to you. Do you think it pleases God that His children are modeling the world during “worship”? Do you think it pleases Him that some worship leaders are turning a deaf ear to their brothers and sisters when they say the music is too loud? Why do you make me carry a pair of ear plugs to worship the God I love? Why do you orchestrate an atmosphere that shuts me out so I cannot even hear myself sing His praise?
      When I was in the world, I followed the crowd. I attended concerts: Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, Journey… but when I met my Saviour and embraced His Redemption, I turned my back on all of that – ALL OF IT.
      It pains me to see the Church following the ways of the world en masse. Please be open to not expose even the youth to loud, harmful music in church. They have all the noise pollution they need.

      • Dee says

        All I can say in response to your comment is Amen and Amen. Hopefully more will seek to be wise, compassionate and unified and turn the music down.

      • Brady says

        The way of all churches are just extensions of the ways of the world in a particular environment, including your idea of a reasonably volumed church. That is still a social construct, not divine in nature, and doesn’t fit for all believers. I know this, as I am a praise and worship leader for one of those loud modern churches. God didn’t stop by at 1955 and say “Yup, sounds great guys, NEVER change.” What if I find it uninspiring to hear praise at such a low volume? What if my entire congregation feels this way? Inoffensive is not the same as universally appealing. There is NO universally appealing church, so yes, when you get that tingly feeling in your ears that makes you feel offended by a particular chruch’s volume, that means that particular church is not for you. This is not a terrible thing, as we aren’t lacking in abundance of churches. Likewise, your church would be completely ineffective for me and my congregation, as I like my praise and worship in the 95-115 db range, definitely loud enough to damage my ears, but everyone at my church, young and old, LOVES it. We’ve had older members tell us to turn it up! You know why? Because try as humanity might, no one can put God in a box. It isn’t our right, and we need not try. There isn’t a wrong way to love God if your heart is reaching out to Him, especially regarding things such as this. What you may view as universally appealing, I truly view as ineffective and watered down, and that is also okay. These are subjective viewpoints by human beings, nothing more, not worth their weight in sand.

        Your way isn’t wrong. But you ARE wrong to say that God has some opinion on the pleasantries of worship. The minutiae and micromanagement of the word doesn’t make worship more effective, it makes it more divisive. The only thing we should worry about as a church, from a praise and worship experience, is what our congregation feels is ideal. Ours comes from that old Led Zepplin/Black Sabbath days, some of them still do. And that’s freakin awesome, man. Because as long as they love God, and they like it loud, that’s what we’re gonna do. For your church, you may like it toned down, and at a traditionally reasonable level. That’s awesome too. It isn’t about one of us doing something wrong, it’s that we’re both doing something RIGHT. Loving the Lord. Everything else is gravy, brother. My only request to you is that you not lose sight of WHY you’re there in the first place. If our congregation is happy, then we’re good right? And besides, we have earplugs in the front for anyone that wants em. No one ever does :)

        • Dee says

          Brady,

          All I can say in response to your pathetic remarks (especially, “when you get that tingly feeling in your ears…..”) is that they are insensitive and a poor example of leadership. Sure, if certain people want to go church hunting, and certain churches are too loud for them, they can move on. But, the problem does not stop there. There are many churches, and the number is growing, that were once much more quiet but are now playing the ridiculously loud music. It is not fair to long-time members to have to either wear ear plugs, stop participating in the worship music altogether, or leave and search for a new church that exhibits the selfless love of God. The Lord says that we will be known by our fruits. Well, your fruit says that you are selfish, unkind, inconsiderate, loud….. As well, you obviously know nothing about what the worship of a Christian Church should comprise if you think it is about the loud music. True worship is not about the music itself, therefore, quieter music will not be ineffective for a true believer of Jesus Christ, (who was sensitive to the needs of his sheep). True worship is about glorifying Jesus. It is not glorifying to him when brethren do not care about one another. Loud music that causes pain and discomfort to any members is not a subjective viewpoint. It is a fact. You are a fool if you want to believe and promote that it is just a viewpoint. It is like comparing apples and oranges. You and others like you are the ones being divisive. You are wrong. It is not right to be divisive, and that is exactly what you are doing when you exclude others who cannot participate in your congregation because the music has a negative effect on them physically. Shame on you. Besides, when the music gets too loud, it ceases to be music. The beauty of individual instruments can no longer be heard, whether it is Led Zepplin or Mozart, and all that is audible is noise. Loud noise. The Lord wants us to make a joyful noise to him. He did not say make a loud noise. The Lord wants us to love our neighbor. He did not say, “Love your neighbor as long as he does not ask you to turn the music down because his ears hurt.” Also, older members at your church who tell you to turn the music up are probably already experiencing hearing loss, which is why they want the music turned up. As well, just because they individually want the music turned up does not negate the fact that such loud music hurts others. You might not mind damaging your ears, but be not so foolish as to support that in the congregation. It contradicts the love of Christ.

          • Brady says

            Dee, I’m sorry that this offends you, but the central issue that has been spoken over and over again is that there seems to be an idea of a perfect worship, and it simply isn’t true. Let me ask you this: if you went into an african american souther baptist church (I’m in Texas, so these are quite common in my area), would you ask them to tone it down in the way that they praise with such joy? Many of those churches are pushing volumes as loud as ours with just voices alone. Would you request a less boisterous style of music in lieu of maybe a piano, or a gentle acoustic? I’m fairly confident that, unless you are attending one of these churches, that you would ever ask them to change. I bet it wouldn’t cross your mind. Why though? Because there is a culture tied to the church that dictates a style of worship that everyone that attends is comfortable with, including a volume and genre style. If a very traditionally caucasian family walked in, I bet they would be welcomed. But they may feel uncomfortable with the way they worship, in the loudness, in the style – mainly because it’s not how they are traditionally comfortable with worshiping. Does that make black churches wrong? Goodness no! Does that make the caucasian family wrong for not feeling it, or even disliking it? Absolutely not! No one is wrong here, but the church was not designed for that particular group, which again, is fine. If you don’t feel that it is fine, then we simply disagree, which is also okay. But I can personally attest to the fact that we do not force anyone to attend, all are there at will, and the praise and worship is a highlight at our particular church. It serves a generation of followers that have felt alienated and abandoned by other churches, that would have not had God in their lives otherwise. The style of worship resonates with them, and they feel connected with each other, and with God because of the very style that you choose to judge one of your brothers in Christ so harshly on. Our church has always come with a warning and ample protection for those that need/request it. It is a format that is new and growing, but we are not the only specialty church out there. Greek orthodox does not fit everyone, neither does episcopalian or southern baptist (predominantly white or black). Hispanic churches, cowboy churches, megachurches, and catholics all alike serve God as we do, but would not change for the world, as they were called for a specific purpose according to God, and yes, some of them have loud music as a rule and not an exception. But I guarantee you that people filter naturally to the churches that resonate with them. People that need us, that need this type of worship, find us. And we love them, and we give them something that other’s do not. You are free to disagree with our style of worship, but if you could look into the eyes of people that have been saved by our church, that needed us when nothing else worked for them, that have been looking for something just like what we are, I bet you wouldn’t be so harsh and damning to us. We serve those that need us, not those that choose to damn a fellow brother/sister in Christ. I would NEVER take away your right to worship the way you choose, yet you seem keen on taking away the right of my congregation and congregations like mine to worship as they have chosen. Again, there are options to reduce the volume that are totally effective if it’s ever chosen, but this isn’t a whimsical choice of ours. This is a deliberate means of reaching a group of people that maybe would have never felt comfortable with where you worship, that may have even felt judged by church such as yours (and frankly, you seem perfectly comfortable with casting judgment, so I’m sorry to say that wouldn’t shock me). We get people that feel alone and abandoned ALL. THE. TIME. By more traditional churches. God did not leave them, and neither will we. We are not the church for you, but there is one for you. A hispanic, greek orthodox, pentacostal, catholic, or southern baptist church may not be the one for you, but there is one for you. They do not cast you out, you simply do not resonate with everything they may do or represent. They are not blasphemers for this, and neither are you. But please stop casting that upon us because we choose to save a unique congregation that desperately needs this type of worship and preaching style. May you come to understand this one day, as we are all on the same team.

          • Shere Kraus-Yao says

            This is an ethical issue as well as common sense issue. I feel good so I can do what I want to do, and if you don’t like it you can leave is not a Godly approach in dealing with the loud music at all!

        • Beth says

          Perfect worship would be about 85 decibels. If hearing loss occurs over 85, then worship is leading to permanent hearing loss among those who attend. They may not notice it until their 50′s, though many young people today seem to experience tinnitis from listening to loud concerts. So if we are to care for our bodies, one way is to avoid loud noise. Church should be the last place to experience damage to the ears. Those who want to turn it up are not wanting to worship better, but to be better entertained in my opinion.

          • Shamir Roshan says

            Just try and suggest that a congregation turn the volume down and see what kind of response you receive.

            We’ve received downright violent responses to the purely foolish excuses. IT IS VERY DISHEARTENING.

            We of The Church need to join in our prayers to The Lord God Jesus addressing this carnal and downright demonic activity that has been let to creep into our congregations. “Little foxes destroy the vine”.

          • Brady says

            Does stained glass go to heaven? Do decibel levels? What weight of decibels? Do our voices? I see that your point is to be a bit smarmy about volume level, but it’s lost on me, mainly because the same claim I’ve been making is ignored, and that is not every church is for every person. That is not about division, it’s about accessibility for those that need to be reached in a specific manner. People are saved in different ways and to attempt to render yourself accessible to all is to render yourself ineffective. We strive to save the unchurched, the worldly, the lost, the rejected, especially those rejected by other Churches. Once we provide an outlet for them that they find accessible, giving them the word in a way that speaks to them, that resonates, in a format that they enjoy, we are confident that we’ve done our job. We provide earplugs for those that want them freely, but everyone at the church is there because they enjoy worshiping in the way we worship. We DO NOT get complaints. You are literally complaining about something that you are not being forced into, that is HELPING people. In what ways has your divisive comment helped the world? I don’t walk into the catholic church a mile away and tell them their service is improper. THAT is divisive and not at all in accordance with the word of God. But I learned a long time ago that the same people that attempt to preach by the letter are legalists that do more at the expense of Christianity and the lost than they ever do for them. We are not appealing to those that wish to divide the church further. We are appealing to those that need us. And by finding us, they’ve found God. Again, a welcoming environment, God, strong and vibrant worship, WITH hearing protection, and you have nothing left but an attempt to divide us. And you won’t. I’m sorry that you wish to be the judge of the world, but He already came. It’s not your place.

        • Shere-Ling Kraus-Yao says

          Brady,

          As Christians we have a cultural mandate to help protect and promote health for all people coming to worship and minister to them holistically including mind, body, and spirit.

          • Mary says

            I agree with you.
            The idea that church is “a social construct” ( seriously, such pretentious, sill language)
            and not simply the gathering of 2 or more to worship God is an attempt at an end run
            around the truth that more and more believers are finally discussing. The modern
            American church experience is getting more and more obnoxious. Performance centered,
            and ego driven. The point of church is that it is an act of corporate worship. That implies that
            it is unified. It is precisely for this reason that for eons people sang in one voice, together. They did not have to wait for the guitar riff or the keyboard solo or for the “worship leader” to decide whether or not they were going to rock out to a 5th abbreviated go at the 3rd sort of stanza of the latest praise song ( which strangely enough is nearly indistinguishable from most of the others)
            Time to grow up, again. The hipster high schoolers have been telling the old people to stick earplugs in and keep filling up the plate.

        • Hillfarmer says

          Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Worship should be decent and it good order as Paul told the Corinthians

          Never should the sound level be loud enough to cause hearing damage. If this was a work environment (it is for paid staff) OSHA could fine the business for violations of OSHA standards.

          Parents who take children to such a service should be charged with child abuse.

          Only idiots would prefer loud music. Loud always hides the quality of music.

          :Loud music is a sign of the how the pagan world has invaded the church. The children of Israel liked the pagan worship of their neighbors too and continued to erect ashtoreth poles much to God’s displeasure.

        • Stuart Allsop says

          That’s a rather strange statement, Brady: “when you get that tingly feeling in your ears that makes you feel offended by a particular chruch’s volume, that means that particular church is not for you.” In reality, that “tingly feeling in your ears” is simply your body telling you that you just suffered permanent irreversible hearing damage. Tinnitus is a sure sign that physical harm has occurred, and cannot be fixed. It’s your body’s way of warning you of harm.

          “as I like my praise and worship in the 95-115 db range, definitely loud enough to damage my ears, but everyone at my church, young and old, LOVES it”: Sorry to be so skeptical, but it does seem rather hard to be believe that people would actually enjoy having their hearing destroyed. At 115 dB, that happens in just a few minutes. The damage shows up initially as a loss of around 30 dB in hearing, which recovers to about 90% of what it was after a day or so, provided that there are no further loud noises within that time.

          “We’ve had older members tell us to turn it up! You know why?” My guess would be because you had already deafened them the last time they came, so they can no longer hear it very well….

          “There isn’t a wrong way to love God if your heart is reaching out to Him, especially regarding things such as this.” I would respectfully disagree with that: Loving God in any way that harms your body is wrong. Loving God in any way that harms someone else is even more wrong. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 In fact, I would go so far as to say that doing something in the name of God that causes harm to yourself and others, cannot even be called “love” at all. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

          “What you may view as universally appealing, I truly view as ineffective and watered down, and that is also okay.” Sorry, but once again I must respectfully disagree. It is not “okay”. Hurting others is not okay. Hurting members of your own congregation is most certainly not okay.

          “These are subjective viewpoints by human beings, nothing more, not worth their weight in sand.” Having your hearing destroyed by a church sound system hardly seems like something one could call a “subjective viewpoint”.

          “But you ARE wrong to say that God has some opinion on the pleasantries of worship”. I would be very interested in hearing your Biblical support for that position. My Bible seems to somewhat different from yours in that aspect. It does not agree with you at all.

          “The only thing we should worry about as a church, from a praise and worship experience, is what our congregation feels is ideal. ” I would suggest that it might be better to worry about what God considers ideal: I have a feeling that causing bodily harm to ones brothers and sisters in Christ, would not fall into that category.

          “If our congregation is happy, then we’re good right?”. Perhaps not: Proverbs 16:25. Proverbs 12:15.

          “the central issue that has been spoken over and over again is that there seems to be an idea of a perfect worship, and it simply isn’t true.”. I don’t see anyone here saying that there is “an idea of a perfect worship”. What most people seem to be saying here, is that sound waves can cause physical damage to human ears, and that causing physical damage to your congregation is just plain wrong. You seem to be confused about this concept of what you call “worship”, and the concept of not harming your brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter how much of a “right” you think you have to play music as loud as you want, I would suggest that you do NOT have the right, either Biblically, morally, or ethically, to inflict physical harm on your congregation. If you think you DO have such a right, then I would ask that you provide the scriptural reference that gives you such a right.

          “Many of those churches are pushing volumes as loud as ours with just voices alone.” Sorry, but that is a physical impossibility. A single person shouting loudly will hit maybe 85 dB measured 1 meter away (standard distance). So you’d need to cram 64 people into one square meter in order to reach 100 dB, and they’d all have to be yelling at the top of their lungs, no singing. Yet you say your levels are ten times higher than that… You are seriously mistaken if you think a large number of people singing loudly can outdo even a small sound system. Just a simple 5w guitar practice amp can easily outdo your very best effort to equal it. It simply is not technically possible for a group of people (no matter how large the group is) to “out-.sing” even a small sound system. The human voice just is not capable of putting out that much sound energy. Not even a hundred thousand voices together. You don’t seem to have any concept of sound energy, sound power, sound pressure level, decibels, or the capabilities of speakers, amps, people and instruments. So since your basic premise is wrong, your argument is invalid, and so is your conclusion.

          Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you are arguing out of ignorance, not knowledge, trying to defend a position that is indefensible, both technically and Biblically. You cannot justify your decision to harm your congregation in this way. Nor in any other way.

          “You are free to disagree with our style of worship,”. Once again, this isn’t about “style of worship”: it is about physically harming your congregation, which by your own admission you are doing, knowingly and happily and deliberate. Sacrificing the ears of your congregation on the altar of ignorance and stubborn pride is not a defensible position.

          “You are literally complaining about something that you are not being forced into, that is HELPING people.” Come again? How is destroying somebody’s hearing “helping them”? That’s a rather strange way to “help” someone…

          “but if you could look into the eyes of people that have been saved by our church,” Perhaps it isn’t their eyes you should be concerned about: Perhaps it is their ears where you should be focusing your attention. Have you looked into their ears? have you looked into your own ears, in the sense of having a full spectrum audiology test done on them? If not, then I’d suggest hat now would be a good time to do that.

          “Again, there are options to reduce the volume that are totally effective if it’s ever chosen,”: Wrong again. And again, it is out of ignorance: Typical Earplugs provide about 20 dB of protection. Assuming your claimed preference level of 115 dB, good earplugs would bring that down to about 95 dB: that’s still very loud, and still causes harm. It just takes longer to cause the harm, but you are still causing it.

          Brady, I’m really, really sorry that you have so little love for your congregation that you would allow them to be hurt, physically, by your sound system. Yes, I hear you say how wonderful it is, and how they all love it, etc, blah, blah, blah, and I hear you repeating your mantra that this is just a “style” of worship, and that all “styles” are good and fine. But I put it to you that NOT all styles of worship are good and fine (for example, “worship” involving drunkenness, sexual immorality, disorderly behavior, etc. are all not acceptable, Biblically). And I put it to you that what you call a “style” is not even a style at all: it is an abomination, since it causes physical harm to the very people that it is your duty to protect. A pastor is supposed to protect and care for the sheep in his fold: I do not see any justification anywhere in my Bible, for a pastor to abuse the sheep entrusted to him, even if they do happen to enjoy being abused, as you claim they do.

          Stuart

      • Shere-Ling Kraus-Yao says

        It was a noisy world: a church worship experience      by Shere-Ling Kraus-Yao  on July 18th, 2012
         
        One summer afternoon of late June in a 4:30 pm Video Café service in my church, Mary followed me to the third row. As soon as she put her stuff down, standing right next to me, she said, “This is too loud, I can’t hear a thing.” Her reaction reminded me of my husband’s tinnitus problem. I told her that I will let them know. She said, “They won’t listen.” I was shocked by her statement. How does she know that the leader of my church won’t care about the congregation’s hearing health. Considering that my poor husband just came back home from his second hospitalization, I immediately feel that I am obligated to remind church leaders regarding the well beings of the attendees of Video Café services., after all the worship leader is ministering to the whole person- mind, body, and the spirit. As a Christian we have a cultural mandate of keeping the noise under the tolerance level in any Christian gathering. The worship leader Joel was happened to be the Director of WAC, Worship Art Community, of which I am also part of as I sing in the choir. He would still play his guitar with other musicians on the platform when we were asked to extend peace greetings to each other. Sure enough, Mary and I couldn’t hear each other when we tried to carry a normal conversation. If you observe people walking down the State Street, you can see that most of people wear their earphone listening to music. My 80 plus year old neighbor also wears her earphone listening to her iPod music. Americans are exposed to sound everywhere in our daily lives. Just look people crossing street at State Street near on campus, almost all students are wearing headsets with their iPad/iPhone, listening to music of some sort!
         
        I have never heard of tinnitus before my husband Jeff’s own experience. He has been deeply affected by it since last December. His gentle spirit and personality just don’t go well with the constant high-pitch sound ringing in his right hear first and then occasionally played in his left ear as well. He tried many things to manage the craziness in his head but none of them helped. Eventually he was spiralled down to sever depression with psychotic feature in middle of last May. One thing he blamed himself the most is that he didn’t protect himself from the loud sounds when he was younger. That got me thinking of the health of my own hearing ability. I know one of my ears has some problem; it can’t hear the high-pitch sound. I didn’t get an offer from my first and only job interview in Taipei after having my BS because I failed the hearing test.
         
        I remember that Jeff told me that if two people are talking and they can’t hear each other, then that means the noise is too loud and could be louder than 85dB (decibel). What is a decibel, you might wonder? “Decibels are a measurement of sound just as inches and feet measure distance. According to NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) 85 decibels (dBA) is safe for up to 8 hours. That is 8 hours over a 24-hour period. That means that you can be working in a factory or other occupation where the noise level is 85dBA for 8 hours and most people will be fine. But if you then go to the shooting range or dancing at loud club, or go into your workshop after work, you add more noise to the equation.” (from Dangerous Decibels website: http://www.dangerousdecibels.org/about-us/the-issues/) After that carved time, I moved myself to the back section of the chairs again the wall for the music was really too loud for me in that auditorium of 450 seating capacity. I also am concern that smaller size of the room with the same level of decibel, the impact on each people’s ear drum might be higher.
         
        According to the above website, approximately 10 million persons in the U.S. have permanent hearing loss from noise or trauma, 12.5% of 6-19 year old in the U.S. (5.2 million) have documented evidence of elevated hearing thresholds directly attributed to noise exposure, and 40 to 50 million Americans have tinnitus, one-quarter of them to a severity that they seek medical help. I worry that some young people of next generation, from age 0 to 18, who don’t know that they need to protect their hearing when they are young just like my husband and then regrate later in life when the lost hearing will never be recovered.
         
        The ratio of artistic children and adults and all of those who on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is about one in seventy as we now know verses one in two hundred just some two years ago, based on the statistics data given by American Autism Society. Those who with high functioning autism like PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) and Asperger’s might not formally diagnosed since some of them are holding their jobs in the workplace. However, once they have tinnitus, they could be devastating, as they just don’t have the same tolerance ability to constant high pitch sound ring in their ears as neuro-typical functioning people does. I am speaking as the first eyewitness of one married to a gentle and brilliant man with a undiagnosed asperger issue for fifteen years until Jeff is suffering from it leading to clinical depression with psychosis.
         
        My conscience urges me to speak up even if my husband’s suffering has nothing to do with a particular church’s worship service. As Christians we have a cultural mandate to help protect and promote health of all people coming to worship and minister to them holistically including mind, body, and spirit.
         
        Peace and grace,
        Shere-Ling Kraus-Yao

        I snail mailed the above article to my Senior Pastor after email exchanges expressing my concerns to the Director of WAC. It so happened that the font was very small. Well I sent it anyway.. Maybe he could sense the pain by not being able to read just as I also suffered by the loud music in Sunday worship. Since than the volume has been turned down. Thank God!!!

      • says

        I have been trying to see if I can bring a law suit against loud audeo in Christian churches. In all christian churches! I have communicated with the UCLU. I have communicated osha, I will not give up. I will bring a law suit, some how even if I have to bring law suit against not the church but simply the audeo operator. This loud audeo has gotvti be controlled. Just think of what we are doing to our young children through no fault of them. Osha or the ACLU has got to control the loud audeo devils that reside in supposedly christisn churches.

        • Stuart Allsop says

          “I have been trying to see if I can bring a law suit against loud audeo in Christian churches. ” Good for you Joe! The Bible actually has guidance for you, on how you should go about suing a church:

          1 Corinthians 6:1-7

          It also has guidance on what the outcome will probably be for you:

          Matthew 7:1-5

          And what you should do about that, too:

          Leviticus 19:18

          Romans 2:1-5

          Matthew 5:38-42

          Probably your best chance would be to follow James 1:5

          I pray that you will be blessed in pursuing your quest for Godly justice, provided that you do it Biblically, as outlined above.

          Stuart

        • Stuart Allsop says

          “I have to bring law suit against not the church but simply the audeo operator. ” Why would you want to sue the guy who is NOT responsible for the sound levels in the church? The sound operator does not have control of the levels in the church. That’s a myth. If you want to succeed in your legal proceedings, you should probably sue those who are really responsible for the sound levels during praise and worship.

          Stuart

    • Michael says

      I am reading this blog in year 2014 and have suffered hearing damage from staying in a church that had extreme loud services (95 – 105 dba typical). Children would cup their ears because it was so loud. Many wore ear plugs (I did). There was a blind couple that was in the church for awhile. They sit in the back but had to leave the church too. Their hearing was all they had left! We spoke with the pastor continually for a period of over two years. Promises made. Sound levels down for a season but then…back up to deafening levels. I now wear a hearing aid and have ringing in the ears. It is not fun and no worship experience is worth it. My advice would be to get out of your church within three months if there is no real change. There is nothing spiritual about hearing loss!

      • Debra Magrann says

        The issue is why put our brothers and sisters at risk? If someone says they hurt, are we not sensitive to their experience? I am not an audiologist, but have consulted with one. This is an epidemic in the Church! Jesus taught us to sacrifice self for others. My observation over the last 20 years is that the world has overcome the Church, not only on this issue, but via divorce, inappropriate recreation (too much amusement) and neglect of the poor. Many believers warehouse their elderly parents. This should not be! The western church has lost its way; there is a deeper spiritual issue at hand. Denial of self and humility is the example we receive from our Master. Give me a valid reason why music should be so loud that it drives people away. Do you think this pleases the Lord? Youth are filled with energy, that is a given, but that energy needs to be channeled into productive service, not on stage like secular ”rock stars”. If we are honest with ourselves, we will search our souls and seek the Holy Spirit to curb our ego. If youth believe their ‘gift’ is of the Lord, then by all means – go outside the walls of worship and hold public concerts to win the lost for Christ instead of driving away fellow believers!

      • Ron Bartels says

        It is not just decibels of sound, but also pressure of sound. Running 95db at 100k of pressure is not painful but running 90db over 200k can be very painful for many. In the church I am leaving, the db runs from 85-121 but the pressure is almost always at or above 200k but the guys running the soundboard refuse to take sound technician training, even online.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_pressure – scroll down page to bottom righthand side to see chart lines.

        http://www.advanced-noise-solutions.co.uk/noise-training.html – example of online training courses available. Many soundboard companies have sound tech training. It is not expensive nor time consuming.

        However, ignorance in sound management can diminish church attendance by those who do NOT have damaged hearing.

        I suggest, that every church that has Christian Rock music get their soundboard tech trained or drop the rock music for music that is more worshipful in nature.

        • Doug says

          Ron, I Kindly submit that you have no idea what you are talking about. I am not minimizing your concern, or your church techs need for training but you are citing information that you do not understand. Both sets of numbers you are talking about are different scales of measurement for the same thing…Sound Pressure. Kind of like Celsius and Fahrenheit. Decibels and Pascal’s are both measurements of sound pressure level.

          The training link you included is for industrial noise control. Pretty much irrelevant to anyone needing training in proper audio mixing.

          Please don’t throw out irrelevant information into an already confusing and divisive subject. It only harms those trying to do the right thing and does not help your argument.

        • Stuart Allsop says

          I have to agree with Doug here.

          “It is not just decibels of sound, but also pressure of sound.” Sorry, but it is exactly the same thing! The decibels measured by a sound level meter are showing you the sound PRESSURE level. That’s why they are referred to as dB SPL. That’s exactly what the meter is measuring: sound pressure.

          “Running 95db at 100k of pressure is not painful but running 90db over 200k can be very painful for many.”. That doesn’t even make sense, Ron. It isn’t even possible. Normal air pressure at sea level is roughly 100,000 Pascals. Playing music at a level of 95 dB causes a pressure variation of less than 1 Pascal. So the variation is about 1 part in one hundred thousand. In other words, the pressure varies between about 99,999.5 and 100,000.5 Pascals. There is very little actual power in a sound wave at that level, even though it sounds loud to us.

          “In the church I am leaving, the db runs from 85-121 but the pressure is almost always at or above 200k “. Once again, that is simply nonsensical rambling. A pressure of 200,000 Pascals is absolutely, totally impossible. The highest atmospheric pressure ever recorded on the planet was 108,330 Pascals. Playing extremely loud music at 130 dB (the loudest rock concert ever recorded) would cause that pressure to vary by about 64 Pascals, between roughly 108,298 and 108,362. So your claim that you measured pressure levels of 200,000 Pascals inside your church, is laughable and ludicrous. It never happened. Sorry. You might believe that you measured such a level, but in reality you most certainly did not. Which leads to the obvious question: How did you even measure it? I don’t know of any normal barometers capable of measuring such extreme pressures.

          “Many soundboard companies have sound tech training. It is not expensive nor time consuming.” I’ll have to disagree with that too. I would estimate that it took me several years to learn enough and gain enough experience that I can comfortably operate most consoles in most venues. You can’t train a sound tech in a few days. Not even a few weeks. I have been training my assistant for about three years now: he’s almost ready to handle a Sunday service on his own.

          “However, ignorance in sound management can diminish church attendance by those who do NOT have damaged hearing.” And gross ignorance of physics, mathematics, sound and acoustics, as you display here, can diminish the attempts of the rest of us who are really trying to promote the concept of reasonable, measurable, safe, sound levels in churches. It would be beneficial if you would not make claims such as these, since they only muddy the waters, and mislead others who are trying to understand these very complex issues. Acoustics is confusing, complicated and non-intuitive at the best of times. Having someone who doesn’t understand any of it loudly pretending that they do, is not notably helpful.

          Stuart

      • Rick Schuster says

        After we had experiences of sound levels around 98dB, my wife and I scheduled a meeting with our pastor and chair of the elders. I dd lots of research ahead of time and presented our concerns in detail. We co-developed a plan for getting the sound system under control. We established an agreement that the sound would not exceed 85dB, knowing at times it may spike over for a few seconds depending on the song, We purchased two sound meters, one for the sound booth and one for me to monitor the soound and write down the sound levels for each song if I saw violations beyond the agreement. Just recently, a new sound tech decided to really push the bass which caused the sounf level to elevate back into the 90′s. The elders have now taken up this issue again and reported back to me today a get well plan. The chair of the elders has also encouraged me that if there are others in the congregation complain the music is too loud, to have them talk to him. In my research, I found an article that states churches can be held liable for causing damage to one’s hearing. I don’t think any church wants a lawsuit handed to them. I for one, would like to see that just to set a precedence and stop this foolishness. As important, a church has an ETHICAL responsibility. After all, it is NOT God’s desire that a church band wants nothing better than to destroy the human ear- something he created.

    • David Gauger says

      Corporate worship is different than parallel individual worship. If ideal worship is just “me and God” then true corporate worship in a church service can be deemed optional, and unfortunately, for many it is.

      I believe there are at least 2 parts to worship in church: the vertical where we address God directly with our words, songs, actions, etc., and also the horizontal corporate action where other people witness, overhear, and join with our worship as we “preach to one another” using the words of the songs, readings, etc.

      One problem is that we unwittingly make the corporate dimension very difficult for the simple fact that we just can’t hear one another in many worship settings. This effectively eliminates the horizontal component of worship. This is not a style based issue.

      I just submitted my doctoral dissertation last week on the effect of congregational volume on one’s encouragement to sing. Keep in mind, that my results are based on what my test subjects wanted to hear of the rest of the congregation, not the sound system. After all, what a congregation hears of itself is what happens when the sound system is turned OFF.

      Here is what I found. This is not opinion, but the average response of 35 test subjects which is a statistically valid number of responses.

      The ideal volume at which to hear the rest of the congregation was 81 dB. The ideal volume at which to sing while hearing the congregation at 81 dB was about the same: 80 dB. The people felt best about singing at those levels.

      At 85 dB congregational level, responses to questions like: “I felt I could worship under these conditions” and “The balance between my voice and the congregation was good” began to drop. And 90 dB and above was found to be a DISCOURAGEMENT to singing.

      Most fascinating was that the louder the congregational volume, the louder the test subjects sang. However, above 90 dB they disagreed with the statements like “I can worship under these conditions” and “If given a chance, I would sing again at these levels.” This means that while people may sing louder at louder congregational levels, they don’t like it and don’t even feel they can worship properly.

      Is this a style based issue? No. Pipe organs can overwhelm a congregation just as much as a sound system belting out a worship team can.

      Want to help people to sing? Let them hear themselves as a congregation. This involves acoustics and volume levels of all types of accompaniment.

  2. Don Matthews says

    Volume does not necessarily equate to excitement. It’s the whole worship experience. I used to hear senior adults complain about the volume of the music. Now I am one. I understand a little more. It is not the volume as much as it the volume force. The vibration from a deep base or drum can make a Senior Adult very uncomfortable. It sometimes actually hurts. I heard one sweet senior adult say they loved their church so much they tried their best to endure the vibration and volume but they went home sick. That’s real folks. There needs to be some good studies that would indicate the level of sound and the comfort of the people.

    • Josh Mellema says

      We have an interesting problem with our church’s services. We have different styles aimed at different age demographics during the weekend. For our earlier service (aimed at attendees 40+) we set the levels at 80db with peaks in mid to upper 80′s. The later service (aimed at attendees 40 and below) we set at 90. Occasionally we will mix things up and have the band that plays at the later service play at the earlier service. Regardless, the volume level DOES NOT CHANGE, but just purely the fact that students are leading the worship results in some very pointed and hatred filled comments about volume. Sometimes its more about perceived volume than actual volume. If people don’t like the music, they usually just say it is too loud.

      • TyLa Runkel says

        I loved my church, and I loved the music, yet it left me with so much constant pain in my right ear I had to see a specialist. Yes, I’d lost hearing. He cautioned me to try not to be around loud music. I don’t like the idea of different types of music for different ages. I’m 66 now, and LOVE some of the young groups like Third Day, Mary Mary, Martah Munizi and more. When I was a teen I loved many genres of music from classical, rock & roll, gospel, country. I would rather have music chosen by the Holy Spirit regardless of what age category I fall in.

      • Mrs. Ron (Debra) Magrann says

        In response to Josh Mellema:
        Why would you wish to irritate anyone in Christ? The fact is that sound above 70-75 dB is TOO LOUD. You contradicted yourself by stating that the levels were set at 80 dB for the earlier service, and 90 dB for the later one. THAT IS NOT THE SAME! Your comments about people’s perceptions is immature. How do you know what people are thinking when they say the music is TOO LOUD? Are you calling them liars? Why not follow the Master and lay down your life for the brethren?

  3. N Bleakley says

    I’ve been visiting in churches where I had to wear earplugs. Needless to say, I didn’t join there. I deal with people with hearing loss every day and I value the good hearing I have. Once it’s gone you can’t get it back, no matter how good the hearing aid is. No one need to leave the service with a headache.

  4. Lonnie says

    90-95 dB will push people right out the door if they have small kids, especially if you’ve mic’ed your drums. A church plant near us uses 80dB as their base level, it has a smooth sound and the frequencies don’t overreach. Of course 80 db through bad speakers will sound like mud through a spaghetti strainer, but then you need more help the volume.

    • Stuart Allsop says

      That’s a common myth, and is very wrong: “90-95 dB will push people right out the door if they have small kids, especially if you’ve mic’ed your drums.” In reality (and very paradoxically. And very non-intuitively:) it is the act of NOT mic’ing the drums that makes the sound muddy and too loud.

      If the drums are mic’d properly, and the sound system is set up properly, and the console is operated properly, then the overall level can be kept under control. Failing to mic the drums causes the drummer to play much louder than he should, which overwhelms the other musicians, who are then forced to play even more loudly themselves, which in turn forces the sound tech to turn everything up in order to keep it balanced….

      If the drums are mic’d properly, then the drummer can play at a decently soft level, (s he should), while the sound system then takes care of limiting the dynamics and spectrum of the drums, blending that with the other instruments and the voices in a controlled manner, and sending that out over the main speakers at a reasonable and balanced level.

      Stuart

  5. Zeb Carpenter says

    Interesting article. I run sound at my church, and I have generally found about the same to be true. I normally shoot for 75-80db sustained with peaks in the upper 80s. There is truth to the idea that people can be self-concsious about their singing (or lack thereof) if the volume is too low, but if it is too high, you miss out on the “corporate” aspect of corporate worship.

    • Zeb Carpenter says

      One other thing… Without a doubt, the most profound worship services I have ever attended were at Together for the Gospel in 2010 and 2012. The volumes there were probably in the 90db range, but they were almost entirely produced by the 7,000 attendees, most of whom were men. There was a kind of holy violence to it that created an environment that was extremely conducive to unfettered worship. I mention this to point out that the issue is not necessarily the actual volume, but the overall community and environment of your congregation.

      • Chuck Bland says

        The context of what is producing a sound level is indeed important, as you have aptly pointed out.

        There is a difference between that sound level being directed AT YOU from a system source, versus an ambient sound level generated across a large room.

      • Andy says

        Some very good points. I enjoyed the dynamics of worship at T4G the times I attended. I hasten to add, however, that I must add my name to the list of those who think certain dynamics are just too much (too loud, too strong, too big…) I often think that it is not about worship anymore… but this is only opinion. A second opinion: I think that the major emphasis of music in worship should be the people gathered, singing, and not instruments, solos, other features. Variety is good, but not everything. Instruments should assist in worship, but not dominate… Okay, that’s enough for now ( but I did enjoy your thoughts- thanks).

    • Dallas says

      How can you mix at 70-75dB?
      That’s impossible!
      A normaly conversation without Sound Reinforcement is @ 70-80dB.
      Stage noise is louder than that.
      So… that’s false.
      This article is perhaps the most useless and inaccurate description of SPL measurement.
      Some many things haven’t been addressed.
      First off. Pocket RTA/SPL meters aren’t accurate or reliable.
      Second, when your using a SPL METER… not an iPhone, you need to calibrate it.
      Thirdly, Setting your meter to the correct weighting , responce and range will change your readings tenfold.
      The person who wrote this article needs to get the facts straight before they miseducate people.

      • TyLa Runkel says

        …I ended up having to leave a church I loved because I had to see an ear specialist. I’d lost hearing in my right ear from the loud music. I quit even trying to sing along and just “lip synced”….I’d thought the ORIGINAL purpose of worship leaders was to LEAD the congregation in worship not over power us. God has often put in my heart he wants to hear His SHEEP singing and worshiping together. I’ve shared this with leaders just to get a kind of “go away little girl” answer. I am praying to be led to a church doesn’t have ‘entertainers’, and bless their hearts they don’t even realize how their loudness does appeal to EVERYone. Some teenagers love classical music and some seniors, like me, love some of the newer songs and groups like Third Day, Mary Mary, Martha Munizi and more. We are filled with Jesus….and just as we can not, dare not put Jesus in a neat little box, the same should apply to us who are filled with Him…….

      • Dee says

        Dallas, you miss the point. The article is right on, exclaiming the physical discomfort that so many feel with music that is way too loud and overpowering. Having such loud music is unfair and very exclusive. It is not fair to expect individuals to go search for another church just because they cannot handle the volume or intensity of the music. If you want to go to a rock concert, then by all means go to one. But, church should not be about a stage performance. It should be about the whole congregation lifting up praise to the Lord with one voice. Church is not for the next “Christian” rock performance. It just is not fair to the whole congregation and is very divisive. Where is the brotherly love in that?

        • Ron Bartels says

          Our church service is not only above 85 decibels (last measurement was 114 amortized) but also well above 200 hz pressure. As a consequence, after many members left and others are leaving, I am starting an unincorporated fellowship to meet the needs.

          We are using the finest equipment for testing which expensed above $1,000 for purchase. Same equipment used by law enforcement with the tests certified as admissible in courts of law.

          There is a hard heartedness about the stage craft of their Church Rock Music. It should be the Holy Spirit drawing each person, not painful rock music. It is Christ who must be lifted up, not the music.

      • Hillfarmer says

        Dallas, the article is on target when it talks about reasonable sound levels.

        You do not need meters or gadgets to know if the music is too loud. Just listen to it. As far as “How can you mix at 70-75dB?” I don’t know and I don’t care. Does it need to be mixed?

        If it is too loud it does not need to be mixed because it is just worthless noise and it does not matter how it is mixed if it is too loud because it is just noise.

        God is not asleep we do not need to blast out with overpowered speakers for him to hear.

        • Stuart Allsop says

          “You do not need meters or gadgets to know if the music is too loud. Just listen to it.”. Actually, you do need a meters, and you cannot rely on your ears becuase they lie to you! :)

          It’s a common misconception that human ears are good at judging “loud” and “soft”, when in reality they aren’t. The problem is that the human hearing system has no absolute point of reference: it all depends on recent exposure. In other words, your ears and brain have a sort of “floating” reference point that gradually moves up and down over time, adapting to the surroundings, regarding what it judges as “normal”. So if you have been listening to loud sound for a while (a few minutes) then your brain adjusts to say that this new level is now “normal”, and anything less than that is “quiet” while anything greater is “loud”. If the volume of the music then goes up, another few minutes later your brain has once again adjusted to the new louder level, and now considers THAT “normal”.

          You can see where this is going, and why it is a problem in churches: the musicians and sound team arrive at church early, and start playing: within a few minutes, their hearing has adapted, and what was “loud” a few minutes ago is now “normal”. So they turn it up without even realizing it. A few minutes later, their hearing adjusts again to that new higher level, and it now considers THAT to be normal. So the level goes up again. And the pattern repeats. After say an hour of setting up, warming up, rehearsal, and sound-check, their reference level has gradually crept way up, and their ears are now adjusted to a level where “normal” for them is “really loud” for the person who just walked in the door after a quiet night’s sleep, a calm breakfast, a nice quiet car ride to the church, and a quiet stroll across the parking lot, and through the church foyer. so when that “newcomer” walks into the main sanctuary, what they hear is “VERY LOUD”, because their hearing is still adjusted to a low level. An when they complain to the musicians, they get a look of “You’re nuts! This is NORMAL!” And the music does NOT get turned down, because when they try to do that, it now sounds “really quiet” to them.

          This is the underlying problem behind much of the arguments between the praise team / sound team, and the newly arriving congregation: they musicians and sound guys really do not perceive the sound as being “loud” since there internal reference level is skewed upwards, while the reference level of the congregations is skewed downwards.

          So they are both right! For the musicians, the music just isn’t loud at all, while for the new arrival it is very loud. Both are correct in their assessment of the volume … SUBJECTIVELY. But neither is correct OBJECTIVELY.

          That’s why you absolutely and most definitely do need a sound level meter in your church: it has a fixed reference point built into its internal circuitry, and that point does not change, no matter how loud or quite the music is. It provides the objective level of the sound in the room, not open to argument or discussion. Everyone can see the numbers on the screen, so there is no way that the “loud-adapted” musicians can then claim that it really isn’t all that loud: the numbers don’t lie.

          If there is a sound level meter in the church, the musicians and sound team must also be trained how to use it (it is nowhere near as simple as just turning it on and looking at the screen!), and must then use it regularly during the set-up, rehearsal, sound-check AND THE SERVICE, paying close attention to the limits I mentioned in a previous post. If they are regularly checking the sound level meter, then they will easily be able to keep the level down to where it should be, and it will NOT creep up as time passes: it will remain constant, as it should.

          “As far as “How can you mix at 70-75dB?” I don’t know and I don’t care. Does it need to be mixed?”. You should care, and yes it does need to be mixed! Not mixing properly is one of the other main issues of church sound: a properly trained sound engineer “sculpts” the sound of each instrument and voice, to reduce the level of some frequencies (tones) that are not needed by that particular instrument, thus leaving “space” in the audio spectrum so that they can increase the level of other instruments that do need those frequencies. This prevents the typical and very common “beginner’s mush”, where all instruments are equalized the exact same way, as they are all fighting with each other at every point on the spectrum! So fr example, a good sound engineer will cut out the entire mid range from the kick drum, the snare and the toms, since they don’t have any useful energy there, and that leaves space to insert the keyboard and acoustic guitar. Those two in turn will have their bottom and top ends trimmed down a little, to allow for the drums and electric guitars to fit in without fighting. And the electric guitars in turn will have their middle range reduced slightly to allow for the vocals to fit in: Finally, the vocal channels will have ALL of the low end totally chopped off, since there is nothing useful in the human voice below about 200 Hz., so everything that the mics are picking up below that level is just useless noise from the rest of the stage (eg, drums, bass guitar, keyboard low end, etc.) and that does not belong in a vocal channel.

          So if each channel on the console is correctly adjusted to highlight ONLY the frequencies that really belong to that sound source, and to cut out all others, then they all fit together harmoniously, instead of mushing along together in a muddy glob.

          If you don’t mix, then you will never have good sound in your church, regardless of how loud or quiet it is. So you SHOULD care about having a sound tech who knows how to mix.

          And yes, as Dalas pointed out, a level of “70 to 75 dB” is way quite, and physically impossible to mix at, since that is the level of conversation between two people. In other words, if it were even possible to mix at that level, then the sound coming out the speakers would be drowned out by the singing, or even by two people talking to each other: you would never be able to hear the music at all: That is roughly the level of the background music in a supermarket, quiet restaurant, or elevator, and that’s the entire purpose of such music: to be a background. One can hardly have the corporate body of the church praising and worshiping the Lord in the background!

          70-75 dB is the correct level for the SERMON and other spoken word segments of the service, but is way too quiet for the music. A reasonable and safe level is about 85 dB, which can then descend down to 80 dB for quieter, more gentle songs, and rise to 90 dB for more dynamic songs. Those are reasonable, safe, moderate levels, that nobody should be complaining about, or even noticing…. PROVIDED THAT the sound system is set up correctly, operated correctly, and that the room is correctly treated, acoustically.

          Stuart

        • Stuart Allsop says

          “If it is too loud it does not need to be mixed because it is just worthless noise and it does not matter how it is mixed if it is too loud because it is just noise.” – Sorry, but that just isn’t true: if it is mixed PROPERLY and the room is good acoustically, then it will not be “worthless noise”, even if it is too loud. It will just be too loud, which is a very different thing. A good mix that is too loud will still sound good: just loud. It won’t be muddy, shrill, harsh, tinny, thumpy, or anything else: it will simply be loud, which is easy to fix: just turn it down.

          On the other hand, a badly done mix will sound bad no matter how loud or quite it is, and is way more difficult to fix: turning it down will not make it sound any better at all!

          That’s one of the main problems: For most people, regardless of what the REAL problem is with the sound, they simply refer to it as “too loud”, when in actual fact, loudness is not the problem. They don’t know how to identify or put a name to what it is about the music that is actually bothering them: they call all issues “too loud” when in reality volume is not the problem.

          It’s the same as someone going to the doctor and just saying “I feel sick”. If that’s the only symptom you can give him, then there’s no way he will be able to cure you until he has done a series of tests and identified the problem. On the other hand, if you can tell him what your exact symptoms are, he’ll have a much better idea of what is wrong with you, and he will be able to treat you much better, and faster. It’s the same with church acoustics: Everyone goes to the “doctor” at the console, and tells him “the room is sick”, but since they don’t specify in what WAY it is “sick”, the doctor cannot treat it. It needs an expert with specialized instruments to physically go to the church and run the tests on both the room acoustics and on the sound system itself, to determine why it is “sick”. Based on those test results, the expert can then prescribe the “medicine” to make it well again.

          In my work, the most frequent problem I see in churches is that the room acoustics are so poor that even un-amplified voices and acoustic guitar already sound bad: That certainly isn’t “too loud”: it is simply “too reverberant” or “too diffusive” or “too absorbent” in certain frequency ranges. Only rarely is the issue that it really is “too loud” .

          The medicine for such illnesses is NOT to turn down the volume on the console: the medicine is to install acoustic diffusion on the points that need it around the rooms, and acoustic absorption on other points that need it. The “prescription” might also include replacing the hard pews with softer upholstered chairs, or adding treatment under and behind each pew, or adding cushions, since the seating in a church is a huge part of the overall environment: an unoccupied wooden pew is a major acoustic nightmare, while an unoccupied soft chair is not, and in fact is helping the acoustics, both when occupied and not occupied.

          The “prescription” might also be to re-aim the speakers, replace them with something better suited to the room, re-locate mics, instruments and monitors, and calibrate the entire sound system correctly. And the overall remedy will very likely include additional training for both the sound team AND ALSO for the musicians, who frequently are a much greater part of the problem than they realize, and also don’t think they are part of the solution when in fact they are.

          The solution, in my experience, is almost never “turn it down”.

          “God is not asleep we do not need to blast out with overpowered speakers for him to hear.”. Once again, it is a common misconception in churches that the way to get the volume right, is to use underpowered speakers: nothing could be further from the truth! Underpowered speakers will clip and distort the sound, will not be able to cleanly handle the transients, will sound terrible (even if they are good quality), and will like end up with their tweeters burning out every few months, “inexplicably”. The solution is, in fact, to use slightly over-powered speakers, and greatly overpowered amplifiers (if they are separate from the speakers), but to then correctly calibrate the entire sound system such that the speakers are easily producing the maximum allowable level without even breaking a sweat, then to limit the maximum possible sound pressure level at the speaker itself, such that the console operator cannot turn up the volume any louder than that, no matter what he does.

          Think of it this way: if you want to travel in a car at a steady 65 MPH on the highway, then it makes no sense to try to do that in a car whose maximum speed is 65 MPH! The engine, gearbox and drive train will be screaming at their limits, badly overworked, overheating, making a huge racket, running very inefficiently and uncomfortably, shaking and rattling, and damaging both the car and the patience of the riders. IT will be a lousy experience, even though the car matches the specs of the job: it can travel at 65MPH. A far better plan is to get a car whose maximum speed is more like 120 MPH, so when it is running at 65 MPH it does so effortlessly, quietly, easily, smoothly, efficiently, without straining at all, and everyone is happy.

          The solution to church sound systems is not to undersize them; it is to size them correctly for the job they must do, so that they can do it without straining or being overloaded, and then CALIBRATE them correctly so that they can only be run at the correct levels, never overloaded, and then to train the operators correctly.

          Stuart

    • Robert Boer says

      Corporate worship should be different than a concert. When accompanying a congregation, regardless of instrument(s), there’s a fine line: it must give them support and encouragement in singing, while letting them be able to hear themselves and others. A very difficult task with a hundred variables to take into account. But do not let this be dismissed!

    • TyLa Runkel says

      I thought or ‘original’ purpose for worship leaders was to GET THE CONGREGATION TO WORSHIP not to entertain. I once heard of a service with no up front group. When the congregation all sang together, often people in different sections harmonized with other sections and it was more anointed than any up front singing so loud you don’t even bother to try to sing, groups. God put it on my heart that if I would not subject a newborn baby to music over 80 decibels why should we subject our own very delicately created ears?? It is not hatred, it is frustration, sadness, and goodbye……..

      • Stuart Allsop says

        “if I would not subject a newborn baby to music over 80 decibels why should we subject our own very delicately created ears”. I would respectfully suggest that the reason we don’t subject babies to levels over 80 dB, while we do with adults, is because a baby’s hearing system has not yet developed fully to the stage where it can handle those levels safely, whereas adult ears have.

        It’s the same reason we don’t subject babies to solid food, whereas we do subject adults to that: because a baby’s digestive system has not yet developed enough to be able to handle solid food, while an adult’s has. Or the same reason we don’t allow babies to have access to dangerous objects, such as knives, forks, matches, and pens: because their brains have not yet developed enough to be able to use such implements safely.

        The reason why adults can use forks, eat solid food, and listen to 85 dB all day without harming themselves, is precisely because they are adults! Their bodes have grown and developed in the way God intended and planned, such that they can now handle things that would have been dangerous for them at an earlier age.

        Of course, in all cases, there are still limits: Some “foods” cannot be eaten safely even by adults. Some implements cannot be handled safely even by adults, unless they use suitable protection. And some sound levels cannot be handled by unprotected adult ears either.

        The issue isn’t that adults should not be exposed to things that might harm babies: if that were the case, we would all live our entire lives in incubators! The issue is that adults should not be exposed to things that can harm ADULTS, and that includes sound levels. But 80 dB is not the right level for that. If you think that no adult should be exposed to a level over 80 dB, then you yourself had better stop talking in crowded places, and you had better tell your pastor to stop preaching too! I guarantee that if I were to measure the level of his unamplified voice while he is preaching, it will already be over 80 dB(C)… And I guarantee that if I were to measure the level of your own voice while you chat with a friend at the mall, or even in the church right after the service is over, that too would be over 80 dB…

        Stuart

  6. Chris Blackstone says

    Visited a church on Sunday where the music was 95 db, which is much too loud. Loud music encourages people not to sing as it’s rather hard to sing when you can’t hear yourself.
    Additionally, loud music sends a subtle, or maybe not so subtle, message that only young people need attend. What about older adults with hearing difficulties or small children and even pregnant women? Loud music is especially harmful for them and if we as the church as to live as a family, we should get rid of everything that presents the majority from worshipping together at one time.
    Finally, in the UK, if you work a job with noise exposure over 80db, your employer is required to provide you with hearing protectors (http://www.advanced-noise-solutions.co.uk/noise-effects/). Think of that the next time you want to “turn it up to 11″

  7. Becky says

    I love a loud and upbeat worship, but it’s not enjoyable if it’s so loud that your ears hurt. I’ve experienced that a couple times, and it was not pleasant.

  8. Joel says

    I agree that 75db is a little too quiet for most churches, but I also have a slightly different perspective on why people participate or not. Perhaps part of the reason that everyone was really enjoying the Disney concert is because that is someplace that they really wanted to be, someplace that they had invested in. I see too many churchgoers who are passive, they are merely spectating. I think that if we could make disciples and have a church full of people who are there because they are genuinely excited about worshipping God, then the volume won’t matter nearly as much. At our church, we strive for 90db without having too much high frequency content. We rarely have people complaining about it being too loud, and we have an awesome time of worship. Personally, I blame our worship leader for that. His passion and love for our congregation is what engages them in worship. Whether is 80 or 95db, we still have the same spirit of worship in the room.

  9. says

    Revelation 4 and 5 indicate an intense volume level in heaven. Perhaps congregations who “do” church louder are just preparing their folks for the life to come. Sometimes more is more.

    • TyLa Runkel says

      In Heaven, we’l have spiritual ears, and not man made “music”. Nothing will hurt, and music can be 10 times louder than 90 decibels and it won’t cause us to lose out hearing…..like it did mine :/

    • Shamir Roshan says

      You are wrong to compare The Worship of our God that goes on in Heaven to what is going on in congregations of The Church today.
      When we are all finally Home there is no sin nor sinning to interfere and hinder our expressions of Love and Honor and Glory to Yeshua.
      Your comment seems pretty ridiculous because there is no comparison to Perfection and Imperfection.

    • Shere-Ling Kraus-Yao says

      Rev. 8:1b there was a silence in heaven for about half an hour.

      Silence gives assurance of success in adoration. “Recalls the liturgical silence that fell over the Jerusalem Temple when priests offered incense and the multitudes prayed quietly in the outer court. (Lk 1:8-10) Jewish tradition also speaks of an angelic silence in the heaven when Isreal prays and when the judgments of God are about to fall. (Hab 2:20; Zeph 1:7). Here an angel offers the prayers of the saints with incense (Rev 8:3-4) just before curses descend upon the earth (8:7-9:21; 11:15-19)” ( page 46 of Ignatius Study Bible on the Revelation to John) Church service will be very refreshing if from time to time the worship leader would lead all to have long silence to see what God might speak to all instead of focusing on human-performance via noisy music.

    • Hillfarmer says

      Don’t be stupid. The sound level will be perfect in Heaven for the ears on our new bodies. They will not be able to be damaged.

  10. Ryan says

    “EPCOT did have more concert/dance adult-oriented venues later in the evening. These were significantly louder (too loud for my taste).”

    This article is completely subjective and the author shows his bias in this statement. How loud is too loud? It depends on your target audience, room size, instrumentation and several other factors.

      • Kyle says

        I think he just means that the author is being a bit misleading here. On the one hand, he sets up Disney as an authority on “getting the loudness correct” because of their success in the marketplace, but then he cherry-picks his analysis of what Disney does. The article reads as if softer is better and that Disney supports this theory because their shows are soft. But in reality, Disney has shows which are soft AND loud, which does not support the orginal point (softer is better).

        I think while the heart of the article is good (as I worship leader I defnitely think there is real value in letting the congregation hear themselves sing) it is a misleading appeal to authority and not really a very helpful article.

        • Heather says

          I believe the purpose of the article was for you to examine your church’s all-congregation services, especially if such a large congregation includes all types of life, as Disney’s does. Most importantly, the sharing of an experience and perspective that may help you in your own work/mission-place, as leaders. You never look around Disney audiences and only see one age or “type” of person, you have no idea who prefers hymns, spirituals, gospel or heavy metal. You see various nationalities, backgrounds and demographics — engaged, even through screaming cranky children — and volume never seems to be the issue. So it would be wise to at least speculate as to why they are successful in accomplishing this, aside from the fact that they’re, well, Disney ;) You may not ever need to address it if your church is primarily one population, or it’s “always been that way.” Those that are missing it with ANY member, and style preference is not an issue, may want to determine if volume could be a limiting factor. I can assure you, the author is not suggesting that every venue run “soft” but perhaps “softer” could be key… or not. If you’re doing louder well, do it. It was to get you thinking — and as evidenced by the comment thread — mission accomplished.

  11. says

    If I can’t hear the melody of a song clearly because the instruments are overpowering it, then the music is too loud. I won’t be able to learn new songs, and I won’t be able to sing along, and that makes me sad. I *want* to sing praises to the Lord, but I often find myself just standing there completely lost. It diminishes my ability to worship and my joy in doing so when I can’t participate. Please, sound booth techs, turn the volume down.

    • Joan says

      I totally agree with Margaret. We have people who attend our Bible Fellowship Class who would love to go to church, but have told us they tried and could not handle the sound volume. They went home with headaches. They had also tried different areas of the sanctuary but it did not help. I have had the same experience. I can’t sing to much of it because it is so loud I don’t know if I am making any noise or not. My husband and I now wear ear plugs every week. It’s too bad because we have a wonderful church and a great music program but we do not even go to the special musicals any more. We do miss that kind of worship so much. I wish we could just hear the large congregation sing instead of all the “Praise Team” and orchestra/band. We are here to worship, too. Not just for the music people.

      • TyLa Runkel says

        Amen, Joan….I ended up having to leave a church and people I loved because of the painfully loud music and the worship team dominating the worship instead of encouraging the congregation to sing.

      • says

        Thanks for sharing your experience on this blog Joan. I’m hoping your comments will eventually edify the church at large, and demonstrate what we all want…a worship environment that focuses on the right things, as well as creating mature worshippers who are able to decide to worship regardless of the distractions.

        PS – By the way, if you haven’t — try HEARO’s…they reduce the volume without affecting frequencies. Unlike ear plugs (which block out too much), HEARO’s are able to simply reduce the overall volume for the listener. It’s also easier to sing with them in. Ear plugs make it nearly impossible to participate in singing. Wish we knew each other, I’d give you my own pair.

        - Bryan

    • TyLa Runkel says

      Amen….I ended up having to leave a church I loved because I had to see an ear specialist. I’d lost hearing in my right ear from the loud music. I quit even trying to sing along and just “lip synced”….I’d thought the ORIGINAL purpose of worship leaders was to LEAD the congregation in worship not over power us. God has often put in my heart he wants to hear His SHEEP singing and worshiping together. I’ve shared this with leaders just to get a kind of “go away little girl” answer. I am praying to be led to a church doesn’t have ‘entertainers’, and bless their hearts they don’t even realize how their loudness does appeal to EVERYone. Some teenagers love classical music and some seniors, like me, love some of the newer songs and groups like Third Day, Mary Mary, Martha Munizi and more. We are filled with Jesus….and just as we can not, dare not put Jesus in a neat little box, the same should apply to us who are filled with Him…….

  12. Richard says

    Volume does matter, and it matters a great deal. My grandson (and that gives you a lot more info about me) has told me of times he comes away from a youth concert with his ears ringing. There is an ethical issue here. We say we are using the volume to engage people in music that will bring them in touch with God, but too many times volume becomes a substitute for musical quality….we actually think we are better performers if we are loud. How superficial is that? We are damaging ears and riding the gain to make the world look at us, when the world needs to see Jesus. Maybe a few lawsuits regarding hearing loss will bring the church back into some balance here. Don’t laugh….the litigation is about to become a reality. It’s a pity that suits are required to awaken our ethical awareness, when our Christianity should have taken care of that a long time ago.

    • Barbara says

      Yes, exactly. Those clamoring for more-louder-hotter seem to forget that love does no harm to a neighbor.

    • Keith says

      What this says is that someone is looking for an excuse to sue the church anyway! Im the drummer in my church and we average about 82 to 85 db and peak at 92 to 93 db and we get complaints from the 45 to 50 crowd that they cant hear.. Wake up people and stop whining! I can put my phone on speaker ph and hit 74 db,, Cmon guys! Get a life!

      • Dee says

        Thank you, Jordon, for your article. As for those who complain against it, those of you care only about worshipping with loud music and not about the people – Shame on you. You spout being a Christian and yet your words are empty. How dare you care not for everyone who comes to worship. Preferring one type of music over another cannot be equated with volume and intensity. It is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of some self-righteous, self-indulgent hypocrites in the church caring not for all of the people. Individuals with pace-makers can be affected by high levels of intensity in music, as well as those with sensitive hearing (such as babies and the elderly). It is such a shame to hear those who call themselves Christians talking so self-centeredly and exclusively without any care at all for their fellow believers. Christ, if He were here in person, would call you vipers and hypocrites when you talk as you do. Worship is not about how loud can the music can go, but about the people lifting up unified voices to the Lord. True worship cares about everyone, because it is a reflection of the one true God. That said, if you ever hear yourself saying to someone, who just wants the volume turned down so they can comfortably enjoy church, “You can find another church” – your true colors are exposed. Those colors do not reflect the love and goodness of Jesus. Just as a tree is known by its fruit, good or bad, so is a church known by its fruit. That fruit should be about unity, lovingkindness, mercy, temperance, patience, gentleness, truth…. If there is even an ounce of “I don’t care about your health and comfort”, then you need to change that fruit. Turning the music down several decibels will not harm anyone, but turning it up most definitely does – physically and by alienation. How can we ever as the body of Christ expect the world to take serious the light of the Gospel when an attitude of callousness and “I’m all about me” permeates the church. Again, shame on all of you who take that approach. True worship is inclusive. True worship is about love. The Lord said in John 13:34 – “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye have love one to another.” It is not an expression of Christ’s love to care not about your fellow Christians. The Lord said in John 15:13 – “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” No one is asking you to even lay down your life, just turn down the music (a very small request). The Lord said in John 15:17,18 – “These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” It is sad and a shame when there are many in the world who love better than those in the church. I speak this especially to the pastors – you are required by the Lord to love all His sheep. He cares not about quantity but about quality. Don’t neglect those who truly want to worship him just to gain a following by those who will only attend for the loud music, those who have the gaul to tell others who cannot physically handle the loudness and intensity of the music, to go somewhere else. How can you call yourself a true shepherd of the Lord when you let some of your sheep be bullies and others be neglected? You are responsible for the division. If you do not agree, then I urge you to show proof of your stance from the very word of God. Luke 18:17 – “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” My four-year old son shows more compassion for others than I see in the church, especially among those who wish to worship according to high decibels and not according to spirit and truth. Loud music is not a salvation issue, but the lack of love and concern for fellow believers is. Are you ready to stand before the Lord and argue your stance on your preferred worship over love for all in the church. Romans 13:10 – Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Hypocrisy is to preach love from the pulpit and then not exercise it among the sheep of your fold. If someone cannot enjoy worship for the loud music, if one cannot comfortably take part in worship because of the discomfort to their ears (and damage to hearing), if one cannot feel a part of the worship because the music is overpowering, then it is out of love for those believers that the music should be turned down. The brethren are much more important than the performance on stage, the booming base, the high decibels. Those who crave loud, can go to a rock concert of their own free will, but the Lord said that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves.

        • Brady says

          What if we start having our congregation leave because of the low volume? Have we loved all our parish then? The problem you paint is a false dichotomy – that to love all is to have a reasonable volume, but that isn’t true. It’s simply quieter. Depending on the church, you will gain and lose different followers because of this. At a church like ours, if you turn it below 95db, our congregation would be OFFENDED. Why? Because they simply like it loud. And I love that about them :) What is our solution for those that should find it too loud (We actually peak out at 115db in a theater, which is functionally rock concert level)? We have free earplugs, which drop the db range for the wearers to talking volume (back down around 75db). But barring that, no, we won’t turn the volume down. Because that is what is effective for OUR church/congregation. It’s what allows them to feel free enough to sing, or shout, or cry, or whatever it is they may do while worshiping the Lord. It works, and it works well, but it isn’t for everyone. The notion that each church should appeal to all is not a worthy endeavor, because it is impossible. As a worship leader I know this very well. Worship is a big part of our experience at our church. And I would never, ever imply that it was for everyone. But it IS for people that are looking for a different experience; for people that feel that traditional churches are perhaps ineffective for them. And that’s beautiful, because instead of giving up, they find a home. Maybe something a bit more modern, and louder, but a house of God nonetheless. And THAT is what matters. It isn’t about showing people the door. It’s about the believer knowing what they need to be happy in whatever their home may be. No one kicks someone out, but no one should request a church to render themselves ineffective. The notion that quiet or “reasonable volumes” is somehow the right way is false. It is NOT universally appealing, and my church is a standing validation of exactly that. It is simply quieter. It will appeal to a specific group of people that will like their worship at that level. That doesn’t make it right NOR does it make it wrong. It makes it subjective. And that’s exactly why I would be able to flip this around and choose a stance where you have requested that I alienate most of my congregation by pushing the faders down instead of up. How dare we send so many of our flock running out the doors because they felt they couldn’t worship in a quiet theater? But that stance is wrong too. And it’s wrong because there is no right way. There’s your church, and the way your church likes things. If you have attempted to appeal to all people, then you are either the best church in the world, or you have watered down the experience to the point of inefficacy. The nature of humanity is such that you reach out to as many as you can, in the way that you can. Each church has its strengths and weaknesses. I’m sure we can all appreciate that. We’ve been graced in this area with a multitude of churches to choose from. From cowboy churches, to catholic, to modern loud churches like ours, there IS a place for you. But there is NO right way. The only right way is that the church love God the best way it can. From there, the believer chooses their experience. All I can really say is that if I were to follow your advice, and many people on this forum, we would NOT have a happy congregation. We probably wouldn’t have a congregation at all. That tells me we’re doing something RIGHT for these people. Something needed. Something that isn’t found everywhere. Some people have come and not liked it. But as long as they went to where their hearts were happy, then that’s okay! There won’t ever be, and there has never been, a one size fits all church. My request is that you don’t attempt to harshly judge your brothers and sisters in the assumption that they hate their neighbor because they like it loud. Speaking of Jesus coming back, would he appreciate the venom in those words? I seriously, seriously doubt it. It’s okay to be digruntled – to feel disenfranched, maybe a little angry. It’s not okay to cast judgment. Let the traditional churches and non-traditional churches exist peacefully. There’s no war to be had here. Besides, you should maybe stop by sometime – with earplugs, you might even like it! They’re free :D

        • Shere-Ling Kraus-Yao says

          Dee, Thank you for your perspective. Nowadays some churches just want more people but do not care about the quality of the worship or the physical health of the congregation. What a pity! I spoke up and the Director of WAC doesn’t like me and maybe the senior Pastor of this 5,000 some people mega church I am attending doesn’t like me either. But so be it!

    • Martina L says

      Excellent post – I am presently experiencing this problem, my ears have begun to hurt, I have pain, headaches, head feels like someone is bashing it in. Now I have to stay away from the services, can’t go all day and all night because my brain, ears, head need to recover from the loud noise. God is NOT pleased with this mentality in the church at all. Musicians should never play soo loud, that you cannot hear the voices of the people. In worship, the voices of the people take priority over instruments. Microphones should never be so loud where it is painful to the hearer. The Local church has adopted the worldly ways of the world where the atmosphere is a disco, nightclub, rock concert. Its horrible! I now wear ear plugs to protect my ears, I should wear it all the time now, but try to only when sound gets too much to bear or I have pain. I really need to wear it at all times though, because the local church is the ONLY place I experience painful hearing. Church’s attitude is not one of love, leaders should be concerned about the people attending churches, love is the 1st commandment not loud music. If the sound is affecting people in the congregation, then leaders should be sensitive to this. We should have wisdom, it is not the wisdom of God to have speakers, sound blasting loud enough to damage the ears of people. Are we trying to brain wash God’s people? What really is going on in these congregations? Lawsuits should be in order, because this is ridiculous!!! God IS NOT pleased!!! Because we are so out of control, OSHA probably needs to come into these churches to establish ground rules for noise because we are not self-controlled nor disciplined to be able to handle this issue ourselves! Are we as a people really hearing the voice of God, because the church would hear God say If the sound system is damging the ears of people, we need to tone it down and use wisdom and acceptable decibels for the people! We claim to be hearing God but alot of activity is just flesh, not the Spirit of God at all!!! Saints will judge the world, what happens when we cannot even make sound judgment in simple things as the level of sound in our services, and we want church and government to be separate. We should probably have government laws that control level of sound in churches because we cannot handle sound judgment in this area for ourselves.

  13. Krystal says

    Nice Article Jordan!! I completely agree. I like to worship and I like my music and I don’t mind it being a little loud as you said the Disney music was. Not too loud but not too quiet either. I can say (and I am not an older person either) that the real loud stuff actually hurts. Not just my ears either. I went to a concert (Christian) recently at a Christian college and the music was so loud that trying to talk was impossible. I also felt the vibrations in my whole upper body and chest area. It physically hurt and it was hard to breath. I almost walked out just because I was scared my heart would stop or I would not be able to breath anymore. I am not even exaggerating. The vibrations were that intense. I felt nauseated and sick. I didn’t leave I endured it because I didn’t want to lose my seat but I could not wait for it to be over and my 3 year old who was there with me was also glad when it was over. My three year old likes to worship and loves to sing loud and to songs like Ten Thousand Reasons by Matt Redman. He loves the Joy FM and the songs on there but when it gets as loud as the concert we went to and the vibrations are that intense, it is too much. We did not enjoy the songs at all. In fact they sang Ten Thousand Reasons at this concert and my three- year old who always joins in to sing that song , did not join in and was mad because the concert was doing one more song instead of ending. That is the first time I saw my toddler not want to participate in that song. It was the intensity and the loudness of it that made him not want anything to do with it that day. If it was a good 75-80 Dcb then we would have enjoyed and participated in the worship. But, instead, we felt sick after and prayed for it to be over throughout the entire concert. If it were not raining that day (and cold and we forgot to pack sweat shirts and coats) we would have gone for a walk during the concert instead of staying for it. We even had teens from our YG tell us that they didn’t like the music at the concert. You would think teens would love it.

  14. Chuck Bland says

    It has always been my outlook that the system I operate is to enhance the worship time and not distract from it. I don’t want worshipers to “hear” the system, but those leading. If they are thinking about the sound system, then they are not focused on worshiping the Creator of the Universe. No good purpose is served by audible assault of worshipers. To date, I have not had anyone tell me that they were distracted from worship because it wasn’t as loud as they would like it (but a few that just wanted it louder), but I have gotten complaints about things being too loud.

  15. Stephen says

    Volume is a huge deal. Remember not everyone’s ears are created equal. Some are much more sensitive to sound damage than others and there is no way to know till it’s too late. I know this first hand as I developed a permanent case of tinnitus (ringing of the ears) from the Winter Jam 2010 concert while my sister who was standing right next to me suffered no lingering effects. It was by far the loudest thing i have ever been to, though admittedly i dont go toany concerts. Thankfully my tinnitus is what I would consider a mild case based on the research I’ve done, but it has made me much more cautious and aware of volume levels. There is a mega church near me that I would never step foot in again without ear plugs due to the volume of the music. Everything is louder these days from action movies to concerts and now even worship services. As others have states higher volume does not equal more intense worship or a greater moving of the Holy Spirit. Think about the early church or our brothers and sisters around the world who don’t have huge modern sound systems. I bet their worship is just as intense if not more so than ours. Worship is more about the position of people’s hearts than the position of the volume slider on our mixing boards.

  16. macgaz says

    Great article, lots of good stuff worth thinking about. A couple of quick thoughts:
    #1. Most church auditoriums have spots that emphasize certain frequencies over another. At my last church, we put together a ‘map’ showing where certain instruments are louder than others…we used this ‘map’ to help the few folks who complained find a place that was easier on their ears. It worked for us

    #2. Remember that many times we determine “loud” with our eyes. As a college student, I played guitar in my church’s worship band. Each week during soundcheck I would get complaints from the sound tech and pastor that I was too loud. Finally, I conducted an experiment in which I didn’t plug in but played very demonstratively. Sure enough, the soundcheck was stopped and I was told to turn down. Holding up my cord, I showed my pastor & sound tech that I wasn’t even plugged in…they were evaluating volume with their eyes not their ears.

    I see this now during Senior Adult revivals where our senior adults passionately sing out hymns with the pipe organ cranked to 95db (and no I’m not exaggerating). I see it when I use a full orchestra but get fewer complaints that if I have a guitar driven sound. It’s funny but I’ve found that if I turn the lights up a bit, wear a coat and slacks instead of jeans and a pearl buttoned shirt and I sing songs that are familiar…suddenly the db level has magically dropped in the room.

    • TyLa Runkel says

      I am a senior adult and cannot imagine singing to a “pipe organ”. I prefer a piano, guitars, saxaphone, maybe a harmonica and violin. Please don’t put senior adults in a box. We were part of the woodstock generation. We don’t sit in rocking chairs and talk about the good old days like the senior adults used to do. I love loud music, I have two guitars, but I lost hearing in one of my ears after a loud worship session and had to leave a church I loved and people I liked, because of the constant stinging pains in my ear after leaving church. Someday when you are a senior adult, you may look back and say to yourself “Aww, now I see what she was talkin’ about”

  17. Steven Bruce says

    As a tech guy and worship minister, I think it’s important to always be evaluating audio levels…but there is so much more going on besides looking @ a #. I hear of pastors who read articles like this and go and tell the sound guy to run it at 75dB. It’s not just about a #. What meter was used to determine 75? A vs C weighting. etc? Live music or prerecorded tracks? Do you want people to feel comfortable to sing or have a conversation over the music withe person sitting next to them? There just isn’t a “right” decibel level you can say set it to and forget it no matter the environment. I have found, more often than not, when people complain about the sound being too loud, it’s usually that the mix was bad :) In my perfect world, if on Sunday morning I could get solid mixes @ 85-90dB I would be super happy…but with volunteers, that’s not always going to happen, and we have a Meyer system ;)

    • says

      Really great points Steven – I was frankly shocked at the levels I observed at Disney. And at times it felt a bit too soft. I would guess RTA Lite is A weighted. I also agree that a bad mix is often the culprit of a painful musical experience. A great mix can always be pushed more.

      Bless you man!
      Jordan

      • Charles says

        Jordan,

        I keep seeing this them on the iphone, but honestly as having electrical engineering background, computer engineering, and audio engineering. Those figures you gave from the iphone are not accurate at all. As well as the skew on the frequency curve. Need to really use a accurate, calibrated RTA, not an iphone or andriod app.. The comment about 75db has cause such a problem at my church because the worship leader got a hold of this and is like insisting it as gospel. 80 to 90, is more where it should be. It all depends on the church! and their personality too! at 75db at mix position, It’s dead, all those bodies just kill the higher frequencies above 1.5k! I won’t get into reasons why, and it’s not the way I tuned the system. It’s taken many years to convince them that their mackie board and peavy speakers were really causing muddy sounds.. yes I compensated..
        Line arrays btw, are usually directional, have sweet spots, so those measurements are even more skewed.
        I’m sorry I’m a bit annoyed with your article. It’s kind of like preaching something other than the pure word of God. We base our statements or beliefs that do not reside in accuracy or fact. It causes so many problems.
        Best advice borrow a calibrated RTA with a Calibrated Mic.

        • says

          Charles,

          I’m sorry that this has caused division between you and your worship pastor. That was not my intent. You are correct – a professional calibrated dB meter would have given a truly accurate measurement. Given your background, you clearly know more about this than the vast majority – certainly more than me. I’m just a musician who has to wear a “techie” hat.

          I was on vacation with my family when I decided to take out my iPhone and see how the RTA app responded to the shows (I didn’t set out to write a blog on it.) Even assuming the app was inaccurate, I could at least take it home and A/B it against the sound I usually mix at on Sunday mornings. I found that I tend to run things louder, and higher on the top end. I felt that provided more energy. So I tried making the mix “look” a bit more like my experience at Disney. I’ve had very few complaints about volume, and a visible increase in worship participation.

          Agreed that this was not a fine-tuned scientific study – just a simple experiment on vacation. It was helpful for me and my church.

          Jordan

        • TyLa Runkel says

          Accurate or not…..I still lost part of my hearing at a church service. I was told to bring ear plugs or that I could sit in the office until after praise and worship (But I wanted to be a PART of it, hello?)

  18. Zachariah says

    Nice article, and a great topic of discussion. I also agree with other posts that 75db is a bit too quiet and sounds suspect to me. I would point suggest that phone app RTA’s/decibel meters are not always accurate. I have 3 on my phone and each give quite an array of readings. It is possible that the actual volume level was higher than 75db.

    I would also point out that the room is a huge factor in volume and listening experience. Many churches, for example, are either older designs (too acoustically live) or have poor acoustical designs from the beginning. Volume has to be increased to overcome echo/reverberation in the room, and what is left is 85 decibels of noise. I have seen this too many times to count. Many times the answer is correcting acoustical issues, and then 85 decibels can sound full and lively.

  19. Jeff A says

    I’ve been running, installing, managing and tweaking church audio for 20yrs. Corporate worship segments which include the full spectrum of participants usually last from 15-30 minutes depending upon the church. I agree whole heartedly with the Disney approach with regards to frequency response, but 74-80db is too low for corporate worship where the congregation is participating, especially if the worship band and praise team have any live instruments or monitors on stage. Once the room is properly tuned and the harsh frequencies EQ’ed out of the mix, my target is 87-93db, A weighted, slow response…depending upon crowd size. There are a multitude of other factors with regard to room treatments, equipment configuration and capabilities, band preferences, etc. But, this target always seems to make the most people happy.

  20. says

    Interesting experiment! Usually I wouldn’t suggest using Disney World as a standard for what should happen in our churches on Sunday mornings but this may just be an exception. Now I want to measure the sound levels in our services too.

  21. says

    I have problems with the notion that folks don’t want to hear themselves sing so we pump up the music in order that they don’t hear themselves. I for one do like hearing my own voice especially when it is blended with the voices of other members of the congregation . The Bible talks about singing with “one voice.” How can a congregation do that when the music drowns out the singing of the congregation and the only singing that can be heard is the amplified voices of the vocalists. Most folks CAN sing although they most likely have been convinced that they cannot. What the contemporary church is failing to do is teach them how to sing, picking worship songs they can sing well, and giving them opportunities to learn and practice these songs. When the Bible talks about singing hymns, Psalms, and spiritual songs, it is not referring to the vocalists in the worship band on stage but ordinary Christins–the folks in the congregation. The vocalists in the worship band should be supporting the folks in the congregation in their singing, not singing for them. This requires turning down the volume.

  22. says

    It also depends on the room. Many church plants are in gymnasiums which are acoustically a nightmare. If the space is engineered properly for sound, you can generally run things a bit hotter.

  23. Nobody says

    Personally, I can’t stand it when there is loud music because I can’t hear myself think. I want to actually process the words coming out of my mouth and sing with passion. Loud music makes that very difficult.

  24. CAR says

    After experiencing members walking out of a recent Sunday morning service where we hosted a musical quartet (they controlled their sound), I would agree with the bloggers comments. Our music was too loud. Nothing too worshipful about that!

  25. Church: DIFFERENT says

    I think Jesus’ band was pretty commonly running at… oh, wait, no band. Hmm.

    Well, at least Peter’s band, you know Day of Pentecost? that one ran at….. no, guess not.

    Paul and Silas’ band must have been pretty loud, I mean, well, maybe stone walls in a jail have good acoustics. But I don’t think they were allowed to play instruments….

    Some day, maybe we’ll do Church: Different

    • Kevin says

      If you don’t think Jesus was loud, how did he preach to the 5000 (more likely double that since it suggests that women and children were not counted) without a microphone? If you think 90 is too loud, imagine what it would have been like that day if you were in the “front row”!

      • TyLa Runkel says

        Jesus preached OUTSIDE. No walls, no ceilings for the sound to bounce off band back and double. He didn’t need a group of entertaining p and w singers up front. Jesus is GOD, His voice would never ‘hurt’ ppl’s ears, and if it ‘did’ He’d heal them.

    • Trey says

      Church: DIFFERENT, your comments miss the important context of scripture. Or perhaps I’ve missed the point of your sarcasm. Did King David institute instrumental musical worship in the temple? Absolutely! Was there a context of worship music that the disciples and Jesus grew up in. Absolutely! The entirety of the Psalter (Psalms) was the worship lyrics for their worship music. Please see Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26 in the liturgical context of the passover meal. They sang hymns taken from Psalm 113-118 called the Hallel. Sure they sang a cappella, but how many could afford to be instrumentalists? They were traveling ministers. To understand the scriptural importance of instruments in worship music, please read Psalm 150.

      As the director of my church’s contemporary music program I am one who insists that the volumes be such that the congregation can hear itself. There is no better incarnational measure that we are doing our job than when we can hear the congregation singing full voice right along with us. If they are into it, then we are leading. If they are not, then we need to lead differently. So I don’t want to be different just because of those who are anti-instruments. I want to do whatever it takes to help people sing the praises of God as a congregation…that is leading worship music.

      • TyLa Runkel says

        Amen! Totally agree. I’ve tried saying all that to pastors for years, with only a look or answer of “Go away little girl”. But God put on my heart that a true worship leader wants to encourage the PEOPLE to worship, not just lipsinc because the “music” up front overpowers them.

      • Debra Magrann says

        Glory! You are a worship leader who gets it righteously. Many thanks for your post. It’s encouraging to know that there are Godly leaders who are sensitive to the congregation. Bless you!

  26. says

    As an experience Audio Engineer, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this debate. In my opinion, church sound levels should be:

    70′s: Preaching
    80′s: Acoustic/A capella Music
    90′s: Band Music (Band can be anything from an organ and stringed instruments to drum sets and amps)

    Here’s why; in the 80db region, everything can be clearly heard and it is the same volume as the average singer. If you want to be able to hear everyone around you singing, this is the level you want to run. In my experience, it is less distracting and encouraging for everyone to sing if the level is at least slightly higher (ex. 93db). Any band (multiple instruments) playing in the low 80db is not going to feel like they have any energy. Bands playing at this level makes people stay sleepy.

    I live 10 minutes form Disney and would guess that they run their real concerts closer to 110-115db. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to hear the music over the crowd.

    NOTE ON DB LEVELS ON A PHONE: These levels should be taken from a dedicated db meter, not the tiny mic on a telephone. The telephone mic is designed to pick up nearby audio sources while eliminating any background noise. Try using it to mic a conference call for a large group of people and you’ll see its limited ability to pick up sound sources further than 2 feet away. In this case, the db measurement is close to a guess from the phone.

    • says

      Hi Brandon – thanks for your input.

      At first I wondered if my phone was working properly. But then again I also felt at times it was “too soft.” I’m sure a pro db meter would have given more accuracy. What it did was force me to think about how often I resort to turning up the volume in the attempt to make a set energetic. I’ve been guilty of that too many times.

      Enjoy “O-Town” my friend!

      Jordan

  27. Jim says

    Very good blog and observations. The key is to have a high quality system capable of accurately reproducing all frequencies without distortion and plenty of “headroom” so that dynamics can be reproduced with high impact but not necessarily to turn everything up.

    I don’t put much stock in the actual levels sighted in the article however. That is not Jordan’s fault but is due to the inherent limitations of the iPhone hardware itself. The iPhone is not a calibrated device. I have used many different sound apps on 4 different iPhones and they all vary from 5-10 decibels. Also, Apple designed the iPhone to remove most of the low frequencies in the microphone circuit because bass cannot be transmitted over the phone network. The lows contain the most amount of measurable energy. Therefore the observed levels are probably a lot lower than actual. The 75db numbers cited should probably not be used as the new reference for your Sunday worship but the observations and principles are right on.

    • says

      Thank you Jim – very thoughtful comment.

      Great points on the iPhone apps. I wouldn’t rely on them solely for serious analysis. Nor would I say that 75db is the holy grail of worship volumes. It would be fun to conduct an experiment where an iPhone app A/B’d with a calibrated pro instrument and see the variation – have you seen that done?

      Jordan

  28. Tony C says

    This is a very important topic as worship is a vital necessity of the Church. Sadly the battle over music has been one that has broken many relationships, and has even caused people to be excommunicated from their home Church! In reading these posts, I sense a lot of “what I like” instead showing a concern for others. Those who do have sensitive ears shouldn’t be forced out of worship or have to put in ear plugs or headphones on loud songs and off for the softer music and prayer. We need to ask ourselves this simple question; Can anyone suffer loss, damage, or discomfort at a medium decibel range? and can anyone suffer or get damage in the loud decibel range? I am taken back by the fact that we can acknowledge that hearing loss can take place at a certain range and this is a hill that some choose to battle on. If worship comes at the expense of others hurting or not able to worship due to the physical distraction endured, then I would pose the question “is it really worship?” How can we say “Lord I love you, and show me your glory” at the same time we are saying I don’t care about the lady who gets startled, or the child who’s ears hurt, or the people with tinnitus who suffer when music is to loud. It was just recently an elder gentleman from my church was asked to leave the church because he stuck his fingers in his ears and offended the worship team. While I do not support his approach, I still find myself baffled at the Church at large who choose to please those who want a loud concert over those who came to worship The Lord.

    • Church: DIFFERENT says

      You’re touching on some of the things that are bothering me here as well. It seems that too often we may be worshipping our music and not our Lord! Distractions and music are all part of the ‘business’ of putting on the Sunday event—

      But isn’t it time to start thinking about doing Church: DIFFERENT?

      • Debra Magrann says

        Sadly, I came to realize the same thing (the amusement and entertainment factor in worship). Lest we forget, we are in the age of the “Seeker Movement”. My heart was changed when I read Gene Edwards’ book, The Early Church. It is out of print, but sometimes copies are available on Amazon. It is an eye, mind and soul opener. God bless you!

    • Jeff A says

      Amen! One of the many things I try to teach the church audio guys I train. Church sound guys are more than FOH engineers, they are audio producers responsible for helping to create an atmosphere where God’s people choose to throw away earthly distractions and enter in.

  29. platypibri says

    There are (as been said) many things that contribute to the “loudness” of a mix that have NOTHING to do with the reading on any RTA or dB meter. Perception is reality. Some people will complain even at 80 dB just because the source is a guitar and not a piano. This is an interesting article, but you still have to observe, experiment, and find what is right for your church. I have yet to find an alternative to that.

  30. Andy says

    Several things factor in. (1) Anyone can play loud. It takes skill to play quietly well. (2) Some people do want to hear themselves sing. Some people don’t. As a worship leader, one of the most thrilling experiences is to hear the church singing to Jesus. (3) We have to consider the difference between volume and style. Most people who have complained to me about “volume” are actually complaining about “style.” When I ran dB tests in both the traditional and contemporary services at a former church, I discovered the pipe organ was actually louder than the entire contemporary band. When we occasionally combined for a blended service, people would complain about how loud “those drums” or “those electric guitars” were, but we never got a single complaint about the volume of the organ.

    I my current church, I instruct the sound techs to shoot for an “ideal” volume of 80dB, with a max cap of 85dB. Our auditorium seats about 250 and any more volume than that is just unnecessarily loud in that smaller room. And, our congregation sings out…

    • says

      Hi Andy – I really like your “ideal” of 80db. I think that’s the sweet spot. At times Disney felt too soft – but never too loud (at least the shows I attended.) And you’re right about the pipe organ. They can get really loud. This just highlights the fact that there are several factors going into someone’s impression of a worship experience.

      As a worship pastor who’s failed at this many times, I’ve learned that genuinely loving the folks is way better than getting the volume just right. At the end of the day – we’re just imperfect people.

      Bless you man!
      Jordan

    • Mike R says

      This whole subject is very complex and cannot be solved with a simple setting on a dB meter. I have run sound at a bar (a long time ago) and the SPL on the meter was 120dB! Nobody complained. Why? It was a good mix and the SPL meter was set on C weighting. There are 2 “weightings” on most meters and the type of music that you are measuring will give you vastly different readings based on the setting that you use. C is basically a flat response to the meter. A has most of the low frequencies filtered out. So if my band has a lot of bass and kick drum, it will give a much higher reading on C than on A. Why do they have different weightings? It is because of what is called the Fletcher-Munson effect. Essentially, the ear does not hear all frequencies the same at different volume levels. So the A weighting is more accurate to what we hear at lower volumes and C is more accurate at higher volumes. This is why some stereo systems have a “loudness” button. It compensates for the ears insensitivity to low and very high frequencies at low volumes. Another thing that is important is getting a balanced mix. All of the instruments should be heard, but the bass, drums and vocals are the most important. Inexperienced techs will mix too much guitar or keyboard in which when blended with the vocals builds up a lot of energy in the 1K-4K frequency range where the ears are most sensitive. This is why a lot of people think that the distorted electric guitars are too loud. You pull out the SPL meter and solo the guitar and it is just as loud as the piano, but nobody complains about the piano. It is because the ear is more sensitive where the guitar’s upper harmonics lie in the frequency spectrum. As you can see, I could go on and on. It really is in the best interest of any large church to get at least one sound tech who really knows her/his stuff.

      • Dee says

        Mike, no argument there, and it is the responsibility of the church to get it right and make sure that all can enjoy the music without discomfort to their ears, a threat to their hearing, or even problems with pace-makers. Worship should be unified.

  31. says

    As a member of our band I struggle with this issue. Many of our members think louder is better. After just 10 minutes my ears ring for the rest of the service and well into the afternoon. I’m going to find the app you used and see what our decible level really is.

    • says

      Hi Marie,

      You can find it here – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rta-lite/id337536333?mt=8

      But as has been pointed out, it may not be perfectly accurate. It’s still a good reference though. Here’s something I like to do… I’ll put a song on in my car and get the volume where I like it. I’ll use the app to analyze the volume and frequencies. I’ll try to replicate that in our worship space. It helps me understand why I like things to sound a certain way, and helps me recognize other factors (like room treatment.)

      I hope you can help in producing the best worship environment possible. Bless you!

      Jordan

    • Dallas says

      Goto Radio Shack and purchase an actual SPL Meter. $50 and its accurate.
      Set your meter to dBc weighted Slow Responce to measure the entire audiable spectrum.
      dBC for Measuring Full spectrum. dBa for Measuring Range of less lower Hz, or Speech.
      Your free App SPL Meters dont offer you the flexabilty of setting weight measuresment, responce, which are vitial to your data.
      Please dont waste your time on Apps in regards to SPL metering.
      However, i have found the Pocket RTAs relativialy accurate, pocket SPL Meters… not so much.
      Seeking anyother factual DATA or advise contact me at dallasrking@gmail.com.

  32. Shar says

    I enjoy being part of corporate worship. I love it! Hearing my voice lifted in praise with other believers thrills my soul. It helps me feel part of the community. It reminds me that I have brothers and sisters who feel the same way about God that I do. When the instruments are loud, I notice that the worshippers begin listening instead of participating. I notice that I can only hear myself when the music is loud, or sometimes, I can’t hear myself at all. I don’t go to church to watch a show, I go to glorify God with my worship. Please! Save the 95 decibels and above for when I am going to watch musicians who are there to put on a show…

  33. Dan Ciolkosz says

    Interesting discussion – thank you to all that posted. Some of the comments make it almost seem that volume is a sort of drug that we use to “pep up” or focus the congregation so that their worship will be more authentic or effective. Creating an atmosphere conducive to worship is a good thing, but at what point do we cross the line into inappropriate manipulation? I’ve often wondered if people who prefer loud worship do so because their minds are spinning with all of the endless input they received during the week, and they find themselves unable to focus on the Lord otherwise.

    I once spoke with a pastor who strongly believed that musical worship should be dominated by the voices of the worshipers, rather than the instruments, so that the church would be engaged in active rather than passive worship. He played in a (loud) band at other times, but he didn’t think that had a place in corporate worship. That’s the closest thing I’ve ever heard to a logical basis for selecting a worship volume. Are there other good motivations out there to consider when we think about worship and volume?

  34. Kelli says

    I wish other people cared about this outside of the worship service, too. I don’t enjoy concerts of contemporary bands because they are always too loud. A sound technician can completely ruin a song for me that I love on the radio. I want to hear individual instruments and voices- not distortion. My hearing is the only sense that really works, and I’d like to keep it!

  35. Patrick says

    If you cannot hear the congregation singing the music is too loud. We should strive for excellence in everything, but worship is not about the music (the dynamics, the hook, etc), its about God’s people lifting their voices to Him whether it be a song of praise or lament. Are there praise bands and guitar solos in heaven? Or are we going to worship God as a congregation with our hearts and voices. I would bet the latter.

    And if it means anything my old band was called VOLUME- a heavy rock band, and I still like to listen to loud and heavy music just not for worship.

    • Mike R says

      There’s a fine line. If the sound is too quiet, you can’t hear the leader and this can be annoying if you don’t know the melody very well. Also, sometimes your neighbor is making a joyful “noise” unto the Lord that probably only He can appreciate! So the music can help to mask bad singing to a point. It also helps to have a concrete floor under the congregation. That way the sound of you and your neighbors singing is reinforced as it bounces off the floor. Carpeting sucks it right up. There are 2 churches that I have attended in the area and it is better singing in the one with the concrete under the congregation than the carpet.

  36. Ron Cram says

    I had a period of time where there was something medically wrong with my ears, especially my right one. At 85 decibels, I had severe pain. At 80-82 decibels, no pain. I did not know there was something wrong with my ears. All i knew was that it hurt like crazy and I couldn’t stay in the service and I couldn’t worship God. I was disappointed and angry because the sound people were completely heartless. True, it is a large church. But most people would not notice the difference between 80-85 decibels. And no one would walk out because the music was too soft. I thought the church was incredibly insensitive. My ears are better now, but I still worry about others in the service every week who are going through what I went through.

    • Paul says

      I think you will find that the sound engineers have nothing to do with the overall level of the sound. It is not a choice that we get to make but are instead told where it needs to be: by the Senior Pastor, the Worship Pastor and just about the entire congregation at times. We can mix EQ’s, highlight certain instruments or voices, but if the overall level is too low we are told to turn it up, too high we are told to turn it down, just the way things are. Next time, go directly to the Worship Pastor.
      BTW, we use a pro DB meter and are rarely 5 DB out of the “official zone” but still get comments. People and sounds change week to week but the DB meter does not lie. You think 85DB is high? You should have heard our old pipe organ!! 100DB at least, sustained, never a complaint, EVER.

  37. Stephen Beasley says

    This article has bothered me for several days. First of all the measurements were not done by calibrated instruments so the numbers are wrong. The Bible says in Deuteronomy to use “true” weights and measures. Additionally there are many technical details missing such as distance from source, db weighting etc. As a media minister, I am compelled to mention two convictions about volume: 1 The audience should never be distracted by volume but rather motivated to participation in worship. 2 When God is speaking or the Holy Spirit is manifest, everything else is no longer important. With the right attitude, a person will always find Jesus and their preference of volume remains simply a preference not a principle for worship. Maybe next week we can consider dim vs bright congregational lighting…

    • says

      Hey Stephen,

      Thank you for your comments and desire to help facilitate genuine worship.

      As a media minister I’m sure you have a much better sense of the ideal room volume than I do. I was simply shocked by Disney’s relative “softness” compared to my tendency to push the volume. I wondered if I was unintentionally causing a distraction. In an ideal world this wouldn’t be an issue, but it’s unfortunately divisive in far too many churches. At the very least, the experiment proved that Disney (at least in the shows I attended) was far softer than what I typically run.

      To your point, I too was concerned about the accuracy of the iPhone. You’re correct in that it’s not a calibrated instrument (though handy on a family vacation :). But if it helps, I did A/B it with a calibrated meter and found it to be very close – within 3 dB. Our family tended to sit in the middle or back 3rd, and I’m sure results and anomalies would vary elsewhere. Regarding weighting – RTA lite doesn’t give the option to switch so I’m going to assume it’s dBA based on my observations and given that it’s so common.

      Regardless, I don’t think there’s a “perfect” volume. Everyone has a preference. For me it was simply a wake-up call to lay my preferences aside, and consider how to best love and lead others.

      Bless you man!

      Jordan

    • Debra Magrann says

      Since the question was, “How Loud …” many responses came not with preferences, but physical ailments. The second person to respond to this article was an audiologist. The point is not “How Loud…” but, rather, “Harm Not.” Noise-induced hearing loss is a major health issue and it is growing exponentially. The Body of Christ should not be adding to the problem.

  38. Al Hayes says

    Great band + great system + great room + great and anointed sound person = 80> <90db max at peak dynamics.
    Anything missing from this equation not even Disney can fix.

  39. Jeremy says

    This is really an issue of church culture than it is about volume. Who are you trying to reach? What atmosphere works best for that culture? There is never going to be a “one size fits all” structure. Nor should there be.

    It’s easy to read this article and see the authors preferences. Had I written this I undoubtedly would come to a different conclusion based on my own biases. This is precisely why every church should share the same loving message of Christ but with their own unique “packaging”.

  40. Dallas says

    How can you mix at 70-75dB?
    That’s impossible!
    No one has ever attended ANY live performance with SPLs @70-80db.
    A normaly conversation without Sound Reinforcement is @ 70-80dB.
    Stage noise is louder than that.
    So… that’s false.
    This article is perhaps the most useless and inaccurate description of SPL measurement.
    Some many things haven’t been addressed.
    First off. Pocket RTA/SPL meters aren’t accurate or reliable.
    Second, when your using a SPL METER… not an iPhone, you need to calibrate it.
    Thirdly, Setting your meter to the correct weighting , responce and range will change your readings tenfold.
    The person who wrote this article needs to get the facts straight before they miseducate people.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Dallas -

      I approved your comment, but I don’t approve your tone. Jordan wrote a thoughtful article that has been beneficial to many. You are welcome to disagree, but not in such a bitter tone.

      • Dallas says

        I apologise if my “Tone” was off.
        It’s frustrating to read invalid info.
        Worship pastors have no business addressing this topic. That’s the job of Techs/Engineers who actually have pro-technical knowledge/experience.
        This article isn’t helpful at all.
        It contains false information.
        Anyone reading this is being mislead.

        • Mike R says

          Dallas, I know this is several months after your post. I hope you get to read this response. Like it or not, running sound in a church is a combination of technology, music and worship. I know of guys who are great with the “tech” aspects of running sound, but are clueless when it comes to the music or worship. You really have to have all three. Hopefully, the worship pastor and the sound techs can communicate with each other on what is needed to satisfy all three and a technically excellent, musically pleasing worship service is accomplished.

  41. Charlie Crane says

    The OSHA “dB-SPL/duration of exposure” examples refer to expected, natural hearing loss over a 30 year working career, not a concert or one time event as I understand it. So, for example, if OSHA says that one should limit their exposure to 75 dB-SPL to no more than 4 hours (I forget the real scale, just making an example), the “rest of the story” is this; If one limits their exposure to 75 dB-SPL for no more than 4 hours per work day, one can expect to experience the average hearing loss at the end of a 30 year career to be within the average range of people that same age. As I understand it, it does not mean that if you are exposed to 75 dB-SPL for 5 hours (and hour more than recommended), that you will definitely experience hearing loss. Remember, OSHA is about the work place, not concerts. Temporary threshold shift is another thing altogether.

  42. says

    I wonder if we did a survey of the ages of all the commenters just where the median would be? I wonder if the older the commenter is, the more likely s/he is to complain about the volume level? My 2c.

      • Ron Bartels says

        In my church, new high range speakers were purchased and installed. One of our members, an ex jet jockey, F-14 TomCat, brought in a decibel meter. The sound average was 104 db. The music was broadcast over the speaker system in mostly high range with little mid range and no observed low range. It has chased away most of us seniors. I’m age 67 but I have to wear ear plugs to reduce the ear pain and so does an 83 year old and a 64 year old female. Many seniors and some middle agers have left over the ear pain. The young people seems to like it so they keep it pumped up. The pastor must have hearing loss but he likes it. We are starting a small group and will start meeting at a coffee shop normally closed Sunday Mornings. (The owner and his wife can’t take the loud noise either.) It was my idea to start an unaffiliated small group to assemble together and I obtained permission to download sermons from Liberty Fellowship. I do not know what will be next but we are beginning this October 3, 2013.) I am looking into getting licensed to play decent worship music for us to sing along with. Most of us are very well educated, with one MD and 2 earned PhDs and one Pharmacist in the small group. Suggestions would be welcome as none of us have ever done this before.

  43. Jon says

    It seems to me that “old people” like their tv’s loud and their worship music soft… Ha ha!
    I was a younger worship leader and my experience from the older saints in my church was almost always encouraging. They had plenty to complain about and yet they chose to to be excited to see a young man desiring to worship God and lead others to do the same. It made me want to serve them better and when that meant turning the sound down at times I was happy to do it! To often people see a musician playing loud and think its all about them wanting attention and forget that there is a young man or woman desiring to use there gifts to worship God. Be careful that what comes across to that young musician isn’t ” we don’t want your gifts used here”. I know God loves music and worship will be loud in heaven! Can’t wait!

    • Al Hayes says

      The issue with older people is more about frequencies than volume. As we all get older we lose the abilitiy to hear high frequencies. Any good Sound guy will tell you that if you take out certain frequencies in a Mix you end up with partial spectrums which can sound harsh, tinny, bassy etc. Now volume will be an issue as the louder it gets so does the problem for older ears.
      If you want to know what it sounds like for these guys try on a pair of hearing aids and listen to your Mix. No kidding you might learn a lot.

      • Ron Bartels says

        In my church, new high range speakers were purchased and installed. One of our members, an ex jet jockey, F-14 TomCat, brought in a decibel meter. The sound average was 104 db. The music was broadcast over the speaker system in mostly high range with little mid range and no observed low range. It has chased away most of us seniors. I’m age 67 but I have to wear ear plugs to reduce the ear pain and so does an 83 year old and a 64 year old female. Many seniors and some middle agers have left over the ear pain. The young people seems to like it so they keep it pumped up. The pastor must have hearing loss but he likes it. We are starting a small group and will start meeting at a coffee shop normally closed Sunday Mornings. (The owner and his wife can’t take the loud noise either.) It was my idea to start an unaffiliated small group to assemble together and I obtained permission to download sermons from Liberty Fellowship. I do not know what will be next but we are beginning this October 3, 2013.) I am looking into getting licensed to play decent worship music for us to sing along with. Most of us are very well educated, with one MD and 2 earned PhDs and one Pharmacist in the small group. Suggestions would be welcome as none of us have ever done this before.

  44. Jesse Martin says

    I have been in churches with full orchestras, some with praise bands, some with just organ and piano, others with just a piano; worship has varied in all of them. I believe true worship occurs when Spirit fills the worship center and not “energy”. My biggest concern with “modern” worship and worship ministers, and worship people yield to doing what will reach and get more people “energized”, rather than God’s Spirit drawing people to His which is the only way to salvation. What ever happen to hearing the words of a song (seeing words on a screen is not hearing words are not the same)? I believe that the goal of ever worship leader, and pastor should be “every person that walks out of this worship place, be it 100 capacity or 10,000 capacity, can say, “today I worshiped a living God, the creator of this universe and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

    • Mike R says

      It all comes down to “Love one another as I have loved you”. The musicians and singers should be pursuing excellence in their respective gifting. They are also worship >leaders< and not performers. They should be worshipping with the music they create and loving the people with the sound that they make. The sound techs job is to reinforce that sound so that the congregation can hear it (comfortably) and make sure that it is done musically (make sure harmonies are balanced, the keyboard is turned up at the appropriate time, etc.). This should always be done for God's glory so that the congregation is not distracted by feedback, distortion, harshness, etc. but is focused on Him. The best compliment that a sound tech can get happens when nobody says anything to her/him after service. You should be invisible to the congregation.

      • Ron Bartels says

        In my church, new high range speakers were purchased and installed. One of our members, an ex jet jockey, F-14 TomCat, brought in a decibel meter. The sound average was 104 db. The music was broadcast over the speaker system in mostly high range with little mid range and no observed low range. It has chased away most of us seniors. I’m age 67 but I have to wear ear plugs to reduce the ear pain and so does an 83 year old and a 64 year old female. Many seniors and some middle agers have left over the ear pain. The young people seems to like it so they keep it pumped up. The pastor must have hearing loss but he likes it. We are starting a small group and will start meeting at a coffee shop normally closed Sunday Mornings. (The owner and his wife can’t take the loud noise either.) It was my idea to start an unaffiliated small group to assemble together and I obtained permission to download sermons from Liberty Fellowship. I do not know what will be next but we are beginning this October 3, 2013.) I am looking into getting licensed to play decent worship music for us to sing along with. Most of us are very well educated, with one MD and 2 earned PhDs and one Pharmacist in the small group. Suggestions would be welcome as none of us have ever done this before.

  45. Kathy says

    How timely is this article. My husband and I struggle with finding a church where we don’t feel entertained! What ever happened to listening and singing worship music and hearing the voice next to you. We have been on and off visitors at a church in Saline, Michigan. My son and our Grandson attend the Church. I have emailed the pastor who kindly sent me an email about talking to the worship team. There have been numerous complaints. I have been told to sit in a certain spot in the church and the volume isn’t as bad. The complaints keep coming in and now someone is designated to walk around the auditorium measuring DBs. What? Let alone now they are handing out ear plugs. Seriously people, I don’t mind the contemporary/modern music – that’s all I listen to. I love it – I just want to praise and worship on Sunday mornings and let the Holy Spirit do his work in me. I can’t when the volume is so loud. I will continue to look for a church that doesn’t have to give me ear plugs or walk around with a DB reader!!! I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this way. I’m only in my 40s and don’t think or feel that I’m old. How do you think God views all of this? Somthing to ponder!!!!

    • Ron Bartels says

      In my church, new high range speakers were purchased and installed. One of our members, an ex jet jockey, F-14 TomCat, brought in a decibel meter. The sound average was 104 db. The music was broadcast over the speaker system in mostly high range with little mid range and no observed low range. It has chased away most of us seniors. I’m age 67 but I have to wear ear plugs to reduce the ear pain and so does an 83 year old and a 64 year old female. Many seniors and some middle agers have left over the ear pain. The young people seems to like it so they keep it pumped up. The pastor must have hearing loss but he likes it. We are starting a small group and will start meeting at a coffee shop normally closed Sunday Mornings. (The owner and his wife can’t take the loud noise either.) It was my idea to start an unaffiliated small group to assemble together and I obtained permission to download sermons from Liberty Fellowship. I do not know what will be next but we are beginning this October 3, 2013.) I am looking into getting licensed to play decent worship music for us to sing along with. Most of us are very well educated, with one MD and 2 earned PhDs and one Pharmacist in the small group. Suggestions would be welcome as none of us have ever done this before.

  46. Lillian says

    Jordan — thanks for sharing this. As an audiologist, I think it’s great that people are made aware and sensitive to this issue. Technical aspects aside, our sound engineers and worship leaders are constantly trying to find that perfect mix and volume level. Their job is tough, and I don’t think there is an easy answer, solution or formula. But I LOVE that they are working on it together. Sure, I cringe when I see a child coming into the service with hearing protection because of the volume – and decibels aside – it can be loud. But I’ve also heard the music mixed and set at comfortable volume as well, which I see as awareness and a learning curve. In some ways, maybe we should not look at how close to the ‘damaging level’ we can get without going over, but how far we can stay away from ‘it’ during our worship services, while still maintaining a comfortable level for worship. I think you’ve made some great suggestions — tough topic!

  47. Byron says

    Really! Instigating conflict within the church, don’t we have enough of that?
    These comparisons between a highly refined, professionally mixed,pre produced program content, in a room designed to house the show and a sound system designed for the show and most churches worship services is ridiculous. Disney = pro talent, pro equipment, pro environment .
    Lets compare with the average church…
    Amateur talent, amateur tech, non ideal room conditions and a group of people who didn’t invest anything to have an opinion.
    This whole article was meant to cause problems, not provide any positive help.
    Then the rest of you go off on your personal tangents and give him what he wanted.
    It’s things like this that divide the body of Christ.
    Give me a break. Quit supporting this crap with your opinions and they will quit putting this one sided crap out there.

    • says

      Byron,

      What I shared with you is exactly how I go about managing our AV system. It’s simple – and it works. I’ve seen a great reduction in conflict, increased participation in worship, and increased attendance. Isn’t unity of the body important? Isn’t this worth a look?

      I’m with you. We have a less-than-adequate room, no acoustic panels, all volunteers, and I do several things all at once. I’m a musician by training – not a sound guy. Anyone can open an app on their phone – it’s easy and free. You can get a sense of where your volume and mix is. And as has been said, if you want to be really accurate, get a pro dB meter from Radio Shack – we have both. I presented my observations as a way to help average churches with average systems and volunteers.

      Just trying to help man,
      Jordan

    • Ron Bartels says

      I disagree with you entirely. We have met privately with the pastor with intend to avoid conflict to the degree possible. We have done the testing with db meter. We have asked that the sound volume be reduced to 85 db. The pastor says he is running it at 99 db but the readings show and average of 104 db including the quieter times, with a peak reading of 129 db. The pastor says it get the young people into worship mood. We are puzzled to say the least. We hate to withdraw since it is us who provide most of the giving. His excuse if that souls are being saved. That is true but we don not believe that it is the music but the Holy Spirit that draws people to Christ.

    • Debra Magrann says

      Dear Ryan,
      From the language that you use, may I ask if you are even a Christian? Last time I checked, Jesus taught us to be peacemakers. You certainly have a strong opinion; why are you so defensive of someone else expressing theirs? America is still a free country . . . so far. This blog is doing a good service by allowing believers to express their frustration with a critical health issue to which leadership has turned a deaf ear. Take it from someone who, as a teenager, was on the front row of a Black Sabbath concert, toured with Journey, met the Wilson sisters of Heart fame, as well as many others: my hearing is more important to me than any rock star wanna-be worship leader’s aggressively, loud entertainment hour.

      So, there. I’ve ‘voiced’ my opinion. I hope you find it in your heart to trust that God loves to speak to us in a still, small Voice (original translation: ‘soft blowing’). We can take to heart His admonition to “be still and know that I am God.”

      • Ron Bartels says

        I don’t think the folks who are speaking out about the ultra loud rock music in churches are trying to stir up revolts. It is the the tone deaf rock promoters who are the ones being inconsiderate. However, I do suggest resolving this matter in chambers, even if it means several meetings with leadership. Mutiny is not the answer most of the time. It took us three in chambers meetings to work out our own solution. The church leadership finally approved our suggested solution, after about 30 people left over the painful music.

        While I have read that it takes a long period to damage hearing above 85 decibels, that claim does not address the ear pain issue, which is common amongst the 50 plus crowd who do not have scarred ear drums. With age, the ear drums become more sensitive to excessive loud music. Personally, I had to take medicine and begin leaving early when the pain became unbearable. When they put in new speakers, it became much worse and about a dozen walked out of service before the sermon. They were not throwing any tantrums, they just could not stand the ear pain, as I found out later. Not one of them I personally talked to were mutinous in any regard and are now happy we have started the off campus small group for the ear pain sufferers. I hope this helps more than one additional group. Until more pastors become aware of the conflict that loud rock music causes and accommodates the ear pain impaired (as I call myself in a self deprecating way) and the others who suffer but who want to continue to support the church.

  48. Laura says

    I’m sad this is happening so much at churches these days. My extended family and I have had to quit going to our church because after many attempts to clarify to the praise team that we were being deafened, they still wouldn’t turn down the music to healthy levels.

  49. isaac says

    This is exactly why so many musicians have left the church. They feel unappreciated, attacked by their “family”, and treated like second-class citizens. Psalm 33:3 says play skillfully with a LOUD noise. You need to set aside your personal feelings toward style and focus on the heart.No one in their right mind is trying to make you deaf. As others have said, this battle is abour your personal attitude toward worship preferences verses biblical essentials.

    • says

      Isaac,

      As a musician, I’m just trying to help. I’ve been the recipient of nasty comments about my body language, wardrobe, facial expressions, and of course volume (even as recently as last week!) I’m with you! I’ve seen the very best efforts and best of intentions blow up in people’s faces. I’ve tried to attract great talent and shield them from a critical culture. I’m simply attempting to equip leaders to best manage this reality.

      I wish this weren’t an issue. But it is my friend. I want you to excel in your worship leadership. I want you to play and sing, focus on the heart, and direct people to the greatness of Christ. Please just don’t let something small and ultimately trivial like volume get in the way. Manage your environment the best you believe the Lord wants you to, and according to what would be most loving to your congregation.

      Jordan

      • Shamir Roshan says

        Just to clarify what God actually says about worship in His House: the verse more accurately says: “Make a sound full of JOY to God”. Any sound that creates damage, pain, exclusion, separation, disunity and confusion in a gathering is not – IS NOT – honoring nor is it enjoyed by Yeshua.
        Music is a wonderful tool that The Lord has given mankind and specifically The Church to use and enjoy, whether we are alone in a field herding cattle or out in the midst of thousands and let me ask you how many things has man ever touched that has been made better or more glorious than what God gave to us first as perfect?

      • Shamir Roshan says

        The volume issue my dear friend IS NOT A TRIVIAL MATTER. Any thing we do that drives, deprives or otherwise causes the exclusion of our brothers and sisters from our assemblies is not good and most certainly NOT what The Church our to be about doing. God has told us that we should meet together even more as we see His Day coming upon this creation’s time. Even little foxes can destroy even the healthiest vines IF one does not deal with those small, insignificant and trivial things first. It is like cancer – if you do not catch it early and destroy or remove move it will kill you. Think about that and pray harder!

        • Shere says

          HI Shere-Ling
          I have been reading your questions and responses to Joel and from him to you.
          I think he has done a good job addressing your concerns.
          Now I am going to give you some feedback:
          Your concerns are valid: it is too loud for us in that room.
          Here is the email I sent Joel.
          I did not cc you on it when I sent it:
           
          HI Joel,
          I sat with Shere-ling in church Sunday.
          I have not been to 6 pm service in a long time and did not know that the only choice was Westside.
          It was so loud that I had to plug my ears.
          (The sermon also was louder than usual)
          Others around me did not seem to be bothered.
          So I learned not to go to the Westside.
          Thanks for your wonderful worship band.
          The music at the end was not so loud and I really enjoyed it.
          Mary
           
          Shere-Ling-
           
          From your responses back and forth to Joel, you have been relentless about  giving your observations and proving that you are right with scientific evidence that it does not seem to you that people from Blackhawk Church are  listening  to you. They do not know you well. I think they see you as someone who keeps picking and keeps picking and never gives up until they get their way, rather than someone who expresses their concern  and compromises. After a while, they don’t want to listen to you about other things because you won’t let it go. I’m glad you told them about the loud music. It is too loud.You did what you could. My response is to not go to Westside anymore. Other people like it and it is their choice to go or not.
          I know you and I know your heart. They do not.
          You can only do so much.
          Please let it go now.
           
          Your sister in Christ,
           
          Mary
           
          From: Shere-Ling Kraus-Yao
          Sent: Friday, June 29, 2012 1:04 AM
          To: Joel Hassenzahl
          Cc: Chris Dolson ; Mary Malischke ; Mary Malischke
          Subject: Re: Facebook post
           
          Joel,
           
          You wrote that Blackhawk Church’s service is about 65 minutes long and the
          average dB level is about 67dB. But if the worship (music) part is 25 minutes long
          with average dB level reaches higher than the safe limit (85 dB) and up to 91 dB
          sometimes, do I need to worry about hearing lost and tinnitus in me and other
          congregations? Moreover, does the size of the room matter? We have three rooms
          of various size that are used for Sunday services. It seems to me that our ears
          can only sustain loudness up to 85 dB for 8 hours in 24 hours. If a person works
          in an environment with 85 dB for 8 hours from Saturday night (midnight) to
          Sunday morning (9 am) and then comes to  orship at 9:30 am, will that person’s ears
          be damaged? I think they will, according to the article
          below:
          http://www.dangerousdecibels.org/about-us/the-issues/

          This article says that “According to NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational
          Safety and Health) 85 decibels (dBA) is safe for up to 8 hours. That is 8 hours
          over a 24-hour period. That means that you can be working in a factory or other
          occupation where the noise level is 85dBA for 8 hours and most people will be
          fine. But if you then go to the shooting range or dancing at loud club, or go
          into your workshop after work, you add more noise to the equation.”

          Do you agree with my answer for the question I raised?
           
          Thanks,
          Shere-Ling

          On Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 8:15 AM, Joel Hassenzahl wrote:
          Thanks Shere-Ling,
          We will continue to keep musicians around here aware of ear-health concerns and protecting themselves as they play.  Mark Wyse does a good job of ensuring overall sound levels and stage levels are reasonable for people attending and musicians alike.  We are up there a lot more time than the average person attending Blackhawk, so that has more grounding for concern.  Thanks for your concern for them and for people who attend. 
           
          Have a good rest of your week.

          Joel

          On Jun 26, 2012, at 6:50 PM, “shereling@gmail.com” wrote:

          Joel,
           
          Again, I want to be very clear that my husband’s tinnitus has nothing to do with BH Church. And my main concern is for WAC musicians after reading your  first reply, knowing that decibel level has been monitored in all services. Thus, I beg you to pass these articles to musicians who play often and play professionally for living. Please also bear in mind that people have different  response towards the same dB sound.Therefore it might be good to tell people to consider “how well one’s family members or oneself reacts to sound” as a factor in choosing  which venue to go.
           
          Moreover, your conscience might be different than mine in this area, and only God can judge given the fact that all dB are measured in various services.
           
          What concerns me is not only tinnitus. My husband just got released from a Mental outpatient site a few days ago from his second stay. I used words “in sane” to describe Jeff’s condition in my Facebook post, and I am not saying it to scare you or anyone else other than Aexpressing my deepest concern. After all we are ministering to people holistically- mind, body and soul- are we not?

          Be Still and Know that I AM.

          Shere-Ling, MDiv from Fuller in 1996

          Sent from my iPhone

          On Jun 26, 2012, at 17:41, Joel Hassenzahl wrote:

          Shere-Ling (cc Chris, and now Mary, since you have been added into this conversation),

          I appreciate your concern and your personal experience with the subject of tinnitus and hearing loss.  I hope that my response and engaging with this dialogue will indicate that I am listening to you.  If you’ve expressed this in the past and haven’t felt heard, I am sorry.  I’m also sorry that your experience Sunday night was an unpleasant one for you.

           

          This discussion started with the article you posted on my facebook wall: http://www.ata.org/for-patients/how-loud-too-loud.  In this article you cited your concern over the OSHA standards for decibel levels and where they can contribute to hearing loss.  Did you also note the length of time they suggest correlates to hearing loss?  Midway down the page (“Noisy Workplaces” section) is this link (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/noisemeter.html) that gives you approximate durations of time that can cause hearing loss at each decibel level.  On that page you will note that OSHA’s research suggests that 8 hours of sustained sound levels above 85dB can lead to tinnitus.  4 hours at 88dB, 2 hours at 91dB, and so on.  Our service is 65 minutes long and the average dB level is about 67dB. 

           

          The bottom line for me is that I do not believe that what is happening in our services at Blackhawk is contributing to hearing loss for regular attenders.  I said in my last email that we are intentional about this issue – we measure decibel levels in the tech booth and we are careful to make sure they are in an acceptable range for our services on Sundays.  I can appreciate your concern given your personal experience with your husband suffering from tinnitus, and I want to be sensitive to that.  So I’m sorry if you disagree with me in this discussion.  I hope you can understand where I’m coming from and the intentionality we put into what happens on Sundays.

           

          Thanks,
          Joel

          • Shere says

            My husband committed suicide attempt on September 11, 2012. It was very hard for me to read Mary’s response to me while my husband was in and out of the psych ward twice up to that point in May and June, 2012.

            His third hospitalization was on July. During that stay, he was told he might have Asperger. Sure enough that is the case after he went for a one-day-long diagnosis on August. This was no laughing matter! Mary could say that I was picking on my church leaders for I just want to WIN, to SAY THAT I AM RIGHT, but they didn’t really know the intensity of my husband’s sufferings. And my concerns for other people in the congregation!!!

            Thank God my husband’s suicide attempt ONLY put him into coma for six days. Thank God he is alive and well today!!! It was a miracle. And it was a rough road to walk down for me as people’s life was on the line.

    • Nathan says

      Musicians you say? You call slam, bam, no thank you man a way of being polite to your “flock?” TURN DOWN the dang volume on your “music making” toys boys and girls! You may want to “feel the noise” but for people who are more refined they seriously don’t want to feel that they’re in a battlefield simulator. Would you want to take a cross country trek in a rusty old pick up truck with a blown muffler or a new Mercedes Benz?Noise is noise. I don’t care if you deem it as being music. If it’s an assault to the auditory senses then it becomes a very serious, health related issue!

    • Ron Bartels says

      Does your understanding of loud noise extend to causing ear pain? Would not 85 decibels be loud? Would not an amortized 104 db be excessive. The scripture did not say extra loud or so loud it causes ear pain.

      What say you?

    • Debra Magrann says

      Not true! This is a health issue, plain and simple. Consult with an audiologist to see if noise-induced hearing loss is not an epidemic. And, from one artist to another, don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. Humility is always the path that leads to Jesus, the One Who is least appreciated by the world. Remember, Lucifer was the worship leader in Heaven before pride took him down. Now he crawls on his belly.

      • Ron Bartels says

        Psalms 33:3, loud noise referred to singing loud enough to be heard. They did not have amplifiers back in those days. No where in scripture does it say that you are to damage the hearing or create ear pain in worship. Sound volume should sufficient but no harmful. That band members become offended rather than concerned about making pleasing music to the Lord and His people, seems to be set aside giving more concern for pleasing the musicians that accommodating the tolerance of the full audience.

        There is a difference between being emotionally offended and physically pained. One is much easier to accommodate than the other. What level of maturity do easily offended band members have when they put their own preferences so far forward as to cause pain to some in the audience, yet please themselves. Are they there to serve others or please themselves? Those who are experiencing pain are not expressing their experience regarding the physical pain they suffer. Why not ask the audience if the volume is too loud rather than being inconsiderate to the point of forcing people to disengage from the service due to pain. Why can’t this be an inclusive rather than us versus them contest?

        Those who really love God’s law and understand His Word will not allow small irritants and annoyances to drive a wedge between others and themselves. They know how easy it is to cause others offense. Proverbs 11:12 says, “He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his peace.”

        • Shamir Rosan says

          According to what Yeshua has taught me and what I have read in His Bible/The Word of God I am given facts and evidences of His Truth and Wisdom that THE CHURCH is first to express His Love between one another and that our assemblies are first for the sake of all those who believe, trust and have faith in His Name, and that we share in fellowships, prayers and Bible study for the encouragement and building up of one another. Once The Church accomplishes that among our many members and the varieties of our denominations (which is basically a cultural or ethnic choice of religious expression) then we will stand and move and live and grow as A UNITED-ONE, GIVEN OVER, SOLD OUT WHOLLY TO THE LORD OUR GOD JESUS THE MESSIAH and then we will walk in This One Son of Man who is God Almighty come in our flesh and blood and we will fulfill The Great Commission and boldly proclaim His Testimonies and hold our salvation by HIs Holy and Precious Blood.

    • Shamir Roshan says

      Read the whole of Jesus’s words in Psalm 33. To start this is a Psalm of praise and rejoicing in The Lord and the veneration His Name. There were predominately four types of music and/or sound people could make in the ancient days. They could use their voices to sing, play air blown instruments and stringed instruments, clap their hands. As the redeemed of God today we have all sorts of man-made instruments to worship The Worthy Lamb our God and quite frankly anything or any way we can Honor His Name should be used.

      Referring the verse 3 (in King James English) : “Sing to Him a new song, play skillfully with a loud noise”.
      This word for KJ’s “loud noise” is the Hebrew word “RUA”. Its main meaning refers to the used of the ram’s horn, trumpets or a loud shout or vocalization in order to summon an assembly, give instructions, call attention or sound warnings. It also refers to the shout of a battle cry or an unrestrained shout of joy.
      Jesus did not give this verse to us to use as an excuse to create damaging effects to our bodies when we are indoors wanting to worship and glory in Him.

      • Debra Magrann says

        Bravo! Very well said.

        I have been following this blog for several weeks. It breaks my heart that so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are being shunned by this issue. My husband and I visited numerous churches in our area and it was astounding how alike they were! Rock concert LOUD. We simply stopped attending. Recently, I found a very small (Southern Baptist) fellowship with lovely people but they just went to two services – not out of a need due to high attendance or not enough seating – but to go a more ‘contemporary’ route. I have told the shepherd that noise-induced hearing loss is a very real danger. Sadly, from the discord on this blog, our appeals are falling on deaf ears!

        • Ron Bartels says

          I agree. This is why the home church movement is booming. In our church, we have started a home church small group that avoids the rock music problems. We stream the sermon and play streamed music, pray and fellowship. We do not take up offerings but instead direct attendees to contribute to the main church by envelop or online, so we don’t have accounting issues to complicate matters.

  50. Nathan says

    Since virtually nobody goes to church anymore and believes in that hokum, it’s up to some village idiot(s) to try and “inspire” younger folks to attend mass. By having some so-called musicians beating the daylights out of their drum kit, a pimply faced nerdy teen boy (he thinks he’s cool) plucking the wrong notes on his WAY over amplified bass guitar, and some screechy young girls shrieking out the worst rendition of “Shout Out Your Joy” you’ve ever heard, members of the congregation rolling their eyes, babies wailing away, children covering their ears and even some adults who left the pews to stand in the rear of the church. I’m not a church goer, I’m not a believer in anything spiritual, but I did attend a mass out of respect for my grandmother who visited last year. I was raised catholic but I abandoned the church when I got into college. My parents and one of my three siblings still follow the church. I don’t know what they’re trying to pull off in these churches, but the idea of having purported rock bands banging and clanging away is going to bring in a bigger audience, then they’re in for a ruse awakening. My grandmother barely tolerate the racket and she is hard of hearing. She said it’s the same way at her church in Minnesota with the guitar mass as she call it. I can remember as a young child enduring the painfully loud pipe organ in a former parish my parents belonged to. I absolutely hated it! Go to church so that you come out with your ears ringing. That’s brilliant, not! My idea of “church” is taking a stroll in a quiet nature preserve and just the sounds of nature to reflect with. Not a 4000 pipe Mighty Wurlitzer tooting away or the pimply faced geek plucking his goofy bass guitar with his amp’s volume set at 10. And this is how someone’s “god” is glorified? Go figure……..

    • Shamir Roshan says

      Referring to a comment by NATHAN dated June 21, 2013 at 1257/12:57AM first line:
      Considering the days and “The Church Age” this creation is currently being drawn through and accepting as Truth and Faith that God has warned every believer inside His Name Yeshua or Jesus (if you please) that “there will come a time of famine and of drought BUT, it will not be for food or water; it will be for The Word of God”.

      For the most part people are leaving local congregations because The Word of God is not The Book of Law, Justice, Equality , Liberty, Freedom and Love. God’s Covenant and Manner of Being Who He Is – is being exchanged for worldly ways, pomp, pageantry and monetary gain. In many of our congregations (at least in the USA that I have experienced) all across the denominational board Truth and Faith and The Expressions of God’s Love as our Messiah and Kinsman Redeemer between believers is barely alive IF in operation at all. Many good Christians are duped into accepting the cold and dead rites, rituals and artificial life of religious Christianity instead of The True and Living Faith of God our Savior. Our fellow stewards and ambassadors of King get caught up into seminary educations and their accolades of being called Dr., PHd, apostle, bishop etc.. and so there comes a rift and disunity and even divisions between what is called educated and ignorant and clergy and laity – this is not what our Blessed Lord God called His People, His Israel, His Church to be.

      Excuse me for going on……I think I went on a bit of a rabbit trail here. To return to the point of my comment (Thank Y’all). I think people are first leaving the congregations RUNNING and not going entering into the fellowship houses of God’s people because they are not being fed and having their thirst quenched (as far as Christians go) and because when they (those who yet are alive outside God’s Loving Mercy and Grace) come to pastures that have no green grass and no quiet waters that they can drink from. Certainly for all peoples there is no if any at all Balm of Gilead which is The Love of God Who Is The Messiah Jesus manifest in our own flesh and blood and dwelling among in His Post as The Holy Spirit. Without LOVE a man may do all manner of good deeds and high moral acts of compassion to his fellow man but, that is all in vain because without LOVE active in the heart of that man there is no true and real Living Faith acted out in his living through The Person of God Who Is The IAM The Messiah, The Lord, the Lord Yeshua.

  51. Josh T. says

    I’ve been a bassist (upright and guitar) and a some classical guitar playing for 30 years. I’ve played in numerous bands (since junior high) and a few praise bands even though I’m an atheist:) The bands I was in were VERY loud and I was warned by my parents about damage to my hearing. When you’re young you think that you’re invincible and nothing’s going to happen. I also had a trick aftermarket audio system in my Toyota truck that had the truck’s bed converted into a bass chamber with six twelve in sub woofers. I got more tickets and dirty looks from people when I cranked up the bass! And I even blew out my truck’s windows once when showing off my truck’s audio infrasound to some buddies.

    When I was in my late 20′s I began to notice a decline in my hearing. An evaluation by an audiologist confirmed that I had progressive hearing loss and recommended for me a hearing aid! At 27 I didn’t want to go around with a hearing aid. How was it going to look being a 27 year old dad to my 13 year old son with dad going around with hearing aids!

    I was still playing in bands in my 30′s and was still too stupid to realize that I was going to blow my hearing. The praise band I was playing bass in had an incredible sound system for bass guitar. It was a towering unit with ten fifteen inch subwoofers and a center stage ultra sub unit with four twenty inch sub woofers. The amplifiers were 2000 watts of pure earth shaking bass. I ended up with a collapsed lung after one performance because of the intense bass. I was right in front of the amp.

    There were complaints from the congregation of the music being way over the top. Even teenagers complained it was too loud! The church was 14,000 square feet and the throbbing sound from our band was making the church’s upper balcony actually sway!

    Well I’m in my forties now and I’m diagnosed as being legally deaf. I’ve got to wear two hearing aids. I still play bass guitar and upright bass, though I play a lot more quietly, but I mostly feel the music more than I can clearly hear it:(

    Luckily my son was a little safer about his hearing when he joined a band. He didn’t want to start going deaf at the “ripe old age” of 27{}{}{}

  52. Ken says

    We joined our present church 8 years ago. The music was loud then, 85 to 95 db.
    They are now pumping out as high as 105 db for 2 hours of praise and worship.
    The last 2 weeks it has been so loud my wife was crying in pain. We have approached our Pastor
    and other leadership members. The leader ship wont confront the Pastor as it is his church. I confronted the
    Pastor about this and were basically waved off with the comment “Yes its loud but we are worshipping God”.
    The Sanctuary is only the size of a gymnasium.
    It sucks to have to leave for health reasons, but damaging our hearing is not worth it. No where in the Bible does it say deafing thy worshippers. We are told us ear plugs. Where in the bible does it say use ear plugs.
    Why do young Pastors and leadership not get trained in work place safety. The poor kids are all going to be hearing impaired at this rate

  53. Truly says

    Hello sir,
    Our sound tech moved to other state for family issue and now we are left with no-one to set to sound at our church. We are a Foursquare Gospel with full band. The guy thats taking care of sound now is a 17 yr old kid that pretty much only know where the power botton is. Is there a web site that i can learn about setting of EQ, volume level etc.?
    Thank you for your time… :) God bless..

  54. says

    If everyone from babies to grandmas enjoyed the Disney experience, why pump up the volume for younger people? Aren’t they just as capable of enjoying reasonably adjusted sound as babies and grandmas? Is it OK to injure the hearing of young people?

  55. Pastor Dale says

    I visited a church where the sound was way too high (completely unnecessary) and left with my ears ringing. For a year and a half afterwards I had to keep asking people to repeat themselves. Finally I had a hearing test and discovered that I had suffered permanent hearing loss in both ears. I was also told that “ringing ears” is a sign of nerve damage. I love contemporary Christian music and don’t mind it loud. But damaging peoples ears is not a loving thing to do and groups that think sound volume is the same as anointing are missing something. After suffering this injury, I started researching the topic of hearing loss and discovered frightening statistics indicating that there is an epidemic of hearing loss in America. One alarming stat said that 70% of students entering college have already suffered hearing loss, not only from loud concerts, but also from headphones turned up too high. I’m no expert on this stuff, but losing my hearing has negatively impacted my ability to minister to people, both in one-on-one counseling sessions and in groups and classes that I run. I pray that this topic gets the attention that it deserves, not as a matter of musical style, but as a serious health issue. I once went to a Christian concert with my family where the sound was so loud the whole building was shaking. I brought ear plugs, but had to leave because I can’t afford to lose any more of my hearing. It was a nationally known group and there was absolutely no reason why they had to turn it up to 12. The instruments were so loud you couldn’t understand what the singers were singing! My suspicion was that they were caught up in a competitive spirit where the loudest band equals the best band or felt a sense of power from turning the volume way up. Regardless, it was counterproductive even for them. A lot of rock musicians have suffered hearing loss and one of them (can’t remember the name) is a on a crusade to get people to realize the hazards of destructively loud music and has a website dedicated to this issue. My injury occurred many years ago and, hopefully, people are becoming more informed about it.

    • Ron Bartels says

      In our church, we have lost several dozen people aged 41 to 79 due to 3 elements of the music.
      1. Volume running up to 142 db sustained
      2. Pressure well over 200 hz
      3. Some of the songs are pure rock, just the lyrics are Christian and are difficult to worship when played.

      We have had several discussions with the lead pastor on this campus and finally have received permission to meet in the home of one member and download or live stream the message. We will be handing out contact card and offering envelopes with a link to the website for contributions. However, we ourselves will not be taking up any offerings. Attendees will have to get their contributions in on their own.

      We will be streaming recorded 4 part harmony worship music for the music.

      We had a request from the leadership to call it a small group and to meet at a time and place that did not conflict with the main three services. We had to turn down the timing request but will identify it as a small group.

      Since then, there have been rumors spreading that we are being mutinous. We advised the lead pastor that we are not being mutinous and he agreed we are not. He just does not like the times we have chosen. Our services will last longer because we will be fellow-shipping more and not subject to the time constraints of the local campus.

      We have been asked if this was going to become a home church. At present, the answer is no and is like to remain no unless it becomes a problem and we have specific leading to make that change. However, we hope that is not necessary.

      I’ll post more updates if and when needed. For the record, this is open to those who suffer ear pain from the pud music.. Most people can handle it.

      • Shamir Roshan says

        Why would you or any other Christian ask anyone’s permission to meet in one another’s homes?
        Some time in the not too distant future The Church worldwide will only be able to meet in one another’s homes or someplace.

        • Heather says

          I think the permission was because they didn’t want to leave the church body as a whole, and become separate, they wanted a time and place to worship together without the loudness interfering, and then listen/watch the message from the church’s minister. If the streaming was not online public, then they needed cooperation from the minister and larger church body. They wouldn’t have needed permission to start their own house church but that’s not what they were doing.

      • Stuart Allsop says

        Ron, with all due respect, and in the love of Christ between brothers in Christ, I would very respectfully ask that you stop posting information which is totally meaningless, highly misleading, and which you clearly don’t understand, even though you think you do. You are confusing the issue for others, not clarifying it. many of the terms you use are invented, not in other cases you are using the wrong terms.

        While I totally agree with your basic premise that very many churches are way too loud, and are causing damage to the hearing of their congregations, I cannot let pass your misleading and totally inaccurate comments about sound levels. I must comment on your claims, to clarify reality for others who are interested in controlling sound levels in their churches.

        For example: “Volume running up to 142 db sustained” I’m sorry, but that is simply a physical impossibility. A level of 142 dB, no matter how you measure it, is totally impossible. The loudest rock concert ever measured on planet Earth came in at around 132 dB(C), yet you claim that your church is ten times louder every Sunday? It is not physically possible to have such high levels. In addition, very few sound level meters are even capable of measuring such high levels. What meter was that?

        Another one: “Pressure well over 200 hz”. Sorry, but Hz, is not a measure of pressure! It is a measure of frequency (or “tone” if you prefer the non-technical term). Saying that the “pressure was over 200 Hz” is just as silly as saying the “speed of a car was over 100 gallons”: Hz is not a measure of sound pressure any more than gallons is a measure of speed.

        Yet again: “Would not 85 decibels be loud? Would not an amortized 104 db be excessive.” No, 85 decibels dB(C) would not be loud, if the acoustic environment of the church is suitably designed, and the sound system is correctly calibrated. 85 dB(C) is roughly the level you hear in a modern cinema, and is classified by OSHA and other organizations as being safe for 8 hours of exposure each day, on a daily basis. 104 dB would certainly be excessive, but there is no such thing as “amortized decibels”. Google it, and you’ll find the only place on the entire Internet that the term is ever mentioned, is right here, where you invented it.

        “I have read that it takes a long period to damage hearing above 85 decibels, that claim does not address the ear pain issue,” If you are experiencing ear pain at a level of 85 dB, then you should immediately visit an audiologist or other doctor, without delay. That’s a sure sign that you have something pretty bad wrong with your ears, and you need treatment. I’m not a doctor so I can’t tell you what it is, but I do know pain at that level is a symptom of an underlying issue.

        “The pastor says he is running it at 99 db but the readings show and average of 104 db including the quieter times, with a peak reading of 129 db. ” Once again, a level of 129 dB in a church is extremely unlikely: You would need and incredibly massive sound system to attain such levels, with a very large stack of speakers, and many tens of thousands of watts of amplification. Where and how was that measured? What meter was used? Was it operated by a trained person, who knows how to use it correctly? Was it calibrated?

        ” One of our members … brought in a decibel meter … The sound average was 104 db. The music was broadcast over the speaker system in mostly high range with little mid range and no observed low range.” I’m sorry, but sound level meters do not show the frequency range of the sounds they are measuring: Only RTA (“Real Time Analyzers”) meters and other forms of spectrum analyzer have that capability. And what you describe is hard to believe: A loud church sound system with no bass? That would be a first.

        “Our church service is not only above 85 decibels (last measurement was 114 amortized) but also well above 200 hz pressure.” Once again, there is no such thing as “amortized decibels”, and Hertz is a measure of frequency, not sound pressure.

        You are talking about technical measurements that you clearly don’t understand, using invented terms that don’t exist, and that is very confusing and unhelpful for the discussion.

        I fully understand your point, and I absolutely agree with it: the sound in many churches, yours included, is way too loud, and is causing both pain and hearing damage for church members. I agree that this is absolutely wrong: churches should never be causing any harm to their members, in any way. But I can’t agree with the way you are going about this, pretending to understand the technical issues and condemning others on that basis, when it is clear that you yourself don’t understand the terminology or the basis of acoustics.

        I’m trying to not be offensive here, and that isn’t my intention at all since we basically agree on the main point. But really, what you are posting isn’t helping, and is likely to cause confusion, friction, and alienation. Perhaps it would be useful if you would take a course in acoustics, so you can understand what is really happening with the sound in your church, and become part of the solution to the problem with the sound in your church

        Stuart

  56. Doug says

    I have been subscribed to comments regarding this blog since it’s posting earlier this year. I have read comment after comment that inaccurately sight decibel levels and where hearing damage begins. Opinion is opinion and fact is fact. Please post all the opinion you want regarding style and preference. That is the whole point of a blog and resulting comments. When you decide to cite facts, please look it up and verify what you are posting is accurate. OSHA and the more restrictive Niosh standards are easily accessible via a Google search.

    Spreading this disinformation is potentially very harmful to those who are trying to do things correctly and monitor safe levels in their church, just as the original article stirred unnecessary controversy by citing inaccurate levels from an uncalibrated iPhone that is often off by 10db or more.

    This is a very controversial and dividing subject. Let’s try to be accurate wherever and whenever we can be.

  57. Michael says

    I am reading this blog in year 2014 and have suffered hearing damage from staying in a church that had extreme loud services (95 – 105 dba typical). Children would cup their ears because it was so loud. Many wore ear plugs (I did). There was a blind couple that was in the church for awhile. They sit in the back but had to leave the church too. There hearing was all they had left! We spoke with the pastor continually for a period of over two years. Promises made. Sound levels down for a season but then…back up to deafening levels. I now wear a hearing aid and have ringing in the ears. It is not fun and no worship experience is worth it. My advice would be to get out of your church within three months if there is no real change. There is nothing spiritual about hearing loss!

    • Shamir Roshan says

      I think that if more of us would get “db meters” and record the readings we get and/or ban together as a group to confront the noise makers we could put a stop to this type of selfish behavior. It is not the style of music it is the fact that this kind of protocol is detrimental to the unity and function of The Church and her peoples ability and desire to share God and His Love as our Messiah and Kinsman Redeemer between one another and so be His revealed Glory and Majesty to the lost souls around us.
      That couple should file a suit against that congregation and its pastor for the damage to their hearing. If more Chriistans would start filing law suits for this maybe it would wake these deaf sleepers up.

      One main thing my husband and I have seen is that in these congregations with the demonic sound levels many of the folks are wearing sticking something in their ears to muffle the noise or wear ear plugs. Many of these places furnish them at the door so, it is not like the leaders of the places do not know the sound is damaging. But the really stupid thing is no one seems to complain and insist on the change. Why are we Christians afraid to speak up when something is not right in The Church? Most folks we’ve spoken to say “well I thought it was loud too when I first came but, then I got used to it” – makes sense…like a lobster being boiled alive.
      We are trying to get some legislation in the Houston area and all Texas to force congregations and any indoors, closed area where people gather to meet a required low level (some where between 50 and 70 db) of sound. Smoking has been banned in public places and government areas so surely the same sort of thing can be done regarding noise.

      I am also a combat veteran so I have an added situation that certain levels of sound and lights cause me to have flashbacks – so where is the consideration to that too?

      • Debra Magrann says

        I applaud you for your determination.

        I for one, believe that the Lord is not pleased with what has been going on in His Body for many reasons: the “holy laughter” craze that started in Canada, the infidelity of tv evangelists (and now both of them are back on ‘Christian’ tv), the “manna-festations of diamonds and gold”, and Todd Bentley’s “Fresh Fire” phoney revivals in Lakeland, FL. Outrageously loud worship music is just another indication that the enemy has invaded the camp and the watchmen are sleeping.

        For those of us who are sense-able and want to protect what is left of our hearing, keep the faith. The LORD’s hand is not too short to save, nor are his ears too dull to hear. This, too, shall pass. I pray that parents will not be lulled into a stupor that exposes their precious children to this abuse.

        • Ron Bartels says

          I agree with your assessment. Have you though of meeting with church leadership to form a small group under the church, while they are going through this phase? I have found that in chamber meetings where the problem is presented without malice or bitterness has decent chance of being successful. It took three such off the record meetings to get approved as a small group, during church, off campus meeting, wherein we stream just the sermon and then stream our regular non rock worship music. You could consider it an off campus Sunday worship group.

          • Debra Magrann says

            Thank you, Mr. Bartels, for your excellent remedy. Since I am not yet a member of this fellowship (I’ve been attending since just before Thanksgiving 2013), it is not my place to urge changes in such a small congregation (about 75-90). There is, however, potential. I did have a personal meeting with the Shepherd and had some dialogue with him. I do plan to move forward with formal membership; I am observing and praying for an opportunity to make my appeal. Thank you for your many posts. They are helpful.

      • Stuart Allsop says

        Once again, this isn’t helpful since it isn’t realistic, and is based on a lack of understanding: You say “We are trying to get some legislation in the Houston area and all Texas to force congregations and any indoors, closed area where people gather to meet a required low level (some where between 50 and 70 db) of sound. ” If you did that, you would basically be banning conversation and all other forms of verbal communication! You would not even be allowed to talk to the person next to you, and all services would have to be conducted in total silence, with visuals only. You don’t seem to be aware that a typical conversation between two people at normal voice levels, measures at roughly 70 – 75 dB: So banning anything over 70 dB would mean that nobody would be allowed to talk at all! That hardly seems helpful for a church service.

        I realize that your intentions are good, and your only desire is to have more reasonable sound levels in churches, but you should probably get better information and understanding of acoustics before moving forward. A level of 70dB is just as unrealistic as a level of 120 dB. Suggesting such a thing is more likely to get you laughed at that taken seriously.

        There is also no need for your efforts to legislate, since legislation already exists: sound levels are already governed by law, both for outdoors and indoors. The problem is not lack of legislation: it is lack of enforcement, and lack of knowledge about sound and the harm it causes! Your efforts would probably produce far better results if you were to concentrate on spreading the word among churches regarding just how harmful loud sound is.

        Starting a campaign among your local churches to inform the pastors, leaders, sound team, musicians, and congregations of the issues, providing them with sound, solid, trustworthy information on hearing damage, and running seminars on the issue, would likely produce far better results than threatening to sue them. (However, you might find it rather hard to run a seminar by your own rules, of not exceeding 70 dB…)

        Stuart

    • Ken Burneau says

      Chuck I agree to a point that move volumes equals more energy. There is a point where we need to be responsible with the volume so as not to cause injury to people. If it causes pain, discomfort and injury, then it is not of God and it is not what God wants. Again it is a matter of responsibility of the sound people to be educated, know the size of the room they are playing in and understand how sound travels and bounces off objects. I have lost 30% of my hearing due to my trade in the military, I am also a safety rep for my unit. We now push for hearing protection

  58. Al says

    The parish I belong to is in a very old victorian era church. The church has a smaller pipe organ that is original to the church and hasn’t functioned in several years. An upright piano has been the source of musical accompaniment for the choir. Last year a new younger pastor thought of bringing in a more youth oriented praise band. The problem being is that this is not a very big church, and the praise band had enough audio gear to be heard miles away. The band consisted of a bass player, two drummers, three guitarists and backup singers. The band members were as young as 15 years old to as old as 48 years old. The bassist was the oldest member of the group and also the loudest. Their speakers were huge. One was over six feet high for the bassist and had several huge speaker cones inside the cabinet. The first day they played the bass guitar was so loud that two of the original stained glass windows above the altar cracked form the vibrations! Even the ring on my finger was vibrating and buzzing on the wooden pew form the bass! Children were crying and some of the old folks were holding their ears. Also, the plaster ceilings developed cracks from the loud bass. I could see the old hanging ceiling lights getting jostled around from whenever the bass player plucked a string on his guitar. The congregation was not happy and the pastor dismissed the praise band for future worships. The damage to the church was repaired and now the old upright piano is gone in favor of a portable digital keyboard that won’t rattle windows my ring finger or my sanity!

    • Ron Bartels says

      When glass can be shattered by sound waves, (watch video) what can happen to the human ear drum, which becomes much more fragile as we age. The human ear drum, even in an infant, is more fragile than a wine glass. It takes years of hearing damage to scar a human ear drum to withstand the sound generated by rock bands. http://youtu.be/17tqXgvCN0E It is rude for pastors with scarred ear drum to expect middle aged and elderly with un-scarred ear drums to keep attending churches where pastors are so inconsiderate. While sound is measured in many ways, the critical consideration are decibels of sound (penetration of sound) and hertz (pressure of sound). If a person purposely wanted to scar their own ear drums to withstand more decibels and hertz of generated sound, then ear buds are the way to go. However, the scarring is permanent.

  59. cathy says

    I am not that old, and have had to leave two churches because of the volume. If you can feel it thumping through your chest or smashing (physically) around the crown of your head, then it’s too loud.

    To all those that need it loud: please remember, you are excluding some of us from corporate worship. I like the modern styles. I dislike hymns and church organs, but that is where the modern church has pushed me. Anything to be able to worship in song with others.

  60. Shamir Roshan says

    There is a verse in The Scriptures wherein God speaks of “the noise-some pestilence.NSP” – that is what this overly loud, literally bone shaking and mind numbing
    sound or volume that has infiltrated and invested the congregations of The Church is.

    I do not know what the decibel or such is but, it does quite literally rattle every bone in my body and numb my mind so that after just a few moments I get dizzy, nauseated and disoriented, and at times in some places feel like I am having heart seizure.

    This level of sound is purely demonic in its origin. This common and rampant practice in our congregations is just inconsiderate and totally Biblical. My husband and I have been to almost fifty different congregations (across the denominational board) trying to find a group of fellow believers who do not yield to NSP (we live near Houston, TX) and so far have found none. The style of music is not the problem (albeit I do not care for Rap, Hip-Hop or Rock) this kind of stuff happens even when the more older type songs and hymns are used.

    We have voiced our concerns and objections to the noise at these congregations and are met with foolish responses such as: “This is the first complaint I ever heart” YES! Your congregation is going deaf. “Well, we had an expert in here and he said 95db was fine” well yes that would be good if one is outside in the open air but, this is a closed and sealed building. “Our ministry is to reach the young people and the lost” O brother, you do not care that the youth are losing there hearing and the lost will not be able to hear much less listen to what words are being said. Give me a break!!! It is one thing to be outdoors – a place where you’d expect

    These well meaning and sincere brethren are not thinking rationally nor are they being considerate of other believers.
    God tells us that if we share His Love between one another first He will be lifted up and people will be drawn to Him. He also tells us that He is not deaf, but can hear even those sounds we do not or cannot even utter.

    I cannot understand why so many Christians are so bent and stubborn about their belief that this loud inside sound is necessary – it is heart breaking.

    My husband and I are starving for Christian fellowship and yet we are driven out of our Paps House because of hard-hearted inconsiderate Christians. The Church is to be a house of prayer for all peoples, a place where all Christians can fellowship and share The Lord with one another, where the praises of God’s people can raise our voices and create a throne for God to sit amongst us and enjoy His little darlings, and a place where if there are any ignorant Christians or unbelievers they will be able to experience and taste and see just how Good, how Great and Wonderful The Lord, our Lord God The Messiah Is and either gain wisdom or become a redeemed one.

  61. Luis says

    Saw a bumper sticker that said: YOU CALL IT WORSHIP, I CALL IT CONCERT. GOD
    The American church is like a concert hall with stage props, smoke, and strobe lights… Don’t get upset if this is a mirror of your church. If you were to remove the entertainment element of your body, and if that’s all your congregation came for, would you still have a church?

  62. Mary says

    Yes, too bad for those lame, old people who gripe about the noise. I am not surprised as much as I am disgusted by the” cool” people here who have decided that the “energy” they have to have is more important than the people around them. Worship is about God. It is not about you rockin’ out and having an awesome experience. I have a daughter, a young woman who suffers from epilepsy. She is a very serious believer but you know what? She cannot go to church anymore because you all have to be pumped and love pounding bass and screaming guitars. Grow up. Calm down. Be Still and know that HE is God.

  63. Dawn says

    I am so glad that I am not alone when it comes to the loud worship music in todays church. It saddens me to think that people are leaving churches because of this technical devision. I have very sensitive hearing and really loud environments will leave me with a ring in my ears that will last quite a while. I also have a medical condition that makes it uncomfortable to feel the base boom in my chest. But, I am just one of a few that cannot tolerate loud music right? There are many that really enjoy it, but I believe that it should not be so loud at every service.
    Todays technical advances have allowed churches to reach the world and to create performances to attract the unchurched, but we need to sometimes step away from the technology and get back to the basics. We need to ask ourselves, can we worship without the sensationalism and the emotionalism that loud and overproduced worship creates. Yes. God says to be still and know that I am God for a reason. New christians need to be taught how to hear God and not get hooked on the emotional high that comes with loud music, bright lights and production. We need to teach them how to worship in a corporate setting and how to worship God alone. I believe that it can become a crutch for some. I had a friend say that he realized that he was getting a high from it because he found himself depressed when he came down from it. He was having a mountain experience without the support of accountability and discipleship.
    Besides, I really miss hearing the people around me sing and I have heard that particular statement from many.

    • Mary says

      Dawn- I have a feeling that there are many, many worshipers who are also troubled even offended by the performance like atmosphere that seems to have taken over most “evangelical” churches. I have heard people sneeringly refer to “puritan” songs when referencing ancient hymns. It breaks my heart that the place that should provide a refuge from the cacophony of the world has become rather like it in another way. I pray that this is a fad, and that soon, there will be a wave of “rediscovering” how we need dignity to truly worship God and that is not a product of guitar riffs and drum solos.

  64. Shere Kraus-Yao says

    One lady in my church brought up her concern to me when we couldn’t hear each other at the greeting time while the band was playing two years ago. I wrote emails to church’s Director of Worship Art Community for her and for people who are affected but might not express their concerns. This lady eventually asked me to “let it go” and hinded that I just wanted to win the case by citing scientific data. She also wrote that be cause of my persistence, church leaders would not listen to me any more. She was totally missed the point. It hurted me when she claimed that she was my friend and yet tried to “play safe” without first including me in her reply. Her solution was to just go to a different service while I cared for all congregation even if they didn’t know their ears might be injured in the future.

    Just yesterday I forwarded this blog to her and she asked me to stop talking to her about this very issue and warmed me to not forward her writings to others
    without per permission. It saddened me to receive her very passive reply again.

    • Injured Aspie says

      If we complain we are labeled troublemakers. I have been told “No one else has complained” when I know that is NOT true. The sound guys know that they have been getting complaints and their reply has been, “The Pastor and Music leader want it that way”. I can tell when the house speakers are basically turned off because the monitors are so “hot” on the stage the congregation can hear everything from them, too loudly too. But I am a troublemaker because I say anything. I did not demand anything. I presented that it hurts, there is damage being done to the flock. It fell on deaf ears. Some of the sound guys tried, thats how we ended up listening just to the monitors.
      I have left 6 churches in the first 5 minutes because when they start up, ouch! too loud. I simply walk back to the sound board and ask politely what db rate they are running. I get strange looks. Its always above 90db. I ask if they always run the sound at that level, when they say yes, we leave. No use getting in yet another battle over sound. If a church is handing out ear plugs they need to get a clue. But they don’t. I dare churches that are having complaints to drop to one mic and one un-amplified flat top guitar and a real piano and see what happens in that worship service. It will amaze you. The people join in. They are no longer being hurt. Does that mean it has to be that way forever? No. Just try it. Try running the sound at 80db. See the difference.
      I am an aspie, (thats aspergers syndrome) and sounds over 80db hurt physically. Autistic kids also have pain with loud music. People with epilepsy also have issues with sound being painful. I want to attend church. I want to join in. I cannot when your sound system is hurting me. We are not to injure the sheep. Should there be churches for the loud folks? Sure. Then when they have hearing damage they can join the rest of us that like it softer.
      I am tired of looking for a church that does not hurt its people. I even considered going to a Church of Christ where there is no music, but I am drawn to the Assembly of God’s and Church of God’s type of churches. I had a church director tell me, “we had been wondering why everyone is not participating like they used to”. I said its the volume. Quit hurting me, please! All I got was a blank stare. They do not get that it hurts. I hate it when I get in my car after church and I can hear my ears ringing. I have cried all the way home. Not wanting to go try again but wanting to part of a church. The arrogance of its just you being difficult, is horrid. It not just me. Sound is destroying our churches. The opposite of what He wanted. Love does NOT hurt. or at least its not supposed to……

      • Stuart Allsop says

        “The sound guys know that they have been getting complaints and their reply has been, “The Pastor and Music leader want it that way”. I can tell when the house speakers are basically turned off because the monitors are so “hot” on the stage the congregation can hear everything from them, too loudly too.” That’s sad, actually: Sad that the sound guys are getting blamed for something over which they have no control. As you mentioned, when the main FOH speakers are turned off (which is the only thing the sound guys have control of) the level FROM THE STAGE is too high. Unfortunately, the sound guys back at the console do not have control of stage levels, in the majority of churches. Those levels are frequently (and incorrectly) under the control of the musicians. So when the sound guys told you that the musicians want it that way, they are also telling you that there is not a thing they can do about it, as they do not have control over those levels. All they can do for you, they already did: they turned of the FOH speakers. So they are not to blame. The musicians are to blame, and especially the praise & worship leader. And they are to blame for two things: One is the loud levels, and the other is for not getting proper training! If they were properly trained as a team, they would understand the need to keep the levels low on the stage so that the sound in the SANCTUARY can be good. The musicians on stage do NOT need rock concert levels to do their job: They do need good levels, yes, since they MUST be able to hear themselves in order to play properly. But those levels need to be under control, the monitors need to be correctly placed. correctly oriented, and correctly mixed.

        Unfortunately, there’s this “more of me” syndrome among musicians, who think that they alone have the right to be heard above everyone else. Once they are properly trained to understand the real purpose of a praise & worship musician, that can be fixed. Provided that there aren’t also issues of pride, stubbornness, and attitude… Once they get past the common incorrect belief that their job is to “play good music”, and start to understand what there REAL job is, then the stage levels can absolutely be controlled, which means that the sound guys can then do their job properly too.

        I never can figure out why churches spend large amounts of money on getting their pastors, preachers, and teachers well trained, but no money at all on getting their musicians and sound guys trained…

  65. says

    May God have mercy on a “church” that learns worship from Disney and loves entertainment over self-denial. I sure hope the Gospel Coalition reposted this critical revival-centered piece.

    • Stuart Allsop says

      “May God have mercy on a “church” that learns worship from Disney and loves entertainment over self-denial. I sure hope the Gospel Coalition reposted this critical revival-centered piece.” It seems that somebody didn’t understand the article too well! Perhaps it would be good if you were to go back and read it again, since it does not, at any point, suggest that churches should “learn worship from Disney”, which is what you apparently think it says! In fact, it suggests that churches could do well to learn how to control their SOUND LEVELS better, like Disney does. How, exactly, that could be misconstrued to mean that Disney should teach them praise and worship, is pretty hard to understand.

      There is nothing at all wrong with taking cues from entertainment companies on how to run sound systems: Nothing! They know how to do that correctly, while churches do not. What is wrong with learning a technical skill, or copying a method, layout, arrangement or calibration system from a non-Christian organization? If you truly believe that churches should reject all non-Christian advice, skills and know-how, then you should probably burn your Bibles, since the were most likely printed on presses made by non-Christian manufacturers, using paper and ink made by non-Christian companies, edited on computers made by non-Christian corporations, and all done using skills originally learned from non-Christians. You should also insist that all the musical instruments and equipment in your church be thrown out the window, since it is very likely not designed or made by Christian factories, and the chairs, carpet, paint and even the building itself should go, since it is highly probable that most (if not all) of that was manufactured and built by non-Christian organizations, every bit as badly tainted as Disney seems to be in your opinion.

      And that would probably be fine for you, since “self-denial” seems to be far more important to you than providing an uplifting spiritual environment of praise and worship in your church. If you followed that conviction to its logical conclusion, the only possible place you would allow your church to worship, would be standing out in the rain, in the middle of an empty field, with not even the faintest trace in sight of anything made by a company that might (Gasp!) not be entirely Christian.

      “I sure hope the Gospel Coalition reposted this critical revival-centered piece”. So do I, since it is a well-written, sound, factual, truthful article that provides useful information that churches can use to help set up their sound systems: I don’t agree with the SPL levels that are suggested, since the method used by the author to measure them is flawed, but I certainly do agree with the spirit of the article, and the suggestion for using (Oh how terrible!) “worldly” sources to learn skills and techniques that can benefit churches. So even though your comment was clearly intended to cynical, even sarcastic, I’ll agree with is in the exact opposite sense, and I’d encourage ANY church organization to re-post it, or post links to this very article, so that the many, many churches that don’t have a clue how to run sound, can learn from people who DO know how to run sound, including even (Horror!) Disney.

      May God have mercy on those who aren’t willing to learn extremely important church skills from others.

      Stuart

  66. Katy says

    This is an issue that has made my heart sad. I found a church where the messages were wonderful and was excited about attending there with my family so that we could receive spiritual nourishment. I had listened to the messages on-line. When we actually attended the services we found that it was an effort in futility to try to worship, as we could hear nothing coming out of our own mouths, and couldn’t hear the congregation at all. My 14 year old daughter said she kept trying to worship but couldn’t. A neighbor who visited also said she was not able to enter into worship. I brought my husband who said he would not attend a church where he is blasted out of his seat. So, sadly, we are no longer attending that church. We’ll instead listen to the sermons on-line. Even though I love contemporary worship songs, minus the blasting volume, we are now attending a traditional church with hymns, not my first preference, but it is an overall more worshipful and corporate experience. I just really do not get this mentality of louder is better. It’s not necessarily an issue of young vs. old, as I said my teenaged daughter couldn’t worship, either. Something is seriously wrong here, folks.

  67. Steve says

    Remember the phone app may not be the most accurate way to tell decibels. I’d bet they were running louder than you think.

  68. Parker says

    I have been running sound at our church for about a year. I am primarily a musician and don’t have formal sound training, but have an ear for all things related to music and have done A LOT of personal study and experimentation with running sound. There are lots of interesting comments in this blog. Anyway, I wanted to give some comments from the perspective of a sound tech:

    1. I think some people get the idea that the only thing a sound tech has in the control room is one volume dial. That couldn’t be further from reality. Our mixing board has over 900 controls and that’s just one aspect of the signal chain. Point being: running sound with a multi-member live band isn’t as simple as adjusting the volume on a radio.

    2. Most churches have volunteer musicians and sound techs. It is that way at our church. I really try to keep in constant communication with band members, but we have quite a rotation of players with new ones joining on a regular basis. All it takes is one musician who runs their amp too loud and their volume on stage overpowers what is coming out of the P.A. speakers. That is OUT OF the sound technician’s control. Ideally, something like that gets addressed in rehearsals, but…. with live music, things happen especially when volunteers are involved. The point: it isn’t a perfect world and imperfect things will happen. Some volume issues are beyond the control of the sound technician. Also, sound techs have good and bad days just like everybody else. Sometimes mixes are better than others. Expecting perfect sound all the time at a level that suits exactly what you want to hear is not being realistic.

    3. In the Disney example, was that pre-recorded music or a live band? I ask because 75dbA is NOT reasonable at all for a full live band. We have brought stage volume down at our church, but it is still around 80dbA to 85dbA. Being a musician, I can say that going much lower than that sucks the life out of playing on stage. Yes, silent stages and in-ear-monitors are an option, but that can be an expense and complication some churches aren’t able to deal with. Not all volunteers have equipment designed to work in that sort of setup. The point: if a person wants music to be in the 75dbA range, they ARE NOT being realistic with regards to a live band and would probably be best served going to a church that plays pre-recorded music.

    4. I have read the same comments over and over from Shere-Ling and TyLa. I am sympathetic to the health problems you or family members have with relation to hearing. But I have a question: if a church has 300 people and ONE or TWO people have hearing-related health problems, should the ENTIRE music service be adjusted to appease one or two people at the expense of the other 298 people? I am sorry, but even with respect to your health condition, it just seems selfish to expect that. Why not lovingly respect the worship team and congregation members and make adjustments YOURSELF (like wearing ear protection, sitting in different areas, etc.). Or maybe even find a church that better fits your desires. There is certainly no shortage or churches and formats. Take away: health problems and sound level issues at church are largely TWO SEPARATE issues. Trying to intertwine the two is just going to lead to problems and frustration for people on both sides of the discussion.

    5. We shoot for peaks in the 89 to 92dbA range with levels as low as 80dbA depending on the dynamics of a particular song. This works well in our church. The music portion of our service is typically 20 to 25 minutes, so there is absolutely no chance of hearing damage. Further, we need those levels to surpass the stage volume of the band (see point #2).

    6. As mentioned, we have mostly all volunteers. But they spend A LOT of time prepping, practicing, playing, etc. This is their service to the Lord. It can be very defeating to put in all the effort and have very anointed services only to have people complain about ONE thing (volume)…even if it’s only one or two people. Please be respective and appreciative of the efforts of those in your church.

    7. If you have so much knowledge and interest in volume levels at your church, why not step up and become part of the sound tech team? Instead of just groaning about the “problem” become a fully involved part of fixing the problem. I challenge you to get good mixes and not run off musicians with 75dbA…or even 80dbA levels.

    • Stuart Allsop says

      This is probably the best response of all, in the entire stream of comments! Parker clearly understands church sound, and has educated himself far beyond what most Church sound techs ever do. He fully grasps the concepts, and knows how to deal with them, and he understands how to use a sound level meter properly, as well as how to interpret what it is telling him, and what to do about it. And he’s only been doing this for one year! That’s pretty amazing in itself, since he’s way ahead of some people that I have come across who have been sound techs for many, many years.

      “All it takes is one musician who runs their amp too loud and their volume on stage overpowers what is coming out of the P.A. speakers. That is OUT OF the sound technician’s control.” So very true! Been there, done that… way too many times. But you CAN get control of that too… :)

      Parker, the only thing I’d suggest that might help you get even better control of the stage sound levels, is to route all stage instruments through your console FIRST, then back to the amps, monitors, speakers, and whatever else. Use as many aux sends as you have on your board, and route everything through them so you have full control of the stage levels as well as the house levels. Yes, the musicians will kick and scream and throw tantrums when you do that, but it really is the only way to make it work. Very few churches think to do that, but when done well, with full understanding by the musicians, it is the best possible situation. If you present it to them well, you CAN gain their cooperation, especially since you are a musician yourself. I have managed to do this in several churches, and even though the musicians aren’t keen at first, once they see the results they usually go with it, and like it.

      When I teach seminars at churches, this is one of the key points: get the musicians to understand that the stage is not the final aim of the praise and worship service: the stage is just a work environment, and as such only needs to be functional, not necessarily comfortable. The final aim of the service, is to serve! That’s what the name implies. Both the sound team and the praise and worship team are there to serve the congregation, nothing more, nothing less. And “serving” in the Biblical sense…. If that means that the stage levels have to be increased or decreased at some points in the service, to better serve, then so be it. Since the musicians are NOT in the congregation, and therefore cannot know what it sounds like among God’s people, then they must learn to rely on the judgement of the sound tech, who IS part of the same team, and working towards the same purpose: If the church is set up correctly, the sound tech is IN the congregation, part of it, so he hears exactly what it sounds like, and can make all the adjustments necessary.

      You’ll likely meet major resistance from some musicians when trying to do this, especially from those musicians who think far more highly of themselves than anybody else does (!), but musicians who truly understand their calling in the church, and the purpose of what they do, will likely be far better inclined to give it a try, and learn how to help you make it work, for the good of the congregation. Those who love the congregation more than they love themselves will be willing, for sure.

      If you can pull this off, then your church will be far better for it, as you’ll be able to keep ALL levels under control, including the stage spill, not just the FOH system.

      One key point to ask the praise and worship leader: “Can you yourself actually hear the congregation singing while you lead?” If you get that blank stare, or the blinking “deer in the headlights” look, then you know you have struck the right nerve. Follow that up with: “How can you lead someone if you don’t even know if they are following you? How can you lead praise and worship if you can’t hear anyone praising or worshiping?”. That is the entire point. They need to hear the congregation just as much as the congregation needs to hear them. If you can get to do one service such that the musicians get to hear the congregation singing, then you have won half of the battle. They won’t want to go back after that. And since musicians in most churches never have heard the congregation, due to the high sound levels on stage, it will be a brand new experience for them.

      I pray that you will be able to do this successfully, as well as anyone else who happens to find this article, as it makes an unbelievable difference to the service.

      Stuart

  69. Terry says

    Our church made a change 2 weeks ago. New musician – new music. — This was my 1st Sunday hearing him. It was so loud my ears were ringing. I could not hear a word that was said over his music. — I spoke with the pastor afterwards. His comments made me realize my views and others around me were not important. I bought ear plugs for this week. I gave him a deadline for getting the volume down. Or me & my tithe would leave and find another church. — I doubt the volume will ever be lowered. — Anyone have a suggestion on what to say to the senior pastor?

    • Parker says

      Terry: more info is needed. Do you know what the dbA level was? I know not everybody owns an SPL meter, but at the same time just saying something is “too loud” doesn’t generally lead to productive discussions because there is a huge element of subjectivity with volume perception and tolerance. If you wish to seriously pursue this issue, I’d recommend checking with the sound tech team to see what levels they are measuring….or purchase an SPL meter for yourself. Fairly accurate models can be bought for not too much money. Beyond that, WHAT was loud? One instrument or vocal? Or the whole mix of vocals/instruments? If a single instrument, was the volume coming from the stage or P.A. speakers? Where were you sitting in relation to the P.A. speakers?

  70. Susan R says

    The expert Barbara on April 17, 2013 was correct. Too loud is too loud. Churches should be respectful neighbors. They should not be “neighbor’s from hell”.

    Neighbors should NOT have to go to court to stop a church’s noise. Their noise should be within their 4 walls. Their noise should not be outside their doors into other people’s homes.

  71. Stuart Allsop says

    I can’t help but wonder how many of the people who are immovably adamant that “only XX decibels is right”, or “YY decibels is too loud”, or “ZZ decibels is too quiet”, have ever held a sound level meter in their own hands, or would even know how to interpret what they read on it if they did! And I also wonder if they would know which range to set the meter on (would you use “A” or “C” weighting?, for example), or how to set the time response (should you set it to “fast”, “medium” or “slow”?, for example), or even how to hold the meter correctly, in order to take a valid measurement.

    Or even where to stand in the congregation to take such a measurement. Or when to stand there.

    The point is, and I say this very respectfully and with Christian love for my brothers and sisters who have offered their opinions so far, that many of the responders to this article in reality have no idea what they are talking about, and are simply repeating numbers and phrases that they read some place, or heard some place. If you have never used a meter, and don’t fully understand that it is telling you, then you should not be telling others how to do it.

    I don’t mean that in a belittling way, but rather as encouragement to take the time to learn about sound and acoustics, so you can help your church do a better job, but based on real personal understanding of the issues, rather than just “something I once read or heard”.

    I would suggest that those of you who never have used a sound level meter, or have not been trained to use one, should actually get a meter and learn how to use it properly. I’d also suggest that you learn the basics of acoustics, so you can understand how tone, distance, sanctuary size, sanctuary shape, construction materials, furnishings, and treatment can have a huge effect on the sound, both the perceived sound, and the sound as measured with a meter (they are not the same). All of those have a far bigger influence on the actual sound that is PERCEIVED by the congregation, than you might think.

    Perhaps then you will understand just how quiet 70 dB(A) is, and how loud 100 dB(C) is. Perhaps then you’ll be able to explain how a typical acoustic drum kit measures at around 105 to 115 dB(C) when played normally, and why it is unrealistic to then asking that it be heard at only 70 dB(C) a few feet away.

    Sound is way more complex than most people realize, or even most church musicians and sound operators. Church sound systems are frequently not set up correctly for churches, nor are they correctly calibrated for the room acoustics and they type of service, since there are so few installers and contractors who really understand church sound. “Club sound” and “concert sound” and “disco sound” and “garage band sound” have very little relationship to “church sound”. If your church sounds like a disco, club or rock concert, then chances are you hired the wrong people to design it and install it…

    Then of course, the term “church acoustics” is an oxymoron: Very, very few churches have properly designed and properly installed acoustic treatment in their sanctuaries. Some do, but not many.

    If churches would only learn to “do sound right”, many of the complaints that are so validly listed by so many people on this thread, would never have occurred! By “doing sound right” I mean by getting professional advise from people who understand churches AND sound systems AND acoustics, then setting the goals correctly right at the start, and assigning the necessary budget to do it right. That seldom happens in churches, which is why this article and the resultant discussion even exists!

    With what authority do I make such claims? It’s hard to clarify that without seeming to boast, but that isn’t my intention at all: if someone offers me advice on any issue, I like to know what their background is, so I’ll list mine: I design recording studios for a living. I have been running live sound in churches for decades, as far back as I can remember, since my early childhood when I helped my father do it. I teach seminars on sound and acoustics, specifically tailored for churches. And I provide consulting for churches, on this very issue: getting the sound right, so that it does not cause damage to the congregation.

    And by “damage” I don’t just mean “hearing damage”, but also damage to the body of Christ itself, by causing arguments, friction, divisions, and worst of all, people leaving the church because of poor sound. If the sound is so bad, in whatever aspect (loud, soft, muddy, harsh, unclear, or whatever), then we have failed in our mission as Christians to spread the word and congregate. We have failed in following the instructions given us by Jesus himself, in the Great Commission. I’m also an elder in the church I attend, so caring for the flock is something that is near and dear to me. I have the rare and humbling privilege of getting to the church from both ends: from the pulpit when I preach, and also from the sound booth the rest of the time. Having that perspective brings things into better focus, from all sides of the issue.

    Bottom line? If people in your church are hurting because of the sound, in whatever way, then please do something about it! It is just plain WRONG to known that a brother or sister is hurting, and do nothing about it.

    Hire a local consultant in your area who understands churches, as well as sound, and also acoustics. Do NOT go to the local music store and ask them for help. Get a real consultant who understands the issues, and has a track record to prove it. And do check his credentials! Call up the churches he claims to have helped, and ask about the results.

    But not just any consultant: Get one who will visit your church during services, take measurements, talk to the praise and worship team, talk to the congregation, talk to the sound team, talk to the pastors, elders, deacons, and other leaders: and above all, get one who will design the acoustics first, THEN the sound system afterwards! That’s one of the key points: It is impossible to fix bad acoustics with sound systems. Even the best sound system on the planet cannot make a bad acoustic space sound good. Yet even a mediocre sound system can be made to sound good if the acoustics of the sanctuary are decent.

    In my work, what I see far more commonly than bad sound systems, is firstly bad acoustics, and a distant second, badly set up and badly operated sound systems. Most churches these days have usable sound systems. But most churches don’t have usable acoustics, and as others have pointed out here, very few churches have properly trained and qualified people running their sound systems. I see churches spending very large amounts of money on their sound systems, but nothing at all on acoustics, and even less on training. That is probably the biggest mistake a church can make in this area: spending more on acoustics will save you a LOT on what you then need to spend for the sound system. “Saving” on acoustics is not “saving” at all: it is false economy, and very poor stewardship of the church’s finances.

    Next after poor acoustics, is poor sound operators. I don’t mean to denigrate those many, many enthusiastic sound volunteers who give up so much of their time so freely and unselfishly to try to keep the sound system running on their churches! Not in the least: the issue isn’t enthusiasm, or calling, or dedication, or hard work: The issue is training, preparation and experience.

    I frequently ask pastors why they guard the pulpit so fiercely, only allowing truly qualified people of God to preach from it, or sing from it, but then they let any old person take the REAL controls of the sanctuary, back in the sound booth…. the guy in the sound booth can do just as much damage to the congregation, as the guy in the pulpit. Pastors tend to not see that at first glance. Some may disagree with me, but there’s a frightening statistic: around 17% of your congregation will leave and never return, if the sound in your church is poor. I’m not sure about other pastors, sound men, musicians, deacons, elders, and leaders, but I would really not like to have to stand before the Lord one day, and explain to Him why one fifth of my congregation left…

    Having a properly trained CHRISTIAN sound engineer operating the console is just as important as having a properly trained Christian person “operating” the pulpit. Most churches insist that their pastors spend years in training and preparation, and have years of experience, before they ever get behind the pulpit (and the same applies to their praise and worship leaders), yet they are quite happy to let an “anybody” with little to no training get behind the console. Why would you do that?

    As the original article hinted at: if you have a good sound engineer, with a good sound system, in a church with good acoustics, then you’d be surprised to see that the sound level in a typical modern praise and worship service would be around 80-85 dB(C) during the praise and worship, perhaps pushing 90 or even 95 momentarily, with nobody complaining and everybody fully participating. That would drop to around 65-75 dB(C) during the sermon and other pure speech segments, with everyone clearly hearing and understanding every word. It does not need to be much louder than that, and it cannot be much quieter than that, for the simple reason (in both cases) that the older members of the congregation will not be able to handle it! Go less than about 65 for the sermon, and it is too quiet for their ears to hear and understand the message clearly. Go much above 95 for the loudest peaks of the praise and worship, and it is uncomfortably loud for them, in addition to potentially causing permanent hearing damage.

    Some here have argued along the lines “But most of our church members are young, and like it loud!”. I would respond that the very reason you have so few older members is precisely because it is loud! If you had a more balanced approach, with good levels that are loud enough for youth without hurting the elderly, you might find that you also had a more balanced congregation, with more older members… and yes, older members are a very necessary part of any church. An “all young” church is great and fun, but has no experience to draw on… no wisdom of age…

    So keeping the level in the range 65-75 db(C) for speech and 80-85 dB(C) for music, makes it pleasant, comfortable, and safe for the congregation. For those few here who don’t agree: Check your Bibles, and show me where Jesus or the disciples yelled and screamed so loud in a sermons as to deafen their listeners, or spoke so quietly that not a single person could hear them. What is the point in that? Why would you want to preach a message that nobody can hear? Why would you want to preach so loud that it hurts and causes damage? Neither extreme is justifiable, or Biblical.

    On the flip side, music that is too quiet is just as offensive as music that is too loud: Turn the music down to 60 dB(C), and nobody will participate, because the very act of doing so drowns it out! Even singing softly will be so loud that it overpowers the very music you are trying to sing to. To quite is as bad as too loud.

    The point here is that both extremes are just plain wrong: There is a usable range for loudness (sound pressure level) that is needed in churches, and that range is as above: around 65-75 db(C) for speech and around 80-85 db(C) for music, with occasional bursts of 95. (It should be no surprise that professional recording studios, cinemas, theaters and other similar high-level rooms, are calibrated to a level of 80 dB for each individual speaker by itself, and 86 dB for the entire set of all speakers. Your church should be calibrated, and operated, the same way.)

    All of the above levels should be measured with the sound level meter set to “slow” response time, so it averages out the “transients” properly. (“Transients” are the sudden very short, high peaks made by some instruments, such as the exact instant of the “hit” of the snare drum or the cymbals: If you set your meter to “fast” response, you will be measuring mostly those very short, very sharp spikes, instead of the average level, which is what you should be measuring. )

    And all of the above should be measured at many places throughout the sanctuary during several typical services, not just one location or one service. Measuring at only one location tells you nothing at all about how the rest of the congregation is perceiving the sound. Measuring just once, for one specific service, tells you nothing about what other services sound like (more people, less people, different songs, different season, different spirit, etc.). So measure several locations over several services, note the loudest location, and set the highest level of the sound system for that location. Also note the quietest location, the set the lowest level of the sound system for there. Then you have all bases covered.

    Its sounds simple and logical when expressed like that, but so very few churches ever seem to figure it out by themselves!

    Finally, make sure your sound teams checks the levels during each and every service, and adjusts the sound system accordingly.

    If your church doesn’t have a sound level meter, then get one! And learn how to use it. You might be surprised at what is REALLY happening inside your church. They are not expensive: a good one will cost around US$ 100 or so (just avoid the cheap “toy” things that cost around US$ 25 to 50: they are no use). Regular use of a good meter in your church will go a long way towards solving the issues highlighted in the original article, and commented on so much in the discussion. If your church can afford it, then go more upscale and get a meter that is also a “spectrum analyzer”: it not only tells you how loud all tones are, but how loud each individual tone is: Very useful. (but more expensive: US% 500 and up).

    Finally, what I try to teach most in those seminars is that sound should be “invisible” in church: It should not be noticed. If people notice the sound during a service, then that’s a failure. The sound should be natural, clean, unobtrusive, and not noticeable at all. Anything else means that something is wrong, and it needs fixing.

    - Stuart -

  72. Lynn Morrissey says

    Amen to all you said (I hear you, and you didn’t even raise your voice :-) What is it with the all the deafening noise? Volume is cranked up to ear-shattering decibels everywhere–on television commericials, at shopping malls, at concerts (Christian or otherwise), and even, for heaven’s sake, at church. I personally don’t think this qualifies for what is meant in the Bible as making a joyful noise unto the Lord. I am hardly joyful when my ears hurt–and I mean HURT! Now I take ear plugs everywhere I go. As for energy…….I sing with a professional Bach chorus, and we are highly energetic singers and need tons of it to sing all those longwinded, circuitious melismas. From where does our energy come? By breathing deeply. All this loudness in music today distorts the sound and ruins the varied nuanced dynamics of the music. And in church, it’s hardly worshipful. We are simply adopting wordly “rock” standards. Anyway, enough, but I do thank you for this thoughtful and on-target post!

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