If it’s too loud…

Setlist for today at CVC

  • Marvelous Light – Charlie Hall
  • Blessed Be Your Name – Matt Redman
  • Kindness – Chris Tomlin
  • Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Chris Tomlin
  • Light the Fire Again – Brian Doerksen

Today the worship ministry at Chase Valley took about 37 steps forward – it was awesome. We had a few hang ups, but ultimately the advancements we made far outweighed the mistakes.

I played drums today, which was tons of fun and I worshiped like I haven’t in a long time – we had a vocalist on the team step up to take on the full role of leading worship including a lot of the prep work and leading the band through rehearsal. She did a phenomenal job and the band really responded to her leadership.

I’m super excited for the next time she leads. On the “plan vs. improvise” spectrum I lean more towards “plan” and she leans more towards “improvise.” (Both are needed, and neither is morally superior.) I love improv worship – it’s just not what I’m best at and I seek to bring the Lord my best. I certainly appreciate it and I’m looking forward to our worship ministry growing in diversity.

Apparently a visitor actually walked out during the music today citing that it was “too loud.” The fact is we did have a few sound issues today, but if they were so disturbed they actually left, then I’m thinking they are not going to like Chase Valley on any other Sunday.

I’m kinda bothered that they took off. My insecure sin nature wants to please everybody. My redeemed heart knows that today’s worship was for an audience of One and He was certainly pleased.

18 Responses to “If it’s too loud…”

  1. 1 alex mclean October 19, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    props from one drummer to another… (and it figures that the day you get to play drums, it’s ‘too loud’).

  2. 2 Kyle October 19, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Me and my pastor have a running tally of who’s to blame for leaving, worship or preaching. We’re neck and neck, so I know how it feels when people leave because of worship. I always listen to critique, even from non-christians, or christians with attitudes and people who just want to complain. Do what you are called to do, do it well and where there’s room to improve acknowledge and work at it. But if someone walks out the door, I think your attitude is spot on, God bless them, this probably wasn’t the place for them and hope they find a home church somewhere.

  3. 3 Gary Durbin October 19, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Can’t please everybody, especially if you’re a worship leader.

  4. 4 Jay Sellers October 20, 2008 at 7:46 am

    I know we can’t run the mains so loud that we break glass but the level is certainly part of the experience. At least at Saint Simons Community Church I know that the level is lower in some parts of the room, though I believe that was an unexpected flaw of the design by the company that installed the Meyer Sound arrays. So, I suppose we have the option of steering people to areas where the room is hot or where it’s not.

    Kudos for sitting in on drums. I’ve felt for a long time that I need to know the basics of drumming or I will continue to have a lack confidence that I’ve communicated what I need to our drummer.

  5. 5 steve October 20, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Way to go, letting another on the team lead in such a full capacity. That’s something I need to learn to do.
    I am sensitive to the volume issue as it comes up every now and then with our church, but what are those people gonna do when they get to heaven and uncountable voices are singing? 🙂 All to the glory of the Father.

  6. 6 Peter Park October 20, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Sounds like it was a great Sunday. You guys played a lot of great songs that I like. Awesome.

  7. 7 Al Sr. October 20, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Sorry I miss it, you had 2 of my most favorite worship songs/hims specially when is put toghether by the best worship leader

  8. 8 Sarah Chia October 20, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    I thought things were tight and pretty much rocked. I loved how Kristin even led into “Light the Fire” by saying, “Let’s rock.”

    That was classic!

  9. 9 jordan October 21, 2008 at 9:06 am

    What! You didn’t pull a Night Ranger and sing from the drumset? (okay phil collins did it too, but that is even cheesier).

  10. 10 brunettekoala October 21, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    I know an amazing friend of mine who at the Imagine Festival, and sometimes to church I think, brings earplugs.

    She’s in her 60s, but you’ll find her doing actions of all the kids songs, dancing and singing away – a true worshipper who is so passionate about Jesus. She finds it all too loud, but rather than complain, she finds her own solution to the problem.

    That’s grace if you ask me. 🙂

  11. 11 Sarah Chia October 21, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Laura Anne,

    I love it! Cool old people are the best. I hope I’m still cool like that when I’m old.

  12. 12 brunettekoala October 21, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    She is very cool. So is her husband – we used to do BVs together sometimes in the worship band and we had best laughs doing it. He would always, always come and give encouragement and thank the worship team. I’m sure they both still do.

    They’ve probably babysat most of the kids in the church too. And they’ve definitely cooked for us all too on countless occasions!!

    They are an amazing blessing to the church, and I hope that I can be as servant hearted as they are…

  13. 13 worshipcity October 21, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    I finally embraced the notion that there is not a single church for everyone. So hey it was too loud and someone didn’t like it? OK.
    In all honesty however, in my experience, dBs have never been the problem for people. It’s typically either an awful mix which makes it truly unpleasing for some and they blame it on ‘loudness’ OR they simply don’t like the style of worship. For some it doesn’t matter how quiet you run the electric guitars, they’re not going to like it. It doesn’t matter how loud you run the piano, they’re not going to like it. We can’t do anything about scenario two, scenario one is something to learn for and train sound techs on because we have control over it.

    Kudos for stepping off and getting behind the drums man!

  14. 14 shannon lewis October 25, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Hey there, Billy – I just wanted to stop in and say “hello” – it’s been a while, and it looks as though both of us have been going through some major changes… hope all is well!

  15. 15 Dean Lusk October 27, 2008 at 4:57 am

    Kyle’s comment hit strikingly close to home: “Me and my pastor have a running tally of who’s to blame for leaving, worship or preaching.” It’s not really that bad at all with us, but sometimes I feel like it is.

    Your story reminds me of a time not too long ago that our lobby greeters told me about a couple who came into the service and immediately came back out and stated to them on the way out, “I thought this was a *Baptist* church.” I’m not sure why that made me smile. As if Baptist-ness defines a rigid musical code.

    As for volume levels, we’re still in a beloved rectangular-shaped sanctuary. The apparent loudness, EQ, and intelligibility depends heavily upon where you sit in the room. I’ve begun to try to catch senior adults, in particular, when they sit in certain sections and advise them about what it’s going to sound like there. For real. Rows 6 – 8 will get a slicing treatment of vocals. People in the rear corners are liable to say that the bass is too darned loud. Etc.

    “My insecure sin nature wants to please everybody.” I don’t think that’s a sin nature thing. I think that’s just the way you (and I) are wired. That’s like saying that your sin nature likes chocolate, IMHO. It’s not wrong. It’s cool to eat it; just don’t eat way too much.

  16. 16 Frederick Uhl October 31, 2008 at 11:40 am

    To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln,
    You can please some of the people all of the time,
    All of the people some of the time, but
    You cannot please all of the people all of the time.

  17. 17 Joey November 2, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Remember David and how he was commented about during his worship from his wife? Even the closest people do not know how to take others when they have found the true “Secret Place.” It is such an intimate place that each flesh is awkward in the presence. I miss that place…a place of strong love, undescribed tears, and a total surrendering of heart, body, and soul. This was a good visit….take care 🙂

  18. 18 Kyle Hildebrand November 25, 2008 at 1:26 am

    I wrote this awhile back…..Awesome to hear your heart in this, Hope this helps encourage you in the future!

    “How loud is too loud, but how quiet is too quiet?”

    Psalm 150 NLT
    1 Praise the LORD!
    Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heaven!
    2 Praise him for his mighty works;
    praise his unequaled greatness!
    3 Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
    praise him with the lyre and harp!
    4 Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
    praise him with strings and flutes!
    5 Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
    praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
    6 Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD!
    Praise the LORD!
    Although the topic of volume in church music has been a hotly contested conflict in the church since I can remember, it honestly wasn’t even on my radar until I left the secular music scene and began to use my gifts as God intended, for His glory and for the expanding of His kingdom. Many people have written on the subject, and many of them have great perspectives. So why would I write something else? Because I want to remind those of us that have taken the step to serve in this way what our duties are. When we present songs of praise and worship to God’s people and those seeking Jesus, we need to create an environment where there’s a connection to God, where people feel comfortable praising God. After all, worship isn’t about us, it’s about him. If we do something hindering that connection, we are failing at our duty. Music can be both, an amazing compliment or a lasting detriment to that cause. He created something in us as humans that responds uniquely to music like nothing else can, and we are to be good stewards when handling that “something.”
    Rick Muchow wrote that music is too loud when it distracts from worship, when it is no longer musical, and when it causes hearing loss. Each one of these points is completely accurate and in line with God’s plan. Nowhere are we commanded to distract from worship, not be musical or cause physical damage to those seeking Him. That does a great job discussing “what is too loud” and while I may disagree with him on actual SPL levels, as I have visited Saddleback, this is where I would like to discuss the alternative perspective of “What is too quiet?”
    In order to do that, I would like to reference Rick’s points; Distracting from worship, no longer being musical and causing hearing loss. The second and third point do not come into play as the musical part of music is largely discernable even at low volumes and a lack of sound pressure doesn’t have an adverse affect on the physical condition of the human ear (unless I’m ignorant of some new findings). So let’s discuss, what’s too quiet?
    One of my favorite chapters in the Bible tells us how we are to praise God. That chapter is Psalm 150. I began this discussion with it because it tells us so much about how we are to praise God. Paraphrased it says, “Praise God wherever you are in this world, that God has made, praise Him for His works and who He is. Praise Him with every instrument and with dancing. Clash the cymbals loudly and let everything that is alive sing praises to God!”
    Psalm 150:5 tells us to praise Him loudly. It says nothing of praise Him loudly, as long as nobody is offended. Praising Him loudly in church, I have found, can offend people. These are often reasonable people that just aren’t used to praising as we are taught. It is possible to offend faithful followers of Christ through playing music as God has instructed us. This is where the core issue of volume comes up in churches today. The problem persists however because the conflict is not being addressed according to God’s word. It’s a matter of communication and a matter of convenience. I’ll get to that point in a moment but first let’s look at how Jesus taught us how we are to address conflict between believers in Matthew 18:15-17.

    Matthew18:15-17 NLT
    15 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”

    Jesus tells us that we are to go to another believer in private if someone sins against us, or if I sinned against someone, that they come to me. The proper way for someone to inform me that I have offended them with the music being too loud then, is for them to come to me in private and then tell me, (communication) not write it in a complaint on a card and have someone else complain to me. (convenience) The frustration that arises from worship leaders and musicians in the church comes from this incorrect method of communication by means of convenience. The answer to this problem is not fun or easy. It requires leaders and worship leaders really doing some ministry one on one with people. It requires people that will open up to leaders and worship leaders. With regards to time, it is easier for a smaller church and next to impossible for a large church. Those are the excuses. That’s why we give in to using “anonymous complaint cards” and why we harbor frustration as leaders. I can honestly say that God gave me peace the day I took those verses in Matthew 18, to heart. I no longer give weight to anonymous complaints and happily request any feedback from someone who is willing to meet me to discuss how I’ve sinned against them. I will also seek out those who I notice are offended by my actions, as we as believers need to be proactive in this communication as well. So now, how quiet is to quiet?!

    The music is too quiet when it distracts from worship. When I can hear the person next to me as loud as I can hear the un-mic’ed shaker, in one of the vocalist’s hands, forty feet away from me, it’s uncomfortable for me to sing openly to God. This wasn’t because I’m uncomfortable with my voice, but rather because when I sang openly, half the congregation of 80 people looked at me. This honestly happened. In an attempt to appease the anonymous complaint cards that stated we were too loud, our worship team went to an electric drum set and set levels based on it at a peak SPL of 88. That day was considered a success by the leadership because there were no complaints that it was too loud. The act of musical worship however was sacrificed because the environment created, was one where the overall congregation was focused on other people and not on God. It felt like I was standing by myself in front of everyone singing. I am a worship leader and I’ve been a lead singer in a rock band. I am very comfortable with myself and my singing ability and I can say that singing in that environment was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had. I can only imagine how it would have been for the church member who wasn’t as confident. Connecting with God in that environment is difficult at best. When the environment is easy for people to let go of focusing on themselves and focus on God, our jobs are done well. My research and experience has led me to state, that while taking into account the leaders relationship with Jesus is healthy and their gifts well developed, a dark and suitably loud worship service will bring an environment conducive to openly worship God.

    Here’s why. When it’s reasonably loud, people aren’t worrying about whether or not the person next to them can hear them. When it’s reasonably dark, people aren’t worried about the person next to them seeing them. When these worries are eliminated, people can open up and focus on God. Whether or not they choose to open up to God is still up to them, but at least we’ve created an environment where it is “safe” to sing praises to the Lord, just as we are told in Psalm 150. The end result is the maturing of the congregation to sing without any sound. If you’ve ever been in a church like that, where the music stops and all that’s heard is the giant chorus of praises being sung to God, it’s absolutely astonishing. I still get goose bumps even thinking about those musical worship experiences.

    You’ll notice something I stated previously, that the services are to be reasonably loud, not just loud and reasonably dark, not just dark. I said it that way for a reason. Each service is looking to appeal to a specific demographic, if it’s not, then the ministry isn’t focused and will generally have a small mix of all demographics or unwittingly appeal to a demographic and have a majority by default. That being said, your sound and light levels will want to match your demographic for the service.

    The optimal decibel level for each congregation will be different. If you’re service is geared towards the elderly, a peak level of 88db during music might be optimal. If your service is geared towards the youth, your service might offer peak decibel levels of up to 120db. You’ll notice that grandma has no problem belting out Amazing grace from the front row, no matter how quiet the sound is, but that a 13 year old kid with his friends from school, tends to only open up and sing when it’s cranked. Volume is needed.
    Rock concerts, for instance, are often measured at 130-140db. A clearly noticeable difference in sound happens at a change of 5db, with a 10db change being approximately twice as loud. With a decibel level of 110db, you’re still four times quieter than a rock concert. It doesn’t have to be a rock concert, but it should match the demographic. Dangerous volume levels have been another item of contention with regards to music in the church.
    OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure states that at 105db, the permissible level of exposure is 1 hour per day. You will not hear me say in this discussion that OSHA’s recommendations are overkill. What I will say is that OSHA rates the SPL for a power lawn mower at 107db. That means that it’s more dangerous for you to mow your lawn than to go to church with a peak SPL of 105db. Most churches limit their SPL to 96db.

    There are also sound equalization and mixing attributes that are more or less noticeable to the human ear. For instance, the SPL created from my old truck sound system reached a sustained 142db. I felt that more than I heard it because it was a low frequency created by subwoofers and was tolerable, but a higher frequency at the same SPL would be deafening. I bring it up but these issues speak more to the development of the gifts your sound man has and aren’t something worth getting into too deep at this point.

    So when I say that the volume is too quiet when it distracts from the worship of God, if we aren’t making it loud enough for the majority of the congregation to worship without worry, we should turn it up.

    It is too quiet when the music is no longer musical. This point like the third isn’t really of a concern as music is noticed at very low volumes. Performing music though, is different than leading worship. The one point I do want to add to this is that certain acoustic instruments are naturally loud and the musicality isn’t lost as much the natural musical tone and sound. Anyone who’s ever run sound or been a part of a modern worship team knows what I’m talking about. That’s right, drums. Rarely have I ever heard of a sound man complaining that the stage volume was too loud because of that pesky acoustic guitar or obnoxious piano. The drums and cymbals are naturally loud and are meant to be played as such. I will again refer to Psalm 150 where it even tells us how to play them. “Loud clanging cymbals” don’t tend to go over too well with the anonymous complaint card writers though.

    The ideal setting for us to play the cymbals, as we are instructed, is in an open environment. Large churches will fight stage volume issues with musicians but the FOH is usually capable of evening out that sound issue in large churches. Sound dampening movable walls and plexi-glass only make it that much easier. In smaller churches without such luxuries however, the issue gets compounded and often sacrificed is the energy, volume, tone and dynamics of the drums and cymbals. One thing you can do to help avoid this issue is with the sound check. The order you sound check in changes everything. Coming from a secular club and concert environment, I found that churches don’t always sound check properly and it can negatively affect the sound. Please sound check in this order or in a way that prioritizes the instruments in this way. Drums first, core lead instruments followed by superlative instruments with vocals last. And as with everything else, there’s a reason for this.

    Because drums and cymbals are acoustic, they utilize a higher degree of dynamics than a guitar signal which is often compressed and changed by the fader of a mixing board. When the drums are forced to sacrifice dynamics, the musical aspect of the instrument is also sacrificed. It’s like asking a guitarist not to strum, only pick. Because the drums are loud, everything else needs to be mixed around them. The alternative is a mixing nightmare and sound checks can go on for 2-3 times as long as needed.

    I do not believe we should sacrifice the quality of the musical worship we bring by being too quiet. I do not believe we should sacrifice the energy we bring that is lost when we are quiet.

    We get the opportunity to sing praises to our Lord loudly, I am grateful for psalm 150 and I am grateful for all of those who have heard their calling to lead others in an offering of musical worship. We must remember that the true act of Love is to serve and that serving doesn’t always result in being asked to fix things right away. It most often is a test in patience but with benefits far beyond that which we can see as God uses us to work in others. I’ll be praying for you and your ministry that God will be praised and that the lines of communication be opened so that you can show others God’s love for you through how you interact with them.
    Psalm 150 NLT
    1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heaven!
    2 Praise him for his mighty works;
    praise his unequaled greatness!
    3 Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
    praise him with the lyre and harp!
    4 Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
    praise him with strings and flutes!
    5 Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
    praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
    6 Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!

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