You want to improve one thing this week, but where to start?
It often feels like there’s too many plates to spin when you’re putting together a service. Everyone has an opinion for what’s working well, what’s not working well, and how things should look. Ideally, these opinions also come with constructive suggestions for improvements! But time is limited and there’s just never enough resources to explore every suggestion or make every improvement happen all at once. The practical-minded digital worship planner sees and asks the logical question at this point: If I can only afford to change or troubleshoot one thing this week to improve my digital service, which one improvement is going to make the single biggest difference in raising the value of the overall product?
We can tell you with a very high degree of confidence that when it comes to affordable and manageable improvements, upping your audio quality can be a game-changer.
We hope our audio engineer friends would agree when we say this, but audio is an extraordinarily thankless aspect of a worship service, whether it’s a pre-pandemic in-person service or any one of the hodgepodge of Internet adaptations that pastors have shifted their congregations to. It’s the ultimate example of “when it’s not working, it’s very obvious and people will complain but when it is working or is even executed perfectly, nobody is going to even think about it, much less complement it.”
There are all sorts of ways that a congregation can invest in high quality audio production, but the most straightforward starting spot is realizing that a decent microphone is always worth investing in. Without getting into brand names or specific product advertisements, the biggest part of choosing a microphone is recognizing that you can always, always, always do better than
using a cell phone’s built in microphone. To be fair, the components of cell phones are lightyears better than they were even a couple of years ago, but it is a pastor’s responsibility to build and produce a professional product, whether that’s in-person or online. If you can’t find ways to repurpose the dedicated microphones, wiring, mixers, and speakers that you may have already invested in in your worship spaces, recognize that you probably can’t replace that level of audio investment by swapping in a single cell phone on a tripod.
So here’s two audio tips for you, one is hardware, and one is software.
1) If your service involves stretches of a pastor or church staff standing and speaking directly to a camera (welcome, prayers, sermons, etc.) invest in a wired lavalier microphone and use it!
If you already need to use cell phones or tablets to record the video components, a 1/8” (a.k.a. 3.5mm) wired lavalier microphone can usually just plug directly into your phone/tablet and will automatically replace the phone/tablet’s built-in microphone once you start recording a video. Do a little homework on how to cleanly and securely wear a lavalier microphone. If you plan to plug this into a newer phone, double check that the phone still has a headphone jack—Apple’s most recent models will unfortunately require an adapter. The good news: this is not going to break your budget. The type of microphone we’re talking about here should really only cost between $50 and $75 and it’s going to sound great.
2) A lavalier microphone can really improve a pastor’s audio, but what about when your service incorporates material that is recorded and submitted to you by your congregants, likely using their phones from their homes? For those of you using Adobe Premiere, check to see if your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription also includes Adobe Audition. This is Adobe’s dedicated audio software and is a treasure chest of audio tools for cleaning and polishing your online service. Perhaps the most helpful feature is Noise Reduction, the ability to identify and remove constant hums or buzzes in your audio recordings.
You can use this to clean almost any kind of audio that you’ll be incorporating into your service: musicians recording their individual parts, vocalists adding in their voices, and of course a pastor delivering a sermon. We really can’t overstate how big a difference this can make for improving the service’s overall clarity and perceived production values, so double check to see if you have Audition (or just add it to your subscription if you’ve already spent weeks being frustrated with rough-sounding audio). With just a few clicks, you can clean up an entire sermon in about 30 seconds!