The Loudness War

Is the music really too loud in church?

I believe we need to make a LOUD noise in church. Instead of the typical complaint that music is “too loud” at church, I think sometimes we need some people to stand up and complain that it should be LOUDER!

What makes me say that?

The Bible tells me so!

Psalm 98:4 (KJV) “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

or how about

Psalm 33:3 (ESV) “Sing to him a new song; play skilfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

Feel free to check out those versions in your own favorite translation… it might say “shout” instead of “loud” but shouting kind of implies loudness, don’t you think?

Why does God want us to shout? Shouting indicates passion and conviction!

Quiet contemplative worship

The other side….the quiet side…

I know some churches are quite comfortable being silent before the Lord, and that is certainly a good thing at the right time. It is good to have awe and respect and reverence for the Lord at the right times, and I think some churches definitely need to spend some time being quiet more often. There is a time for silence that is purposeful. If you are uncomfortable being quiet before the Lord, it may well be that you are trying to avoid hearing his still small voice.

Noisy worship

Back to the Loud side….

However, if the only expression of worship that you are comfortable with is being still, … you and your congregation may well be missing out on some of the blessings that come from being fully, passionately obedient to the scriptures.

Here’s another one, just in case you think I’m exaggerating:

Psalm 47:1 (NIV1984) “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.”

How loud is too loud?

Can we be too extreme? Can we be fake?

Yes, certainly. We don’t want to damage people’s hearing. Most of our churches are FAR from that. And external expression can be a lie. It doesn’t necessarily give an accurate representation of what is going on internally. However, if you say you are passionate about Jesus and your external worship never reflects that … is it really true? God wants us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Get your emotions involved. Get your body involved. Sing it like you mean it! Use your mind and the very depths of your soul too. I believe you will be rewarded!

Questions and tips for worship musicians on loudness

So, now that I have talked to all of us as leaders and congregation, let me speak for a moment to my musicians and sound engineers:

On a music theory note, one of the main questions we ask when examining music is: How Loud? (When? What? How Loud?)

Band and singers: How are you flowing with the dynamics of the music on Sunday morning? Are you really conscious of them? They can be a huge tool in helping to express emotion musically. Please pay attention! A great thing to do is to take a chord or a short progression and practice moving the dynamics up and down, following the leader.

Sound techs: Don’t over-compress!

Part of the typical makeup of a sound engineer is that he/she wants to control. You certainly want to avoid feedback. You also definitely want to make sure the words don’t get lost and people can’t understand what is being said. And no one likes to hear complaints about how everything is “too loud”. However, if you take away all dynamics in a song, you very well might be counteracting the exact effect that the leader and the band is purposefully trying to have. The whole start of this article I am writing came from this CNET piece about how a lot of modern music is being ruined by over compression.

Sound engineers and musicians, please check it out and then let me know what you think.

Here are more great articles on “How loud is too loud” in church:

How loud is your church?

Is your worship sound too loud? Sometimes its hard to be quiet

Safety first. How loud is too loud?

Question for everyone: tell me about times when the music was too loud or too soft or too flat. What is it like it your (our) church? How can we find a better balance?

Feedback please!

This guest post, written by Jason Chollar, originally appeared on the Cedarhome website.

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