Making a Broadcast-Quality Recording of Your Church Service
©2012 DiskBooks Electronic Publishing

Index of all posts

The Church Workers Handbook is filled with practical information that you may not have learned in Bible college or seminary. If you haven't already learned this information in the school of hard knocks, you need this series of blogs. This will be information for anyone who serves in any capacity in a church (from senior pastor up to janitor).

G. Edwin Lint, BS, ThB, MA
Bachelor of Science in Bible, Bachelor of Theology, Master of Education Administration and Supervision.

Much of the Drawbridge content is political in general and anti-Obama in particular.

I am still convinced that Obama is America's worst president, bar none. However, I have decided to give Obama a rest on the Sundays of 2012 and concentrate on spiritual and/or educational content, only.

Today, I am continuing a series of blogs based on my book Church Workers Handbook.

This book is available at the DiskBooks Electronic Publishing Free Downloads in pdf format.

If you wish to download the entire pdf file of 205 pages, click this link: Church Workers Handbook

The individual chapters are shown in the Table of Contents: [html format]

This chapter is based on 26 years part-time broadcast radio experience, four years Internet radio experience, eight years experience in recording church services for later broadcast, and three years experience as manager/sound man for a regional Gospel singing group.

Warning: This chapter is not intended to replace the operating instructions provided by your equipment manufacturers. This chapter should be reviewed by the sound person (or committee) to assure that it is consistent with your church's equipment and policies. If this material is out-dated or incorrect regarding the equipment your church is using, this chapter should yield in every instance.


These guidelines will help you make a broadcast-quality tape recording or live broadcast for use on your local radio station. They will also help you make a quality master when duplicating cassettes for your tape ministry. Of course, you can broadcast your service live by letting the radio station run a phone line into your house sound system. That connection may be adequate for preaching but will not be satisfactory for congregational singing.

Commitment and effort are required to make broadcast-quality recordings for either broadcasting or sending out your tapes in a tape ministry. If you are going to charge people for the tapes you make, you are also responsible for exercising good Christian stewardship. You should do all you can to make the quality of your recordings as high as possible.

More about quality later.

Terms and Procedures

If you are not familiar with certain terms and procedures used in this chapter, please consult Chapter 8: Using Mikes and Using a Sound System. Chapter 8 includes an extensive Glossary of terms at the end of the chapter. Top of Page Table of Contents

Minimum Hardware Requirements

You may be surprised at how economical it will be to start a radio ministry. You will need at least the following items to put a taped or live worship service on the air, or to make quality master recordings for your tape ministry. 1.

A free-standing CD Recorder. [Not a CD burner that requires a computer.] Such a device should cost under $300 and will enable you to record up to 80 minutes onto a standard CD with excellent fidelity. Caution: Such a recorder uses Music CD-R recording blanks, not to be confused with CD blanks to be used in a computer CD burner. Two-tray models will enable you to duplicate CDs, also. All radio stations will be able to play your CDs. 2.

Or, a high-fidelity stereo cassette deck, a DAT (digital audio tape) deck. Of course the DAT deck will give you the best results with CD-quality sound. However, not all radio stations are equipped to play back DAT tapes. Look before you leap, into DAT equipment. This item may not be essential for a live broadcast. 3.

A mixing board for mixing the output of your house sound system with at least two house mikes and one piano mike. I have a small recording studio in my home so I bought a 5-channel Realistic mixer (three mike channels, one Tape channel, and one AUX channel) for about $100 at our local mall Radio Shack. Avoid battery-powered mixers; get one which plugs into an AC outlet. 4.

High-speed Tape Duplicator. [Not needed unless you have a tape ministry.] If you are able to make a stereo master recording, make sure you duplicate your copies in stereo, also. Top of Page Table of Contents

On the Air Rules

The fact you are "on the air" should never interfere with the way the Holy Spirit works in your worship. However, you can use some common sense rules to make your service sound better: 1.

All speaking should be done at a microphone. Even though the live congregation may be able hear off-mike speaking, the radio congregation may not be able to hear at all or may hear hollow or barrel-like sound. 2.

All music and special activities should be announced. People who attend can follow the order of service in the bulletin, but members of your radio audience may have no idea what is happening without verbal announcements. 3.

All participants should start to speak/sing within seconds after their activity is announced. If the activity is music, the accompaniment should start immediately after the announcement. To avoid dead aid between the announcement and the start of the activity, have all participant sit within a short walk of the mike they will be using, and/or start moving to the mike in time to arrive there seconds after the announcement has been made. This rule is more important for radio than for TV. With TV, the audience can see pending action. 4.

If you are taping the service, the pastor and other persons on the platform should know when the tape is rolling and you are "on the air." At one church I worked at, I placed a large clock on the side wall with a small red light beneath it. Both clock and light were wired to a switch beneath my counter in the sound room. Before the service started, I set the clock for 1:30 P.M., the time the service was broadcast When I stopped the tape for the announcements or any other reason, I flipped that switch; the clock stopped and the red light went off. When I started the tape again, I flipped the switch on. Top of Page Table of Contents

Recording Engineer

You will need a full-time "recording engineer" any time you are making a quality recording or broadcasting live. This is a full-time job while you are "on the air" and can't be done while you are running the house sound system, also. Such a recording engineer should have experience mixing sound or should be trained by someone who has sound mixing or broadcast experience.

Your recording engineer needs to wear headphones and watch the levels of all inputs at all times. Your church may have been sending out tapes for years without a recording engineer watching the levels while a recording is being made. Now is the time to change all that. Top of Page Table of Contents

Making the Right Connections

Run patch cords among your house sound system, your mixer, and your recording tape deck. Most likely, these audio devices will have RCA phono jacks on their input/output panels. If they do, you can use the garden variety audio cables which come with audio devices. If there is a combination of types of audio hardware on the jack panels, you may need to buy patch cords with the right male/female hardware at each end.

Run patch cords as follows:

From House Sound System Line Out
To Mixer AUX In
From Mixer Line Out
To Record Tape Deck Line In or To the radio station for a live broadcast.

If you can get a second Line Out signal from the cassette deck which plays your sound tracks, run a patch cord--

From Sound Track cassette deck Tape Out

To Mixer Tape In

By having independent control of the sound track, you can achieve a better balance between the track and the voices during special singing.

Patching in a Guest Sound System Your guest singers may have a mixer or sound system they prefer to use. Such a patch may be made directly to your house sound system or to your radio mixer. Even though your guests plan to use their own amplification, your recorded sound will have broadcast quality if you patch as follows:

From: Guest Sound AUX, LINE, or TAPE OUT

To: Mixer Tape In

Caution: When you use the Tape channel to receive AUX, Line, or Tape signals, make sure the mixer for this channel is switched to Tape and not Phono.

Note: The input/output jacks on these audio devices may be labeled AUX, Line, or Tape. As a general rule, these terms mean the same thing as far as audio device compatibility is concerned.

Setting Up House Mikes for Ambient Sound If you want a stereo effect for ambient audience sound, you'll need one mike for the left channel and one for the right. Mount them as high as you can and as far apart as is practical. Set the pan pots on a stereo mixer to send the sound on the left side of the house to the left channel and vice verse.

Don't count on the pulpit or choir mikes to provide a good level of ambient sound with nice overtones of reverberation and resonance. Without mixing in the ambient sound of house mikes, the song service will likely sound like a concert by the worship leader, instead of a round, full sound of hundreds of people singing. To achieve this effect, you will need a mix ratio of about 10% worship leader and 90% house mikes. More on this later on. Top of Page Table of Contents

"On the Air" Procedures

Author's note: I originally wrote these procedures for recording our 8:30 Sunday morning worship for broadcast Sunday afternoons 3:30-5:00 P.M. Our sound booth is equipped with a 16-channel mixer for recording purposes only, in addition to the house sound board. The recording mixer has separate channels for pulpit mike, piano, organ, choir loft (4), orchestra, special singers, cassette sound tracks, CD sound tracks, and so forth. You may not have this flexibility. Therefore, I have adapted these procedures to the 5-channel $100 mixer I described above. If you are able to run a separate mike to the piano and jack that into mixer channel 3, you will have a little more flexibility.

Starting and Stopping the Tape

If you are running a CD Recorder instead of tape deck, replace each reference to tape with CD.

Setup. The first time you start the tape for a particular service, have the deck in record mode with the pause button engaged, and have the mixer's master volume all the way down.

Starting the Tape:

1. Release PAUSE.

2. With tape rolling, increase the master volume to normal broadcast level. For the first start in the program, this master volume increase may be gradual. After a short stop for a break in the service, the increase should be rather swift.

3. Start the clock.

Making a brief stop in the tape:

1. Swiftly move the mixer's master volume to OFF.

2. Press PAUSE.

3. Stop the clock.

Restarting tape after a brief stop:

1. Release PAUSE.

2. Swiftly increase the mixer's master volume to broadcast level.

3. Start the clock.

Always follow this sequence each time you start/stop the tape. This procedure will make it less likely that anyone will notice a break in the action, especially if you increase/decrease the mixer's master volume smoothly but swiftly.

Wearing Headphones

Headphones should be worn at all times it is necessary to mix and balance sound. It is impossible to mix sound effectively by watching meters only, or listening to house sound.

Watching Meters Volume level meters should be kept near 0 level at all times. If two recording devices are being used, such as a reel deck and a CD deck, it would be ideal to use a test tone to set the record volume of both at 0 level. It is better to have meters peaking at +0 occasionally, than to have them consistently at -0 level. Top of Page Table of Contents

Congregational Singing and the Worship Leader

Special note: All references to ON and OFF relate to the recording level volume control. On means level up to correct level for this part of the service. OFF means level all the way down.

After the song has been announced and as the pianist/organist plays the introduction to the song, cross fade the pulpit [AUX] all the way down and both left and right house mikes up to 0 level. The only sound of the worship leader's voice should be what is picked up by the radio house mikes from sanctuary house speakers. The Pulpit mike [AUX] should be OFF (volume all the way down) before the congregation begins to sing.

Exception: if the worship leader is teaching a new chorus, perhaps as a solo at first, leave the pulpit mike [AUX] up as the chorus begins. As the congregation picks up the song, gradually increase the house mikes volume and decrease the pulpit mike [AUX], until the pulpit mike [AUX] is off.

Important Note: You will not have a broadcast-quality recording if you have the worship leader singing at full volume doing the congregational singing. As a general rule, the pulpit mike [AUX] should be OFF when the congregation is singing. Mix in sound from the house mikes in lieu of the worship leader singing from the pulpit. Otherwise, your recording will feature a solo by the worship leader during the congregational singing. That may be good or bad, depending on who your worship leader is. [If I'm your worship leader, it will be bad!]

Smooth Cross-Fading And Level Adjustments All changes in levels should be made smoothly with no audible seam in the source of sound. For example, after the worship leader has announced a song, the scenario should be something like this: Keep pulpit [AUX] at same level while bringing up house mikes from -30 to +/-0 to pick up congregational singing. Then, turn pulpit mike [AUX] off smoothly but quickly. By the time the worship leader sings the first note, the pulpit mike [AUX] should be completely off, with house mikes carrying the bulk of recorded sound.

Piano Keep level of piano up to about -15 during congregational singing. The headphones play a critical role in setting the piano level. The level should be high enough to hear the sound of the piano tinkling in the background but not loud enough to draw attention to the piano sound. Top of Page Table of Contents

House Mikes

The house mikes play a critical role in giving the recording a live, stereo effect. This is true even during special music and the preaching. With the house mikes set at low levels (but not OFF), your recording will tend to have a natural resonance and reverberation.

The following house mike levels are baselines and should be modified by what you hear in the headphones:

Congregational singing -- +0

Special music -- -25

Applause, laughter, greetings among worshippers -- +0

Sermon, prayer -- -30

Opening and Closing Announcement with Legal ID Work with your radio station to make an announcement to be recorded on a cart (radio version of an 8-track continuous-loop cartridge). This announcement can be worded to be appropriate for play at the beginning, middle and end of your broadcast.

The FCC prefers thatstations give a legal identification within 2 minutes of the top of the hour. A legal ID consists of the call letters plus the station location, with nothing between. It would be a good idea to include a legal ID in your announcement. Here are some examples of legal and non-legal IDs:

Legals: [Nothing separating the call letters and the location of the station.]

This is WJJR Mifflinburg

This is the voice of Eastern Pilgrim College at 90.7 on your FM Stereo dial: WABI Allentown

Non-legals: This is WVMM at 90.7 on the dial, Grantham-Harrisburg You're listening to WVMM, coming to you from the campus of Messiah College, Grantham-Harrisburg.

Selecting the Tape or CD blanks. Use quality tape products Cheap tape or CDs may sound cheap on the air. If you're taping a service which has to fit into a 60-minute time slot, it would be ideal to have a cassette which runs for 60 minutes non-stop. However, such cassette tape is too thin to be reliable. For broadcast work, use a C-90 cassette which runs 45 minute on each side. If your deck is auto-reverse in the record mode, it can be set to reverse and keep right on recording till the end of the 90 minutes.

Keep Your Heads Clean

A tape deck's record and playback heads pick up a film of oxide from the passage of the tape after extended use. This accumulation can make your recordings sound dull and mushy. How often do you clean heads? I clean the heads of each tape deck I use once a week, whether they need it or not. You can use a cotton swab and a head-cleaning solution to clean the heads. Or, you can buy a head-cleaning cassette at your mall Radio Shack for about $5. I use one with three pads which you moisten with cleaning fluid: an oscillating pad in the center for the heads and one on either side for the capstans. You'll be surprised at how quickly these pads turn brown from the accumulation of tape oxide. This cleaner is ideal for auto-reverse tape decks and it's essential for cleaning the heads in your car's cassette deck.

Making Your Tape Fit The Available Time Slot

You can get your tape to fit into a 60-minute slot by using a stop watch to keep track of elapsed tape time. Let's say a service runs 80 minutes from the beginning of the song service until the end of the pastor's altar invitation. Your pastor has told you he wants the altar invitation to be included in the broadcast. Before the tape is put on the air, cue it to a point 20 minutes into the service. This point may be after the congregational singing but before the worship choruses-- and the altar invitation will be included. If you are able to stop the tape for the announcements or any other segments of the service deemed less essential, you will be able to use that much more of the congregational singing.

Audition Your Own Broadcast.

Always make a cassette recording of your service on the air. This will give you a chance to hear yourself as other hear you and make necessary corrective actions.

If you are archiving your services for later listening on the Internet, spot check these archives to assure that your recordings are consistently achieving the standard of broadcast quality.

G. Edwin Lint, BS, ThB, MA, -- Editor

This blog provides conservative information on political, spiritual, economic, educational and social issues Monday through Saturday.
On Sunday, the content is spiritual and educational only.
Jesus said: What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. Luke 12:3
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)