July - August 2016

Written by Mark Evilsizor
From his column Church Tech

Nate Evilsizor serves as DJ for his sister’s wedding.

My daughter was married this spring! It was truly wonderful. The pastor who married them has known my daughter since she was three, and her homily drew from our shared lives together. Neighbors, decades-long church friends and family gave marriage advice as part of the ceremony, as well. It was rich! And then there was the party—an eruption of music, dancing, laughter and shared stories.

To stay within our modest budget, we all chipped in to craft elements of the wedding. Our neighbor made the bridal bouquet, and, while my ice sculpting did not turn out well (It really was a swan!), my son and I did a bang up job with the reception DJ work.

The reception was in a barn that could hold around 100 people. To save costs, I took my home stereo and floor-standing speakers to the barn for a test. They filled the space well, but we had no way to talk to the room—to introduce the wedding party, speechify, and cajole the crowd to the dance floor for the required Chicken Dance (I think this must be a clause in the wedding certificate).

I found I could connect a microphone to my amp with a certain adapter, but the volume level required would be wildly different from that of our music source. I envisioned my son cranking it up to use the microphone, then neglecting to turn it down before blasting “Y-M-C-A!” Not good. Also, with that setup we would have to switch from music to microphone without the ability to blend them. To do it right, we needed a mixer.

I envisioned my son cranking it up to use the microphone, then neglecting to turn it down before
blasting ‘Y-M-C-A!’

The job of a mixer is to connect multiple sound inputs of varying tone and volume, while allowing adjustments to be made so that the combined audio output is balanced and pleasing.

I began to think of the huge sound board at our church with its bewildering/enticing quantity of knobs, sliders and buttons. As I began researching the problem, I found there are several great options for around $60 to $80. I determined I wanted one with great audio quality (no pops, fuzz, or background hum), four inputs, and tone adjusters for treble, bass, and mid-range. Mackie and Behringer both have quality devices that met my requirements.

Next, we needed a microphone. These vary widely in types and cost. There are two main types—condenser and dynamic. Condenser microphones require power, which the mixers I was looking at could supply. But for a situation like mine, a dynamic microphone is most commonly used. Another key characteristic of microphones is the shape of the space in they detect sound. The most common options are cardioid and omnidirectional. As the name suggests, omnidirectional mics pick up sound from every direction. However, a cardioid is more focused on the space directly behind the microphone. Since we were using the mic for a single user (my son the DJ), we went with cardioid. I found a Behringer microphone that sounds great, feels well made, and comes in a cool case that conjures visions of a concert tour. Best of all, it only costs $20.

Our other audio sources would be for music. My daughter and her fiancé used Spotify to build a playlist in the months ahead of the wedding, and my son joined in the collaboration from his phone. We wanted to be able to smoothly switch between songs, so we decided to use two phones as music sources. Since the barn was beyond the realm of cell phone coverage, we decided to download the music onto them rather than stream it. This also gave us a backup in case one source failed. Additionally, we brought along a two-device, extended phone battery in case we ran out of juice.

Lastly, we needed cables to connect everything. I laid out my equipment so I could see what I needed, and then detailed the necessary cables:

  • Microphone to mixer – XLR to ¼ inch plug,
  • iPhone to mixer – Mini-stereo to two ¼ inch plugs,
  • iPhone 2 to mixer – Mini-stereo to two ¼ inch plugs, and
  • Mixer to home stereo tape input – dual RCA to dual RCA plugs.

To get comfortable with the gear, we set all this up in our living room and enjoyed some spontaneous karaoke sessions. (You can never sing “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” too many times, can you?) My kids advised me to keep my day job.

The rest was cake, literally. We took it to the barn and set it up, and my son did a great job keeping the music flowing and feet tapping.

Oh, yeah—the wedding was nice, also.

That’s our experience. It wasn’t too complicated, it was cheap, and we had fun doing it ourselves. So, if you find yourself needing music for a special occasion, think about doing it yourself.

Mark Evilsizor has worked in Information Technology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as head of IT for the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Mo. Views and opinions expressed are strictly his own.

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