8 Tips for Improving Clarity in Speech

Often, it's easy to neglect the sermon while preparing for the music. Here's how to make sure you're mixing to make speaking heard.

5. Remove sibilance. Sssssssibilance in vocals is when the sound of the letter “S” sounds more like a hissing snake. You can accentuate vowel sounds/add presence by increasing the EQ in the 4,500 Hz to 6,000 Hz range. However, the “S” sound lives between 5 kHz and 7 kHz. Therefore, be careful when adding presence because you can easily go from a great sound to a hissy sound. A de-esser can be used for dealing with sibilance, but I prefer first trying EQ changes.

6. Avoid distortion by adding compression. A pastor who is known for suddenly talking significantly louder is one that would benefit from compression. The problem with those outbursts is they can cause distortion, or simply the voice takes on different frequency characteristics as it gets louder. A compression ratio in the 2:1 and 3:1 range would be helpful. This way, their volume stays within a reasonable range.

7. Before doing anything, think about the pastor’s voice, as that’s your foundation. I worked on EQing a vocal that had a lot of low end in the voice, but also, surprisingly, had a noticeable amount of upper mid-range frequencies. Therefore, a wide mid-range boost made their voice sound worse. It wasn’t until applying a massive cut under the 350 Hz range, a narrow cut to a lower mid-range area, and a narrow boost to the upper mid-range that their vocals obtained the desired clarity.

8. Cut before boosting. A vocal will often have too much of something. Resolve issues with those “too much” areas before focusing on improving clarity via boosting.

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Chris Huff
Chris Huff has worked in the live sound environment for over 15 years. Most of that experience has been in a church setting, but he tries to work other venues when he can. He currently runs sound at Franklin Community Church, in Indiana, where he is also the volunteer Tech Director.