How to Set Up a Silent Stage in Your House of Worship

How to Set Up a Silent Stage in Your House of Worship

Contemporary houses of worship are leaders in audiovisual production quality. Since the earliest electric services, churches and worship leaders have been early adopters of new music and audio gear, always innovating how we see and hear live music.


Now, with video content, livestreaming and production quality at the forefront of worship music, achieving a hi-fidelity sound at manageable volume levels is more important than ever—for those attending services in person or online. How can you improve the sound quality at your house of worship? It’s easy—implement a silent stage. Everyone in attendance will hear the difference. 


Keep reading to learn how to set up a silent stage in your house of worship. 


What Is a Silent Stage?

On a silent stage, musicians work with a venue’s production staff to play at the quietest stage volume possible. Silent stages use direct in (DI) instruments to reduce the number of open microphones onstage, creating a best-case scenario for the FOH engineer to craft a clear and punchy mix.


Instead of playing through amplifiers, guitarists, bassists and keyboardists go direct and listen to themselves using a pair of wireless in-ear monitors. Drummers—also using in-ear monitors—might set up behind an iso booth, play with brushes or switch to an electronic drum kit to reduce their stage volume.


With the right gear and workflow, silent stages can give everyone in attendance a front-row seat to an inspiring, energetic performance. So-called “silent” stages can still be loud enough to provide a true “concert” experience without damaging anyone’s hearing—it just takes a bit of rehearsal to get dialed-in.


And as you might have realized by now, a silent stage requires nearly constant collaboration (and cooperation) between musicians, FOH engineers, monitor mixers and worship leaders. A silent stage is anything but “plug and play.” So, why should you switch to a silent stage? Keep reading and let’s find out together.


What are the Benefits of a Silent Stage?

Most importantly, a silent stage reduces stage volume. And lower stage volumes benefit everyone—musicians, production staff and audience members.


FOH engineers like to work on a silent stage because it creates the ideal conditions for mixing live music. Even better, silent stages reduce the likelihood of feedback. Feedback happens when a microphone picks up its own signal coming from a loudspeaker, such as a traditional wedge monitor, over and over again, producing the familiar squealing noise production crews work so hard to avoid.


Silent stages use the fewest microphone possible—typically only on vocals and acoustic drums—greatly reducing the chance of feedback. Because guitars, basses and other electric instruments are running direct, there’s no bleed to interfere with your vocal sound, making it easier to seat the vocals in a dense mix.


Speaking of mixing, a silent stage gives the FOH engineer an almost studio-like level of control over the sound of each instrument (or vocalist) so the production can sound its best. Besides offering better control over volume levels, silent stages also create a clearer soundstage for special effects like the famous stereo “shimmer reverb” guitar sound or dramatic ping-pong delays on a lead vocal.


Musicians prefer silent stages, too. With in-ear monitors, musicians get a consistent, individual mix anywhere onstage without relying on loud stage monitors. And with the personal monitor mixing apps included with most modern digital mixers, players can adjust their own personal in-ear monitor mix without interfering with the FOH mix or what other musicians are listening to onstage. Plus, there’s no more heavy combo amps or speaker cabinets to carry—who doesn’t like that?


Let’s not forget about the congregation. After all, without a crowd, it’s just rehearsal. Silent stages give members of your congregation the best audiovisual experience possible. Now, congregants can sit in the front row without ringing in their ears because of the overwhelming stage volume.


Livestream congregants will have a better time, too. Fewer mics mean fewer cables and a less cluttered picture. And they’ll enjoy the same improved audio quality as those attending in-person.


What Gear Do You Need for a Silent Stage?

If you’re hosting regular worship services with live music, you probably already have some (if not most) of the equipment you need for a silent stage. Here’s what you need to get started.


In-Ear Monitors

In-ear monitors are essential for running a successful silent stage. An in-ear monitor (IEM) is a (usually) wireless earpiece that musicians wear onstage to listen to their own unique mix independently of what other musicians and the audience hear. 


Custom-fitted IEMs like UE Pro in-ear monitors also offer an astounding 26dB of passive noise cancellation, which will protech their hearing in the long-run.


Wireless Receivers & Transmitters

On a silent stage, each musician’s mix outputs from the mixer to a wireless transmitter. From there, the transmitter sends an RF signal to a belt-worn receiver that connects to the in-ear monitors via an 1/8” stereo cable. Check out our article to learn more aboutwireless receivers and transmitters.


Digital Mixer

Digital mixers are key to efficient silent stage operation. Digital mixers have a few advantages over their analog peers—they can remember your settings in preset “scenes,” for starters. Better yet, digital mixers have wi-fi. Many manufacturers—PreSonus, Midas, Allen & Heath, Yamaha, Waves, Mackie and others—provide personal monitor mixing apps. With the corresponding app, each musician in your ensemble can adjust their monitor mix using their Android or iPhone.   



Where there’s wi-fi, there’s a router. Awireless router enables control over digital mixer functions via iPad, iPhone and Android. Though it doesn’t impact your digital mixer functions, you may want to also plug into ethernet whenever possible, especially if you’re live streaming a church service because live streams take up so much bandwidth. By running the stream over ethernet, your wifi will be fast as can be.


Basic Acoustic Treatment

Even on a silent stage, room acoustics matter. And you don’t have to spend a fortune on foam acoustic treatments to reduce acoustic anomalies in your venue. Most acoustic issues are caused by reflective materials that cause distracting echoes and parallel surfaces, which affect bass response. If your room is too bright or has too many echoes, try hanging a heavy curtain behind the stage (or along any long, reflective surface). To tame unruly bass, install a corner bass trap to absorb excess low frequencies. Finally, to reduce unwanted reflections, avoid placing speakers in corners or within 2-3 feet of walls.


Silent Stage Options for Guitarists, Bassists & Keyboardists

Since guitarists, bassists and keyboardists won’t be able to crank their trusty amplifiers on a silent stage, they’ll need to go DI. However, guitar and bass just won’t sound right plugging directly into the mixing board via a DI box without some sort of amplifier and cabinet simulation. Here are a few options for them.

  • Amp Modeling—amp modelers like the Fractal AxeFX, Kemper Profiler, Line 6 Helix and NeuralDSP Quad Cortex provide dynamic and realistic component-level modeling of the most popular guitar and bass amps, plus speaker cabinets, microphones and effects pedals. These units have stereo XLR outputs for studio-quality sound.
  • Pedalboard Amps—builders like Strymon, Milkman and Orange make portable, high-quality pedalboard amplifiers with speaker-simulated outputs for use on silent stages.
  • Guitar Load Box—a load box takes the place of a speaker cabinet, allowing for the silent operation of tube or solid-state amplifiers. Guitarists and bassists love tube amps for their sustaining overdrive, which is difficult to achieve at lower volumes. Load boxes by Two Notes, Universal Audio and others provide outputs for going direct.
  • Isolation Room—before amp modeling and pedalboard amps became easy-to-find, the solution for guitarists with a silent stage was to simply take the amp off stage and put it in an isolated room where the amp would be mic’d. This requires long cable runs from the guitar to the amp and back to the mixing board and makes it difficult to adjust amp settings mid-set. 
  • Acoustic Guitars—on a silent stage, acoustic guitars may be mic’d like normal, or run direct through an amp modeler, DI box or acoustic preamp.
  • Keyboards—most modern keyboards provide stereo outputs via ¼” instrument cable or XLR. If using ¼” outputs, a DI box is recommended.


Silent Stage Options for Drummers

Without making some adjustments, drums can completely overwhelm a stage that doesn’t have any amplifiers. But no matter how hard-hitting your worship band’s drummer is, it’s possible to integrate them into a silent stage.

  • Acoustic Kit with Drum Shields—for most drummers, the simplest solution is best. Acrylic drum shields (sometimes called iso booths) prevent spillage between the drums and other performers onstage, helping achieve a cleaner mix while the drummer can play with their normal feel.
  • Play with Brushes or Hot Rods—switching to lightweight (and lower volume) sticks—like Hot Rods or even brushes—will help bring stage levels down. Some drummers might be uncomfortable making the switch, though, since the change in sound and feel requires some adjustment.
  • Quiet Drumheads & Cymbals—swapping your current drumheads and cymbals for those specifically designed for silent stages is an easy fix for drummers with a heavy hand. Popular choices include Remo Silentstroke drumheads and Zildjian L80 cymbals.
  • Electronic Drums—electronic drums replace acoustic kits with velocity-sensitive pads triggering a prerecorded sample of drums, cymbals or other percussion instruments. Higher-end kits include individual outputs for each piece for control like that of a mic’d acoustic kit. On budget models, a L/R stereo output provides a preset mix. Though purists may wince, the sound quality of electronic drums can fool even trained ears.


Silent Stages for Singers

Naturally, silent stages don’t apply to singers. But their lower stage volume provides plenty of benefits to soloists and choirs. With in-ear monitors—available in custom and universal fit—singers hear themselves in studio-like detail, helping to reduce vocal strain and improve pitch. Singers who can hear themselves clearly perform more confidently, too. And confidence is contagious on either side of the stage. 


Another benefit (and one you’ll hear right away) is that vocals sound better on a silent stage. Since there’s no loud electric instruments spilling into the mic, your FOH engineer can apply compression, EQ and other effects without compromise. But there’s no substitute for good microphone technique. Here’s a couple tips to get you started:

  • Sing into the center of the grille—microphones are less accurate if used “off axis” 
  • Avoid unwanted bass rumble (or “proximity effect”) by holding the microphone 3-4” from the face
  • Do not handle microphones by the grille, and never cup the mic. Always hold the lower portion of the microphone. Cupping a cardioid microphone greatly enhances the risk of feedback.
  • To avoid feedback, be careful not to point the microphone at speakers. Use caution when holding a microphone in front of mains speakers. 
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