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Drums in a stage show - soundproofing?

Discussion in 'Drums' started by James Melling, Aug 12, 2010.

  1. Hi guys, at our school we do quite a few musicals, sometimes a couple a year. The way we always stage them is to use the hall floor for the actors to perform on (ie. it is performed 'in the round') and the band go on the stage.

    The biggest problem we have is volume of the band. Because the band are almost at head level of the actors, the sound from the band goes straight to the head mics of the actors, and so the band are amplified more, but not in 'good quality' (ie. very mid heavy). The sound ops turn the band send through the FOH down, and then most of the band sound is coming from monitors (which are pointing away from the audience) and from the FOH system, but via vocal mics (ew.).

    One possible solution would be to close the curtains on the band, I guess, but being the MD, I kinda need to see what's going on on the stage.

    The drums are the main problem because, with them being acoustic, you can't really turn them down. Although we have an amazing drummer, who can play quietly when he needs to (!!), but we find that when the drums get played quieter, the music tends to lose its energy, and the production falls apart.

    I was just wondering, is there any (low cost!) solution which we could use to assist with this problem? No, nobody owns a digital kit (plus I hate them) and I would like to avoid using dampeners because they ruin the sound of the kit. I would, however, like to have enough soundproofing to warrant the use of drum mics, because I feel that only certain parts of the sound from the drums get to the audience when mics aren't used. I think that a couple of overheads just make the cymbals really cut through the texture of the band, and a mic on the kick gives the band a nice thump (and i want to make full use of the much-needed 18 inch subs I have managed to persuade the school to buy!)

    Thanks in advance,

    James Melling
  2. fourone3

    fourone3 Active Member

    Jan 17, 2007
    What about the panels from Clear Sonic? I'm not sure of any other manufacturers that make panels like that, but it's a start.
  3. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Moderator Resource Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    Hi James, welcome to RO.

    Plexiglass / Lexan shields don't really reduce the sound very much, but they are fairly useful at changing the direction of the sound. We use them at church to protect the acoustic musicians from being blasted by the horn section a few feet away, but the sound still exists in the room. A good bit spills over the glass and the rest ricochets around the back of the stage before it comes out front. The results are very much like what you're experiencing with the band volume blasting toward the back of your stage instead of toward the audience. (ew.) We do have some heavy stage curtains that help a little bit. Without a good Crown boundary mic on the back of the plexiglass I wouldn't be very happy with the sound of the horns. But the mic gives me back everything lost with the shield.

    Unfortunately, omni-directional headsets are probably the most practical for non-professional theater, but a cardioid headset might help if you're adding any new units. Countryman for instance makes directional headsets, but usually the more smallest (least visible) capsules are the omnis.

    For blocking the sound, you will want more of a gobo. Gobos can block the sound from bleeding directly into your actors' mics AND absorb at least a little bit of the sound rather than just reflecting (and delaying) it. If your school has a wood-shop they might be able to help build something like these gobos Filled with OC 703 fiberglass or similar - then covered with a fire-retardant fabric.

    Again it won't be a 100% cure for your problem (nothing will be) but it should help. Musicians who can play with restraint is your first, best line of defense.

    Good luck!
  4. Thanks for your help guys. We have some pretty heavy blacks at the back of the stage, so perhaps something like the Clearsonic Panels would help reflect the sound back to the curtains to be absorbed. Do you guys know if the CSPs are made of any kind of special, super-acoustic, magical acrylic? Because I was going to just buy some 7mm clear stuff and some hinges and make one, it's a hell of a lot cheaper...!
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    The basic problem here is the position of the band and the actors. There is a reason that the traditional placement is actors on the stage and musicians in a pit in front of them. Maybe you have already brainstormed this as much as possible, but if not try to rethink this before spending money on equipment to try to fix an inherent problem.

    Regardless of where you position things, you should talk to your drummer. Being able to play with energy at lower volumes is a difficult skill, but it's one that will serve him well if he can develop it. Not many drummers have. As you can see, it comes in very handy. There are lots of "hot rod" type sticks that will help with this. If there is a good drum store around he should try them out and see if he can find a brand that works for him.

    Also, you can sneer all you want at electronic kits or kits with dampers, but the reason you are posting here is that your current sound sucks. My experience is that in really bad acoustic situations like yours, electronic drums sound better than anything you can do with acoustic drums. Not suggesting that you buy a set for two plays a year. Most of the time - in a good room, in the right position, with a good drummer - acoustic drums are far superior. But if you are going to place the band and actors the way you have you are going to have to do something drastic to have an acceptable sound.

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