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Due to complains of the drums being too loud in our church, we are looking into some level reducing options. Currently we have a nice old Gretch Catalina kit which most of the drummers speak fondly of. The sanctuary is about 50' wide by 100' long about 30' high at the peak, typical New England modern construction.

The options in consideration are:
1) drum mutes
2) sound treatment of the corner with the drums. Possibly a plexi-glass booth.
3) electronic drums.

I would appreciate comment from people experienced with these setups, and additional options.

Will drum mutes destroy the tone of the drums? How much sound reduction can be expected by putting the drummer in a box?

More details you may or may no want to know:
Acoustically the sound from the stage projects very well throughout the sanctuary. The baby grand piano does not go though the PA. The vocals are mixed just above the piano, and the guitars a little below. The bassist controls his own volume. The drums, depending on who is playing, can drive the whole group to play louder or softer. This is part of the problem. When we have a loud drummer, everyone plays louder.


anonymous Tue, 01/13/2009 - 08:38

Drums in a small sanctuary are a sticky problem. The space is designed acoustically to project un-amplified piano and vocals very well.

We've got a Clearsonic -type booth at our church and it helps. We still had complaints until we got a lid for it. If you get one, I would suggest that it be a full surround, not just 3-sided (if you have the space). In our case, the sound hits the back wall and reflects over to the opposite side of the stage causing the vocalists on that side to complain. we ended up putting some Aurelex panels behind the drummer and that helped.

Of course, if you need total control, electronic drums would be your best bet, although I've been told that on softer songs, the click of the sticks hitting the pads can be heard over the drum samples.

moonbaby Tue, 01/13/2009 - 09:03

Most drummers who are used to an acoustic kit scoff at moving over to an electronic kit. Ours sits in a closet collecting dust!
As another poster commented, you will really have to isolate the drums with a Clearsonics set-up. We use that, and have added heavy moving blankets (from Markertek) to control reflections behind the booth. We STILL have more than enough drums filling the stage and the room, but it's manageable.

dvdhawk Tue, 01/13/2009 - 12:43

Hi GeckoMusic,

I do sound system installs in churches and this is a universal problem I run into at virtually every church that has a band. The drums are too loud. And anything you do to tame down the volume will make the drummer unhappy / uncomfortable. Muting the drums will absolutely diminish their tone, so you have to play the trade-off game. How much volume can I take away and still have an acceptable sound. If you take too much it sounds like they're hitting a wet paper bag, which is not very musical.

There are a lot of things you can do with moon-gel and o-rings to take the volume down without completely wrecking the tone. You may be surprised at what a difference giving the drummer super light sticks (7A maple) will make. If he's used to playing with 2Bs, he'll instinctively back off how hard he hits the drums. But again, he won't be thrilled.

At our church we tried the plexiglass fishbowl and that's not without it's challenges. The plexiglass was naturally very reflective inside and I always felt like the confined space made the drums sound poorly defined. And in our specific situation the front of the plexiglass reflected a strong overtone from our wedges back into the vocal mics that required a very severe notch on the EQ. (And we've got a bigger stage than most.)

Our church eventually went to the Roland TD-20 electronics, they sound good and feel about as natural as possible. Tensioned mesh heads / cymbals that give when you hit them / hi-hats that physically open and close / and very tunable to your taste. The down-side is, how loud will you have to crank the monitors (which are physically aimed the opposite direction as the mains) to make the band happy. You can lose a lot of definition that way, and end up at about the same volume as your acoustic kit. We bought our TD-20s from another church that had a drummer who refused to play them. So check around at other churches, they may have a set collecting dust that you could try before you buy.

We've been using electronic drums for about 9 years ( we started with Roland's TD-8 ), and ultimately switched the 17-pc. band away from wedges to in-ear monitors about a year ago. My front-of-house mix is 100% cleaner and I was able to drop the overall mix volume considerably to a very comfortable level. The 6 pc. horn-section dictates the volume now rather than the drums or bass guitar amp. There's a period of adjustment to in-ear monitors, and although my musicians were all hesitant at first, they were very gracious and patient as everybody learned how to use the technology. Now they're all on-board and as content as can be.

I've been this church's soundman for 10 years, but I'm a lifelong guitar player myself, so I understand that you need a certain comfort-level to perform. But when you're doing the church gig you have to yield some of your personal preferences. At some point, church musicians have to say - ok, being in a praise and worship band at church is not about me and what I want.

And this is true of all the musicians, not just the drummer. Left unchecked us guitar players can play at obnoxious volumes too!

Good luck!

anonymous Tue, 01/13/2009 - 16:35

Codemonkey wrote:

Get yourself some sticks from here.
You will kiss the cymbals. You might even *want* a mic on the snare.
(Do it, and keep the drummer happy but keep it low and roll off the high end).

Yeah, I tried something similar, but the Worship Leader wasn't getting that crack of the snare in his in ears like he want so he told me to stop using them. Lately, I've been hearing them a lot on recordings. A different and distinctive sound. Hard to get good ride pings, tho.

Codemonkey Tue, 01/13/2009 - 16:39

It is a very plasticky sound I guess.
But it stops the whole place (ie, the PA) being awash with ring. Also it means that when things get louder, they're still manageable.

I agree though, if I was having the drummer alone to record I would have him use sticks but for live worship, Flix are awesome.
One time I saw a guy use them on a full kit in a hall not much bigger than 9m x 6m.

Edit: if you desperately want a short sample I can fix you up with some terrible ones.
Vaguely throwing an XY with £20 mics over a kit will never work...

RemyRAD Tue, 01/13/2009 - 17:36

So, get yourself some of that Clear-Sonic, Plexiglas and stick some Sonex or Auralex foam. Line some of the clear sonic and it will greatly attenuate a lot of the excessive SPL. And he'll still be able to see out while everybody can see him. So in a sense, you are building a self and closed plastic drum room partially lined with sound absorbing foam.

It'll work
Ms. Remy Ann David

BobRogers Tue, 01/13/2009 - 17:40

We have gone with electronic drums. Yamaha DTII. Good drummers have put up with it and most of the young drummers have liked it. (Huge help with inexperienced drummers who can't control their dynamic.) It was important to have a personal monitor so they could hear themselves. No, the drums don't sound as good as a live set played loud, but the mix sounds a lot better than anything we could get with damping, drum shields, etc. We have sometimes used a real set for youth services that are essentially rock concerts, but I can't imagine going back there for regular services.

One more thing: Don't buy the cheap stuff. In case you have not noticed, these things are played by drummers (bad enough) who hit them with sticks. The cheap stuff falls apart. It broke my heart to pay over $2K for electronics when I could have gotten a really nice acoustic set with good cymbals, but in my experience it gives the best sounding mix at volumes that are acceptable in our service.

Codemonkey Tue, 01/13/2009 - 22:47

TBH we don't have the money to blow on E-drums. However...

Flix works for us. The drummer took a bit of getting used to it though.
Remember we have stone walls so less cymbal noise was key. Reflections, ugh...

By comparison how much is it for a decent set of plastic panels. Go with a standard installation, however we could put the kit off to the side and cut out the need for 1, maybe 2 sides.

anonymous Wed, 01/14/2009 - 04:27

Thanks to everyone for the knowledgeable replies. You have all created a wealth of information in the last 24 hours much of which would not even have come up while researching the subject.

Of the two people that play drums the most, one “scoffs” at electronic drums, the other actually recommended it as a solution. The latter is more of a “Jack of all instruments,” and the former is a drummer first, and other instruments later type of guy. However both would play on either and not complain.... much.

Five people recommend Clearsonic enclosures or shields and sound treatment. When forming the original post I didn't even know there was a company that manufactured drum enclosures. I figured they were just built out of plexi-glass with blueprints from the Internet! :)

Two people recommended electronic drums. Roland and Yamaha seem to be favorites as is the case in general with electronic drums.

Other options to consider include Moon Gels and Flix Sticks.

We are meeting at the end of the month to discuss this and I'll let you all know how it goes.

Thanks so much!

PS CodeMonkey, Not sure how close these prices are to those in the UK but, Clearsonic isolation pacs range from $500 for 5 short walls to $2000 for a full enclosure in the US.

Electronic kits that would be worth considering range from $900 for Alesis to $2000 for nice Yamaha and Roland kits. I have had an Alesis kit for about a year now. It is great, but I'm not really a drummer.

MadMax Wed, 01/14/2009 - 04:49

The simplest option is to give the drummer hot rods and/or tell him not to wail on the kit so hard.

Try moving to a smaller stick if the drummer doesn't like hot rods.

Turning down the drummers monitor will also help, if you even use monitors.

Only when you've really exhausted the natural solutions would I look at an enclosure.

anonymous Wed, 01/14/2009 - 05:26

Thanks Mad Max,

I see what you are saying. It would be best to fix the problem by first getting the drummer to play quieter, next, to change the sticks, then sound treatment. We have sets of Flix Sticks, Hot Rods, and brushes. Maybe the simple solution is to only have the brushes available.

Only once have I heard the problem. I was in the back running sound, and big tom fill to crash, snare, and kick. (Must have been either sticks or Hot Rods) It made me jump. Someone must have said something to him because since then that drummer has played more reserved. (Or maybe it was the crash and burn fill on the next song where he got 1 and 3 mixed up when he came out of the fill. oops)

The complaints have been coming from a minority of the congregation, so perhaps the push to reduce drum volume is just in an effort to please everyone. Reduction in drum volume may make the experience less desirable for others.

Maybe people have been told too lightly and haven't taken it to heart. The bass player and drummer share a monitor, and it is normally set at a lower volume then the rest. (The piano is near by, and none of the the bassists or drummers sing)

Another question:
Of those that have played in Clearsonic style booths. Is it difficult to hear the other instruments? Do you need a monitor inside the booth with you? Or does not being able to hear them well force you to play quieter?

BobRogers Wed, 01/14/2009 - 06:57

In response to what Max said, I agree that having a drummer who can control his or her dynamics is the best solution. But finding drummers who can do that is not easy. It is very difficult for most drummers to play upbeat music at low volumes.

Church bands are different from most other situations. We have a couple of bands - one of them a youth band. All of the drummers are volunteers. Personnel changes fairly often, and we sometimes have two or three drummers trading off from week to week. (Thinking back, we have had at least eight drummers over the last three years.) The skill level is pretty variable. We have been lucky enough to have a series of drummers who can keep time, and I am large and menacing enough to keep them from overplaying. The electronic drums mean that the volume level and mix is consistent from drummer to drummer and week to week. The sound is always good, even if it is never as good as can be produced by an excellent drummer on a good acoustic set.

On another topic: just how transparent are these enclosures? In some cases we are talking as much money as a decent electronic set. Does a good acoustic set wrapped in plastic sound better than an electronic set? Is the main issue the feel of the set to the drummer? (In which case my response is, "suck it up, it's for the church.")

anonymous Wed, 01/14/2009 - 08:57

Everyone that plays at our church does it on a volunteer basis, so we can't simply "get a drummer with some discipline." We are blessed to have one drummer that really knows what he is doing. However because of his job we are lucky if he is in town once a month. The other drummers are not bad, (they are all better than [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.geckomus…"]me[/]="http://www.geckomus…"]me[/]) but occasionally have trouble keeping the volume down on "hand clappers" It sounds like a very similar situation to Bob's.

Those are good questions. I would love to hear answers to them. My guess is that all of our drummers would "suck it up for the church."

MadMax Wed, 01/14/2009 - 16:20

If I had my choice of an electronic kit, or an enclosure... gimme the electronic kit.

While the enclosures are ok, they also suk mud through a straw.

They're ok, because they provide quite a bit of isolation, but the drawback is that you now MUST mic the kit and either put the drummer in cans, or you gotta put a monitor in there... e.g. they isolate well enough that you cannot hear the other muso's without a monitor.

Unless you get a big enough enclosure, the "room" now only makes a great slapback chamber. Add in the drummer's wedge... you got issues to deal with that aren't ANY fun.

Codemonkey Wed, 01/14/2009 - 18:52

We were out at Queen's Park Baptist Church...

Their drums are off to the side, in a plastic booth (probably made by Clearsonic) and they had a monitor, and 4 visible mics on the kit.

Oh, thanks man, didn't know they were so cheap :O Clearsonic that is.
Now, add int'l shipping, import tax, 2 overhead mics (£40 for us I'd bet) and cables...
I doubt our drummer would want to be in a box. Flix were a cheap solution for us, and our drummer has been non-overpowering in 12x8m halls with 300W PA cabs.

dvdhawk Thu, 01/15/2009 - 21:52

One of the things I like most about having our church drummers playing electronics is the ability to get a good consistent sound regardless of the style differences or skill levels of the volunteer drummers. And if your church rotates volunteer soundmen as well, then I like your chances of getting a decent drum sound every week too. The same is true of both church drummers and church soundmen - some are much more accomplished than others.

My job is so much easier with e-drums and in-ears, and my FOH mix is so much cleaner.

Good work if you can get it.

anonymous Wed, 06/16/2010 - 10:32

I've spent some time playing drums at church. I agree that a disciplined drummer is key….
Some thoughts on the discussion so far...

Flex Sticks: We have had luck here too, but they do feel and play differently. Most drummers prefer a real stick and play cleaner/better.

Drum Shields: We have had some luck here as well but the challenge we found is that it makes it very different for the drummer to place his dynamics when behind a shield. It’s hard to hear how volume everybody else is w/ the shield, and wedge monitors start to get picked up in the drum mics (because sound is bouncing off the shield).

Which leads to, IEM: It’s great, well I think it’s great, to play drums w/ IEM. I find that if you want the drummer to play softer, you turn the drum mics in his IEM up (gently). Leave the rest down, this way he is getting the volume he is looking for … but he will be hitting softer, because he’ll still want to hear everybody in his mix.

Another suggestion….

One of the things that has really worked, is that it is difficult for a drummer to know exactly where he is in the FOH mix. Ie. how loud I’m I acoustically playing… especially with a shield and IEMs. There is a piece of software…

[[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.aparae.c…"]APARAE: Performance Software for Drummers[/]="http://www.aparae.c…"]APARAE: Performance Software for Drummers[/]

… which I have used before on the stage with a laptop and usb microphone. It can monitor and chart the acoustic volume level back to the drummer. It’s great because it’s instance feedback to the drummer on the decibel volume he is at. It helps to drive volume consistency.


sheet Wed, 06/23/2010 - 04:04

Codemonkey, post: 270589 wrote: Too bad that
- we have the same drummer (he would kill anyone who touched his gear)
- we have the same soundguy (he would kill anyone who touched his gear) (me, btw)
- we don't have the money for E drums never mind IEM.

As a church dude myself, it seems that both parties above have lost focus. Church is not about them. It is not about their music, hence it is not about their personal needs/desires. The crowd comes first. When the crowd comes first, that allows them to take care of business in worship.

That said, your drummer can keep his gear, use drum mutes, which attach with simple thumb screws, and Drumagog. In fact, as you can see here, you can use it with just microphones alone and no drum kit:

[[url=http://[/URL]="…"]YouTube - Invisible Drums - Drumagog's Real-Time Capabilities[/]="…"]YouTube - Invisible Drums - Drumagog's Real-Time Capabilities[/]

Cacacas Sun, 08/08/2010 - 15:21

Maybe a solution would for the either the drummer to play differently, or to use other equipment which is not naturally loud. What about some shakers, wood blocks, triangles, or hand drums? Would that work? I've also heard of drummers who play tasteful, tactful music which is not overbearing or too loud, and play wonderfully. They attenuate their drumming to light, tasteful music. Can the drummer play quiet, tasteful, skillful music?

Frango Sat, 02/18/2017 - 14:21

Yes- play tastefully, "less is more." "If you cant hear your fellow musos then you are playing too loud." "You may not be noticed during playing but you would be noticed by your absence." So much has been said over many years but goes out the window when it comes to many drummers. I've played with great drummers who are "accompanists" and indeed a pleasure, but they are far and few between. One great Australian trumpeter Bob Barnard told me he has said to many drummers- "you are here for us (front line musos) , not; we are here for you". How true. They mostly seem to be unaware there could be a volume control between their ears. And when it comes to either the bass drum or tom tom tuned to a certain discordant note-- don't let me start. The question has to be asked- if a Church group has at least a good rhythm guitarist and/or keyboard, why the need for drums that in most cases don't contribute to the "music". Many of them don't know 3/4 time, or use of brushes which is a dying art or they put a rock beat to sacred songs.
For a classic example on this subject google-- Rita Moreno Animal fever.avi where the Muppet drummer Animal gets a pair of cymbals to the head. Hilarious.

DonnyThompson Sat, 02/18/2017 - 15:39


Frango, post: 447597, member: 50393 wrote: One great Australian trumpeter Bob Barnard told me he has said to many drummers- "you are here for us (front line musos) , not; we are here for you". How true.

Uhm... Okay. That's more than just a little insulting. This attitude suggests that the only people who really "matter", or who are the only real musicians, are those who are performing up front.
In an ensemble, ( a real one) all the musicians are there for each other.
I'm there for you, you're there for me, and so on.

Frango, post: 447597, member: 50393 wrote: if a Church group has at least a good rhythm guitarist and/or keyboard, why the need for drums that in most cases don't contribute to the "music". Many of them don't know 3/4 time, or use of brushes which is a dying art or they put a rock beat to sacred songs.

Man, you must have real slim pickin's for drummers in your area.

None of those things you mentioned are lacking or are a "dying art" in the places I've visited and played; in the many studios I've visited or worked at ( on both sides of the glass, as an engineer and a musician)....
Or, maybe it's been your misfortune to have played with people who really aren't true drummers at all, but are simply "people who own a kit of drums", and they find that the church gig is the only one they can get. ( ?)

(FWIW, some of the worst players I've ever worked with were with church bands. Not all, of course, I've heard some occasional bad-ass cats in a few church ensembles over the years, but that's not been my typical experience.
I've seen far more wanna-bees than real cats; those who bash, crank their amps, shred, pop, slap, hit clams every other note on keyboards and horns, who sing flat, sharp, too loud, too soft, who have no idea how to work a mic for many who play out of tune ( and can't hear that they are), who have absolutely no sense of phrasing or rhythm, and sadly .... even those who use the church performances as an ego trip, or a platform for their own agendas - their own personal venue for self-promotion.

I've worked with many, many good drummers ( I've worked with many great musicians of all instruments) - and I feel confident in my ability to judge, as I'm a drummer myself. I've played damned-near everywhere, and over the years ( 40 years now) have played with and heard true pros - both men and women - wonderful musicians of all styles, of all instruments. True artists who can play with style and finesse, who understand dynamics, who can rock it out, or play to a whisper, who can play in 3/4 - or any time sig you throw at them, for that matter. It seems as if you haven't had enough opportunity to play with these types.
Maybe you need to stretch out your territory a bit, and see what's outside the cave... ;)


audiokid Sat, 02/18/2017 - 16:08

Frango, post: 447597, member: 50393 wrote: One great Australian trumpeter Bob Barnard told me he has said to many drummers- "you are here for us (front line musos) , not; we are here for you". How true.

DonnyThompson, post: 447598, member: 46114 wrote: Uhm... Okay. That's more than just a little insulting. This attitude suggests that the only people who really "matter", or who are the only real musicians, are those who are performing up front.

In all due respect... BANG BANG CRASH BANG BANG lol. I feel the pain . :LOL:

I've actually played in cover bands where the drummer(s) (more than once) were so clueless over the volume and over playing where they needed to be told something similar to this. Thankfully it wasn't my job to do that. Also, I am guilty of this as well. My young days as a guitarist, I just couldn't stop soloing.

So, even though these words may sound insulting, I feel I can soften this last response and say with a chuckle... drummers, as well as other musicians who lack the KISS skills (keep it simple) and don't play so loud, end up in better groups. Drummers have a reputation of over playing or playing too loud, complaining that they can't feel it unless they are banging the hell out of it all... .

And yeah... there is nothing worse (degrading feeling) working with musicians who push the vibe that they are the star of the band. Or seem to always be increasing volume or tempo when things just start to get exciting.

(edit)I left my ego doing the talking long ago. I've played with some wonderful people and some real pricks. Its all part of the business and knowing where you belong and having a thick skin too. And most importantly, listening to the group and room you are in. Playing for your audience and respecting everyone.

Some barn style churches and halls can be the worst sound for amplified music. Plus the congregation can have elderly people with hearing impairments. They are the first to complain and rightfully so. Its important for everyone from the sound man to the musicians to be aware of this. Understanding acoustics and listening beyond your own parts of a production goes a long way.


Frango Sat, 02/18/2017 - 20:38

Hi Donny and Audiokid. Yes sadly there have been slim pickings re drummers as musicians over my 57 years as a semi professional Jazz Muso.
I sometimes wonder about them being a dying breed.?
When you know a subject well you can describe it, and you humbly did it so well Donny in your detailed descriptions and right on re;- "people who own a set of drums".
There's a song for every occasion e.g. snippets from Louis Armstrong's song Chloe (I've got to go where you are, Searching for you, For if you are lost there, Let me be there too) :-) so Donny if I could be so lucky to work with you ever it would be a musical pleasure.
Even your words "play to a whisper" says great things about you and blessed are those who you gig with and play to.
I've heard world-prominent Christian speakers ponder if God would surely be asking;- "do you call that music to honour me?".
There's a trend now where would-be guitarists compose a Christian song, some non-muso friend says "that's good" so they put it on computer programme, publish and copyright it and the congregations struggle with the (usually simple) melody and wacko chord lines. The lyrics are always spot on though.
Don't know where the applicable expression comes from "don't clap you'll only encourage them" but sadly its happening from the decline of much musical depth in so much music these days. No doubt you guys know and appreciate the music in "smile" e.g. sung by Nat King Cole and composed by Charlie Chaplin in 3/4 time 1936.
One music publisher told a composing friend of mine not to use more than 3 chords because people just don't understand now days.
Sting took part in a research programme watching the brains response/stimulation with music playing under MRI.
With variations of chord and melody line progressions they concluded there were a limited number of such progressions that made sense to the musical part of our brain.
"Our" brains meant their research extended past just his amazing musical comprehension and genre.
Go lightly please guys, and I believe we are basically on the same page and; would it be a bit presumptuous to suggest that too many drummers, (more so than the shredding guitarists mentioned above) might have given the good ones a bad name?
I want to pay the greatest tribute to just two wonderful drummers;- Ron Mead (RIP) and Ken Mansfield (RIP) whom I sometimes played with.
Such fine gentlemen, accompanists, musos and soloists. They knew about K.I.S.S. and "less is more".
Yes Audiokid - maybe I should venture outside the cave but present loyalty to a Church group prevails.

DogsoverLava Sat, 02/18/2017 - 20:49

I've always liked busy drummers -- guys like Mitch Mitchell, Baker, Moon....(I also like the Ringos of the world too) but I hate it when you have a busy drummer that steps all over everything.

There's a Canadian band I started listening to lately (older band - 90's early 2000's - unnamed here) and I really like their songwriting etc... but as I was listening to one of their biggest hits to learn it for a possible upcoming gig - that the drummer actually messes up the feel by stepping all over the transitions ----- and like I said - I like busy drummers -- Mitch Mitchell definitely one of my favs ---- but dudes - drumming is equally as much about the beats you don't play --- you don't have to nail every beat to the wall and every 1/4 or 8th around it... sometimes the silent beat or unplayed beat is the strongest.

audiokid Sat, 02/18/2017 - 20:55

Frango, post: 447605, member: 50393 wrote: One music publisher told a composing friend of mine not to use more than 3 chords because people just don't understand now days.

I was told this by my mentor 38 years ago. And he was told this by Roy Orbison back in the 50's. (The simple, (1 4 5) ... not anything new. Welcome to Blues and Rock & Roll.
It all goes back to our primitive instincts, I think. Plus, less busy leaves a lot of room for rhythmic feel and story telling.

Frango, post: 447605, member: 50393 wrote: Sting took part in a research programme watching the brains response/stimulation with music playing under MRI.
With variations of chord and melody line progressions they concluded there were a limited number of such progressions that made sense to the musical part of our brain.

I saw that documentary a few times. Wonderful information and so interesting. Sting is so cool as well. I can relate to a lot of what he was sharing. It seems musicians that are able to compose, share a lot of similarities.



Welcome to (y)

Frango Sun, 02/19/2017 - 02:25

DogsoverLava, post: 447606, member: 48175 wrote: There's a Canadian band I started listening to lately (older band - 90's early 2000's

Forgive me for a smile I had about the "older band" mate. But then again music is such a personal thing. I know. :)
FWIW as I suggested, perhaps listen to the music in "Smile" as sung by Nat King Cole and composed by who I always regarded as an idiot; Charlie Chaplin in 1936 in 3/4 time. Old story; don't judge a book (or comedian) by their cover. How about the music in "Embraceable you" or "All the things you are". "The man I love". You can tell I'm lamenting the loss of music in the music of today, but then go back further to Puccini Bach Beethoven etc etc. Now they really knew their chords.

BTW Thanks Audiokid for the lead to find that Sting documentary. I'm off to view it.

dvdhawk Tue, 02/21/2017 - 14:26

One last treatise on this thread, and I'll be done. This is right in my wheelhouse, so I've got some experience with this topic that may help someone. So if you're uncomfortable reading more than 140 characters, or would prefer a bunch of idiotic abbreviations and web-hipster acronyms, you'll want to avert your eyes - lest ye turn into a pillar of boredom.

The biggest problems I see as a sound installer / consultant to churches who often have this drummer problem, is they're trying to do (relatively loud) contemporary music with bass, drums, keyboards, guitars, vocals, and all the requisite amps and monitor wedges out of the corner (or choir area) of an old-fashioned sanctuary that may have been built before there was electricity - much less amplification. The old churches were specifically designed to naturally amplify speech, and often had glorious reverb to make the singing sound more majestic and impressive. They're stained-glass, plaster, and wood, and often have features that behave like parabolic reflectors to collect and project sound from the chancel area toward the pews. Now, let's stick a drum set in there and see how that goes. The results are exactly what you'd expect when you think of it in that way.

And as far as trumpet players go - there have been a lot more times I've wished I could stick a sock in the trumpet(s) on Sunday morning, than those times I'd wish to put the drummer in a plexiglass fishbowl. We had to add a separate folding plexiglass partition to protect the rest of the band from the blast of the 2-3 trumpets. And just like any other instrument, there's only so quiet you can play a trumpet and still get a true note, or true tone from it. And remember that plexiglass doesn't absorb sound at all, it just reflects a high percentage of it some other direction. On those occasions, the acoustic drums didn't set the volume, it was the horn section that dictated how loud the mix had to be to balance things out. We still put a good Crown 30D PZM on the horn side of the glass so you could still hear them in the IEM, the video production & webcast. The sax(s), trombone, french horn, etc. all had individual mics and were present in the FOH mix too, but that last thing I needed in the room was more trumpets.

The church I run sound at is a very contemporary sanctuary, that people in the trade would refer to as a "black-box theater". So acoustically speaking, it's above average, compared to a more conventional modern era church - which would be largely drywall / *wainscoting optional, drop-ceiling, carpeted floors and wooden pews. Our sound system is also above average with nice even coverage, and speakers that virtually disappear in the blackness of the ceiling, which is also extremely advantageous. As Chris noted you do have a percentage of seniors to deal with, and if they saw a large speaker would automatically assume it's too loud. Avoiding those misperceptions is an issue all churches should be aware of. I could keep the 17-pc band at a very reasonable volume (peaking around 95dB) for 15 minutes at a time, OSHA would approve, and everybody was happy. But of I hit 97 for a few seconds, I was probably going to hear about it being too loud. Meanwhile, if we had a self-contained southern gospel group come in with their own system and tight 4-part harmonies over booming canned tracks, at 108dB on the meter for an hour - I've got my Westone ER15s in, because I'm not mixing them, and everybody is all smiles.

Perception is a funny thing. There is a certain age group (who, let's be honest, are the financial backbone of most churches), that if they even see an electric guitar, they automatically think it's too loud, even before that guitar is out of the case. I'm always very careful not to hang a new speaker system in a church unless I'm 100% sure it will be completely wired and properly tuned by Sunday. If they see new speakers, they'd better be able to hear a noticeable improvement immediately. Another guy was telling me about an install a friend of his had done, and he made the mistake of hanging a new, very visible, array of speakers in a church before the wire-pulling could be completed. Needless to say, the complaints came rolling in on Sunday about how the new speakers sounded so much worse than the old ones, and these new speakers were much too loud, etc., when all the while they were really just listening to the old existing system, which proves how powerful perception and expectations are and how important that first impression is.

The black-box theater also made us a good stop for youth oriented events with some small touring bands who might be passing through. And whether they're self-contained or using the house system, the room holds up pretty well acoustically and mechanically, to levels over 120dB that would have the old, early 1900's, stained-glass and plaster churches coming unglued, (and preaching next week's message on, the fall of Jericho). The house system is very old-school speaker technology, but is still capable of rock-band impact, because it's built around one of my old regional touring rock band systems. But I have to be as aware of the appropriate volume for the situation as the musicians should be, just because we can blast them out of the seats, doesn't mean we should. I've read on a forum for church sound techs, a guy saying he is torn, because the preacher is telling him he wanted the sound of the Sunday morning service so loud it hurts. Personally, I would not be torn, I'd be gone. If I were given that mandate, I'd leave immediately, it's as simple as that.

Then the other inherent problem with this whole 'drums are too loud in church' thing is that, unless it's a mega-church, they're using unpaid volunteers musicians with widely varying skill levels, and not using professional caliber musicians. Of course there are exceptions, a small percentage of guys/gals who have excellent musical skills, but chose other vocations. The church I run sound for on a regular basis has had bands that consist of 3-4 people up to a 17-pc band. During those peak years, almost half of the 17-pc band members were professional music teachers from the local university and high schools. Unlike pop, rock, blues, country, etc., which are built on repetition, church music new and old is often full of unusual chords, complex meandering chord progressions, and key modulations. So if you don't read sheet music fairly well, you are in for an uphill battle. Over the years we've had a few electric guitar players come in with their rockstar egos and ridiculous rigs to match, and they always end up leaving after a couple weeks with their tail between their legs, because they just couldn't keep up. (and usually couldn't constrain themselves in terms of volume). And as Sheet pointed out years ago, if you can't check your ego at the door, or are using your church praise & worship band to fulfill some rockstar fantasy, then maybe you're not playing in the church band for the right reasons.

Church musicians often have to come in 2-3 hours early on Sunday, so they can have an hour or so to run through that morning's 5 songs, and still be done making noise before the morning classes get underway throughout the building. And if you're a working musician you might think, 'an hour or so' is plenty of time to run through just 5 songs. Bear in mind, you have a pool of musicians, so you might be thrown into a group with different people every time, with someone different as the designated "song leader". And to compound the problem, the 5 songs are also pooled in such a way that (unlike a working band that will play the same 30-40 songs every week), you may not have played some of these songs for months. So much of their time is spent not only rehearsing the song, but feeling out the song with a different lineup of musicians, and possibly in a different key to suit this week's song-leader. You may have a male vocalist leading one week and a female leading the next. Maybe we have a drummer this week, maybe it's just a djembe, or maybe it's both. Maybe we only have a keyboard player this week and no guitars. Maybe we've got 2 guitars and no keys. Often we don't have a bass player, and either go without, or a guitar player tries to make the switch to bass. So the songs, the talent pool and their varying skill levels, the instrumentation, the leaders, and song key might as well be drawn like bingo numbers.

There also are no 'throw-away' opening songs, like a band might play in a club to get comfortable and make adjustments. You are also expected to be ready to start this cobbled together musical masterpiece on cue, (without noodling around on your instrument prior to the downbeat, as so many musicians tend do) and do it with enough authority and feeling that A) the congregation feels confident enough in your arrangement that they can follow it and B) inspired enough by the feeling you're putting into it to sing along from the first word to the last. Otherwise, you have failed - but hey, no pressure. The words to the songs are being projected onto a huge screen(s), so if you fumble your way through the lyrics very much you will derail the congregation. You might find it easier to read the lyrics on the big screen along with them, but it won't tell you what notes to play or sing - if you're into that sort of thing. So the whole thing, which looks like an easy assignment from a distance, has a degree of difficulty baked into the format that a typical band on the circuit might not think of. And then at some point during the week, they gather again for a couple hours to start working on next week's songs, and meet up again early Sunday morning to start the process all over again, for free.

With all the ebb and flow, my job as soundman is to highlight a good strong vocal mix. The vocals have to sit high enough in the mix that the words are easily understood, and then give them the best musical foundation I can with the instrumentation I have to work with. No bass player?, I'm going to have to accentuate the lows the keyboard player is giving me, or really round out the bottom of the acoustic guitar. No drummer this week? OK, what's going to give these songs a pulse today? It's always different, and like everything else, the hard part is making it look easy.

There just aren't a lot of pro-caliber drummers, or any other musicians for that matter, lining up to play in church. I've been lucky enough to work with some great drummers who understand drumming dynamics, playing in a pit-orchestra, adjusting your technique to blend with the other instruments, and tuning a kit to subdue the volume without losing too much of the tone, but you'd need dynamite, or a great deal of money, to get them out of bed at 7am on a Sunday morning. Some of them would be better off just staying up from their Saturday night gig, which is a position I find myself in sometimes when I get home at 5am.

Frango Tue, 02/21/2017 - 14:33

Drummers are often regarded as non-musicians.

I’ve had bad experiences with bass drums tuned to e.g. D, played over the top of us musos playing in every other key, another letting rip on a tom-tom tuned to F when the song is in D.

Drummers should at least know about; time signatures, dynamics, brush work and discretion and from slim pickings they mostly lack the latter. Big noting their egos, not a musical use of the word.

As well drummers can even be tone deaf. Combined reasons why they’re often risky additions and the first to be dropped off during hard financial times for paid gigs.

A younger drummer once declared to me; “drums are the engine of a band”. In disbelief I wondered where has the music gone. A song for this occasion; “The day the music died”. He also advocated mics for drums. God forbid.

Yet I’ve had great pleasure on guitar and banjo with good drummers as fellow accompanists supporting world class front line musos.

I still back up a world class trumpeter putting some drummers in their place with - “You are here for us, not - we are here for you”.

For many years I worked with one of Australia’s best clarinet players in a trio with no drums and we really swung.

Back on topic; someone said that Church groups probably have the highest content of the worst musos and I ponder;- is it because group leaders might have little musicianship, leadership, experience and/or the inability to say no for fear of being “judgemental” within that Church environment? Our pastor calls a spade a spade and discretely/thankfully dismissed a Wanna-be young drummer.

I could be wrong and often am, but I’ll stand by this musician’s 57 years of playing and observations having “felt the pain” (as Audiokid Chris said.)

Frango Tue, 02/21/2017 - 19:07

dvdhawk, post: 447683, member: 36047 wrote: One last treatise on this thread, and I'll be done. This is right in my wheelhouse, so I've got some experience with this topic that may help someone. So if you're uncomfortable reading more than 140 characters, ----

Hi to DVD HAWK. This was an incredible treatise thank you. Read your wisdom twice and was very comfortable thanks. You are a legend and gave just too many good points to highlight any one delight of my appreciation, except to quote the above about helping someone.

DonnyThompson Wed, 02/22/2017 - 03:35

Frango, post: 447684, member: 50393 wrote: Drummers are often regarded as non-musicians.

Occasionally, I have felt that way about some guitar players I've worked with, as well as some bass players, horn players...
It's not indigenous to just drums. There are hacks in every facet of music.

I've bristled previously at your description of "us musos", with the implication in your description that drummers are not.

Frango, post: 447684, member: 50393 wrote: Drummers are often regarded as non-musicians.

Hmmm...I wonder how someone like Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl or Omar Hakim would feel about that description...

Frango, post: 447684, member: 50393 wrote: Yet I’ve had great pleasure on guitar and banjo with good drummers as fellow accompanists supporting world class front line musos.

You're referring to yourself and the others up front as "world class musos", while referring to the drummer as "the drummer".

Frango, post: 447684, member: 50393 wrote: As well drummers can even be tone deaf. Combined reasons why they’re often risky additions and the first to be dropped off during hard financial times for paid gigs.

Wow... I don't ... I don't even know where to begin in rebuttal, or how to respond to that.

You are guilty of generalizing based on your own limited experience. I'm sorry you've had to work with bad drummers. Perhaps you need to step outside of your cave, and see the rest of the world. Drummers are musicians, no differently than you. Good musicians really are out there...players of every instrument. I think you'd find that out if you got away from the one or two scenarios that you're basing your opinions on...

Frango Thu, 03/05/2020 - 04:41

In the 3 years since I last wrote, one new great drummer has shared in the roster at church.
But Lyle refers to himself as a percussionist because of his finesse on the diverse equipment he sometimes bought along, but often just played the existing drum kit, and very discretely, and his accompanist attitude proved how "less is more", and IS possible.
Proof that no acoustic shielding is needed as discussed in previous posts.
Q. But where were the drummers who could have learnt (what the topic basically suggests:- "Drums are too loud in Church setting".) ??
A. Probably in the congregation.
Again:- For a classic Muppet's example on this subject google-- Rita Moreno Animal fever.avi where the drummer Animal cops a pair of cymbals to the head. Hilarious.
Whoever set this skit up surely was motivated by some insight.

DVD HAWKE summed it up so well in that with electronic drums, HE had control of the drummers volume for Front Of House.

Re Donny's comments above, my experiences have been far more than a "couple", and yes indiscretions apply to more than drummers, and on reading the posts again many seem to be Rock oriented, so the topic "Drums are too loud in Church" surely remains relatively valid given the chalk and cheese needs. Horses for courses?
Thankfully not everyone likes just Rock, or just Jazz or just Church music etc otherwise those venues couldn't cope. Maybe Rock bands Vs Church bands should "live and let live" and never the twain shall meet? :)

paulears Thu, 03/05/2020 - 06:09

I love these topics because they show the differences between roles and how we understand or usually misunderstand each other's. Musicians are not all the same. Many have traditional formal music training and others learn on the job, so to speak. As musical performance is an art, not a craft, one person's style will be different to another, and it is unacceptable to 'tell' any creative person they need to do it differently. Not just drummers - I remember cringing when a fresh new graduate sound man went up to the artiste and told him he needed to keep the microphone the same distance from his lips, as he was pulling back in places and this impacted on the sound man's ability to do his job. The very well know in the 60s-80s household name smiled and asked him if he knew the set very well, and if he liked the songs? The five minutes of sound check clearly resulted in a no, and a don't know. He said "well, I know the songs very well, and if I pull back from the mic it's because I want to fade at that point and I know you don't know this. If I need to change my voice I will go in close, and sing quieter. All you need to do is stop me being too loud. Can you do that?" Of course, he said, and the guy walked away. "Who does he think he is?" Was the response to me. Tom Jones, I said.

If you explain problems to musicians, they often find solutions. What you don't do is tell them they have to play quieter, use a different kit, or change their sticks. You ask them what we can do as a collaboration. The notion that they don't matter and the crowd does is absurd. They will want to help but would a sound man be happy if a drummer turned up with a set of new drum mics and then insisted on repatching the effects and doing his own eq? Or worse, insisting the Loudspeaker brand was changed or repositioned? As a bass player, for years I've always used a favourite bass and it plays quietly. I don't use radical eq or pedals, and I know what it sounds like, so I'm happy with DI and IEMs. I get pretty fed up when the sound op tells me it's dull and can I play with a pick for some definition. No, I can't! If I wanted that I'd use my 8x10" and the Jazz which I could thrash. Plenty of drummers I know would simply walk if a non-musician gave them a set of sticks and said use them. I'm sure that's not what was meant, but it came across like that.

Frango Thu, 03/05/2020 - 08:21

How very perceptive Paul and I read/enjoyed it twice. I too can relate how budding sound desk operators think they have to keep changing our levels once the F.O.H. and fold back levels are set. Over most of my 60 years as a jazz muso, we managed our own levels and pulled back when needed.
I too play double bass, guitar, banjo, keyboard and used to play trom and sax and played thousands of jazz gigs, many musical productions, Church bands and other jazz gigs etc . Many younger operators with rock band mentality now have the belief that drummers should dominate the balance of all genre bands and even have the cheek to mike them. :(