Drums In The Church

This last weekend our Master’s Commission graduated. As part of their graduation they led the Sat PM service. One of the things they wanted to do was to bring the accoustic kit and clearsonic cage with absorber pannels from the chapel where our young adults meet.

Some of the worship team has been asking about using accoustic drums, but honestly we’ve been burned by them in the past. In hindsight there are several reasons we have not been happy with acoustic kits:
– We’ve never used a proper shield with absorbtion. If the shield doesn’t surround the kit it it’s only reflecting the sound, the reflections will then escape. If there are no absorption panels it’s just reflecting the sound.
– We’ve never used good mics, it’s usually been cheap Shure PG mics
– We haven’t had the dynamics to gate and comp as needed
– Drummer has used a monitor which just makes everything louder and muddier

So this time:
-We had the clearsonic drum shield with the absorber panels.
-Good mics (Audix d6 on kick, d4 on floor toms, d2 on the other toms, Shure sm81 on hihat and overheads, Audix i5 on snare)
-Drummer was on an Aviom with headset
-We had all the dynamic we wanted on our M7CL

And honestly, even with my bias from bad experiences getting good drum sound at decent levels, I thought everything sounded great. This was a with a quick setup and quick a quick sound check. I really would have like to experiment more with mic placement (kick mic should have been further in the shell, it was picking up too much resonance from the outside skin for my liking and trying out some different mics (i5 vs sm57 on snare)

We even had a small choir mic’d on stage and was able to get a clean signal out of them. I think we might be trying acoustic drums soon but with our regular band and style to see if we want to make the switch.

Drums in the church is always a balance. A balance between the sonic characteristics, dynamics and volume. Either acoustic or electric it takes money to do either right.
-Electric needs a good kit, brain and good DIs
-Acoustic needs a good kit, shield with absorption, good mics and dynamics

Overall I liked the sound and energy the acoustic kit brought. We ran only about 2dB hotter but some of that could also be the more rock driven sound of the band. I also liked just the challenge and mixing things up. I feel like a lot of the services at our church fall into ruts. That from a tech standpoint we can almost go into automatic. We know exactly what’s going to happen next.

I’ll keep you posted about what happens. I also have some video projects I’ll share later this week.


May 12, 2008. Sound.


  1. John replied:

    It’s been my experience that shields can sometimes bite you worst than no-shield will. A good drummer can tone down his playing to appropriate levels. a front shield is almost mandatory though, so your vocal mics aren’t acting as overheads.

    I toured with a southern gospel mens quartet, who traveled with a drummer. We never put a shield up, and he was never too loud. He knew how to play to the room, and thats what it takes, is not only good drums, good mics, but a good drummer. And sometimes, you don’t need to mic everything. Sometimes a kick and two nice overheads appropriately placed will give you the best drum sound.

    If your putting the drums against a wall, then yes, add some absorption, but if you’ve got a lot of open air behind a drummer, or curtains, it’s not really necessary. A shorter shield is also better than a taller shield, as it pretty much cannon’s the drum sound up and out of the shield.

    I often find that a drum kit sounds too contained, and that ‘in another room sound’ when in a cage. I’ve also had some issues before where because there was so much energy in the drum cage that there were some serious phasing issues that gave us some really nasty drum sounds.

    the best drum isolation I’ve ever seen involved a shield around the front, no higher than the highest cymbal (just below overhead mic height) with the same height clear sonic panel absorbers behind the drummer. It helped bring the stage volume down, but still allowed the kit to breath. At The Creek, we’ve found our drum kit sounding better by taking almost half of of our absorption out of the kit.

    Lastly, LIGHT cymbals are your friend. you can hit them just as hard and still get the sizzle without the loudness of heavier cymbals.

  2. Dave replied:

    Hey John,
    Thanks for the feedback. I agree with you that the most important piece of the drum puzzle is a good drummer. I’ve had the chance to mix only a few drummers who knew how to control their dynamics. Most of them fall into the “Thunder Rock Drummer”.

    I do agree with keeping mics at a minimum. I find myself starting with the kick, snare and overhead. Then I’ll mix more in as needed.

    And that’s a great tip about the light cymbals. I’m much more of a techie than a musician so if we go down this route I’ll be looking for some help from some guys with experience.

    You can see our stage here:

    It’s small for the size of our room. And the choir stand right next to our drums. That’s my biggest concern is keeping the drums out of the choir mics.

  3. John replied:

    I’m all tech no musician, but a drummer acoustician (oxymoron it feels like, I know) suggested that to me 3 churches ago when we were battling a lot of acoustics problems. What I’ve done in the past with that problem is only shielded the choir side of the drum kit + the front with half-height iso-panels on the choir side as well. If you soak up some of the free space on the wall behind your drummer and have a drummer who can control himself, you could probably do this.

    When you shield the kick drum, make sure you leave some distance to allow the kick to breathe, I’d also avoid iso infront of the kick drum as well.

    Plasmas are a nice touch, but I’d add some color wall-washes and what not to it all as well. Your room looks like it might be dark enough for color splits (http://www.aclighting.com/northamerica/colorsplit/index.htm) which would give you two colors top to bottom on the wall. They work ok, but our room just simply has too much light in it. Of course, a good parcan with a medium spot and a gel pointed down on the wall would do the trick as well.

  4. Drums In The Church (again) « creative|ideas replied:

    […] on September 4, 2008 by Dave We’re still using the electric kit I’ve talked about here. I think they’ve set a timeframe to move to acoustic drums for Memorial Day 2009! I […]

  5. Creative Church Media » Blog Archive » Monitor Wars replied:

    […] I haven’t had to fight the monitors war much at Grace Outreach Center. This is because before I came (9+ years ago) they were using a TDM Monitoring system from Harry Boling. Harry was a long time volunteer who ran FOH for us. It was 16 channels that were split at our patch bay. They ran over coax cable to the mix stations. We’ve also had electric drums. (My thoughts on electric vs. acoustic drums). […]

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