Drums in Church - Are You in the Monitors?

Ruok

Silver Member
It was brought up by a few of you in another thread about mics on church kits, or the lack thereof. I don't want to derail that thread so I started this one.

Mic'ing drums in church is a sore spot with me. The drums in my church are mic'ed, but I can't get the sound guy to turn me up in the monitors. They're barely in it, if at all. He always says that he can hear me just fine. But I sometimes get told by people in the congregation that the drums could hardly be heard. I've told this to the main current sound guy more than once, and he claims he will turn me up, but I never notice a difference. Then when they (usually a different sound person) do turn me up, I tend to get compliments. Not that I'm fishing for compliments. I just want the drums to be heard as clearly and as evenly as the other instruments. Plus I don't want to bash the drums in a relatively small room while playing hymns.

The other times that others have played the drums in my church (I play the majority of the time) and I'm in the congregation listening, I was ALWAYS disappointed in the drum volume and sound because they just weren't putting the drums in the monitors. All the other instruments were clearly heard, while the drums were being drowned out. And those guys play the drums louder than I do. I know it is usually the other way around with drum volume being too much. But not in this church building, because the acoustics are pretty poor. I'm a light player, and use mostly light sticks. I can play extremely softly with sticks. I learned to play that way decades ago. I can obviously play louder too, when appropriate. So there is no way the drums are too loud. In fact, when I first started playing in this church I sometimes got mocked (politely though) for playing too lightly. If someone said this to me, I would ask them to talk to the sound person, since they have the power to make me heard or not heard, no matter how hard I'm hitting.

I do realize that we don't have the best sound system. Sometimes they try to turn things up but get feedback or something. The sound team are also not professionals either. My frustration is that when I try to give constructive criticism to get a better mix, he'll say they'll do something about it, then usually don't. I think I'll be talking to the worship leader about this in hopes that she'll take the time to listen to the mix out in the sanctuary during practice, because she rarely does.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
Yeah sounds real familiar-play your heart out and no one but front row and close hear you. Usually you have volunteer sound guys-some know something others don't. But don't let it get you frustrated- remember really you're playing for an "audience of one" (the reason everyone is there). If no one hears you but you got everybody else sounding good and everyone does hear-then great job done. Be anxious for nothing my friend.
 

TomR

Junior Member
It's really difficult to say what the best course of action is without being there to experience it. Small and medium-sized churches are notorious for volunteers running sound. While commendable for their ministry/service, they often fall far short (IOW, they don't know what they're doing).

Some thoughts: I can't imagine why you need drums in the monitors in a relatively small room. If you mean to say that drums aren't in the mains, that's different. Even so, in a small sanctuary drums normally should not need sound reinforcement. If you play with such a light touch that the congregation can hardly hear you, perhaps you can work on playing more assertively. I'd wager the singers appreciate that you don't hit hard, especially the crash cymbals. ;)

A substandard sound system run by an inexperienced sound team doesn't help your cause either. Is it possible the other instruments and vocals are too loud? I think you're right to get the worship leader involved, assuming she has a good ear for balancing the instruments and vocals.
 

Chollyred

Senior Member
I play e-drums at my church and have the same problem; so I learned to cheat a little. I turn the volume down a little on the module for sound check, then turn it back up for performance. Not much, just a little. the problem with sound check is that each instrument is set individually. When everyone plays at once, the mix is often a train wreck.
 

Peedy

Senior Member
As I said in the other thread, no drum mics in either of the two rooms we play in. However. .

A few weeks ago our worship leader instructed me to play one song she wanted to rock out “really loud” in our normal smaller room. It was the last song in the set and the pastor had requested it. While Mick isn’t ever going to call me because Charlie’s too old, I brought it big time. I exorcized those drums. My wife said all three of our mic’ed singers were straining their voices just to be heard. Sound like a disaster? Nope. More of a learning experience.

While we all agreed at the next week’s practice it was over the top, the whole congregation stood up and enthusiastically sung along (that’s the general idea). We got a standing O to cap it off.

At least now I’m beginning to hear talk about adding one more mic into the mix. Plus the other band members are beginning to verbally reevaluate their perception of the instrument.

Pete
 

Ruok

Silver Member
Thanks for the responses so far. I appreciate all of them!

To clarify a bit, I don't like having the drums in my own monitor. I would actually play softer if I heard myself coming through the stage monitors. So the drums are not in any stage monitors, and everyone else is fine with that. My issue is definitely with the house speakers that the congregation hears.

I like every other instrument and vocal to be nice and loud in my own monitor. I try to play to the volume level that I hear from them. So that when they're quieter, I'm quieter. When they're louder, I'm louder, etc. I definitely don't want to "stand out". I just want the drums to be relatively the same volume level as everything else, both on the stage and in the congregation. From where I'm sitting at the drums, the sound is usually perfect. I can easily ask to hear more or less of this person or more or less of that instrument on the stage and, to be honest, they do a great job of that.

In regards to the size of the room; it is not a very small room, nor is it a huge arena. I think we can fit about 120 - 150 chairs in the sanctuary if we wanted. The shape of the room is also strange. It has odd angles and the sound changes as you move around the room, as I'm sure is normal for any room, regardless of shape.

Anyway, I have practice tonight and will humbly ask our song leader what she thinks of our house mix. She was actually involved with my last conversation with the sound man and she heard my concerns that the drums sometimes gets lost out there. She witnessed the sound guy basically brushing off my concerns. So it won't be new news to her.
 

Skitch

Pioneer Member
It was brought up by a few of you in another thread about mics on church kits, or the lack thereof. I don't want to derail that thread so I started this one.

Mic'ing drums in church is a sore spot with me. The drums in my church are mic'ed, but I can't get the sound guy to turn me up in the monitors. They're barely in it, if at all. He always says that he can hear me just fine. But I sometimes get told by people in the congregation that the drums could hardly be heard. I've told this to the main current sound guy more than once, and he claims he will turn me up, but I never notice a difference. Then when they (usually a different sound person) do turn me up, I tend to get compliments. Not that I'm fishing for compliments. I just want the drums to be heard as clearly and as evenly as the other instruments. Plus I don't want to bash the drums in a relatively small room while playing hymns.

The other times that others have played the drums in my church (I play the majority of the time) and I'm in the congregation listening, I was ALWAYS disappointed in the drum volume and sound because they just weren't putting the drums in the monitors. All the other instruments were clearly heard, while the drums were being drowned out. And those guys play the drums louder than I do. I know it is usually the other way around with drum volume being too much. But not in this church building, because the acoustics are pretty poor. I'm a light player, and use mostly light sticks. I can play extremely softly with sticks. I learned to play that way decades ago. I can obviously play louder too, when appropriate. So there is no way the drums are too loud. In fact, when I first started playing in this church I sometimes got mocked (politely though) for playing too lightly. If someone said this to me, I would ask them to talk to the sound person, since they have the power to make me heard or not heard, no matter how hard I'm hitting.

I do realize that we don't have the best sound system. Sometimes they try to turn things up but get feedback or something. The sound team are also not professionals either. My frustration is that when I try to give constructive criticism to get a better mix, he'll say they'll do something about it, then usually don't. I think I'll be talking to the worship leader about this in hopes that she'll take the time to listen to the mix out in the sanctuary during practice, because she rarely does.
A frustrating situation to say the least!

I just left a situation similar to this after being there for years!

At MOST churches, you're going to be too loud because they can still see you and most people have the misguided notion that live music should sound just like what they hear on their iTunes, CDs on their stereos at home or in their car; i.e. if something's too loud, they should just be able to turn it all down. Live music is a different situation and I know that you know that.

Furthermore, this isn't relegated to churches as one of the groups which I played for at a casino, the group which I will call "The Imposters". The female vocalist began to complain about she thought that she was hearing too much drums. I asked her "How loud does your drummer play at your show in Branson?"

"Oh, we don't have a drummer; we sing to tracks."

and this is problem with many vocalists who don't regularly sing with or have never sung with a band; they don't have that experience. They don't think to ask the sound man to turn them up in the monitors so it must be the drummer's fault.

In my situation, I knew that the drums were not in the FOH - Front of House - for a least one service because there was no slapback echo from the back wall.

Many churches want to look as though they are with it and hip without being with it and hip. They want to see drums but not hear drums and this isn't relegated to drums. It happens with other instruments such as bass and guitars as well. Believe me; it's even more frustrating when you're playing electronic drums, which are made for everyone but drummers!

There was much mentioned about the volunteers in previous threads and that rings pretty much true with the occasional real soundman being there; they do exist but are very rare as is the church where everyone is seasoned and great at what they do. This is the one church where you can get spoiled real quick. Just because one claims to be a soundman doesn't make it so and it is difficult to deal with volunteers. Any competent FOH soundman knows that you set the volume of the band to the volume of the drums.

I can't tell you what to do but I can tell you what I did; I simply decided that if the Music Director and pastor just wanted me to show up play so that they could SEE me play, it wasn't my responsibility what they did with my performance. I grew a thick skin, quit offering input and simply just showed up, played and grew a high tolerance for pain, you might say. I decided to "quit throwing my pearls before swine", keep all of my great ideas to myself and for my own projects and use. The MD and pastor never listened to my input or gave it much weight. This church isn't growing anyway which is also not my fault; there's no excitement there when I look into the congregation's faces every Sunday morning; they're bored out of their minds. This church has stagnated and the music is one of the reasons why. And, yes, it is sad but I decided that there was nothing that I could do about it!

In your situation, I might start playing louder if the mics aren't even on. Or, if someone came up to me and told me that they couldn't hear me, I might tell them that they need to go tell the worship leader.

 

Ruok

Silver Member
Thanks Skitch.

Sorry to hear of you having to leave your church for those various reasons (or did you just leave the "situation" and not the church?). I think when we are in a form of ministry at church, we all should desire the best we can do. That will be different for each particular individual and each particular church, certainly. But it's sad when all we are trying to do is improve that which we've been tasked to do and don't want it to be inferior, when it could easily be made better.

I'm trying to just let it go. When we make a completely reasonable suggestion to improve the overall sound only to get shot down each time, it can become quite discouraging. Recently at my church, there was a funeral service and some people who are not part of our congregation used the sound system and completely changed everything on the sound board. So one of the people involved felt guilty and humbly said he would come and try to get the sound back to normal. He has a lot of experience in doing this sort of stuff. He used to attend our church years ago, but not as a sound person, and he remembered me. He said, "You're that poor guy that used to have your drums in the corner and nobody could hear you!" I'm glad he said that in front of the current soundman because I got to say that it can still be a problem, even though the drums are now in the middle of the stage and not tucked off to the side in that pit.

So last night I got to talk to the music director. No sound people were there for this practice and I got to talk openly. She actually spoke most of what I wanted to say for me. When I asked her if she could hear the drums clearly as I was playing with no one else playing, she walked around the room and said she noticed a noticeable drop in volume and couldn't hear the drums coming out of the house speakers at all at the current settings. She seemed quite disturbed about that and said basically to me all that I have been saying to the sound guy for over 2 years. She really desires to have a decent mix. She claims she will start monitoring the mix for Sunday mornings and will tell the sound man to tweak things to get a better level on everything. So we'll see if that actually happens.
 
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MrPockets

Gold Member
I guess I am lucky to have a very dedicated and diligent sound engineer. He even had me eq my bass so it wasn't so boomy today (Roland v-20).
 

Ruok

Silver Member
Update: No change.

The music director (I like that MD term that Skitch used better than worship leader and will start using it more :)), said nothing to the sound man today. Without me saying a thing or asking anything, she admitted to me that she didn't say anything to him. She said she forgot. I was purposely not going to say anything to her or to the sound man. I did speak to our guitarist and simply stated that it would be nice to have some drums in the house mix, even if it's just a little. He just smiled. Oh well.
 

Skitch

Pioneer Member
Update: No change.

The music director (I like that MD term that Skitch used better than worship leader and will start using it more :)), said nothing to the sound man today. Without me saying a thing or asking anything, she admitted to me that she didn't say anything to him. She said she forgot. I was purposely not going to say anything to her or to the sound man. I did speak to our guitarist and simply stated that it would be nice to have some drums in the house mix, even if it's just a little. He just smiled. Oh well.

Yes, that's pretty much what you're going to run into in most of these situations; the fear of hearing drums! If you like the situation and can deal with it as is, then go for it and be pleasantly surprised if it changes for the better. Just because someone can find the volume knob on a car stereo, doesn't make him a sound man!

Mike

http://www.mikemccraw.com
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Lennytoons

Senior Member
Some churches do not want drums....period. A Praise band playing contemporary Christian music needs good solid drumming but I guarantee one or people in the church object to the drums.
 

Ruok

Silver Member
Some churches do not want drums....period. A Praise band playing contemporary Christian music needs good solid drumming but I guarantee one or people in the church object to the drums.
Probably true. But we've had drums in this church since 2004. I know because I was the first drummer ever to play on Sunday mornings there. Even I would object to having drums in church if they were played, (or put through the speakers) at a real loud volume. The drums should blend in with everything else and shouldn't be louder than all the other instruments or vocals, IMO. No one should have to wear earplugs in church either. But I know that loud music is actually becoming common these days with some churches. It's becoming a rock concert. That's not my cup of tea personally.

I think the majority in this church wants drums. The current pastor is only in his twenties, as is the sound man. I'm now in my 50s and started playing at this church in my late 30s. It's been really great for 15 years for me. But this past year I've heard from some people that they couldn't hear the drums well. I figured it was always somewhat on the quiet side. It seems to be more so lately. There's absolutely no reason for it.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I promise, I'm not trying to be a jerk here, but I've been doing the church praise band thing for a long time, and I have two things for you:

1. I'd bet you a crisp $100 bill that the Music Director didn't "forget." She just didn't do it because she doesn't want to piss the sound guy off or make waves. I've worked with dozens of these folks who just avoid problems as opposed to hitting them head on, especially in church. They are in the business of keeping everyone happy. You are stuck, my friend. Do nothing, you look like a chump, and they know they've "got you." Say/Do something more severe or raise a stink, you're seen as a jerk.

2. I hate to say it, but nothing is going to change. If the Music Director doesn't have your back, and the sound guy won't do anything differently, then nothing will ever change. Ever. That is, until someone leaves or dies. This is the way church music works.

You need to ask yourself, if nothing changes in my scenario, can I still do this? If the answer is no, then you need to quit. If the answer is yes, keep playing. I grit my teeth through a lot of playing at church. I'm only there for my wife and daughter, and they are worth it.
 
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trickg

Silver Member
I promise, I'm not trying to be a jerk here, but I've been doing the church praise band thing for a long time, and I have two things for you:

1. I'd bet you a crisp $100 bill that the Music Director didn't "forget." She just didn't do it because she doesn't want to piss the sound guy off or make waves. I've worked with dozens of these folks who just avoid problems as opposed to hitting them head on, especially in church. They are in the business of keeping everyone happy. You are stuck, my friend. Do nothing, you look like a chump, and they know they've "go you." Say/Do something more severe or raise a stink, you're seen as a jerk.

2. I hate to say it, but nothing is going to change. If the Music Director doesn't have your back, and the sound guy won't do anything differently, then nothing will ever change. Ever. That is, until someone leaves or dies. This is the way church music works.

You need to ask yourself, if nothing changes in my scenario, can I still do this? If the answer is no, then you need to quit. If the answer is yes, keep playing. I grit my teeth through a lot of playing at church. I'm only there for my wife and daughter, and they are worth it.
^^ This. Also, it sounds like the problem is compounded - not only are you not in the monitors, you're also not in the house mix. Time to bring in some 5Bs or 2Bs and start digging in to the kit to insure that you are heard properly.

I've been at churches like that and left a church band once because the sound man was garbage, and I didn't feel it was right for me to be up on the stage in the praise band while being pretty much constantly pissed off at the sound guy.

He's not the only sound guy I've had an issue with though. I had other issues with a guy who I swear was the least helpful, laziest SOB sound guy I've ever met. I wanted to incorporate a click track in my drumming at the church, as well as going to in-ears so I didn't damage my ears. This guy had the nerve to tell me that the returns on the snake weren't actually returns because the snake had been custom made and they didn't include them. Riiiiight. :rolleyes:

After asking and asking, going to the MD and seeing if he could get some motion on it, and waiting for this lazy slob to actually do his job, I finally ended up putting together my own setup where I literally ditched the floor wedge, took the amplified signal that would have driven it and put it through a box designed to attenuate it, and then put together my own IEM setup so that I could make it work.

I think that many sound guys actually get off on having that kind of power, and basically refusing to do something that would be normally be a no-brainer.
 

BillBachman

Gold Member
Drums are loud, and in a fishbowl are even louder. With normal in ear monitors all I'd want is a bit of kick drum since I don't want to turn up the monitor feed any louder than I need to hear the other instruments over my acoustic drums. However, when I add gun muffs over my ears in addition to the in-ears, the acoustic bleed is much farther reduced such that I can add drums into my mix and enjoy the direct sound from the microphones. That's my favorite answer when playing in the fishbowl.
 

Skitch

Pioneer Member
Thanks Skitch.

Sorry to hear of you having to leave your church for those various reasons (or did you just leave the "situation" and not the church?). I think when we are in a form of ministry at church, we all should desire the best we can do. That will be different for each particular individual and each particular church, certainly. But it's sad when all we are trying to do is improve that which we've been tasked to do and don't want it to be inferior, when it could easily be made better.

I'm trying to just let it go. When we make a completely reasonable suggestion to improve the overall sound only to get shot down each time, it can become quite discouraging. Recently at my church, there was a funeral service and some people who are not part of our congregation used the sound system and completely changed everything on the sound board. So one of the people involved felt guilty and humbly said he would come and try to get the sound back to normal. He has a lot of experience in doing this sort of stuff. He used to attend our church years ago, but not as a sound person, and he remembered me. He said, "You're that poor guy that used to have your drums in the corner and nobody could hear you!" I'm glad he said that in front of the current soundman because I got to say that it can still be a problem, even though the drums are now in the middle of the stage and not tucked off to the side in that pit.

So last night I got to talk to the music director. No sound people were there for this practice and I got to talk openly. She actually spoke most of what I wanted to say for me. When I asked her if she could hear the drums clearly as I was playing with no one else playing, she walked around the room and said she noticed a noticeable drop in volume and couldn't hear the drums coming out of the house speakers at all at the current settings. She seemed quite disturbed about that and said basically to me all that I have been saying to the sound guy for over 2 years. She really desires to have a decent mix. She claims she will start monitoring the mix for Sunday mornings and will tell the sound man to tweak things to get a better level on everything. So we'll see if that actually happens.
Thanks; there were other considerations as well but I did leave the entire situation all together. From what I have read, I think that you and I are like minded on this; we give our best effort to God because He is worthy.

One of the biggest problems is that the guy in charge, the MD sat at the back of the room in the tech booth and can't really see any reaction to the music., of which there was nothing but boredom. He graduated from an "Important university" in the area and has a music ed degree - big wup! At this "University", they spend a lot of time deriding successful musical acts, like the Eagles. He also has the opinion that "because he's listening to it on the radio, everyone else must be listening to that song as well."

The pastors sat in the front row, looking to the platform which means they also were unaware of the congregation's lack of response.

But that was then and to your situation;

There are usually people in a church who are the money and they usually get their way. If they don't like drums or think that drums are inappropriate.........well, you know the rest. They also use their money to bully their way into positions where they don't belong, such as playing in the band or trying to run the band, when they don't even know how to play their instrument. I'm sorry to say this but it is the reality. And usually, the people may have lots of money but they don't have the future.

Like me and my situation, you may have to basically put up with as long as you can. If you find that you can no longer deal with the situation, handle it professionally and discretely and resign. I'm not saying that you should immediately do this. My choice was simple; I was getting an attitude that wasn't conducive to worship so I wrote a letter of resignation and signed it. I also wanted to walk away on friendly terms while I still could. Problem solved. Next drummer...........

Mike

http://www.mikemccraw.com
http://www.dominoretroplate.com
http://www.facebook.com/mike.mccraw
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Skitch

Pioneer Member
^^ This. Also, it sounds like the problem is compounded - not only are you not in the monitors, you're also not in the house mix. Time to bring in some 5Bs or 2Bs and start digging in to the kit to insure that you are heard properly.

I've been at churches like that and left a church band once because the sound man was garbage, and I didn't feel it was right for me to be up on the stage in the praise band while being pretty much constantly pissed off at the sound guy.

He's not the only sound guy I've had an issue with though. I had other issues with a guy who I swear was the least helpful, laziest SOB sound guy I've ever met. I wanted to incorporate a click track in my drumming at the church, as well as going to in-ears so I didn't damage my ears. This guy had the nerve to tell me that the returns on the snake weren't actually returns because the snake had been custom made and they didn't include them. Riiiiight. :rolleyes:

After asking and asking, going to the MD and seeing if he could get some motion on it, and waiting for this lazy slob to actually do his job, I finally ended up putting together my own setup where I literally ditched the floor wedge, took the amplified signal that would have driven it and put it through a box designed to attenuate it, and then put together my own IEM setup so that I could make it work.

I think that many sound guys actually get off on having that kind of power, and basically refusing to do something that would be normally be a no-brainer.

If you start playing louder and then get complaints that the drums are too loud, then you know that people hearing drums is the real problem and there's nothing you can do to fix that because it isn't YOUR problem. I typically stay away from electronic drums because the fastest way to end a drummer's playing career is for him to start using electronic drums which are conducive to damaging your hands, arms and wrists - especially the cheaper ones.

Mike

http://www.mikemccraw.com
http://www.dominoretroplate.com
http://www.facebook.com/mike.mccraw
http://twitter.com/mikemccraw
http://www.skillpages.com/mike.mccraw
 

Skitch

Pioneer Member
And maybe they should have the sound engineer take a few weeks off and get some different (real) sound engineers in there..........

Mike

http://www.mikemccraw.com
http://www.dominoretroplate.com
http://www.facebook.com/mike.mccraw
http://twitter.com/mikemccraw
http://www.skillpages.com/mike.mccraw
 

Ruok

Silver Member
There are some changes coming up soon at my church that may result in changes for the better, or possibly for worse. We are going to be starting a second team of musicians and a second sound team. The church is going to two morning services and now there's the need for the whole music ministry to grow. I may end up with a different sound person in charge, at least at times. We'll see how that goes.

Another area that has gone downhill is the recordings, which is an entirely separate mix than the house mix. We record the entire service. The quality of the recorded sound has deteriorated this past year. One reason for that was we received as a gift a new soundboard. Well, it was actually a used soundboard, but supposedly better than the one we had. The sound team (the sound man does have helpers) has now had well over one year to figure this new board out. It seems that they have had trouble understanding how to control the board. Instead of improving the recordings over time, they have really gotten worse.

I used to be able to control the drum mix on the recordings with the old soundboard. They left that up to me since I am the one who uploads the sermon to the web from the CD recording and hears the whole recorded service first. Plus I also make the copies for those who sign up for a CD. I've given the CD mix over to the sound guys last year with this new board since I have not had the time to learn how this one works, and they just cannot get a consistent decent mix, or a good sound.

When I make a suggestion on what the CD mix sounds like, when they make adjustments, it often goes from one extreme to the other. There seems to be no middle ground. My own drum mixer was taken away last month so that I no longer have control over that anymore. The team thought it would be better that the sound man have control over the drum mix.

There may be a new drummer, or possibly 2 new drummers, coming aboard. One also plays guitar and keys. If they work out all right, and end up in the music ministry, and I'm still struggling with all of this, I may just hand it over to them.
 
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