For those who play at church or not.

Vintage Old School

Gold Member
I used to play in my church and I absolutely hated playing behind the plexiglass wall. I could never get anyone to understand that the "unwanted sound" actually bounces back at me. At least I had in-ears to minimize that issue.

What I don't understand is why church music is the only genre to insist the drummer play behind a shield, a box, or even worse, an electric kit.

I've been to many clubs over the years and witnessed countless jazz, blues, folk, rock, etc. acts play without any of that crap. The sound was always appropriate for the venue.

Why can't that happen in churches?
Probably the single biggest issue is perception--some churches only employ a drum shield because church members "perceive" drums are louder when they are in the open than behind a shield. This is simply a leadership strategy to reduce the number of complaints.

The second reason so many churches require a drum shield is because of the blind leading the blind: they see other churches doing it, so in their mind, that's got to be the only way to do it.

Other common issues may include poor room acoustics, inexperienced sound techs, and drummers who have not yet mastered playing to the room.

Once we got our PA fixed (improper installation and feed to the board), made the appropriate acoustical applications to the room (installed treatments and re-angled the sheetrock on three walls), cleaned up the feed on our subwoofer and provided hands-on training to our volunteer sound tech crew were we able to ditch the drum shield and have our drummers play to the room. It sounds awesome!
 

makinao

Silver Member
Some years ago the pastor of our church asked me about a shield because people were complaining about the "loudness" of the drums. I told him that the 1) the drums were not set up and tuned properly so they sounded like crap, 2) the drummers did not understand the dynamics of the church's acoustics, and 3) the band leader simply didn't know how to conduct the band and she was paying too much attention to the singers. I told him that a shield would create more problems than it could solve, and volunteered to hold workshops with the drummers and the band to work out how to set up and play so as to minimise the complaints. But the pastor and church council went ahead and got the shield anyway, and as I expected did not solve the problem.

A year later, the pastor invited me on short notice to play drums for the church anniversary program. Originally it was for the processional which I had written a few years before specially for the church. I said yes, on three conditions, which were meant to prove my original point. First, I would be allowed to play my own kit without a shield. Second that I be allowed to select and play on the offertory. Third that I be allowed to have an afternoon workshop the day before the service with the drummers on drum setup and tuning (because I had also volunteered to donate new heads).

Of the four drummers, only one attended the workshop. But the bass player did too and we had a good time. As expected the kit was in terrible shape. Uneven tensions, dented heads, masking tape, awful. I practised with the group using the church's kit after we had tuned it. But while it sounded slightly better, I discovered that the shield prevented the drummer from hearing the rest of the group (the sound system has no monitoring).

Everything went fine the next day. People noticed the Church's kit sounded better, but only slightly because no matter how you set the drums up, all you can hear from the pews is thuddy, boomy, unfocused reflected sound because the sound system has no space for the drums. I on the other hand got lots of thanks for my playing, and compliments on the sound of my kit. I was using rather high tuning, coated ambassadors all over, no mufflers except for cloth strips on batter and reso kick heads, a steel snare with 42-strands, and lot of cymbals including a 22" A medium ride, 18" A Custom projection crash, and 16" and 18" Lion Chinas. For the offertory I asked for Hillsong United's "Our God Is Love" which has a nice drum part. I managed to get the band to lay down a quieter arrangement which did not compromise the propulsion of the song. No one complained of "noise", and everyone was happy that day. Unfortunately, since that anniversary over two years ago, I haven't had time to go to that church, or offer follow up workshops. I did however go for the New Year eve service, and saw they had removed the shield.

The choice of drum kits is just one variable in what most people perceive as "noise" in traditional Christian churches. Church acoustics, instrument tuning, playing, available sound system capabilities, and even repertoire should also be considered.
 

Davo-London

Gold Member
Some years ago the pastor of our church asked me about a shield because people were complaining about the "loudness" of the drums. I told him that the 1) the drums were not set up and tuned properly so they sounded like crap, 2) the drummers did not understand the dynamics of the church's acoustics, and 3) the band leader simply didn't know how to conduct the band and she was paying too much attention to the singers. I told him that a shield would create more problems than it could solve, and volunteered to hold workshops with the drummers and the band to work out how to set up and play so as to minimise the complaints. But the pastor and church council went ahead and got the shield anyway, and as I expected did not solve the problem.

A year later, the pastor invited me on short notice to play drums for the church anniversary program. Originally it was for the processional which I had written a few years before specially for the church. I said yes, on three conditions, which were meant to prove my original point. First, I would be allowed to play my own kit without a shield. Second that I be allowed to select and play on the offertory. Third that I be allowed to have an afternoon workshop the day before the service with the drummers on drum setup and tuning (because I had also volunteered to donate new heads).

Of the four drummers, only one attended the workshop. But the bass player did too and we had a good time. As expected the kit was in terrible shape. Uneven tensions, dented heads, masking tape, awful. I practised with the group using the church's kit after we had tuned it. But while it sounded slightly better, I discovered that the shield prevented the drummer from hearing the rest of the group (the sound system has no monitoring).

Everything went fine the next day. People noticed the Church's kit sounded better, but only slightly because no matter how you set the drums up, all you can hear from the pews is thuddy, boomy, unfocused reflected sound because the sound system has no space for the drums. I on the other hand got lots of thanks for my playing, and compliments on the sound of my kit. I was using rather high tuning, coated ambassadors all over, no mufflers except for cloth strips on batter and reso kick heads, a steel snare with 42-strands, and lot of cymbals including a 22" A medium ride, 18" A Custom projection crash, and 16" and 18" Lion Chinas. For the offertory I asked for Hillsong United's "Our God Is Love" which has a nice drum part. I managed to get the band to lay down a quieter arrangement which did not compromise the propulsion of the song. No one complained of "noise", and everyone was happy that day. Unfortunately, since that anniversary over two years ago, I haven't had time to go to that church, or offer follow up workshops. I did however go for the New Year eve service, and saw they had removed the shield.

The choice of drum kits is just one variable in what most people perceive as "noise" in traditional Christian churches. Church acoustics, instrument tuning, playing, available sound system capabilities, and even repertoire should also be considered.
Thanks for your contribution. What would you recommend about choice of drums or drum type?

Regards
Davo
 

Shedboyxx

Silver Member
To recap points I've always agreed with:

1) The bulk of the (volunteer mostly) worship band drummers are young and inexperienced, overplay loudly and tend to create the general cloud of volume issues in churches choosing to use contemporary worship music. There are some good excuses why that happens but leaders rarely do the right thing in my opinion to take care of those issues. This is not a good issue for public discussion but 'OK' to poor musicianship is more the norm than exception in church settings where the expectation is to have the music sound like the recording.

2) The plexiglass sound barrier solutions do not improve sound problems, and only stop sound that goes out directly. Not the general ambiance and certainly not the quality of drum sound.

3) The 'older lady in the front row' mention. True. But here is one of the only issues I think has to be addressed when discussing church volume on a macro level. Or church thermostats. Or church decorations. Or ratio of contemporary songs to hymns (I'm sure you get it). Rarely will you come into a playing situation with so many different kinds, races, ages, cultural backgrounds, education levels, income differences as in a church setting. And that IS the way it is supposed to be. Go to a bar, you have a certain type of people that show up. Same with a wedding, bar mitzvah, concert or most other music events. So compromise after thoughtful consideration, congregational assessment and counsel is absolutely necessary

There's more but I don't want to 'Me, too' the post.

Here's what I feel is rarely addressed.

Good info in this quote:

One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet in the thread or the article is the importance of quality monitoring for the entire worship team, to include the drummer. I swear by my in-ears, I appreciate the fact that I can mix in my drums at an appropriate level so that I'm not bashing away to hear myself over anything else, and have control over the other elements of the team in my mix. Unfortunately, the drums at my church are not in the monitor mix at all, and so what they hear is purely stage volume. When dealing with less confident timekeepers, I have to give it an extra 5 or 8 percent to make sure they stay on-track.

AH! There's the rub. To be more succinct, the problem to be solved in most instances ESPECIALLY when there are electronic drums being used is having a proficient and knowledgeable sound tech(s) equipped with an appropriate sound system capable of creating quality monitor mixes. If I am playing an electronic kit, not only does my electronic drum mix have to be right in the monitor, it has to be right with all the other instruments and vocals. That means separate monitor mixes, attention to detail in headphone mixes (not my favorite) and the goods and drive to create an environment for the drummer and other players to feel like they can interact musically.
With acoustic drums you can balance more effectively your own 'mix' and levels between drums and cymbals (if you are proficient) and you have sound coming back to you immediately from what you are playing. Not so with electronics.

The quote above makes me wince because of my experiences. I played at a church where I had to play on a TD-10 through a wedge with one monitor mix so low that the rubber pads were just as loud. The misery came when two players - including the leader on guitar - would play as if there were no time keeping going on, and outright confuse each other. If I had an acoustic kit I cold at least start to 'bully' the time. Not so with electronics.

So as I see it, one of the main grievous problems for proficient level drummers, playing electronics, trying to provide thoughtful and tasteful playing for a worship band - is the skill level of the sound techs and equipment. And that can be even worse than the usual skill level of your average worship team player. This along with the almost cover band style expectation of sounding just like the recorded ROCK CONCERT style tune (Ahem....Hillsong!). Distorted driving guitars, slamming drums, soaring vocals. This is what the expectation is. No go as far as I can see.

Done. :)
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Instead of plexi shields, churches might be better off with room treatments to eliminate the unwanted echo. When I think of a church, I think of a really echo-ey room. An over abundance of hard surfaces.

If it were my church, I'd have all the drummers pass playing tests. You wouldn't be allowed to drum unless you can control your volume and keep decent time. It's just too big of a factor to leave to chance. If you can't cut it, you don't play, period. Sorry. I would not want to expose my valued congregation to an unpleasant experience. I would be trying to do the exact opposite, so they look forward to church. I would also treat the room so soundwaves aren't bouncing in 90 different directions. I would also have a badass guy who is in charge of stage volume in addition to the FOH sound man. Talkbacks between the stage sound guy and the FOH sound guy to keep things on track. Or I'd hire pros.

Keeping the congregation, like keeping the audience, is part of a band's job description.
 

Mikeyboyeee

Senior Member
Not that I need another reason -- but this serves as one more reason to stay the He-double hockey sticks out of church!
 

PerhapsSamson

Junior Member
Lots of church drummers up here, I see. And with a lot of the same grievances too.

I'm a church drummer too, though I tend to play for the kids' worship (always found it a little odd how a small group of 7-8 year olds need a full band with bass guitar and all, but well...) and since the area I play in is usually quite spacious, the volume issue doesn't really affect me, but my rule of thumb is to play in harmony with the rest of the band, since our guitarists are using acoustic guitars, and they've got really crappy amps (keyboard as well). So it's a habit for me to play at a volume where I can still hear the worship leader singing.

I've also played for my Christian Fellowship in Uni, and we were in a small chapel (enclosed space), and again, while I usually play at a suitable volume (hitting soft, like someone else mentioned), I find a lot of the drummers (the guys usually - I'm the only female drummer thus far) tend to play really, really loud until they're overpowering the entire band.

I've seen this happening in other churches as well, where the younger generation is in charge of worship, and the drummer tends to really get in the mood (not necessarily a bad thing) but the result is usually the kind of decibels you'd expect to hear at a concert. And while I like the occasionally adrenaline rush, the volume does tend to jar my hearing quite a bit.

Like some others, I'm not a fan of electronic sets - I've not played on one, but from what I understand the dynamics just aren't like acoustic sets, but again I don't like it when church drummers (esp when playing Hillsong stuff) break out all their fancy routines and I end up feeling like I'm at a concert instead of worshiping at church.

I guess the underlying conclusion is that, while it's OK to have fun, the main point is that we're still serving as church musicians, and sometimes that means having to adapt to a brand new style of music.

Also, hitting soft. Very important. More important than the type of sticks you use (I'm using 5A and I'm still able to hit soft). Try using a smaller amount of force when whacking the drums, like playing somewhere between normal notes and ghost notes?

And your internal volume gauge. Try finding a balance between building up to a louder volume and not drowning out the rest of the band (worship leaders usually signal when to build up/down).

Really, don't be like that church drummer guy I know that brings his own drum mufflers to keep the volume down, but ends up hitting with so much force, he might as well play without them. :/
 

PlayTheSong

Senior Member
Can one not amplify an acoustic guitar for a church without needing a sound engineer?
You're so right. Oh the frustration!

I play with a concert band - 25 musicians, no mics, everyone listens and the director keeps things in balance.

Then I play at church (that only seats maybe 200) with 5 musicians, and they each "need" stage monitors that end up being louder than the FOH system. When I'm not drumming I work the sound board so I'm frustrated from both ends.

If they'd let me, I'd put only the singers & piano through the board and let everyone else balance their own volumes and listen to each other. The over-use of amplification technology is getting in the way big time. Now they're talking about investing in in-ear monitors, a waste of money (in this situation)that could be better spent elsewhere.

By the way, when I'm at the board, I have a decibel meter on hand and keep the level around 85 dBA. If they tell me it's too loud this week or too quiet this week, I can assure them that it's always the same level - end of discussion.
 

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I've always preferred the old traditional church music with an organ or piano. No drums, no bass guitar, etc. This new contemporary stuff just doesn't get it for me. Sorry.
 
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