The Dreaded Drum Booth

Drums in Plexiglass w/ top

Drums in Plexiglass w/ top & padding

URGENT UPDATES:     1. Only use headphones or “in-ear” monitors to hear your mix. NEVER use speakers in a booth or behind the shield: It WILL destroy your hearing!     2. The drums MUST be miked, even if you only use a few panels.  ///////     If drum volume is just impossible to control in your venue a drum booth maybe necessary… as a last resort! First, try to play to the room more… (*read my other article about this.) …adjusting your dynamics etc. etc. But if all of that has failed, then build a booth for your drums or order one from the ClearSonic company (www.clearsonic.com) or Phoenix drum enclosures at http://whiteleysolutions.com/.      If necessary you can totally enclose the drums. You can match the color & décor of the auditorium and everyone will be happy with the sound AND the look.

When using a shield or a booth be sure to make it large enough so you can still walk around the drums. It should also be at least two feet higher that your highest cymbal. A drum kit must “breath” or move the airwaves freely to sound its best. If the booth is too small the drums will sound choked & harsh.  As an example: Test this by holding your hand in front of your mouth while you are speaking and then gradually move it away.  Notice how your tone sounds warmer as you allow more space between your mouth and hand. Drums have a similar response in a booth!

There’s no use putting up a small shield.  It will only cut down 5% to 10% of the decibel level. If you go to all of this effort do it completely. You can start in phases. Maybe begin with just the front panels. Add the back to it if that’s not enough. Then the last step would be a top if necessary.

**The photo shows a pretty common approach to drum booth set ups. Not bad really, except that the kit is too close to the glass for my liking. It needs a little more breathing room. If needed they could add more panels and totally enclose the kit, but it wasn’t needed for this auditorium.

I always prefer playing to the room without using a shield, but I’m flexible and can work in both situations. As always, the main thing is to serve the team and do what works best in each setting.

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About Carl

Carl has been a professional drummer & percussionist for over 30 years. He has played on over 80 Integrity Music projects; Maranatha Praise Band recordings 7 thru 10, & numerous other Christian, Pop, Country, Jazz, & Commercial projects.

Comments

  1. Greg McNary says:

    I’ve been in “the box” for several years. It was a trade-off to go to acoustic drums. The only problem I’ve run into over the years is communication. If the worship leader gives any verbal instructions off-mike, I don’t get them. The box is very isolating, but we’ve gotten pretty good at giving/taking visual cues. For several years we used a Clearsonic enclosure, but it was a little on the small side. We recently purchased a new one, not sure who makes it, but it’s huge. It has a footprint of about 8′ x 8′, and it’s completely enclosed front back, top, and sides. I contend it has enough room for a hot tub, but I can’t convince anyone to run the plumbing. Here is a pic:
    https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/378496_285931344787060_140070246039838_832154_649097432_n.jpg

    Pic is from Highview Baptist Church Christmas Program

    • Greg,

      That is a Perdue Acoustics Drum Booth, our church just bought one and is waiting for it to arrive, very excited!

      http://www.perdueacoustics.com/product/drum-booth

      • very cool option Greg, … I know there are several other suppliers too… even players building their own versions. – Good stuff. Whatever helps!

    • Greg,

      I hope you have a good sound man at the controls. There is nothing more annoying than seeing the cymbal moving when the drummers hits it and not hearing the crash all because the sound man neglected to turn the mic up on the cymbal.

      I resent the idea of having the drummer all caged up like that as if he were some kind of wild animal. They ought to just put a sign on your booth that says, “Please Don’t Feed the Drummer.”

      • Greg McNary says:

        Hey Matthew,
        We do have a good sound man, so no issues there. While the booth is not my preference, I don’t really mind it. We generally have 50-75 people on stage including choir, band, orchestra, and praise team. Our sanctuary doesn’t have the greatest acoustics to start with. Add to that a hardwood floor on stage and a sloped wood ceiling and you get sound bouncing all over. The stage can get extremely loud. To limit stage volume all the instruments (except orchestra, of course) are line direct. The only really live sound we have on stage is our occasional percussionist and the choir. One advantage I like about the box is I can play hard and not worry about it. While I can play softly, and have had gigs where I had to do so, the drums sound better when they are hit, as opposed to tapped, just my opinion. BTW, I have a sign that says “Please feed the drummer”. I’m not proud, I’ll work for food! My booth also has a tray where they can change the paper occasionally ;-)

  2. Intersting article Carl. I am glad you qualified your advocacy of sound booths with a “last resort” clause. The other side or the issue of having the drummer in a fully enclosed sound booth is having a competent engineer working the controls on the other end. If you don’t have a good engineer working the sound who can’t provide a good mix with the other instruments, that can cause problems too.

    • Absolutely right, Matt. ; the engineer has to really be sharp to bring it all together… a booth can be a blessing or a hassle depending on the one mixing the sound. Of course, that’s true in any setting. Blessings, Carl

  3. Sam Kallaos says:

    Unless I am playing with a Jazz Combo I don’t mind the box. I hit hard when I get passionate and that is a nice thing not to have to worry about reigning in when I am in my nice little cage. I know you have to serve the music and play to the room and all that considered when I am in the box with my in ears and I am hearing what I need to hear and I am “in the zone” it’s nice to know that I am not ripping anyones head off of further deafening the vocalists :)

  4. Rod Lambur says:

    I’ve played in these booths at church. Most of the time it is hard to hear the rest of the worship band due to the monitors or no monitors. Sometimes because of the quieting factor the Pastor has asked me to play louder because the volume is so cut back. This leads to over-kill and playing where you are trying to make up for the lost sound the booth is blocking out. When I asked to take the booth down he told me that that would be too scarey for the members in the congregation, although we did eliminate it for a time and it was just fine. The drums then did what they they do. Before this many of the worship players complained that they couldn’t hear the bass drum at all. It seems all the low frequencies are done away with by drum booths. I’ve played in them where you are completely cut off from the band. It is like being placed in a dog kennel. One booth recently not only had the booth around the drums but all of the drums had been taped up and filled with pillows. The sound was so muffled that there was no real drum sound left and they thought it was a beautiful thing. I believe there is many churches like this because I’ve tried to play there. The fact is that they are very ignorant about drums, and the sound, and living in the past about establishing a good drum sound in there church. Its too bad that so many of them are closed minded. The salesman who sold them the booth must have done a good job brainwashing them into the sale. Drums and drummer are to bring dynamics into the overall music, but when other musicians desire to stop that by placing a drum booth around a player they are messing around on my turf and I need to speak up and set the record straight. I think if more church drummers would refuse to play because of these booths… then going without a drummer would make the Pastor see that drummers would play with them and then he would change. Instead the Pastors advertise them saying,”Look we got this great booth for you to play behind so we can control your volume, isn’t that awesome.” I say, “NOT!” Lets be honest…. not real drummer likes them, so why do we put up with them at all. Oh yeah, because if we don’t play behind them we won’t get to play. We are selling out, and the prejudices of the other musicians which believe that drummers aren’t real musicians are seeking to get the best of us. There is only one reason for booths – recording separation in the studio. We need to come out of the dark ages in our perceptions about drummers and booths. Go to you tube and look up some drum videos and tell me the ratio of drum booths seen there while playing in bands. Again the church is back in time (past days) instead of here in the present begin progressive and in the NOW! It took the church 30 to 40 years just to get electric guitars and drums into to the church. the Rock style of music for worship was at one time something the church would have never have, now it is current. Maybe a united front could change this booth thing if we stand up for it. (?)

    • Hey Rod, So sorry the drum booth has been such a hassle. Some quick thoughts:: 1. You should use headphones or “in ear” monitors to hear the music… NEVER use speakers in a booth. It will destroy your hearing. 2. The drums should be miked at all times. NOT to be louder than everyone, but to create a good mix with the rest of the band. If they are limited with channels ask for at least two — a kick mike (a dynamic mike like a Shure Beta 52) — an overhead mike ( a condenser model like a Shure SM-81) — If possilbe put microphones on each drum and then 1 or 2 mikes for hi-hat & cymbals. 3. I don’t recommend muffling the drums with towels & pillows. I only use a little patch on my snare & a small towel in my kick/ usually nothing on the toms. 4. YES, real drummers do play in booths or behind shields when necessary. I’ve just learned to make adjustments according to the job. YES, it is a challenge, but I’m OK with that… we’re here to serve. — I do agree it’s more fun without it, but I’m OK either way. 5. Yes, I agree most people in churches and other venues are scared of the drums. (actually the drum volume). BUT sometimes drummers don’t adjust to the acoustics of a room very well and really overplay. Every drummer, and ALL musicians should listen carefully to how they sound in every room. — Work with the band and the engineer to get a great mix. — Adjust accordingly so that the audience is having a great experience. 6. Guard your heart from frustration. Just do the best you can with what you’re given. Love God and love people! Let that be the guide to how you live & work. — Peace & Blessings, Carl

      • Carl,
        I totally love what you said there at the end about how all musicians need to listen to the room, and then number 6 is the key statement. If we are there for self gratification then we might as well not even show up, because then we will not enhance the presence of God but stifle his presence in the service

        • Hey Kurt, Thanks for your kind note. Yea… as we learn it’s important to keep “the big picture” in mind. It keeps the music & life pleasant. Blessings on your journeys with Jesus. Press ON! Carl

      • Kevin briden says:

        Carl; WE have gone to a drum room for one main reason to control volume levels. As a sound tech I prefere to not cage them but we are fighting alot of stage sound which polutes what we are trying to acomplish. My goal is to recreate the non booth sound as much as posible even thought the drums are in a booth. We are a progressive chuch with sound and live around 102 db. We built amp boxes off stage to help reduce noise and now the drum kit. next in ears and no more stage monitors. Our drummer actult built the drum booth. Iv have ben reading this posting to get ideas as to how to enhance the drum sound to get back to the no caged feel.. Any thoughts are welcome!
        Kevin Briden
        Heartland Vineyard Church

        • Hey Kevin, The main thing I’ve noticed is to leave as much room as you can around the kit… at least walking space.. a little more if the stage will allow it. Also make it tall… at least 2 feet over the highest cymbal. The closer the enclosure the more choked the drums sound. Beyond on that I’m not aware of any acoustic engineering tricks. Let me know what you find out. Blessings, Carl

  5. After almost 30 years of playing open, my church built a drum room for me 3 months ago. We wanted to get better recordings, better mixes in the house (not having to drive the other instruments to match the drums on the high intensity songs) and to tone down the stage volume. I’m great at playing the room but drums were meant to be heard and felt in some songs!

    I didn’t like it the first couple of weeks because I felt isolated and the drums were really loud in there….over 100 db when playing at a moderate dynamic. I softened up my playing to tone the volume down inside so I didn’t have to blast the in-ear mix, then I got complaints from the sound engineer and the worship leader who couldn’t get the feel of the drums in the room when I softened up. They wanted me to play the same enclosed as I did open because it’s the style they loved. They weren’t trying to control the volume of the drums, just the quality of the mix and the recordings.

    In the third week, I started using Direct Sounds’ isolation head phones to block out the drums and they are A+! I found I could play with the same intensity as I did when I was open without going deaf. And the sound man has complete control to turn up or down based on what’s happening with the worship music and other instruments. After hearing someone else play my drums live while I sat in the audience and also listening to the live recordings, the difference is night and day! The drum mics are balanced and EQ’d perfectly. Everything comes through the mics so clear and crisp ~ the audience hears me if I crack my knuckles. The mics can be used the way they were meant to be instead of how we were using them when I was open. Plus there’s no bleed from the BGV mics picking up my cymbals, like we used to have.

    After that 3 week adjustment period, I would say that I love the drum room. I can worship God just as I did before and not worry as much about whether I’m playing the same dynamically as the rest of the band. The sound man is taking care of the balance. He’s happy, the worship leader is happy, I’m happy. It was a great investment for our church!

    • Hey Kris, Awesome story of drum isolation success! It does take a while to adjust to a booth, but you’ve done great… AND kept tweaking things until you & your team got it to work for you. Excellent, excellent! — Keep up the good work. Blessings, Carl PS. YES,, so glad you started using headphones. I will be updating my post to remind everyone to NEVER use speakers or just play in a booth without headphones. (OR when practicing without the band to at least use earplugs.)

    • just wondering what you use to feed your mix into the booth? right now I’m just running into a old, beat up mixer and headphones out of that. any suggestions?

      • Hey Jered, I would update your mixer… Get a Behringer 6 channel mixer on line (Ebay, etc.)… or something within your budget,,, BUT be sure it has some EQ or tone controls on it so you can tweak the sound. That should help. Also, make sure your headphones are really good. Sony MVR-700 or high end in-ears… Of course, stay within in your budget and do the best with what you’ve got. I know it’s big investment. Blessings on your work. Carl

  6. I wish we could run sound volume in church around 110 db…..The reality is that just don’t happen. I too am a professional drummer who plays for Gateway Church in the DFW area. I was given the the job of designing a drum enclosure for them that would do the job of significantly reducing the volume as well as making it look as if there was no glass. It turned out awesome…..Because Gateway is such a large church with a lot of influence calls starting coming in from other churches wanting to have a shield like this. It took a year of calls pouring in before I decided to make a business out of it. Today we have answered all the problems of the old style drum enclosures and have 3 drum enclosure models to date as well as one more in the design stages. I like to play hard because it feels right and I don’t want to compromise the sound in the house by being so loud that they can’t mic me. With our enclosure you get achieve superior sound isolation as well as a seamless enclosure making it appear as thou you are not behind glass. We also have custom staging that is made for our enclosure. It has a cable trough built in to hide away cables and we do LED stage lighting inside as well as custom pin connection snakes for ease of set up and mobility. Check out this link to see what people are sying about our enclosures..
    .http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=a6fd8bf763935273dfee2f106&id=2b7d062e87&e=UNIQID

    • Hey Chad, ..MAN! you rock ! – on drums,,, AND on the design of this booth. Great product! Thanks for your post. Hope all is well. Stay in touch. Peace, Carl

  7. Barrett Root says:

    Ear protection became necessary when we installed the shield… we were using floor monitors and all the reflections inside the shield were just painful. Also we have a youth band and I didn’t want the church to be responsible for damaging young ears.

    • Hi Barrett, – YES, You should ABSOLUTELY NOT use speakers inside a booth or shield. Always use headphones or “in ear” monitors. // This should be in any literature a manufacturer sends with their product. Thanks so much for the reminder. I will be sure to add this information to my post. Blessings, Carl

  8. I absolutely cannot understand why churches build with everything EXCEPT sound and media in mind, and then spend lots of time and money “fixing” the issues, and blaming the musicians for the sound woes. I believe every musician should learn to play to the room, but sometimes the room doesn’t cooperate. I fought like crazy against the drum booth, or as I like to call it, “The Yurt”. The alternative was to go back to electric drums, and as I’d put up a fight to get rid of them in the first place (apparently, I like to fight…but fighting for subs was WORTH it!), I shut up…sort of! >:0) I think my biggest issue is dynamics–whether I’m on bass or drums, I just can’t get a feel for dynamics using the Avioms. It’s worse on drums. I use in-ears rather than headphones, because as a small-ish female, the headphones go halfway down my head and are rather uncomfortable. I also miss communication between the bassist/drummer…overall, I just prefer live sound; but, since we are there to serve…then serve we must! What are we going to do….serve God on OUR terms?? I just wait for the times when I’m just being a vocalist–I don’t use any monitors, and go off of house sound….*bliss*…. =D

    • Hi Howie, …LOL… good stuff. Yep, I understand all the struggles… Newer church builders are becoming very aware of modern sound and media needs. Unfortunately most of the current venues have been built without “modern music” in mind OR were literally built before modern pop/rock music was allowed in churches.. Either way, I feel your pain. Glad you can keep some humor about the whole thing. // One addition to using good “in-ears” would be adding a “Butt Kicker” to the drum throne. (Yes, they call it that.) … or some bass boosting device. Check ‘em out on line – http://www.thebuttkicker.com/ — It almost feels like in you’re in front of “concert” speakers. Very cool. Keep serving; keep smiling. Blessings, Carl

      • I imagine when it came time to design our building, all the Powers that Be stood around, scratching their chins, saying, “Hmmmm….what’s the WORST possible design we could come up with in this building, to make it sound UNfriendly?” I remember seeing the plans for the stage, and saying it was the dumbest thing I’d ever seen, not knowing I was saying that to the one who designed it! He was peeved, and I made sure my foot fit comfortably in my mouth. =D All that aside, even with the issues we have, I’ll never stop being grateful that we have a building in the first place, with heat, air conditioning, and running water and all the accoutrements that churches the world over don’t have.

        I am familiar with the “Butt Kicker”, though I’ve not encountered one. Our sound man even went through a phase of threatening to get one, but it’s never come to fruition. Perhaps I’ll put a bug in his ear to pursue it again! Thanks for the link!

  9. Mike Walker says:

    Hey, I just put behind a drum shield and at first I was upset but when I got the bugs worked out and changed some tuning it was better. I actually like to hear my bass drum behind the shield. It sounds better to me. I guess we should be looking for things to be thankful for in ALL situations. Shield or no shield, worship God and be thankful.

    Mike

    • very cool Mike… yea,, the idea is to keep trying options until it works just right…. BE SURE TO USE HEADPHONES OR “IN-EARS”… NO SPEAKERS BEHIND THE GLASS. Blessings, Carl

  10. Carl;
    I’m starting to build a booth with various foam products. Can I use an independent mixer to send a pre eq mix to the main board and have it sent to the PA’s?

    • Hi Erik, I usually let the front of house engineer deal with mix issues. *What sounds good in your ears may not work for the blend in the main room.* But, that could work if you coordinate well with the house engineer… – it just doesn’t allow them to tweak the drum mix as things change in the room. **See what happens** and adjust accordingly. Peace, Carl

  11. Ken Kerbyson says:

    Thank you Carl for creating and maintaining your website as busy as you are!!! It has been such a blessing to me as a Worship Drummer!!! Question: Do you have a training book/DVD that teach drummers and percussionists how to effectively work together so as not to step on one another and leave breathing room for each other in their playing? Thanking God for you, Ken

  12. Hi Carl, I’ve seen you and Leann quite a few times at the Worship Musician Summit in Seattle. When my church got a “cage” for me I did put up a sign that said, “please don’t feed the animal, but coffee is welcome”. As a drummer in a church I always felt like I had a target on my back because of the slower acceptance of the new worship music. So, I put up bullet hole decals on the front of the cage. A good sense of humor is a neccessity to a drummer.

    • Hey Dan, LOL… absolutely. You gotta laugh! You can’t take anything too seriously or personal. — Except to honor the Lord with what HE’s given us. That’s a big enough task on it’s own. Press ON. “Love God; love people!” Blessings, Carl

  13. We saw a picture Paul Baloche posted today, singing your praise and noticed you were trapped behind a drum shield. Just came over to take a look and saw this post. If you are looking for more Drum Shields examples we’ve got plenty.

    • Very clever stuff you guys. Thanks for making me smile. Yea, the drum booth is here to stay… we just have to learn how to make it work for us. Peace, Carl

  14. All good stuff guys… One thought though… never allow yourself to be “resentful” about what you have to do… I do understand the frustration of some of the challenges,, but… “as in all things” … love God, love people…. “Do all that you do, as “unto the Lord”, and that way no negative junk will stick to you. Be free my friends! Blessings, Carl

  15. Agreed.

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