CONTROLLING STAGE VOLUME FOR CONTEMPORARY WORSHIP
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As far as loud audio sources that are concerned, the overall level of your drum kit is traditionally a large factor in how loud/quiet your overall house level gets set at. That is because your drum kit is usually the anchor of the band, as well as your overall mix. It is also usually one of the loudest, most impactful instruments, so you will typically balance your mix around the volume of your drum kit, with everything else mixed on top or above the volume of your drum kit. So if you have an excessively loud (or heavy-handed) drummer, you may be boosting the level of everything else in your mix so these instruments do not get drowned out by a drum kit that you cannot control the volume on.
One of the first things you might do is to communicate with your drummer and see if you can train them to vary their volume to better suit the needs of the overall mix. However this depending on the drummer (their skill level and willingness), this may be a difficult thing to learn. And in the end it still takes the volume control out of the hands of the person mixing the sound. Which means the drum level cannot be easily adjusted during a live event.
The next alternative would be for you to simply mic the drum kit. While this would seem counter intuitive to making the drums quieter if needed. It would allow you to work more effectively with your drummer in asking him to consistently play softer or with a lighter touch. But also allow the drummer to realize/trust that you will boost/mix his levels to the appropriate levels from the sound board, making everything sound better overall. But there can still be issues that if the drummer does end up playing too loud for a particular song/set, that you still cannot turn the drum kit down, so you end up turning everything up louder to compensate.
The last and most effective way to control the level of the drum kit (or any percussion instrument), is to both mic as well as isolate the drum kit with a drum shield so you have total control over the dynamics of the drum kit. The drum shield can be as simple as a Plexiglas shield placed in front of the drum kit to block the direct sound of the
drums. It can also be a shield that encircles the drums reducing both direct and reflected sound in your mix. And it can also be a shield that encircles and caps the top of your drum kit, effectively putting the drummer in an isolated room which you have full control over the sound that is in your house mix. It also further reduces the overall stage volume as well (which can be a welcome relief to those vocalists who are usually positioned directly in front of the drum kit).
Read next week as we look at amplifier isolation boxes and how they can help.