Thursday, May 6, 2010

Playing Drums in Church

This is a subject I'm writing on out of necessity because I'm faced with the volume issue every week! Of course, it goes without saying that I've been told to "turn down" all of my life. We're talking over 40 years of playing drums and hearing just that when I lived in apartments, playing in small venues, churches, and small rooms in general. And it still burns me.
Why? Not because I'm unreasonable, or a show off, or something like that. It's because I do make every possible effort to play quietly. But, as many of you know, it can and does affect your ability to keep a good groove. Also, most folks don't understand the instrument and what it takes to get a good sound from them.
My church is a nearly 200 year-old building with high ceilings. Designed to carry the pastor's voice, so you can imagine the power the drums can have should I become unglued. And, I'm positioned in the open, in front of the piano. At this point it's the only place for me without a major "rebuild" of the area we use. And by that I mean removing the platform that the choir's seats are on and building a corner cubby for the drums,etc.
Many big churches have the budget for adequate sound absorption and drum booths, etc. But when you're a small church, with no money for such things, and this is the first praise band in the church's history, well, we deal with this as if it's the first time. Which it is.
That being said, this is what I've done so far to help in volume control. First, I use Promark "cool rods". These are great for a number of reasons besides volume. They greatly reduce the shock going up your arms from playing with a stick. This is important to me because I've been playing rock for over 40 years and I've now got some arm damage. It's my own fault, I used rimshots quite a bit in the old days to play over the volume of loud guitarists. I started out with the "hot rods" but found I didn't need such a large version. It's a little hard to get adequate "ping" from my ride, but I like what I can do on the snare and hihat.
Next, I have the standard pillow in my bass drum, augmented with a seat cushion resting in front of the drum. Lastly, I only use my small cymbals with this setup. A 12″ and 16″ to be exact, for crashes. The hi-hat is generally played closed so I have a grip on that.
I've done my research and the next piece coming will be a plexi-glass shield to place in front of the set. Then maybe I can slip into a groove without the choir director shouting "eggshells, eggshells".
John Keyser 2009

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