The Drum Shield and The Church

If you’ve played in worship, odds are you’ve been there. I mean, haven’t we all heard it by now? “The drums are just TOO LOUD!” Numerous complaints, emails, phone calls, and one google search later, you show up for rehearsal and there it stands, in all of its plexiglass glory, the drum shield. So, what do you do? Storm out and vow that you’ll never play at your church again unless they lose the shield? Try bargaining and pleading with the worship leader or pastor?

I’m not precisely sure of what it is that has so turned us drummers off to the idea of the drum shield. What I think it may be is this: We, as musicians, have an idea of what our drums (and the surrounding area) are supposed to look like on stage. We’ve built this reference over the course of our musicianship, of our love affair with music. I mean, for Pete’s sake Neil Peart never used a drum shield! Maybe we just feel that it’s our own creative, artistic choice to bash our drums? We’re proud to be heavy hitters, because our reason for heavy hitting is passion! While these may all be true, let’s remember that as worship drummers, our role really isn’t about our preferences, our likes and dislikes, nor is it about our ability to express our artistic creativeness. Our role is to serve the church, and glorify God in doing so. In this aspect, we’re no different than the people who meet up to place bulletins and cards in every seat before the service. We’re no different than that spunky, outgoing group of people who show up to greet people with a smile on their face.

So, keeping in the front of our mind the goal of serving the Church and glorifying God, how should our response to the dreaded drum shield change? I ‘m definitely not saying you absolutely must be happy with it, but there is a sort of freedom in having the shield. Hear me out! For one thing, the primary goal of the drum shield is NOT to make YOU quieter. Rather, the shield makes for a cleaner mix both in the room and on stage, making the music more approachable and easier to listen to. If you’re using in ear monitors, this benefits you equally! Your mix is almost always going to be cleaner when using the shield, and a clean mix helps a multitude of difficulties we experience as drummers, from timing issues to choosing how we orchestrate drum fills. The difference really is in the clarity. Imagine that scenario where you’ve got a killer drum break coming up…the congregation is really into it and they’re all clapping. A lot of them are clapping on 2 and 4, but, to your dismay, there are a lot of 1 and 3-ers out there. Without the shield the bleed from the congregation could be so terrible that all you can do is forgo the break you’ve worked on so tirelessly and roll on with the simplest beat to keep the train on the tracks. With the shield, you’re separated from those 1 and 3 clappers! So hit that drum break with everything you’ve got and don’t hold back!

I’ve found a few tricks that make life with a drum shield a bit easier:

  • First, get a talk back mic. Especially if you serve as one of the leaders of the band, you need have the ability to communicate to your band mates. I run a talk back mic with a switch through the Roland SPD-SX.
  • Secondly, tune your drums! Believe me, the addition of the shield completely changes the way your drums sound in the room. So tune, and grab a buddy who can take a spin on the kit while you listen from the third or fourth row.
  • Lastly, continue to be creative. Don’t take the shield as an excuse to keep hitting hard just because you can. Find different ways to play on certain songs, different sticks that make the drums respond a little more quietly, and break out that old shaker no one uses anymore! Who knows, maybe you’ll tap into different techniques that allow you to try a few runs without the shield!

In the end, this really isn’t an issue of the Drum shield and the drummer, or the drum shield and the worship leader, pastor or sound guy. It’s an issue of the drum shield and the church. Introducing anything that makes the job of ushering the church into the presence of God a little easier is always a win.

I would love to hear what your thoughts are on drum shields!

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What’s up? 

Hi. How are you? If you’ve found this blog in recent months, then you’ve probably been a little let down…. I’ll admit, I have been away for quite some time. But now, I’m BACK! I’ve got tons of content coming soon, but for now I’ll leave you with a video that I’ve been drawing inspiration from for my practice. Enjoy!

Paul Mabury: Hosanna- Risen Drums Camp.

Abe Laboriel Jr.

This is one of my favorite drum solos right now. And yes, I dig drum solos just as much as the next guy. This may actually be one of my favorite EVER. I love Abe’s GIANT, weird setup. I love how you hear every note from every drum and cymbal. I love how he goes from ROCK N’ ROLL to a shuffle pattern (4:00 mark). I just love it.

More important than Abe’s solo is THIS video:

Abe describing his approach to music as whole, which comes well before his approach to the kit, is just amazing and humbling. This is honest wisdom in its entirety, and I think anyone would tell you that. From his approach to jamming, to gear, everything he has to say is just wonderful. This is why Abe Laboriel Jr. is becoming one of my all-time favorite drummers to listen to and watch. Enjoy!

Q: Who are some of your favorite drummers? Who inspires you?

Gear…Versatility….etc., etc.

One thing I don’t think we talk about enough, as drummers is our gear. I especially don’t think we always see the importance in addressing the versatility of our gear. IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT (excuse the aggression). But, it really is extremely important, especially if you don’t have tons of money to blow. This being said, it’s probably true that this doesn’t necessarily apply to all drummers. If you’re playing the same gig day after day then you’ve probably pretty much already narrowed down the gear it takes for you to produce for that gig every time. However, if you play multiple gigs that range over a wide scope of genres, then you probably know how important it is that you have versatile gear that can fit multiple styles.

Without versatility we lock ourselves into a box. We unintentionally categorize ourselves and our sound, and our sound ultimately comes from our gear. So it’s simple: Versatile gear gives you a versatile sound. For me, it’s very important that I experiment with different sounds, different gear. There are weeks/months that I play with an array of different people and each artist, engineer, listener tends to look for something different. There are also weeks/months where I play the same gig over and over and my gear needs to have the consistency to accommodate those as well. While I feel confident enough to say I have my own sound, my own style, I still tend to experiment with different sounds in order to cater to the artist or situation I’m playing for. What’s most important to me is having gear that is applicable to multiple situations, that can produce multiple sounds, and gear that allows me to explore different sounds and options. IMPORTANT: this does not mean having lots and lots of gear. It doesn’t take tons of gear to have versatility. What it does take is having quality gear and having a good knowledge of what your gear can do.

Some gear that I’ve found helpful:

Snare Drums:

I try to keep a few snare drums around me at all times (It’s not necessary to have 3+ snares. You can work with just one). These will probably be the most expensive parts of your arsenal, but they don’t really have to be. At the moment I’m playing a Gretsch Club Rock, a DW Collectors Series, and a Ludwig Acrolite. Each one of these gives me different option (really, each has a different range of options) tonally. For example if I’m playing some big punchy rocky stuff I’ll probably use the Gretsch. It’s 14″ x 6.5″ which gives you tons of body without rounding out that nice CRACK that we all know and love from Rock. What’s important to remember here is that really everything about a snare (and all drums for this matter) benefits or detriments your drum: the wood, the heads, the hardware, everything. So, my suggestion is to start by choosing one high quality (not necessarily expensive) durable snare that you like a lot and go from there. What you’ll find with most snares is that you can sub things in and out that make them sound different. Changing heads, snare wires, adding or taking away dampening, all this can change up what you hear from your snare, so EXPERIMENTING IS KEY.

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DW Collector’s Series & Gretsch Club Rock (Mahogany)

Zildjian 22″ K Light Ride:

One great piece of gear I’ve just recently tapped into is this Zildjian 22″ K Light Ride. It’s a great cymbal all-around. While its obvious application is as a ride, it also has a great responsiveness and wash that makes it a very nice crash (warm tones, subtle overtones). It’s big and washy and loud which makes it great for straight-forward rock and worship music, but it also has great stick articulation and enough ping to make it a wonderful ride for jazz and the softer side of things. What I really like is that I can use it as a ride and crash simultaneously, which means one less cymbal, one less cymbal stand, one less piece of hardware going from gig to gig. A huge advantage to having this cymbal, or one like it, in your lineup comes at the church/worship music level. I’ve found this cymbal extremely useful as a warm crash/ride, but I’ve fallen in love with it because it gives me the ability to go from playing it wide open as a crash/ride to using it with an acoustic set up and playing it with a brush, mallet, or even my hand.

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Acoustic Setup with Zildjian 22″ K Light Ride
Zildjian 22" K Light Ride with Pro-Mark Sizzler
Zildjian 22″ K Light Ride with Pro-Mark Sizzler

“Add-ons & Accessories:

One thing you’ll notice (In the second picture above) is an add on that I LOVE…the Pro-Mark S22 Cymbal Sizzler, Which brings me to another key point: Add-ons; Small, cheap options that open up tons of opportunities for different sounds. Some that I use a whole lot are cymbal sizzlers, drum dampening products (Moon-Gel, Gaff Tape is great too) and basically anything else that I can find that has chimes, tambourines, so on and so forth. I’ll sometimes even us a small towel or t-shirt for a super dampened, pop sound, which can also work a whole lot in an acoustic setting. There’s one product that really stands out lately for me: Big Fat Snare Drum is a company that’s making some great stuff for drummers. Of course their product is mainly a better way of dampening a snare drum, but they also make a product call the Snare-bourine” which allows a drummer to dampen the snare AND add a tambourine to each snare hit (no samples, software, electronics necessary).

Honorable Mention: (“Honorable Mention” “sub-par”)

Though this has been an option that has opened up tons of doors for me as far as sampled sounds, it’s not necessarily a functional or viable option for everyone. Nevertheless, products like Roland’s SPD-x are amazing! Tons of 808 and other sounds that are available to really change things up. I also love to use drum triggers to sample bigger or weirder sounds and mix them with the actual sound of the drum or kit. Doing all this takes a little more knowledge of software and electronics (a post on this soon to come)

So. This has covered some of the basics of what I do to keep myself and my gear versatile if anyone is actually reading this you’ve found it helpful! I will end with one thing: Above all this it is vital to remember that versatility comes out of experiment! Keep on keeping on and keep on finding new, different, crazy ways to make noise!