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!