There is nothing quite like the high velocity crashing of a wooden stick into a sweet, light-weight, ginormous cymbal! No wonder Psalm 150: 5 says, “Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with resounding cymbals!” As a drummer, playing with all your might and passion feels like you are giving songs wings to fly into heaven!
The church congregation, however, may not agree.
Playing indoors, in rooms never designed for the use of live drums, can be extremely difficult! As a touring drummer, I’ve toured through hundreds of churches and played hundreds of vexing rooms. While, at the time, I was more irritated at the struggle of figuring out drumming work-arounds for cave-like sounding rooms, five years later I would love to share with you the pearls of wisdom that came from playing in those musically challenging rooms.
And on that note sweet note of “pearls” and “wisdom” I give you: drumming hacks!
DRUMMING HACK #1
BECOME GOOD BUDDIES WITH YOUR SOUND TEAM!
The sound team generally knows better than anyone what it takes to make the room sound good! Trust them. If they recommend you hit the crash cymbals softer, or ask you not to rimshot the snare drum every hit, do what you can to accommodate the request.
The worship team, including the sound team, has to work together to enhance the environment of worship! As much as you want to feel good while worshipping, the goal is to lead the congregation in worship. Let the sound team help round off the harsh edges of your playing that might be getting in the way!
DRUMMING HACK #2
Thicker/Heavier sticks produce more sound, where a thinner/lighter stick theoretically should be quieter. I personally keep a pair of lightweight 7a’s in my stick bag for this very reason.
Sometimes a real stick is still too much. If that is the case, invest in some stick alternatives. Here are some of my favorites:
- Vic Firth Rute: Tends to last longer, and I can more easily still pull great sounds out of the drums and cymbals.
- Vater Monster Brush: If you’re carrying the rhythm on the snare, these brushes can sound great, especially if you need a softer sonic approach.
- ProMark Hot Rods: I love the variety of dowel sizes they offer, and that most music stores carry them if I need to pick them up quick.
DRUMMING HACK #3
TAPE/MAGNET/MOONGEL CYMBAL DAMPENING
While some might cringe at the idea of any sticky product on their prized cymbals, gaff tape or moon gel can be a great option for getting rid of harsh overtones or general loudness on cymbals. As long as you intentionally take the moon gels or tape off before there is any chance of residue transfer, this option has personally saved me more than once!!
I also recommend checking out Meinl’s New Magnet Cymbal Tuners! Same idea as tape, but with magnets. Benny Greb helped design them, so I’m highly optimistic.
DRUMMING HACK #4
PLAY FEWER NOTES!
If a room has severe slap back (echo), play fewer notes! Don’t worry about as many ghost notes, or fast and crazy fills. Simple, intentional beats will shine when the room is hyperactive with slap back. Trust your beat, and keep
DRUMMING HACK #5
LESS CYMBALS! LESS DRUMS!
If the main complaint is too much crash/ride cymbal, get rid of all but the best sounding cymbal for the room. You will naturally hit the cymbal less if there is only one to hit. Also, try investing in a smaller, lightweight cymbal that plays well in smaller rooms.
Get in the habit of playing a simple kit every time you need to play quiet. Try a kick, snare, hi-hat, crash/ride only set-up. This way, when your mind recognizes the change, it subconsciously knows your playing needs to be lighter and simpler. Good drummers can play a full kit. Great drummers can make a simple set up sound just as good!
BONUS! DRUMMING HACK #6
DETUNE THE DRUMS!
Detuning the drums will help lessen their projection, pitch, and volume!
Ask for feedback, be creative, be flexible, and keep the faith! Drum on!