Deep Dive on Drum Control

Any musician or sound guy knows: drums are the most difficult instrument to mix and control. Last month, we discussed how drum control is one of the areas over which musicians and tech guys face off. We suggested that acoustic sets with isolation shields are the best option when it comes to getting the perfect drum sound. In this article, we’ll explain why isolation shields are so important, and discuss two more essential components to take you deeper into the world of making drums sound great.

1.    Isolation Shields

Many worship centers recognize that sound control is easier with an isolation shield. However, they’re reluctant to go all the way, so they settle for erecting a partial shield around the set and neglect the roof. They might as well leave the set out in the open. Watch this video to see the effect of an isolation shield as its different components are added. Keep an eye on the meter in the bottom right-hand corner to see the effect each component has on overall volume control.

As you can see, the addition of the roof has a dramatic effect in lowering the decibel output of the set. That makes it much easier to mix and control.

2.    Drum Set Up

Drum set up is an often-ignored piece of drum control, but when a drum kit hasn’t been properly configured, control suffers. Take, for instance, an incorrectly set up snare drum. Even if you have a full isolation shield with perfectly placed mics, incorrectly tuned snare wires can vibrate when other drums are played and result in a distracting rattling sound. This can be picked up by overhead mics, and sometimes even by snare mics themselves.

Avoid this by properly adjusting your snare wires before playing. To test if they’re too tight, turn the snare off and then back on. If the wires snap on before the lever reaches its resting position, then the snare is too tight.

There are many other factors that come into play when setting up kits, including drum tuning for individual drums. Take time to make sure your drums are set up to sound their best before you start rocking out.

3.     Gates

Once you’ve got an isolation shield in place and a properly tuned kit, it’s essential to insert a gate on each drum channel in the mix. To do this, you’ll need a digital console and gates. Check out our article to learn why digital consoles are the future of mixing.

Here’s the problem: drums are loud. Although isolation shields can greatly reduce drum volume in a room, the area within the isolation shield itself is still loud. Without gates, it’s impossible to individually mic drums to enhance your control. Want to tweak the snare in the mix to get just the right pop, or adjust the tom sound to get the perfect fullness? You’ll need gates, or all you’ll be getting is everything at once.

A gate only allows the mic input through when a certain threshold of volume is reached. This means that when the snare is struck, the channel temporarily opens to allow the high volume sound of the snare through. When the sound gets back under the threshold, the channel closes to avoid getting extraneous drum noise. Gates can also be adjusted to stay open for custom lengths of time, ensuring that you get just the right amount of ring from the tom without it being cut short. They’re a necessary mechanism for full control.

Even with all of these factors in mind, it can be difficult to get the perfect drum sound. Do you want to get the most out of your drums? Let Audio-Video Group help you. We have the expertise in sound setup to make sure your drums sound perfect. Get in touch with us for at 301.668.4448, or visit our website at to learn more about how we can help your drum control rock.

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