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When the drums are too loud, put a lid on them

Isolation panels reduce volume and keep drums from drowning out other sounds during worship.

By Brian Smith

Many churches use drums as part of their worship bands to add excitement to the service and help increase teenage and young adult participation. Unfortunately, most houses of worship were not designed for these loud percussive instruments and the result is excessive volume levels and unintelligible vocals.

Fortunately, there are now several possible solutions available to you that weren’t available a few years ago. If possible, the acoustics of the room should be improved by adding acoustic absorption baffles to the walls, ceiling, or wherever possible in order to reduce the reverb time of the room. Reverb time is the amount of time it takes for a hand clap or other loud sound to dissipate and ideally should be between two and three seconds.

There are several professional companies available that perform this type of work. After addressing the acoustic problems of the room as much as possible, some praise bands have invested in an electronic drum set to try to solve the problem. A good quality electric kit has the advantage of giving the sound engineer a lot of flexibility with the drums in the PA mix.

Natural sound and feel

Disadvantages include having to deal with a fairly complex system of wiring and a less natural drum sound and feel that many drummers dislike. Good quality electronic drum kits start at more than $3,000. If you decide that you want to keep the sound and feel of a real drum kit but just want to lower the volume level and clean up the overall sound, you may want to try out one of the new portable isolation enclosures now available.

Most systems combine clear acrylic shields with absorption baffles and come in a variety of configurations and sizes depending on the need. The acrylic shields act as a see-through acoustic barrier and sound reflector while the baffles are designed to soak up excess sound before it can escape into the room.

Most isolation systems, sometimes referred to as “IsoPacs” or “Isobooths,” significantly reduce the amount of stray drum sound that sneaks into the vocal mics and instrument mics. The person in charge of sound can bring the vocals up in the mix without sound from the drums and cymbals bleeding into the mix. Just add a kick and overhead mic to bring a controlled drum presence back into the PA mix and you’re ready to have a great sounding service at a reasonable volume level.

Brian Smith is president of ClearSonic Mfg., Inc., Hudson, OH. [www.clearsonic.com]

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