If you have seen any live performance by a band, you may have noticed the drummer sitting behind a transparent glass or plastic drum screen. Lots of people wonder what the point of these screens are, what difference they actually make, and if they should be using a screen as well while playing the drums.
These drum screens or shields are actually important for many bands to help them to control the volume of the drums in relation to other instruments on stage. This helps them to create the sound they are looking for and for you to enjoy the music without one instrument becoming too dominant.
If you are wondering what exactly these screens do, or are considering using a drum screen in future, keep reading as we are going to look at why drums screens are necessary, materials and setup as well as the cost of drum screens too!
Why Do Drummers Sit Behind a Screen?
Drummers may sit behind a drum screen or shield to help to reduce the volume of the drum kit and prevent it from overwhelming the sounds of the other instruments or vocals. Drum screens can also help to improve the sound quality of the drum kit and help the drummer to pick up certain sounds.
So, how does a drum sound actually control drum volume? And does the stage setup and screen material affect this? If you are considering looking to control your drum sound as part of a live performance or are simply curious about how these screens work, keep reading for our ultimate guide to drum screens!
What is a Drum Screen/ Shield?
A drum shield is a type of screen placed around a drum kit which helps to reduce the volume of the drums experienced by other musicians and the audience if playing live and as part of a band.
These screens are usually made from acrylic and consist of a number of connected panels, usually surrounding the front of the drum kit.
These shields work by blocking, deflecting or in some cases, absorbing sound in order to minimise the volume of the sound reaching beyond the drum screen.
Drum shields can vary in the number of panels they have, how much of the drum kit they surround, and if there are any gaps. These features can change depending on the model, price and quality of the drum shield and how much you want to control the drum volume.
The thickness of the material making up the drum shield can also vary and generally, more expensive shields will be thicker and be able to block or absorb more sound than cheaper, thinner shields.
Drum screens can also vary in their extra features, such as deflectors and scratch-proof material.
Why Are Drum Screens Needed?
When playing live and as part of a band, the sound of an acoustic drum kit has the potential to overwhelm the sound of the other instruments and vocals.
Depending on the proximity to other musicians, the sound of your drums can bleed into other microphones on stage, covering the sound of the other instruments. This can also make it difficult for any sound technician to alter the sound coming from the stage.
A drum shield can help to partially isolate the sound of the drums, meaning that sound technicians have a much easier job controlling what the audience hear, and can lead to a much better experience for the audience too.
What Determines if you Need a Drum Shield?
If you are considering investing in a drum shield, there are a few different things you can consider to see if you are the right choice for you.
Type of drum kit
The type of drum kit you have, as well as the type of cymbal can have a large impact on the volume of your kit, as well as if you may need a drum shield.
Acoustic drum kits will generally produce higher volume sounds than electronic kits, where volume can be controlled to some degree. Therefore, it is more likely that you may need a drum shield when using an acoustic kit rather than an electronic kit.
The size and layout of the venue you will be playing in can also play a part in if you will need a drum shield.
Smaller venues will not only mean you will likely be playing in close proximity to other musician’s microphones, but will also mean that the sound of your drums could become overpowering.
This will depend on the venue itself as well as a number of different factors, so carefully consider if this will be needed before playing!
Because the main issue is the sound of the drums bleeding into other musician’s microphones, how close the drums are positioned to other people or instruments on stage is important to think about.
If you are on a smaller stage or are just particularly close to other musicians, you might want to consider using a drum shield to make sure the sound of your drums doesn’t interfere too much with other musicians.
Additions to Drum Shields- Deflectors
Drum deflectors are small panels that are added to the top of each large drum panel and lean slightly inwards, towards the drummer.
These panels provide extra height to the whole drum shield, while their angle means that even more sound can be deflected away from the stage.
Depending on the height, type and quality of your drum shield, you may still get some sound bleed affecting other musicians on stage. Deflectors can help to reduce this even further, allowing even more control over the sound experienced by the audience.
How to Use a Drum Screen? Set up
When you receive your drum screen, it will likely come as a number of separate, individual panels that will need to be connected together.
Many drum shield panels will have a groove along one or both sides. These will allow the hinges to be attached to them.
For some drum shields, the best starting point is to line up these grooved panels side by side and either slide or clamp one side of the hinge to one panel, curve the hinge an then do the same with the panel next to it.
Repeating this will should allow you to connect all of the panels to form one large screen where you can angle the panels so suit your set-up.
Remember, there are a number of different drum screen brands and models, so each shield may have a slightly different setup. Always follow the instructions on the setup of your drum shield provided to make sure you are doing this the right way.
Are Drum Screens Expensive?
Generally speaking, with drum shields you will get what you pay for. There are a variety of options to choose from and it is completely dependent on how much noise reduction you want.
Generally, you could spend between $200 up to even $10,000 and over, depending on the style, quality, and special features of the drum shield you would like.
An expensive drum shield could be extremely thick and able to absorb or deflect a large percentage of sound with little sound bleed. These could also include deflectors or even completely encase the drum kit, leading to a higher level of control over the drum volume.
The amount you spend on a drum shield is completely up to you and how much control you need over your volume, as well as the additional features you might want. So think carefully about which might be the right option for you!
Cons of Using Drum Shields
There is a tonne of reasons why a drum shield might be a good option for you. BUT, there are some things that you might want to consider beforehand.
Firstly, deflecting the sound and preventing it from bleeding into the rest of the stage, this can mean that the volume inside the drum shield is even louder. Always make sure that you ask a professional for advice on looking after your ears and hearing if you are worried about this.
Another downside of using a drum shield when you perform at a live venue is the time it takes to set up the shield each time. You will also need a way of transporting the dismantled drum shield.
Even though these shields usually fold up to become more compact, the individual panels can still be reasonably large, meaning that you will need a way of transporting these as well as your drum kit.
You will need to schedule in time to not only set up your drum kit, but also the drum shield around it. While this shouldn’t take too long, some drummers still don’t want to spend the time constructing and deconstructing them every time.
Alternatives to Using Drum Shields
If you have weighed up the pros and cons and are looking for some alternatives to using a drum shield, then there are plenty of other ways to reduce the volume of your drums. Check out some of the alternatives down below!
Electronic Drum Kits
A great way to control the volume of your drum kit is to switch to an electronic kit in certain situations.
Electronic drum kits which are attached to amplifiers make it easy for you to control the volume of the sound they produce, unlike an acoustic kit. Many electronic drum kits also have settings where you can alter the sound so they are similar to an acoustic drum kit.
Rolland, Yamaha and Alesis are just some of the popular electric drum kit brands out there and vary in their price, as well as the features they have.
If you are concerned by the difficulty transporting and setting up a drum shield, an electronic drum kit could be an effective option as they also have the advantage at being generally easy to transport and fold away, depending on their size.
Cymbals that feature a number of small holes for reduce their volume can be a great alternative to a full cymbal if you are using an acoustic kit.
These cymbals are widely available and are a similar size and feel to a regular cymbal. The reduction in noise is caused by reducing the mass of the cymbal as a whole.
Changing your drumsticks can also help to reduce the overall volume produced by your drums.
Thicker drumsticks will mean that more force can be applied to each strike of the drum heads. This will inevitably produce a louder sound. Thinner drumsticks will not have the same force behind them, meaning that they could help to reduce the volume of each stroke.
Drumming rods are also an alternative to drumsticks which can produce a notice reduction in volume. The only downside to using rods instead of drumsticks is that they produce quite a different sound. This is personal preference, some like them, some don’t.
So, it may be worth giving these a try if you really need to reduce volume, but bare in mind that they might sound different to what you’re used to!
Your drum pedal can also be a reason why your drum set is producing loud volume sounds. Specifically, the material of the kick-drum beater.
Kick-drum beaters with plastic or metal heads for example will produce higher volume sounds than other materials. In particular, ‘fluffy’ drum pedals help with noise reduction as their impact on the kick drum itself will be reduced and the sound dampened.
To conclude, drum shields are a popular way to control and reduce the volume of your drum kit. You may consider using a drum shield if you are playing live and don’t want the sound to interfere and overpower other musician’s microphones on stage, but can also depend on the set-up, your venue, and your drum kit.
If you decide that a drum shield isn’t the option for you, there are other ways you can control the volume of your kit. For example, using an electronic drum kit, alternative drumsticks such as rods, low volume cymbals and alternative material kick-pedal beaters could help to reduce the volume of the sound you produce.
If you found this article useful, don’t hesitate to take a look at our other blog posts about all things drumming! We post articles about different features of drum kits, how to get the best out of your kit and also answer some of the most frequently asked drumming questions you might have!