In many churches, the sound coming from the stage is louder than the house mix…and this is a problem. You will never experience a quality mix if stage noise is out of control.
There are three main causes of excessive stage noise:
Good news is, there are simple ways to fix these problems so you can achieve balance between stage noise and your house mix.
When the acoustical energy coming from the drums is too much, you need some type of shield and sound absorption around the drums. You don’t need complete isolation, as some would believe. A five-foot drum shield with sound absorption panels behind the drums will make a world of difference.
Keep in mind, a drum shield alone is not going to help much. Without sound absorption panels behind the drums, a drum shield will just cause the sound to bounce around before reaching the listener at about the same intensity.
You also need to communicate with the drummer if they are playing too loud. I know, this is a hard thing to get across to a drummer that loves to beat the heck out of the drums, but keep at it. Find ways to help them realize that the drums actually sound better when control is used.
Important side note: Drums should always be mic’d, even if you are in a small room. There is no other way to get a full sound out of the kick, toms and snare. Learn how to mic and mix drums here.
An alternate way to make drums quieter is to use different sticks. Learn more here.
Guitar amps should be fully isolated. There really isn’t a benefit to hearing direct sound from the amp in the audience. There are several ways to take care of this:
Keep in mind, this will not do you any good unless you are using in-ear monitors. Otherwise, you will be running the guitar through monitor wedges and recreating the noise.
I know, some people are going to put up a fight. But it’s worth the fight.
And you know what? The people that fight you the hardest will likely end up liking the in-ear monitors a few months down the line.
You see, there is no other way to get control of the massive stage volume that comes as a result of your musicians needing to ‘hear themselves’.
Switching to in-ear monitors doesn’t have to break the bank. I have a post on how you can do it pretty inexpensively:
Switching to In-Ear Monitors on a Budget
Is your excessive stage noise coming from something I have not mentioned in this post? Use the comments below to let me know.
What's your feelings on electronic drums?
Personally, I don't like electronic drums. You lose a lot of energy and the drummer is usually unhappy. However, they may be the best solution for certain situations (like a super small room). If you can get the sound you want and keep the drummer happy with electronic drums, you might as well use them.
how do i Put ‘just enough’ of the instruments in the monitors for pitch/tempo reference.
Turn them up until you can hear them, then dial back a bit.
John, as a drummer for 28 years and a worship leader from guitar for 20, I love and right electronic drums in the right venue!! I have been at huge churches where live drums are no issue and smaller to medium churches were we have to be aware of our sound level and people have complain about the live drums sounding muffelled when behind a shield or in a cage. No matter what we did the sound bounced everywhere. In these place we have saved enough to buy the best Roland kits on the market and have never had an unhappy drummer because they have a great feel and sound. The thing non-drummer do not understand is, to get the full/rich sound of the drums, you have to hit them with a certain weight. Try it yourself on a good drum set. To soft and they sound thin. You can't just tell a drummer to play softer. It can change the whole feel and vibe and make it no fun for the drummer. Granted, there are some drummer that bang the snot out of the drums, they need to be taught good technique. Good electronic drums are better than soft drums with no energy any day!
What's your thoughts on hot rods and thunder rods to replace traditional sticks on an acoustic set?
I am not sure as I have never used either. However, I do believe that a drummer can learn to use control with traditional drumsticks - it just takes practice and lots of reminding...
Justin, this is a good solution for a small room or a smaller band. If you have a full band or want a full sound from the drums, you won't get it with lightning rods or brushes.
I'd like to hear more about how to properly mic the room because we use in-ears and it's hard to hear the people singing along, even with one ear in and one ear out. What mics are best, how many, and what's the best location. You can just email me personally if you don't think it's enough to write an article about. Thanks and love all the helpful information on your site!
Just want to say thank you for your site, that is helping me a lot! Here in Portugal, is very difficult to get good help. Keep the good work.
Kade, great article! I have run my stage exactly how you described as optimal for years. We still had an issue with the drums in a cage and miced so we went with the best Roland V-Drums and love it. The only stage sound is from our vocal wedges. One other option for guitarist is to use guitar modeling pedal boards with direct outs. This is how we roll. Everyone has a Line 6 POD/HD or Boss GT. If not, I have one I loan out.
Great article thanks!
We are on three floor monitor and have two electric guitars using very low level amps on amp stands, right in front of and pointing directly up to musician... like a monitor.
Sound guys are trying to tell us to go direct and push the guitars through the monitors, but like in your article... I believe this would make it more difficult for the 3-4 vocalists.
Can you give us some feedback on this please?
Hey Scott. Getting rid of the amps to reintroduce the sound through the monitors really would solve much. And you are right, it could make matters worse because your vocals and guitars would be fighting over who is louder in the monitors.
Now, if you are going to move to in-ears, then it probably would be better to go direct in on your guitars, or move the amps off-stage and surrounding by sound absorbing panels.
Hope that helps!
Hey Kade, quick question! I'm the drummer at my church and we gather in a small building. The stage is very small and the drums aren't entirely enclosed so there's a lot of stage noise. We also have two floor wedges but only the drummer, lead singer, and keyboardist can run in-ears. Would sound treatment be ideal in this situation? Would love for you to give some feedback, thank you!
Hey Gabe - Any sound treatment you can use on the back wall of the stage will be very helpful. We currently have a sound absorption curtain across the entirety of our stage back wall. Works wonders!