Drumming question

Do you know what the deal is with drummers? ben harper’s
drummer is the second one I’ve seen with plexi-glass
set up around the set. Is it so the drummer can
hear the sound better?

No, it’s generally done to minimize microphonic bleed and maximize control of the drum sound due to acoustic deficiencies. Trust me, the last thing a drummer needs live is to hear MORE of himself!

As soemone who comes from three generations of drummers (Big Band, Jazz and Rock era’s), i can confirm that it’s designed to keep them safely locked up until the cattle prod team move in after the gig.

I am much more of a hand-drummer (Djembe, Dumbek) so I don’t have too much knowledge of micing a trap. But for what it’s worth it sounds like Sake Samurai hit the nail right on the head. The main volume from a guitar, bass, etc. come from the amps, not the strings. Drum, well… when was the last time you heard an acoustic guitar from a long way off?

One thing about hard-rock drumming is that the bass drum and
the high-hat cymbals tend to move on you.(slide forward) A buddy of mine used to nail a 2x4 on the drum platform to keep the bass drum in place.

Darn, this is right up my alley, yet I missed the opportunity to be first.

The clear wall around the drummers that you see on TV are to prevent the acoustical sound of the drums from bleeding into the singer’s microphone. That way the engineer or producer can adjust the balance so that the audience can hear all of the parts, and not just the drums over everything. It is important that each voice or instrument can be adjusted individually. In that way, the sound engineer (producer) can create a program we all will enjoy.

When in the recording studio, making an album (okay, a CD), the drummer is usually in an entirely seperate room from the other musicians. Sometimes, the drummer is even there by himself and lays down the drum parts by himself. The studio uses a click track (basically a metronome on tape) to make sure that all of these independently recorded parts line up into one, cohesive piece of music.

A drum question for all you, well, drummers…

How are drum “notes” noted on sheet music? I know that drums can be tuned, but I’ve never looked at sheet music to see how its denoted? Also, aren’t there technical terms for different types of drum “things” (I know that sounds really stupid, but I can’t think of what else to call them) - i.e., rolls, paradiddles (sp?), etc.

Just curious, and Mickey and Bill aren’t returning my calls.


Drum parts are noted on a normal stave with no clef. The notes are usually xs on the bottom of the usual stems.

Where more than one part is shown, the different instuments are shown on different lines.

Where necessary, sticking (RRLR etc) is written underneath the notes. Rolls are denoted as long notes. A five hit roll is a crotchet/ quarter note. Whether the rolls are open (like in a marching band) or closed (a buzz roll) is usually noted at the start of the work.

Yes there are names for different “bits”: flam (hitting with two hands, the first one softer than the second), paradiddles (RRLRLLRL), double strokes (RRLLRRLL) etc.


Sadly, not enough live venues take advantage of the rather inexpensive advantage such a Plexiglas setup offers. My experience with soundmen in live settings was always:

  1. Set up the drum mics and mix them way too loud for the size of the room.
  2. Set up all the other instruments way louder than the drums.
  3. Make the vocals practically inaudible.
  4. What monitor mix?

On the Ben Harper angle, IRC he plays some accoustic lap slide guitar. Hollow bodies tend to pick up more ambient noise than solids, so it may be particularly important to shield him from drum spill.

On the issue of foldback, many drummers do use foldback with drums in the monitor mix. Many drummers like to feel the kick drum in their chest. I recall playing a support where the drummer for the main band had a 500 watt speaker less than a foot from his head. It had mostly drums in it.


Phil, you’re exactly right about soundmen. I’m always fighting with them at my shows. I motion for more vocals in the mix and what does the slob do? He turns my monitors up - of course that doesn’t help the audience a bit. I motion for less drums and he looks at me like I’m crazy. We usually end up with overpowering drums and guitar, quiet bass, lost leads and solos and vocals that are all over the place. Unfortunately, no GOOD soundman will work for beer only, or I’d have my own.

I’m not with you on the plexiglass, however - they look too damn tacky. I’m up there ROCKING for God’s sake, not manning a drive-thru.

thanks for the replies… good stuff!