How To Choose Between Live Drums and Drum Pad Kits for Smaller Church Facilities

We all know the Pros and Cons of Live Drums: Everyone loves to play real drums – that’s the way we all started learning to play in our basement to our favorite songs. They have the feel that we are used to. They have the sound were used to. We are comfortable with things that we are used to. We all like the feel of live drums. You don’t have to convince me. But, let’s face it. They are LOUD.

In the church facilities, there are a lot of things going on in regards to the live drums. The drums are the center of the stage mix. Everyone mixes their monitors around the stage volume of the drums. There are options control the volume of drums with plexiglass enclosures AND absorption. You can play softer, but that effects the sound quality of the drums.

It is exciting to dial in a great to great kick drum sound. I always like the kick head to be loose, for more impact. I love the way a wood beater adds tack to the top end, adding definition, for a nice tight kick drum. To achieve that result, it takes a great sound engineer, good parametric EQ, a compressor, a good microphone, good microphone, and correct placement. Don’t forget a solid drummer – one that hits the drums consistently every time. With 35 years experience, world tours, and many studio sessions, I have come to love everything to do with real drums.

However, as a systems contractor for 24 years, the church environment has changed my approach. How do I help the church reduce, or eliminate stage volume, while achieving a great kick drum, consistent in volume and tone for every hit? Well… I thought I would never say this: A drum pad kit. There, I said it. Back in the day, we would go to Radio Shack and purchase car sensors, tape them on the bottom of a piece of wood and trigger our 1 second sample to get great drum sounds. We would also trigger our sample off the tape tracks. This gave us the ability to set up quick recording sessions with whatever drums came through the door. After we recorded the real drums, we would go back and trigger the sampled drums sounds off the tape tracks. Drummers with awful sounding drums were amazed at the quality of the recording, out of their beat up old drum kit.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Drum pad manufacturers have come a long way since then, to give us the feel of live drums. The best drum kits have multiple outputs, separating the kick, snare, toms, and cymbals. Sometimes creative panning is required to ‘cheat’ the number of outputs. The sound guy now has control over the drum mix.

So here’s a hybrid solution for you drummers: Use the kick, tom’s, and snare pads, and keep your real cymbals.

I think we can make the sacrifice, for the good of the congregation in smaller churches. This will keep the stage volume under control for a few songs on a Sunday morning. The congregation will thank you. You may be surprised at how great the kick and snare sound in your headphones. Did I say headphones?


Dennis Phillips

CTS, LEED AP, OSG (Old Sound Guy)


Related Links:
How to Operate a Sound System Mixer


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