For novices who have just purchased their first drum kit and professional drummers alike, glass drum screens, also known as drum shields, are a great musical tool. Not only are they used by touring musicians to ensure high-quality drum sound and volume regulation, but they are also great for rehearsing in homemade studios. But why do drummers have glass around them?
Drummers use glass drum screens or shields to control their sound on stage and in the recording studio to ensure they do not overpower other musicians.
To learn more about drum screens and how they work, continue reading below.
Understanding Drum Screens
Drum screens, also called shields, are used by drummers of many ages and proficiencies. They appear to the naked eye like a glass wall surrounding the drummer. These screens seemingly isolate them from the rest of the group or band.
These screens are see-through acrylic or plastic about 5.6mm (¼ of an inch thick). Drum screens tend to be waterproof and resistant to breaking or scratching. This makes them excellent for touring bands that transport their equipment by car or use public airlines.
Drum screens or shields are typically alongside sound-dampening curtains when used for recording or rehearsing purposes. These curtains absorb excess sound through acoustic foam, which is excellent at removing any unwanted sound reverberation.
When recording in a makeshift studio created in a basement space, the drummer is very close to the other musicians. Portable soundproofing gives you greater flexibility in what area you use.
Screens are also excellent for use in a professional recording studio, where acrylic drum screens absorb some sound waves rather than bounce them into the room.
Popular Materials for Drum Screens
Screens are usually acrylic or plastic and often come with sound-dampening curtains, baffles, or acoustic foam; they also contain other materials to make them effective. Deflectors (also made using acrylic) are also an essential part of what makes screens helpful.
Deflectors help create an additional layer of protection alongside barriers on the front, side, and sometimes even over the top. These help prevent noise from bouncing back into the microphone, creating unwanted reverb. Adding a panel atop the kit prevents further sound from escaping too loudly into the rest of the room, theatre, or arena.
In addition to deflectors, screens are sometimes put together or maneuvered with added pieces of plexiglass and clear, quick-drying adhesive. This way, traveling with your drum screen becomes more convenient as no assembly is needed when it is time to set up for a gig.
The Purpose of a Drum Screen
Drummers use these screens for two main reasons:
Drummers play behind screens so that their rhythm and sound do not overpower the other players in terms of volume. Suppose a renowned band is playing a live performance in a large venue, and their drummer is not using a drum screen or shield of some kind.
In that case, their performance will suffer and be lesser than their studio recordings due to loudness from unshielded drums. This is useful for both live performances and recording studio situations.
In some cases, isolating drum sounds can be handy. Cymbal mics are particularly handy for isolating a thunderous and vital sound.
Similar to how drum screens prevent the drummer from audibly overpowering the band, they offer protection from echoes that can drown out all the sound in a venue altogether.
By absorbing echoes through acrylic drum screens or bounding sound inward with plastic drum screens, the echo will not get thrown against the walls and ceiling of the venue. This feature is also helpful for both live performances and recording studio situations.
In addition to screens, some drummers even opt for isolation booths containing a ceiling and hefty side paneling depending on the brand, manufacturer, and type.
Does A Drummer Always Need A Screen?
While screens are significant assets for all drummers, they aren’t always practical. There are a few instances when drummers do not need to use drum screens to sound great when playing solo or with their band.
Indoor situations when a drummer won’t need a drum screen include:
- When the drummer is located below and in front of the musicians, such as in an orchestra pit
- The drummer is far away from the other musicians and their microphones, particularly behind them
- When the drummer is high up on a platform
Outdoor situations when a drummer won’t need a drum screen include:
- When the drummer is in a large, outdoor venue without many walls or a ceiling
- When there is no wind gusting through the outdoor venue
Recording studio situations when a drummer won’t need a drum screen include:
- When the drummer is recording at a separate time from everyone else
If none of these situations apply directly to you and where you will be playing drums, consider purchasing a reliable drum screen or shield to improve your sound.
The Setup Process
The setup process for a drum screen or drum shield is typically pretty simple. Drum screens can be put together in only a few main ways due to their panel and box shapes. These are:
Just Place and Go
Some screens come with acrylic hinges that allow a quick and easy setup. You place your screen correctly for your needs and begin playing. Some of these hinges require an attachment, but some are permanently attached.
Secure Your Drum Screen With Glue
Some drummers choose to take the front and sides of their plastic or acrylic drum screen and DIY glue them together. Budget drummers use this in cases where they cannot afford “proper” applications.
The Accordion Setup
Some screens, namely the ones designed specifically for travel, come in little folded-up accordions. These drum screens must be unfolded, placed, and secured before playing.
If you have optional deflectors that you want to use with any of these types of drum screens, you will need to include attaching them as the final part of your drum kit setup before soundcheck and playing.
The Average Price of Drum Screens
Drum screen prices can vary greatly depending on the side of the screen and what it is made of. A small, average-sized screen for your kit that does not come with deflectors can cost anywhere from $400-$700, depending on where you purchase it.
A medium to large drum screen or shield set made from acrylic rather than plastic without acrylic hinges or deflectors can cost anywhere from $700-$1500.
An isolation booth can cost even more, ranging from about $2000-$3500 depending on its size. These prices do not include deflectors, hinge capabilities, accordion drum screens, absorption panels, or any other echo-deferring devices and add-ons.
Some drummers opt to create their DIY drum screens or shields by piecing together large plexiglass sheets or plastic panels rather than spending the money on a quality screen, even though the absorption quality won’t be as high.
Should I Use A Drum Screen?
Deciding whether to use a drum screen in your setup will depend on a fewdifferent factors including the venue size, the music genre, and the specific acoustic needs for your recording session or rehearsal. Some factors to consider include:
A big reason to use a drum screen is to gain superior control over the acoustic environment. Drum screens can aid in reducing the volume of the drum kit, allowing for a balanced sound that harmonizes with the other instruments. If you find that your drum set tends to overpower other instruments, a drum screen could be a suitable solution.
During recording sessions, a drum screen can be particularly beneficial in isolating the sound of the drums, creating a cleaner and more focused recording. It prevents audio spill into microphones dedicated to other instruments, offering a meticulous control over each track.
In live performance settings, particularly in smaller venues or churches, drum screens help in maintaining a controlled volume, safeguarding the audience from potential discomfort due to high volume levels. It also facilitates a clearer sound projection, enhancing the overall experience for the audience.
Depending upon the genre of music, the utilization of a drum screen might vary. For genres prioritizing clean and distinct sound separations, a drum screen is often seen as essential. Conversely, genres that embrace a raw and “live” sound might opt to forego a screen to maintain an organic interplay of instruments.
A drum screen can also impart a certain visual aesthetic to the stage setup, offering a neat and organized appearance. However, it can potentially create a barrier, diminishing the visual connection between the drummer and the audience. It’s a nuanced decision where the visual presentation preferences need to be weighed against acoustic benefits.
Budget and Space
Implementing a drum screen demands both financial investment and additional space. Assess the budget and the available space to ensure that a drum screen is a feasible option for your setup.
The Option to Alter Your Sound
If you are a drummer looking to save your audience from uncomfortable echoes, or a bandmate who no longer wants to drown out the other members of your band with drums that are too loud, a drum screen might be the perfect solution for you.
Used by drummers worldwide to regulate their sound volume and stifle extra reverberation, drum screens are one of a drummer’s most precious equipment pieces.