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Posted on Dec 6, 2013 in Resources, Tools | 20 comments

How to Easily Build an Effective Drum Cage for Half the Money

Most everyone who’s tried it can tell you a plexiglass shield by itself won’t actually dampen the sound of the drums one iota. It’ll just toss the sound back where it’ll bounce off something else and eventually all over the place as it did before you spent all that money. You need something to both dampen and break up or contain the sound waves.  The ultimate solution is a drum room or booth that is completely enclosed (preferably with ventilation so the drummer doesn’t pass out halfway through the set!). But for those of us without either deep pockets or bored handymen at our disposal, we need a quick & easy cost-effective solution.

When my grand electric drum experiment hit the fan, we had to figure out a new solution on a minimal budget. To pay for a quality ready-made drum cage, you’re generally talking $2,000+. But with helpful advice from a sound guru we’ve worked with, I pieced together a drum cage that has served us quite well. Here’s how to do it yourself…

Drum Cage

Our cage at LifeQuest Church.

Step 1: Find a Corner
We’re going to take advantage of existing structure on your stage so that we don’t have to buy more expensive drum cage material and paneling to surround the back. Another advantage: This cage does not have to swallow an entire section of your stage. We have lighting that I was dreading to block out with a drum cage. But as you can see in the picture above, you can see right through to the wall. Some of you may have questions about the effectiveness of using drywall for part of the cage…we’ll come back to that. Cost: $0

Step 2: The Plexiglass
This is the biggest expense. But go ahead and pay the little extra for all 7 panels of plexiglass to give you the flexibility you need to completely wrap around the drum set from one wall of your corner to the other. The last panel can act as something of a door for your drummers to close behind them. You’ll also want it to be at least 5′ tall. Cost: $739

Step 3: The Lid
More often than not, the biggest culprits of drum loudness are the cymbals and snare. Without something on top to contain and absorb some of the “edge” from those particular pieces, we’re not going to achieve much at all. This part of our drum cage setup may be the most critical. The one I used comes with a cross bar and 3 panels that look professional and dampen sound effectively. Cost: $270

Step 4: The Back Wall
As I promised, we’ve come back to our issue of using drywall for the back of our cage. Look, it’s really not optimal but we are on a budget here.  Just steps 1-3 will help a lot by mostly enclosing the set and putting an absorbent lid on it. But you’ll still have sound bouncing off the plexiglass, then the back wall and escaping out any gaps. To help with that problem, I bought 24 one-foot square acoustic panels and stuck them all over the back wall. Turning them in different directions helps scatter the sound a bit. Also, I didn’t want to use their adhesive directly on our wall so we glued them to smaller cardboard squares and tacked the cardboard to the wall with little nails.  In our case, a sheer curtain we use for lighting blocks the foam from sight. But they do come in a few different colors if yours would be more visible. Cost: $110

 

I did use Sweetwater.com for this project and that’s why all my links went to their site, not because of any sort of commission I’m receiving…because I’m not getting a dime! Maybe someday, ha! Also, I recommend that you work with Jeff Green. He’s a great sales engineer there who will take good care of you and, on a purchase of this size, he might even be able to take a bit off the price.

Any more cost-effective solutions out there? Throw ’em out there and maybe they’ll be an even better fit for somebody else.

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

20 Comments

  1. Hello sir, I find your article very useful, but I have some newbie question that I hope you will find time to answer me.

    1. Can I use Polycarbonate plastic glass (the one use as roofing) instead of Plexi glass?

    2. If the back of the drum set is a window and is open, do I still need to use acoustic panel?

    3. Is it ok not to put a roof for my cage?

    3. in above plan set-up of my DIY drum cage will it minimize the sound that the drums produce in our church?

    Thank you for your time. God bless

    • Hi, I’ll try!
      1. If you have a way to join roofing panels together so that they surround and stand up on their own without looking really un-excellent, I don’t see why that wouldn’t be an option. You’re just trying to keep the sound from escaping out the front before having a chance to be absorbed/dissipated by some of the other kinds of paneling we use in this set-up.

      2. So there’s a huge open window behind the drum set? Where does it go, outside? If it’s going to go into a huge space like that behind the drum set and not bounce around in the room, you may not need acoustic paneling. Hard to say without seeing or hearing but you might try it without and if you don’t think it’s cutting it, you can add the paneling later?

      3. The roof is probably the most important part of this whole equation. The biggest culprit in “loud drums” are the cymbals and–with a moderate-to-heavy hitting drummer–the snare. If you can dampen that a little, take the edge off, then most complaints about “loud drums” will go away. The lid panels do that. Without them, the cymbals and even the snare will bounce right over the shield and you probably won’t even notice a difference.

      4. I think I answered this in #3’s answer. It may not make a huge difference in volume but it will take the edge off of the most grating/harsh sounds that cause most people to cringe or jump out of their skin! lol

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Any things on drums and studio sound accoustic

  3. Hi there,

    I just had a couple of questions regarding your article.

    1). How do you use one of the acrylic panels as a door?
    2). Does the lid cover the whole of the cage?
    3). Do you have any floor absorbing panels?
    4). Could you possibly put up another photo of your cage
    so I can get a better jist of what it should look like

    Great work you are doing and hope you can reply.
    God bless

    • Thanks, EJ! I’ll do my best:
      1) Having it in the corner, we found that it was easy enough for the drummer to swing the last panel shut behind him after he entered the cage. We made no special customizations to do that and it’s on carpet, at that.

      2) Most of it. Enough to absorb a lot of sound from the cymbals, especially.

      3) We did not but the floor is carpeted and that absorbs a certain amount of sound of it’s own. If your floor is not, you could consider some kind of panel or just a rug or something like that.

      4) I’m afraid I’m unable to take any more pictures. I don’t make it back up to my church in Missouri very often since moving to become a pastor in Louisiana.

      Thanks again, hope this helps!

  4. Love this, just one question about the lid, I can’t see from the picture how it stays put. I know it’s sitting on glass, but there’s only glass on one side, how does it not slide down the side of the wall? I guess I don’t see how it’s supported on both sides. Thanks

    • Hi Dave, great question. The lid actually comes with a support bar. If you look hard for it you might find it hiding to the side of the image for the lid. If I remember correctly, we ended up buying an additional support bar as they don’t cost much and an extra keeps the lid from sagging. (Link: http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/SupportBar)

      The support bar hooks over the top edges of the plexiglass panels that wrap around the sides of the drum set. I hope this helps!

      • That actually helps a lot, thank you. Now the big question is do you think this lid will work on any set of glass shields? I have about 10 panels but they’re not made by clear sonic. Would that be a problem?
        Thanks

        • I can’t see why it wouldn’t work on any set. Good luck!

  5. Thank you so much for great money-saving advice! Did you also mic the drums after you put the cage in place?

  6. Quick question.

    What would you use as connectors between each piece of plexiglass.

    • The ClearSonic panels I linked to come with hinges that worked great for us.

  7. FYI: It may be helpful & may benefit the drummer to run a conduit from the air/vent to the top of the Drummer cage. It may get a little hot in there (Especially in the Summer Time)

    • Yes, especially in cages that are sealed off. The lid I link to in this post is enough to dampen most of the sound but there’s still enough gaps for warm air to lift right out. Good thinking!

  8. At my church we used sound board to go around the front/back wall & we used it for the roof. Sound is about $18 each and we just cut it down to the size we needed. Each size is 8×4. You’ll need about 4 pieces of it. We also painted it to blend in with the color scheme at our church.

    • You can get the sound board from Home Depot of lowes

      • Thanks, Tim. I assume you mean foam board? Like the thin sheets they use for insulation? That’s a great idea and probably helps a lot. I will mention that I’ve been told that using foam panels that have been shaped into ridges and turned in different directions helps distribute & dampen the sound waves more than a flat panel would. But this option y’all used will sure help the budget! Thanks again.

  9. Will this stop or severely reduce sound from coming in?

    • For what purpose? To reduce feedback, etc? It’s certainly not sound proof either way. Our drummers used noise cancelling headphones as a monitor. The drums themselves are likely even louder in there. If feedback is your concern, compressors will likely be your best friend there but I’d check with a sound expert on that. Thanks for your question!

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