Lighting a Drum Enclosure

Using lighting effects on stage is a crucial element in enhancing visuals and visibility for both the audience and those performing. This is just as important when configuring lighting for your drums and the drummer, particularly when in an enclosure. There are many ways this can be done, but not all of them are effective.

Many things need to be considered when trying to light up a drummer’s space. For example, when lighting the drummer downstage from outside the glass, you’re focusing that light on a reflective surface that creates a glare. The drummer now has light to see, but anyone looking on the enclosure from the outside will have their vision impeded.

Some people will try to light up the drummer using floor lighting from inside the drum enclosure and aiming it upwards. This is a cool effect when used in tandem with lights hung from the ceiling of enclosure, but when used on its own it casts strange shadows. This can then cause the drummer to look like someone telling ghost stories around a camp fire instead of a performer trying to blend into the stage environment.

Magenta lighting on the Crystal clear drum case designed by Whiteley.

On the other hand, some people choose to not light their drummers at all. This is not a good choice for a few reasons. First, if the drummer is not lit, you now have an enclosure sitting on stage in the dark. It pulls more focus to the fact that it is not lit than it would if it were. Second, you have impaired the drummer’s vision. This makes it highly difficult if the drummer is reading charts, tuning, or troubleshooting. You don’t want to leave your drummer literally in the dark.

Let’s discuss recommendations for selecting proper lighting your enclosure. First and foremost, when picking lights to go into an enclosure, you need to buy LED fixtures. This is the best option, because nobody wants “cooked” drummer. (They don’t taste good!) LED has little to no heat transfer keeping your drummer from overheating.

Our enclosures come with five light mounts built in them, three in the front and two in the back. You can locate these mounts easily by looking for the five bolts hanging down through the fabric in the ceiling. If you are only purchasing one fixture to start with, I recommend choosing one that is either warm white or invest in a better light that is “rgb-w” or “rgb-wa.” (The r stands for red, g for green, b for blue, a for amber, and w for warm white.) If you select only warm white, at least everything will look clean. If you select one of the other options, you can expand your color pallet to all colors when creating moods on stage.

Here are some tips to consider when lighting your enclosure. The first thing you will notice when you situate lights from the ceiling of the enclosure is that the glass just seemingly disappears. If some glare is still visible, check downstage for any lights shining on the drum enclosure and refocus them elsewhere. The other remaining four light mounts in the enclosure will give you more of an even coverage of light and will also aide in giving off the same mood that you are creating outside the enclosure.

For instance, what if you are back-lighting an entire band and putting key light on the lead singer? This same effect can be created in the drum enclosure by matching the drummer’s back-lighting to the same color on the stage, and either turning off the enclosure’s front-lighting, or by bringing its front lights up gently to match the back-lit color. This creates a cohesive and satisfying visual unity within the stage environment.

One last thing to consider in regards to the importance of lighting effects is the online presence of many churches and how lighting translates onto screens visually. If you are only front-lighting the drummer, he or she looks more like a dull 2D image on camera, but if you turn on the lights hung behind the drummer, it will highlight the drummer’s outline causing him or her to appear 3D.

When picking the right kind of lights, you are looking for what is known as a “video friendly non-flicker light.” Not all lights are video friendly. To the human eye they may look fine, but as soon as a camera is pointed on the drums with a non-video friendly light you will see it flickering on video. If you are looking for a good yet modestly priced fixture, I would recommend Chauvet. Chauvet puts out a solid product line at all budget points with high quality results.

Lighting up a space is fun, and can be experimented with so that you have the most effective and visually appealing configuration. The idea behind lighting the drum enclosure properly is to give the appearance that the drummer is not in a “cage.” The job of the enclosure is to keep the drums at a moderate volume level while being inconspicuous that the drummer is behind glass. If the drummer stands out in a way to where he or she doesn’t look like they belong onstage, you are probably not lighting the drummer correctly. Put these tips and tricks to the test, and have fun creating a distraction free worship environment.

If you don't want to overheat your drummer, choose LED lighting. It has little to no heat transfer.