You may have been to a gig recently and noticed that the drummer was situated on a drum riser or stage platform and wondered to yourself why? Does it have any benefits sound wise? Or is it just another piece of stage equipment that’s not worth dragging around?
Well, I’m going to share my personal insight. I started playing the drums when I was 8 and have toured on and off as a musician, so I’m familiar with the drum stage, but whether I think they’re useful or not, you’ll have to keep reading!
What Is the Purpose of a Drum Riser?
The main purpose of a drum riser is for visibility. By raising the seated drummer off the ground, you will have a clearer view of the drummer as they are normally hidden behind the other band members. Given that underlying purpose, you shouldn’t need more than about 8-12 inches of height, even less may be sufficient.
From the audience’s perspective, it serves a great visual purpose, getting the drums up nice and high for everyone to see. In a stagecraft sense, if the drummer of the band is the powerhouse and focal point, then visually it looks better for them to be higher up, garnering a more powerful presence.
Maybe you’ve had visions of recreating Travis Barker’s flying drum stage?
Jokes aside, it can also help the band as a unit when they can see the drummer more clearly, although I wouldn’t say this is a deciding factor.
For visual purposes alone, a portable drum riser is a great option for gigs of all sizes, it will give a more professional feel and the drummer won’t get lost in all the other stage equipment.
How Does a Drum Riser Affect Sound?
The problem with drum risers is resonance. Anything that is raised above the floor will create a resonant cavity underneath it.
Depending on the sound you are trying to achieve, this may or may not be convenient, as it’s near difficult to get rid of it. Although, some drummers like the big resonant sound when using a drum stage.
Compared to a solid concrete floor, it will increase the decay in the bass drum and tom-toms, which for some is desirable, but for others not necessary to have such a “big” sound.
Again, for some styles of music, the unique “feel,” tonal contribution, and big sounds the drum riser helps to produce may be favorable.
The less opinionated benefit of having a portable drum riser is the ability to change the location of the drums in relation to reflective surfaces, mainly useful when recording (if not in a conventional studio setting).
The frequency range of a drum kit means that even changes by as little as 5 inches of a recording microphone from say the kick drum will have a significant impact on the recording.
In different rooms, frequencies are absorbed and reflected differently, so having a drum riser on wheels will allow you to take advantage of that.
However, if you’re afraid of having too much resonance, a drum rug or mat on a hardwood/concrete solid mass will positively improve your acoustical isolation and drum’s tone.
Again, if you’re forced to play on a hollow floor or stage, and don’t wish for resonance, a portable drum rug like the Auralex HoverMat will decouple your drum kit, making it sound tighter and more focused.
Also useful for minimizing direct mechanical vibration between the sound source and building you’re in.
Bearing in mind, my drum kit is not in a professionally designed room, laying the Auralex HoverMat down, made a massive difference with the bottom end, significantly reducing the resonance and overly ‘boomy’ bass drum.
Overall, unless you desire a drum riser for visual purposes or simply enjoy the boomy resonant sound they create, then I don’t think they’re worth the investment.
However, if you thought that by lifting your drum kit off the ground it would create less vibration through your house/apartment and less disturbance on your neighbors and you’re looking for a solution, a drum rug like the Auralex Acoustics HoverMat Portable Acoustic Barrier will significantly help in limiting sound transmission as well as improve sonic clarity by eliminating sympathetic resonance or vibration within the floor of a room and the superstructure of a building.