You probably noticed that many drummers are using headphones at live concerts or in the studio.
As a drummer yourself, you may be wondering should you use headphones and what do drummers listen to in their headphones?
- Backing track
Since mics are catching every sound while recording, you cannot use speakers to hear the song you are playing.
Even with great monitor speakers on the stage, without headphones, it would be hard to get the clear sound of the song.
The sounds that you hear would be a mix of music from the front speakers, monitor speakers, cheering crowd, and of course, the beating of your drums, especially cymbals, which are closest to your ears.
Drummer's guide for using headphones
As we said, there are plenty of ways headphones can be useful for a drummer.
The main purpose of the headphones is that you will be able to hear your bandmates and your own drum more clearly.
If you want to be able to hear more than just a monitor mix, you will need a proper setup.
How to set up the drummers headphones
If you have your headphones, the next step is to connect them to the main mixer.
This can be done with a cable, but there are wireless headphones too nowadays.
Some mixers will allow you to hear only the monitor mix, and you will not be able to manipulate the particular sounds.
However, the larger, professional mixers, especially digital ones, allow you to connect to the aux channel.
This way, the sound engineers can enhance certain sounds for you, from kick drum to vocals and other band instruments.
New technology brought us the digital mixers, making it possible for drummers to manipulate the sounds in headphones from their phones while on stage.
Listening to metronome while playing
As a drummer, you are essential for the tempo of the whole band.
That’s why it’s very important to use all the tools to keep the beat as flawlessly as possible.
Most commonly, the drummers listen to something called “click sound” on their headphones.
Drummers use a click sound to keep in time and on the song’s beat while recording in the studio or at live concerts.
The click sound is basically a digital metronome, a pre-recorded sound that follows the song’s tempo, helping you to maintain the beat.
Of course, the click sound cannot be heard from the monitor mix because it would mean all people can hear it too.
That’s why this helpful trick cannot be used with mixers that support only the master or phones output.
However, most of the mixers nowadays offer aux channels that you can connect with and hear anything you want on your headphones.
Other sounds you can listen to on your headphones while drumming
As we mention, with a professional digital mixer, you can listen to anything you want on your headphones.
There are other sounds you can listen to on your drummer’s headphones besides the click sound.
Drummers can enhance the sound of particular instruments, for example, kick drum or any other sound they find helpful to be heard at a higher level than others.
Besides the live sound, you can listen to a pre-recorded track on your headphones, which is primarily used in the studio.
Also, it can be useful to be able to hear the stage instructions, which can also be maintained through your headphones.
What do drummers (not) listen to in their headphones
Now when we know what drummers can listen to on their headphones, here is what they cannot hear.
Drummers will not hear the excessive noise and ear-damaging sounds coming from the stage.
You will agree that this is very important since, as a drummer, you are constantly exposed to the loud sound of your drums and band music.
Professional and high-quality headphones will protect your ears and deliver the clear sound of whatever you choose for them to deliver.
Whether you listen only to the monitor mix, add the click sound, or manipulate the levels of particular frequencies and instruments, the headphones are a crucial part of your drumming equipment.