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At a concert last night my wife asked me ‘why are rock band drum-kits often set up on a platform above all the other musicians?’

I speculated it may be about the drummer being able to see the rest of the band better, or vice versa, but I don’t know. The kit was fully mic-ed so it can’t be an acoustics reason, and it was the headline band in a concert hall so it wasn’t a festival situation where kit is set up offstage then rolled on.

Any pointers or explanations?

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    To stop drummers getting above themselves..?
    – Tim
    Nov 19, 2019 at 12:57
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    Maybe because they are sitting down at the back of the stage, so the front row can't see them Nov 19, 2019 at 13:02
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    Actually, raising drums off the floor helps prevent the bass and sub-bass frequencies of the kick going directly into the floor, which in turn gives the kick a deeper sound. This is the same reason why contrabass (upright basses) and cellos have pegs lifting them off the floor. Nov 19, 2019 at 16:52
  • @jjmusicnotes - except that the raisers are (smaller) stages in their own right, hollow, and work as sound boxes themselves. Bass drums have legs at the front (spurs) mainly to stop the creep. Seems somewhat counter-productive.
    – Tim
    Nov 19, 2019 at 16:57
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    Ah yes, but “How can you tell when the drum riser is level?”... (wink wink)... Nov 20, 2019 at 9:06

4 Answers 4

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I think you'll find that this is not limited to rock bands. Any time there are seated musicians in more than one row, it is quite likely that the rows in the back will be elevated. This certainly helps with visibility in both directions (so the trombones can't claim they don't see the conductor ) and to some extent also helps with sound projection.

You'll see risers used for many choral groups for the same basic reasons.

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One scenario where it is also very helpful is during festivals. Setting up a drum kit, such that it feels comfortable for the drummer and just "like at home" can take some time. Often they set up the drumkit backstage on a small stage that is moveable. As soon as the performing band is finished the drumkits can be changed on the stage and doesn't need to be rearranged.

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  • This. When the drum kit is on a riser with wheels, it can be rolled to its place (and out) in seconds. Nov 19, 2019 at 16:45
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    And as I said in my OP, this was not the case here and doesn’t apply to many other occasions I’ve seen the same setup. Nov 19, 2019 at 19:57
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It's mostly for touring.
Those megadeck risers normally tour with the band in the backline truck, they have a carpet (Marley) on-top of the wooden deck, it is marked out with coloured gaff tape where everything sits, e.g. snare, kicker, stool. This is normally marked out by the drum tech or the drummer pre first show and a plot is printed, so the the backline manager and local roadie hands can build the kit quickly and efficiently in each venue and it's identical every time.

It's really up to the band or drummer if there is a riser and at what height, but there's almost always Marley down with tape marks.
Everything on stage will normally be marked out by the stage manager, be on open deck or on a Marley, so theres less questions by the local hands and obvious where everything goes, makes everything a lot quicker and easier, less stressful bump-in

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    This doesn't exactly address the question: when risers are used, why? Why would the drummer want them?
    – Aaron
    Dec 1, 2022 at 0:27
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The most obvious reason from geometry you stated already. Most drummers appear to be smaller when sitting at the drumset, compared to standing singer, guitarists, brass and horns and what have you.

Keyboarders, organists and pianists in contrast don‘t seem to care about sitting. Some keyboarders stand while playing. However, lifting a heavy Hammond organ or a concert piano on an extra raiser doesn‘t seem to be worth the effort.

Acoustical reasons apply in theory, but with mikes tend to be a second order effect. It‘s probably loud anyway.

Visual contact amongst the band however is important for this rhythmic element, as the drummer often acts as a kind of conductor.

So overall: it depends …

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    Actually a riser is a great way to prevent low frequency sound transmission through the stage to the non-drum mics. From the point of view of the monitor and mix engineers, the riser’s contribution to acoustic isolation is not at all secondary. But for the drummer, having their head at the same height as the standing musicians is probably what they like about risers. Dec 1, 2022 at 14:15

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