Drum dampening is not just about reducing volume. In fact, that's the least interesting feature of dampening drums.
We have already written articles about how to make your drums less noisy, where in that case, yes, the goal is to reduce the volume.
But in this article, I wanted to tackle how we can dampen our drums with homemade materials and what it does for our sound on the drums.
First, let’s have a quick look at why using drum dampeners is necessary.
Let’s face it. Drum noise is a huge issue to deal with. Not only is it a nuisance for those in your neighborhood, but it also doesn’t let you practice with complete focus.
But noise is not the only issue!
The noise is actually an indication that your drums are not producing the right sound. Sometimes, it is the lack of quality, and other times it’s the ‘ringing’ issue that’s causing the problem.
A good dampener controls the ringing, prevents overtones and high-pitch beats and decreases the volume of your instrument. Interestingly, tuning your drums may do the dampening automatically. In order to do so, loosen the tension rods with your drum key until you are able to produce the desired sound.
The second most important factor to keep in mind is dampening works relative to your environment. For instance, if you are at a studio and you wear headphones, you will need to do the dampening accordingly.
So, here are a few smart hacks to limit the sound of your drums and make them less annoying.
This is perhaps the easiest and the most affordable way to go about dampening the drums. Place a few kitchen cloths over your drums and fasten them with clothespins.
This is the exact sound Ringo Starr used to dampen his drum kit for the Abbey Road sessions as well as other later Beatle records (check out Here Comes the Sun for a taste of the dampened sound).
A wallet can be placed on your snare drum to dampen the sound. You'll be surprised at both how well it actually reduces the volume of the sound and how nicely it dampens the tone of the snare drum.
Ringo used a cigarette box when he was recording and playing live with The Beatles, which works by dampening the sound in a similar way.
If you want to dampen your bass drum, a blanket is also a great way to decrease the booming noise. If your bass drum has a hole, it is as easy as sticking it in there. Be sure to experiment with how it sits in the bass drum (i.e. is the blanket touching the batter head or the resonant head?)
Another way to muffle the bass drum is to put some tape on the batter head of your drum. Masking tape or electrical tape seems to work the best by not leaving residue on your drum after peeling it off. You can also choose to buy drums that come with a built-in drum dampener.
A simple way to dampen your drums is to simply cut a hole out of a used drum head so that you have a ring of material that you can place on top of your drum. Make sure you cut the ring out of the size of the drum head that you need (i.e. cut a ring out of a snare drum head to place on top of the snare drum).
These will dampen your heads and are basically the same thing as some products that you can pay for.
You can really be creative in how you dampen your drums. Cut up some old clothes and trying fastening them on your toms. I have a batch of bandanas that I use for muffling my drums, and they actually look pretty cool!
Use either tape or clothespins to secure material on the drum. Experiment with moving the cloth further or closer to the center of the drum. I wouldn't recommend putting the clothes on the part that you will actually hit though as your stick may get tangled up in the cloth.
Now this is the part where we can have some fun. If you're looking to significantly change the sound of your drum, try putting a cymbal on top of it (for example: a splash cymbal on the floor tom).
This is a trend that many jazz drummers today adopt and they can get some really cool and experimental tones out of the instrument that we think we know so well.
Seed pod shakers are another cool item I've seen drummers put on their snare, hi-hat, toms... the possibilities are limitless. Check out people like Mark Guiliana for inspiration in this domain.
There are many ways to dampen your drums with the tools and materials we have at our houses. Not only does this reduce the volume a bit, but it can completely change the sound of our drum in a very cool way.
Experiment with putting all types of things on the drums and hitting them. is a passion and a skill that needs to be mastered. But in order to do so, a drummer needs complete attention on their work. The aforementioned tips and tricks can help you find a suitable and lasting solution to controlling the drum noise.
So go experiment and have fun!
Ben Heckler is a multi-instrumentalist and musician from Portland, Oregon. Currently Ben lives in Barcelona where he teaches drum lessons, writes and records original music for his band Sea Fuzz as well as playing drums for one of the biggest Beatles tribute bands in Europe, The Flaming Shakers.
Ben is constantly creating and composing various types of music, video, and artwork for a multitude of projects that come his way. He hopes to use his platforms to share, help and inspire others to create in their own ways.