Are you having trouble keeping your drums from not blowing everyone away on stage? No fear! I've totally been there before and I've got you covered.
One of the most significant concerns for lots of aspiring drummers is the inescapable reality that drums are loud! Electronic drums are terrific however are not for everyone, and unless you have the luxury of a large property or a sound evidence room, your drums and cymbals are likely to be heard around your house.
In this article, we will try to tackle the answer to 2 questions: how do we reduce the drum noise for when we are playing with a band or on stage? And, how do we reduce the drum noise for when we are practicing at home?
Good news! There are solutions. Let's go through them drum by drum.
Nowadays, you can buy bass drum heads that come with pre-dampened heads, so that they naturally sound less loud yet you don't have to kill all the tones by stuffing a blanket into the bass drum.
While these are a great option, since you can still get the natural resonance of a drum head, they can be a bit pricy.
Along with the other things you can buy for your bass drum but on the less expensive side, we have a plastic ring that you can apply to the inside of the front and back bass drum heads.
However, these act more so to minimize the ringing of the drum and do little to considerably minimize the volume. But every bit counts, and sometimes the boomy-ness is actually more of the problem (i.e. more harsh to your ears) then the actual volume.
Have an old pillow, towel or blanket that you can sacrifice? Stuff the bass drum and you will completely deaden the sound. Unfortunately, this kills all the resonance that the drum has and turns your bass drum into a thud rather than a boom.
Fortunately though, for some styles of music, (some funk, rock or hip hop) this is a technique that people use in the recording studio, because this sound is iconic and can be very cool depending on the type of music.
There are drum heads that you can put on your drums, and these will absolutely kill the sound.
The good news is, all your drums are instantly silent and you can play on your entire kit and it makes the same sound as if you were playing an electronic kit.
The bad news is, these will not work if you're just trying to reduce your sound when playing with a band live.
The drums of your set all follow a similar protocol. The snare drum is a little bit different since it has the 'snares', and one way to immediately reduce the noise of your set is to take off the snares.
If you are practicing and tune your drum up high enough, you can still mimic the sound of a snare without it rattling below the drum.
This is similar to the ring we mentioned with the bass drum. Tone rings are manufactured to fit particular drum sizes so it is necessary to know the size of your drums before purchasing these.
These pieces of gel look like floppy candies and they are made to stick on the drum (and be easily removed to not leave any marks) and decrease tone and volume. They work similar to the tone ring, but perhaps provide even more dampening since you can apply multiple to any part of the drum.
There may be times when you want to practice as volume free as possible - late-night when everyone is sleeping or very first thing in the morning when people are still getting up.
Drum mutes (pads that decrease noise) are a wonderful option, and you can normally find them online or at your regional drum store.
These are soft pads (generally rubber) that sit on the drums and considerably minimize the volume.
You have to buy these individually and know the size of your drums to make sure they will fit properly.
Cloth of any kind will significantly stifle the drums, but it doesn't feel excellent to play on, and you might find it will not offer you the wanted stick bounce to play rudiments (doubles, drags, ruffs) or other creative drum fills.
However, it is a sound that many sound engineers have used to make the drums sound 'thud-y' and warm. Ringo Starr even used dish towels on his drums in the Beatles recordings.
Again, these essentially convert all your drums into practice pads, which is awesome.
But it will not serve you if you are trying to play drums live, this is more of an option for practicing in your home ( and a relatively inexpensive one).
Cymbals are very hard to make quiet since by silencing them you lose a significant part of what makes the cymbals so fun to hear and play. But there are some options.
Many artists put tape (usually on the bottom) of their cymbals to deaden the sound a bit and to make them slightly less resonant.
This won't do too much in terms of volume reduction, however, as we've explained before deadening the sound can trick the ears to think it is much quieter than it actually is.
Again, we can use household items to put on the cymbals to dampen them. I do this sometimes when I really need to be low volume, but to be honest I'm not entirely a fan of it.
I'm not a fan of it because it kills the resonance of the drum. Let me explain with the more fancy version of putting a towel on your cymbals which are cymbal mutes.
These usually are pieces of rubber or soft springy material that allows you to play on the cymbals with a significant volume reduction. Probably about a 90% volume reduction.
The downside is they are very realistic and although you can hear a bit of the 'ting' of the cymbals, you cannot get the resonance that you would on a real cymbal.
Just imagine hitting the crash and instead of hearing: 'CRasshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh'
You hear: 'Cras—'
It gets a little tiresome, but sometimes its the only option!
This is my current favorite option. I live in an apartment with my girlfriend and have a room where I keep my drums.
Yes, she can hear the cymbals when I play, however the sound is very much reduced.
And I can even use any of these other techniques to further dampen them which is great!
Ideally, you will by now be somewhat assured by the choices that are available to you.
Drums are one of the most gratifying instruments to play, and volume, although a legitimate consideration, ought to not prevent striving drummers from enjoying their instrument, and family members ought to not need to run for cover.
The Jam Addict team is a revolving door of writers who care about music, its effects on culture, and giving aspiring artists tools and knowledge to be inspired and keep on creating.
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