If you want to dampen your drums, this can mean one of two things: 1) you want your drums to sound as quiet as possible so you can practise at home without incurring the wrath of the neighbours, or 2) you just want to reduce the natural sustain and resonance of your drum kit to get a more focussed sound. Of course, there’s plenty of gear you can buy to help solve either problem, but there are also plenty of much cheaper tricks you could try using nothing but stuff you can find lying around the house. So if you have no budget or time to go shopping for drum dampening gear, you’re in the right place. In this blog, we offer some tips & tricks to help dampen your drums so you won’t have to spend one penny of your hard-earned cash. You won’t even need to leave the house.

Dampen Your Drums on the Cheap

Shush Your Kit

There are a few ways to make your kit quieter. Of course, there’s plenty of purpose-designed gear you can get, whether it’s a set of mesh-heads to replace the drumheads, or a set of low-volume cymbals or damping mats. While these options are likely to give you the best results, there are some other cheap tricks you can try and they cost nothing. Some will have a better effect than others, but you can combine various methods to see what works. Take your time, test them all out and have a listen to the effect they have on your kit.

1. Lay towels over the drums and cymbals

The thicker the towels, the quieter everything will sound. But, bear in mind that the stick rebound will be reduced, so the playing feel is likely to be ‘heavier’. It might take some getting used to, but it’s actually good for your technique and stamina to practise like this every now and then. The drums and cymbals will also sound pretty dead and the towels will have a habit of slipping off, but there’s nothing that can’t be solved with a bit of gaffer tape. Just be aware that it might leave behind a little residue so be careful where you put it.

2. Fill the shells of your drums with towels, clothes, or cushions

You can also remove the resonant heads from all your drums and fill the shells with clothes, towels, or cushions before putting the heads back on. This will definitely have an effect and your kit will look and feel the same. The downside is that, when you want your normal-sounding kit back, you have to take it all out again – which might be quite a job.

3. Stretch cloth beneath the batter heads

Stretching some old t-shirts or bedsheets under the batter heads also works. Remove your batter heads, cut your sheets or t-shirts to size, stretch them as tightly across the head as possible then reinstall them. This will definitely lower the volume. If you can, avoid using thicker material, otherwise the hoops will lose grip on the drumhead, and if you need to use a lot of force to get your skin back on, then you risk damaging the shell. If you have enough sheets and t-shirts to spare, why not try the same thing with the resonant heads?

4. Use thinner sticks

The thinner the drumsticks you play with, the less volume and body you’ll get out of your drums and cymbals. It won’t necessarily make your drums that much quieter, but this tip might be enough for you. If you have a pair of rods or brushes, you could play with those instead, but I personally don’t recommend this if your goal is to play quieter. Rods and brushes have a different effect than drumsticks, and aren’t necessarily designed to just play a drum kit more quietly, although they already have a lower natural volume. The tip below will, in the long run, work better than swapping your sticks for a pair of rods or brushes.

5. Play quieter

It’s the advice that no drummer wants to hear, but ultimately, it’s one of the best things you can do. Just try playing more quietly! Of course it’s nice to pound out the beat, and if you’re a beginner, that’s probably the reason why you started drumming in the first place. But the fact is, there’s actually a lot to be gained by practising in this way. It’s not just good for your technique, but in most cases, will also improve your sound. By learning to play softly, you’ll get more aware of your playing dynamics, and your dynamic range as a drummer will expand as a result. Your coordination and stick control will also naturally improve. Start with some simple rudiments like single strokes (on and on RLRL) and double strokes (RRLLRRLL). To make it more fun for yourself, you could attempt the ‘paradiddle egg challenge’ (believe me, just look it up). To improve your kick drum technique, play with your heel to the floor and your foot flat to the footplate of your kick pedal. This will give you more control, you’ll be a lot less tempted to stamp, and you’ll immediately notice that your bass drum sounds completely different because the beater isn’t constantly touching the head.

So, I’ve offered some tips for controlling the volume of your kit. Know some other good tips? Let us know in the comments below.

Dampen Your Drums on the Cheap

Reduce Sustain and Dampen Overtones

If your drum kit has a lot of natural reverb and sounds too resonant or too ‘open’, then you can easily solve it using damping rings, damping cushions, gels, and cymbal tuners. Since all of this gear is specifically designed to fine tune the sound of your drums, they probably will be the most effective way of dampening those overtones. But as promised, here are some overtone-eliminating tricks that will cost you nothing.

1. Lay some paper on your drumheads

One of the simplest and cheapest ways to counter overtones, is to just lay some pieces of paper on your drumheads. Grab a sheet of A4 paper out of your printer and lay it on your snare, and you’ll immediately notice that it actually works pretty well. The bigger and thicker the piece of paper, the better the damping. The obvious downside is that paper will tend to slide around when laid on a vibrating surface, and if you don’t play all that softly, then you’re likely to get through a lot of paper. Luckily, it barely costs anything.

2. Cut a hole in some old batter heads and lay them on top of your drums

Rather than throwing out any old and knackered drumheads, you can use them to make your own damping rings or damping mats. You can cut out a ring or just a disc and by simply laying it on the drumhead, the overtones will be dramatically dampened. If you cut a bass port into the resonant head of your kick drum, don’t throw away the bit you cut out, stick it on top of your snare and see what happens! The bigger and wider the ring or disc, the better the damping. It’s that simple.

3. Lay batter heads upside down over the drumheads

There is another really quick method of dampening the overtones, but you’ll need to have a set of old drumheads lying around. It might sound too simple to be true, but by simply laying another batter head upside-down over each drum, you can reduce sustain and tame the overtones. Of course, your rim-clicks probably won’t sound quite as sharp, but you will get a really thick, lower-pitched and ballad-worthy snare sound.

4. Use Your Wallet

Instead of emptying your wallet to shell out for a full, professional-grade damping pack for their kit, a lot of drummers use their wallet as a snare damper. Just place it on the batter head – that’s it. Of course, your wallet will shift about, and if you’re not careful, you risk pelting the rest of the kit with spare change and bank cards, but it’s still effective.

5. Change up your Tuning

One of the better ways to counter unwanted overtones and shorten sustain is to adjust the tuning of your drums. Playing with the relationship between the batter and resonant heads can make a big difference – even just tightening or loosening the resonant head (the lower skin) can often achieve much more than you might think. You can get a vast array of tunings out of most drums, and you can kind of ‘equalise’ each different tuning. If you approach tuning up your drums in the same way as you would a radio, you’re essentially tuning them up to the right frequency, or until the sound is clean and there’s no ‘noise’.

6. Use different drumheads

This solution will require spending some money, so is more of a tip to bear in mind when it’s time to get fresh drumheads. Many drummers have a specific sound in mind when it comes to their kit, but knowing which drumheads will help shape that sound can be pretty tough. Most drummers will just go for the same heads that their kit or shell set came with, or the same heads that their teacher or drumming hero uses. The truth is, many drummers underestimate the effect that the drumheads have over the sound of their kit, even though it forms an absolutely essential element. It’s no accident that big names like Remo, Evans, and Aquarian make so many different kinds of drumheads. It’s so that drummers can choose a set of heads that will help shape the sound that they want. It’s really worth researching your heads before choosing them, and then playing around with different tunings because, if you have the right heads and tuning in the first place, you probably won’t even need any dampening.

7. Dampen the Cymbals

Cymbals are a little harder to effectively dampen than drums. Of course, you want to retain a lush cymbal sound, but maybe you’re getting too much sustain so need to rein it in a little bit. First, try using larger felts and tightening up the wing-nuts so that the cymbal can’t move around as much and won’t be able to resonate as long. Another quick solve is to attach some strong magnets to the underside of the cymbal. But since magnets can leave ugly marks behind, it’s not a method I can personally recommend, but it does work! Another cheap trick is to use old drumheads! Just hang a damping ring over the cymbals, or cut a section out of an old head to make your own. You can also use an old cloth, cut a little hole in it and do the same thing. Another clever tip is to cut off a small piece of a scouring sponge and replace the lower felt with it.

One Final Drum Dampening Tip

To finish, you could just try removing the resonant heads from the toms. This will reduce the volume and make the toms sound dryer, since it shortens the sustain. If you like what it does to the sound, then I’ve got one final good tip for you: cut the centre out of the resonant heads of your toms, getting as close to the edge as possible, and then re-install the rings and tension hoops. This’ll give you the same timbre as having no resonant heads at all but will protect the edges of the shells. You could also make a smaller hole in the resonant heads – but everything that we covered earlier about tuning and choosing the right drumheads also applies here.

I hope you’ve found at least one tip that works, and that this blog has helped you tame the sound of your kit. If you’ve discovered some good tips & tricks yourself, then let us know in the comments!

See Also…

» What’s the Best Dampening Gear for My Drum Kit?
» 5 Tips To Keep Drum Noise To A Minimum
» What Are the Best Drum Heads for Me?
» How To Make The Most Out Of Your Drumheads – 3 Practical Tips
» How to tune your drum kit

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