It is very easy to play a drum loudly. Drums were used by many cultures as a form of communication on the battlefield. Ottoman Janissary bands, the British and Colonial American armies, and ancient Greece all took advantage of the natural volume of drums and percussion. There is no way around it—drums are loud.
Fortunately, there are products that can help make your drums quieter and neighbors happier.
If you find yourself in the market for a gift for the drummer in your life over these next few weeks, then check out the info below. And, if that drummer happens to live with you or share a wall in an apartment or townhouse then you definitely will want to keep reading.
I regularly use these next three products and recommend them with regard to their quality and ability to drastically reduce volume.
The manufacturer says these mutes reduce volume by 95%. I haven’t tested the claim with a decibel meter, but I have no reason to doubt them—these mutes are excellent. I have used them for about a year now when I want to practice at home in the evening. Simple. Affordable. Durable. They don’t feel exactly like an acoustic drum set—your sticks won’t rebound as easily off the head, but, a little extra work never hurt any one and the price is right.
Next are the Remo Silent Stroke drum heads. Remo is one of the leading manufacturers of drumheads in this country (along with Evans and Aquarian). They make quality products and are very reputable. The Silent Stroke drum head is not a cover or mute that goes over the normal drumhead, but instead is the actual drum head itself. The main difference between the Silent Stroke and a typical drum head is that the Silent Strokes are made out of mesh and significantly reduce the volume of an acoustic drum set. I have played on a drum set outfitted with these heads and was able to hear someone talk to me at the same time from across a living room.
Silent Stroke drum heads take longer to get up and running than simply placing a mute on a drumhead (i.e. you have to change the drumhead), but they do offer a more realistic playing experience than a mute. Remo isn’t the only option for quieter drum heads, they are just the only one I have tried out personally.
Check out this very useful product review from drummer Stephen Clark on YouTube. He discusses the Remo option as well as similar products made by Aquarian and RTOM.
Zildjian has been making cymbals since 1623 (nope, that isn’t a typo) and they are one of the most respected names in the business. The Low Volume series reduces volume without resorting to cymbal mutes that tend to make playing the cymbal feel unnatural to the hands. There are precision-drilled holes throughout the cymbal that significantly cut down on the volume while still allowing the drummer to enjoy a more authentic feel when playing.
I use a variety of regular cymbals when I teach in addition to the Zildjian Low Volume cymbals depending on what we want to accomplish in a particular lesson. The Low Volume cymbals are generally for the practice room, but I think they could be useful for gigs in small spaces like coffee shops.
Watch this video for a thorough and professional product demo from Sweetwater that covers the Remo Silent Stroke heads as well as the Zildjian Low Volume cymbals. If you follow the previous video link, feel free to skip to 2:30 to hear the fantastic drummer Nick D’Virgilio (Cirque Du Soleil, Genesis, Tears for Fears) transition from regular drum heads and cymbals to the Silent Strokes and the Zildjian Low Volume cymbals. You might need to turn up the volume after he switches drum heads and cymbals–the difference is night and day.
Mutes, mesh drum heads, and quiet cymbals–any combination will make for a quieter practice space, happier roommates and neighbors.
***All product hyperlinks will take you to Sweetwater.com. I do not receive any financial “kick-backs” from them if you purchase through this site–I have simply had great experiences with them over the years and want to point you towards a business I trust.