While it’s incredibly fun to bang out on the drums to your favorite songs, the unfortunate part of drumming is that it’s very loud for everyone else. Even if you’re calmly practicing playing rudiments around the set, the chances are high that someone will come with a noise complaint.
We all have to deal with this, and we all have to find workarounds until we can have our drum sets in spaces where noise is never an issue.
If you need a few tips on how to reduce drum noise, here are 15 options to try out.
- 1 Work On Your Dynamics
- 2 Lighter Drumsticks
- 3 Brushes and Rute Sticks
- 4 Muffle the Drums
- 5 Choose Your Room Carefully
- 6 Insulate the Room
- 7 Remove Resonant Heads
- 8 Drum Shield
- 9 Soundproofing
- 10 Mesh Drumheads
- 11 Practice Pads
- 12 Low Volume Cymbals
- 13 Electronic Drums
- 14 Triggers for Low Volume Drumheads
- 15 Negotiation
- 16 Final Thoughts on How to Make Drums Quieter
Work On Your Dynamics
As a drummer, one of the most vital skills to work on is dynamic control. While you need it for gigging purposes, it will also help keep your levels down when you’re just jamming at home.
Lowering your own dynamics is the one way to reduce drum noise without altering your drum setup in any way. You can still get the sounds you like from your drums and cymbals, but you’ll just need to play them a bit softer.
One of the trickiest parts of playing softly is to still keep the same level of speed. It’s easy to keep your volume down when you play slowly, but a lot harder to do that when playing quick things around the kit. That will most likely be the main aspect that you need to work on.
If you’re jamming to music with headphones, it’s a good idea to keep one ear free so that you can monitor how loud you’re playing.
If your drums are still too loud after altering your dynamic levels, or if you want to play hard and freely, then you’ll need to try out some of the other methods.
There are hundreds of different drumstick types available (read our guide on choosing sticks here). They’re made of different woods, and they all have varying lengths and weights. Another good way of reducing your volume is by using lighter sticks.
The heavier your drumsticks are, the more volume they’ll produce. If you use lighter sticks, you’ll get less volumewhen playing the drums in the same way that you usually do with those heavier sticks.
If you don’t want to get drumsticks that feel thinner, then consider getting drumsticks that are made from a different material. Most drumsticks are made from hickory, but you can get lighter ones that are made from maple.
5A drumsticks made from maple will produce less volume than 5A sticks made from hickory due to their lighter weight.
If you don’t mind using sticks that feel thinner, then you’ll lower your volume even more by using sticks that are both lighter and thinner. If you regularly use 5A drumsticks, then consider switching to 7As. If you regularly use 2B drumsticks, then consider switching to 5As.
You’ll still need a certain amount of dynamic control to keep your volume down, but the lighter sticks will definitely help.
Brushes and Rute Sticks
If the drumsticks are still too loud on your drums, consider swapping them out for specialty sticks that are designed to be a lot softer.
The first option is brushes. These sticks have rubber handles and metal thistles that bunch together to make an impactful sound when you hit the drums and cymbals. The sound is very light, making it perfect for when you don’t want a lot of volume.
Brushes are mainly used in jazz, and you can use them to get a swishing sound as well when you rub them across the snare drumhead. The downside of brushes is that they don’t feel the same as using sticks. The metal thistles are very thin, so you don’t get the same impactful feeling.
If you’re not a fan of brushes, a better alternative would be rute sticks. These also have thistles bunched together, but they’re a lot thicker. These feel a lot closer to standard drumsticks, but they also have the benefit of being a fair bit softer.
You can get rute sticks that are made from either wood or plastic. The wooden ones are a bit louder, and they tend to break after a while. The plastic ones are softer, and they’re almost indestructible. So, we suggest going with the plastic option.
Muffle the Drums
If playing softer and using different drumsticks still don’t lower the volume enough, your next option is to muffle your drums. Muffling the drums refers to when you alter their sound to get rid of the harsh frequencies that they often give off.
You can muffle drums by putting things either on top or inside of the shells.
The loudest drum in a set will always be the bass drum. It produces booming tones that vibrate through walls and floors, and that’s often what people get irritated by. So, you should muffle your bass drum first.
You can do this by putting towels or pillows inside the shell. The more things you place inside, the less boom the bass drum will have. However, you’ll stifle its tone if you put too much, and it won’t feel good to play. Find a sweet spot of how much to put inside, and you’ll be good to go.
Your snare drum and toms produce harsh frequencies called overtones, and placing things on their drumheads will get rid of these completely. You can use things like Moongels or muffling rings to calm the overtones down but still get good sounds.
If you want to lower the drum sounds dramatically, you can place towels or t-shirts over each drum.
Choose Your Room Carefully
The room that you place your drum kit in makes a huge impact on how it sounds. While drums are loud to begin with, they’ll become even louder if they’re placed in an open space where the frequencies can bounce off empty walls.
One of the most common places for people to place their drum set is in their garage. If your garage has open space, a concrete floor, and a metal door, your drums are going to sound much louder because of that environment. So, keeping the drums in the garage is actually one of the worse things you can do if volume is an issue.
It’s better to place your drums in a bedroom. The bed will absorb a lot of the sound, and so will other things in the room, such as paintings and furniture.
If you don’t want to put the drum set in a bedroom, find another place in the house where there is a lot of furniture to absorb the sounds coming from the kit. Placing the kit near the living room with all the couches is typically a good bet.
While these drum kit placements won’t be ideal for the people inside your house, they’ll be much better for the people living next door than if you were to put the drums in the garage.
Insulate the Room
If you have no choice but to place your drums in an empty room, then you’ll need to do some insulating so that the sounds don’t bounce all over the place. You can also add more insulation to rooms that already have a bit of padding here and there.
While this won’t lower the volume drastically, it will cut out the shrill sounds that make their way through the walls, and that will give the impression that the volume is a bit softer.
If you don’t have a carpet in the room, that should be the first step. The bigger the carpet, the better. You can then place your kit on a drum rug above that carpet to separate it from the floor even further.
The next step would be to hang sound panels on the walls. People often think these are for soundproofing, but they’re actually for improving the acoustics in the room. But as we just said, better acoustics will give a softer impression from your drums.
You should also hang bass traps in each corner if you can. Those are thicker sound panels that will catch the frequencies of your bass drum.
Remove Resonant Heads
The bottom heads of all your drums act as resonating tools. They’re what make your drums ring. If you take them away, the drums won’t ring for very long, and that will make things a bit softer.
So, removing the resonant heads from the toms and the bass drum would be a good way of cutting down a bit on volume. You’ll get the same sounds that were so popular in studio recordings in the 60s. If you love vintage drum sounds, this method is fantastic.
You’ll just need to be careful with your kit, as all the bottom bearing edges will be exposed. You’ll need to take special care with the bass drum as that exposed shell will be resting on the ground.
The downside of this method is that not everyone loves the sound of dry drums with no resonance. They’ll sound incredibly flat.
You also won’t be able to remove the resonant head from your snare drum, as that needs to stay there for the snare wires to work.
Drum shields are most commonly used in churches and small venues with house kits. These shields cover the drums so that the loud sounds get softened by the barrier.
Some drum shields work a lot better than others. For one to work very well, it needs to cover the entire drum set on the side and on the top.
If you have enough space in your practice space, you could get one of these to set up around the kit and keep the volume down. If you only have half a drum shield, you can put the drum kit against a wall so that there are barriers all around it.
There are two drawbacks of drum shields. Firstly, they’re quite costly. The ones that cover the top of the drums as well are especially expensive.
The second drawback is that they are very cumbersome. They’re so big and bulky, and that’s the biggest reason why they’re mostly used on open stages. If you have space for one – great! If you don’t, it won’t work too well.
If you have a large budget, you should think of soundproofing your drum room. If you have a soundproofed drum room, you’ll never need to worry about noise again. To truly soundproof a room is very expensive, though, and that’s why it’s only an option for someone with a big budget.
The first thing you need to do is build a room within a room. Having a room inside a room will stop the drum sounds from escaping to the outside world. You also need to have two doors. The first door will be to the inside room, and the second door will be to the outside world.
Once that is done, you need to seal every possible gap that may be leading into that inside room. Weatherstripping is the best thing to use on doors and windows.
After all of that, you need to worry about airflow inside the room. It’s not an easy process, and that’s why most drummers with fully soundproofed rooms hire professional construction workers to build them.
Once your room is soundproofed, though, you can set your drum set up however you want to and play at all hours.
Now that we’ve covered all the tips that allow you to play your drum set in most of its normal form, here are a few alternative methods to help reduce noise.
Our first tip would be to use mesh drumheads on your kit. Mesh drumheads are replacement drumheads that lower your drum sound by a drastic amount. They still bring out most of the tone from your drums, but they’re a lot quieter.
These are a better alternative to using practice pads, as they allow you to still play on your normal drum kit setup. They feel the same as electronic drum pads with mesh heads. They have a bit more rebound than a standard acoustic drumhead, but you can adjust their tension and tune the drums to dial in a comfortable setting.
Remo was the main brand that offered mesh drumheads for practicing, but Evans has now also released a high-quality line of mesh drumheads to keep volume down.
The drawback of these is that you need to take the time to change all your drumheads if you want to make a normal noise again with your kit. That’s why a lot of drummers set up a dedicated practice kit with these heads on the shells.
If you don’t have mesh drumheads, or you don’t want to constantly chop and change your drumheads at different times, you can use practice pads. If you have multiple practice pads, you can rest each one of them on a different drum.
This won’t work for the bass drum, so you’ll just need to work on hand exercises with this method.
If you want to have a bass drum to play, you can set up a practice pad kit that is separate from your main drum set. There are a few good kick drum practice pads out there, so you can get one of those to go with all your other pads.
It’s a good idea to practice pads with different materials so that they feel similar to how toms feel. If they all have the same material, they’ll all have the same rebound. It’s better to get a practice pad with almost no rebound so that it feels like a floor tom.
Low Volume Cymbals
You’ll then need to get quieter cymbals to accompany your mesh drumheads or practice pads. There are a few brands that sell low-volume cymbals. These are cymbals with dozens of perforated holes in them to reduce volume.
The idea is that they feel the same as regular cymbals, but they’re a lot quieter. You can place them on the same cymbal stands that you would with your regular cymbals.
When you have a kit with mesh heads and low-volume cymbals, you can play it as hard as you want to, and no one outside of your house will be bothered by the sound. Most of these cymbals and heads allow you to still have a conversation over the kit while they’re being played.
The drawback is that they don’t sound the best. While they do a good job of still giving you drum and cymbal tones, they just don’t live up to the sounds you get from your actual drum set. That’s why they’re just good practice tools and nothing more.
Having issues with volume is the best reason to get an electronic drum set. While electronic sets have received a lot of criticism over the years, they’re sometimes the only viable option. Also, modern electronic drum sets are much better than they were a decade ago, and even entry-level sets have incredible playability.
Most of your volume problems will be solved when you get an electronic set, especially if you just use headphones to listen to what you’re playing.
If you want a good electronic set that gives you the same playing options as an acoustic set, you’ll need to spend $1000 or more. All the kits that cost less than that don’t allow you to do things like play the rims of all the toms and have multiple ways of playing all the cymbals.
Roland electronic kits are always the best options, but you can find solid kits from Alesis and Yamaha as well.
Triggers for Low Volume Drumheads
If you have a full set of low-volume cymbals and mesh drumheads on your kit and you want to get proper drum sounds, consider getting triggers for the drums.
Triggers are pieces of equipment that latch onto the drums and then send signals to a drum module. The drum module will then interact with whatever you play into the triggers and put out the appropriate sounds.
Triggers are basically how you get an acoustic drum kit to work with an electronic drum module. You can then play different preset drum kits with your acoustic set.
It’s quite a mission to set this up, but it’s well worth it when you’re able to hear actual drum sounds while practicing quietly on your low-volume set.
Also, you’ll only be able to trigger the drums and not the cymbals, but low-volume cymbals already produce sounds that are close to regular cymbal sounds.
Our final tip is to negotiate with everyone around you about your playing times. This isn’t a practical tip for reducing drum noise, but it can go a long way in keeping noise complaints from coming in.
When you talk about your drumming with all your neighbors, they’ll be more responsive to your practicing goals. They’ll feel like you’re considerate, and that may make them less agitated when you’re playing.
You can find out what the best times are to play, with the ideal time being when no one else is around.
You can also give your neighbors a set time for when you’re going to stop playing every day, and that will give them peace as they’ll know when the loud drumming will stop. People get more agitated when they don’t know when the drumming will stop.
Final Thoughts on How to Make Drums Quieter
While reducing your drum noise can be a daunting task, it’s important that you do whatever it takes to allow you to keep practicing and performing.
For home practicing, the best things to do are to use low-volume drumheads and cymbals, electronic drums, or soundproof your room.
If you need to reduce drum volume at a gig, then it’s better to use lighter sticks or rute sticks, muffle your drums, or use a drum shield.
Apart from all those things, the most important thing to do is work on your dynamic control behind the drum kit.