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Sometimes a kit just needs more cymbals. Moreover, sometimes they can give even the most seasoned drummer a splitting headache. Although usually, it is the other members of the band who have a headache.
Knowing how loud the cymbals are and knowing how loud they should be are sometimes two different things. Furthermore, when the cymbals are too loud, it will be more than the drummer who finds it offensive.
5 Ways to Lower Drum Cymbal Volume
- Change to lower volume cymbals.
- Play softer.
- Get band members to wear earplugs.
- Use cymbal mutes
- Change drum sticks
Change to a Lower Volume Cymbal
If one requires lowering the volume on the cymbals, then try switching cymbals. A smaller cymbal will have a lower volume than a larger cymbal.
Generally, if one is playing in a small room, then 13” hats are sufficient. Also, a 14” or 15” crash and 18” ride. These will maintain lower volumes than more massive sets.
Continuing along with the example, in a large room that seats maybe 400 people or more, a hat as large as 17”, crashes as large as 19” and a ride cymbal of 20” or more is good. The larger the cymbal, the louder it is.
Solution: Gauge the room and use appropriately sized cymbals for the area played within.
What Types of Cymbals are Typically Lower in Volume?
If smaller cymbals are not working out to lower the volume, one can always try cymbals designed to be quiet for practicing.
The tone won’t be the same, but these perforated cymbals are extremely quiet comparatively.
Companies like Zildjian make perforated cymbals intended for practicing and playing in low volume situations.
The sound of perforated cymbals is different from that of a standard cymbal, but it can be quite interesting to play around with and explore the sound.
Play Softer on the Drums – Learn Dynamics
One of the most important ways of controlling the volume is by controlling how hard one hits the cymbals. It is known as dynamics.
True, one might get excited when playing and want to smash the cymbals, but if there are neighbors, the effort might be in vain when the police arrive with a noise complaint.
Knowing how to control the dynamics and play softly with the same enthusiasm is an art form. However, practicing dynamic control will enhance the drumming exponentially and thus is a smart tactic, even if not needed for where one plays.
Get Band Members to Wear Ear Plugs with You
Here’s a tough one, get band members to wear earplugs. Moreover, if one practice in a band with vocalists, one can expect some pushback on this. Many vocalists don’t like to have earplugs in when they sing so they can hear themselves without muffling the sound.
If able, convincing all band members to wear some form of hearing protection will be beneficial in the long term. It is true more so than not when it comes to playing in rock or other genres that are heavier and louder.
Use Cymbal Mutes
Cymbal and drum mutes are a simple and effective way to reduce the volume of the cymbals or drums dramatically.
A cymbal mute is a strip of thin rubber that is attached to the cymbal. The rubber absorbs strike energy and reduces residual vibration within the cymbal. It dramatically decreases the volume of the cymbals.
Change Drum Sticks
The rule for drum sticks is that the less force a drummer can hit a cymbal with, the lower its volume. Moreover, the thinner the drumstick, the less force can be transferred through the stick to the cymbals and drums.
Switching to thinner sticks or even mallets or brushes can reduce the volume dramatically.
A full set of mutes can be a little costly, but there’s hope if one has a bit of ingenuity.
How To Make Cymbal Mutes
- A straightforward way to make the set some cymbal mutes is with some extra stretchy elastic bands. When we say elastic bands, we aren’t talking about the rubber ones that hold the broccoli bunches together from the supermarket.
- Find a local fabric store and pick up some stretchy elastic roll that is a few inches wide. The sort of elastic is the type sewn into the waist of underwear, but one will want something two to three inches wide.
- Next, stretch it around the perimeter of the cymbal and sew it together where it meets itself. Remember that it must stretch to find the correct length.
- The goal is to make a sort of elastic belt that fits stretched around the outside of the cymbal. Because the band is rubberized cloth, it will dampen the cymbal vibrations, which ring out to create the majority of volume when a cymbal strike occurs.
How Cymbal Anatomy Effects Volume
A cymbal designed to make a specific noise will produce a certain range of volume. In the center, a hole is drilled, and this is used for mounting the cymbal.
Immediately around the hole is what is called the dome, bell or cup. This area produces a higher pitch than the rest of the cymbal. It is often thought of as a pinging sort of higher pitch.
The rest of the cymbal is known as the bow. However, it too can be thought of as two smaller sections.
The next area out from the dome is called the ride portion of the cymbal. This area fans out from the dome but is thinner than the dome and has a more gradual slope.
The outer rim of the cymbal is known as the crash region of the cymbal.
Combined, these sections of the cymbal create the sound which is emitted after the cymbal strike occurs.
The cymbal acts similarly to the head of a drum in that it transfers vibrations into sound and emits that sound into the surrounding environment.
The entire concept of dampening the sound is about dampening vibrations.
When You Run Out of Options to Lower Cymbal Volume
Okay, so what does one do when one has run out of options? There are still a few last-ditch efforts that can appease a grumpy neighbor who insists on complete silence.
Carpets And Pillows
If one needs to quiet things down, take a look for some carpet samples or end cuts from carpet installers. One can usually get end cuts of new carpets for extremely cheap.
The thicker and shaggier the carpet, the better it will work to help dampen sound.
Set up the drum kit on a layer or two of thick carpet to help reduce any noise.
Pillows can also be used to help reduce drum noise. Just pile the pillows all around drums, cymbals, and the kit in general. Cloth pillows work well to help dampen the sound and stop echoing sound from happening.
When there is some money to burn, and volume to lower, proper soundproofing the walls and ceiling around the drumkit and cymbals will dramatically reduce the volume and echos cast off the kit. The only issue with this idea is that proper soundproofing is quite expensive. Usually, this option is reserved for building a recording studio. Getting a set of drum mutes and cymbal mutes are much cheaper and easier to install.
Move to Another Home
The last resort option is to move where one plays drums. If unruly neighbors are the issue, then perhaps it is time to think of moving elsewhere.
If one can tolerate not having one’s drums at home, a great option is to rent a practice studio where one can set one’s drums up and make all the noise one wants.
This option won’t help if it’s bandmates who complain about volume, but it will solve the issue of unruly neighbors.
Unconventional Solutions to Lower Volume
There are a few tricks that we have heard of being used to help dampen or reduce cymbal volume.
One trick is with using moongels or another stick-on dampener. This trick isn’t precisely unconventional unless attaching multiple packs to a single cymbal to quiet it down.
Tube Socks for Drums?
Another interesting tool is a long tube sport sock. Sport tube socks are usually made of really stretchy fabric. If one pokes a hole at either end of the sock and then stretches the sock from center mount to edge of cymbal and wrap around the cymbal stretching back to the center mount. This acts as a vibration dampener that has been witnessed used on drums in a pinch when no other options were available.
Duct Tape the Drum!
Some drummers use a piece of duct tape to dampen their cymbals. Although typically it is only used in small pieces to affect the tone of the cymbal, more significant amounts could be employed as dampening agents on the cymbal.
The last thing that one could do would be to roll up a sport sock or similar fabric into a ball and then use tape to adhere to the cymbal.
Remember that cymbals work by transmitting vibrations. If one can find an exciting way to lower those vibrations, one could come up with the next best thing to lower the volume on cymbals!
- “How To Choose The Right Cymbals For Your Drum Kit” Musician’s Friend, https://www.musiciansfriend.com/thehub/cymbals-how-to-choose-the-right-ones-for-your-drum-kit, Accessed July 2, 2020.
- “Drum Kit Noise Reduction: 13 Tips to Reduce Drum Volume” Drum Head Authority,
- https://drumheadauthority.com/articles/drum-kit-noise-reduction-13-tips-to-make-drums-quieter/, Accessed July 2, 2020.
- “Cymbal” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cymbal, Accessed July 2, 2020.