overhead view of drum stool and cymbals

How to Play Drums Quietly In Your Apartment (And Jam)

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Drums are one of the loudest, if not the loudest, musical instruments. They’re made to carry sound long distances. Keeping drums quiet while practicing in an apartment can be a problem.

You can make your drums apartment-friendly with different adaptations, such as wall panels, floor tiles, floor mats, quiet sticks, drum pads, low-volume cymbals and using an electronic drum set

Is there a way to play drums quietly in your apartment?

In fact, there are all sorts of tools out there to help you bang on your drum all day, without compromising your good-neighbor status or your dedication to music.

Why Do Most Drummers Fail?

3 Main Reasons You Probably Haven’t Considered…

Do I Need to Minimize the Sound of My Drums?

If the answer to any of these questions: 

● Do you have aspirations of being a drummer, but you’ve been holding back purchasing a drum kit because you live in an apartment?  

● Are you already big into the drums, but feel you can’t practice to your full potential because you don’t want to ruin your neighbors’ lives?

● Have you been playing your drums loudly whenever you feel like it, despite the fact that your whole apartment building has been talking about you behind your back?

I’ve got some tips to help you dampen the sound of your drums, so you can play whenever you want (during the day, of course).

Sound Dampening Aids for Drums

If you’ve ever lived in an apartment before, you know exactly what time the people above you wake up for work and what time they go to bed, and you even learn the favorite shows – and spices – of your neighbors’ next door. Apartment homes, condos, and townhouses are far from soundproof. The walls are just too thin and the neighbors are really just too close. I have first-hand experience living in a condensed city like Boston.

There’s no way to actually soundproof your apartment to block the sound from getting out. Aside from going to an actual music studio, there’s not really a lot of soundproof places around town that can handle the drums. 

However, you can make a few adjustments to your home that will let less of your drumbeats escape without spending a fortune. There are many different options, offered in a wide variety of prices. 

Keep in mind that your landlord might have specific requirements if you’re adding anything to your home, so make sure your modifications fit within those rules or be sure that nothing is going to be permanent or leave a mark.

Here are just a few suggestions for things you can do to your home and music room that other drummers have found to be successful in being a good neighbor and drummer at the same time.

Drum Soundproof Panels

Again, not soundproof, per se. This is more of a soundproof-ish situation. But by randomly placing these tiles around the walls of your music room, you’ll be able to dull the sound of your drumming a bit. Just be sure to affix these to the wall using something that’s not permanent and won’t damage the walls. These are my favorite panels and you can find them on Amazon:

●     Foamily 12 Pack- Acoustic Panels Studio Foam Wedges

Flooring Tiles that Help Quiet Drums

This is an incredibly affordable and easy way to give your floor a little buffer between the drums and the sound, which will, in turn, lessen what actually comes out of your apartment. Most drummers that have to play as quietly as possible do recommend at least one form of padding, such as this one on Amazon:

●     12 Pack Set Acoustic Absorption Panel

Floor Mat for Drums

A second mat, especially if you’re not living on the first level of your apartment building, is a really great way to add even more of a dampener under your drum set. This is also really beneficial if you tend to kick the bass drum a lot during practice (like me). Try this Ludwig one on Amazon:

●     Ludwig Script Logo Non-Slip Drum Rug Mat

Hacks for Quiet Drumming:

While adding any or all of the soundproofing/dampening elements to your apartment will help with the noise, they alone won’t do the trick. Try using any of these apartment drum hacks in your new sound dulling, drumming space.

Use Quiet “Sticks”

Instead of your regular drum sticks, try using brushes or “hot rods”. These are basically just birch dowels that can be substituted for your traditional drumsticks. I’ve been using the Pro Mark sticks for years and they do the job. Try watching one of these videos to see how it’s done:

Muffle the Sounds with Towels

Use one or two towels on top of each drum, which will soak up some of the sounds while you’re playing your drums. T-shirts or small blankets are also effective.

Try Padded Drum Tips

If you’ve got a favorite pair of drumsticks that you like to use, try adding silicone tips. These are just silicone pads that fit over the end of your sticks, which will dull the sound. This pack of 4 is available on Amazon:

●     Pack of 4 Pcs Silicone Drum Practice Pads

Make Smaller Movements

It’s easy to get in the zone when you’re drumming, but if you’re able to, stay mindful of your limb movements and try to keep them less exaggerated. Keeping the movements shorter will enable you to put out less sound. Not a lot less, but every little bit counts. 

Stay Close to the Drums

Doing this, along with smaller, precise movements, will work best. Although it’s not best for your posture, it will be better for your living arrangement. Trying to stay close to the drums, in an almost hunched position, will lessen your range of motion and keep the sounds slightly muffled. This is just a suggestion, obviously good posture as a drummer may take precedence.

Hold the Sticks Close to the End

Try to revamp your grip on the drumsticks while you’re in your apartment. Choking up on the sticks and holding them close to the tip will keep the movements more direct, and your hands will actually take in some of the sound. This also works great with the smaller movements and posture suggestions. I sometimes choke up on the stick while playing some songs in my jazz ensemble.

Tune Your Drums

Tuning your drums to a lower pitch can help cut back on the sound. If this isn’t something you’ve done, ask for someone to help. You don’t want to do anything that might cause damage to your drum set. Again, this is not something that alone will keep your drums quiet, but it wll help when added to other mentioned steps.

Take Lessons

Even though you may already be an accomplished drummer, getting out of your apartment and playing someone else’s drums can satisfy your need to drum and your neighbors won’t be able to hear you as much. I still take lessons and have a practice space that I can pay by the hour.

Get to Know Your Neighbors

This actually won’t help you play the drums more quietly, but it might help your neighbors not care as much when you do want to play as loud as you can. See if there’s a certain time of day that your neighbors wouldn’t mind you playing your drums. Or, perhaps offer a lovely batch of cupcakes in turn for some drum time.

How to Make Your Own “Quiet” Drum Kit:

If you’ve tried to play your drum set in an apartment home, you know just how loud it can be, for your neighbors, and even yourself. In close quarters, the sound bounces around the room and off the walls, and it can make your head ring.

You don’t necessarily want to cut back on your drumming, but you also don’t want to be on poor terms with the neighbors just because you’re a dedicated drummer. 

If there are times of the day that you know all of your neighbors are at work or out, or you have neighbors that don’t mind the drumming, then, by all means, play away. But, most of the time, this isn’t the case. But this doesn’t mean you can’t play the drums. You can actually make your own quiet drum set.

What You’ll Need

You won’t need a ton of new equipment, but there are a few key things that you’ll need to purchase if you don’t already have them. If you’re not wanting to get all of these things brand new, lots of drummers sell their practice equipment, so check out secondhand music retailers or online swap and shops. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

Drum Pads

These are often used with practice drums, especially by instructors. Listening to others learn the drums all day can be a little intense. But these drum pads are also very effective for apartment drumming too. While many of these pads can just fit on top of your existing drums, some of them can also be directly mounted to the stands of your drums. 

There are tons of options out there but we’ll focus on the most common sizes. Just keep in mind, many of these brands do offer additional sizes if you don’t see the exact one you’re looking for. Here’s some of my favorites on Amazon:

6 Inch Pads 

●     RealFeel by Evans Practice Pad

8 Inch Pads 

●     SoundOff by Evans Drum Mute

10 Inch Pads

●     SoundOff by Evans Drum Mute, 10 Inch

12 Inch Pads

●     Vic Firth 12″ Double Sided Practice Pad

Sets of Pads

●     SoundOff by Evans Drum Mute Pak, Fusion (10,12,14,14)

Kick Drum Case

The bass drum, or kick drum, can get really loud. Many drummers with experience playing in an apartment suggest putting the drum in a padded case while playing, leaving the zipper open and the pedal out. Here is a Gator Case on Amazon that is softer and won’t damage the drum while playing in the case:

●     Gator Cases Protector Series Padded Drum Bag

Soft Beater for Kick Drum

Since the kick drum can get pretty loud, especially if someone’s got a lead foot, using a beater that’s soft will produce less sound. You can try this Remo one on Amazon.  It’s helped me dampen sound effectively in an apartment.

●      Remo Silentstroke Bass Drumhead

DIY Soft Beater

If you’re interested in saving money or repurposing things from around the house, you can use any of these things to wrap your kick drum beater:

● Old socks

● Plastic wrap

● Cotton

● Felt

● Batting (used for stuffing pillows)

I know some people that drum in apartments highly recommend using a combination of all of these to create a soft and silent beater. 

Low Volume Cymbals

Ah yes, the cymbals. One of the most recognizable sounds from a drum set. The cymbals are usually a joyful sound for me that act like exclamation points during a song or beat unless you’re forcing it on your neighbors’ ears at 4:00 am or when their newborn is napping. To avoid doing this, try this Sabian set on Amazon, which I’ve used for over 7 years:

●      Sabian QTPC501 Quiet Tone Practice Cymbal Set

How to Do it

Full disclosure, this part isn’t nearly as exciting as hunting down all the parts to make your own practice kit. You’ll want to set the pads on your drums, or if you’re choosing to mount them on the stands, now’s the time. 

Make sure your case is on the kick drum, and the pedal is out. Then you should be ready for action. And while this drum kit will no doubt be quieter than your original, you probably still shouldn’t play in the middle of the night.

If you’d like to see what the finished product can look like, check out this video and then you can decide whether or not you want to commit to making your own quiet drum kit:

Try an Electric Drum Set to Be Quiet:

If the idea of trying all these different tips and tricks sounds too overwhelming, or you just don’t want to have to adjust your own drum set, then an electric drum set might be an option for you. 

Electric drum sets are quieter because of the materials that they’re made of, which is typically rubber or mesh. However, they’re not totally silent, so you’ll still want to implement some of the “soundproofing” and sound dampening strategies unless you use the earphones.

While some of the more traditional drummers don’t love electric drum sets because they believe they can compromise the acoustics. However, with new and improved versions of electric drums, the sound output is always getting better. 

When I moved to a small apartment in Boston’s North End, I used the TD-17 for a year and found it excellent for being quiet and working on some chops.  In the end, I sold it to a Berklee student and decided to pay for a practice space.  These electronic kits usually have good re-sale value from what I’ve seen.  Here is the TD-17 on Amazon:

●      Roland TD-17KVX Electronic Drum Set Bundle with 3 Pairs of Sticks, Audio Cable, and Austin Bazaar Polishing Cloth

Cost of Electric Drum Kit (e-kit)

While an electric drum kit, or “e-kit,” as the real drummers call it, is not a cheap option, it will work for reducing your drumming noise. Before you commit to purchasing one of these brand new, check online marketplaces and swap sites. 

There are often people looking to unload their e-kits when they move to a place where they can play acoustic drums, or if they don’t use their electric drums as much as they’d planned. I was able to sell my Roland e-kit almost the same day I posted it for sale in the Boston area. I decided that I’d rather pay for a practice space and play my regular acoustic drums than use an e-kit at home.

An electric drum kit, as we mentioned, is not an exact substitute for acoustic drums; it will let you practice drumming in an apartment, which will make you and your neighbors happy. Most seasoned e-kit drummers report that they have no issues with noise complaints while playing these vs. their acoustic drum sets. 

And, a good pair of headphones will make up for any loss of natural sound that you’re missing from the real thing.