More experience as a drummer, less muffling of the kit..what does that tell us?

cdrums21

Gold Member
It seems that the more experienced one becomes as a drummer, the need for muffling and muting the kit becomes less and less. I know for me, any type of muffling on my snare or toms takes away certain sonic characteristics that I find desireable.... the high end bite of the snare, the attack and full resonant tone of the toms. But, when I was a beginner, I muffled the crap out of my kit to get rid of any excess overtones that sounded unnatural and was perfectly happy. Obviously, becoming a more mature player, an experienced tuner and acquiring a "taste" for wide open sounding drums will lead most drummers to not use any muffling devices whatsoevr, but is there more to it than that? Is it better to not muffle your drums since most more experienced players don't? What are your thoughts?
 

nitro

Junior Member
I think more experienced players tend to have better equipment and therefore don't need to battle with crap sounds as much.

I agree, on the tuning elements though - if a good kit is tuned properly, the need for dampening is reduced. Personal choice and genre come into it though.
 

Auger

Senior Member
Well, sometimes I'll muffle a drum -usually in an extreme sort of circumstance, like going for an effect by draping towels over the drums, that sort of thing. Also, if you don't have a good sounding room (or experienced engineer) sometimes it's necessary to muffle drums when recording. it all depends on the situation, and type of music really.

But, yeah, in general I agree with you. I think you're right about 'aquiring the taste' for an open sound. I think the other part of it is that, with experience, you get better at tuning and learn about different head types, so you don't need muffling to get the sound you're after.
 

Wile E. Coyote

Silver Member
My oppinion is that kits are not meant to muffle. You can do whatever you want only with the tuning key. I think that muffling has to be used as a change of sound color.
The more experience you get, the better in tuning you become. And you get also lot better sound because of your stroke.
 

crumbdrums

Senior Member
I even had the same experience wih cymbals...I liked short sustain, pingy rides...now I love my quiet, warm, Dark Energy Mark II ride. But about the drums, I definetly agree. I still like to control my snare a bit but I hate almost any tom-muffling.
 

Sparkletone

Member
For me, I think muffling is based more on personal preference (much like tuning), than experience level. Seems like plenty of pros out there use moon gels and or similar methods to muffle their drums.

That being said, I'm totally in the same boat your are, personally. When I first started out back in the 80s, I had (...prepare to laugh) folded up paper towels taped to each drum head on my kit—yikes. My drum teacher had showed me this, and so I thought that's what everyone did and how drums should sound.

Despite how "great" they looked (that's a joke), I ditched the paper towels decades ago. It was only recently (about 5 years ago) that I took off all the plastic rings off my kit and started appreciating how great everything sounds opened up—especially snare drums.

I've also learned how to tune my drums with much more finesse now than before, which is possibly why I'm happy to let everything ring out: Nothing sounds worse than a badly tuned drum, open or closed. But to me, nothing sounds better than a drum not only tuned up, but opened up.
 
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Synthetik

Guest
Here is the timeline for popular drum sounds:

Up to the 60's: few plies, mixed woods, a lot of fat, resonant, warm sound

70's/early 80's: Dead, thuddy minimal resonance (except for Bonzo) Hydraulic heads, heads taped to death, single head drums etc...

Mid 80's-present- market splits. trends of more resonant shells, and also shells that have a big attack. Very few thuddy sounding kits anymore. A demand for a "More sophisticated/whole" tone from drums.

Generally, drums that don't resonate well are not as widely accepted anymore. Drummers have become very musically aware of the sound of thier kits (much the domain of Jazz drummers in the past) and maximum resonance with some overtone control is the new standard. Sustain is one of DW's big selling points.

Since I lived through the changes, I can say that my taste definately leans toward the original "full" tone with sustain and minimal overtones.

Illustrating the "now": a very inexpensive Gretsch Catalina club outfitted with coated G1's really had a tone reminiscent of the 60's. It was a far cry from entry kits just a few years ago (and some now) that just thud, or have this attack but no presence.
 
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mlehnertz

Guest
Now why would we be laughing? EVERYBODY was doing this because this was the sound coming out of the studios.

Let me help you out a little. What you should have been doing was buying 4x4guaze pads and duct tape. What you did was either cut them in half or fold them in half (for maximum thud) and duct tape them to the head. It really sounded cool with my Ludwig silver-dots.

And then we discovered those blue Evans hydraulics.

Sparkletone said:
When I first started out back in the 80s, I had (...prepare to laugh) folded up paper towels taped to each drum head on my kit—yikes. My drum teacher had showed me this, and so I thought that's what everyone did and how drums should sound.
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
My original question poses no bias, however, my personal opinion is that not muffling drums is better. I know I might get some guff for this, but a couple of things happen when you muffle a drum. One thing is you lose a little bit of volume. I know if I play someone else's kit that's muffled up, they sound like crap to me and I really have to dig the sound out of the drums. They just lose the fullness and power that I'm used to and I hate it. Also, as I said in my earlier post, some of the desirable sonic qualities are eliminated, which, to me, translates into not getting as good of a drum sound as the drums are capable of...in any room. Now that I have been playing my snare and toms without muffling for a good 25 years, live and in the studio in many different situations, I could never go back to even the slightest bit of muffling. I don't think its that I've gottten used to that kind of a sound as much as that's how I think the drums should sound and anything less wouldn't be acceptable.

Yes, I know it's personal preference, but I think that a younger drummer would benefit from analyzing why most experienced drummers don't muffle. I don't know anyone who started out with a big, full sounding open kit and then over the years, muffled their kit up into sounding like the boxes they came in. It's the other way around and I think it mainly has to do with more experienced players knowing what a good sound is and how to get it.
 
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Synthetik

Guest
There is such a thing as a judicious amount of muffling. Something along the lines of EC2 , or even a small bit of tape to kill overring.

In this manner, volume isn't necessarily lost and there is more punch and perception of focus.

A lot of damping (hydraulics, massive amounts of pillows and tape) does kill everything about the drums.

Buddy Rich (talking to MD): "Taking the bottom head off is just stupid. It kills the drums tonality."

Listen to Mike Portnoys drums. Now listen to Joey Jordinsons. There is a big difference there in damping.
 

Hex

Member
I think beginner drummers who don't know how to tune or have crappy kits that don't sound good will be more likely to use some kind of muffling.

But, as others have said, it can also be a product of what drums sounds are popular at the time. Even professional drummers who knew how to tune would muffle their kits back in the 70s and 80s because that was the desired sound.
 

jazzsnob

Silver Member
I definitely subscribe to this. I used to muffle the hell out of my drums and now I use nothing. I think it's just developing your ear and learning how to tune. It's also about tone. As drummers improve their technique they are able to achieve better sound they want more sound and resonance, because it simply is more melodic and musical.
 

Auger

Senior Member
You know, I was just thinking about this again. I think all the previouly said stuff is probably most of the reason for this, but also I suspect it has something to do with playing ability as well. Until you develop a touch on the drums and a certain amount of technique, it can be hard to feel 'in control' when you've got these singing, ringy drums. You tend to want to pull in the reigns and make things tamer/easier to handle. Then, once you get some command of the instrument, you find you can actually use that tone.
 

druid

Silver Member
yep...I am not a fan of muffling either....I used to when I was much younger playing concert toms etc....but I think the more you think about it...a drum should resonate...all other instruments do....you don't tape a piano , guitar, violin...etc...I think it was some weird thing that occured with the advent of close miking in the 70's.....engineers still when I play live miked as me to cut a hole in my bass drum head...nope. I like it to sound like drums. I recently had a sound guy compliment me on my old Remo drums in a live siutation....because he said they sounded like "real drums"....it is all about tuning.
 
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nhzoso

Guest
Well this may just be a question of personal preference because you said most Pro's don'tuse em, not all. So I think if you like the sound without muffles or think it's somehow amateurish to use them then thats your preference but I don't think it's a standard. I am a beginner and use rings but I challenge anyone here to use a Sonor 3003 set without em..They sound horrible without those little white rings. : )

And yes I have after market heads on them...well the batter sides anyway.
 
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Synthetik

Guest
nhzoso said:
Well this may just be a question of personal preference because you said most Pro's don'tuse em, not all. So I think if you like the sound without muffles or think it's somehow amateurish to use them then thats your preference but I don't think it's a standard. I am a beginner and use rings but I challenge anyone here to use a Sonor 3003 set without em..They sound horrible without those little white rings. : )

And yes I have after market heads on them...well the batter sides anyway.
Almost all pros use some form of muffling in the studio and live. They often use internal damping that is not visible on videos. There is no equating amature vs pro in terms of muffling.

"Gee Mr. Gadd, your drums sound so dead. You must be a real rank amature!"
 
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finnhiggins

GONE MUCH TOO EARLY!!!
Auger said:
You know, I was just thinking about this again. I think all the previouly said stuff is probably most of the reason for this, but also I suspect it has something to do with playing ability as well. Until you develop a touch on the drums and a certain amount of technique, it can be hard to feel 'in control' when you've got these singing, ringy drums. You tend to want to pull in the reigns and make things tamer/easier to handle. Then, once you get some command of the instrument, you find you can actually use that tone.
This is right on the nose. It takes a certain degree of control to be able to play single-ply heads tuned wide-open without sounding bad. Thicker heads disguise whether you can play or not, to a degree. That's not to say that anybody using thicker heads can't play, but there's more ability to vary the tone the drum produces with thinner heads and less muffling. So if more experienced drummers use thinner heads it's probably because they can get a wider range of tones from drums with that set-up.
 

Drummer Karl

KARL MEMBER
good thread, that`s like "How can can I get rid of that dirt on my T-shirt? Throw it away or make the best out of it and experiment?"
I really never muffled drums, NEVER and I hate it. I hate the sound, this typical "bob"- sound, just awful. I think muffling drums extremly is just like making "make-up" on my face, it just hide the actual problems.
Better way would be to experiment with tuning till you find a good tuning and try out different heads. I think it`s good to explore how the drums react on different tunings, it will make you of course much more experienced. I had this problem a few days ago: My 12" tom sounded hoorible because of an awful lot of overtones...a good friend and guitarist said that I could "muffle away" this problem...just don`t like to do it, I kept up experimenting and reading some tuning guides et voilà: I got a good open jazzy sound.
So, just ask yourself: What gives me more experience? To muffle or to experiment till you find and to read? I guess it`s the second possibility...

Karl
 

cdrums21

Gold Member
Synthetik said:
Almost all pros use some form of muffling in the studio and live. They often use internal damping that is not visible on videos. There is no equating amature vs pro in terms of muffling.

"Gee Mr. Gadd, your drums sound so dead. You must be a real rank amature!"
I would say that out of 10 professional drummers that I either know personally or have studied about and talked to via email, and other famous guys like Neil Peart, John Bonham, Eddie Bayers, Kenny Aronoff to name a few, 99% of them do NOT muffle their drums. If anything, a small bit of whatever on the snare drum just to take the "ping" out may be used and that's about it. I'm sure there are exceptions, but if you don't believe me, take a look around this site at video clips or shots of pro drummers playing live and try to catch views where you can see the kit from the driver's seat. More often than not there is nothing on the snare and toms, and I highly doubt that there are internal muffling devices. That whole concept impedes the natural vibration of the head to create sound waves, is flawed and any serious drummer, drum tech or sound engineer should never do that (I'm talking snare and toms). I'm not saying it's amateurish or wrong to muffle, I'm just saying that there must be something to not muffling your drums for it to be so common among professionals. In general, I think drums sound best unmuffled and singing, but that's just me.
 
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Synthetik

Guest
cdrums21 said:
I would say that out of 10 professional drummers that I either know personally or have studied about and talked to via email, and other famous guys like Neil Peart, John Bonham, Eddie Bayers, Kenny Aronoff to name a few, 99% of them do NOT muffle their drums. If anything, a small bit of whatever on the snare drum just to take the "ping" out may be used and that's about it. I'm sure there are exceptions, but if you don't believe me, take a look around this site at video clips or shots of pro drummers playing live and try to catch views where you can see the kit from the driver's seat. More often than not there is nothing on the snare and toms, and I highly doubt that there are internal muffling devices. That whole concept impedes the natural vibration of the head to create sound waves, is flawed and any serious drummer, drum tech or sound engineer should never do that (I'm talking snare and toms). I'm not saying it's amateurish or wrong to muffle, I'm just saying that there must be something to not muffling your drums for it to be so common among professionals. In general, I think drums sound best unmuffled and singing, but that's just me.
I don't beleiev anyone records in a studio without some kind of muffling. Damping the head doesn't necessarily dampen the shell. Sound engineers often lament an overly "live" sounding kit.

" I highly doubt that there are internal muffling devices. "

Again, without evidence you are speculating. And I didn't realize that you personally knew Neil Peart, John Bonham, Eddie Bayers, Kenny Aronoff and were present at all of thier recording sessions.

99%? where did you get that statistic?
 
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