Playing volume

kuren84

Senior Member
Evening all, hope you have all had a nice Christmas. Just wanted your thoughts on playing volume. I play in an acoustic duo where i play a shallow custom kick drum, snare, hats, crash and ride. Typically we play pubs, parties, weddings and small festivals and typically i play rods rather than sticks, this is purely down to volume. I would love to play with sticks more but am conscious of volume. I appreciate touch is a factor but do any of you have any thoughts on how to play quieter with sticks as even trying to play as quietly as i can with sticks is still considerably louder (or maybe its just more focused and therefore sounds louder) than rods? TIA :)
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Try maple sticks, or some 7As-- Regal 7As and Bopworks Birdland Model are the lightest sticks I've encountered. Smaller, more muffled/drier drums and cyms helps. If your technique is there, there's no need to use rods or brushes, unless you want them for the sound.

I wrote a whole lot of tips about low volume playing here.
 

Otto

Platinum Member
hate to seem glib...but the greatest truth I see....practice playing quiet with un-muffled drums and the heaviest sticks you have.

I had my best low volume skill breakthroughs when realizing the greater control of the stroke when using, primarily, fingers to control the stick.
 

kuren84

Senior Member
Thanks guys interesting points. I think dropping stick height more than first thought will maybe help and i will have a look at the sticks mentioned and maybe go for something like that. Thanks as always.
 

Rock Salad

Junior Member
Which piece on the kit is most problematic?
And if you practice on a pad lots, you might do that Lots softer than normal. I have to watch that one! I find myself blasting stuff out on the pad because throwing stroke is easier than dropping stroke still.
 
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PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Dude, I'm a 20+-year veteran of dealing with volume issues. Here's my random advice.

One thing to think about is to starting thinking about pitch in addition to volume. Lower-pitched drums, snares, and cymbals can lend themselves to a more pleasant experience in terms of playing and listening.

Toms and Kick
  • If you feel you need to get some new drums, try to find some toms and maybe kick drum that has mahogany (not that luan stuff, like REAL mahogany) and poplar.
  • The bearing edges on the drums play a big part as well. Some sort of round-over edge will mellow out the drum. Ludwig Legacy drums fit this bill; however, you may need to look at some cheaper options.

Snare
  • Find something DEEP...like a 14 x 7 or a 14 x 8. You can still get plenty of pop out of it if you need to do but it will be easier to tune lower. I like to stick with maple, but feel free to branch out

Cymbals
  • I've had my best luck with finding dark and thin cymbals. With these, it doesn't take much of a hit to get them to open up nicely. I thought A Custom 14 and 15 fast crashes were my best options. However, I was introduced to Heartbeat cymbals about two years ago. So instead of these bright little "splashy" cymbals, I've moved onto big dark thin cymbals. My current set-up is all Heartbeat: 15" Studio hats, 20" Studio Crash, 22" Custom Dark Ride (it crashes REALLY well), and a 20" Custom Dark crash. I used to think that the bigger the cymbal, the louder they would be. This is not the case. In one of the bands I was in, I told them I got some new cymbals that would help with stage volume by not being so piercing. They brushed it off for a minute. Then after the first 2-3 songs, our lead singer from the stage turns around and says, "I have no idea what you paid for those cymbals, but they are worth every penny." Big, washy cymbals that are darker in pitch really help.

Accessories (This might be the best place to start in regards to your drums. Cymbals are their own animal.)
  • Lightest sticks? If I'm not mistaken, they are Vic Firth AJ5 sticks. The are quite a bit smaller than 7A's.
  • I've used those RemO's control rings on and off for years. I hate them, so I don't use them anymore. Instead, I have moved onto using a product called Snareweight M80. They work great because I can select the amount of ring control on a whim because every room is different. If you use one of these on your snare, the cool thing is you don't lose hardly any of the rebound/bounce. You snare can still be super-comfortable to play with decent ring control. Those RemO's are problematic for me. First, they heavily affected rebound. Second, if you don't keep them wrinkle-free (which can be difficult), they can get a little "wave" in them, and if you are like me, your stick WILL get up under that wrinkle, and it's going to go flying while you are playing live, rehearsing, and/or recording. It's just a matter of time.
  • I also have tried to use double-ply coated heads on my toms. I don't like those either. I do use an Emperor on my snare, but I crank it a little.
  • I've used one of those Big Fat Snare Drums too (the one with the big hole in the middle). It works well too!
  • If you feel as if you may have to resort to brushes as some point, go ahead and buy some good non-retractable brushes (I used Regal Tip). If they come in a hard plastic tube, keep the tube to store your brushes.

I've been a church drummer for over 20 years, and I've had it out more times with sound guys than I'd like to admit. I've also played in bands where we've had to watch our volume so much which has forced me to explore a crap-ton of options out there. This is a culmination of what's worked for me and what hasn't. Currently, I'm playing a Ludwig Classic maple: 12 rack, 14 floor, 20 x 14 kick, and a Pearl Masters 14 x 5.5 snare.
 
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danondrums

Well-known member
Thanks guys interesting points. I think dropping stick height more than first thought will maybe help and i will have a look at the sticks mentioned and maybe go for something like that. Thanks as always.
It's a lot of work to train this dynamic into your playing. Good luck!
Take some of your most favorite fills and then play them as quietly, but confidently as possible and you'll start to be able to hear your own developed tools be able to take on a new dynamic.

Have fun!
 

moxman

Silver Member
Rods have their place - but have a thin 'pingy' sound which isn't always ideal. If you want to fatten it up and make it sound more like a real drum.. while keeping the volume down - try this:
- either put a thin fabric sheet like a dish towel or t-shirt over the drum head - and whack it with the rod - presto; instant fat sound! Or..
- buy something called a 'big fat snare drum' and put it on your drum heads - it has a similar effect and is less hassle than trying to get a towel to stay on.
I used to use a piece of a thin plastic sheet fabric from an amp cover that gave a perfect sound for a fat dry snare sound using a rod or blastix.. but the 'big fat snare drum' (thin version) does the same thing.
 
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Morrisman

Platinum Member
Rods have their place - but have a thin 'pingy' sound which isn't always ideal. If you want to fatten it up and make it sound more like a real drum.. while keeping the volume down - try this:
- either put a thin fabric sheet like a dish towel or t-shirt over the drum head - and whack it with the rod - presto; instant fat sound! Or..
- buy something called a 'big fat snare drum' and put it on your drum heads - it has a similar effect and is less hassle than trying to get a towel to stay on.
I used to use a piece of a thin plastic sheet fabric from an amp cover that gave a perfect sound for a fat dry snare sound using a rod or blastix.. but the 'big fat snare drum' (thin version) does the same thing.
I tried an O ring on a snare with multirods and it sounded great! Just like a normal snare but softer. I discovered it by accident, wasn’t expecting it to sound so good.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
I put rags on the drum heads to quiet things down. I practice playing quietly sometimes. Mostly if I have to be quiet, perhaps a restaurant gig, then I use the electronic drum kit.
 

drumdevil9

Platinum Member
I play in a similar acoustic duo. I started out using rods but have moved more towards sticks because of the articulation control mostly on hats and cymbals. I played a gig a few weeks ago like this and switched to sticks after the first or second song because the rods were just not giving me the sound I needed. I find it easier to control volume on the quieter end with sticks than on the medium/louder end with rods. I still use rods for certain songs though that are more snare oriented like train beats and the like. For sticks I generally use 7A.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Playing with appropriate volume for the situation is something that needs to be learned just like any other drumming thing. The drummers who play inappropriately loud for a situation give the rest a bad rap. I feel it embarasses the family.

FWIW, as long as my time remains steady and good feeling, in my world, playing softer subtracted nothing from my playing except volume. The energy remains. It's a security thing. I've been on both sides. When I was insecure with playing soft, I couldn't relax. Relaxing is the only way I know to play softly with conviction. I'm past that now and can play very softly with conviction when it's called for. I've read here that lower volume is thought to subtract energy. It's just not that way in my world.
 

Frank

Gold Member
For sticks, check out Zildjian Super 7A Maple. Very light.

The other part is - working on light touch technique. Don't expect this to come instantly. It takes work and reps to build up this type of technique to where you can do it comfortably and actually enjoy it.

Part of it, for me, anyway, is - a loose grip and a minimal motion approach. When you get this down, you will be playing more with small wrist movement, not large, exaggerated arm movement.

Watch someone playing quietly in a jazz setting.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
One thing I found in working on this-- there is such a thing as playing too quietly. Like I would get players who seemed to feel exposed, and afraid to touch their instruments-- put any air through their horn or whatever. In a way it's our job to provide them some cover so they can play their instruments comfortably at a reasonable volume. For the audience, when the whole band is really quiet, all of the little sounds in the room are amplified in comparison, and become major distractions, and people are unable to focus on the music even if they want to. It's good to get to that point, though-- you can rebuild a healthy idea of dynamics from there, from a point of control.
 

J-Boogie

Gold Member
Cant stand rods. I have to use them at practice, but I cant stand the feel and the sound. Practice is at band members house and his kit, so his rules. At gigs, I use sticks and its like the training wheels came off. Maybe fighting through the rod playing helps my hands a bit, not sure, but I sure feel a lot faster, smoother, and more capable with stick, like night and day. But I really wish I could be trusted to adjust my volume with sticks.
Playing with appropriate volume for the situation is something that needs to be learned just like any other drumming thing. The drummers who play inappropriately loud for a situation give the rest a bad rap. I feel it embarasses the family.

FWIW, as long as my time remains steady and good feeling, in my world, playing softer subtracted nothing from my playing except volume. The energy remains. It's a security thing. I've been on both sides. When I was insecure with playing soft, I couldn't relax. Relaxing is the only way I know to play softly with conviction. I'm past that now and can play very softly with conviction when it's called for. I've read here that lower volume is thought to subtract energy. It's just not that way in my world.
Agreed. I remember watching a doc on Motown drummers and I think referring to Benny Benjamin they said at like 10-20 feet from the kit, you could barely hear the drums. That is a crazy testament to muscle control! To me, you gotta be strong as hell to whip your stick from high hats to ride side crash in the blink of an eye, yet barely graze the cymbal. Like pulling punches or something. That was an eye opener for me, and as a naturally lighter hitter, I said hey this is something I want to try and develop, control....its everything.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
#1 light hands
#2 cymbals - a huge culprit of volume - use only the very tip of sticks on rides and even crashes, this really helps. never crash, or if so crash with a splash cymbal
#3 - snare- one tea towel and you can still get fat sounds
#4 - fills - doing them fast and furious is hard to do 'lightly' - so maybe don't do such if any fills. I doubt anybody will miss them
 
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