Why doesn't anyone make quieter drums?

DrumDoug

Senior Member
I've been looking around the web lately looking at various drums, and one recurring theme I find in the marketing is how everyone talks about how their drums are loud and resonate and can "cut through the mix". 90% of the time I don't need drums to be loud and cut through. I would love to have an acoustic drum set that only puts out 1/3 to 1/2 the volume of regular drums. I don't usually play in stadiums or large theaters or big clubs. I play in smaller venues that are always complaining about how loud the bands are. Sure, I can muffle all the sound out of my kit, I can play with rods or brushes, or I can spend all night working on an exercise in control and just play very quietly. Playing very quietly is a lot of work. You have to think about it all night. It also robs you of being able to play dynamically. Your dynamic range for the night is pp to mp. I would love to just be able to start at a nice medium volume and be able to go up or down from there. Maybe Andy can chime in on why no one makes a drum that sounds and plays like a regular drum but without the volume. Companies keep making their drums louder and louder, why can't they go backwards and make them quieter?
 
Last edited:

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Maybe Andy can chime in on why no one makes a drum that sounds and plays like a regular drum but without the volume.
We make such drums. It's how we roll. Making drums such that are able to respond to the dynamic input from the player is key, & that means designing instruments that are able to open up to a full & satisfying tone at low dynamic. That's the expensive element right there. Volume is in the hands of the player - an instrument that can translate that is in the hands of the drumsmith.
 

Jer Bear

Junior Member
Sorry to dodge the question, and maybe I should just make a thread of my own to talk about this, but something you said really rang out for me. And it might be one of the coolest things about some of the phenomenal drummers out there.

"Playing very quietly is a lot of work. You have to think about it all night."

God, I could not agree with you more, but I while you say those words with disdain. I would say those exact words with all the love in the world. Part of the reason I love jazz drumming so much is because it can ask for SO much from the musicians playing it. Some instruments can just turn the volume knob down and easy peasy quiet mode. But drums, or horns, actually, who cares about them this is a drummers forum hahaha...But drums!! Drummers can't bullshit their way through being quiet as easily. I see way to many bands where the drummer is just too god damn loud, and on the rare occasion they quiet down their technique looks completely different cause they just can't quiet intensity. Dave King has a joke in one of his videos where he says something like "Why would I learn how to play uptempo ride pattern quietly when I could just play it on the bell of the the ride or play it on a part of the instrument where it is physically impossible to get loud", poking fun at drummers who are just ALWAYS so god damn loud. And there's a reason the classic drummer joke is "something about lack of intelligence cause they just wack sticks against stuff all night".

I'm getting off topic, the topic I was trying to get to is, I love and appreciate the gigs where I get a chance to try and play with as much quiet intensity as is allowed by physics, cause it is such a worthwhile skill to have as a drummer in my humble opinion.

TLDR: Playing quietly is a lot of work, and you have to think about it all night. And isn't that such a beautiful thing?
 

Ron_M

Senior Member
For me, playing quietly is very rewarding. With the proper tuning and technique, drums (and cymbals) really shine at low volumes. Whole new world, if you have yet to travel this road.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Seriously? I would say hit 1/3 to 1/2 less hard. Learn some dynamics. I played all thru school in band and orchestra and had to learn dynamics. Maybe smaller sticks, smaller drums. But seriously if you learned on a drumset to play rock and beat the hell out of the drumset it will take time. Drums arent loud drummers are. Also take the mics off of them.
 
Last edited:

Frank

Gold Member
You're not going to find much support, but, I happen to agree with you.
I Do think there is a market for quieter drums. Especially quieter snares.

Having said that, it's also true that quiet play can be yours - with some work.

I play at a fraction of the volume I did when I was younger, and it can be very enjoyable. But the comfort won't come overnight. It will take some work.
 

drum4fun27302

Gold Member
Seriously? I would say hit 1/3 to 1/2 less hard. Learn some dynamics. I played all thru school in band and orchestra and had to learn dynamics. Maybe smaller sticks, smaller drums. But seriously if you learned on a drumset to play rock andbeat thr hell out of the drumsit it will take time. Drums arent loud drummers are. Also take the mics off of them.
The op says he can do all those things. He just wishes there were more quiet drums so he could play mf to start with instead of mp.
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
Seriously? I would say hit 1/3 to 1/2 less hard. Learn some dynamics. I played all thru school in band and orchestra and had to learn dynamics. Maybe smaller sticks, smaller drums. But seriously if you learned on a drumset to play rock andbeat thr hell out of the drumsit it will take time. Drums arent loud drummers are. Also take the mics off of them.
First off, I know how to play quietly. I had a music scholarship all through college. Ive done it all from marching band to chamber orchestra. I can play very softly. Some bands I have auditioned for told me I just don't hit hard enough. I just don't want to have to use quarter inch stick heights all night playing high energy rock and roll. I can do it. I've been doing it for years. I regularly get compliments on how nice it is to play with a drummer who doesn't bash the drums. But your dynamics are limited to very quiet and quiet. And as far as Andy's comment that they make drums that give a full sound at the lightest touch, I want drums that don't respond and I have to give them a good wack to get them going. At one of the local jam sessions the guy who supplies the regular house kit has a set of 60's Slingerlands and some old vintage cymbals. They sound Ok. I never really thought too much about it. One day I subbed for him and used my Yamaha BCANs and newer Ks. When I set them up and started playing I couldn't believe how loud they were in that room. I was used to his old kit that didn't project. I read somewhere that Richie Hayward used an old vintage kit when Little Feat played smaller rooms. He said it was because they weren't as loud as new drums and he didn't have to hold back as much. We spend all this time crafting and tuning drums to get the most sound, and then muffle them to death and stick them behind shields. If someone did make a quiet set, every church in the world would be scrambling to buy a set.
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
Idk but wtf is mf or mp?
They are short hand abbreviations for music terms. Piano (p) is soft and Forte (f) is loud. An (m) is short for mezzo which means medium. So (mp) is mezzo piano or medium soft and (mf) is mezzo forte or medium loud.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
Yes, it would be nice to have drums that are made to be quieter.
A set where the volume is adjustable would be nice too.

I think you should research some new and different ways to muffle the volume and not the tone of a drum. Different ways to muffle the volume while maintaining the sustain. I can think of a few ways that would be worth trying.

For instance many years ago my Dad lined the inside of the shell of his steel snare drum with foam rubber.

How about drilling holes in the shell.

How about putting felt strips on the batter and/or reso heads.

.
 

calan

Silver Member
I'm right with you. I also know how to play quietly. I dislike doing it, not because of the volume, but because of the tone. I will admit to possible ignorance in the art of setting up a drum to sound good in that situation, but I also tend to think that a drum would sound better when it's particles are being excited, and that typical drum construction just isn't inherently conducive to low volume.

My metal group usually gets comments from engineers about our relatively low stage volume. Still, I wouldn't consider that quiet by any stretch. I frequently play in situations at jams and with a blues/soul act that I have to be quiet enough to hear the combo amps that are in front of me with no monitors, and where patrons expect to still be able talk at their tables. I don't even really love that, because I just don't feel that I get a full sound out of a drum.

I can't understand the restraint and patience a drummer would need to play a dinner service type thing. Honestly, when I have a call to play something that quiet, I typically ask the group if we can strip things down and I'll just use a cajon and some toys.

I do have an electronic kit ready to go for an occasion when I still need to rock below conversation volume levels. Luckily I haven't had to use it.

I'm certainly not a drum builder or materials engineer, but I have to imagine there is some way to internally baffle a drum so it moves less air without muffling the heads. Then again, maybe head volume would be overpowering in that situation. I would also think that there is some material, natural or synthetic, that could make a decent drum shell but absorb more of the energy than typical materials.
 

DrumDoug

Senior Member
I think some people are not quite getting how quiet I'm talking about having to play. It isn't a club, its a local Italian Ristorante. It has to be quiet enough for people to talk over. Even playing with brushes, I've had to sweep with just the tips because sweeping with the whole wire is too much. Most of the time the singers and guitar players don't even use a PA. There's a reason Steve Smith came up with the Tala Wands. Even he had trouble playing quietly enough to not overpower acoustic instruments.
 
Last edited:

calan

Silver Member
I do get it. Dinner service. Like I said, I usually just rework material with a cajon and percussion because I find it more enjoyable than trying to get satisfying experience with playing a kit.

Even so, I can still see across the board applications for quieter drums.
 

incrementalg

Gold Member
What makes a drum quiet? I mean from a construction and materials standpoint? If one were to looks for quieter drums what would one generally look for?
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
DrumDoug:

Oh, you mean really really quiet drums!

That is why they make cajons and other hand instruments.
One drummer I know uses a kitchen cabinet door and stomps on it for his base drum sound.

Sit on a cajon and use it for a snare sound; along with bongos, a small cymbal and an electronic stomp box. And you are good to go.

.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
One would have to make quiet cymbals too.

Drums a perfect exactly as they are.

Now get off my lawn!
 

opentune

Platinum Member
I think some people are not quite getting how quiet I'm talking about having to play. It isn't a club, its a local Italian Ristorante.
I've played a few gigs like that. I know what you mean, there is a point where you can barely touch your drums. I've used blanket over the entire bass drum, dishtowel on snare, cymbals - just barely touching them. Forget about toms. Some people do e-kits for that reason (you can hit hard and tehy have a volume knob) but lets face it, they just don't look cool and ...no mojo of an a-kit.
 

BillRayDrums

Gold Member
Wanna learn how to play quiet? Get a restaurant gig with a fire breathing dragon of a chef. That'll learn ya.

Seriously that's how I learned. You begin to see the dynamic ceiling as if it were a doorway and you quickly learn the art of pulling back off the drums to pull the sound out. And when you get in the smaller dynamics there's so much great space to play in. It's a whole other world.
 

Tommy_D

Platinum Member
If you want quiet you can use mesh batter heads and keep the mylar reso heads. Tune the reso heads for the tone you want and you are good to go for the drums. For the cymbals you can use Zildjian Gen 16's. There's your quiet drum set. Definately 1/2 - 2/3rds quieter without reinventing the wheel.
 
Top