Why doesn't anyone make quieter drums?

DrumDoug

Senior 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.
That's interesting. I wouldn't have thought mesh heads would make any sound wether you leave the resos on or not. What sort of sound does it make? The Gen 16's are quiet but they don't really sound like regular cymbals by themselves. You have to use the sound module with them and that's just more gear to haul around. Although I have thought about trying them.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
People having you play an actual conservatory pp-mp 1-3" off the drums all night do not have a realistic concept of how loud even background live music is supposed to be. A room full of people eating, drinking, and being served is not silent-- the band has to be a certain volume, or the signal-to-noise ratio goes to hell, and you're constantly getting wiped out because somebody shifts in his chair or places a drink order. Even the people who want to pay attention are pretty much forced to do something else, like start talking to their friends.

That being said, if you can't play quietly, your career is going to be a whole lot of misery. I finally gave up fighting it a few years ago, and can now play as softly with sticks as I can with brushes. Get smaller drums and cymbals, maple sticks, use a reasonable amount of muffling, and learn to play low. If you don't let the stick flop around in your grip you'll have a lot finer control at low heights. It also helps for each hand to mostly stay put on one part of the set. As you're able to sustain a very low volume, you start having more latitude to make a few jabs here and there and maybe make some music.

I do that to survive, but I still think it's horrible for the music-- musicians are getting so cowed that they play too softly even when nobody's telling them to, with everyone trying to play under everyone else. Whenever possible now, I bring more cutting cymbals, and make a little more sound with the bass drum-- even when I'm generally playing softly, it gives the rest of the band a little more cushion to come up into their comfort range.
 
M

Matt Bo Eder

Guest
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.
^^This makes sense, and I applaud companies like Guru who can do it. That said though, Guru isn't the only one who can do it. Any decent quality drum can do it, it's more up to how well the player can play, head selection and tuning. I can take my Ludwigs and either make them obnoxiously loud, or extremely quiet, with the same heads and tuning in the course of an evening. I've never adhered to the excuse that drums are built only to be played loud.

Try putting some remo PS4 heads on your kit on all the drums, and tune down a bit, you'll be both quieter and full-sounding. I think that's the mistake a lot of people make: your job isn't to be loud and cutting, it's to sound full (this is a Mel Lewis theory). You only want to cut through at times for musical effect - listen to Steve Gadd and how he can cook just above the band's threshold, and then he throws in a couple of rim shots that just sends shivers up your spine. His drums are able to sound nice at a low volume, yet he makes them cut through when necessary, and that's more attributed to his skill as a player than what drums he's playing.
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
I think it helps to take a step back & examine what's actually perceived as loudness. Of course, context is everything, but generally, it's the higher frequencies & faster attack deliveries that translate into most listener's definition of "loud". Lower frequencies & less rapid note deliveries (not speed of playing, the time it takes for the note to reach full dynamic) create less impact in terms of "intrusiveness".

Armed with that information, the direction of adjustments to tuning, head choice, stick / beater choice, etc, are obvious.

Of course, the player has ultimate control, but in direct answer to the OP's question, there are drums that inherently work more along the less invasive route. Softer wood species, thinner shells, more rounded bearing edges, roughened internal finish, lighter hoops, are all features that help soften the instrument.
 

Frank

Gold Member
One would have to make quiet cymbals too.
Drums a perfect exactly as they are.
Now get off my lawn!
:)

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.
This.

There's great joy in quiet play.

I'm a drummer, and even I think many drummers are obnoxious.
Nothing worse than being out wanting to enjoy live music over drinks, only to have a drummer make everyone deaf for the night.
Crashes and snare hits played by bashers can be really irritating to the live music patron.
Quiet play can be very beautiful.

Whenever this comes up, I tell people to go watch Dr. Steve Gadd. Yeah, he sometimes used volume through the dynamic range, but generally, he played with a soft touch. And there was never anything whimpy about anything he played. It was always powerful and beautiful.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Like Bill Ray, I was forced into learning how to tap all night. It's easy now, but it was hard in the beginning. I can play quiet enough to have a normal conversation...on the bandstand. It's a skill I wouldn't trade for a set of walnut Gurus, honest.

Of all the things I do, I am appreciated most for my ability to play whisper quiet. There's one room in particular that this skill is essential. It's absolutely vital to our employment as a band there. Not just me either. The whole band has to play quietly. We play there 2 to 4 times every month, and they love us there, because we can play softer than any band around.

I can say this with certainty, you can burn just as hot playing at a whisper as you can when you have no volume restrictions. It's a controlled burn, not a wildfire. It's cool actually. And the misconception that you can't get a full sound from the drums...is just that, a misconception. I won't say it's easy. But my recordings don't lie. I have to admit that it's hard to believe I'm hitting as soft as I am, judging from the recordings. It's a loud room, so even my taps sound like I'm hitting normally. In other words the drums sound just as full as they would if I was hitting normally when I tap. The loudness of the room sees to that.

Playing soft is an exercise in control, control control. All night long.
 

WallyY

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.
That's a good idea!
Maybe adding a small amount of something to close up some of the mesh holes would give the heads a little more life to excite the bottom heads? Zero rings perhaps? Maybe the spray rubber from the goof in the screen door boat?
Those Gen 16s would seem to work fine unmiked.


~ But don't drums suffer the historic misfortune of being domesticated into a servile role of melodic accompaniment?
I wonder when it happened that drums and cymbals went from long range communication and fear inducing war clatter to being used as a display of restrainment.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
~ But don't drums suffer the historic misfortune of being domesticated into a servile role of melodic accompaniment?

Yes, but in my mind I would like to see replaced the words suffer and misfortune with enjoy and fortune. Glass half empty and all that. Drums work best as a support instrument IMO. There is absolutely no negativity in that, as implied by the word servile. Today's music falls apart without drums. We are the friggin strongest part of the band, for real. Not saying the best, but the strongest. All kinds of exceptions, I'm talking generally. We are irreplaceable.

I'm out to change the notion that we are 2nd class citizens, at least in our own minds, by calling out long held stereotypes. No disrespect intended to you Wally at all, I'm glad you brought it to light. I am just sick of hearing this tired old yarn that we are delegated to clean toilets and wanted to soapbox on it.


I wonder when it happened that drums and cymbals went from long range communication and fear inducing war clatter to being used as a display of restrainment.
Another good point, the role of the drums have definitely morphed from an essential to a nonessential thing. I guess we can thank Al Bell for that. Not complaining, the phone is a superior long distance communication tool. Not all drums are restrained though. There's some music out there that I'm thinking....these guys aren't gonna want to work that hard when they get older lol. Some of the things guys do on a drumset makes me dizzy.

Big fan of restraint here. Restraint....bondage....forces a brand of creativity that you never would have explored on your own (not you Wally) because who does that? Who restrains themselves? BUT! It's pretty cool what restraint can do to your playing. You go inward, not outward. You get nuanced. You are not in everyone's face and it's refreshing to hear from an audience POV. Restraint is at the very marrow of Blues. These people were put down, abused, raped, had their dignity taken away on a daily basis...that sense of being wronged is like fuel. They learned to express themselves within the confines of their restraints, taunting their masters in cloaked lyrics just so they can try and at least feel human. Blues pervades every form of music out there, so restraint is creative fuel.

Another thing, kind of on a different note, the bass drum pedal, the real game changer, is not all that much older than some of the people here. We are among the first generations to have a bass drum pedal. Pretty cool if you think about it. A bass drum pedal allows people to achieve a higher state of expressiveness, by magnitudes. Do you think a Vinnie part could be played by a group of drummers with his fluidity and dynamic control? Not a chance. Not to mention improving. None of this was really doable until the bass drum pedal. The bass drum pedal helped make us indispensable.

But yea quieter drums. Whatever.
 
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Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Have you tried an old vintage kit?

I would go for smaller sizes, I use a crush acrylic bop set (18x16, 10x7, 13x13) and my band says it's the best one for our quieter gigs.. of course I had to work on my technique to be able to play quietly. I think you might be able to find less resonant drums but there's not much you can do to hide the attack, which is probably where most of the volume lies.

I guess you could use an e-kit and have the volume lowish if you like e-kits (I don't).
 

Tommy_D

Platinum Member
That's a good idea!
Maybe adding a small amount of something to close up some of the mesh holes would give the heads a little more life to excite the bottom heads? Zero rings perhaps? Maybe the spray rubber from the goof in the screen door boat?
Those Gen 16s would seem to work fine unmiked.
No, dont mess with the mesh. I have a set of Remo Silent Strokes on my Ddrum kit with the reso heads tuned. Its loud enough to get the tone of the reso head while still reducing the volume by at least 75-80%. You may want to try a 2 ply Roland head which will have more mass to potentially drive more energy in to the shell to excite the reso head. Its a pricey option though. The drums volume is still dramatically reduced and is quieter than Gen16 cymbals, so the balance of volume will be a bit off. You may be able to tone down the Gen16's with some moon gel or some sort of overtone damper to balance the volume levels.
 

Bull

Gold Member
I have been fighting a wall of Marshalls/ Boogies since I was a kid. I couldn't play a quiet restaurant gig with a gun to my head. :)
 

steadypocket

Gold Member
I can, and sometimes have to play softly. At anything below a medium volume level though, I loose my feel and groove. Mostly because when my main snare hits become the volume level of my ghost notes, I find it impossible to play ghost notes relative to the main snare hits, if that makes sense. I get by all right, but it just doesn't groove the same.
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
A room full of people eating, drinking, and being served is not silent-- the band has to be a certain volume, or the signal-to-noise ratio goes to hell, and you're constantly getting wiped out because somebody shifts in his chair or places a drink order. Even the people who want to pay attention are pretty much forced to do something else, like start talking to their friends.


Todd, I've noticed this as well. It't almost as if the band getting quieter results in the audience getting louder, making things kind of screwing. Like you, I've found that a bit more bass drum works toward achieving a better balance and making the rest of the band feel more comfortable.

Could you say something about what you mean by "more cutting cymbals?" Thanks!
 

spleeeeen

Platinum Member
Big fan of restraint here. Restraint....bondage....forces a brand of creativity that you never would have explored on your own (not you Wally) because who does that? Who restrains themselves? BUT! It's pretty cool what restraint can do to your playing. You go inward, not outward. You get nuanced.
Yes, restraint can give you access to a very deep and powerful well of energy. In my day job, I'm a sex therapist and this is one of the things I've learned from folks who participate in bdsm.

Restraint is at the very marrow of Blues. These people were put down, abused, raped, had their dignity taken away on a daily basis...that sense of being wronged is like fuel. They learned to express themselves within the confines of their restraints, taunting their masters in cloaked lyrics just so they can try and at least feel human. Blues pervades every form of music out there, so restraint is creative fuel.

Another thing, kind of on a different note, the bass drum pedal, the real game changer, is not all that much older than some of the people here. We are among the first generations to have a bass drum pedal. Pretty cool if you think about it. A bass drum pedal allows people to achieve a higher state of expressiveness, by magnitudes. Do you think a Vinnie part could be played by a group of drummers with his fluidity and dynamic control? Not a chance. Not to mention improving. None of this was really doable until the bass drum pedal. The bass drum pedal helped make us indispensable.
Just wanted to say I really like both of those paragraphs.

Jason
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I have the good fortune of having a 1yr old daughter. Before I purchased my electric kit, there was a good 9 months of automotive towels being on top of my drums and learning a super soft touch. I could play her to sleep.

While I still have not mastered playing quietly in a band scenario, it added quite a bit of dynamics to my playing, especially in terms of fills.
 
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