Drums are the type of instrument that you love for being loud (although your neighbors might
not share the view). Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce the output of your acoustic
Onstage/On the Platform:
The drum shield, or “fish tank” is a common solution venues and houses employ to reduce
ambient drum volume. They do a commendable job of deflecting the crack of a snare or the
clatter of a crash cymbal away from listeners and vocal microphones, effectively reducing both
ambient volume and stage bleed. However, many players can feel downright uncomfortable
(even insulted) playing behind one, especially if they aren’t used to it.
Drum shields only deflect sound away from listeners positioned on the other side of the shield.
All that ambient sound stays in the room, just gets redirected backward and upward. It’s also
less effective at tempering bass frequencies, such as those produced by the bass drum and
Gels and dampeners
These two options are all you need to control overtones and give the illusion of a quieter stage
kit. Blanketing your drum heads with wallets, t-shirts, bandanas, etc. usually works well. This tip
will provide a reduction in output as well as sustain, which leaves you with enough output to be
heard but also better balanced for blending with unmiked instruments.
Nick D’Virgilio often preaches about this, but it bears repeating, at the end of the day as the
drummer you are responsible for blending with the band. No matter how soft they play or how
lively the venue is, it doesn’t matter. A great tip is to practice swapping out your “tree trunk”
stage sticks with something slimmer and more controlled in the hand. For example, Vater
Sugar’s maple 7As or Thunder Rods will give you greater dynamics control without affecting
your playing style too dramatically.
Replacing your stock skins with breathable mesh heads can reduce the output of your shells by
up to 90 percent. You still hear the tone of your toms, feel the woof of your kick drum, and sense
the snap of your snare and it just makes the ambient volume much more manageable for your
neighbors and loved ones.
Now, be advised that this is a practice-only option; it’s not the sort of thing you’d want to perform
or record with. To keep things simple, mesh drumheads install just like any standard head.
Another added benefit for getting mesh drum heads is the soft attack and fast rebound that
these heads are capable of, which many drummers consider to be more comfortable on the
There is a variety of specialty shell and cymbal mutes available today but as we’ve mentioned
above, these are practice-only options. They do a great job of giving you an acoustic-like
performance at a much-reduced listening level. Unlike mesh heads, these mutes can be
installed and removed in seconds for quick transitions from the practice room to the
Certain drummers prefer to hear the full decay of a crash or the earthy ping of a ride cymbal
unencumbered by traditional mutes which is perfectly fine. Outfitting your practice kit with low-
volume cymbals will give you that inimitable wood-on-metal cymbal response and high dynamic
range without blowing your balance. Note that these specialty cymbals are best paired with
muted drums; trying to use them on a traditional kit could cause you to overplay and damage
So if you are a noise conscious drummer, whether you are at home or performing onstage, you
have a ton of options to make your drum kit quieter.