Drummers are often at a disadvantage compared to other musicians when it comes to controlling their volume. In many cases, the piano person or the electric guitar player can simply turn down a dial, and the excessive noise issue is resolved.
As a drummer, if your hi-hats sound too loud, you risk drowning out other instruments and producing poor quality music, so what are your options?
How to Muffle Hi-Hat Cymbals
One way to muffle hi-hat cymbals is to attach common household items to them. You can use similar methods to dampen your drum sticks or try different sticks altogether. It’s also possible that your technique just needs work. If these don’t work, you can invest in some low-volume hi-hats.
This article will detail some of the easiest and most accessible ways to quiet your instruments, as well as discuss a couple of low volume cymbals to try. If you want to learn how to improve the sound of your hi-hats, keep on reading.
Also read : How to soundproof electric drums
1. Dampen Your Hi-Hats With Household Items
The first and easiest thing you can do is to use common materials around your house (or that can be purchased from Amazon) to moderate the sound of your hi-hats. Here are a couple of things you could try:
You can put tape across your hi-hats to make them a bit quieter.
- Tape – gaffer tape is the best option, as it will leave little to no residue on your hi-hats when you peel it off. Try this Gaffer Power Premium Grade Tape from Amazon. Duct tape will also work well but be prepared for leftover glue.
What to Do
The placement of the tape can be tricky; it depends on what you are trying to accomplish. For example, if you just want to dull the sound, put a few strips of gaffer tape on the top side of your cymbal, at the very edge. If your goal is to diminish the ringing sound of the bell, experiment with placing the tape on different parts of the underside of your cymbal.
Just be careful not to put excessive amounts of tape on, or else you can completely ruin the resonance of your instrument.
You can create an elastic band to fasten around the edge of your cymbals. When your drum sticks meet the fabric, it will create a muffled sound.
- Thick elastic band material from a fabric store (around 4 or 5 inches, or 10 to 13 centimeters in width)
- Sewing machine (or thread and needle)
What to Do
- Measure and cut a length of elastic that is a few inches shorter than the circumference of your cymbal.
- Sew the ends of the elastic together.
- Fit the band around the circumference of your top hi-hat (it should be a taut fit).
Note: It is not necessary to place an elastic band on your bottom hi-hat.
Cloth and Other Soft Materials
Put some cloth or other soft materials in between your hi-hats.
Use anything soft, and that can be wadded into a ball, including rags, small towels, old socks, tissue paper, and so on.
What to Do
Wad up your materials into a ball and insert them in between your cymbals. Play with the placement a little bit to see what works for you.
2. Muffle Your Drum Sticks
You can also dampen your sticks using techniques similar to the ones discussed for adjusting your cymbals. Try winding strips of gaffer tape or fabric along the body and tips of your drum sticks to reduce their impact against the hi-hats. You can also purchase Silicone Drumstick Dampeners (Amazon link) that fit over the tip of your drum sticks.
One disadvantage of modifying drum sticks is that while they help dampen your hi-hats, they will also affect your drums’ feel and tone. You will need to apply a lot more force to your drums to achieve the same effect of more traditional sticks, which can be tricky.
3. Purchase Quiet Drum Sticks
There are various types of drum sticks that can produce quieter sounds than traditional wooden sticks. For example, WeiMeet Retractable Drum Wire Brushes (Amazon link) fan out at their tips to allow for lighter volume playing. You can also try the Lidwish Drum Sticks, which are very light and provide easy volume control.
These are just a couple of the many quiet drum sticks available, and they work well. However, you will likely run into the same issue that can occur when modifying your drum sticks (discussed above). If you don’t want to sacrifice tone for the sake of volume, your next best option is to work on your technique.
4. Brush Up on Your Technique
As mentioned earlier, drummers often have it tough when it comes to sound control. Unless you’re using an electronic kit, you don’t have the same luxury as other musicians for moderating volume. However, while it is annoying to hear people tell you that you need to “dial it back a little,” your technique really may be a bit too abrasive.
In his tutorial, 3 Tips for Playing Drums Quietly, Daniel Hadaway discusses the following tips to tweak your technique:
Get Closer to Your Drum Set
By hunching over your drum set and getting closer, you can control your movements and perform complex notes without being too loud.
Tense Up Your Posture
This works similarly to the above. Tensing up will allow you to minimize your range of motion by making every action smaller and less impactful.
Move Your Hands Higher Up the Sticks
Adjust your hands so that they are closer to the middle of the drum sticks, rather than the bottom. This will create less movement at the end of the stick, allowing you to control it more.
5. Invest in Low Volume Hi-Hats
Most of the solutions discussed so far have been aimed at working with what you have to improve the sound of the hi-hats you already own. If none of them prove effective, it may be time to invest in a new set of hi-hats that are designed to produce a more subtle sound. This is the most expensive option, but it will remedy your sound problem for the long term.
A popular choice is the Zildjian L80 Low Volume Cymbal Set (Amazon link). They are thin and bespeckled with holes, which are features that help them to be 80% quieter than traditional cymbals. The Sabian Quiet Tone Practice Cymbal Set (Amazon link) has a similar design and function.
The beauty of low volume cymbals is that you can maintain your playing style; the overall sound will just be quieter.
Here is the video:
There are a number of practical, inexpensive ways to control the volume of your cymbals. The simplest and cheapest way is to add some tape to the instruments or stuff them with sound muffling materials like rags or towels. You can also make similar modifications to your drum sticks, or purchase quiet drum sticks instead.
It’s also possible that you are playing too aggressively, and that you need to practice some techniques to sound more gentle. Improving your technique can help muffle the sound of your hi-hats, and you will also become a better drummer in the process.
Each of the above options may only have a modest effect, so implement more than one at a time, and try them in league with one another.
If none of that works, your last resort is to buy some low-volume hi-hats specifically designed to sound less aggressive.