Drum sets are one of the loudest musical instruments available. Unlike many electrified instruments (such as the electric guitar), it cannot be muted with the use of headphones or through un-amplified play. Learning how to make a drum set quieter is an essential process when playing a drum set in a shared house or apartment complex. There are several methods of doing this, ranging in expense, effort required, and effectiveness. These methods can be used in conjunction or on their own.
Mute the bass drum with a pillow. This method is quite simple, and is commonly employed even in situations that don’t require a noise reduction. Remove 1 of the bass drum heads and place a pillow (or other soft material) inside the drum so that it just touches both heads. Replace and re-tune the head. The pillow deadens many of the bass drum’s ringing overtones, yielding a clearer tone as well as a slightly quieter one.
Mute the toms and snare drum with plastic O-rings. Several manufacturers produce thin plastic rings that are designed to fit across the outer diameter of drum heads. These rings mute the overtones of toms and snare drums similarly to the function of the bass drum pillow. Use these rings to achieve a slightly quieter, more controlled sound.
Shield the drum set with a drum screen. Drum screens, also called drum shields, are composed of several tall sheets of clear plastic that are hinged together. These screens can be arranged to surround a drum set partially or completely, significantly lowering the volume of the drums. These screens are useful in performance, recording, and practice settings.
Place mute pads over the drums and cymbals. To quiet a drum set in a practice setting, you can purchase rubber mute pads that are designed to fit on top of each drum head (and onto cymbals if desired). These pads almost entirely mute the sound of the drums; this makes them an excellent choice for quieting drums played in an apartment or shared house. The downside to mute pads is that they don’t allow the player to hear the drums as they are meant to sound.
Install sound insulation in the room in which the drum set is located. For further sound reduction in a practice or recording setting, you can insulate the room against sound. There are many different types of soundproofing materials, from attractive acoustical panels that mount directly onto a wall to thick vinyl sheets that are installed underneath the drywall. These solutions provide effective soundproofing while retaining the full sound of the drums, but are often very expensive.