There are some easy ways to reduce the volume of a cymbal if you need your drum kit to be a little more quiet. The sound projection and ring from traditional cymbals can be great for some playing situations but not for others. Let’s take a look at some easy fixes to reduce cymbal volume.
Using Tape to Reduce Cymbal Volume
One common option is tape, but it’s the most tame volume reducer. Often drummers can just grab a roll of tape and apply a few strips to a cymbal, and just like that the overtones and ring are reduced somewhat.
Tape alone won’t usually dampen the sound too much though, so if you really need to dampen the sound more it’s best to use tape along with a cloth pad. The larger the pad the more the dampening effect will be.
Not all types of tape are equal for this application. Duct tape, for example, is common and drummers turn to it often to solve problems. But this type of tape can be bad for the condition of your cymbals as it might leave a sticky residue on them or possibly even stain and discolor the surface and finish. Considering how much cymbals can cost, why would you want to potentially damage them?
The better option is to use a low-residue tape such as gaffer tape or painters tape. These types of tape use an adhesive that won’t leave residue behind once you remove them.
As far as where to place the tape and cloth pads – I’ve preferred putting tape on the bottom side, usually somewhere around mid-bow of the cymbal for best results. Putting it underneath the cymbal keeps it out of the way while playing.
If you go the tape route for volume reduction, I’d recommend a little experimentation to see what works best for you. Luckily tape is pretty cheap, so it’s easy to experiment and find the right balance of tone and volume reduction.
Use Cymbal Mutes For Extreme Volume Reduction
Another option if you want more extreme volume reduction is to try the various types of cymbal mutes out there. Keep in mind, cymbal mutes often will completely kill the tone and the ring of the cymbal. But sometimes that’s what’s needed for practicing in certain situations.
Some cymbal mutes lay on top of the cymbals. There are also some types that fit around the outer edge of the cymbal as a ring. Either type can work.
Homemade Cymbal Mutes
I’ve crafted cymbal mutes from thin foam padding in the past. One idea is to take something like a foam yoga mat and cut some circle discs out of it that can be placed underneath your cymbals directly on the cymbal stand. This helps keep the mutes hidden out of the way since they are underneath the cymbal. The cymbal basically rests on top of the foam discs to get the mute effect. Stiffer, thinner foam works best for this technique, ideally 1/4 thick or less. It needs to be stiff enough to stay flat underneath the cymbal but thin enough to fit on the cymbal stand.
Another option is to use cloth. You can cut cloth discs to lay on top of your cymbals, and use tape to hold them into place if needed. Heavier cloth tends to work better for this option.
Low Volume Cymbals as Another Option
If you don’t mind completely swapping out your traditional cymbals for different cymbals, low volume cymbals can be a good option. These types of cymbals have become popular enough that many major drum and cymbal brands sell them.
Low volume cymbals are designed to have much less volume and projection while retaining the feel of a traditional cymbal. They retain some of the tone of a traditional cymbal, but the sound is much more thin. You can identify them as the cymbals with lots of little holes punched through them.
This is my favorite route to go at the moment, mostly since I transition between low volume and regular volume drums frequently. I like the ease of just putting a set of low volume cymbals on my kit, and then I can swap them out for my regular cymbals easily enough when I want the full volume again.
You’ve Got Options
As you can see, there’s plenty of options for any budget level if you need to reduce the volume of your cymbals. Homemade mutes are usually the best way to go if you need to keep things cheap, but on the other end low volume cymbals can be pretty slick if you want to go that route. Anything will work as long as it allows you to get your practice in and keep improving your chops.