Acoustic drum kits are known for being one of the louder instruments out there. But is there such a thing as quiet drums? Yes, there is. There are a couple things you can do to convert your acoustic drum kit to a quiet drum kit.
Why Would You Want a Quiet Drum Kit?
Acoustic drum kits have no volume knob. Their default volume is LOUD. The volume is mostly determined by how hard the drummer plays, and even at softer playing levels the volume can still be quite loud depending on the kit and location.
There’s plenty of reasons to want to take the volume down on a drum kit. Practicing at home, giving drum lessons, playing low volume gigs, or even trying to play drums in an apartment are all valid reasons.
It’s hard to go quiet with standard drum equipment, though. Drums and cymbals are designed to project sound and resonate loudly.
That’s why you need to turn to low volume drumming gear. In this case we’ll look at low volume cymbals and drum heads. Both of those can be combined to lower a drum kits volume by up to 50-80%.
Low Volume Drum Heads
The first component we’ll look at is the low volume drum heads. The reason these are great is because you can simply replace the existing drum heads on your kit with low volume drum heads and get instant results without much work.
I prefer the Remo Silentstroke heads, mostly due to their balance of quality and cost. The Remo Silent Stroke heads are basically mesh drum heads. They’re not that much different than what you’d find on an electronic drum kit that has mesh drum heads on the pads. These drum heads have a pretty good feel, much like a full volume drum head. But they have drastically lowered volume, good enough to possibly even use in an apartment setting.
Another good option are the Evans dB One drum heads. They are more expensive but they are designed to provide a little better tone than the Remo Silent Stroke heads.
One thing to keep in mind about silent drum heads like these is they lose a lot of the typical tone of a drum. They focus more on retaining the feel and rebound of a drum head over anything else. For example, when you adjust the tension of these types of heads, it changes the feel more than it actually changes the tone in terms of pitch.
When you go this route with low volume drum heads, you only need to replace the top head of the drum to get the lowered volume. You can still leave your normal bottom heads on all your toms and snare, and you can leave the normal outer head on your kick drum.
Low Volume Cymbals
The next component is the low volume cymbals. These types of cymbals are designed to be much more quiet than a traditional cymbal by reducing the body in the sound and lowering overall projection. Low volume cymbals can be identified by looking for cymbals with lots of small holes punched through them, which is the technique used to achieve the effect.
Not all low volume cymbals are equal. Some will offer a better tone, some will have better overall volume reduction, or some will even maintain a better balance between volume reduction and tone for live or studio usage.
If you want the absolutely most silent cymbals, it’s worth looking at the Zildjian L80 cymbals since they achieve an 80% overall volume reduction and maintain a smooth but very quiet tone. These are popular with drummers who are going for the lowest volumes possible.
Evans dB One cymbals are another good example of cymbals that achieve a good amount of volume reduction but aren’t quite as expensive as the offerings from Zildjian.
There are also low volume cymbal options from brands like Agean who design theirs to retain more of a traditional tone but sacrifice the overall volume reduction as a result.
And then there are the budget options where you can find a set of low volume cymbals for a hundred bucks. But they’re not as quiet as the Zildjian or Evans options, for example, and can have annoying tone issues due to being made more cheaply with less ideal materials.
Combining Low Volume Heads with Low Volume Cymbals
Once you have swapped in a set of low volume drum heads and cymbals, you might be surprised at how much more quiet your kit is. If you go with Remo Silentstroke and Zildjian L80 cymbals, the volume of your entire kit is going to be reduced by around 80%. That is pretty extreme, but that’s the goal. If you go with Evans offerings, using both their dB One cymbals and drum heads, you’ll experience up to around 70% volume reduction overall.
When I have my kit outfitted with the Zildjian L80’s and Remo Silent Stroke heads, I noticed I can play along with music playing from my cell phone at an average volume across the room, with no ear plugs or anything. They’re that quiet. They might even arguably be more quiet than the pads on an electronic drum kit depending on which types of drum pads and kick pad are in play.