Let’s take a look at low volume cymbals and how they can benefit you. Drum cymbals come in all shapes and sizes, and generally have one thing in common. They’re loud.
This is fine when the situation calls for it. In a rock band, the cymbals need to cut through amplified guitars. So on a rock drum kit the cymbals are designed to cut through to remain audible. Jazz, on the other hand, might call for a much quieter cymbal. But with anything other than the lightest stroke, any kind of cymbals are loud.
What about those of us restricted to playing inside an apartment, though? The answer is low volume cymbals. You can smash away on these cymbals with as much enthusiasm as you can muster, and compared to regular cymbals they remain as quiet as can be. Let’s take a look at what they’re all about.
What is a low volume cymbal?
The volume from a typical cymbal comes from the way vibrations are carried through the metal after being struck. Cymbals are manufactured, or skilfully hand crafted, to produce a specific sound and volume.
The weight of the cymbal’s construction plays a large part in the amount of volume. Low volume cymbals are still made of metal or alloy, but the natural resonance and weight of the cymbal is removed by drilling hundreds of holes through the cymbal’s surface.
With this reduction in weight and resonance, the vibrations produced by the cymbal are reduced significantly.
What constitutes low volume?
This varies a lot between cymbal sizes, types, and brands. I’ve seen a lot of decibel figures floating around online, such as a 20 dB reduction, but nothing really definitive.
Several products are available which claim to be 80% quieter than equivalent standard cymbals. I think you’ll agree – this is quite a feat coming from an instrument which in its standard form is so loud.
Who are they for?
There are several great uses for low volume cymbals. Anybody who has a need for a quiet drum and cymbal setup can use them. Playing in an apartment is a perfect example. These cymbals reduce the volume enough to allow quiet playing and practice where a full cymbal set would cause untold problems with neighbours and family members.
Another use could be at an intimate acoustic gig in a small venue. Low volume cymbals could be the perfect accompaniment with just enough volume to accent the performance.
Here is a nice video review from 65 Drums comparing the different sounds of triggered vs non-triggered acoustic cymbals and comparing them with electronic rubber pads:
What are the benefits?
- Even though so much weight and sound are removed, they retain a natural cymbal feel. You will be able to judge quite well how much force to put into playing the cymbals as opposed to a rubber pad which gives almost no acoustic feedback. This is great for when you get back behind a full acoustic set to adjust very quickly and maintain your playing dynamics.
- Individual cymbal sounds are retained, so you can tell exactly which cymbal you’re playing.
- Because the frequency range is reduced as well as volume, the sound carries less. The cymbals will still produce a metallic tone when struck, which may sound quite loud, but this sound doesn’t tend to travel through walls or other surfaces very much.
- Potential sound reduction of 20 dB over standard cymbals – though this figure varies, depending on who you ask!
- Low volume cymbals can be used with electronic triggers and generally work well for this purpose. Be wary, however that the trigger may change the pleasant acoustic sound that the cymbal produces, due to the triggering hardware.
What options are there?
There’s quite a range of low volume cymbals available today, but some stand out amongst the rest. I’ve listed my top options here with a demo video for each:
Zildjian L80 series – 80% noise reduction, great looking cymbals
SABIAN Quiet Tone Practice Cymbals – Realistic response, two year warranty, durable alloy
WHD Low Volume Cymbals – Also claim up to 80% noise reduction. Amazing value
Which ones are the best?
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. My top pick is the Zildjian L80 series. They have a great tone, the volume reduction is impressive, and they look great. If you want the quietest possible variants, go for the pack with the smaller sizes – 13″ Hi-Hats, 14″ Crash, 18″ Crash/Ride.
So, we’ve got the practice cymbals sorted out. But what about the rest of the drum kit? There are a couple of options for bringing the rest of the kit in line with the cymbals’ volume:
Mesh heads – These are the best option for an all round quiet playing experience. They’ve got a fairly realistic response and are super quiet. You can use them to trigger electronic sounds for a completely customised experience. The only drawback with mesh heads is that they take the same time to change as a regular drum head. This makes it a bit time consuming when you want to switch between quiet and full volume setups. Mesh heads are ideal, however if you want to have a full-time quiet setup.
Drum mutes – A cheap, quick, and easy way to switch between full and very quiet playing. You can put them over regular cymbals or use them in conjunction with low volume cymbals. There is a bit of playability lost in the rubber surface of these mutes, but it’s worth it for the hassle-free switch between low volume and full sound.
Low volume cymbals are a great way to keep the noise of your playing to a minimum. They offer a playing experience which is as similar as possible to regular cymbals.
You can swap them out for other cymbals quickly when you have the need and they pair very well with low volume mesh heads to create a great low noise setup. What’s more is you can trigger mesh heads and low volume cymbals easily, opening up a whole world of possibilities.
What are your favourite low volume cymbals? Please do leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you.