There’s no getting around the fact that drumming is a hobby that is shared with those around us, whether they like it or not. If you’re lucky, you’ll have tolerant neighbours, or maybe you live on a farm and even a rock concert wouldn’t bother anybody (what a dream!) But for many players, it isn’t so much a dream, as a headache in reality. This article on soundproofing for drums might give you a couple of ideas for how to tone down some of that ‘bloody racket!’
Soundproofing for Drums
To completely soundproof a room to the outside world is possible, but it takes huge amounts of work and an awful lot of money. But in most cases, bringing the volume down to a level which can be considered reasonable is a much easier prospect and can be done by anybody with a little DIY spirit and a couple of tools. If you’re renting, make sure your landlord is ok with any changes which require any modifications the the building. Let’s break down some soundproofing ideas into sections.
Sometimes doors get overlooked when trying to soundproof a room, but they deserve some close attention because they are very often a major source of sound leakage from an otherwise well insulated room. There’s a couple of reasons that doors can be such a problem. The first is that a lot of interior doors are hollow. Hollow core doors are cheaper than their solid core counterparts, so they tend to be very common. Hollow doors don’t do anything for soundproofing, even having the opposite effect.
The second reason is that most doorways allow large areas of open space all around the door. Even when it’s closed, there’s hardly any protection against sounds getting in or out.
Check this out for yourself by lighting up the room outside your drum room, while having the lights switched off in the drum room. This might work best at night time. Everywhere you can see light coming through the door frame is where your sound is going to escape.
One thing to consider is if the door isn’t in general use, or a consideration for fire safety, seal it up completely or remove it altogether.
There are a number of solutions to help with both of the problems mentioned above:
If it’s an option for you, consider changing out the door for a solid one. It’ll stop a lot more sound than a hollow core door, but is an expensive option unless you manage to find a good used door. It will still need sealing around the frame to prevent sound from escaping around the edges.
A good place to start, due to the large gap often found beneath a door, floor sweeps create an insulated barrier between the floor and the bottom of the door.
Quick and easy to install and very effective, weatherstripping tape is an affordable way to create a snug seal around your door, blocking a good amount of sound.
A low cost option for sealing up gaps around a door, insulating sealant is a good compliment to weather strips to seal any tiny areas that have been missed by the strips.
Like weather strips, but possibly a more permanent solution, door gaskets securely seal gaps around a door’s perimeter, and can significantly reduce the ability for sound to pass. Once the gasket is in place, you have several options for the insert type. Door gaskets can be fitted relatively simply. Check out this detailed article: What is a Door Gasket for more information
Filled with materials such as fibreglass or polyester, soundproof, or acoustic blankets can be draped over any surface to create a dense protective layer which will absorb large amounts of sound. Depending on the material, certain blankets will do a better job with different frequencies, so be sure to read any product descriptions to make sure you’re getting the right blanket for your requirements. Some people claim that moving blankets actually do an effective job at blocking sound.
Next, you’ll want to consider soundproofing any windows you might have in the room. The approach for soundproofing windows is quite similar to soundproofing a door. Start out by sealing up any gaps around the window with weatherstripping tape and fill any other small areas such as cracks with some insulating sealant. Fit a soundproof blanket or curtains so you can pull them back to let light in when necessary, or if you don’t need the light, consider attaching a blanket directly to the wall around the window.
As covered in the door soundproofing section, soundproof blankets create a protective layer which helps to contain noise. These need less fixing than other options, so should be easier to remove if necessary. One highly recommended option is the Producer’s Choice Acoustic Blanket by Vocal Booth to Go
Youtuber rdavidr documents his experience with treating a room with Vocal Booth to Go Acoustic Blankets:
Attached with adhesive or screws and plugs, acoustic panels create a permanent and effective layer between your drum room and the building’s walls. You don’t necessarily have to cover the entire surface of the wall but refer to the specifications and advice of the materials you choose.
If you live in an apartment and aren’t on the ground floor, sound travelling through the floor can be as much of a problem as through the walls. This applies even to electronic drum kits, simply because the kick drum tower is going to send a lot of vibration through the floor to your downstairs neighbour.
The best time to properly insulate a floor is at the time of construction. Therefore is a bit of a tricky surface to deal with and it’s not so easy to get good results without ripping up the floorboards and laying down some solid soundproofing materials. Short of doing this, there are a couple of options:
You can get dense foam matting which will lay over your existing flooring. This soundproofing mat will dampen some noise, but you may need a couple of layers to get a good result.
Tennis Ball Riser
Probably the best option for drummers in an apartment, a tennis ball riser is an inexpensive and effective solution for isolating your drums from the floor, reducing the sound and vibration by a significant amount. If you have a couple of basic tools and a spare day, you can make one yourself.
In this video, Stephen Clark, AKA ‘The Non Glamorous Drummer’, demonstrates the method he used to build his own effective tennis ball riser with minimal tools and simple techniques:
Consider the need for soundproofing
Before diving into any serious modifications or adjustments to your flat or drumming practice space, take a minute to consider where the problem lies. Why do you need to soundproof your playing? Is your significant other the one complaining? Maybe you have a little one in the baby room who doesn’t consider paradiddles to work as a lullaby? Most likely it’ll be the neighbours, who aren’t as passionate as you about your hobby.
Talk to your neighbours, your spouse, whoever considers the noise to be a problem. Can you come up with a way to work around the problem? It could be that you discuss with your neighbours a suitable time, like when they’re at work, or an hour in the evening on weekdays when they can live with it. You never know if you don’t ask.
If you can’t come to an agreement through discussion, is there an option to play somewhere else? Maybe a friend or colleague has a suitable space for you to use, or a local drum shop might have rooms where you can practice on their drums, just take over your own cymbals.
The point I’m getting at here is to explore your options, in case anything pops up.
I’ve tried the above, and have managed to negotiate suitable playing times with my neighbours
If this is the case, great news. You can play at full volume without restriction during specified times, bliss! For the times when the neighbours want quiet, there’s a load of different options for temporarily bringing the volume down without making changes to your playing space:
Drum set mutes. Just stick these over top of your drums and cymbals, a quick and easy way to deal between full volume and quiet.
Practice pad drum kit – simply a set of practice pads arranged somewhat like a drum kit. Keep your chops up at low volume
Electronic drum set – depending on your budget, an electronic set can make a good practice kit, or replace your acoustic kit completely if space or budget are an issue.
I’ve tried the above, and the neighbour has read me the riot act and they demand quiet.
I’m sorry to hear it! Some people jut don’t understand… In this case, let’s see what we can do about lowering the volume of your equipment
Swap out your drum heads for good quality mesh heads, and get a set of low volume cymbals, such as Zildjian L80s. There are so many advantages to this setup: You retain your existing acoustic drum setup which you’re already familiar with; the volume of the drums comes down an enormous amount; the cymbals feel and look realistic.
You can either play just like this, or go one step further and get a set of drum triggers and an electronic drum module. Then you have a hybrid acoustic-electronic kit with a whole lot of potential. You’ve solved your problem and gained a new world of customisation.
Try an electronic drum kit. You could either replace your acoustic kit completely, or have both options, depending on your budget, and the space you have. Some people don’t like this idea, but if it’s the difference between being able to play, or not playing at all, it’s worth some serious thought.
Remember that just because your practice space is nice and quiet to the outside world, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use hearing protection.
Hearing loss can accumulate over time and drums can be well above the threshold of safe volume levels. Consider investing in a set of in ear isolating monitors, or at least stick on some ear defenders out of the garden shed. Your ears will thank you for it.
There are several approaches to soundproofing and managing the sound from the noisy hobby of playing the drums. Double check if you can agree a suitable time with your neighbours and family, try some electronic drums, or if suitable, go the whole way and soundproof your drumming practice space as much as your budget will allow.
What are your thoughts on soundproofing for drums? Let me know in the comments below.