Wednesday, July 4, 2018

"Umm, it's still a bit loud"

It's a well-meaning bit of feedback, and it can be one of the most difficult to accommodate. We musicians are a noisy bunch. Some of us can't get enough of it (I once played with a fellow who said he couldn't sleep unless his ears were ringing). And we drummers are so used to making noise that we've spend virtually no time being quiet.
Aside from practicing low-volume techniques, there are a number of things you can do to help lower the volume when the occasion requires it.

Start with the sticks. Go lighter ... as light as you can stand. If skinny sticks are too much of a turn-off, try maple. Maple is lighter and softer and produces a softer tone. Worn-out maple is quieter still. As for the bass drum, play flat foot and pick up a lambs-wool beater.

Brush up on brushes. There are also brush-like products and 'bundles' available that aim to give you lower volume while providing a variety of tonal options. Besides, playing with brushes is ultra-cool.

Big drums are louder than small drums. The difference can be minor, but a 13 or 14 inch floor tom will definitely put out less sound than a 16 inch one. Maybe a micro-kit would suit your style.

Tune for sensitivity. Gut wrenching low sounds are great, but they require you to hit hard. You want your drums to respond to a light touch. That means tune higher -- and perhaps use thinner heads.

Cymbals are the worst culprit. In general, you want smaller, thinner cymbals. Look for smaller thinner crash cymbals, medium-thin hi-hats, and perhaps a low-volume ride such as a flat ride. Sometimes a broken cymbal works well.

Here's a technical option: Mic your drums. Wha-a-a-a? Place a microphone near your drums so it will pick up the entire band. Feed that into headphones that you control. This will give you a better idea of the front-of-house mix and in real time.

Of course you could just get an electronic set and let the house set the level while you crank up your headphones.