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Muffling / Drum Treatment

Drum Muffling - Achieving Drum Sounds

This is one of the areas where tempers flare. People tend to fall into various well-defended camps on this issue, so in the interest of fairness, the writer will try to provide the arguments on each side of the issue.

First, what is drum muffling?

In short, drum muffling is affixing some material or substance to the shell or head of a drum, with the result being a change in the drum's duration, timbre, and/or volume. Common examples range from pillows in bass drums to duct tape on toms. We'll describe the various methods later in detail. At this point I'd like to suggest that rather than calling it "muffling," we should call it "Drum Treatment," as true muffling is only one of the objectives at hand.  

Should I treat my drums?

Here's the problem area. We'll first explain the situations where Treatment is a commonly suggested remedy, before subdividing into the "Yes" and "Hell No" groups.  This writer is firmly in the "Maybe, It Depends" camp.

1) The toms ring out too long. This can be problematic in a situation where the drums are being recorded or amplified with microphones. More on this later.

2) The snare rings out, or is "boingy" or metallic. This can also be a problem, mic'd or unmic'd. There is also the school of thought holds that what might sound bad to the drummer sounds great from the audience's perspective. Again, this will be addressed in more detail later.

3) The  bass drum rings out, or is too boomy, or is in anyway unsatisfactory. Even drummers who believe that toms and snares should be untreated often use some form of Treatment on the bass drum. Once again, stay tuned for more on this.

4) While less common, often drummers Treat their cymbals as well, to change the sound, decay, and even pitch of their drums. This can range from tape to rivets. This too will be addressed in more depth later.

5) Drums are too loud. This is especially obvious to the neighbors of apartment-dwelling drummers. This can be separate from the aesthetic debate as to Drum Treatment, as it is often unarguably necessary, but there are situations where it may not be a good idea. And yes, we'll get to this one, too. 

Drum Tuning

Before going any further, let me first reiterate how important it is to have well maintained and tuned drums. Please refer to the Tuning section of the FAQ for an in-depth discussion of this subject. Let me just say for now that Treatment is often used to disguise bad tuning or old heads, and unless it is truly your only option, this should be avoided. Make sure the drum is well tuned (to your liking) before any Treatment is added. One reason is that it can be impossible to tune a Treated drum, but the most compelling reason is that no one cares to polish a turd. It's a waste of time.

Let the Debate Begin!

First, let's take a look at the reasons why you may want to Treat your drums. At any rate, you should be familiar with the various ways and reasons to Treat your drums, as you never know what playing environment you may find yourself in.



 drum treatment muffling open tuning sing natural soundThis section of the FAQ isn't designed to prove one way or the other is the "right" way. Hopefully, though, the reader will come away from this section with a better understanding of the methods and reasoning behind each approach, and will be better able to apply these techniques in his or her future musical endeavors.




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