The Seemingly Insignificant Details of Drum and Cymbal Dampening

You may not be a drummer, but everyone is affected by drummers. Singers, audio techs, pastors, and hey, even congregations are affected by drummers and their choices.

When we’re coaching, we often talk about how there are no magic pills, no “just do this one thing and everything will work” strategy. (Well, other than listening to God and obeying.)

Instead, we pay attention to all kinds of seemingly insignificant details, which have very significant cumulative effects. In other words, they don’t seem like much on their own, but when you do several small things right, it makes a surprisingly big difference.

Gabe Staznik had such a great time sharing with Tony Guyer and meeting many of you at the last Ad Lib Drums & Sound Clinic in February. He shares one of those “seemingly insignificant details” here.

One of the topics previously discussed during the Drums & Sound Clinic was drum and cymbal dampening/muffling techniques. Dampening refers to the process of getting rid of the unwanted ring to control the resonance and sustain of the instrument. Dampening your drum sound does not replace tuning. You will still want to tune your drums appropriately and use dampening to control your sound better.

My favorite products to use are the RTOM Moongel Dampening Gels. They are very affordable, easy to use, versatile, and long-lasting! I always keep a container in my stick bag for quick adjustments. Every so often, you will want to clean them with soap and water to prolong their lifespan.

After tuning your snare and tom drums to the desired pitches, try adding Moongel to the drum heads and listen to how it modifies the sound. The closer they are placed to the rim will provide less dampening, and moving them closer to the center of the head will increase muffling/dampening. It is essential not to over-dampen your drums. Too much dampening will remove the resonance and make the drums sound dull. There is no one correct way to muffle. Remember to focus on the “projected sound” (the sound that reaches the audience). 

When preparing the sound of your drums, ask yourself…

  • How is this tuning fit the music I am performing?
  • How do the drums sound in cooperation with the other instruments?
  • Do the drums blend well with the band?
  • How does the drum sound sit in the room/venue?

Check out this example of a snare drum with medium-high tuning. Notice how the sound changes as more dampening is added:

Here is an example of a snare drum with low tuning, using Moongel to achieve a “fat” sound: 

I encourage you to experiment with muffling techniques and work together with your sound team to achieve the best possible drum sound for your worship team, venue, and church family. 

I wanted to provide a quick refresher on one of the topics for those who joined us for the first clinic, while also sharing some valuable information for those who missed it. The real “deep-dive” on this topic will happen at the live clinic events. We hope to see you all at the next one! Please feel free to forward this information to the drummers in your church family and encourage them to continue the life-long journey in growing as musicians. 

(Thanks for sharing, Gabe!)

If you’d like to be the first to know when we schedule the next clinics, go to In the works are Drums & Sound LEVEL TWO, Electric Guitar & Sound, and Digital Soundboards. Woohoo!