Drumming In An Apartment

I love playing the drums. I’m no Neil Peart, but can proudly say I’ve steadily improved since buying my first kit at the age of 14. The problem with drums? They are loud. Loud enough to make your neighbors hate you even while playing in a detached house. Naturally, playing them in an apartment isn’t a great idea. It has taken a serious toll on my chops to live in an apartment for the majority of my adult life, while the old kit was left collecting dust in my parents’ basement.

I tried electric drum kits, but the rubber pads, mess of cables, and digital sounds just didn’t do it for me. Unless you spend a fortune, they can never come close to the look, feel, and beauty of an acoustic kit. Drum and cymbal mutes are also an option, but they don’t respond to your sticks like real drum heads and cymbals. It doesn’t instill good technique to play with them if you’re not regularly playing without them.

Where does that leave us? I present to you the Zildjian L80 cymbals and Remo Silentstroke heads. The L80’s are these weird-looking cymbals with holes drilled all over the surface, and the Silentstrokes are drum heads made out of mesh.

These things are really quite amazing. You can use the same hardware from your acoustic kit, yet it sounds like someone turned down the volume by about 80%. You don’t even need to wear ear protection. All without sacrificing layout, stick response, or overall sound. The mesh heads are more bouncy than regular heads, especially when you tune them tight, but it’s not as bad as hitting a rubber pad. You can even play decent ghost notes on them.

After playing a few grooves with the new setup, my verdict was the cymbals sounded fantastic but the mesh heads didn’t produce much tone or volume by themselves. The cymbals were overpowering them quite easily. Fixed it by tuning the heads tighter than normal, along with sticking about 6 inches of 3-inch-wide painter’s tape on the under-side (or the top-side if you don’t mind the look). This brings the tone and volume up significantly to match the volume of the cymbals and it was the key to making this setup sound really great.

Side-by-side volume comparison (without the tape)

So there you have it—a drum kit that comes close to the feel and sound of a real acoustic kit at apartment-friendly noise levels. Regular drumming is a part of my life again and I couldn’t be happier about it.