[Waywood Music shows how to use mufflinng to improve your drum sound]

Muffling (Damping) Percussion


[O-Ring made from old drum head]In some situations e.g., miking-up for live work or in the recording studio, the natural resonance of the drum, cowbell or other 'toy' may be too much. In these situations SUBTLE muffling (damping) may be necessary.

Be careful if you try to muffle small drums such as bongos or hand drums. The resonance of their skins (which are very thin) is an important part of their sound. A subtle change in tensioning at ONE POINT on the drum may achieve the same end-point.

There are many electronic 'tools' for live and studio work which can 'tame' unwanted ring or overtones (harmonics).

The following methods will hopefully cover most of your needs:

Gaffer Tape


Gaffer Tape/Duck Tape

On drums with natural skin heads, gaffer tape is not a good option because of residues left on the skin. However, for synthetic heads such as on timbales it is an excellent choice.

Contrary to the popular belief that you need to cover the drums completely with gaffer tape, SUBTLE muffling can be achieved with this product by using the following method:

Tear off a one inch (2.5cm) length of one inch wide tape.

Roll it 'back on itself' so that you form a narrow tube with the STICKY side facing OUTWARDS. See picture below.


[Gaffa-tape tube wth sicky side facing outwards]

Gaffa Tube (click on image to enlarge)


Place this PARALLEL to the rim, approximately one inch in for more subtle muffling. See picture below.

[Gaffa-tape tube parallel to edge of drum for more subtle muffling]

Gaffa Tube Parallel to Edge of Drum
(click on image to enlarge)


Alternatively, place the tube about half-an-inch in at RIGHT ANGLES to the rim for increased muffling. This method works well on all drums. See picture below.

[Gaffa-tape tube at right angles to edge of drum for increased muffling]

Gaffa Tube at Right Angles to Edge of Drum
(Click image to enlarge)


For larger sized drums, more than one 'tube' of tape may be needed to achieve the desired amount of muffling.



These small, re-usable, rectangular pieces of a sticky plastic gel adhere to the drum skin. They should be positioned as for the Gaffer tape example above, depending on how much muffling is required. Larger drums may need more than one piece of gel to be applied. They are an excellent choice for congas.


[Moongel™ Muffling Material]

Moongel™ Muffling Material
(Click image to enlarge)



These are slim O-shaped rings between about half and one inch (1.3 to 2.5 cm) wide, made of thin plastic or drum head material. They can be made in all sizes to fit your different drums, and 'sit' just inside the rim.

When in place they produce quite pronounced muffling, although they work well on snare drums IF you want to eliminate the high-pitched ring. See picture below.


[O-ring in position on snare drum]

O-Ring on Snare Drum



When damping other toys try experimenting. With cowbells and agogo bells, the nearer the mouth of the bell the damping is placed the less ring there will be.  More subtle damping is achieved by placing the damping towards the base of the bell, removing only the very high, ringing tones.

An excellent damping device is the little round or square self-adhesive rubber (or plastic) feet that can be bought for putting on the bottom of items to stop them slipping or marking surfaces.  These are available from most hardware stores/supermarkets in a variety of sizes (and colours!).   They are easy to fit and remove and relatively inconspicuous and are great for subtle muffling of cowbells (though I have used them to great effect on the over-ringy plastic head of my Remo djembe).

REMEMBER: Always place the damping on the underside of the bell so that you don't hit it whilst playing!

Any of the above methods can be used on most toys which require muffling.

Trial and error will tell you which is the best one for your equipment.

As a general rule AVOID damping percussion wherever possible, since resonance and ring form part of the sound and enhance projection of the sound through the rest of the music.


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