I hope this article gives you some ideas in the ways to enjoy playing the drums without the unwanted attention of neighbours complaining or ringing the council, as they say in the trade .... Forewarned is Forarmed ...
Quiet Drumset Practice Routines
The drum teacher will advise the student of various practice routines to minimise not only sound “emanating from a property” but also ways in which to practice at safe decibel levels for their own hearing protection.
The practice pad
The rubber practice pad is essential for hand rudiments, speed control practice and any snare drum studies. The snare drum (with snares on) is seen as one of the loudest instruments; this is the reason why their history includes being used on “medieval battlefields”.
The use of a practice pad immediately makes one of the “loudest” instruments, one of the “softest”.
Pillows are often used to develop strong wrist control as there is no bounce; this also makes practice virtually “inaudible” outside the practice room. However, this type of playing would not be suitable for any “finger control multiple bounce strokes” (i.e. double stroke rolls)
American drum great Denis Chambers advocates this practice for “wrists of steel”; While interviewing another drum great Terry Bozzio in 1996 before he went on stage; he spent the entire interview simply practicing rudiments on his thigh.
Brushes and Felt Mallets
The use of brushes or felt mallets are advised when practicing “around the drums”; there is a significant reduction of decibel level doing this. Brushes also reduces the amount of bounce; Mallets generally have a similar bounce to sticks.
General conversation is rated at approximately 60-70db and would not be normally considered a nuisance inside your own house. Have a friend sit in the practice room with you and start a conversation while you are playing at a normal level.
If you can hear your friend and he can hear you, you are practicing at a normal decibel level for the drumkit.
Whilst wearing earplugs is generally recommended for full drumkit practice; the side effect to this is that they make you “deaf to yourself”.
Notice what happens when somebody who is listening to music wearing headphones starts speaking; so often the listener speaks much louder than their normal speaking voice; this effect also happens quite often with drumkit practice; playing much louder than normal because of the loss of the higher drum frequencies because of normal earplugs.
Simple soft practice with sticks at regular pre-determined times go a long way to personal development and neighbourhood understanding with the need to practice.
Extended exposure to high decibel levels can create risks to healthy hearing; the following chart details decibel levels associated with acceptable lengths of duration.
Decibel level ..... Maximum duration per day (in hours)
90db ... 8hrs
92db ... 6hrs
95db ... 4hrs
97db ... 3hrs
100db ... 2hrs
102db ... 1.5hrs
105db ... 1hr
110db ... 30min
115db .. less than 30mins
“Sound-proofing” a room or garage is an obvious and immediate solution for creating a regular practicing environment, however sound-proofing (double glazing windows and wall insulation) can be expensive with limited guarantee of the practice room being completely sound-proof.
Sound can emanate from unlikely and unforeseen areas such as air vents and can undo most of the work and expense. Sound also travels in various ways and is subject to many conditions including weather/wind conditions. House Insulation (walls, curtains, etc) Outer Insulation (walls, trees, foliage, hedges) all help to attenuate noise.
The first drumset frequencies to disappear through insulation and distance are the higher sounds of the cymbals and higher pitched drums. What is left is the lower frequency sounds, usually the bass drum.
Nevertheless, undertaking sound minimisation measures is recommended to prevent possible complaints from sound spilling out of the practice room. Thick curtaining and carpet, extra insulation over the practice room’s part of the ceiling all help to minimise sound spilling out.
Pre-determined times of playing
Organising a regular practice time for full drumkit practice (with sticks) with family and neighbours creates a positive practice environment.
A popular time for full practice is the period between coming home from school and dinner being ready. (Between 4pm and 6pm most weekdays). It is often the case that neighbours have not yet come home from work during this time as well as neighbourhood and traffic noise usually being at its peak.
Practicing on a Saturday early afternoon competing with neighbourhood lawn-mowers is also a popular practice time. As a lawnmower’s decibel level is 100db and above for the person operating it, there is little chance of that person hearing your practice let alone thinking of it as a noise nuisance.
Apartment Living/ Electronic Drumkits
Apartment and other close proximity residential developments create obvious challenges for home practice. In these environments, the drumkit is in a very hostile environment!
The only possible solution when living in a first floor apartment for example is to limit any practice to the rubber practice pad or invest in an “Electronic Drumkit” listening to the sounds created with headphones.
Even then, the risk of creating a “thump” sound by the bass drum pedal may create a disturbance to the person living below you, depending on how you set up the pedal.
Many drummers who reside in inner-city apartments hire a rehearsal room during off-peak hours and set up their drums and organise an extensive practice schedule.
When it is time to start rehearsing songs with a band, hiring a rehearsal room is becoming more and more the common thing to do. There are many band rehearsal studios in Melbourne offering rehearsal times for very reasonable rates.
Any band rehearsals at home would need to be “unplugged” with minimal amplification. These unplugged rehearsals would serve to prepare material for the “full amplified rehearsal”.
Taking reasonable and prepared steps towards drumset practice helps in minimising any unwanted complaints from neighbours; you have the right to enjoy playing the drumset without receiving complaints and letters warning of fines imposed by local Councils.
Taking appropriate steps to create a positive enjoyable playing environment takes only a small amount of effort that will reap great forward steps in your musical progress.
DRUMMERS UNITED! WE’LL NEVER BE DEFEATED!!
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