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Overtones are one of the biggest problems that drummers have to deal with when tuning their kit. These are the nasty resonating sounds that you hear when striking a drumhead.
Having a few overtones is great, but your drums will sound bad if there are too many of them. One of the best ways to cut down on them is to use drum dampeners.
Here are some of my favorite drum dampeners available for snares, toms, and kick drums.
Snareweight M80 Leather Tone Control Dampener – Best Overall
The Snareweight M80 Leather Tone Control Dampener (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of my favorite drum dampeners on the market right now. Snareweight offers a few sizes and variations, but I like the M80 the most.
This damper is a 10” leather strap attached to a clip that lets you mount it to a rim. When you mount it, it has three dampening settings.
Each end has a magnetic bit, allowing you to fold the strap over so that there is a bit less dampening. When you fold both sides over, you get the least amount of dampening.
You can also flip the leather strap up so that there isn’t any dampening at all. The clip is very strong and sturdy, so the strap stays in place when you flip it up.
The best thing about the Snareweight M80 is that it bounces a bit off the drumhead every time you strike it. This stops it from muting the drum and taking away the attack. Many other dampeners take away the brightness, whereas this one doesn’t.
You can use it for your snare drum and toms. I’d just recommend folding it over on smaller toms so that it doesn’t dampen the tones too much.
The last benefit to mention is that the Snareweight M80 leaves no marks or residue on your drums.
Remo Adjustable Bass Drum Dampener – Premium Option
The Remo Adjustable Bass Drum Dampener (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is something that you probably haven’t seen before. It was designed by Remo with the help of Dave Weckl a few years ago, but it never gained any major traction.
With that said, I love how this dampener works, and I think it’s a great option for anyone willing to pay the high price tag.
It’s only designed to be used on a bass drum. The point of it is that it allows you to dampen your kick drum without needing to place any pillows or blankets inside the shell.
It mounts to your bass drum rim, and then it has a felt piece that touches the drumhead. You get a wingnut that controls how tight or loose you want that felt piece to be. The tighter you have it, the more muffled your bass drum will be.
You can use this dampener on both the batter and resonant sides of your bass drum.
The only downside I have to mention about, it other than the cost, is that it’s a bit of an eyesore. It definitely works well, though!
RTOM Moongel Damper Pads – Best Budget Option
The RTOM Moongel Damper Pads (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are one of the most popular dampening options in the music industry. One pack comes with six Moongels, and you can stick them anywhere on your drums and cymbals to add a bit of dampening.
A lot of drummers like to cut them in half, giving you a total of twelve dampening pads per pack with that method.
The reason they’re so popular is their very low cost. Buying a dozen of these is about the same as buying a coffee, and a set will last you years if you take good care of them.
The trick is to take them off of your drums and put them back in the case after every time you play your kit. If you leave them on the drumheads, they start to get a bit yucky, especially if you live in a hot weather environment.
You can also clean the Moongels with soap and water if they get stick shavings on them.
Big Fat Snare Drum Auto-Tone Snare Drum Topper
When you place this on your snare drum, it drops the pitch of your snare quite significantly, and it gives the drum a very thud-like sound.
There are many styles that need snare sounds like this, including rock and worship music. A lot of drummers also like to place it on their floor toms to get tight and low-pitched tones.
The downside of the Big Fat Snare Drum is that it’s not great for drummers that don’t want the specific sound it offers. If you’re looking for controllable muffling, you’ll need to pick one of the other options on this list.
Big Fat Snare Drum has a few different designs that offer various sound qualities, so I’d recommend checking those out as well.
Evans E-Rings Rock Pack
The Evans E-Rings Rock Pack (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another affordable muffling option. This is a set of plastic rings that are made to comfortably fit around the edges of all your drums.
These rings do a fair bit of dampening, causing your drums to produce tight and controlled tones.
I love how these rings sound on toms, but I’m not the biggest fan of how they sound on snare drums. They tend to take away too much of an edge.
With that said, these are often your best option if you have an inexpensive drum set. Cheap drum kits have very poor tom sounds most of the time, and placing these rings on the toms makes them sound instantly better.
Pearl Drum Key Flip Mute
You keep the key resting on one of the tension rods of a drum, and then the strap rests on the drumhead. To make the strap a bit heavier, Pearl has left a pocket where you can place something weighty like a coin to keep it down.
The cool thing about this damper is that you get a drum key at the same time. It’s a great value option.
I’d only recommend getting this for your snare drum, though, as it will look a bit weird having one of these on each drum in your setup.
Also, this may not offer as much dampening as you need, so it’s possible that you’ll have to place other dampeners along with it.
Gibraltar Bass Drum Felt Strips
The Gibraltar Bass Drum Felt Strips (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are standard strips that you can attach to your bass drumhead by running them through the hoop. Felt strips have a bit of a vintage appeal, as drummers used to use them far more frequently in the 20th century.
These ones from Gibraltar are incredibly affordable, and they’re another good bass drum muffling option to consider if you don’t want to place anything inside the shell.
You can place them on bass drums up to 26”, so they’re versatile enough for whatever drum kit setup you may own.
When you use these, you can keep the boominess of your bass drum down without choking it too much.
Things to Know About Drum Dampeners
Why Buy Drum Dampeners?
Most drum kits don’t sound incredible on their own. If they do, it means that you need to go through an extensive tuning process to achieve those sounds. You also need to have very high-quality drumheads, as the stock drumheads that come with kits are usually terrible.
Another thing to note is that high-end drum sets that cost thousands of dollars are easy to tune to sound good without any muffling. Beginner and intermediate kits aren’t so easy.
An excellent shortcut to getting great drum tones is to use drum dampeners. These tools press down on the heads, causing them to get a bit muffled. When they get muffled, the ringing overtones aren’t as bad, and they sound more pleasant to the ears when struck.
Drum dampeners also do a fantastic job of controlling how much resonance and sustain a drum has. Some drummers prefer to have shorter sounds from their drums, meaning they need to put more dampening on them than drummers that like long ringing tones.
Whether you use a lot of dampening or not, every drummer should have a few drum dampeners in their stick bag and practice rooms, as they’ll likely need to use them at one point or another.
Different Types of Drum Dampeners
There are a few types of drum dampeners available. Each type offers something slightly different.
One of the most popular types is small gels that stick onto your drumheads. These don’t do a lot of dampening, but you can place a few of them on the drums to get a greater effect. The good thing about gels is that they don’t take away any of the attack from your drums.
The next type is O-rings. These are designed to easily place around the edges of your drums. They typically take away all the resonance of your drums, with most drummers believing that they take away too much. They’re good for getting dry tones, though.
After that, you get specialty dampeners that are uniquely designed by different companies. Big Fat Snare Drum and Snareweight are good examples of this. They have special features that dampen the drums in various ways.
Finally, you get attachment dampeners. These are hardware pieces that you can mount or attach to your shells. Some of them go on the insides of snare and tom shells, while others get mounted externally.
What Dampeners to Use for Different Drums
It’s a good idea to separate the categories into snare drums, toms, and kick drums. When you look at your kit like that, you’ll be able to buy relative drum dampeners for each category to get the best sounds possible.
Snare drums often need the most dampening, as the loud sounds can get overwhelming with the overtones being quite harsh. This is especially true if you own a metal snare drum.
I’d recommend using gels or leather straps if you want a bit of control over your snare drum tone. Plastic rings tend to dampen snare drums too much.
Plastic rings work a lot better on toms. They’re one of the easiest solutions to getting rid of overtones quickly. However, you should use gels or leather straps if you feel that they dampen your toms too much.
Bass drums are a bit different, as it’s not as easy to rest things on top of the drumhead. Most drummers put towels or pillows inside the bass drumhead, but you could also buy a special hardware attachment that allows you to press a piece of felt against the bass drumhead.
All muffling tools work well, but some work better than others. It’s good to experiment with as many as you can to see what you like.
How to Use Dampeners Properly
The key thing to consider is that you don’t want to completely kill the tone from your drums. If you own a $3000 maple drum set, putting too many drum dampeners on the toms will make them sound the same as the toms on a $500 poplar drum set.
Drum kits are made up of different woods and hardware materials, and you’ll experience the benefits of those unique materials when you let the shells breathe.
Before adding any muffling to your drums, you should try to tune them as best you can. Your ear may let you down, so I suggest owning a drum tuner to help you.
Once you’ve done that, you may hear some slightly bothersome overtones. That’s when you should bring the drum dampeners out. Do your best to place them on the drums while still keeping the attack and tone alive.
You’ll need to use more drum dampeners to achieve a specific sound, though. For example, many drummers love having the dry and thuddy tones that were popular in the 60s and 70s. If that’s what you’re looking for, then you’ll need to add as much more dampening.
Many drummers and musicians will tell you that you have good free drum dampeners in your utility closet. A good roll of gaff tape is as reliable as can be, and it costs way less than any dampening product I’ve mentioned on this list.
While it will work, using tape comes with a few problems. Firstly, it’s quite hard to take off your drumheads once it’s been there for a while. It also leaves residue marks.
Secondly, you don’t get a lot of control. The products I’ve recommended are designed to give you more control over how much you dampen your drums, and that makes them easier to use.
If you’re wondering how much you should budget, it depends on how much you’re willing to spend. You won’t spend more than $20 for a few packs of Moongel, but you may want something higher in quality that costs closer to $100.
Most drum dampeners aren’t expensive, though. Nothing costs more than $100, so you really won’t be set back by much.
Remember that a good set of drum dampeners can make a $500 drum kit sound like a $2000 one, so they’re worth investing in!
Best Drum Damper Brands
There are dozens of small companies that create drum dampeners. You can find them in most music local and online music stores.
Here are a few bigger ones that have several dampening options in their product ranges.
Big Fat Snare Drum
Big Fat Snare Drum is a brand that creates drum dampeners that easily fit over your drumheads. While they’re primarily designed for snare drums, you can place them on your toms as well.
The unique thing about these dampeners is that they’re created to bring out certain sounds from your drums. They don’t just cut down on the overtones.
The original Big Fat Snare Drum was designed to lower the pitch of your snare and make it sound like it came out of the 70s, but the brand offers a few designs that do different things to your kit.
RTOM is the brand that creates the famous Moongels. They make a few other products that relate to dampening and sound reduction, but the Moongels are the real claim to fame.
This is a great brand to choose if you’re looking for affordability. Their products really don’t cost much at all, and they’re highly reliable.
Snareweight is a brand that only sells two types of products. The first is a leather strap that you can attach to any drum. The second is a thicker metal piece that is mostly intended for your snare drum.
These products have gained major popularity in the drumming world over the last few years. They’re easy to use, and they give you a bit more control than you get with other drum dampeners.
Throughout the years, the brand has also designed a few cool accessories, with many of those being drum dampeners.
There aren’t too many of them, but the ones they offer are fantastic.
Top Drum Dampeners, Final Thoughts
If you don’t have any money to spend at the minute, you can easily use some gaff tape and cotton wool to cut down on overtones. However, the drum dampeners I mentioned are specifically designed to make things a lot easier.
Most of them also give you a unique amount of control, which makes them worth spending a bit of money on. Look through my list and then pick the damper that sounds the most exciting to you. Once you get it, you’ll have no problem getting some fantastic drum tones!