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I'm a drummer who lives in an apartment. I have an electric set, but it is too noisy and I am receiving complaints. I'm sure this has to do with the pads and the kick pedal. I'd still like to practice at my apartment as I haven't found a way to make extra income to pay rent for a practice space. As an alternative, I'm thinking of a way to mimic a drum set where towels act as drums/pads.

I need some help with this as I'm not sure the best materials to make this. I need to figure out the best materials and parts to make a stand to hold multiple towels. Also, I need to figure out how tie/pin the washcloths down in a way that won't rip and be positioned where a drum/cymbal on a set might be. I'd like to be able to tie towels, most likely washcloths, at each corner and be able to change the amount of tension, too.

Has anyone done something similar to this or know what might be the best materials to create this?

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5 Answers 5

Here are some thoughts:

  • I would absolutely avoid using pillows / towels as a practice set for many obvious reasons.
  • Since you have an electronic kit, noise should not be an issue - you can either turn the volume way down, or plug in the kit to headphones and hear yourself that way through analog.
  • You could purchase practice pads to go over your kit drums to help minimize sound.
  • Instead of using sticks you could use your hands to practice pattern coordination.
  • If you are already practicing with the sound off, you should not be trying to get sound out of the drum - not only is it poor technique, but it's damaging to your arms. Play quietly and gently!
  • Talk with your neighbor to see if you can arrange a time where your practice would not bother them.

Just to reiterate: do not make a fake drumset out of towels and pillows!

Hope that helps.

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+1. To get yourself use to the resistance and bounciness (or rather lack of) of towel and pillow would be terrible and counter-productive. –  Chipsgoumerde Apr 28 '13 at 9:59
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I think the first step should be talk to the neighbor. Get them to tell you when they aren't there or what an acceptable cut-off time would be. If you can build a trusting relationship there, you won't need to even think about a fake drum kit. –  ecline6 Apr 29 '13 at 21:53
    
I agree. I should probably note that my thoughts were not intended to be considered in chronological order, but rather just the order in which I thought of them. –  jjmusicnotes May 3 '13 at 20:38

Practicing on pillows being wrong or bad for many obvious reasons is not correct. You can still practice on pillows and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it if you don't confuse it with the actual drumming. Just Google to see more elaborate pros/cons before you actually start building it. There are tons of pages that discuss this contrary to the other answer.

Many other friends and I have been practicing on pillows for a long time and it's actually pretty productive. But it has to be a part of actual practicing with a real drumset.

Of course it doesn't have the feel of a tight snare head but it helps you to develop stamina and more importantly power on the wrists and up to an extent on fingers.

For the workplace, you can do rehearsal place-pooling with a couple of other insturmentalist/drummers. It is kind of the best next thing to do if you can't have the digital drums at home.


For the toms you can wrap the towels and other washclothes around practice pads, ideally the ones with the velcro strap (I guess they are called knee-pads) and place them on a chair as toms. Also use the pillow as the snare and the floor toms.

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If you don't want to confuse it with actual drumming, wouldn't that defeat the idea of wanting to practice "drums"? –  ecline6 Apr 29 '13 at 21:51
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@ecline6 Athletes also spend a lot of time doing weight-lifting which is not directly related to running fast. Besides for developing muscle memory you don't need a real drumset. But at some point you need to sync the sound you are making to the actual body movements in your head. –  percusse Apr 29 '13 at 22:23
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I am inclined to disagree with this answer - I challenge that any benefits from practicing on pillows do not outweigh the pros. I have practice drums on pillows before, and I only found it helpful when learning rudiments of specific beat patters and developing basic kinesthetic coordination. When developing such rudimentary technique, drums are not necessary. However, they are a nonviable option long term as it warps response / timing perception and develops poor fine motor technique. That said, one might just conclude to practice this same rudimentary coordination at a real set with hands. –  jjmusicnotes May 3 '13 at 20:46
    
@jjmusicnotes I don't have any problems yet about pillows about motor technique or anything. As long as you feed it with real practice time it's great for me. Especially for practicing weird accented patterns it's actually better for my taste. –  percusse May 4 '13 at 5:47
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@jjmusicnotes It's not that primitive. Playing on pillows do have a certain drum feel. And as you can see I've never said that it should replace completely. You need a real drumset practice a few hours per week by getting a rehersal room etc. But practicing on a pillow set is not a bad thing or something to be avoided as advertised here. Many fellow drummers and myself has benefited from it and are still doing it. Hence I don't know what is the argument here. For the accents lack of bounce forces you to actively play the accents and increases control as opposed to sloppy and accidental playing –  percusse May 7 '13 at 2:49

For anyone needing a simple and effective solution, I strongly recommend just buying a few tiles of "foam plywood sub-floor" (see link below). I bought 6 and stapled a cheap rug to them to prevent them from spreading apart. It acts as a great insulate drum riser, and has the added benefit of providing a uniform carpeted surface that pedals and stands won't move around on. I had many noise complaints before I built my studio, but the simple foam raised surface kept the neighbors at bay.

Example: http://m.homedepot.com/p/Barricade-1-in-x-2-ft-x-2-ft-OSB-R3-2-Insulated-Subfloor-Tile-OVRX2424R32/203640688/

PS - it's interesting how much people complain about the noise of electronic drums, yet not about other instruments.

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Electronic drums make noises because peoples think they don't :D It's a percussion instrument, whatever you hit is directly propagated to the floor (even cloth-like coating makes vibrations). Impact noises are the most difficult to nullify. The only valid solution is to reduce the coupling between the floor and the kit stand with decoupling spikes (like that customisolation.net/photos/Super_Spike.jpg). A partially working solution is to use an intermediate absorbing material like your foam. Rubber tile is better. I use recycled rubber tiles with a carpet over it. –  JoeBilly Jan 13 at 16:48
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Note that for direct vibration noises, the thickness of the material doesn't matter so much, the weight do. –  JoeBilly Jan 13 at 16:50
    
@JoeBilly Right. More weight gets you more vibration dissipation before the vibrations are transferred to the floor. –  Jason Miller Jan 27 at 16:43

When I started playing drums in third grade I didn't have a drum set so my teacher suggested laying 4 phone books on the coffee table arranged like a real drum set. Moving from book to book allowed me to simulate the actual moves used to play a real drum set. I was also able to use my feet to tap out bass drum and hi hat patterns.

When I finally got a drum set in 4th grade I was way ahead of the other students that only practiced on a snare drum or single drum pad. 30 years later I invented Drum-A-Long for my students. The original drum set practice pad.

My teach also recommended practicing my rudiments on a pillow a little bit each day to strengthen my wrists. I believe both of these approaches helped my development greatly.

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If I understand right, you say the pads and kick pedal of the electric kit are making too much acoustic noise. You could try to improve their isolation from the floor (which is probably responsible for transmitting most of the noise to your neighbours).

It is apparently possible to build a simple drum riser out of plywood sheets and buckets: see here for example.

I'm afraid I haven't tried this myself, so I can't speak to the level of isolation you might achieve, but it might be worth experimenting with.

Update: I found a similar question with some good answers.

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I suspect that the reason for asking this question is that the answers that OP @wwwuser got for the linked similar question didn't solve the problem enough :-) –  Ulf Åkerstedt May 13 '13 at 6:18
    
Ah... not such a useful reference then, for the OP at least! Thanks for spotting that, @UlfÅkerstedt :) –  Ashley May 15 '13 at 13:55

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