I'm a drummer and recently moved into an apartment with high ceilings and hardwood floors. I have a Roland TD-4. I've been researching for ways to be able to practice quietly without disturbing my neighbors. I'm sure if I used all mesh heads that would be quieter than rubber heads. Also, a few mentioned creating a riser with tennis balls as legs to help deaden the noise. Is there anyway that I can play an electric set in an apartment without spending a ton on soundproofing?
Obviously, headphones are the very first thing to recommend if you aren't already using them. A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones works both ways; you can be thumpin' it at 95dB and nobody but you will hear it.
The sound produced by you hitting a rubber pad with a drumstick is a dull thunk, typically quieter than an ordinary conversation. If you have legitimate concerns about that noise getting through the walls into adjacent apartments, I would be taking them up with the landlord. If it's really a problem, you can hang a heavy curtain on the wall separating you from your nearest neighbor, perhaps leaving an air gap of an inch or two, and that should dampen the sound transfer through the walls considerably.
The bigger concern is typically the pedals; when you step on them, you are making a bigger thump with your foot than the beater or the cymbal triggers make, but all of that is combining on the hardwood floor to make it sound like you're pounding on the floor (which you are). The solution to that is pretty simple; invest in an 8x10' area rug with a nice thick pile (even a carpet remnant, with a layer between it and the hardwood to prevent marring, would work fine on a budget), and put your kit on that. This will isolate the kit from the floor, which is the main means of vibration transfer this setup would have that could irritate the neighbors. Understand that over time the pile will compact under the weight and pressure of the kit's feet. Carpet protectors will mitigate this but can also defeat the purpose; they have spikes designed to hold whatever's on the carpet off of it, by transferring the load under the pile to the subfloor, which is exactly what you don't want.
Mesh should certainly be quieter, but to help save the sanity of your neighbours below, you will need to look at an isolated drum riser. Tennis balls could work, but more commonly you see neoprene pads as these do a very good job reducing transmission of vibrations.
Underneath that you could also use a square of carpet cut to the size of the riser as this will add another layer.
Sand. The Grateful Dead lined their space in sand, Moby encased his NY apartment in sand. If you are on the second floor, put your set on a sandbox. Line the walls with sand bags. It's cheap, portable, labor intensive, works great.
You'd probably get a kick out of this article, sums up the plight of the modern drummer well: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=22178
This is a good start for anyone who needs a sub-$30 drum riser 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.
PS - it's interesting how much people complain about the noise of electronic drums, yet not about other instruments.
Mesh is quiter. I have a Roland TD-8 (all mesh drums) and have compared that to rubber pads.
The issue (which I also have) is twofold : The sound coming from the pad itself, and how much is transferred to the floor- which then transfers to adjacent rooms and of course to the room under you.
The rubber pad is a solid hit - quiet, but transfers the shock of the stick hitting the pad directly to the kits cage/stand (and so to the floor).
Mesh makes a MUCH better job of dispersing the shock, and the bounce comes from the elasticity in the mesh (like a real drum) so not only are they quieter, they feel much more like a drum.
Things to bear in mind :
- Cymbals: Also rubber (normally) so they transfer some shock to the cage and floor as well. Not as much as a pad as they're normally thinner and absorb more of the shock themselves.
- Bass drum pedal : Basically you're thumping your foot on the floor (that's what it amounts to) so having some kind of a drum riser is a good idea, although I managed to alleviate this problem a LOT by putting the drum pedal and pad (ie pedal and pad asssembly) on a pillow. It sounds like it should be horribly unstable but the pedal settles into the pillow after a short while and is quite playable. It was a bit ungainly though so I stopped that. I would think a drum riser with tennis balls as legs would work really well, and a much better solution - perhaps only for the pedals ? Or maybe easier for the whole thing. Maybe a Pallet would be best so that it doesn't become a soundboard in itself.
- Hi-hat pedal : If you tend to keep this pumping with the rhythm then this will need the same treatment as the bass drum pedal.
- Drum pads : Even if you choose mesh ones, the rims will be solid so if you're practicing rimshots (or just hit the rim accidentally, whcih happens a lot on smaller pads) then it's much the same issue as the rubber pads. I guess you could set them at an angle so you don't hit the rims though.
The actual sound of the kit is a secondary issue. Headphones are the obvious choice as other suggest or if you play through speakers you at least have a choice over the volume, and how much thump there is in the ovarall bass tones (the bit that travels).
My neighbour plays a 5 string guitar and has headphone/amps set up so half the time I don't even know he's having a play. You may need to investigate something like this.