“Cymbal dampening” was first introduced by the drummer Fred Zarr (and later popularized by his brother, the unusual Saturnian drummer) around 1959 but had been done for years before that in a variety of styles and fashions. It is not known why this idea was given its name.
Still, it seems likely that it involved the drummers’ concern over cymbals sounding unnaturally loud on stage or in an otherwise quiet environment due to the dampness of their sound-producing surfaces.
The traditional dampening method involved an effort to bring the cymbals into contact with the floor some predetermined number of times during a gig.
This was often done by laying one cymbal face down on the floor and hitting it with either another cymbal or, for what is considered a “full” dampening, a drumstick. Sometimes this was repeated two or three times more to really “wet” the sound out.
5 ways how to dampen cymbals.
- Put a tape underneath or on top
- Tighten the screw on top
- Use cymbals with short sustain
- Use low volume cymbals
- Use plexiglass
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Dampen cymbals with a tape
Use ducking tape as you would normally use to dampen the snare drum or toms. Place tape underneath the cymbal like in the image below.
I explored different places to put the tape on the cymbal to lower down the nice, and here is what I found out.
To reduce the cymbal volume completely put a tape closer to the edge versus. If you put the tape closer to a bell, you might not even notice the difference. However, the sweet spot I suggest is in the middle between a hole and the edge.
Dampen cymbals by tightening
If you remove the felt and the screw on the top cymbal will have more sustain. The same goes for all cymbals. So, if you tighten the screw on the top, you will dampen the cymbal.
I noticed many pop and RnB drummers use this approach because they play in bands with ten or more instruments and play with the track, so any additional noise is too much.
Dampening hi-hat cymbal
You can additionally dampen the hi-hat cymbal by putting additional pressure on the pedal.
Cymbal series with short sustain
Cymbal dampening is not the only way to reduce your cymbal volume. Some cymbals are quieter than others. These are usually dry cymbals like:
- Zildjian K Dry
- Meinl Byzance Extra Dry
- Sabian’s Big & Ugly
- Paiste Masters Dry
Additionally, if your band is complaining, you can use plexiglass to isolate the whole set from the rest of the bend.
These two approaches may change the sound but will reduce to cymbal volume.