DIY: Snare Wire Dampener

In this Drum Green! segment I am going to show you a simple do-it-yourself project on how to make your own snare drum wire dampeners. Before I get into that, let me provide a little backstory.

When I first started doing recording sessions back in the mid-80s, I learned very quickly just how problematic sympathetic vibrations were to the recording process. Not only did I need to be concerned with metallic rattles coming from my stands and drums, not to mention the tom toms firing off the snare wires on my snare drum, but my arsenal of snare drums would also buzz. It's one thing to deal with the snare drum from your set-up, but to have unused drums sitting on the sidelines causing a disruption during the recording process is another matter. Laying all of the drums flat on the floor or throwing a blanket over them would sometimes solve the problem, but having such a large footprint of sleeping snare drums all around the studio often times created a counter-productive work environment. To leave all of my snare drums in the hall or a separate room, in an effort to address the ambiguous noise issue, was simply not conducive to the recording process. I needed to be able to quickly change snare drums for any song that musically called for an alternative timbre. In the recording studio, time is money. Having to deal with the latest noise issue during tracking or leaving my post for an extended period of time to switch snare drums simply wasn't going to do. If I wanted to keep the creative atmosphere positive and the session moving forward, as well as make the producer, sound engineer, and artist happy, I needed to do things quickly and efficiently while giving the best sound and performance possible to the recording process.

Now to a wise individual, the quick fix would seem to be a bit obvious — disengage the snare wires (aka muted snare) on each snare drum! While a reliable solution, to go through and/or unpack each drum (I often have eight or more snare drums with me on the session) to make sure that each snare strainer/throw-off is disengaged ... well, it would be tedious. Transporting the drums with the wires already in the "off" position means a lot of noise during transportation, not to mention the ever present threat of damaging the snare wires. I have personally experienced, on numerous occasions, the dangling appendage beneath my snare drum(s) getting caught on a snare stand or any other would-be assailant. Essentially, so it seemed, anything that could reach out and hook the snare's wires would most certainly prey on my unsuspecting drum as it passed by. When this took place it often times required a minor adjustment to repair the attack, although sometimes the talons of my drum-eating nemesis would wreck such havoc that future use of the instrument would require the attention of an EMT. As bad as it sounds, calling 9-1-1 is not advised or considered a true emergency.

My new found awareness (sometimes it feels like a curse) for extraneous sounds led me to notice all of the noise coming from my snare drums as they were being transported. The buzzing issue varied in intensity depending on if the drum was in a soft bag, case or road case. I also began noticing how much noise was coming from my snare drums while the sat in my storage or practice facility.

The solution I came up with, one that I've proudly used for the past three decades, was to make a soft cloth dampener that sandwiched between the resonant drumhead and wires of the snare drum. Watch my video (see below) to learn how to make your own snare drum wire dampener using reused/recycled/repurposed materials.

Added Benefits:

  • The main purpose for the dampener is to keep the snare drum quiet when not in use, including when in storage or during transport.
  • Protects the resonant snare drumhead from damage should an outside source apply pressure to the snare wires. Example: While in a soft bag something could press on the snare wires during transport which would indent or gouge the snare head.
  • Keeps the musician in touch with the "out of sight, out of mind" portion of the instrument. Using the dampener keeps one aware of necessary repairs or potential problems, such as damagad drumhead or snare wires, worn snare string/strap, etc.