T Bruce’s free drum lesson no.4: Muffle with chewing gum (after you’ve chewed it). It’s cheaper than Moon Gel.

Chewing gum is a valid drum & cymbal muffling agent that applies easily and stays put, even when hanging upside down. It costs a fraction of duct tape and Moon Gel. And tastes better.

Chewing gum, drum and cymbal muffling

If it’s good enough for even a garden-variety Buddha, it’s good enough for me.

For the longest time—ever since I had kids and began buying Fisher Price items, Polly Pocket vignettes, and colored plasticine—I’ve looked suspiciously at certain drum accessories. One is Moon Gel. I know that it’s a great product and that all the great drummers use it. But it seems to me that I might as well have purchased kids’ goop or putty weatherstripping and saved an arm and a leg.

This is my rant for today and if you think I’m kidding think again. If you chew gum and throw it out when it’s done (or adhering it to the bottom of a chair), you’re disposing of what might be the best, cheapest damping material on the market. And it’s not on the drum market, that’s for certain.

Before we stretch our imaginations, I want to broach another example of drum industry piracy: cymbal rivets.

You can’t use gum to transform your ride into a sizzle

You drill holes in your ride cymbal—not big holes like the Sabian Ozone crashes but wee ones 9/16” in width—and you insert rivets, which shimmer and sizzle. Unless they pop out and fly straight up before lodging themselves under the bass drum (the Bermuda Triangle of the drumset). To prevent untimely loss you need a special machine to flare the bottom edges of rivets. Or you wedge the rivet, bottom side facing you, in a vice or something makeshift and wedge a screwdriver in the hole or funnel, then smack the end of the screwdriver with a ball-peen hammer. The odds are slim that your rivet will flare out evenly; in fact, it’s rare that the screwdriver, rivet, and your fingers don’t suffer trauma and bolt from the scene. The way my neurosurgeon describes it, operating on my aberrant C-5 or C-6 disc carries better odds of success.

Don’t worry, we’re getting to the chewing gum business but I stress that the market is stuffed with items that cater to drummers who are negligent in basic tuning and striking. These same drummers will spend $5.99 US for a sleeve containing 12 silvery cymbal rivets.

I reckoned that the subsitute would be proper split-end rivets, which can be flared easily by hand. The problem is finding good ones. Took me a couple of decades.

I found a source, a hardware store, for proper split-end rrivets—my choice, brass or copper—for the ridiculously low $15.00US per box of 100. These are no office fasteners but real-deal rivets that require needle nose pliers to separate the fork tines. Since I knew he was extremely meticulous in his drum mods, I gave Bill Stewart a box for his birthday a few years ago. I knew I’d done well when a year later he told me he preferred the copper ones I included in the 100 total; and that he was halfway through the lot already.

Back to gum and gel

Okay, so let’s talk about muffling accessories. I wrote ad copy for Evans, specifically for the Min-Emad, a slender, tadpole of a piece of fabric. One end attaches to the drum rim via Velcro, the other to the drumhead. In theory and in practice it’s a success but out of pocket it’s $7.95 or a pack of 6, which are reusable and fold away nicely when not in use. That’s a fair deal but still pricey. Come the Great Recession, I lost clients such as Evans but maybe they’re reading this and before I get around to revealing any other details will hire me again. Shut me up. Actually, I retain a few Min-Emads due to the fact that, without getting much further off topic, there’s more than meets the eye both in terms of concept and tone.

Then we get to Moon Gel. It comes in a round container that costs …okay, we’ll get to that. But it’s expensive for fully 4 slabs. Each one, in effect, costs over a dollar-fifty.

Which brings us to the stuff of television commercials and Gene Krupa: Juicy Fruit. Dentine. Chiclets. Ice. Wrigleys Spearmint.

Put your money where your mouth is

Even if you don’t chew gum on stage—and I began a scant three years ago—you can spot the value a mile away in the States (1.5 km in the rest of the free world, as Stanley Spector would have put it).

The story goes that one gig I’d chewed pretty much the last bit of value from a Juicy Fruit spearmint stick. I decided to stop short of that point at which gum loses its pliability and begins to separate into granules. It so happened I was playing a large hall and a Bill Stewart (in line with our references for credibility sake) ride cymbal. This one, as you may know, is so thin it takes a few weeks to learn how to play it. It takes decades to learn to control it the way Bill coaxes it about. And still, in some rooms that ride explodes and, thus (sorry Bill!) I apply a little duct tape.

For the current gig, there was no tape any site. But instead of throwing away my spent gum, I placed it atop the BS ride and, you know it, it worked as good, nay better, than duct tape.

It clung to that cymbal for the remainder of the night. It held true the remainder of the week. I’m convinced it’d be there yet if I hadn’t removed it and commenced experimenting: a strip here, there, top, bottom, inside the bell.

One day, I was in the middle of gumming a cymbal and my spouse spotted me. She was disgusted. It was as if I’d scooped up the dog’s deposit and brought it to the music room. Ultimately she may have been justifiably concerned. When you start pulling bits out of your mouth, first it’s gum but what comes next?

Chomp for chump change

Gum remains somewhat soft and affords a more organic feel. Thus far I’ve left strips of chewing gum atop a surface for a maximum of a couple of months. Hell of a lot easier to remove than masking tape.

Incidentally, it’s not just for cymbals. I’ve taken to affixing a tiny strip to the south side of the snare drum just off the rim—at the point where stick hits metal rim and clangs out a joyous rimshot refrain. The gum takes the edge off. You simply bite off the portion that does the job and leave it at that. Sound familiar?

How will I know?

The brand? Well, it doesn’t really matter. Not at your stage in this sticky journey. Your druthers will emerge; your gut will tell you.

And even diabetics come out ahead. The photo shows the Buddha contemplating a wad of gum that’s friendly for the sugar challenged.

Currently I’m endorsing Stride. My previous brand, Ice, was effective but tended to dissolve in my pockets and detach, even, from its mount before it made it past my lips. Stride is protected by a dual wrapping system consisting of individually wrapped sticks, which are then folded into a book cover configuration. Unless opened up, the “doors” protecting the strips prevent the gum from engaging loose change, drum keys, and other items lurking in drummers’ pockets.

Chewed gum adheres well. Sometimes it’s a little ornery and I have to press it down, slide it, and reattach it. Invariably it ceases to complain and embraces the surface, whether Mylar, polyester, bronze, or animal skin. Impediments to adhesion include previously applied saliva, perspiration, stray sprays of WD40 or what have you.

Once chewed gum (and who would apply it to a drum surface without previously enjoying its mint splendor?) is set down, it’s not likely to go anywhere. I wouldn’t say it attaches as secure as epoxy in that it remains somewhat malleable, which is good, since it remains capable to floating with the batter head or cymbal surface, seemingly absorbing vibrations rather than fighting them.

Gum vs Gel

I don’t know about Moon Gel, except that it’s costly and you wouldn’t necessarily want to freshen your breath with it as you leave the door on that critical first date. If there are those out there who disagree, fire me an email. The added value of, say, Moon Gel spearmint might tip the scales. As is stands, I want to be clear that I’m not disparaging a product that respectable drummers unequivocally recommend for damping drums and cymbals—I remember clearly Bill Bruford demonstrating to me (backstage, MD Festival Weekend) how a bit of Moon Gel took the edge of a 20” Paiste Traditional Medium Ride. I couldn’t take him to point on his choice since I had sworn off chewing gum at the time.

Now that I’m back, I wonder if I could score an endorsement. Not with Moon Gel but with, oh, Stride (spearmint). Maybe the deal would enable you to obtain free products from the parent company (Cadbury’s) range. The chocolate might be a tasty diversion but I can say with certainty that it will not afford any immediate benefits to the working drummer.

Moon Gel, if you buy it here, costs around $6.50 USD. You get a measly 4 segments. Seems a pretty hefty sticker price for sticky goo. But I guess I fail to consider the R & D that went into perfecting this one. Or the packaging, certainly more substantial than any chewing gum I know. Or the fact that Moon Gel is washable and retains its stickiness for days, months, maybe centuries.

Now to be truthful, I haven’t attempted to wash and reuse Stride (spearmint). But I certainly have used it considerably and it’s never let me down. I can purchase 12 individually-wrapped packets of Stride, each containing 14 (again individually paper-wrapped gum sticks), for under $12.00 here. That works out to 128 pieces of gum as opposed to close to 8 for the same cash outlay—again noting that Moon Gel is reusable.

I can’t imagine what second-hand gum or Gel would sell for and I don’t think I want to investigate.

After all, I’d never know who they’d been with or what they’d been up to. Sort of like a motel bed cover.

It’s Saturday as I write this valuable drum tip. In two hours, I pack for an outdoor gig, which begins with the summer sun high in the sky. I know that my chewing gum is going to soften somewhat but not break up into strands or stick to my sticks.

My photos reveal clearly that gum is not anywhere near as aesthetically pleasing as Moon Gel. But chewing gum will surprise the modern drummer. It will stay put on the underside of a ride cymbal or crash, ditto with the resonant head of a tom. Somehow to my ears the gum damping sounds more natural—even when A-B compared to my theatrical tape (again, given I’ve never once tried Moon Gel).

I think we’ve chewed the last morsel and ought to spit it out and get on to our next free drum lesson/tip.