Drum muffling tip: Try medical (surgical) tape. It’s semi-clear, often invisible on cymbals, cheap (under $5 US), and attenuates in fine increments. When removed it leaves minimal residue

Medical tape can be used to muffle drums & cymbals according to T Bruce

You hear veteran drummers—you know, purists into Tony but who play The Eagles—decry muffling. Tune out those errant overtones, they advise; don’t tape them to death. In a world of perfect weekend gigs, I’d go with that notion except for the fact that my world is more about lost weekend. Let’s lose a few overtones.

A strip of medical tape is at worst opaque, at best translucent. Either way it’s not solid jet-black or insidious shiny gray. Instead it allows shades of the affected drum or cymbal to shine through.

Medical tape atop Pearl snare drum adjacent to paper tape affixed underneath batter Medical tape atop Pearl snare drum adjacent to paper tape affixed underneath batter

If you’re the one of those purists (above), or object on aesthetic grounds, be advised that you can cheat with clear medical tape—use it to muffle and no one except the most ardent drum nerd will discover your secret. Unless stage lights catch it at the right angle (as in one of the accompanying pics), you’re home free. Slap it on a drum head and you’re off; rub it vigorously into cymbal lathe grooves and it will stay put.

The brand I purchased, for a mere $4.69 US/Canadian, is Nexcare. The label claims it is a plastic tape. Upon close examination it reveals a slight woven construction. You will appreciate this when you purchase it and go to use it first time round. I don’t know exactly why. Perhaps because although it’s partially invisible it’s palpably of substance.

Legislated uses include securing gauze, dressings, patches, and God-knows-what, to human skin. Pardon my frivolous, jet-lagged post winter NAMM tone. In fact, medical tape and muffling are kindred in the serious war against spurious overtones.

You breathe, your skin breathes—and medical tape will hang tight

I’ve tried several brands over the years. The current Nexcare, available various girths, stands with the best of ‘em; it will flex and hang tight with drums/cymbals irrespective of waves of undulations.

And in a few months time, should you remove your medical tape, the residue is manageable—certainly not as annoying as masking tape deposits.

If you need extra muscle to dig out residue, try a shot of WD40 (spray lubricant) and I’m willing to bet your surface will become cleaner than new.

Real drummers perceive any and every object as useful on drums and cymbals!

You’re not a real drummer unless you pass this text: You’re visiting a relative confined to a bed in the local hospital. You get up to go for a coffee and along the way you rifle through the contents of any gurney (you know, one of those brushed chrome push-carts) blocking your way. Odds are although you won’t spy a vial of morphine (and shame on you, evil fiend, for the mere contemplation of such an eventuality), you will seize an opportunity to pocket a roll or two of surgical tape—the same clear stuff sold as Nexcare in my local drug store.

This is not theft. You’re serving a noble cause when you bring the first roll home…and the subsequent two or three upon your next visit. You are mobilizing humble tape to fight crimes against the basic American drumset—dealing decisively with delinquent transients.

old UFIP cymbal from T Bruce collection


Medical tape atop T Bruce's old cymbal: barely visible Tape is barely invisible, not that I’d use it on this cymba

In conclusion, I recommend medical tape as a worthy alternative to duct/masking/cloth tape. It does its damping with discretion and will not damp a church bell first time around.

Other crimes drummers commit—damping vs dampening

Let’s set a new standard of execution in drumming. Lets get our language usage right…in common discourse and advertisements (I used to write a fair bit of ad copy until the Great Recession led many companies to cease working with outside contractors).

Please note that to dampen is to make moist or wet. You don’t dampen drumheads. When messing with unwanted overtones, amplitude and vibrational quirks, you muffle—or you damp. Thus, a Zero Ring, properly depicted, is a damping ring, not a dampening ring. Not unless you’ve run it under the tap.

More drum community faux-pas in usage

Similarly, if you’re sick and tired of the drums you’ve just damped with medical damping tape and, in a burst of Craviotto passion, want to rid yourself of your gleaming pit and justify a new drum purchase, you want to hide the evidence. Your spouse or your parents may accuse you of buying new gear when yours is obviously still serviceable. Thus, to convince them, you need to reduce your drumset to a wee heap of sawdust, regular dust, and metal shards. You want to reduce your kit to rubble so you can say, “Drums…I don’t own any drums! I’m off to Drum Central”. Hold it and note the following:

You do not decimate them.

You said you wanted to destroy the entire drumset, right? From suspended cymbals to rubber feet? Well, if you decimate them, you’ve done one-tenth of a job. That’s what decimate means: to reduce by a tenth.

Decimate does not connote total devastation—although currently it has become acceptable as Celine Dion. Let’s get it right henceforth.

A new, more discrete tape

We were talking about a tape that stretches, flexes, and “breathes” with skin, animal or human—the latter commending medical/surgical tape for use on polyester-film drumheads.

It’s cheap, damn-near invisible, depending, and it’s reliable.

Our next installment: How to make a silk purse out of a sow’s rear.

The photo below includes a few items I scraped up in a NY minute. Some of them I bought in Dollar Stores, in Pound Wise, and some in odd shops at the dark end of the street.


A few ideas; I have many more. Tbw

T Bruce Wittet recommends using found objects or Dollar Store items on drums