Friday, October 12, 2007

Anti-Vibration Stage for Your e-Drums


Two days before I've purchased my e-drum kit, I had to build an anti-vibration stage for them. Otherwise I shall had to sit in Lotus figure and repeat the mantra of the following: "Drums are not for apartments, drums are not for apartments...". Here I want to show what I've got and what is the final result of my personal research, experiments and calculations...

The Problem And The Destination

No one else instrument in entire World can be so dynamic as drums and percussion. It is possible to produce dynamic range from PPPP (illimitato pianissimo) even lighter than ice crystal sounds itself, up to FFFF (pazzo fortissimo) and blow away somebody along with the chair. There is no any other instrument available to produce this range of dynamics.

With the pianissimo performance everything OK: you simply touch things very gently. No suffering to neighbors downstairs. But what about fortissimo or just good fat forte as usual? Then you are doomed to forte your neighbors hard, which will not be enjoyable for them indeed.

Also keep in mind, that electric kit is only relatively silent. If on stage and turned off, then yes — perfectly silent. But if somebody is sleeping and you can hear a mosquito flying somewhere, then e-drum is definitely noisy and will raise up everybody around. You have real kick pedals, real hi-hat, real cymbals, real pads for real hits from real sticks. Mesh-heads solute problem only 40% or even less: still you have rubber cymbals, still your hardware transfers vibration downstairs, still kick-pedal shakes the floor and still nasty hi-hat shakes your downstairs neighbor's piece.

Now, the problem is to prevent your room shaking and your neighbors crying, while still allow all that bulky expensive hardware to produce the range of dynamics, what it is actually designed for...

My apartments has relatively tiny walls between neighbors, paper walls between rooms and building is made monolithic concrete (often earthquakes in Tokyo won't allow make it from bricks). Each concrete apartments are very good to collect and transfer any kind of sound everywhere anytime. If you are living in more sound-proof apartments, then you are even luckier than me. If you live in less sound proof apartments (wooden house, for example), then you are... well... less luckier than me. In other words, there is always enough room to improve this assembly.

Before You Do

Go to your neighbors and tell them what you already bought (on purpose omitting the word "electric" to let they accept shock in place) tell them what you are going to do (probably till that time they will understand already). Yes, the law is on your side and basically you can ignore them totally. But it is rude, not friendly and actually does not means that you are an a-hole who wants to screw up tired neighbors. Be kind to people and people will be kind to you. Go tell them when you are going to play and when you are going to finish. Keep the time and schedule accurately.

But don't be over-kind to them: otherwise they will suspect for you are extremely bad. :-)

The Recipe

The stage I've built exclusively for my drum-kit and fits well for it. However, if you have another kit featuring another size of the stage, you have to try to adjust size yourself, but I think it still applicable for mostly any popular drum kit. This stage is NOT applicable for kits on original hardware (components are mounted on their own stands), but only for "one-piece" frame-based mounted systems.

Here is parts required (metrics, sorry USA reader):
  • 6 bath mats, 85x60 cm with grid of holes on them. You will appreciate it later or make holes yourself, which is probably not what you want to do.
  • 9 bicycle tubes, 40 cm in diameter.
  • 3 foam-rubber pieces 60x60 with sound-absorption surface (preferred, but not necessary). A bunch of toilet sponges is good enough, if it is so critical to get right one. :-)
  • 12 light rubber pieces 120x120x25 mm of each. Rubber shall be like a sponge with a microscopic cells, light in weight but very hard to be compressed to solid stage.
  • 80 m of plastic rope.
  • One Japanese tatami 190x80 cm or approximately same size piece of thick plywood.
  • Soft floor foam cover. I used cork puzzles with foamish base.
  • A striped carpet.
  • 4 striped rubber disks, 10 cm in diameter.
  • Double-sided glue ribbon to join rubber elements together.
  • An iPod with headphones, lot of patience and two different hands (left and right), properly placed as originally designed by God. :-)
Remember: soft materials absorbs sound, hard — opposite, transfers them. Empty spaces generates resonance and reinforces the sound. In this situation you have to choose materials, that will keep their condition under heavy pressure of kit itself and hairy legs of fat John playing it, excited. :-)

OK, Let's Go Do It

First, put floor cover on the place where you want to install your drum kit. I've been used it double for the place where stage is going to be placed.

Here how bath mat looks like from the bottom side. It is very good to have such kind of surface, because it will remarkably reduce physical contact with the surface underneath, thus reduces the waves of the vibration.

Here how bath mat looks like from the top. Notice grid of holes. You will really need almost all of them.

Now, join 3 bath mat into one piece, using plastic rope. Do it tightly, but not much, to do not hurt the mat itself. Repeat the same procedure for another 3 bath mats. So finishing this step you will end up with two big and relatively soft platforms.

In the next step you are going to put some ugly guts in between of them.

Inflate bicycle tubes to reasonable condition and tightly mount them as shown on picture, using plastic rope. Tubes shall be mounted quite tightly to prevent stage flow after it build, but do not overdo it either, since it will reduce soundproofing (vibration proofing, actually).

Now put rubber-foam in between the spaces. It will prevent your stage to sound as yet another drum. :-) — remember what I said about empty closed space?

Now, remember those 12 light rubber pieces 120x120x25 mm of each? Group them by two, joining with double-side glue ribbon and make 6 "legs". Put them two in the middle (to support kick-pedal) and four on each corner, fixating with the same double-side ribbon, preventing them float inside the construction. This will make tatami (or piece of plywood) lay solid on top of this thing and also prevent shaking snare and hi-hat, while playing. Picture below does not shows them since it was done after an update of the stage, but you may understand it easily.

Put another 3-mat joined piece on top of this, making Big Mac hamburger-like thing and sew together with the plastic rope, as on picture. It will prevent disassembling of the stage, while playing.

Put a carpet on top of it. Carpet will do two functions: will hide ugly blue bath mat with guts inside from choosy eyes and also will reduce sound resonance from your kit to bath mats. Here you go:


Now put two front legs of the frame (pads side) of the kit on the stage and two legs (from drummer side) out the stage. Put those 4 rubber disks underneath the legs of the frame. Maybe additional something underneath those legs might be needed, if your drum kit wants to be tall. Stage is 12 cm tall, which is not so thin. Chair might be put on something similar, like custom wooden platform, specially for throne only (50x50x12 cm) — it is very easy to assemble from the already done parts in any DIY shop.

Entire price for this stage: approximately $270 USD.


So far, neighbors confirmed very-very-very a little sound from kick and hi-hat while playing wild, if they very carefully trying to catch the sound. Snare and hi-hat does not shakes at all even during double-bass, following Mike Portnoy. Stage is pretty solid for that.

If you want and stay calm, then everything is possible.

Enjoy and have a lot of fun, happily drumming! :-)


Muhammad Taufik Hidayat said...

Hei... good idea. I have same problem with my neighbor downstair. But why don't you use a used queen size mattress? What do you think?

BM said...

It won't work, because stage should be solid, yet silent. Mattress will be very wobbling and will actually sound more, since there will be a "box" effect along with more surface is connected to the floor.