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DIY: Holiday Drum Dampener

There are a lot of great products on the market designed to dampen a drum, however I wanted to show you a quick, inexpensive do-it-yourself that can achieve similar sonic results while at the same time reusing and re-purposing, not to mention save you some money.

Window Gel Clings — I am sure seen them in craft stores and big box outlets — they work great as a drumhead dampener on snare drums and tom toms! If you have used them at your house, rather than throwing out an old, unwanted or damaged Window Gel Cling, you can give it a try as a drum dampener.

New vs. Used

The idea behind this DIY project is to reuse and/or re-purpose what you already have around the house. If used doesn't work for you, purchase new Window Gel Clings... or better still, make your own (more on that later).

I have noticed that some of the older gel clings can get a little gooey or even melt over time. In fact certain colors (eg. non-translucent white) often times seem to be worse than others. This may be due to age, the type of material used for the given color, or the heat and UV rays the gel clings are subjected to while on the window. When necessary, the newer Window Gel Clings can be easily cleaned with warm water and a little bit of hand soap. I do suggest that you examine each gel cling to make sure it is not too far gone (ie. viscous) — you don't want to use it if it is going to leave a nasty residue on the drumhead.

If you do not have Window Gel Clings in your home, you can just bypass the to reuse factor and go purchase some brand new Window Gel Clings which are readily available throughout the entire year, especially during most holidays and seasonal celebrations. Your local big box or craft store should have Window Gel Clings throughout the year, priced from $1.50 to $4 on average for smaller packages. You can save some money by waiting to purchase the hoilday gel clings immediately following special days such as Valentines Day, St. Patricks Day, Christmas, etc. — saving as much as 50% off the normal retail price. Seasonal gel clings are also available for spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Application and Placement

While we can place the entire gel dampener on the drum, we need to be mindful of how much dampening we actually need. The nice thing about Window Gel Clings is that you can cut them down to size as needed. Often times it is not the size of the gel dampener, but the actual placement that matters most. Near the edge of the drumhead will produce minimal dampening, reducing the highest of frequencies; further away from the edge will dampen and reduce even more frequencies. Larger gels will take up more surface area, thus creating more dampening to the drum.

When you are finished with the gel dampener, save it for later use or just throw it away. Wax paper or a thick plastic sheet works well to store the gel dampeners — think about how the new Window Gel Clings are packaged.


Make Your Own

If you are up to the task of making your own Window Gel Clings (aka Window Gel Stickers, Window Jellies, Window Gels), it is very simple to do and only takes a few ingredients: unflavored gelatin, food coloring (optional), boiling water and sauce pan, a large baking/cookie sheet, whisk and spatula.

  1. Boil four cups of water in a sauce pan.
  2. Add six packets of unflavored gelatin (approximately 43 grams) to the boiling water.
  3. Whisk and stir the mixture to make sure it all dissolves. Work out (remove) any bubbles with a spoon (if necessary).
  4. Pour the gelatin mixture onto the baking sheet so that it is about a quarter of an inch (½ – ¾ cm) thick. It doesn’t have to be exact, but you will want it to be level.
  5. If you plan on adding food coloring, allow the gelatin mixture to cool for about 10-15 minutes. Drop food coloring into the gel and swirl around a bit with a toothpick.
  6. Allow the gelatin to harden for several hours (at least). Leaving it out uncovered overnight yields the best results. 
  7. Use a butter knife or scissors to cut and trim to size. If you want to get fancy, used cookie cutters to cut out shapes.
  8. Use a spatula to carefully lift the gel shapes off the baking/cookie sheet.

That's it! You now have your own, homemade Window Gel Clings.

NOTE: If the gel is too gooey or not sticky, allow to sit even longer. Each day the moisture in the gelatin will evaporate a bit more, making the gel lighter and stickier. Since we are not placing the gel clings on a vertical surface, the sticky factor is not as important. We just want enough weight and sticking power so the gels don't fly off the drumhead every time we hit the drum.


Bart Elliott

Bart Elliott is a degreed professional musician currently residing in Nashville, Tennessee. His 37+ years in the music industry, over 100 albums to his credit, as well as his understanding of contemporary and classical music, makes him a complete and skilled master musician. A highly sought after drummer and percussionist, both live and in the studio, Bart is widely known as a top music educator, consultant and gifted teacher, appearing as a guest artist and clinician throughout the USA and abroad.

Bart Elliott is the founder and sole proprietor of DrummerCafe.com (f/k/a Drum Ring International) — established in December 1996.