Is there a more tiresome sound to members of our great silent majority than that of the aspiring musician?
Locked in a life or death struggle with the instrument of their choice, the unnerving sound of the attempted new scale, phrase, chop or lick drifts through the wall from next door, out of the garden shed, coal hole or wardrobe.
Is there a more hapless sufferer in this respect than the drummer, who can't even placate the irked neighbour with a swift rendition of "Greensleeves" or his new 7/4 version of "When I'm Cleaning Windows"?
Until Channel 4 devotes an entire series to this gripping problem, your guess is as good as mine. However I can confidently say that drummers are instinctively a noisy lot, and that reproducing the feel of a real kit in a home practice situation has been a perennial thorn in the side of many a would-be Steve Gadd or Cozy Powell.
The Yamaha Silencer is the first practice kit to break through this credibility barrier, but in doing so poses a new equally interesting question: when is a drum kit not a drum kit?
The Silencer is simply a regular kit minus most of the shell, to which sound baffling has been added. Whip out the baffling and you have an eminently playable and recordable drum kit. Just as well since the price might otherwise seem prohibitive.
The bass drum is 16 by 14 inches deep, the same depth as a regular bass drum. By cunning use of long spurs and an elevated pedal attachment, the drum can be raised to a point where the beater will strike the centre, at its normal height adjustment. Great.
It also allows for more height adjustment for the two mounted toms, a 10 and a 12, which are held in place by the excellent ball and joint system common to all Yamaha kits. It allows for fine placement and assures rock-solid performance.
The toms are baffled by means of a circular piece of wadding which is pressed against the underside of the conventional drum head by a matching circle of chipboard, itself held securely in place by brackets which protrude from the inside threads of the nut boxes.
The two 13-inch drums are freestanding. They are supported by their own stands which simply screw straight up into the centre of each drum's baffling. There's plenty of height and angle adjustment available.
For cymbal control the kit includes three strong fabric hoops, whose elasticated material slips over the cymbal and is held in place by the stem of the stand, which slips through the hole provided. So by placing the muted area at right angles to yourself the metallic area of the cymbal is still available to the stick. That's important to create the feel of a real playing situation.
I felt perfectly at home with the kit, being able to set it comfortably to my own preference, tune the response of the heads similarly and observing that even under severe attack there wasn't a wobble in sight.
All of this was accomplished in the confines of my flat, where even the slightest noise can provoke a wall-banging session from one of my wonderfully broadminded and tolerant neighbours, most of whom probably haven't bought a record since they did away with the cylinders.
Plus the whole lot can be packed inside the bass drum and polished off with a clip-on, matt-black wooden lid.
Things to bear in mind. If this is your first kit you're going to need a stool, a hi-hat stand and cymbals, a cymbal stand and a bass drum pedal. If you fancy attempting part two (coming next) you'll also need a snare drum and two snare stands.
Now for the Remember Where You Heard It First bit. With dextrous use of the mini-spanner it's possible to remove the baffling from the kit. As the retaining brackets are part of the nut-box assembly this is a painstaking process, but it means that once achieved there are no screw holes to spoil the look (or sound) of the shell. Without their baffling, the two 13-inch drums have no means by which to attach to their regular stands, so the two snare stands cradle them, thus giving you four toms.
One whack of the stick soon dispels any doubts about the undertaking. The drums are bright, punchy, surprisingly loud and each has its own tonal depth. It's remarkable that so little shell can produce such a distinct and full sound.
As a practice kit the Silencer is a Rolls-Royce. As a real kit it's an absolute knockout, and used as such its thorough structural quality comes into its own. £299
Optional extra: SL14S 14-inch tom and stand, rrp £69 inc VAT.
Review by Andy Duncan
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