Silent Practice

Thomas Palmatier • CommentaryJuly 2023 • July 16, 2023

At this year’s NAMM show, many vendors had instruments or accessories that would enable musicians to practice without bothering neighbors (or family members). When I was growing up practicing a sousaphone that probably sounded like whales dying, our home was in the country with the nearest neighbor a mile away. That’s certainly not the reality for most students. Products range from drum pads in lieu of hitting a drumhead and practice mutes that reduce the sound but are really stuffy (those have been around for decades) to solutions using the latest technology. The range of costs for a drum pad to an electric drum set is large and not all solutions will be accessible for all families.  
I reached out to some of the vendors and following is their take on their offerings. SBO+ has not tested these instruments and is not offering a product endorsement, however these four manufacturers are highly reputable and have a track record of producing great products for musicians of all ability levels. Enjoy!


Buffet Crampon has developed ClariMate, a revolutionary new digital clarinet mute designed to allow clarinetists of all ages and abilities the opportunity to “play anywhere, anytime.”

The ability to practice without disturbing others is an option that has eluded woodwind players for many years, but with ClariMate, the technology has finally arrived to allow clarinetists the capability to practice and play silently, anywhere.  This innovation is the first of its kind for the clarinet and opens a new door for clarinetists of all ages and skill levels. 

The ClariMate system integrates into any BH or A clarinet via a module positioned between the mouthpiece and tuning barrel.  This module will detect the note fingerings as well as the player’s breath and embouchure position when paired with an active reed (included in the box). Musicians can use ClariMate by itself in standalone mode with headphones, or connect it to an app for more features. The app, via a linked computer or smart device, can be used to customize the ClariMate playing experience to display the note being played, as well as the fingering on a clarinet chart.  ClariMate also can connect to the digital world through Bluetooth play-along features and MIDI, enabling a clarinet to become an EWI (electronic wind instrument) for recording applications.

Drums & Percussion

Silent practicing with musical instruments of any type has several benefits and benefactors. The first, possibly most apparent, is practicing without disturbing those around you. If you have neighbors nearby or family members sensitive to loud sounds, they will all appreciate silent practicing. Or, if the time of day (or night) you want to practice happens to be when those around you prefer quiet, having the ability to play silently is beneficial.

Another often overlooked benefit is the confidence it gives young or even intermediate drummers. Playing drums, or any new instrument, can be intimidating, and there is often an inherent fear or frustration associated with making mistakes. This causes many new musicians to hold back, not push themselves, or even dislike practicing altogether. Having the ability to practice without the fear of those around them hearing can increase the amount of time they put into practice. Playing an instrument silently can also give musicians starting off the confidence to express themselves more freely, try things they might have otherwise found difficult, and essentially be more creative. 

Instructors teaching multiple students at once have the added benefit of hearing one student playing at a time, even while other students continue to play.

Our electronic drums, also known as DTX products, such as our DTX402 Series and DTX6 series, are ideal for beginning drummers and great for any drummer looking to improve through silent practice. Noise reduction is an important focus when developing DTX lines of electronic drums. Our DTX pads are designed to emit minimal noise when hit. We also offer a variety of silent playing surfaces, from rubber and mesh (on our DTX8 and DTX10 Series drums) to our proprietary TCS (Textured Cellular Silicone), which is not only designed to reduce sound, but it also gives a drummer a feel more consistent like playing an acoustic drum. This is important if they practice on a silent electronic drum set yet primarily play acoustic, as there needs to be more adjusting technique when going back and forth between surfaces. Kick pad towers requiring pedals can also create some noise, with beaters striking the pad surface. Even though it is minimal, it can be less desirable for those practicing with downstairs neighbors or family members. Our KU100 silent kick pedal, which comes standard with the DTX402 and can be added to any DTX drum kit, is an ideal alternative to kick pad towers. Because the pedal triggers sound without using a beater, it is an even quieter alternative to drums using a kick pad tower. 

Along with handy training tools, DTX electronic drum modules include metronomes or clicks. A click is another helpful tool for practicing; with headphones, the person practicing would be the only one to hear this sound. 

When developing new electronic percussion products at Yamaha, the reduction of unwanted noise is always considered.

“I have used Yamaha electronic drums for the past 12 years in my teaching studio at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and in my home studio. Here are a few of the many benefits: they always sound good and are always in tune, have built-in recording capability and lots of practice tools, you can hear the music you’re playing with and the drums equally well, are highly programmable and unmatched for experimenting with alternate drum, percussion, and other sounds, and have a low acoustic volume so you can play them at most hours and in most locations without disturbing anyone or taking up much space.  

DTX kits enable rapid and accurate motivated development by simulating a virtual environment for playing, practicing, learning, creating, and imagining. Plus, they’re just a lot of fun!”

Marc Dicciani, Professor of Drumset and Music Business, School of Music, University of the Arts 


Musicians/students can practice/play/compose whenever inspiration strikes without disrupting others in the house or neighbors (apartments).

Yamaha offers a versatile and modern instrument in the SILENT piano. It’s an acoustic piano that delivers an immersive auditory experience in full acoustic sound or through headphones, allowing you to play, practice or share creativity without limits.

Winds and Strings

Silently practicing can lift huge burdens from a musician’s life. Yamaha has made dedicated efforts to create products that allow musicians to play music in environments unsuitable for doing so, like practicing at home or in a dorm room without bothering (or waking) friends and family. Being able to play wherever they’d like, whenever they’d like, gives musicians enormous freedom and flexibility.

Examples of products that Yamaha has created to offer more freedom to musicians are the SILENT Brass series products and the new YDS-120 and YDS-150 Digital Saxophones. They can all be played silently (or near-silently) using headphones while still providing the player with a fully immersive, quality sound experience.

“Three hours a day of French horn practice is so much nicer when you can’t hear it. Even when the player is a top college conservatory student. This is an amazing product. Our family is communicating without sign language again. Best. Gift. Ever.”

Yamaha customer, posted review

There is more than one benefit to incorporating electric instruments into the traditional orchestra curriculum. These instruments connect students with repertoire they may not normally connect with in settings they may not normally have the opportunity to perform in. These instruments can allow a student who has something to say with their instrument, and the student can choose to keep what they are telling a secret with their earbuds or say it really loud when amplified. The options and choices are endless today. Our students engage with music in ways I never could as a high school student. Artists are available to our students through a simple internet search where they can see a video of their favorite performer, find the music on their own, and genuinely engage in independent learning. The Yamaha silent instruments are limitless in how we can connect a student.

When I began implementing Yamaha instruments in my classroom almost twenty years ago, I didn’t know what I needed. By networking and finding other teachers and professional performers using these instruments, I could learn from them, make mistakes along the way, learn from those mistakes, and show the students how to be lifelong learners. These students gave the initial inspiration for my students to learn how to improvise, play all styles of music – not just styles traditionally performed by acoustic instruments, and opened up countless opportunities for my students to perform in talent shows, collaborating with local bands, performing in recruiting events for younger students, and multiple other settings. These instruments get my students excited to play in a way their traditional instrument can’t.

The Yamaha silent instruments allow students an even greater opportunity to express themselves beyond the traditional orchestra ensemble. These instruments allow my students to learn college and career-ready skills beyond just playing their instrument. These students are learning real-world skills such as operating a mixing board, testing speaker cables, ensuring all equipment is properly plugged in, how to use a monitor speaker and many other skills that can eventually lead to a career as an adult.

Kenny Baker, Yamaha Certified String Educator

Orchestra Director, McQueen High School, Reno, Nevada

For a very long time Donner has been focusing on the entry-level musicians by offering affordable musical instruments. It’s easy to understand the concept of not disturbing others. However, some beginners want to have their privacy by not revealing how they are practicing, what his/her level is; or want to keep focusing by not caring what is happening around them. There is a Chinese idiom, meaning there is nothing else in your heart except what you are devoted to right now. This concept lives in Donner’s silent instruments and they help the users to achieve it anywhere, any time. Check out these products below. 

Donner Hush Series Guitar

The most important feature of Hush-I is for silent practicing. Equipped with a preamp featuring a 3.5mm headphone output, HUSH-I allows players to plug in their headphones to strum and shred quietly; an aux-in port allows them to immerse themselves in their music and jamming. The body is made of 3-piece maple/cherry with detachable metalware, which makes it super compact in the gigbag. 

Donner DDS-520 Drum Set

The DED Series kits offers great values to both entry-level and professional drummers. It’s easy to mute an electronic drum kit. However, the Donner DDS-520 Drum Set is not an electronic drum kit, and you don’t need to be plugged in. It features an acoustic muting system that revolutionizes the practice experience. With a simple twist of the drum key, the muting system can be activated, providing a seamless transition into the realm of silent practice. 

The muting system of the DDS-520 consists of two parts: low-volume cymbals for the hi-hat, the ride, and the crash, and four innovative adjustable muting pads for drumheads on the snare, the toms, and the kick. 

The low-volume cymbals designed by Donner are perforated in special patterns and made of steel instead of standard cymbal alloy, which results in a fast decay while remaining the touch of normal cymbals. 

For snare, the two toms and the kick, a mute pad is activated by a simple twist of the drum key. A pad is mounted onto an arm and the arm mounts to the drum. Basically, you have a normal drum set with the capability of turning it into a practice drum set that is lower volume. 

Apparently, parents love the kit more than their children do. 

“…The dampening system is fantastic. It still feels good playing but is much, much quieter. The quiet cymbals are also much quieter than normal cymbals. So, in the evenings I play in “quiet mode” and mom and dad don’t get crazy…” – Victor from Big Rapids, MI, Amazon buyer.

Donner MULTI-PAD100 Multi-effect Pedal
& Cyclops Portable MINI Guitar Amp

Here I put the pedal and the amp together because they were developed under same concept and same platform of algorithm and circuits. They are my favorite designs of Donner. Our goal is to let you play music any time, anywhere. 

It features five effect modules including delay, reverb, chorus, flanger, and tremolo; seven amp models; 40 selected drum patterns; ten presets and ten slots for customization; four knobs of tone, gain, volume and amp selection on the left, another four knobs on the right for drum, modulation, delay and reverb. A small screen and four buttons in the middle. A built-in tuner and cab sim are included. All of these are kept in a 5.91 x 2.48 x 1.3 inches Nintendo vintage style joystick-like box. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? 

A 3.5mm headphone jack makes it available for silent practicing any time. And a clip under the pedal, plus 9V battery powered system (also available powered by DC 9V adapter included in the package) means you can bring it anywhere. 

The Cyclops mini amp was built with the same platform inherited from MULTI-PAD100.

“…What I like about this is that it’s really perfect for someone just starting out on guitar (or bass), and wants to have some effects and amp/cab sims without spending hundreds of dollars on pedals … AND for you parents out there, they can just plug in their headphones and jam silently! They can also just plug the output into their guitar or bass amp and play loud too 🙂

For the advanced player, this will be good to plug in and go when inspiration hits, without setting up an entire rig…. And to practice with headphones without bothering the family!

I’m giving this 5 stars because it’s great for beginners and good enough for accomplished musicians, at a very affordable price!” – Jupes from Allentown, PA.

Students have been able to practice silently on portable keyboards with headphones ever since Casio introduced the first portable keyboard—the CT-201—in 1980. Connect a set of headphones, and the sound to the instrument’s main speakers is automatically cut off, enabling the user to practice in total silence. Since this capability has existed for decades, it’s easy to take it for granted technologically and pedagogically. But a lot has changed over the years that has made silent learning more engaging and enjoyable.

Perhaps the most important benefit of digital pianos over acoustic pianos is they enable schools to fit more portable keyboards or digital pianos into a given practice space so more students can be near one another—either practicing solo or together in a piano lab.

Moreover, headphones can provide an exceptional and immersive listening experience since the sound comes directly into the ear. Casio Grand Hybrid digital pianos, which represent the convergence of digital and acoustic piano technology, feature headphone mode, which remixes the grand piano tone to suit the binaural perception of the human ear. This creates a more natural sound when wearing headphones, providing a spacious sonic image, and recreating the feeling of playing an acoustic piano. This significantly enhances the experience, encouraging the pianist to play naturally and feel the sound field of a traditional grand piano. Moreover, Casio Grand Hybrid pianos feature the rich sound of three world-class concert grand pianos—Berlin, Hamburg, and New York—which adds to the piano’s realism and authenticity. 

Part of the enjoyment of playing a traditional acoustic piano is informed by the position of the piano’s lid and of the listener. When playing Casio Grand Hybrid pianos with headphones, users can experience simulated lid positions, including full open, semi-open and removed entirely. They can also choose to listen as a player, which provides slight reverb, clear resonance, clear mechanical noise and wide panning, or as an audience member, hearing deep and long reverb, specific equalizing, and narrow panning of the tone.

Casio Piano Lab Example

Grand Hybrid pianos truly shine in the context of a piano lab. As such, Casio America and its piano dealers work closely with school districts across the U.S. to implement powerful and versatile piano labs typically ranging in size up to 16 units (plus a teacher instrument). 

Deborah Moore, director of Institutional Sales & Service, Central & South Texas, Steinway Piano Gallery of San Antonio, designs and installs piano labs consisting of Casio GP310 student consoles connected to a Casio GP510 teacher piano (for school districts that are particularly budget-conscious, Moore installs Casio AP710 pianos for each student unit and a GP310 for the teacher piano, since these instruments share the same operating system). 

The instruments, teacher and students can seamlessly communicate with one another thanks to the Korg GEC5 Audio Controller, the most advanced system in group instruction technology. Featuring an intuitive, easy-to-use software user interface, multiple practice and instruction modes and fully digital stereo sound, the GEC5 takes the Casio piano lab to a new level of high efficiency and creates a superior “silent” classroom experience. Unlike other piano lab offerings, The Casio Grand Hybrid/Korg GEC5 package provides wireless tablet integration, enabling the instructor to float freely around the classroom without being tethered to the teacher’s piano. Using a microphone-equipped headset plugged directly into an iPad, the instructor can communicate one-on-one or talk to the entire class (lecture mode). The software allows lab configurations to be easily saved and recalled, particularly useful when students use the same piano during class.

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