How to Mute a Steel Pan (Steel Drum)
A mute for a steel pan can easily be made from car door trim that you can find in any auto parts store or even at Walmart. A lot of instrumentalists, like trumpet players, use a mute to lessen their sound. Sometimes they can save a gig for you if you are performing in a very small or especially loud space. Also, you may need to practice and the neighbors are complaining or your own family is saying it’s too loud. This is when a mute for your steel drum can be very handy. Car door trim is a very good way to mute a steel pan because a pan has an edge on the bottom of the skirt and car door trim happens to fit right over it very easily. There is a chrome looking trim for your chrome pan and a black trim that looks great on a black steel pan. There are two kinds, however. One has some glue in it and you may want to avoid that and get the kind that doesn’t have the glue. You’ll find it just basically snaps on the bottom edge of your steel pan skirt. You may want to keep a length of it in your steel pan case for when you need it.
When you do this you might use about a three foot section. A little less than 3 foot will cover the bottom edge of the skirt on the front half of the steel pan and this is usually enough. If you really want to quiet the steel drum, you can put it all the way around. That takes about six feet of trim.
You can also use a small piece a few inches to several inches long if your steel pan has a little bit too much ring overall for your taste. Some use a magnet on the inside of the skirt for that purpose, but you may find the trim can also be very effective for a steel pan that has too much ring.
When you mute the steel pan, it takes out a lot of the high end and brightness while making your pan softer and quieter. That tends to be a good thing because that’s the edge of the sound that bothers people who are hearing too much of your instrument. A more advanced steel pan player can just play soft or even at a whisper, but if you have a long gig to play, it’s not nearly as fun as being able to hit away. With the mute you can play with more force and enjoy playing your steel pan while not having to worry about being too loud for the room you are playing in.