The paper analyses the damping characteristics obtained using a distributed magnetostrictive layer bonded to an aluminum beam for different boundary conditions and coil configurations. The magnetostrictive layer produces the actuating force required to control the vibration in the beam, based on a negative velocity feedback control law. The control input is the current to the solenoid surrounding the beam. Prior formulations in the literature have assumed that the current through the coil is a function of axial distance. Even though this assumption is mathematically valid, a physical consideration of the problem limits such an assumption. In the present study, perhaps for the first time, a finite element formulation, physically consistent with the problem has been developed. Vibration reduction in the beam, by positioning the magnetostrictive layer and its current carrying actuating coil pair along the beam is investigated. Issues associated with control for different boundary condition are highlighted. © 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.