The dynamics of a beam treated with an unconstrained damping layer are investigated. The damping layer is applied either uniformly or in a distributed fashion. The effect of the distributed damping layer treatment on the dynamic displacement and the stresses are studied. The beam is subjected to a point harmonic excitation at the first three natural frequencies. It is found that the use of a distributed layer damping treatment can reduce the requirement of added material considerably. Or, in other words, a considerable amount of reduction in the dynamic stresses and the dynamic displacements can be obtained for the same amount of added damping layer material. © 1996 Academic Press Limited.