Above: Terry Bozzio’s not-so-compact-kit. Image Credit: Wikipedia
OK, so you want a new kit but you hate big, bulky drums. As much as small drums make me cringe, I get it. You don’t want to go through the trouble of having to try and fit a drum set that comes with a 22″ or 24″ bass drum into your two-passenger Mazda Miata. You also don’t enjoy getting smacked in the back of your head every time you turn around because your bass drum is bulging out of the back seat…I get it. This is a common unpleasant thing that most drummers go through. But wait…there is a solution.
The thought of implementing smaller drum sizes came about in the 1940s. Jazz music was thriving at that time, but it was a more “controlled” style of jazz than what you hear today. Drummers essentially kept a solid beat a majority of the time. The music was used mostly as a form of entertainment for bars and clubs; making it excellent for dancing and livening the mood.
With the rise of bebop, however, jazz became more experimental and free. Drummers now could improvise and really explore the possibilities of what a drum set is capable of. This sparked the transition into the need for smaller sized drums to fit the style/sound of the music.You had drummers like Max Roach and Ron Hayes paving the way and really showing you how you can get these tight snappy sounds out of these smaller drum sizes. This took a huge weight off drummers (literally), because now they could venture outside the norm musically and didn’t have to worry about lugging a ginormous bass drum around. And thus, small drums were born.
Sizes, sizes, sizes! Sticking to a kit where no drum exceeds 20″ is key, anything bigger and you’ve got yourself facing the same problems as your old kit. If you don’t want to jump into anything too small right away, then stick with something like the Premier APK Club Ace kit. This comes with a 20″ x 10″ bass drum, 10″ x 6.5″ high tom, 13″ x 11″ floor tom and a 13″ x 5.5″ snare. All birch shells, giving you a nice bright tone, with tons of attack. I like this kit because it’s simple. There isn’t a lot of extra stuff that you don’t need. It’s a kit that is easy to set up and plays right out of the box. It also features Premier’s low-mass lugs that blend perfectly with the style of the kit. Premier threw on an ISO tom mount as well, allowing for adjustments to be made with ease. There are a few different options of sparkled wraps offered for this kit that will surely meet all your sparkly needs.
Is the Premier kit too big for you? No problem. There are so many options for smaller sizes. Ludwig also makes a sick compact drum kit, the Breakbeats. This was designed by living legend Questlove (The Roots, Jimmy Fallon Show). This is perfect for club shows, apartment living, or even touring artists that have little space to work with. The Breakbeats kit comes with a 14″ x 16″ bass drum, 13″ X 13″ floor tom, 7″ X 10″ high tom and a 5″ X 14″ snare. This thing will fit almost anywhere and is excellent for fans of jazz, funk, soul and pop because you can get that crisp sound out of the toms that just makes them sing. However, this kit also has plenty of warmth and resonance, and with the right heads and tuning, can work for multiple genres.
Oh and P.S., the snare on this kit is amazing. Some companies seem to fall short in that category when it comes to full-on drum set packages, not Ludwig. If you slap on a good thin-plied snare head (Remo Ambassador or an Evans Genera Dry Vented Coated) and crank up the tuning, you can get a responsive whip out of it. This is awesome for a drummer who plays a lot of ghost notes because they come through superbly. I also am a huge fan of the lugs on these. They have Keystone-style lugs, which are modeled after vintage lugs they would use on their kits back in the ’70s. This gives it more of that vintage style and look, which I am a sucker for. Ludwig also offers soft shell cases for these, allowing you to break these down with easy transportation to any gig.
Pacific Drums has a kit with a similar concept to Ludwig’s Breakbeats, called the New Yorker Bop. This is also a 4-piece, but with a little larger of a bass drum, coming in at 14″ x 18.” These are comprised of all popular shells (similar to birch) which excel in higher tunings, offering a nice crisp sound with great attack. However, I have found that you can still get a good amount of low end and a nice thump when you tune these low. Also, like the Breakbeats kit, this comes with a great-sounding snare. The odd 6″ x 13″ snare size allows it to cover more ground than you may think. With the medium-sized depth you can get decent amount of body out of the snare, but the smaller diameter allows you to still retain that high end crack. This is a great kit for someone who is starting to gig locally or just needs a small practice kit.
It’s crazy, right? Smaller drums fix everything. No more hauling around a massive kit, while trying to carry as many pieces into the venue at one time as you can–because you are trying not to look like the lazy band member that barely carries anything in. No more worrying whether your drums will fit in your car or not. You now have the freedom to move your head where ever you please while driving. Ahhh…so luxurious