People ask me all the time, what kind of drums do you play? What kind of Cymbals? What kind of hardware? etc.. OK, here's the scoop...
Drums: Currently, I'm using three different drum kits for gigs, but one of them is only used on rare occasion, when I'm playing with some great musicians who like to play with some muscle to their sound concept, or when I'm looking for more of an old fashioned, "big" classic rock sound with deep flatter sounding toms, a fat deep sounding bass drum, and a darker, wetter sounding snare drum. As a sidebar, I have one drum kit that I use for a practice and teaching instrument that is in my basement studio. It is an old 1964 Ludwig Super Classic four piece with a walnut wood finish. It never leaves the house.
All my gigging drum kits are made by Pearl Drums. They are over 30 years old, and are actually Pearls that were made in Japan, rather than in Pearl's factory in the USA. When Pearl first came out in the early 1970s, they were all made in Japan, and they soon had a huge market share due to their quality. I remember back in the 1970s seeing the late great Ed Shaunessey, of the Tonight Show band playing Pearl Drums. That perked my interest in the brand, and I ended up buying a set of Pearls in 1973. They are still in my basement, and I now use them for spare parts, since it is difficult to get parts for the 30 year old Japanese Pearl drums that are my regular working musical instruments. The only part of my various drum kits that are not Pearl are my snare drums. Yes, I had several Pearl snare drums, and I have snare drums made by Gretsch, Maryland Drum, Slingerland, and Maple Works. However, my main gigging snare drums are by Ludwig. I just love the sound of Ludwig snare drums. My main working Ludwig snare drums are all 14" in diameter, and are either 6 1/2" or 5" deep. They are metal shell drums either brass or copper shells. I like the brightness of a metal shell drum as opposed to a wooden shell drum, even though I have used wooden shell snare drums on certain gigs.
All my regular gigging cymbals are by the Swiss cymbal company, Paiste. I purchased my first Paiste cymbal, a 20" 2002 series ride cymbal, back in 1978, and I was hooked by the sound concept from that moment on. I have had some drummer look down their noses at me for using Paiste cymbals rather than some other brands, but I think that the Paiste sound concept is a major contributing factor to my overall sound product.
Now that we have gotten the preliminaries out of the way, here are my main gigging drum kits that are used on a regular basis:
This is my "general purpose" drum kit that I use for about 75% of all my gigs. It can be run acoustically as is, or it can be slightly modified if it needs to to miked up or deadened slightly for recording studio situations.
I use a 22" X 14" deep bass drum. I know most players today, like a 16" or 18" deep bass drum. I like the 14", because it has more of that old fashioned sound. The batter head is an Evans EQ3 frosted with the second tone control ring removed, allowing for a bass drum with some ring to it. I like a bass drum with some life. I don't like a dead thump, even though I know that sound is popular with a lot of very fine drummers. I use Evans Kevlar impact pads to protect the head. Since I use a double pedal with hard plastic beaters most of the time, the impact pads are double wide. I also stack two of the pads on top of each other for added protection. The Evans Kevlar pads are very thin, so they don't have any real noticeable effect on the resonance of the drum. The front head is an Evans EQ3 Resonant head with a sound hole. For acoustic playing, the sound hold allows enough air to escape the drum, preventing it from having too much ring. It also makes it easy to dampen the drum if I am in a situation where the drum is going to be miked up. For dampening purposes, I use bath towels. I lay them down on the bottom of the inside of the drum, so that they are touching both heads. I will use one, two, or occasionally three towels in order to get the right amount of dampening, while still maintaining a good round fat bass drum sound. I tune the batter head so that it produces maximum tone, and then I tune the front head, so that it gives the drum the maximum amount of resonance. I do not have the strongest feet in the world, so I want the drum to do most of the work for me. I am primarily a heel down player. That is how I was taught when I was growing up, and at 60 years old, let's just say I am as they say, "set in my ways." I also tend to tune the bass drum a little higher in pitch than a lot of players, because I have found that by putting some tension on the heads you not only get more bounce, you also get more tone.
I use two tom toms, a mounted tom and a floor tom. The floor tom is actually slung from a cymbal stand. I have found that by mounting the the floor tom, you get more resonance than you do if your floor tom actually uses legs setting it on the floor. The mounted tom on the bass drum is a 12" in diameter by 10" deep tom. Nothing special there. It's just a standard 12" mounted tom. The slung floor tom is a little bit of an odd size. It's 15" by 15". When I bought the drums I was in one of my youthful crazy stages in which I wanted a large drum set. The music store had a whole bunch of drums that were of the same finish, so I went crazy and bought a lot more drums than I would ever really need in real life. The mounted toms were 12", 13", 14" X 14", and 15" X 15". Along with them came a 16" X 16" floor tom and an 18" X 16" deep floor tom. The 15" drum became converted into the general purpose "floor tom." Both toms have Evans Genera G1 coated heads top and bottom. There was also a 20" X 14" deep bass drum, that I didn't purchase. I wish that I had, since there are some rooms where the 20" would be a better choice that the 22". Eventually, I'll find a 20", and I will purchase it, and refinish it to match the other drums if necessary. I will use the Evans EQ3 heads, front and back with no sound hole for that drum.
For snare drums, my usual drums are by Ludwig. They are metal shell drums, 14" in diameter. I use a 5" deep brass shell drum for most general playing. If I want a little deeper sound, I'll switch to a 6 1/2" deep brass drum. If I want a darker sound without going to a wood shell drum, I'll use a 6 1/2" deep copper shell drum. All drums have Evans Genera G1 coated heads as batter heads, and Evans 300 series snare heads on the bottom. I like the warmth that you get from the Evans heads. Plus, the coating seems to last longer than some of the other brands that I've tried.
Like I mentioned earlier, I use Paiste cymbals. My standard set up is a ride cymbal, a set of hi hats, and two crash cymbals. I will switch cymbals depending on the band and the room. My main "general purpose" cymbal rig is a 22" Signature Series Mark 1 ride cymbal, a 16" and 18" Signature Series full crashes, and a set of 14" Signature Series Heavy Hi Hat cymbals. My alternative set is a 22" Traditional Series light ride cymbal, 16" and 18" Mellow Crash cymbals, and a set of 14" Signature Series Dry Crisp hi hats.
Kit #2: I use this kit for smaller rooms like the Winery in Olney, and the Stein Room in Leisure World, where the room is small, the space is tight, and I need a much lighter sound. For this kit, I use an 18" X 14" deep bass drum with Evans EQ3 heads front and back. There is no sound hole in the front head. The tom toms are a 10" X 10" mounted tom, and a 14" X 14" slung floor tom. I use the Evans L series etched heads on the toms, top and bottom. For the snare drum, I use a Mapleworks 14" X 4" deep snare drum with an L series etched head for a batter and an Evans 200 series snare head. For Cymbals, I use a 20" Traditional Series Light Ride, 16" and 17" fast crashes, and 14" Traditional Series Dry Crisp hi hats. The 10" tom is one that I refinished myself to match the other drums in the kit.
Kit #3: This is for when I need a really big rock sound, and I don't use this kit often. It has a 24" X 16" deep bass drum, with Evans EQ3 heads front and back. The front head has a sound hole, 13" and 16" toms with Evans Genera G2 batter heads and G1 heads on the resonant side. The snare drums will be from my usual selection, with the Ludwig brass shell drum as the main snare drum. The only other main difference is I use a Paiste 22" Signature Series Dry Heavy Ride for a ride cymbal. The crashes are my 16" and 18" Full Crashes, and I use the 14" heavy high hats.
For hardware, I use a Pearl double bass drum pedal, a Tama Iron Cobra hi hat stand, a Pearl single braced snare drum stand, and Yamaha single braced cymbal stands, with the necessary hardware addition to one of the cymbal stands to mount the Pearl tom arm for the slung floor tom, and Pearl tom arms. The toms also use the Rims mounting system, which suspends the drums giving them more ring and tone. On very rare occasion, I will use another Pearl cymbal stand to mount a swish cymbal over the "floor tom." I don't do this often, because I haven't found the swish cymbal that I really like. However, when I do, I play the cymbal right side up, rather than upside down like a lot of players do. My main purpose for a swish, is for a ride behind a soloist. I am going to try one of the new Paiste 602 Formula swish cymbals and see how that works out.
So basically, I use a four piece kit for 99% of my work. These are my working kits that I use on my live gigs. I will cover what I use in recording studio situations in another post. I hope this has been helpful.
One final note I would like to add to this post is this: Don't get into the habit of tuning your drums too low. I realize that you want the drums to sound good to you from the drum chair, but keep in mind, that is not what the audience is hearing. You want the drums to sound good to them, and you have to have some tension on the drums in order to get some tone, as well as get the sound of the drums over the amplifiers if you are not miked. Get used to the sound of drums that ring. It's the ring that projects the sound of the instrument, without you having to kill yourself volume wise, in order to get any sort of sound and/or projection. I can usually tell a pro from an amateur player by the way they tune their drums. If the drums sound like flat oatmeal boxes out front, chances are the drummer is an amateur player. If the drums have a nice big round sound that is full of tone out front, and they are not miked, there is a very good chance that the drummer is a professional player, and understands the concept of tuning the drums for the audience and not just for him or herself. Miking and studio work will be covered in another post.