Monday, February 13, 2012

About compact portable drum kits

How can you make drum kits more compact? The size of the drum seems to be determinant for its sound and volume so how can effectively reduce the size without loosing quality or quantity of sound? Here's some of the methods that are used most often to create compact drums.

Yamaha Hipgig
Drums are hollow. And typically the different drum shells in a kit come in different sizing. So a first way of making your drum set more compact for transportation, that easily springs to mind, is by making sure you can nest the shells. This works very much like the famous russian dolls (Matryoshka) which can all fit into one another. This technique obviously has some downsides. Somehow you need to ensure you can open up the drum shells, which means that either the shell exists out of 2 pieces (something that will surely have some impact on the resonance of the shell), or you need to figure out a mechanism for easily removable heads (), or just use use single headed shells (which clearly affects the drum sound).

So, nesting drums for transport is a great technique for reducing the volume you need to carry around. But it doesn't reduce the amount of weight you carry around. So while a nested drum might be the solution for the drummer with the small car, it surely doesn't help the drummer that needs to cary his kit across town using the metro, tram or bus lines. He needs compact and light drums

Smaller drum sizes
Another evident technique to make your kit compact is using smaller drums. Some drummers love a 24" bass drum. But when looking for a transportable solution, maybe an 18" or even 16" alternative might do the trick. The same applies for the toms and snare. So if a standard drum kit would typically be 12", 13", 16" and 22" with at 14" snare, you'll notice many of the compact drum sets to have a 10", 13", 16"/18" set-up, with a 13" snare. Obviously that reduces weight as well as size.

Clearly a drum set with such small sizes will not easily give you that solid John Bonham sound, but that's the price you pay.
Premier Artist Heritage
Traps A400

Reduced depth
Reducing the depth of the shells is another way of making the drum set more compact. In some kits, as the Traps A400 kit, this is done to the extreme, leaving on the heads, no shell. While the people at Traps claim that 80% of the sound of the drum, comes from the head, I have my doubts about this statement. Even taking the second head of a normal drum, immediately alters the sound. And the depth of the shell surely matters. Still, the Traps A400 gets good reviews.

Lighter drums and hardware
While acoustic drums are typically made out of maple, mahogany or birch, it comes at no surprise that the portable drum sets are made of mahogany, the wood type with the lowest density of these three.

But the greatest reduction is probably to be gained in the hardware. By mounting cymbals and toms on top of the bass drum, or by mounting multiple parts of the set on one stand, a great weight reduction can be achieved.

Reduced or alternative set-up
The last obvious trick to reduce weight and make the kit more compact, is by using less material. Use 1 or 2 instead of the typical 3 toms, 2 cymbals, not 7, 1 bass drum not 2. But that's the first trick any drummer discovers. However you can go a step further with this concept. The cocktail drum is the probably the best and oldest example of such a reduced and alternative set-up. But recently other alternatives as the gigpig or the suitcase drum have surfaced.

Here's an overview of some kits that are out there.


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