Essential Kits

Here I have put together what I think are the best drummer's drum kits;

Kit 1 - Ringo Starr - Oyster Ludwig - The Beatles 1963-1967

OK - so let's start with a nice minimalist kit. This is the kit used by Ringo from 1963-1967. The kit that made Ludwig a household name and launched a generation of wannabees. Nearly all of Ringo's kits still exist - he took very good care of them!

Kit 2 - Neil Peart Ludwig Kit for Rush A Show of Hands Tour 1988

This kit may be a few albums old but is my fave of Neil's kits. Out of view here are the Simmons Electronic Pads, the Simmons Mallet (basically a synth in the form of a Xylophone) and the multitude of percussion instruments. Prior to this, Neil was a Tama endorsee - this marked his return to American drums - he now uses Drum Workshop. See the other Neil Kits below.....

Kit 3 - Roger Taylor - Ludwig Silver Sparkle - Queen Hot Space Tour 1981

I have seen a lot of Roger's Kits but this is my fave - the Ludwig silver sparkle kit he used for the Hot Space Tour (you can see it on the We Will Rock You concert video). You cannot see them here but this kit also came with a brace of Rototoms and a Gong/Timpani set (the gong was massive and was only used on the end of Bohemian Rhapsody). Roger has changed his kit supplier several times - Yamaha, Pearl and then back to Ludwig (the ultra rare Anniversary model), but he always kept the same basic set up. The first two pics above differ in the conversion to single headed toms on the picture on the right - this is how they appeared on the We Will Rock You Concert Video. The picture on the right is the cover of Another One Bites The Dust and and is an interesting variation on the kit - it also portrays a typically relaxed and understated pose from Freddy.

Kit 4 - Frank Beard - frankly ridiculous Tama kit - ZZ top Tour 1999

I bet his drum-tech must really hate this kit. Tama must like Frank as they made this kit just for him - you can sometimes see this kit wheeled out at music industry shows - how deep are those toms? Now you can see why the Rainforest is vanishing.

Kit 5 - Alex Van Halen - really stupid Ludwig Kit -Van Halen Balance Tour 1995

Alex proves that a drum kit does not need to be practical or playable - just huge! Here you can see, Power Bass Drums (the double size shells are a giveaway), Staccato-type toms (referring to the manufacturer that invented the bent tom shells) and Vistalite-type Octabans. Really big kits have always been a feature of Van Halen - the irony is that Alex's first kit belonged to Eddie Van Halen - Alex used to borrow it when Eddie was on his paper round! Rock history could have been very different.

Kit 6 - Peter Criss - Pearl Kit - late 1970's

Poor old Peter nearly found himself at the top of the worst drummers of all time list in the 2002 Rhythm poll. Like him or loathe him, he certainly knows how to put a drum kit together. This is one of many brilliant kits put together by the Criss.

Kit 7 - Keith Moon - Premier Pictures of Lily Drumkit - late 1960's

This is the kit that Keith used to promote the track Pictures of Lily. Two bass drums back then was a new thing. To protect the innocent, I will not be telling you what Pictures of Lily refers to.

Kit 8 - Keith Moon - Premier Really Big Kit - The Who late 1970's

Then it just got really silly. Two rows of drums, two gongs (Keith was often too knackered to hit the gongs so he just got his drum tech to do it for him from behind the kit). The best way to enter this kit was from above - and this he often did. Also worth mentioning are the numerous modifications that the drum tech (Keith was the first to have his own drum roadie) had to make to make the drums "moon proof" - drilling steel tubes through the hardware so it did not just break is a good example.

Kit 9 - Neil Peart - Tama Artstar Custom 1980 to 1986

It was a real boon for Tama when they landed Neil after his departure from Slingerland in 1980. Neil requested a custom kit (famously finished in Candy Apple Red) that eventually made it out into the public domain as the Artstar. Not that you would have been playing anything like the ones that Neil played - his were Vibraphibed (that is coated on the inside with fiberglass to promote greater resonance), very thin shelled (making them even more resonant) topped off with gold coated hardware. With a few differences, this was more or less the same layout as the Slingerland kit that had lasted until the late 1970's. In 1983, Neil added a set of Simmons SDS5 electronic drums to this set - apart from the other electronic bells and whistles that were added before the white kit I have previously shown above, this is the direct descendant of that kit.....

This kit was famously sold on e-bay for $22,000 after some lucky stiff won it in a modern drummer competition. Eventually it ended up in the collection of a guy who restored it to its original condition - right down to the Camco pedals and Gong drums.

Kit 10 - Billy Cobham - Ambidextrous Yamaha Kit

Billy has always been famous for his mega kits that he used to pioneer jazz-fusion in the 1970's - he used a Fibes Vistalite kit, various concert tom (i.e - single headed toms) kits, some monster Tama kits and is pictured above with his quite insane mega-Yamaha kit. This is a strange set-up as the rack mounted toms run from right to left, as per a left hander, despite the rest of the kit being set up for a right handed user - thus making best use of his ambidextrous skills. This picture cannot really hope to do Billy justice - his speed and power have to be seen close up to be really appreciated.

Kit 11 - Simon Phillips - Mega Tama Kit

Simon has always been known for playing kits a little on the large side - in fact you have no-doubt heard him - he has turned up on the recordings of Toyah, Phd and a million other hits from the 1980's. Most recently he has filled in for the Who and Toto - being as he is replacing Keith Moon and Jeff Pocaro here you can see that his skills are to be respected.

Anyway, back to the kit. Obviously, the large side has been stuck to here - two bass drums - as well as a sideways mounted bass drum (marketed by Tama as the Gong Drum) on the right of the kit. Tama Octabans to his left (which he is famous for using with his feet!) - also worth noting is that the ride cymbal is mounted to the left - despite the fact the rest of the kit is set up for a right hander - he just prefers it that way.

Kit 12 - Billy Cobham - Royal Star Prototype - early 1980's

It's hardly any wonder that Tama had such a fantastic image - their entry level drums were cheap and well made and turned up in the setup of many a Top of the Pops debut (such as Larry Mullen Junior of U2 or Roger Taylor of Duran Duran). At the other end of the scale, they manufactured some outrageous mega-kits to further boost their standing amongst the drumming types with their noses buried in Rhythm magazine in the early 1980's (myself amongst them).

Here is one such kit - a custom one off for Billy Cobham - natural maple was never offered as a finish - and I am sure none of the mere mortals such as myself could have found the transport for five bass drums - arranged two as gong drums and three conventional bass drums. Also here you can see clear Octabans (never really available to anyone except him!) and the unique ambidextrous style. Sometimes, too much can be just right.

Kit 13 - Nicko McBrain - Sonor Concert Tom Kit - Live After Death 1984

I had to trawl my record collection for a decent picture of this kit as I could not find one on-line. This is the concert tom (single headed) kit used on tour by Nicko along with a forest of PAISTE cymbals. I cannot be sure but I think this kit was also used in the studio for Powerslave (perhaps someone can help me out with that?). This runs through all of the sizes from 6" to 18", and despite what you may hear on record, there is only one bass drum and no double pedal for which Nicko famously used the old crusty Ludwig Speedking.

The cymbals are also special, PAISTE Coloursound Power Crashes, PAISTE Rude and PAISTE Sound Creation (which he still uses despite them being long deleted from the PAISTE catalogue).

This kit is the reason that if had asked me in 1986 to name my ideal kit then I would have not even hesitated before I said SONOR. Even now, the sight of a Sonor kit makes me all nostalgic - like the AUDI and VW, Sonor flew the flag for German build quality. Simon Wright of ACDC (as well as the first drummer Phil Rudd) used a Sonor kit. Sarah Maloney of Motley Crue uses a Pink Custom kit (seen below).

Kit 14 - Nicko McBrain Premier Custom Kit - Dance of Death 2004

Two kits with twenty years between them, and not a great deal, apart from swapping from German Sonor to more patriotic English Premier, has changed. Like the Sonor, the premier uses "square" sizes - deep as they are wide. This was a very 1980's style of drum - particularly loved by the Metal Drummers and pioneered by Sonor - whether or not they made any difference to the sound remains to be seen - they bloody looked good!

PAISTE is still the cymbal of choice - and how many of them? Premier have recently furnished Nicko with a custom kit that is finished in Black and White frescos of Eddie the Ead - the Iron Maiden mascot.

Kit 15 - Neil Peart DW Kit - 2000 - 2004

Many people were a bit disappointed when Neil decided to downsize. Mike Portnoy (drummer with Dream Theatre) recently said he was most displeased in a recent magazine interview! Neil said he wanted to go to a more ergonomic setup that suited his new drumming style (he switched to the traditional grip). Neil did start to downsize a little when he was still using Ludwig on the Roll the Bones album - he dropped a bass drum (since double pedals became so affordable many drummers have dropped the extra bass drum) and shifted the toms around a bit.

This new kit has dropped the big 18" floor tom and replaced it with a downsized gong drum (far right drum). The toms are now 8" 10" 12" 13" mounted and a bit more to his left, the 15" floor tom is also to his left, leaving 15" and 16" floor toms to his right. Also note the cowbells have been shifted to his left along with a second shallow snare drum. The main retention from the Ludwig is the Mallet (now called the Mallet Kat - the synth xylophone thingy).

With this kit, Neil has switched two long time endorsements: Ludwig has been switched to Drum Workshop and the old Ziljdians have been replaced by the Sabian Paragon range (designed and endorsed by Neil). I have a bit of a problem with DW - not with the quality (that cannot be doubted), but with the price - totally beyond the drummer in the street. You mainly see DW kits advertised in rhythm marked with the famous signal to losers everywhere: £POA - price on application - translate this as if you need to ask then don't bother! The Sabian Paragon cymbals also got a good review from Rhythm magazine recently - so expect at least one to turn up in my set (but perhaps only an 8" splash on my budget!).

Kit 16 - Neil Peart DW 30th Anniversary Kit - 2004

As if the 51 registered  kit was not special enough (51 was the car number plate letter for 2001 for those of you not from the UK), DW recently built Neil a custom version of the afore mentioned kit with iconography from Rush album covers all over it. For all intents and purposes it is the original DW kit but with an awesome finish. Truly there can be no more special kit with which to take out on your thirty year tour. This kit includes the new Roland Electronics that have been modified to accept a drum shell made by DW - truly extravagant!

  

The picture above turned up in the July/August 2004 Issue of DRUM! - an American drumming magazine - there were also two items in the mag which caught my eye - the map of Neil Peart's kit and an advert for PEACE Drums - shamelessly building their own Neil Peart drum kit to cash in on the surge in Neil Peart related material just now. This is to advertise their range of highly regarded budget line of drums (but the shells are maple - how are they budget?!). I have included the two articles above ....... click on the thumbnails to go there..... click on the left link to see the map of Neil's kit, click right link to see the blatant, almost cheeky, PEACE advertisement....

Kit 17 - Neil Peart - Slingerland Kit late 1970's

This was pretty much the Neil Kit post All the World's a Stage - when the band's more progressive style required that there would need to be a bigger arsenal of sounds up on the riser. This was more or less the arrangement of the kit even after Tama took over with the tubular bells eventually being usurped by the electronic "satellite" kit. This is great picture that is full of detail - the Premier Tubular Bell set, the wooden blocks and a few chime trees. The right of the picture is occupied by the beloved concert toms and an orchestral glockenspiel. I think the sizes are 6 8 10 12 (concerts) 12 13 15 (mounted) and I may be wrong but I can only see the one floor tom. Also of note is the patterned shirt that you cannot get nowadays and the knacker-crushing shorts (which - along with the superb composition of the shot - leads me to believe that this picture was taken during a sound check).

Kit 18 - Samantha Maloney - Sonor Custom Barbie Kit - Motley Crue Tour

You have to admire the guts of Samantha - going out on tour with notorious Hotel Wreckers, Motley Crue! (but then she did play with Hole!) Sam takes her drumming very seriously and just one look at her website will tell you that she takes great pride in her job.

Like all custom Sonor jobs, this is a serious piece of wood - the shells are finished in Pink Sparkle and are mega deep - the snare drum being a deep bugger as well. In fact the set up is very similar to the Cozy Powell set up in its symmetrical style. It should be noted that the kit used with Motley Crue is in fact a double bass job and also not always pink - still - a great looking kit - and a Sonor.

Kit 19 - The Terry Bozio Drumkit

There's monster drum kits - and then there's the Terry Bozio kit. This is made by Drum Workshop and incorporates a host of features that you will never find anywhere - pedal operated snare drums (positioned at the rear of the kit) - pairs of cymbals arranged into double ride cymbals. Just look at the pedals at the left of the kit (there's eleven pedals in total!). This drum kit is so big that Terry keeps one in Europe and one in the States - bearing in mind the logistics of moving the bloody thing around.

Kit 20 - The Mike Portnoy Doppleganger Tama Kit

There's a nuclear arms race going on here between Bozio and Portnoy! Mike plays for progressive rock band Dream Theater and employs this ridiculous drum kit that is basically two drum kits built into one - thus the term Doppleganger. This kit includes octobans, electronics, gong-drums and just about every percussion instrument that you could name. Are there actually any other drum kits that require two thrones? Mike is unashamedly prog - he knows his kit is over the top, but does not care. That's the spirit.

Kit 21 - The Carl Palmer PAISTE Cymbal Brass Kit

Way back in the 1970's when Prog was huge, Carl Palmer (the P in Emerson, Lake & Palmer) famously had British Steel build him a steel kit (nowadays he would be hard pushed to get British Industry to build anything over here - unless he asked some call centre operators to  build him a kit out of old computer desks and clip mics). All of his kits have been monsters - this is the band that defined progressive rock excess, so it was inevitable that the drum kit would be a part of that excess. The latest kit is a kit built by the cymbal manufacturer PAISTE. This kit is built from 2002 model cymbal brass and has to be perhaps the heaviest kit in the world - better bring along that extra roadie and a forklift.

Kit 22 - The Phil Collins Concert Tom Kit

Phil initially used a tiny Gretsch kit (four piece!) when he first joined Genesis in the early 1970's. Eventually, the kit grew as the music became more complicated until he settled on a kit of this shape around the time of And Then There Were Three - 1978. This further evolved until the kit you see here took shape round about the time of the Duke album. Phil used concert toms at this time and their wide open and undamped sound gave his sound a real individuality - In The Air Tonight and Mama are the best places to hear this nice ringy sound. The Simmons pads that were used at this time are also interesting. The big fear was that heavy handed drummers like Phil would end up hurting themselves when whacking the Simmons pads, due to the fact that they had no give whatsoever. Phil got around this by turning the Pads volume in the monitors right up to discourage the hard hitting! Phil's use of the pads can be best heard (and seen on the concert video) on Home by the Sea or That's All.

Kit 23 - The Stewart Copeland Tama

Stewart and the Police helped make two things cool in the 1970's: Reggae and Tama. Whilst most American new-wave drummers were going for Rogers kits, Stewart went for this cleverly designed Tama kit. The one you see here is a Tama Superstar - top of the range, but the first Tama kit he used was an Imperial Star - most certainly bottom of the range. This kit is worth mentioning for the inclusion of the tiny bass drum (allowed the toms to be quite low and easy to get to - it also gives the illusion that Stewart is about eight feet tall), the Octobans (actually mounted from right to left at the right of the kit above - opposite to what they should be), the ridiculous tight snare sound and the PAISTE RUDE cymbals that he used live (he never used them in the studio as they were so loud!). Later versions of this kit incorporated Simmons Pads at the back. This bloke is a top drummer - would be a shame not to have him at least somewhere on the site.

Kit 24 - The Mark Brezicki Pearl Kit

Mark played with Big Country in the 80's and 90's - I seem to recall that they were one of the few 80's bands that I have ever liked (the Bagpipe Guitar band!). He has also played with Pete Townsend, Ultravox and been in demand for a lot of sessions (most notably playing on most of the Cult's Love album). The kit you see above was the Pearl kit that he used with Big Country. Of note is the "free floater" snare drum - i.e it has no hardware drilled into the shell, giving a clearer sound (so it says) - this is the snare that Mark is holding on the right hand picture. I had a real problem finding a picture of this kit, so you will have to take my word for the upturned bass drum to Mark's right, and the chinese cymbal that was essentially just a hammered flat bin lid.

This pic does show Mark's pretty impressive height - he was so tall that whenever they took promo shots of the band, they would get Mark to stand in a ditch or something - so he didn't tower over the rest of the band.

Kit 25 - Animal - Muppets Late 1970's

Animal preferred an unconventional set up - here he has two bass drums and four floor toms. Also - only using just a couple of cymbals is a nice move as well - a real innovator!

 Back to Essential....