Choosing A Kit For Jazz

I’ve had my PDP MainStage kit for eight years now and it’s time to upgrade. I started out playing all rock but I’ve now transitioned to mostly jazz. I’m having a hard time deciding between kits and I have a few I like. The DW Frequent Flyer, Gretsch Renown Jazz Kit, and the PDP Concept maple classic with a snare of my choice. All of the kits sound great, but I’m not sure what would be the most versatile. If anyone has any suggestions for other sets that would be great also. Thanks :)


Platinum Member
The frequent flyer appeals to me because of the shallow 20” bass drum , which seems more versatile than 18” drums. It also has thin maple shells, which seem right for jazz, and it’s lightweight and easy to travel with. But I don’t like the current finishes, I prefer the white onyx.

Having said this, I haven’t played any of the kits you’ve listed, so my opinion is only based on looking, not playing.


Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
You could try or look at the Gretsch Catalina Club with a 14 x 20 or 14 x 18 bass drum. I have seen many unboxings of these sets on Youtube.
They have 12 rack and 14 floor toms.



Platinum Member
I played an awful lot of jazz on a pretty standard 13/16/22 kit. It's a lot easier (imho) to play jazz on a standard kit than rock on a little bop kit.

I'd suggest getting a standard size kit and go with a set of heads that are more suited to what you're playing now. If that changes down the road, you may only need to change out the heads if you start playing rock again.


Senior Member
The Gretsch Renown is a step above the others. I have the Renown with 10, 12, 14, 16 toms and 20" bass drum.

It's incredibly versatile and especially sounds great tuned high. I'd even recommend buying a used RN1 or RN2 Renown over any of the others you mentioned. The quality and sound is really that good.

Like Winston_Wolf said, unless you're ONLY playing jazz I'd look at more versatile bass drum sizes like 20" or 22".

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
In a theoretical sense, play what you like. You're the one that will make the gig sound "jazzy" or "rocky". This is why the standard 13/16/22 is such a popular set-up - you can use to play anything and it will fit in well with whatever you're playing. I agree that it's easier to play jazz on a rock kit than the other way around. So really, any 12/16/22 or 13/16/22 will do. It's all up to how you tune and play. I prefer bigger drums all the time because it's easier for me to tone down with technique rather than overplay to make a small kit sound big when I need it to. Be bold - play what you like rather than fall for the correct marketing.


On youtube recently I came across an old clip of Tony Williams at a clinic and he was saying that he uses the same drums for everything, and adjusts his dynamics as required, rather than adjusting the gear.

I think when you turn up for a gig, not many people are going to notice or care what kind of gear you're playing unless something is sticking out sonically, or if you're taking up too much space on the stage. There are always those outliers, but I imagine for the most part it's only other drummers who would notice.
I don't think there is such a thing as a "best sounding jazz kit" as you say. It's mostly a matter of playing and head choice what makes a jazz kit a jazz kit. But, and that's very important in my opinion, there are kits that inspire my playing, whilst others don't. In other words, some kits make me feel happy right away, others don't. Since everybody has his/her individual preferences, you should visit your local dealer and try as many sets as possible and get the one that speaks to you.

My choice would probably be a Gretsch Renown though ;)

If you are into Jazz, keep in mind that you might want your set to compete with a whole Big Band some day. A typical bebop kit sort of gets lost against a 15 person horn section, so you should prefer bigger sizes, a bigger bass drum in particular.
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Drifter in the Dark

Silver Member
Yes, the Renown kit would be a great choice! Regardless of drums sizes or shell material, head selection and tuning go a long way toward achieving your desired "jazzy" sound. If you use single-ply coated batter heads like Remo Ambassadors (even on the bass drum!) and tension them relatively tightly, you'll be on your way! Sounds Like A Drum has a great video about this topic on their youtube channel:


Platinum Member
I can attest to the fact that the Renown (RN1 and RN2) do a fairly good job at capturing the Gretsch USA glory. While won't go as far as to say they're indistinguishable, you'd really need to have experience with both in order to hear the delta. I have no experience with the "new" Renowns (post-cast-hoop), but have not heard anything negative about them.

If had to buy a kit for a jazz trio today.. I'd grab a George Way for the old standards or an iNDE for modern/nouveau stuff.


Well-known member
id say frequent flyer, the bass drum is versatile and you can buy add on toms (a 16" for rock) but its the best jazz kit out of the ones you mentioned