Getting a small kit

philrudd

Senior Member
I've been experimenting and working with a small kit recently, for a variety of reasons. A lower-volume kit allows me flexibility to play more kinds of venues (small clubs, restaurants, etc.), play with more kinds of artists (mainly female singers in front of a small combo), and concentrate on different technical aspects of my playing (there's less to hide behind when you're playing quietly).

But mainly, it's because during lockdown I started using a Pearl Rhythm Traveler bass drum and piccolo snare at home so that I wouldn't blow out the neighbors, and I wound up having an absolute blast with the tiny kit. Not sure why - perhaps just because it's something different - but I really enjoy playing that kit.

So for all these reasons I'm looking at getting a 'proper' tiny kit. The Rhythm Traveler isn't bad at all - I've actually recorded with it and got some great results - but I'm really interested in the Catalina-type, small jazz kits.

My searching has led me to nearly settle on the Tama Club Jam. The price is unbeatable, it looks great, and I've read many, many positive reviews about how it produces full-kit sound at small-kit volume (which is exactly what I'm looking for).

So two main questions:
1) How many of you have, or have had, a Tama Club Jam kit, and what do/did you think?
2) What kind of heads would you recommend for such a kit? On my Rhythm Traveler bass drum I've got an Evans EMAD and I love the way it sounds and feels, so I'd probably use one of those on the Tama kick too, but I'm not sure what kind of heads would be best for the other drums.

Any feedback is much appreciated. Thanks!
 

philrudd

Senior Member
If you like the Rhythm Traveler, the Tama Club Jam would probably be perfect. But I'm not sure it's a substantial upgrade to what you already have.
Well, a big part of it is that the Rhythm Traveler kit I got wasn't complete - it was just the bass drum and a tom. Plus, the RT kit's toms have no bottom heads. They just don't have enough 'body' and sustain, I thought the Club Jam toms looked a lot closer to 'real' toms.

Do you think it would be worth it, then, to spring for the extra $200-300 and get a Gretsch Catalina kit? Heard great things about those, too, but never played one.
 

IBitePrettyHard

Senior Member
Well, a big part of it is that the Rhythm Traveler kit I got wasn't complete - it was just the bass drum and a tom. Plus, the RT kit's toms have no bottom heads. They just don't have enough 'body' and sustain, I thought the Club Jam toms looked a lot closer to 'real' toms.

Do you think it would be worth it, then, to spring for the extra $200-300 and get a Gretsch Catalina kit? Heard great things about those, too, but never played one.
A proper kit like a Catalina would be a substantial upgrade, absolutely. But, it will be much louder.

The Rhythm Traveler is a major "compromise" kit. Portability is the number 1 selling point, but it falls well short in the sound dept. It's so quiet because the shells are shallow and low mass, and there are no bottom heads.

Some smaller kits you should consider...

The Pearl Midtown is a "micro" kit that sounds better than any short stack kit like the Rhythm Traveler or Tama Club Jam. It's still very much a portable kit, it will be louder, but not too much louder.

Yamaha Stage Custom Bop. One of the most recommended lines on this forum.

Gretsch Catalina Club bop. This kit sounds the best to my ears, but the hardware is a little lacking. And it's more expensive.

PDP Concept Maple Bop. Fantastic sounding drums for the price. Sound about as good as the Catalina Club IMO.

If you want to buy a "real" kit, but it's too loud, you could get mesh heads for it. Although they aren't as fun to play and don't feel like real heads.
 

philrudd

Senior Member
A proper kit like a Catalina would be a substantial upgrade, absolutely. But, it will be much louder.

The Rhythm Traveler is a major "compromise" kit. Portability is the number 1 selling point, but it falls well short in the sound dept. It's so quiet because the shells are shallow and low mass, and there are no bottom heads.

Some smaller kits you should consider...

The Pearl Midtown is a "micro" kit that sounds better than any short stack kit like the Rhythm Traveler or Tama Club Jam. It's still very much a portable kit, it will be louder, but not too much louder.

Yamaha Stage Custom Bop. One of the most recommended lines on this forum.

Gretsch Catalina Club bop. This kit sounds the best to my ears, but the hardware is a little lacking. And it's more expensive.

PDP Concept Maple Bop. Fantastic sounding drums for the price. Sound about as good as the Catalina Club IMO.

If you want to buy a "real" kit, but it's too loud, you could get mesh heads for it. Although they aren't as fun to play and don't feel like real heads.

This is VERY helpful - I really appreciate you taking the time to lay all this out for me. I've got some online searching to do! Thanks very much, man.

One last thing: once I settle on a kit, I'm going to hit you up for suggestions regarding heads. That's what you get for helping a guy out!...
 

Superman

Gold Member
Some smaller kits you should consider...

If you want to buy a "real" kit, but it's too loud, you could get mesh heads for it. Although they aren't as fun to play and don't feel like real heads.

I'm about to hijack this thread, sorry Phil! Since we are on the topic, are there any bop kits that come with 2 rack toms? I'd like a smaller kick for travel but I'm just not used to a 1 up 1 down kit. If the answer is no, do the above mentioned kits allow you to move the bass mount around to accommodate a left handed drummer?
 

IBitePrettyHard

Senior Member
I'm about to hijack this thread, sorry Phil! Since we are on the topic, are there any bop kits that come with 2 rack toms? I'd like a smaller kick for travel but I'm just not used to a 1 up 1 down kit. If the answer is no, do the above mentioned kits allow you to move the bass mount around to accommodate a left handed drummer?
Bop kits typically only come in the 12/14/18 configuration, but many companies offer add-on drums so you could add a 10" tom. For instance, if you got a Yamaha Stage Custom, their add-on toms are easy to find and super inexpensive. You'd just need to buy a double tom mount or a mount that attaches to a cymbal stand, as bop kits only come with 1 tom arm.

@philrudd There are also more expensive options that I didn't mention if you feel like spending more than $800, but that's not to say the ones I listed are lacking in quality.

As for heads, unless you have special requirements, the go-to answer is usually Remo Ambassadors (or Evans G1s). They're the most universal heads (for people who don't hit hard...for that you'd want 2 ply heads like Emperors or G2s)

I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have about any of those kits, and I'm sure others will chime in as well.
 

sumdrumguy

Senior Member
I've owned small/bop kits (16 and 18 kicks) from Sonor, Gretsch, Ludwig, and Yamaha. I've played (kit shares) similar sets from Tama and Pearl.

Of the smaller sized kits, the Gretsch Catalina had the better sound. 12 and 14 toms, with a really nice, punchy 18x14 kick. I had Aquarian heads all round.

If you are looking at buying something to replace your Rhythm Traveler, the Catalina is definitely worth consideration.
 

philrudd

Senior Member
Bop kits typically only come in the 12/14/18 configuration, but many companies offer add-on drums so you could add a 10" tom. For instance, if you got a Yamaha Stage Custom, their add-on toms are easy to find and super inexpensive. You'd just need to buy a double tom mount or a mount that attaches to a cymbal stand, as bop kits only come with 1 tom arm.

@philrudd There are also more expensive options that I didn't mention if you feel like spending more than $800, but that's not to say the ones I listed are lacking in quality.

As for heads, unless you have special requirements, the go-to answer is usually Remo Ambassadors (or Evans G1s). They're the most universal heads (for people who don't hit hard...for that you'd want 2 ply heads like Emperors or G2s)

I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have about any of those kits, and I'm sure others will chime in as well.

No, no need to go above $800 on the kits...what you've named are perfect for my needs (and budget).

And I am a hard hitter - part of the reason I wanted a smaller kit: so that I can play somewhat close to how I normally play, without blowing out the rest of the band in a setting that doesn't require full volume (though I've definitely modified my technique as well). I'm going to try the G2s you suggest for the toms, but do you think the EMADS would work for the bass drum as well? I like the thud they give...

Again, thanks so much for all the info and insight! Truth to tell I've been playing drums for a long time but I never really applied myself until recently, and that includes researching the best equipment for my needs. I'm a bit embarrassed to have to ask this kind of stuff, for a guy of my (ahem) advanced years, but what you've offered has been unbelievably helpful.
 

philrudd

Senior Member
I've owned small/bop kits (16 and 18 kicks) from Sonor, Gretsch, Ludwig, and Yamaha. I've played (kit shares) similar sets from Tama and Pearl.

Of the smaller sized kits, the Gretsch Catalina had the better sound. 12 and 14 toms, with a really nice, punchy 18x14 kick. I had Aquarian heads all round.

If you are looking at buying something to replace your Rhythm Traveler, the Catalina is definitely worth consideration.

Excellent info, drumguy. Thank you for the input. For the Aquarian heads, what weight/style did you use?
 

sumdrumguy

Senior Member
The gigs were low volume, restaurant gigs playing a mix of Soul-Jazz-Rnb standards. Vocalist, guitar, bass, keys/sax, and drums.

I had Aquarian Modern Vintage for the snare, and 12" tom, batters. Deep Vintage on the 14". Resonant heads on the toms were single ply texture coated. For the kick I kept it simple; Super Kick I with the stock reso.

The combination of vintage batters with coated resonants yielded a nice punchy but warm tone. A punchy silky smooth. Perfect for that kind of setting.
 

IBitePrettyHard

Senior Member
No, no need to go above $800 on the kits...what you've named are perfect for my needs (and budget).

And I am a hard hitter - part of the reason I wanted a smaller kit: so that I can play somewhat close to how I normally play, without blowing out the rest of the band in a setting that doesn't require full volume (though I've definitely modified my technique as well). I'm going to try the G2s you suggest for the toms, but do you think the EMADS would work for the bass drum as well? I like the thud they give...

Again, thanks so much for all the info and insight! Truth to tell I've been playing drums for a long time but I never really applied myself until recently, and that includes researching the best equipment for my needs. I'm a bit embarrassed to have to ask this kind of stuff, for a guy of my (ahem) advanced years, but what you've offered has been unbelievably helpful.
Emads are my favorite as well, especially for smaller bass drums that may lack some oomph. Runner up is the Superkick II.

I've never been the biggest fan of Remo P3s, but I have one on my Renown 22x18" and it sounds great on that drum.
 

philrudd

Senior Member
No experience with the Tama, but I share your affection for the Rhythm Traveler. I kept the bass drum and snare, ditched the one-sided toms, and replaced them with 2 PDP toms. I described the process in this thread.

Very interesting! And COOL! You're making me rethink things a little - maybe I'll keep the RT bass drum and just find some good toms to go along with it. What you've done requires a lot less $$ than what I'd planned, but it will also require a little more effort - which is just fine with me!...

Just a few questions:
1) What kind of bass drum spurs are those? They look much more substantial than the ones that come with the drum. Did they fit in the RT's native hardware, or did you have to attach new hardware?

2) What kind of head do you have on the bass drum?

3) For the toms, any recommendations besides the PDPs? Not that I have any problem with PDP, just that I don't see many of them on sale around my area (at least on the online marketplace that I usually use).

And thanks very much! This is really valuable stuff for me!
 

philrudd

Senior Member
The gigs were low volume, restaurant gigs playing a mix of Soul-Jazz-Rnb standards. Vocalist, guitar, bass, keys/sax, and drums.

I had Aquarian Modern Vintage for the snare, and 12" tom, batters. Deep Vintage on the 14". Resonant heads on the toms were single ply texture coated. For the kick I kept it simple; Super Kick I with the stock reso.

The combination of vintage batters with coated resonants yielded a nice punchy but warm tone. A punchy silky smooth. Perfect for that kind of setting.

I keep finding recommendations for the Aquarian heads on a kit this size. On my bigger kits it was almost always Remos and occasionally Evans, which also seemed to be the recommended heads for larger kits; what is it about Aquarians that makes them so popular with the smaller kits?
 

IBitePrettyHard

Senior Member
I keep finding recommendations for the Aquarian heads on a kit this size. On my bigger kits it was almost always Remos and occasionally Evans, which also seemed to be the recommended heads for larger kits; what is it about Aquarians that makes them so popular with the smaller kits?
That's a good question because I have a Ludwig Breakbeats kit with a 16" bass drum and I saw online that many people were using an Aquarian Superkick II to make the kick sound better. I bought one and sure enough, it worked.

Also to your other question...you could buy individual Yamaha Stage Custom toms, they're some of the cheapest and yet they sound great.
 

sumdrumguy

Senior Member
I keep finding recommendations for the Aquarian heads on a kit this size. On my bigger kits it was almost always Remos and occasionally Evans, which also seemed to be the recommended heads for larger kits; what is it about Aquarians that makes them so popular with the smaller kits?

I use Aquarians on all my drums, big and small :) They've been my go-to for the last 5 years or so.

Whatever tone/feel/vibe I am looking for, Aquarian has a head that will do the job beautifully (y)
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
Regarding heads - to get a ‘rock’ sound from my small bass drums I’ve been happiest with twin ply heads. One has an emad2, the other has a ps4. Very happy with both.
 
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