Gigging Sets: New vs Vintage


Senior Member
What is the general consensus for playing new vs vintage kits in a live setting.

What is you typical year cut off to determine if the kit is going back on the road or to be set to pasture in your basement, garage, cases, museum?

I have a 76 Luddy (24/14/18) that I have retired to their cases. This is mainly because it was my dad's and the sizes are not what I am interested in playing anymore.

For the past few years I've been gigging w/ a Yamaha Stage Custom (10/12/14/20) I purchased new. This is my main workhorse and has held up quite well.

I like the sound of old wood but I can't see myself bringing it out again.

What are you thoughts?


Active member
My first thought is that a drum is meant to be played. And I'm luckier than most in that I have the room to have all four of my sets assembled and playable at the same time, so I never box one up. But that being said...

I don't gig anymore, but if I did, I would consider the venue. If I was playing in a bar or tavern, I would not take the vintage kits out to play. Too much risk of damage; I can replace my DW kit much easier than my 63 Slingerland! Having your dad's kit to play is an awesome thing, and it cannot be replaced. Also, to be more practical, a noisy venue wouldn't let the nuances of the vintage kit sound through.

On the other hand, if I was playing at a Catholic school charity auction (yes, been there, done that) where the setting is calm and the vintage tones would shine, yes, I'd bring my Slingerland or Ludwig set out to play.


Platinum Member
Being I'm pretty much a one up, two down kinda guy ..... I have no problem gigging "vintage" stuff. Rack tom hangs off a RIMS mount.

The kit that got the most stage time, was my clear Vistalite's. 22, 14, 16, 18. My "main" kit from 1980 to 2005.


Senior Member
I agree that drums are meant to be played. My only apprehension about playing a vintage kit in a live setting would be if it were a particularly valuable kit or had sentimental value, and there was risk of it being stolen or damaged. For instance, I would not bring my vintage Ludwig oyster black pearl kit out if there was extreme heat or a chance of rain.


Platinum Member
I bring a vintage (60’s) kit to all my 50’s rock n roll gigs, because it looks the part.
For the modern cover band I bring a modern looking (and sounding) kit.
I’m never concerned about damage - I carry them in padded bags and look after them on stage.


Well-known member
for me it also depends on the venue..

I use my 1955 Ludwig for my swing quartet and my rockabilly/honky tonk country band, and the venues we play are always very controlled and calm.

I use my 1994 Pearl Master Custom for my surf punk/lo-fi indie band, and while we usually play clubs, the situation is usually not worrisome from a damage standpoint, other than load out being sketchy sometimes.

I will only use the Ludwig when I know thatI am going to be the one moving it, loading it is my dad's, and is a total gem, so it stays in my sight the whole time.

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I think it depends on the gig. I have modern new and I've owned alot of vintage stuff too. If I'm playing a retro classic act, then new and modern doesn't give the right vibe for me. The old vintage stuff goes. If it's modern rock (post 80s) or jazz, then the new stuff looks good. If I were playing in a WWII-type big band playing Tommy Dorsey, then obviously a big marine pearl kit from the same era would be a better choice.

But at the same time, damage occurs when you take stuff out - and it doesn't always happen when you're playing. A good drop, or an unruly patron could damage something and the big drag would be if you couldn't replace the parts. This would lead me to retire a set to keep it close to its nostalgic condition. But old Ludwig and Gretsch parts abound out there. Slingerland and Rogers would be the ones that have hard to find parts. Moreso if you like Camco or Leedy.


Gold Member
I have no vintage kits anymore . I got tired of small things breaking , clamps that did not stay clamped etc. I appreciate vintage drums and love the sound but I need drums on a gig that I don’t have to worry about so I use newer drums .

The last vintage kit I owned was a 1979 Slingerland 80n kit ( Buddy Rich model) and the drums sounded nice but the Set-O-Matic Tom mount and bass drum mounted cymbal arms were unreliable . The disappearing bass drum spurs would collapse on occasion as well . I could not keep going with these issues and sold the kit . I was sad to see it go for a few reasons . One I got a great deal and Second because it was my dream kit when I was a kid .

The brand of drums (vintage) I have had the worst luck with is Gretsch . Great sounding drums but all as in kits I have owned over the years had niddling issues.


Platinum Member
I agree that the biggest strike against gigging vintage drums is worrying about the hardware. Thankfully it doesn't have to be an all or nothing situation.

I'm in the process of changing out all of my tom mounts with Inde mounts for that reason. In addition to the suspension aspect they're a lot more sturdy and reliable.


Platinum Member
I'd say it really depends on the venue and the genre of music.

Vintage kits have a super-cool vibe and many have nice big, round, warm tones packed in them. With that said, today's hardware is just better overall with fewer fail rates. If I'm gigging, I prefer my gear be "overbuilt" a little, but keep in mind I'm usually playing bars, pubs, biker rallies, car shows, etc. If I was a cool jazz cat, I'd probably be more likely to get a vintage kit and update all of the hardware (lugs, spurs, throw off on the snare, maybe new rims if they aren't true, etc.). Yes, I'd have more money in it than what it's worth, but the way I see it, I'd be modifying the tool for the job.


Well-known member
I totally agree with the hardware issue, and when I use my 50's Ludwig, the hardware is all current...Yamaha mini booms. I leave the original hardware at home. The only original pieces of hardware are the bass spurs and the tom holder, and those have never failed 40+ years.


Junior Member
I have vintage kits, and I've never had any qualms about taking them to gigs. I use hard shell cases and handle them myself. That being said, I very much appreciate the advances made in hardware. These days I use either my 2008 DW Collector's Series, or my 2019 Gretsch USA Custom kits. Modern bass drums stay where you put them, and the tom mounts on either work well with my DW hardware.

Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
Like the dude who is being helpful at the door and just starts grabbing your cases and moving them inside and throws your vintage Rogers snare up on stage with the reso snare side down hitting the floor.

No Way Jose

Silver Member
Gigging kits should not be new or vintage. They are going to get beer spilled on them, drunks are going to fall on them, and people are going to abuse them.


Silver Member
I have gigged vintage kits a ton without many problems. I LOVE the sound, but the hardware can be problematic. I basically use modern hardware with vintage drums. What drums do you love to play? Take those to the gig. Life's too short to "save the good stuff".


Platinum Member
The only vintage kit I have is a 70's Pearl Wood-Fiberglass kit. I will be gigging with it this weekend actually. The old hex tom arms are not ideal for positioning but they are solid. Luckily by then they were using a solid spur design so that's not an issue.

If I had a vintage Ludwig (maybe in the future) I would definitely gig with it. I would prefer it be an early 70's 3 ply because the tom holders and spurs were pretty good.


Senior Member
If I were to start gigging, I would buy a good quality three piece from the 70s or 80s - been eyeballing a Sonor that turns my crank. Daddy’s stuff would stay safely at home where it belongs.