Learning to play well on a 4 piece kit ....


Junior Member
... I'm figuring you'd have to take on a different style. I'm tired of the rack mount Tama and the 50 gazillion pieces of hardware.

Anyone else go the less is more route?


Platinum Member
Here's my take on it.

Your kit... The one in your house that you practice on and learn on... That kit can have as many pieces as you want. The point isn't to have a 25 piece ensemble of awesomeness, it's so that you can pull whatever pieces you need from it for a gig. Got a latin gig? Grab the 8/10/14/K. Got a jazz gig? Grab the 10/14/K. Got a rock gig? Grab the 10/12/16/K or 12/14/16/K.

It's like owning 5 snares... You don't carry all of them to a gig, you bring the one or two that make sense.


Platinum Member
Oh yeah. I've been playing a 4-piece (with 3 or 4 cymbals) almost exclusively for about 20 years. It's been enough for my musical needs and is less to carry around which is important to me. I have become very comfortable on it over the years. The first hurdle is getting accustomed to the gap between the rack and floor tom. If you like doing long fills across many toms that requires some adjustment too. But it can open up some interesting possibilities to just have the two toms. Using different patterns, incorporating the bass drum more, etc.

I mount my rack tom as far right as is reasonable to make it so the gap is not ridiculous. I'm not a fan of the low flat tom on a snare stand approach but some people like that.

Experiment with it and see how it feels. It ain't permanent so you could always go back if you don't like it!

EDIT: And oh, of course there's the ride in the sweet spot.
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Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
I have had my Renown set up 4, 5, 6, 7 pieces. In any event you will have to spend time to get it where you want it. Relax and have fun.
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Gold Member
Much of what I do lately is kick/snare/hats, sometimes the ride. Making use of what you have with melodic voicing, nuance and subtly is much more challenging and rewarding than simply adding more instruments.


Senior Member
Less is less, and more is more. If you're in a cover band, you need what you need to do the song(s) justice. Phil Collins "In The Air Tonight" on a 4-pc would just be downright lame. On the other hand, if you're doing Beatles/Stones covers or originals, you can work with a 4-pc.


Silver Member
If you are playing "smells like Teen spirit" or The day that never comes" (... purely instrumental, featuring numerous solos and chord progressions)....just a two piece is enough ---awesome work by Dave Grohl and Lars Ulrich.


"Uncle Larry"
If you are playing "smells like Teen spirit" or The day that never comes" (... purely instrumental, featuring numerous solos and chord progressions)....just a two piece is enough ---awesome work by Dave Grohl and Lars Ulrich.
Is that Keith Moon as a child in your avi? The brown eyes make me think yea.


"Uncle Larry"
Lots of drums impresses me not. When I see a lot of drums, well it peaks my interest to see exactly how this person will handle the music. Look at it this way, you only play toms with your hands, and you only have 2 hands, so you have a tom for each hand. You're covered. The way most drummers tune, meaning low and flappy, a 12 sounds like a 14 which sounds like a 16 anyway. A run down an 8/10/12/14/16 all tuned low and flappy...is a waste of drums IMO. Low and flappy sounds the same to me no matter what size drum. I'd rather hear a drumset with 2 toms with real separation between them than 5 toms with no separation. The low and flappy sound is so done to death. I think it's safe to say that I'm completely sick of that tone. Give me a drummer who tunes each drum so it sounds unique. With a 4 piece, you can tune them so you have a bigger sounding kit by having a good bit of separation between toms. 2 toms, a high and a low...to me....sounds bigger than a kit with 5 toms all tuned JAW. There's no high or medium, it's all low and boring and same old same old, like every other drummer out there. Myself I like 2 racks because of the hole 1 rack makes. I can get a huge sounding fill with only 3 toms, it's deceptive. Now cymbals are another story. I'll take more cymbals over toms anyday.


Silver Member
IMHO every drummer should properly focus on the 1 up 1 down configuration. I'm really a beginner and it is all I allow myself to play 80% of the time. It forces one to examine and create a larger vocabulary of RHYTHMIC possibilities rather than skew and UNECESSARY tonal possibilities. And that is very important.

I really like what the dude from The Knack did on "Let Me Out" as an example of a very energetic and completely well done drum track with a 4 piece. Steve Gorman also, to my way of thinking, has authored some real kick ass tracks with a 1up 1down.

The end result is supposed to be to create great songs...not to show what an artisan a drummer is...simple is many times better for the song...unless your, well, The Professor or maybe Michael Giles or Keith Moon.


Platinum Member
I have played the huge multi-piece sets for a long time -- most of my drumming career, in fact. Finally a combination of things led me to play a 4-piece: acquiring a new-to-me 4-piece set of Ludwigs, a complaining lower back, and a gravitation towards the type of bands and music that don't require a lot of pieces.

I still love occasionally dragging out the big Yamaha kit and plunking my way through some Porcupine Tree songs on the iPod, but it stays set up for shorter and shorter periods before I put the Ludwigs back up and groove to some Zeppelin or blues or other classic rock.

Even at church, I've pulled a tom off their 5-piece kit to make a 4-piece that feels similar to my Ludwigs.

On my large kit, I'm a little more fusiony and busy. When I get on the 4-piece, it's all about groove.


Senior Member
I must be the only one here who plays a big kit not to be flashy but to literally have different tonal capabilities.

I have auditioned to be in a band which does covers from loads of different genres. How on earth can you get a real booming kick sound to replicate the digital drums in Black Eyed Peas/Lady Gage type stuff to the lighter bass drum sound you hear in early music by Jackie Wilson etc etc? Or if you use 2 very small crashes how do you get bigger sounds out of them?

You can play with dynamics but you cant make a 15" crash sound like an 18 upwards!

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I never bring more than I need for a certain situation.

My six-piece Vinnie copy is like a personal instrument to me, but very few musical situations in my life need a kit like that. I bring plenty of small hand percussion, though.


Gold Member
All of my kits but one is a four piece and the one five piece I have usually just goes out as a four piece. Buddy Rich was asked at one time why he used such a small kit and his reply was "Because I haven't mastered this kit". I get this completely. I like being forced to be creative when using a 4 piece and trying to do justice to some song where the original drummer used tons of drums.

I also like to have my ride cymbal in close and the easier load in and put of a four piece. My Whitney Nesting Penguin 16 is a gigging drummers dream, great sounding extremely light weight and logistically sound with it's Quickstand mounting system.

I am very comfortable with a 4 piece kit nowadays, in fact there is a 5 piece kit at one of the places I rehears and I generally just remove the second tom for rehearsals and pull the ride cymbal in closer.


Senior Member
I've done the 4-piece kit before, but I've never been totally comfortable on it. I've been playing a 5-piece for so long, that 2 toms on the bass drum and one tom on the floor is what's most comfortable. Even if I don't use all 3 toms in every fill, which I don't.

A more comfortable 4-piece for me would be snare/bass and two rack toms (but no floor). That would make fills easier for me. The drummer I saw last weekend did this, and had his ride cymbal where the floor tom would usually go.

All that being said, I really like the way a 4 piece kit LOOKS. And, being able to put a ride cymbal where the second rack tom would go.


I started/learned on an old four piece over fifty years ago and stayed there for probably fifteen years. I went to a five piece for another 15-20 years and much preferred it over the four. I thought it would be cool/fun to go bigger so I bought a used eight piece. It was fun for a while but got tired of hauling them around and having to worry about stage space (and micing them was a pain too!). I settled on a six piece and have been playing that for the last 10 years. I really like this set up (two up, two down) and it handles any musical application that I need. Not going to touch the "gives me options vs. forces me to be creative" argument.....to each his/her own is my motto!


Platinum Member
I have been playing a four-piece kit for most of the last thirty years. I mostly use hats, ride, and two crashes too. At church I also have a splash and China. It works for what I play. Peace and goodwill.

Liebe zeit

Silver Member
3-piece here. Bonham kit with the high tom left out for my Stax-style soul band. Most of the fills are on the snare, with some rolling down to the floor tom.

Midnite Zephyr

Platinum Member
I'm really torn. I play a 5-piece for my warehouse band, but I play a 4-piece when I gig with the classic rock band. I might like playing a 4-piece a little more, but I like having the extra tom with the fusion type music that we play at the warehouse.


Senior Member
Well i play a 4 piece kit and 4 cymbals and never needed more .
I only chance the tom size ,if necessary from a 12 to 13 .
And i use gibraltar stealt rack to reduce hardware and wait the gained space you will have on the floor with out conflicting stands and bulky tripods.
But i never liked a drum rack ,but this one is a low profile and i like it a lot.