Learning to play well on a cheap drum kit

evolving_machine

Silver Member
For the past year and a half I have been playing in a band where I leave a drum kit that was given to me at the rehearsal house. The kit is a C and C 22" x 14 or 16 bass drum, a 12" overhead tom and a 13" that I installed floor legs to. The original snare broke so I bought a very cheap eight lug pearl steel 14". I also leave the hi hat stand and bass pedal at the house. I travel with cymbals and stick bag and some other items. I practice in my own home on a Pearl masters kit, and do gigs with Gretsche Catalina jazz kit.
Over the time I have been playing with this band I have slowly changed the way I was playing to make the practice kit sound good. But, I did not realize how till we had agig on Friday, where I found that I played even better on the Catalina Jazz kit. I like the jazz kit because it is so portable.

Have you found also that playing on a bad kit makes you better?
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I feel like playing on a kit where the set up is compromised either by bad hardware or weird space has helped me the most. The actual tuning and feel of the heads has probably influenced me less, other than knowing how to find the "sweet spot" on a hashed out head.
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
For the past year and a half I have been playing in a band where I leave a drum kit that was given to me at the rehearsal house. The kit is a C and C 22" x 14 or 16 bass drum, a 12" overhead tom and a 13" that I installed floor legs to. The original snare broke so I bought a very cheap eight lug pearl steel 14". I also leave the hi hat stand and bass pedal at the house. I travel with cymbals and stick bag and some other items. I practice in my own home on a Pearl masters kit, and do gigs with Gretsche Catalina jazz kit.
Over the time I have been playing with this band I have slowly changed the way I was playing to make the practice kit sound good. But, I did not realize how till we had agig on Friday, where I found that I played even better on the Catalina Jazz kit. I like the jazz kit because it is so portable.

Have you found also that playing on a bad kit makes you better?

Drumming is much more cranial. I've been playing with Afro-Cuban music, Cuba by the nature of both location and politics don't have access to much in the way of musical instruments. Even historically, they didn't have any large mammals to make drum skins. Those dudes can play super rhythms with cheap claves and packing crates. Afro-Cuban music is highly influential even going back to Africa. Though, when they get ahold of good equipment… it sounds like fire. IMO its the cranial nature of how they approach the music, every sixteenth and thirty second is in place and meaningful. Just something to think about.
 

evolving_machine

Silver Member
Drumming is much more cranial. I've been playing with Afro-Cuban music, Cuba by the nature of both location and politics don't have access to much in the way of musical instruments. Even historically, they didn't have any large mammals to make drum skins. Those dudes can play super rhythms with cheap claves and packing crates. Afro-Cuban music is highly influential even going back to Africa. Though, when they get ahold of good equipment… it sounds like fire. IMO its the cranial nature of how they approach the music, every sixteenth and thirty second is in place and meaningful. Just something to think about.

Smooth, that is interesing, I thought the conga originated from cuba. Were the heads originally fish skin?

This kit I leave at the practice house is a compromised setup as well. The 13" tom even with the legs fully extended is a bit low. I don't like peddle I leave there, but do not want to carry a good one back and forth. The snare stand needs to go just a little lower, and I play in a corner not able to hear everything well.
 

drumnut87

Well-known member
i started my "main" drum life on a cheap kit, made from poplar wood. honed my skills on that then just transferred the skills to any other kit that i play. i dont find my skills suffer between a cheap kit or a high end kit, only how well it sounds.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
Smooth, that is interesing, I thought the conga originated from cuba. Were the heads originally fish skin?

This kit I leave at the practice house is a compromised setup as well. The 13" tom even with the legs fully extended is a bit low. I don't like peddle I leave there, but do not want to carry a good one back and forth. The snare stand needs to go just a little lower, and I play in a corner not able to hear everything well.

actually congas originated in Africa, so the heads are still probably cattle skin or goat skin.

and you set up is probably like most people...not ideal. It took me 25 years to finally get an area that I could actualy set my drums up in for comfortable playing...
 

SmoothOperator

Gold Member
actually congas originated in Africa, so the heads are still probably cattle skin or goat skin.

and you set up is probably like most people...not ideal. It took me 25 years to finally get an area that I could actualy set my drums up in for comfortable playing...

That's the point, Cubans as compared to Africans don't have access to as many congas or other instruments, often times they play with sticks and shipping crates, wheel brakes, pots and pans etc. Africans have access to all kinds of lyres, drums and xylophones etc.
 

evolving_machine

Silver Member
I've been playing for a long time. What I have changed is more fundamental than just the ergonomics. I am hitting the drums with more precision and drawing the best possible sound from the drums. Because I was playing on the cheaper kit, I controlled my playing and it sounded better. I've read about some players who sound great on any kit they play. I am not saying I am a great player, but this improved my playing.
 

vxla

Silver Member
A few things...

actually congas originated in Africa, so the heads are still probably cattle skin or goat skin.

The conga is definitely a Cuban instrument. Yes, it is modeled on other African drums, but it is entirely an instrument refined in Cuba.

That's the point, Cubans as compared to Africans don't have access to as many congas or other instruments, often times they play with sticks and shipping crates, wheel brakes, pots and pans etc. Africans have access to all kinds of lyres, drums and xylophones etc.

Cuba has a vast number of classical musicians and classical music programs, the top programs being at the Escuela Nacional de Artes (La ENA) for younger students (through high school) and the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), both of which are Havana.

Pots and pans are commonly used in Comparsa parades during Carnaval and a core piece of the comparsa ensemble. Sometimes brake drums are substituted. The major religions all have their various types of instrumentation (Abakua, Lukumi, Iyesa, etc.) that are based on instruments from Africa but specifically refined in, and unique to, Cuba.
 

bud7h4

Silver Member
. . . . But, I did not realize how till we had agig on Friday, where I found that I played even better on the Catalina Jazz kit. I like the jazz kit because it is so portable.

Have you found also that playing on a bad kit makes you better?

Maybe playing the nicer kit is what actually made you play better. Its more inspiring. I remember, for example, the first time I played a miced kit, my playing was dramatically better for those few minutes.
 

beyondbetrayal

Platinum Member
I don't notice much difference. I find a BAD kit, like broken, missing pieces, will cause issues. A good kit might sound better but it mostly comes down to head choice and tuning, If we are talking like a $50-100 kit this might be an issue. Good cymbals make more of a difference to me.

Playing on MANY kits has made me better. I gear share a lot at gigs, so no matter the kit, tuning, set up, i feel comfortable playing on anything.
 

wraub

Well-known member
Reading this thread really makes me appreciate the cheap kit I have now, and the even cheaper kit I had previously, and my luck in having them.

I have learned a lot about tuning and hitting with precision and accuracy from reading threads like this, but making these kits sound not-terrible means more to me now. I almost feel like I'm actually learning stuff. :)
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
For me I'm replacing the word "cheap" with words like "bad" or "broken".
The first kit I played, and I played it for years, had few stands, no bass drum pedal and I think one cymbal. Necessity being the mother of invention I used plastic school chairs to hold the mounted tom and the bass drum effectively as a gong drum/huge floor tom. In the immediate aftermath of getting my first real kit and hardware I wouldn't say I was any better but the experience was a lot more pleasurable.
 

RayI

Well-known member
Being born in Cuba and brought up on cuban music has given me an approach of that it comes from deep with in ourselves from the soul so to speak.
I remember listening to Beny Morè and Celia Cruz and when Ry Cooder came out with the Buena Vista Social Club giving these masters a chance to play and enjoy their craft.
You can do alot with very little , just my opinion but if your fundamentally on but what you play on may not sound the best then you might think your not playing well or not sounding good not true , play from the heart you will never go wrong.
Keep Groovin
 

iCe

Senior Member
Playing a bad kit always messes with my mind; i get annoyed that it doesn't play right or things are broken and that it interferes with my feel. Tuning can be fixed though, but crappy hardware is a no no. I don't gig anymore (not in a band that does that), but i always hauled my own stands with me when i had doubts on the house kit. What i do appreciate is when i play a crappy kit and I'm back on my own kit i always let out a sigh of relieve because it sounds and plays so good
 

Frank

Gold Member
Playing crappy kits hasn't ever helped my playing.

By crappy, I mean - failing hardware, crappy pedals, wacky angles, or completely dead, improperly tuned heads. I would never call a shell crappy unless it is out of round or has terrible bearing edges.

I almost Always play low end kits - but they always sound great because of fresh heads and great tuning.

No challenging situation to me was ever a Plus. It actually really sucks the life out of a session when I can't connect to the kit. No fun for me.

For me, a challenging kit is not like strength resistance training. It yields nothing positive for me.
 
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AudioWonderland

Silver Member
For the past year and a half I have been playing in a band where I leave a drum kit that was given to me at the rehearsal house. The kit is a C and C 22" x 14 or 16 bass drum, a 12" overhead tom and a 13" that I installed floor legs to. The original snare broke so I bought a very cheap eight lug pearl steel 14". I also leave the hi hat stand and bass pedal at the house. I travel with cymbals and stick bag and some other items. I practice in my own home on a Pearl masters kit, and do gigs with Gretsche Catalina jazz kit.
Over the time I have been playing with this band I have slowly changed the way I was playing to make the practice kit sound good. But, I did not realize how till we had agig on Friday, where I found that I played even better on the Catalina Jazz kit. I like the jazz kit because it is so portable.

Have you found also that playing on a bad kit makes you better?
It's more likely that just "more playing" made you better.
 

evolving_machine

Silver Member
I placed new heads on the kit and got a decent tone from the kit, and the hardware was in good repair. I would like correct my earlier post though. It is a CB kit, not C and C. But, I think I can explain this more. The way you hit the drum makes its sound. So I would pay a lot of attention to the sound the drum would make. As you all know, you can bounce the beater off of the bass drum to get a very different sound then what you get when you bury the beater. You also do this with the drum and stick. Case in point is when watching videos of Buddy Rich, he would play a pattern and end it with his right hand on the floor tom. But, he buries the stick into the head. There is a wide range between burying the stick and letting it just bounce. This variation gives you a different sound. I think what I did was to change my technique to get a better sound.
Sort of similar to playing on a guitar or any other fretted string instrument, the frets are not perfect, but user makes it sound better
 

Bonzo_CR

Silver Member
I kind of know what you mean EM. How you kind of learn to get the most out of any setup, playing-wise and sound-wise?

Like others I too have played many different kits at jam nights, and shared kits at rehearsal places and I think my playing adapts depending on the kit.

I do think that this comes with experience, and sort of becomes automatic. For example any snare on a kit I play, I hit it in a position on the head to get the snare sound I like (more overtones near the edge, drier in the centre) etc. I do this so automatically I hardly notice it now.

I also think that my ability to play has become less dependent over the years on how the kit is set up (angles and positioning etc).

Maybe this is what we mean when we say each of us 'sounds like ourself' when we play, regardless of the kit?
 

jimb

Member
Yes a little. Going from bad to something better just feels good with everything tight and working correctly.
 
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