The 12-year old me's dream kit (Tama/Paiste)


Junior Member



Hi all! I'm John, 47, from Detroit. Started on drums and guitar as a little kid, around 5. At some point, Dad steered me more towards guitar (likely because it has a volume knob!), and for 20 years that was my primary focus. Played in some semi-successful bands and toured most of the civilized world.
My last kit was a 70's concert tom Slingerland 5-pc I had in high school, which is sadly long gone.

September 2018, I decided to get back into drums seriously, started taking lessons with a close pal from the HS jazz band who is a respected player/educator around town (rudiments and a little theory mostly), and started assembling the kit I wished I could have had back then.

I scored a beautiful 4-pc off Reverb for a steal. The rack, floor and kick (10x14/16x16/14x22) are '79 Imperialstars, excellent condition with re-rings, mufflers, all in Platina wrap.
The snare is an '80 Mastercraft (that allegedly belonged to a Nashville studio player who used it on numerous dates), 6.5x14, excellent condition.
However, the lugs suffer from the typical brittle alloy of this era, and 9 of 10 were broke or about to be. I had custom brass/stainless tube lugs made to replace them. The throw is perfect, and I use Puresound snare wires for a Pearl floating model.

The 14" rack wouldn't sit low enough for my taste mounted on the kick, and I don't like where a cradle stand places it ergonomically, so the quest for matching toms in smaller sizes began.
Unfortunately, Platina is one of the rarer colors Tama offered, and I wasn't having any luck. Then it occured to me to look for Royalstars from the same era.
I lucked into a seller with both 8x12 and 9x13 toms in almost the exact same shape/patina as the core kit (rare transitional era with black tags and mufflers, but no re-rings, same shell material). I had a decent stash of Imp lugs from ebay, so I swapped them on the 12" (haven't yet on the 13" seen in the last pic).

My main config is 12/14/16, which sounds perfect and feels great as far as placement.
The 14" starts to choke when tuned high, but sounds AMAZING as my first 'floor' tom.
All heads are Evans. An EMAD clear batter on the kick, EMAD black ported reso on front (I also have the original unmolested white Tama reso!), and I have a baby pillow I sometimes use depending on the tone/feel I'm going for.
EC2's on tom batters, G1's on reso sides, all clear. I tried a bunch of different types and found these sounded best to my ears.
The snare is setup with a coated G14 on batter, clear snare reso.
(not pictured is my '66 Ludwig 5x14 Supra I scored from the original owner, also excellent condition, which has a coated UV1 on batter, and an INDe throw I installed, also Puresound wires).

I use a Dyna-Sync pedal, with a first-generation Iron Cobra Roller Glide as my backup, both with felt beaters.

Hardware is a mix of new and old Tama (hi-hat stand is a late 80's Lever Glide).

Cymbals are all Paiste, my personal faves because of the many players I loved as a kid, same as my Tamas.
My main setup (pictured) is:
15" hats, regular bottom/20" (above the hats)/22" (ride position), all black label 2002 Big Beats, with a 20" red label 2002 crash above the floor toms. I use all the cymbals at various points as rides, depending on what is needed.
Not pictured are early-80's 14" 2002 red label Medium hats (regular bottom), 18" 2002 red label crash, and a 20" Signature Dry Ride (when I need a more modern ride sound).
The Dry ride has the best bell I've ever heard on ANY Paiste!

Sticks are Vater Manhattans in wood and nylon tip, Vic Firth SD10/American Classic 5A/American Jazz 5's, depending on the gig or session.

I am more proud of this kit, and get more happiness and satisfaction playing it, than ALL my guitars/amps/fx, current or previous! It literally makes me feel like a kid again, just sitting down or even looking at it.
And it sounds fantastic! I learned a ton about tuning drums when I worked as a touring tech, and with my regular config, I can cover pretty much any style without changing anything but maybe a cymbal or pulling out the pillow and tweaking the kick tuning.

I learned a lot lurking here!
Thanks for checking it out.
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Senior Member
Yessr nice kit! Thanks for the shake/rundown it’s always great to hear see things come together, in a good way. Wishing you years of enjoyment with the score!


Junior Member
Thanks for the kind words!
Just got into a new spot for practice, first time being able to set my kit up in a couple months. Decided to mess around with 2up/2down again, and pull the 14" hats out.



Of course my OCD is bugging me to change the lugs on my 13" rack. I'm telling myself to wait until I need to change the head, or get a gig that requires the tom. :D


Junior Member
Eagle-eyes will note: when using 2up, I swap the tom mounts from stock to a later 80's era Omni-Lock with a ton more adjustability.


Well-known member
From Toledo here, I played an imperialstar just once back in the late 80’s and it was the loudest kit I’ve ever played. Loved it but they were out of my 18yo price range in the must have 9 pc double bass setup; so I opted for the Ludwig rockers with the modular hardware in black. Set was a blast but the 10 trips back and forth from the escort got really tiresome lol
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