Recently I've been experimenting with different heads/tunings etc and was wondering how you came about finding the drums/cymbals/heads/tuning etc that suit you? Or indeed if it is possible to find the perfect match?
I've been trying to narrow down my cymbal sound. It took a having to buy &/or trade a variety of cymbals to see what sounds I liked best.
So right now between my fusion sized kit and my be bop kit my cymbals are basically:
22" HHX Manhattan ride (my favorite)
18" HH Manhattan ride - used as a crash/ride (my other favorite )
16" HH thin crash
18" HHX china - used sometimes because it's so freakin' LOUD (another fav! )
14" K regular hats ( looking for HHX groove hats to replace the K's)
I switch stuff (from Beautiful Baby ride, A Custom crashes & K splashes etc.) around every once and awhile but I come back to this because it sounds and feels good to me.
Heads and tuning - I usually go with what the project dictates or what mood I'm in. I rarely replace my heads with the same as what was on there. Experiment with your 12" tom, I think thats the easiest drum to tune and get the best sound out of.
Cymbals - I'm not too hung up on getting all the same cymbal line. Before I go out looking for a new cymbal I have an idea what sound I'm looking for. My last purchase I went out looking for a med thin, dark, 18" traditional crash. I played everything I could get my hands on till I found what I liked, ended up being a K Constantinople. Before that I wanted a 17" medium bright full crash, got a Paiste Signature Full.
As with much in life...it's what sounds good to you.
You start somewhere, and go from there. I had an advantage in that I worked in a drum shop after school (and then for many more years after that) so I got hear different drums and heads and got to figure out what worked. I experimented with some different heads, different sticks, and such here and there until I found what worked best for me.
Then gigging a lot evolved my sound as I realized what worked and what didn't for different situations. Watching other drummers and seeing how they get their drums to sound the way they do.
As I've gotten older, what I'm looking for has changed somewhat. I've gone from thicker crashes to thinner crashes. I'm considered switching my head combination after playing the same combination for years and years.
Anytime I have a new drum (kick, toms, snares) I try to find the heads that will make it sound the best that it can. Some drums will sound good (or bad) no matter what heads you use, so for those I try to use heads that work for the gig.
With cymbals, I pick them out to fit the music I am playing, most of the time I just try things out till I find what I like, and other times it comes from my influences. If I hear a sound I like on a recording or live, then I always try to find out what that gear was and then will try it for myself.
I find that it is a never ending process to find your sound. When I started playing drums I have a very immature attitude where as I wanted a whole crap load of drums and cymbals. I was kinda into Dave Matthew's band, and Primus, basically anybody that played with a huge set. So I collected as much junk as a could just to make my set "look cool". I had 6" splashes, little bells, wood blocks, cowbells, tambourines, chimes, mini timbales, and tons of small cymbals, like splashes, 14" crashes, 12" hats and stuff like that (even though I couldn't play half of it). As I matured and started finding my sound, I basically down sized quantity and up sized quality and sizes. I am now working on my dream setup which is similar to a Bonham set up. I have found my absolute perfect set of hi hats (15" K light top, 15" New beat bottom). And I really dig my vintage 18" med thin A crash. Next on my list is a 24" K light ride or 24" K custom Dry Complex ride...I love em both but will probably go with the light ride. I have really gotten into a really washy, thick, and complex cymbal sound, and a dark, robust, wide open and woody drum sound. Very vintage. I don't want anything bright or poppy.