What percentage of the time do we need more than a 4-piece kit to play music?

Houndog

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I think you overestimate the musical sophistication of your audience. IMHO.
Also , if I play a big kit it is because I think I can serve the music better .
Not because I’m doing it just for me .
I fail to see how you could ever come to such conclusions..
 

ludwigmod72

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If you play a large kit, you’re playing it for you. In a gig situation, the typical audience can’t detect the differences between tom tones in a live situation other than high/low. And they don’t care anyways. Most won’t remember your slick multi-tom visual after the song is over. Be honest...you’re not really playing Neal Peart or Terry Bozzio tunes. Even in recording, more than a four-piece kit isn’t really required. You may think people really care, but they don’t. If it makes you happy to play a large kit, play on...but realize you’re doing it for only you.

I think of the famous drummer who had a two bass drum set, but the left bass had no pedal. He said that his audience expected to see it. That’s fine if you have roadies, but working drummers who are loading their own drums tend to downsize with age and maturity.

Go ahead....open fire!
Great response. I couldn't agree more. There isn’t anything I can’t play on a 4 piece set, regardless of genre. I’m not getting any younger and most Bar/Club patrons or audiences could give a darn how big your kit is as long as they’re dancing and the band sounds good. Those 4 piece kits worked wonders for Ringo, Densmore, Watts and many great others back in the day so it works for me. I think it’s made me a better drummer as I’ve learned many years ago that a solid backbeat, timing and tempo are more important than showing off a 9 piece kit that I can’t play. Regardless, it’s all subjective and I respect everyone’s opinions as there isn’t really a right or wrong answer.
 

Houndog

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Great response. I couldn't agree more. There isn’t anything I can’t play on a 4 piece set, regardless of genre. I’m not getting any younger and most Bar/Club patrons or audiences could give a darn how big your kit is as long as they’re dancing and the band sounds good. Those 4 piece kits worked wonders for Ringo, Densmore, Watts and many great others back in the day so it works for me. I think it’s made me a better drummer as I’ve learned many years ago that a solid backbeat, timing and tempo are more important than showing off a 9 piece kit that I can’t play. Regardless, it’s all subjective and I respect everyone’s opinions as there isn’t really a right or wrong answer.
Ha , I couldn’t disagree more !!!
 

repete

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I have two kits that I ordered as 5 piece to have the option but I’m very very much at home on a 4 piece kit. I’ve never felt restricted playing in the bands I’ve been in with a 4 piece kit and that includes Blues, Jazz, Metal, 80’s Rock, Southern Rock etc etc - so for me I would say 0% - I’ve never had anyone tell me they wish I played a bigger kit or questioned why I play a 4 piece.

revision - many years ago when I started out and I discovered music I really loved, Heavy Metal, I wanted a big kit. It fit what I was playing at the time sonically and visually. Back then, the 18 year old me wouldn’t have wanted a 4 piece kit anyway. As I grew older and started playing different types of music I eventually scaled back from a 7 to a 6 to a 5 to a 4. I was doing Blues gigs with kick, snare, hat and 2 cymbals. It was years after playing a 4 piece that I realized I could play different styles of music on a 4 piece. Is a bigger kit fun to play? Hell yes but I just feel at this time I need one.
 
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CSR

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It’s good we can disagree respectfully and feel free to express our own opinions in this forum. By reading other opinions, I’m able to look at mine from a different perspective and re-examine what I think. Thanks to both those who agree and disagree with me. Luckily, we can add or subtract drums and cymbals as circumstances and our opinions change.
 

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I think there are two separate questions being asked.

1) What percentage of the time do we need more than a 4-piece kit to play music?
Depends on what I'm playing. For jazz, I use my 4-pc 12/14/18 bop kit; straight-ahead rock is either a 4-pc or 5-pc kit, and progressive rock is either a 5-pc or 6-pc kit. My studio kit, which is always setup so I play it probably 99% of the time, is a 6-piece. But if you're limiting it just to what I take to gigs, then I'd say a 4-piece kit gets the nod about 25% of the time, a 5-piece kit about 50% of the time, and my 6-piece kit, which I usually reserve for larger or progressive rock gigs, about 25% of the time.

2) Assume your friend calls you up says take your tubs and meet me at Dave’s bar in downtown we are gonna jam and make this crowd feel good, no questions asked, how many drums are you gonna setup?
This sounds like a typical bar gig with very straight-forward rock/cover songs. If this is all the info I have, then I'd likely only bring a 4-piece kit.

I also have a related anecdote to share.

Back in 2013, a guitarist friend of mine invited me to his inaugural gig with his new Tears For Fears tribute band. When I got to the venue, I noticed that the drummer only brought a 4-piece kit with just one ride and one crash. I wondered how the hell he was going to pull off some of the drum parts—especially some of the multi-tom grooves and signature fills—with such a small setup. The answer? He didn't play any of that, he just grooved on his hats through it all. Which was very disappointing, as the lack of these signature parts really detracted from the overall experience.

Afterwards, I told this to my guitarist friend, who agreed with me. A week later, I got a call from him. Their drummer was out, and he wanted me to join. And I played with them for 5 years, using a 6-piece kit for every gig. The point of the story is, always bring the right kit for the gig. And know your stuff.
 
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hsosdrum

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If you play a large kit, you’re playing it for you...
Exactly! I play music that I want to play, for my own enjoyment, on the instrument that gives me the most pleasure to play.
...working drummers who are loading their own drums tend to downsize with age and maturity.
I'm 68 and have a bad back. Although I've not downsized my setup (2-up/2-down/2-BD/11 cymbals) I have downsized my drum sizes (not for my back, but so they'll fit in my car). If I decide to play out then I'm going to play my full rig — doing it halfway just isn't worth the time and effort.
 

MJB

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I don’t even wanna carry a bass drum bigger than a 20 now. I think most bands appreciate the quick and less space set up. I associate big kits with metal but even then it’s unnecessary.
 

Monday317

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...Question comes up for me, what percentage of the time do you actually need more than a bass drum, a rack tom, a floor tom, and a snare, your standard 4-piece kit. If you have been playing for 30-40 years then you have good data. Give me a percentage!

Assume your friend calls you up says take your tubs and meet me at Dave’s bar in downtown we are gonna jam and make this crowd feel good, no questions asked, how many drums are you gonna setup?
Whatever I feel I want to bring. Not being a Portnoy/Peart-type basher, my kit is 10 & 13 x 9 toms; 16 x 16 floor; 28 x12 bass (ego issues) and either my Omar Hakim or Supra. That's pretty much my 100% kit, though on rare occasions, I might omit the 10 x 9 tom. But then I feel naked.
 

Rufus T Firefly

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I started on a 5 pc kit, then went to a 7 pc (2 up, 2 down, 2 BD). Next was the Slingerland RJB kit - 4 up, 1 down but I couldn't get the ride in a comfortable position so when FT cradles came around, I threw the 15" in a cradle and discovered my all time favorite setup - 3 up, 2 down which I've used ever since. I do also have 3 small toms to the left of the hi-hat for fun at home but seldom gig with them anymore. My minimum for playing out is 2 up, 2 down but the one I'd leave home would be the 8" that hangs on the same tom stand as the 10" and that little 8" just doesn't add much weight so it always comes along.
 

JDA

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If you cant play any song on just a snare drum and nothing else you cant play
If you get 'hired' to play nothing but a snare drum is another story:D

even the marching band (the orchestra had bass drum snare and cymbals..three guys!
whom ever Invented the drum set put two guys outta work.

ba dum tssh
 

Houndog

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I’m really tired of the attitude that looks down on guys with larger kits , is as if you think you are better if “all you need is 4 “
HOGWASH ......

If you like a 4 piece that’s fine . Just don’t get self righteous about it please .
 

Living Dead Drummer

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I always start with Kick/Snare/Hat when I’m working on new material for an artist or band. As I progress through the music I take mental inventory of what other drums I may be hitting naturally. If I can accomplish everything with 1 up and 1 down, then that’s what I go with. If I find myself gravitating some parts or fills with a 2nd rack or floor then I know for that gig I need more.
 

Jordan Blue

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So many variables here. Depends on what music you're playing, age, and how much you enjoy humping gear in/out of a gig. As for me, playing a variety of Blues/Roots/etc. 'if' I do get back into playing gigs after the dust finally settles on the pandemic, I probably will never use a kit bigger than 3 pc. Bass/Snare/Floor tom and maybe some aux. stuff like a pandeiro or timbale. I'm also an old dinosaur so of course that's a factor in the kit I would play on a gig.
 

fpatton

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This is what it looks like when you're REALLY lazy about hauling gear.

View attachment 488999

View attachment 489000
Definitely done this a few times, though I bring a small hi-hat too.
For me, a 4-piece usually, but I sometimes bring an extra floor tom because if I learned anything from Buddy Rich, it’s that the second floor tom makes an excellent towel holder!
 

Slingwig26

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I have noticed many of us are always on the hunt for that matching 2nd floor or even 3rd floor tom (14”,16”, and 18” wow) or 10”,12”, and 13” toms and the list goes on and on. Some just enjoy having all the matching drums, feels good and it’s cool, but I suspect that’s a “need”.

Question comes up for me, what percentage of the time do you actually need more than a bass drum, a rack tom, a floor tom, and a snare, your standard 4-piece kit. If you have been playing for 30-40 years then you have good data. Give me a percentage!

Assume your friend calls you up says take your tubs and meet me at Dave’s bar in downtown we are gonna jam and make this crowd feel good, no questions asked, how many drums are you gonna setup?
49.1% of the time
 

Houndog

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I always start with Kick/Snare/Hat when I’m working on new material for an artist or band. As I progress through the music I take mental inventory of what other drums I may be hitting naturally. If I can accomplish everything with 1 up and 1 down, then that’s what I go with. If I find myself gravitating some parts or fills with a 2nd rack or floor then I know for that gig I need more.
You do this for every new song ??
 

mydadisjr

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CAN YOU PLAY "SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE" ON A 4 PIECE KIT???


Here's my story... years ago I got a gig in a classic rock band and did a few gigs with them... I always played a 4 piece USA Gretsch set, no problem. We did a night up at the famous SPIRIT ROOM in Jerome AZ (a very cool touristy ghost town in central AZ). Anyway, an old drummer buddy of the guitar player was there, so the band asked if it was OK if he sat in for a song. I sez "SURE".

Well, the band plus the sit-in drummer launch into SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE... this drummer dude was copping ALL the Ginger fills and rolls on my little Gretsch 4 piece. and just KILLING it, I mean the guy was GREAT.

So, YES you can play Ginger baker on a 4 piece.

PS... my Gretsch set sounded really good!!
 


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