Choosing The Right Drum Kit (And Playing Technique) For Any Venue

When it comes to choosing the right drum kit, one of the factors you should consider is the type of venues you’ll be playing in. While your musical style is also an important factor, what sometimes matters even more is the practicality of your setup.

Considering the versatility that comes with custom drums from boutique drum builders like WFLIII (if anyone knows drums, it’s Bill Ludwig III), you can count on getting a premium sound no matter how large or small the kit.

Drums and Kits in Smaller Sizes

Bebop Kit

One of the benefits of building your own custom drum kit is that you can choose exactly what drum sizes you want and still get the classic sound and feel of vintage drums.

If you play in smaller venues with less stage space, you may want to consider a slightly smaller foot-print for your kit. You could start by narrowing down the number of drums in your kit. For instance, four-piece drum kits are very common in many genres these days. To take it to another level, you may even consider smaller drum sizes. 

One example of a kit with a smaller profile that still has plenty of “big” sound is WFLIII’s Bebop Kit with an 8” x 12” rack tom, a 14” x 14” floor tom, and a 14” x 20” bass drum. When tuned down low, the 14” x 14” floor tom has plenty of tight, deep low end and the 14” x 20” kick really thumps when it’s mic’d up. Without sacrificing any sound quality, you may just make life a little easier for the bandmates you’re sharing the stage with. If you’re looking for a great addition to complete this kit, we recommend the WFLIII Mahogany Snare Drum. Its crisp attack and warm musicality will sound great on the stage and in the audience.

Drums and Kits in Larger Sizes

Headliner 5-Piece Kit

You have many choices when it comes to your perfect drum kit. So maybe you’re looking for a larger, more classic drum set.

Naturally, if you play in larger venues with lots of stage space, you could feel at home with a larger drum kit. You could add up to twice as many toms and a larger kick with a kit like the WFLIII Headliner 5 Piece Kit, which comes with dual 8” x 10” and 8” x 12” rack toms, dual 14” x 14” and 16” x 16” floor toms, and a 18” x 22” kick drum. Sure, there will be more to carry, but when you get on your drum throne, you’ll have nearly unlimited options. 

Depending on your skill level and playing style, you’ll be able to use the additional drums to express your creativity with all your grooves and fills. Plus, you’ll dominate your spot on bigger stages with a larger profile kit that looks as assertive as it sounds. With this kit, take a look at the WFLIII 1909 Aluminum Snare. This snare is an ultimate modern classic with vintage characteristics, perfect with the sound and feel of the Headliner Kit.

The Best of Both Worlds

City Limits

But what if you fall somewhere in the middle of those two categories as a drummer? Maybe you play large venues but sometimes you need a smaller kit, or otherwise have to be conscious of how much gear you bring. Maybe you love having a lot of options in the studio, but not so much having to carry a ton of gear for shows on the road. (And there’s only so much space in your car, van, or travel trailer!) 

If you’re looking for a “best-of-both-worlds” versatile drum kit, you may want to look at a full-sized kit with a few toms that also gives you the option of only taking the ones you want for certain gigs. WFLIII’s City Limits Kit has a 14” x 24” kick drum, one 10” x 14” rack tom, and two 16” x 16” and 16” x 18” floor toms. The two floor toms are perfect for taking the full kit to a headlining gig on a large stage but leaving one floor tom at home when you play a set at a more intimate venue. So although you’d have fewer drums, you’d still have a powerful, authoritative sound with your larger shell sizes… and plenty of vibes! Don’t forget to add a WFLIII Maple Snare to this kit for a nuanced, dynamic snare drum with tuning options for any style of music.

Mixing It Up A Little

Now that we’ve explored a few ideal drum kits for various venues, let’s think about some creative ways you can set up and play your drums to spark a little extra creativity. For example, if you have a gig in a small coffeehouse, or maybe you’re playing an acoustic set in the middle of a larger show, you can adapt to the vibe of the set, the size of the room, or the stage space available by adjusting your setup.

These may require you to also adjust your playing, and that's a good thing! You’ll stretch your skills and play grooves in new ways as you recreate the feel you’d normally have with a standard drum kit. If that sounds like fun, here are a few ideas on how you can keep things interesting:

  • Easy & Practical: If you normally use two or more crashes, try setting up your kit with only one crash, a ride, and hi-hats.
  • Minimalist: Try removing your rack tom(s) and playing with a kick, snare, floor tom, hats, and one crash/ride. This works great with Promark Hotrods or Broomsticks for an acoustic feel.
  • Tiny Kit: Use only your kick, snare, hi-hats, and a crash/ride.
  • Stripped Down: Try playing with only a kick, snare, and hi-hats.
  • Bare Bones: Play with only your kick and snare. No cymbals. Hint: Use brushes; and a shaker would be helpful.
  • Backpacker Extreme: Use only your snare drum with the snares turned off. Play it with your fingers like a djembe.

Sure, some of these ideas may only be for fun. But maybe you can use one of them when you’re jamming. You may just come up with some ideas for new drum parts and techniques. If anything, after that, you’ll be thankful next time you sit down at your beautiful drum kit with at least one, two, or maybe three toms, and all the cymbals you want!