What should you buy next for your drumming? This is a question we as teachers often get from the more driven students. It’s a cool question with lots of possible answers. So let’s dive into these drum set additions.
This article is purely about adding something to your current drum set. If you’re not entirely happy about your current instrument(s) you might be better off upgrading it first.
Here’s part 1 in our ‘What to buy next’ series: Drum Set Additions
By the way, we’ll assume you have a standard 5-piece rock or fusion kit right now. The standard kit is this:
- 22” or 20” Bass drum
- 14” Snare drum
- 10”, 12”and 14” toms
- 14” Hihat, 16” Crash and a 20” Ride
- Hardware pack including a drum stool
- Pair of drumsticks
2. Drums – More drums
- Tom tom – You could get an extra tom do expand your melodic palette. If you like high pitched sounds you could opt for an 8” tom. But if you’re more into deeper, darker tones you might want to go for a 16”.
You could also go for an 18” tom. With a small conversion kit this will also convert into a small bass drum. This is virtually obligatory for jazz drumming, but it can also come in handy for smaller gigs. Or you could use it as a second bass drum for a different sound.
- Snare drum – Adding a snare drum to your kit is always a good idea. You could add a side snare which is usually a bit smaller in size. But you could also get another main snare with different total characteristics.
In snares you have a vast array of shell choices which will produce very different sounds. The main categories here are:
- Wooden snares – Maple, birch, oak, mahogany, and many exotic woods like bubinga, padauk etc.
- Metal snares – Aluminum, brass, copper, bronze, chrome over brass etc.
- And a few other shell types such as fiberglass and carbon fiber.
If you’re looking for an addition to your drum set, keep in mind that it should be quite a different sound from your current main snare.
- Bass drum – Maybe your dream setup needs a second bass drum. Most people these days choose the double pedal option but you don’t have to. That classic double bass set up still looks pretty awesome in my book!
If you already have a five piece drum set adding another drum wouldn’t be my first choice.
- Extra crash – If you have only one crash this should perhaps be the first addition to your drum set. It’s nice to have two crashes so you can alternate between sounds of your (big) accents.
- Splash – I loved these little ones! I still do, but now I don’t use them that often anymore. Not like a few years ago when I could barely play through four bars of music without hitting at least one splash. So yes they can become a little bit obtrusive, but you’ll become a better musician because of it. It’s a period everyone has to go through so you might as well get it done. And the cool thing is they aren’t that expensive.
- Chinese – Another one of my childhood heroes: the Chinese Cymbal!! I had and still have a Sabian 20” B8 Pro Chinese which I adored. Haven’t used it in years but boy did I get my money’s worth on that one..
- Second hihat or remote hat or X-hat – One of my personal favorite additions to any drum set other than a jazz kit.. You can do so much with a second pair of hats in your setup. Don’t just look at these as necessary to play double bass on. They can be so much more. Listen to and watch someone like David Garibaldi use his x-hat in his funk grooves. Or listen to Charlie Benante from Anthrax. He used to alternate between his main and auxiliary hats to make distinctions between sections. I’ll stop now, but I absolutely love having more than one pair of hats in my setup. LOVE IT!
- Extra ride – You could play a second ride. Some jazz players play three or four of them. And some rock drummers like to have a ride on each side.
But you might also need a ride for a different musical purpose. Or perhaps I should say, a different kind of ride for a musical purpose.
- You can’t get a nice jazzy sound from a rock ride. You can swing as nice as humanly possible but it won’t come close to feeling the way it should. I speak from experience. A Sabian 20” AA Rock Ride is a very nice cymbal for rock but it’s absolutely useless in a swing setting.
- Vice versa, a 20” Artisan Light ride is one of my current favorites. But if you try to get a good rock sound à la Foo Fighters you can leave this one at home.
Whatever the case, a ride is another very good addition to your drum set. One that’s musically very relevant if you aspire to play jazz coming from rock, or vice versa.
- Other effect cymbals – There are quite a lot of other special effect cymbals out there. In recent years many new types of cymbals have been added. There are too much of them to discuss them all separately but here are a few.
China splash – A chinese type splash.
O-zone crash – A crash with holes in it. Sounds a little trashy but very quick and dry.
Bells – Just the cups of the cymbals.
Gong – The large cymbal of Chinese descent. If you want to hear one listen to the ending of Bohemian Rhapsody. In fact, listen to the whole song and try to fathom the fact that this once was popular music.
Stacks – Two cymbals on top of each other. The sound can best be described as trashy. They produce a long or short sound depending on how tightly you put them together. There are all sorts of stacked cymbal combos for sale. But you can also make your own like Dave Weckl has done for decades.
I have a few of these effect cymbals lying around but I don’t play them at all I have to say. They sound nice but I don’t have a personal taste for them right now. But I love to hear what someone like Dave Weckl does with his O-Zone and Effeks Crashes. Or Gavin Harrison with his homemade bells. Hmm, maybe it’s time to set up a few more stands next time in the studio…
Which cymbals you should get is very personal. It all depends on your style of playing and of your musical taste. In general the trend is that cymbals are getting larger again these last few years. Back in the sixties and seventies a 19” crash was not considered large. Then came the eighties and a 16” crash became the standard. Nowadays a first crash is often 18”. But once again it all comes down to personal preference.
4. New Tools
- Brushes – These will seriously change the way you play the drums. Brush playing requires a different grip, technique, coordination and balance. And the effect is the dynamics and the sound are very different. Really cool addition to your drum set.
If you’re used to playing with sticks, playing brushes well may take you a while. Really getting the mainly horizontal movement instead of the mainly vertical took me quite a bit of practice. Guess I’ve always liked a challenge, how about you?
- Hot rods – These are a great tool to develop your touch as well. While these are not as challenging to play as brushes, the feel you get from them is very different from drumsticks.
- Mallets – In most drumming circles I know it’s frowned upon not to have a pair of these in your stickbag. Just in case. You can use these for nice cymbal crescendos. The lack of stick definition makes for a perfectly mellow build. And because of this you can also use mallets on a drum kit to create a more legato sound. Watch this clip of Steve Smith and listen to he difference in sound between mallets and sticks.
- The practice pad – Practicing technique can be really daunting at first. You’re basically doing too much of the movement yourself. When you switch to a heavier, thicker, longer 2B you feel even more sluggish. But once you accept the rebound it actually doesn’t play that much more difficult. And when you go back to your drumset stick it may feel as if you’ve gained quite some control. After you’ve grown accustomed to the change you will probably have significantly improved your grip as a bonus.The same can be done with heavier marching band sticks or even aluminum sticks.
- The drums – When playing your drums and cymbals you may not want such a heavy sound. If you want to sound much lighter it’s recommended to play a lighter stick. So if you started out as a rock drummer and you’re now interested in learning how to swing, it might be a good idea to try out a couple of 7a’s and see what this does for your swing sound and feel.
These are some relatively cheap additions which can completely transform your playing. If your serious about drumming you should get these eventually so why not start now?
- Double bass pedal – This is one of my favorite additions to any drum set. Any rock or fusion drum kit that is. I don’t really fancy this on a jazz kit.
- Cable hat – Having a cable hat may give you some desired extra options as opposed to having just an x-hat. You can set it up to the left of your main hihat and have a different sounding second hihat. But this one opens and closes. And you can still use it closed when you need to. You just need to add a drop clutch.
But you may also place the pedal next to your bass drum foot. This way you can play double hihat with your feet just like you can play double bass drum. Check out players like Mike Mangini, Virgil Donati, Benny Greb and Travis Orbin for some ideas on how to incorporate a cable hat into your playing. They all have their own way of using it.
6. Second drum set
- Jazz kit – Suppose you want to get into playing jazz. If you have a standard fusion kit you will probably have a rock sound. Meaning you have a bass drum which sounds like BOOM! instead of booooooooooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmm. This will most definitely be your sound if you have a bass drum of 22” or larger. In this case it will money well spent to go for a small jazz kit. IF you have the extra money lying around, because a nice jazzy ride is absolutely priority #1. Now you can make the jazz kit sound jazzy and the fusion or rock kit sound rocky: BAM!
- Vintage kit – You might have a taste for vintage drums but you play a pop gig. The pop gig may not be best served using a 24” bass drum and a 13” as your first rack tom. Check eBay to see if there’s anything interesting on there.
These are certainly not cheap additions and you need the extra room to pull this off as well. But if this is what you really want you will find a way to get it done.
- Cowbell – Of course this has to be number one! These are used plenty all over Latin America. And we have lots of sizes to choose from. We have big mambo bells. or medium size cha cha bells, or a very small Agogô bell. They all sound unique and can be used in a variety of ways. If you’re going to buy your first cowbell I suggest starting with a nice mambo bell. This will sound great in rock and pop as well! Check out Honky Tonk Woman by the Rolling Stones, Pretty Fly For a White Guy by The Offspring. Steven Adler formerly of Guns ‘n’ Roses deserves an honorable mention here for all his cowbell work on the first two Guns ‘n’ Roses albums.
- Cowbell #2 – Use it as a cowbell played with your hihat foot! Check Horacio Hernandez to hear some seriously funky foot combell playing.
- Shaker – There are many types of shake. To us it will be most practical to choose one which can be played with one hand. This way we can substitute the stick in the hand which is playing time with the shaker. Now we can still play the snare and the rest of the kit with the other hand.
So while a cabasa is really nice, it needs to be played with both hands. Therefore it isn’t the best option for us drummers. One of these (link to canz) will be a lot more practical. Fun to test your coordination Skillz with!
- Tambourine – This isn’t just for the singer up front to try to make us lose track of the tempo. It’s also a cool addition to our drum set because we can accent the quarter note in yet another sound. We can also use it to embellish our stepped hihats. All we have to do is attach it to our hihat.
- Jam block – This sounds like a wood block with more attack. There are a few tastes in jam blocks. While they all sound cool in their own way, the red one seems to be the favorite of most. You can attach it using a multiclamp and hit it in between if you feel like it like Carter Beauford does.
- Jam Block #2 – Similar to a cowbell a jam block is often used to be played with the hihat foot. This sounds a bit more like actual claves This explains why it’s a strong favorite among many Afro Cuban drummers as well as Latin players in general. Check out Jimmy Branly for instance.
- Cajon – This may be a nice addition to your drum set as an extra. You can use this as a substitution for your drums in smaller settings. It does require a bit of an adjustment though. So make sure to give it a go before you decide to play it at the gig tonight..
There are many more percussive instruments which you may add to your drum set. Each of these will add a different flavor to your drumming. You’ll get some new inspiration and your musicality will benefit greatly from knowing how to play and use these.
8. Small items – miscellaneous
- Sizzle chain for on rides – If you want to make your ride sound as if it has rivets you can simply buy this. Or you could just tape a coin to a piece of duct tape and loosely hang it from your ride. That’ll do the trick as well. As far as I am concerned anything’s better than butchering your ride to stick rivets in there. Poor thing..
I’m sure there will me more but for now just one will have to do.
A good starting point is to see what your favorite players use. If you happen to find one instrument they all use, which you are still missing, you have found your first addition to your drum set.
You ultimately decide how you want to sound and what you need in order to do so. But I haven’t seen a case where an addition to a drum set made the player less motivated.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Should you invest in something to make you sound differently? Or is it all consumerism preventing drummers from really examining all possibilities in their current setup? We’d love to read about it, so don’t be shy and blabber away. I certainly did!