All “size matters” jokes aside, there is a lot to be said on this subject. I think there is a different mindset that comes from playing large, small, or “alternative” drum sets. And PLEASE keep in mind that the modern drum set is only about 100 years old anyway, so the “standard” drum sets that we see today could very well change within the next few years if we keep our minds open. My prediction is that we’ll soon start to see more “multi-percussion” set ups rather than the regular ol’ 5-piece preconfigured kits that are sold so frequently and not questioned today.
Back to the topic at hand, growing up I always knew I was a Large Drum Set person. To clarify, I’m talking about 6+ piece kits vs 4- or 5-piece kits. And even on a 5-pc, putting the rack toms off to the side of the bass drum rather than right over it scores some points with me (I call that an “extended 4-piece” kit). I learned a lot from watching Mike Portnoy, Simon Phillips, Neil Peart, etc., and adapted my playing style to incorporate that in there because it was flashy and exciting. But at some point I felt that I needed to reinforce the basics – not just rudiments in this case because they should be a standard practice for all drummers, but HOW to play on a Small Drum Set – to lay back and focus on the simplicity of The Groove. Obviously there can be some VERY impressive ideas expressed on a Small Drum Set like THIS, while many Big Drum Set players can become stuck in their ways or sound “contained,” despite their intimidating setups.
So where is the middle ground? I find that once you find Your Sound, you can really develop it further by experimenting with alternative drum setups. For me, I set up my Large Drum Set with symmetry and geometric patterns in mind. I think this keeps it fresh and lets me explore more possibilities than I would be able to do on a standard out-of-the-box 5-piece kit. It also allows me to see fills and patterns as shapes and to work within a certain shape or start there and expand upon it.
Coming from the Large Drum Set background, whenever I get a chance to play on a Small Drum Set (I’m talking 4-piece), I feel that I can sit back, relax, and just PLAY. I also find that the less “stuff” I have around me, the more I LISTEN to the other players or even myself. I’ve taken this approach back to the Large Drum Set, and have seen my compositions become more focused and less about hitting everything on the kit in each measure. And so when I do go for that 6″ tom or effects cymbal, it has more “meaning” than it would otherwise.
I’ll leave you with this: