I've not played drums for years and when I did I used an electric kit which isn't really appropriate for live gigging.

I'm about to start performing in a rock band and would like to know what the minimum amount of kit I can get away with buying is in order to perform as venues often provide some kit.

I currently have sticks and a kick pedal. What else do I need as an absolute minimum?


Venues, like rehearsal studios, generally provide kick, a couple of toms, hi-hat and snare. Most drummers prefer their own snare, and cymbals, and often that includes their own hi-hat cymbals. A comfy seat is a personal choice too !

So, you could get away with those if you were sure of a 'back line' kit.

Not expecting any kit on site, a kick drum, snare, ride and crash cymbals and hi-hat would do. Not forgetting seat and sticks, of course ! If space is a problem, that's it. If not, use a small tomtom as well.

I've worked with several bands with electronic drums, and when played by a drummer who knows what he's up to, they can sound just as good as an acoustic kit. Often better - think about the fact that you could get away with, say, one tomtom, which could change sound at whim.

Some of the guys I work with have 2 or 3 kits, with different sized bass drums, so can tailor the kit to the gig. But cymbal wise, hi-hat and ride, and often a crash, are there every time.With the appropriate stands- don't forget the stands !


For venues without a kit, the absolute minimum would be snare, bass drum and hi-hat. That's the overwhelming majority of venues in my area. Hi-hat can operate as a poor man's cymbals in a pinch.

For venues with a basic backline kit, all you'll need is your sticks and bass drum pedal, although you will probably prefer your own cymbals.

Some folks will use a cocktail kit:

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Still other folks such as jazz drummer Jarrod Kaplan can make an effective drumkit sound with a djembe and rattles and bells on the ankles.

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A variant on the djembe idea is to use a Cajon with rattles and bells on the ankles.

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Another possibility is a travel drumkit with nesting drums.

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To save me hauling round the full kit, when I saw a child's kit in a second-hand store for 50 quid/bucks/shekels, I jumped at the chance.

With some judicious damping & tuning (they are all non-standard sizes so I can never change the skins) I have a perfectly serviceable kit that I can use in any small venue.

Add my own stool, kick pedal, hats & stand, plus one cymbal that can fly from the kick drum, I have a 3-piece kit that I can almost take on the bus. [almost]

  • For a good portable bass drum (that will be mic'ed in clubs), try mounting a tom on its side. My band has had a couple of drummers who have taken that route. – pro Nov 24 '14 at 22:23

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