When I joined London City Brass as a percussionist I was both excited and worried: I would be playing for a band located in the City of London. This meant getting a drum kit from home in Northeast London, to the centre of town, via the London Underground - the Central Line specifically.
To make matters worse, our original rehearsal venue would not allow storage of ANY equipment on site. We were not even allowed to store empty bags, and any items left would be disposed of. Not great when storing large percussion equipment week to week. So, that meant transporting a drum kit on the busiest tube line into central London, during the rush hour!
British brass bands are known for their eclectic repertoire that can require quite a range of percussion instruments. So it was a question of finding the most bang for my buck. What parts of a drum kit would be the most useful in every rehearsal? Drum kits are not know for their portability. You either need a car and parking at the venue, or space to store the kit between rehearsals and events.
There were a few options available to me. I had the good fortune to acquire an Arbiter Flats Pro kit many years ago. That's a portable kit with no drum shells and hardware that attaches to cymbal stands making a very convenient package. To top it off, it comes with a beautiful fleece-lined bag that you could sleep in, in an emergency! I did consider an electronic solution, but good examples require decent speakers that are just as bulky and heavy to transport. Brass Band are loud - so the amplification does too.
To build a new kit, I started with the basics, a snare drum. Standard snare drums are 14 inches across and 5 inches deep. That’s fine for tube travel, but there are smaller piccolo snares that are a little smaller, they are usually around 12 inches across and 3 inches deep, valuable space-saving. When the heads are tuned lower, they can mostly replicate that snare sound. So I set out on a quest to find the prefect piccolo snare. Being in a brass band, and having played a metal snare drums for most of my playing career, I looked for brass coloured metal piccolo snares, and found one in the form of a Pearl Brass Piccolo 13" x 3" Snare Drum.
Now for a case, this I was less successful with. The idea of a piccolo snare was to loose width and depth, so a good quality case would enable rough tube travel. I’ve always liked Protection Racket cases and duly ordered the case to fit. Well that turned out not be be so great. While the label on the case says it’s for a 12 inch snare, the case is actually a 14 inch case, with a 12 inch label on it. Grrrr. Still it is squishy, so it does the job, but not as dainty as I was expecting.
The next easiest item to bring after a snare drum is a cymbal. Again, these come in a range of sizes, obviously a 22 inch ride was out, but so too were tiny splash cymbals. I have always taken pride in my cymbal sound - Sabian cymbals being my go-to manufacturer. I have a 17 inch AAX studio crash that I ADORE. It has just the right qualities for my style of playing and just sounds fantastic. Not too dark, not too fast - it’s in the Goldilocks zone. These days I guess it’s what you called a thin crash. Again, quite portable, but I think I could do better. While at a competition at Butlins Skegness - IN JANUARY - I was tempted into buying a very nice sounding Dream splash cymbal and decided to try out a few of their offerings. I did my research and found a 14 inch on the balance point between a large splash and small crash. It does, I think I could do better, it’s a little fast when rolling, but it does the job for now. Still tempted by a Sabian at some point. Dream also made 12 inch high-hats that fitted the job nicely.
For a bass drum - DW make a similar light weigh drum kit to the no longer produced Arbiter range of flat kits. That was another one ticked off the list. Next was drum hardware, the DW range of aluminium 6000 series made the cut. Light weight and compact.
So that’s that - a drum kit portable enough to be transported on the tube to rehearsals and jobs, but loud enough to cut through a brass band at full tilt. Ta-daa!