Mobile Alternatives to a Full Size Drum Set


If you’ve ever moved a full drum set from one place to another, you know that it’s a painful process.

Drummers have it the worst when it comes to gear mobility, we can all agree on that. We have to lug around drum shells, cymbals, sticks, accessories, hardware, and we always seem to forget something. Carrying around all that gear gets tiring, and can take a toll on your body after years of doing it. In addition to just being frustrating, it takes a lot of time to tear down, move, and set up a full kit. If you’re anything like me, you’re sick of it. In this article, I will explore different modern drumming gear that focuses on being mobile. These alternatives will be given scores based on how mobile they are, the sound quality they produce, and how playable they are as a full set alternative.

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Jazz/Bop Drum Kits

While these are technically still full drum sets (and should be disqualified), the smaller sizes and better mobility qualify them to be included in this list. Usually, including an 18-inch bass drum, 10-inch rack tom, 13-inch snare, and 14-inch floor tom, these drums are tiny but still can pack a punch. Kits like the Ludwig Questlove Breakbeat and the Sonor Martini have changed the game, showing everyone that a smaller set can sound as good or better than a full size. While they are far more mobile than a full-size kit and play exactly like one, having to lug around hardware and cymbals cut this alternative down in mobility.

  • Mobility: 3
  • Sound: 9
  • Playability: 10

MCAJDRUMS-PCajon Drum kit

Cajon is Spanish for a box, a very accurate name for these wooden instruments that have recently been changing the modern worship, folk, and country scenes. Cajons are usually constructed of 4 sides with a thin faceplate and a porthole on the back, and snare wires on the inside. An easy, cheap alternative to a full set, any drummer who have played these small boxes have been blown away by their versatility. While there are some high-end cajons available, most are around the 100$ mark. They are easy to play but are in a completely different sonic field than a modern drum set. Cajons boast a huge boost in mobility, as they are one piece and a self-contained throne. The sound, however, is everyone dimensional and does not come close to a full drum set.

  • Mobility: 10
  • Sound: 5
  • Playability: 8

VD46CBNVBG-largeCocktail Drum Kit 

A favorite of the vintage drummer, these kits you play standing up. They sound great, have a unique look, and offer the advantage of mobility not offered on a full-size kit. Many modern drumming companies still create these wonderful contraptions, like the Tama Silverstar and C&C Custom cocktails. Usually with a combined floor tom and bass, hanging snare and high tom, mounted hardware for cymbals, and elimination of the need for a throne, this kit boasts mobility unlike others on this list. However, the awkward shape and weight make this hard to move in one trip. The downside on these kits is the playability, standing and playing one of these for a long period of time is a chore. But with an Evans 16″ EMAD on the bottom and proper tuning, these drums can sound very close to a full kit.

  • Mobility: 8
  • Sound: 8
  • Playability: 6

td-50k_main_galElectronic Drum Kit

The Electronic drum kit stormed the drumming world in the 70’s and 80’s, and continue to make an impact to this day. As an alternative to a full-size kit, you can carry a small electronic drum kit and small watt amp fairly easily. No, I am not saying that the Roland TD-40 is a mobile drum set alternative, but there are many small electronic kits that are. Sound quality is a huge factor between larger and smaller electronic drum brains, though, and most of the smaller kits do not have high-quality samples. As for mobility, you can fold and carry most small electronic kits, and some kits are even designed to be carried, like the Simmons SD100KIT and the Roland TD-1KV. The biggest issue, however, is that electronic drums have no acoustic properties, so an amplifier will always be necessary.

  • Mobility: 5
  • Sound: 7
  • Playability: 9

GigPig-drum-setGigpig Drum Kit

If a cajon and a cocktail kit had a baby, it would be the Gigpig. This is a Frankenstein of ideas that come together to create this unique, one of a kind instrument. At it’s most basic, the Gigpig is a box with drumheads and cymbal hardware attached; But add innovative bass and hi-hat pedals and the mobility of a cajon, and this becomes a different beast compared to others on this list. The Gigpig gives the drummer some of the playability of a full drum set by including a hi-hat, crash, ride, splash, and 3 toms, 6,8, and 10 inches. Most importantly, from every clip I’ve heard of the Gigpig, it sounds great. Overall, the Gigpig is really innovative and should be considered when looking into mobile alternatives.

  • Mobility: 8
  • Sound: 8
  • Playability: 7

traps-drums-a400-659748Traps A400 Drum Kit

Another inventive alternative, the Traps A400 looks like an electronic drum set but with real heads instead of pads. A fully fleshed 5 piece kit, this kit comes very close to feeling like a real drum set. The A400 is more mobile than a full kit without sacrificing much of the sound that a full kit would bring. The only thing on here that can’t compare to a full kit is the bass drum, which has a full attack but not much low end. The biggest downside is having to bring hardware and full-size cymbals, which can make this kit slightly less mobile.

  • Mobility: 5
  • Sound: 9
  • Playability: 9

So, whether you like a big drum kit, a little drum kit, a compact drum kit, or something in between. I think you’re covered! The way I see it, play whatever feels good and leave the convenience for the correct situations! That does it for this article! Check back next Wednesday for another!

– Dylan

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