Big Kit, Little Kit

Standard Recording Kit for Carl

Standard Recording Kit for Carl

I really enjoy changing my drum set up around. Sometimes it’s a small kit – a 4 piece = kick, snare, 1 rack tom, 1 floor tom./ Hi-hat, Ride, & 2 crashes. Often, I ย add one more tom to that set up and an aux snare to the left of my hat. My standard ย recording kit right now has 10″, 12″, & 16″ toms; a 22″ kick; 14″ x 7″ Yamaha Brass shell, and a 13″ x 3″ Yamaha piccolo brass shell. (*Photo) I change the cymbal set up according to the music, but in the photo is what I normally start with. (Meinl Cymbals – 20″ Amun Ride, 18″ & 19″ Byzance crashes, & a 12″ splash. I have about 15 snares in my collection, but for most sessions I’ll take 5 or 6. In reality I do most projects with 3 or 4 – a Big Brass drum, a Standard Maple snare, a brass piccolo snare, and an old “fat” chrome-over brass. Toms & cymbals change according to the music.

I have several kits and tons of stuff to add on to my drum set ups. Every now and then I go crazy and set up everything I can get into my drum area. I like to stir up the creative juices by hearing all the different sounds that a large kit can deliver. This happens on the road too. I make it a point to try and play whatever they have available. Big kit, or small kit, I like to apply the instrument to the music I’m playing. I’m always mindful of honoring the artist I work with and what their music really needs. Paul Baloche always prefers smaller kits; 2 toms, maybe 3 at the most; and a few cymbals. No splashes or china cymbals for Paul-ie B.! Every now and then a big kit is at a venue and Paul will prefer a scale it down a bit. And I do whatever I can to make him comfortable with his music.

Big Kit in Chicago

Big Kit in Chicago

Other artist, like Paul Wilbur or Don Moen are OK with a big set up, as long as I don’t go crazy and hit everything on each song. ๐Ÿ™‚ Not a good idea, gang – keep that in mind!ย  Paul Wilbur likes the added color and expression a big kit delivers. (*2nd photo shows a large kit I used at an event in Chicago.) He even likes me to add more emotion and musical drama to his music when it feels appropriate. AND THAT is the operative word… only when it’s the “appropriate” thing for the music. It’s not about the drums, or me, it’s about the music… Always “PLAY MUSIC”, NOT JUST DRUMS!”ย  The thing about playing a big kit is to be mature enough not to hit everything. Just because a keyboard player has 88 keys doesn’t mean they play them all on each song, right? Apply that principle to your playing and you’ll think more musically. Be a GREAT MUSICIAN, whether it’s the big kit or little kit. Play every note with “heart!”


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About Carl

Carl has been a professional drummer & percussionist for over 30 years. He has played on over 80 Integrity Music projects; Maranatha Praise Band recordings 7 thru 10, & numerous other Christian, Pop, Country, Jazz, & Commercial projects.


  1. Jeff Edman says


    Thanks so much for your tasteful playing and your helpful comments on musicianship and drumming in general over the years. I so appreciate your heart, and the sound advice you give to all of us to BE worshipers and musicians first, and then play drums second. I’m a band leader at my church and play several instruments. However, drums are my first love by far. It’s so helpful to have your resources availble as reminders, and for training up all the “up and coming” players that the Lord is bringing to us …. It’s wonderful to have a respected musician like yourself model a FIRST LOVE relationship with Jesus and then demonstrate how we as percussionists, can submit our hearts and talents to Him to be used in ministry/

    Also, I wanted to say what a blessing it was to listen to Paul Baloche’s new album “The Same Love.” Although I “think” there may have been some other drummers playing on a few tracks, I really love the way you blended in exactly was needed without over playing on those tunes. This recording truly “feels like” a live worship event. I love “band albums” in general; however, the vibe you guys have as a serving unit, your love for each other, Paul’s music, and the Lord comes through loud and clear IN those tracks. I’ve been a fan of both you and Paul Baloche for years.

    From one of those “veterans” that’ve seen a year or two in worship ministry, I just wanted to say, WELL DONE …. !!! This is an album I’m going to recommend as an example for musicians and worship to personally for years to come!!!

    Basically, I just wanted to say thanks for serving as a positive role model and a mentor to so many who are striving to give our best to our Lord. You have been a blessing to my life and ministry!!!

    God Bless & God Speed in all you do …..

    • Thanks Jeff,,, it’s an honor to serve & do what the Lord calls me to. I do love playing, recording, producing, writing, etc. etc. AND TEACHING. Passing on the information to those that want to learn is a calling I take seriously and I feel very blessed to help in anyway I can. We’re all still learning!! ๐Ÿ™‚ /// Also,, so glad you love the new project & the music we’ve done through the years. Yes, I few guest players were on the recording… that’s cool… schedules and deadlines just made it difficult for everyone to get together when needed. // There’s so many talented people in the church right now… AMAZING really! The Lord is growing the tribe of Levites in the earth! It’s exciting to see the Lord move in the midst of His people everywhere. // Press On in the journey with Jesus my friend. Blessings, Carl

  2. Mike Walker says

    Hi Carl,
    Great article. I did something recently that has proved to be a challenge. I went down to a 3 piece kit. Bass, piccolo snare, and a floor tom. It has been difficult to get used to. But, it has helped me to play fewer notes and at the same time be more creative. One of the singers asked where the rest of my kit was and I told him I felt like I had been in a rut recently and this helps me to think differently. Honestly, I have become quite comfortable with it and it has become a lot of fun!


    • Mark Wallace says

      Mike, I’ve been doing the same for a few years now. Originally it was because I was playing in a very small church building (where I was right on the floor in front of the first row of chairs!), but now I play the three piece almost everywhere, even in a 1000 seat auditorium or an outdoor band shell. I like the challenge of trying to be musical with less. Sometimes I feel constrained, but most of the time it just keeps my fills simpler, and makes me be more creative with different beats and grooves (since I’m doing less fills). And when I hear myself recorded, I am happy with how much I am (and more importantly, how much I am NOT) playing! That style seems to be serving the music pretty well. Serve God, and serve the music!

      • Mike Walker says

        Thanks for the vote of confidence Mark! One of the things I have been trying to do for as long as I remember is keeping my playing fresh. I try to play songs as differently from one time to another as I can and with only 3 drums it is making it easier to do. Also, it is making it easier to focus more on the Lord in worship and hearing more of Him instead of me. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. rennie placide says

    Great article…do you ever feel like you were unable to please a Singer or band or something while playing…How we you able to put that aside and still get yourself into the music..?

    I must confess guys i am not familiar with drums specs for e.g….Drums shells , and brass snare drum name etc, because it so costly here…My question is can you point me in the direction of an all purpose kit and cymbals for my worship service…& particulary the tuning of the 10″ rack tom and the snare…Any suggestions

    • Some more good questions… I always try to do my best when working with any singer or team. I often ask if everything feels OK. Tempos, dynamics, etc. etc. will have an impact on everyone. Whatever the team needs to do their best, I will try to adjust to that… Sometime it’s just a matter of communication to find out what works & what needs adjusting. Use a metronome to mark tempos for every song. Make sure you’re not playing too loud or too soft… etc. etc. /// When a singer is always un-happy or complaining, you can only do your best. Try to be as helpful & humble as possible,,, but never allow anyone to be abusive or insulting. Musicians and singers should honor & respect each other no matter what skill they have. Try to remedy any problems the best you can; keep practicing together; and you should see improvement.
      TUNING: I recently posted some comments on my favorite set up (*See Big Kit, Little Kit – on the home page) No matter what kit you play try to get new drum heads when the old ones are worn out. Tune the snare heads to a medium tight tension (both top & bottom) – tapping the head with the snares off you should hear a “G” tone ringing. ; be sure the snare wires are in good condition – adjust them to a medium buzz sound. Use a little muffling to dampen the ringing of the snare according to the sound you like. // Kick drums should be tuned VERY loose… almost “flapping” when you hit it. – Use a towel or small pillow to dampen it. // Toms – tune to medium tension… 10″ should be a “D” note, 12″ an “A”, a 14″ an “E”, the 16″ floor tom a low “B”. Yes, I do tune the drums to these pitches! ๐Ÿ™‚ Start there and adjust according to what sounds good to your ear and the room you’re playing in. Peace, Carl

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