Ten Cities, Ten Drum Kits

Grace Center Kit

Grace Center Kit

Some of the fun & frustration of touring is playing a lot of different drum sets. I’ve probably played every make & model of kit through the years.  I still miss my personal set when I’m traveling. Every detail of my Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute kit is just the way I want it. But, on the road, that doesn’t happen. I only travel with my cymbals and stick bag; and of course, my luggage. Airline fees have forced me to become more stealth in my travel planning.

Even though I send a “drum rider” describing the drums, heads, and set up I need; I always make the best of what actually shows up. Being a “drum diva” is not cool… and making a fuss about the drums just makes people uptight. And it just makes me look bad if I get “cranky.”    🙂  No matter what the job is (church or concert setting) I try to stay positive. Whether it’s an old beat up kit with dented heads and bent hoops, or if it’s the top of the line stuff, I’ll give it my best shot.

In all honesty, YES, the better the kit, the better it sounds… but usually with changing a few heads and some fine tuning, any kit can be made to work OK for at least one event. I’ve just learned to embrace the challenge, and try to learn something from every experience. *Like… “those types of shells don’t sound good to me.” OR… “this kind of hardware is harder to use than others.”  Playing many kits really allows me the “privledge” of testing many instruments in a musical environment. Even the band will make comments about whether they like a particular drum set, snare drum, or even other cymbals I might use at a concert.

Right now I’m in the middle of a tour across Canada with Paul Baloche & Phil Wickham. I’ve played a Premier kit, Pear – Reference series, a DW – Top of the line, a PDP kit, and a Yamaha Stage Custom… All with different head combinations and shell dimensions. Some were in isolation booths, another on a huge stage, and then there was the small room where I had to play with hot rods & brushes all night. Who knows what I’ll get next… Yes, there were a couple of very frustrating moments when I could not get a kit to sound the way I like, but I just got it as close as I could. In other situations I was super impressed with a particular snare or tom sound. Either way I just play with passion and try to make the music feel good. “Thou Shalt Not Play Thy Drums In Vain!” – So it will be interesting to see how it goes playing 10 kits in 10 different cities. Thanks for your prayers.

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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. Hi Carl,

    This morning I got tickets for the Calgary event. It sounds as if it’s already nearly sold out. Over the past several years I’ve picked up a good number of things from you that have been a definite help to my own drumming at church. I’m looking forward to seeing you play with Paul Baloche Sunday evening!


  2. Do you run into many left handed setups on the road and does it frustrate you? I am left handed/footed.

    • Actually I’ve never run into a left handed set up. Many of the “left-ies” I’ve met play “open-handed” – using a standard drum kit set up, but playing left hand on the hi-hat. Good question… you’d have thought that by now I would have seen that. It’s still a challenge to use a different kit every night on the road. I usually arrive an hour before the rest of the band shows up. Blessings, Carl

  3. I played a premier set one night at a show and had fun. I would imagine though the cymbals can sometimes really be a game changer, with regards to how they sound together.?
    I’m still goofing with multiple arrangements just at home and church.
    Whats your ideal Cymbal layout Carl?

  4. Man, I wish you did an Eastern European tour. Not to sound ‘cranky’ but this part of the world is a bit neglected, yet you’ve been to Canada LOADS of times 🙂 . Please, when are you coming round my area? I’m a big fan. Michael W. Smith broke the ice, he’s coming to Romania the second time in June this year! Come on Paul and Co.!

    • Hi Cristi, So sorry we’ve not made a tour through that area yet. Keep prayin’ … it’s always a matter of logistics, timing, budgets, etc. etc. AND, most importantly, the Lord’s time & purposes for a trip. Thanks for your note. Blessings, Carl

  5. Tim Ellis says

    So, out of all the drum kits you’ve played (other than Yamaha) is there a particular snare, brand or series that you thought sounded good? I’ve been in the same situation where I’ve played other people’s kits and look at it as an advantgage to trying other hardware without having to buy it. One time I played a DW kit and I especially liked the kick sound. It had an aquarian Super Kick II drum head and no muffling inside the shell. I couldn’t get over how good it sounded. The attack was especailly noticeable.

    I use Sabian cymbals because you get a bang for your buck, but I always can spot when someone is using Zildjian or Pastie cymbals. Zildjian just have that super “crisp” sound that I like and Pastie has that even balance between brightness and mid-tones that I like.

    • Hey Tim, Yea, there are times something stands out in a drum set… Usually a snare drum that catches my attention… But I already have about 15 snares. 🙂 Most of my favorites are in that collection. (*Yes, I feel very blessed.) — On the Canada tour there was a Ludwig Acrolite (aluminum shell) 14 X 7… very fat sounding. Ludwig snares are almost always great tools for drummers to have. I have a Black Beauty & a standard Acrolite in my collection. But I have to admit my “fav’s” right now are the Yamaha 14 X 7 brass shell / 14 x 5 Maple Custom Absolute/ & the 13 X 3 brass piccolo. I’ve been doing almost every session & tour with that collection… // Cymbals – I’m sold on MEINL stuff… love their unique tone & character. — Blessings on your drum adventures, Peace, Carl

  6. Thanks for the great post. I remember Steve Gadd talking about “playing the room” according to each unique musical situation. It’s cool to know that even world class musicians come across some of the same musical situations – having to adjust for volume and equipment, like your gig with the hot rods and brushes.

    Concerning equipment, have you ever come across a drumset on tour that has forced you to hold back technically (rattles in hardware, bad heads etc.) ? I was checking Paul Baloche’s “You Have Saved Us”. On the pre-chorus sections, that is a very cool hi-hat & tom part, with a lot going on technically. Have you ever had to adjust drum parts because of equipment issues.

    Thanks for sharing- have a blast touring, Mike

    • Good question Mike. I always work a kit over pretty good before we play… checking out all the details… Even replacing some parts OR fixing something that’s not right. So, usually by the time the band plays I can play what I feel needs to happen musically. // Drum sets do change on tours… if something is NOT working I may leave off a tom or switch snares (* I do request several snares on the “drum rider”)… or find a music store and get new heads or parts. (*which does happen). In the end, when all has been done… I play with passion and purpose no matter what kit it is. Hopefully people feel the soul of the music, and not the kick drum or other sound that may not be exactly right. ** “Thou Shalt NOT play your drums in vain!”
      Blessings, Carl

  7. I appreciate, cause I found just what I was looking for.
    You’ve ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man.
    Have a nice day. Bye http://wiki.hskim.com/mw/index.php?title=User:StellaLeFanu,http://gsuhdakn11.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/may-classic-attractiveness-amid-links-of-london-necklaces-sale-preferences-addition/

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