If you’ve ever wondered what those drum kits that people stand up to play are all about, you’ve come to the right place. Cocktail drum sets are fairly unique, providing a different setup to what most drummers are typically used to.
You can identify a cocktail set by the fact that the drummer needs to stand up to play it. Cocktail sets can add a unique dynamic to a band setup, and many drummers could benefit from having one.
So, I’m going to take a deeper dive into them and show you one of the top cocktail kits on the market.
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Mechanics of Cocktail Drum Sets
While the drum kit, as we know it, started gaining popularity in the 1920s, cocktail drum sets only came into the picture around the 1940s. Even though they were used by quite a few drummers at the time, they never picked up like the standard drum kit did. However, they’re still valuable kits to have today that have a few unique benefits.
The biggest benefit of a cocktail kit is that it’s an all-in-one drum set. The bass drum, snare drum, and cymbals are all mounted onto the same stand. This gives you a small kit that can fit into tight spaces where a standard drum set typically wouldn’t be able to.
I’m assuming that’s where the name came from, as large drum kits would struggle to make their way into cocktail parties.
Cocktail sets typically have smaller drums than standard kits, meaning the sounds are shorter and have higher pitches. A bass drum of a cocktail set is usually a converted floor tom.
It’s suspended in the air with floor tom legs and a uniquely designed pedal is used to play the bottom head. These pedals only work for cocktail kits, meaning you can’t use a normal kick pedal.
The type of pedal used is the biggest difference between normal and cocktail kits. The rest of the cocktail kit resembles a standard kit, having the snare and toms positioned in front of the player.
Most people stand when playing these kits. However, you can sit and play if you have a drum throne that can be raised high enough.
Top Cocktail Drum Kit on the Market
Undoubtedly the most popular cocktail drum set on the market right now is the Tama Cocktail Jam. I realized that it’s the most popular one because other drum companies haven’t produced them and pumped marketing for it like Tama has. However, it’s an incredible kit that sounds way better than I initially thought it would.
Right now, it’s also pretty much your only option for a cocktail kit from a renowned drum manufacturer since I’m not seeing once-popular Ludwig and Yamaha cocktail kits anywhere anymore.
It’s vital to know that this kit isn’t going to sound exactly like a standard kit. It’s not designed that way. Instead, it has way more attack and the toms get out of the way very quickly. This is because they don’t have resonant heads on them.
I love the punchy tones that the kit produces. They work extraordinarily well in hip-hop and pop settings. I’ve also seen several drummers use it as a busking kit.
Overall, it’s a great kit that could be put to good use in many situations. However, I don’t think you should use it as a replacement for your main drum kit. Instead, it would be better used as a compact option for certain gigs.
One downside to it is that the bass drum tone is fairly difficult to control. You either get an unwanted resonating boom or a tight muffled tone with no impact. Finding the balance between those requires a bit of testing with muffling techniques and different kinds of bass drum beaters.
Here’s a demo of the kit:
Modern Uses of Stand Up Drum Kits
As I mentioned before, I think the best use of stand up drum sets is when you have to set it up at a venue where you don’t have a lot of space. The Tama kit comes with two drum bags. One of them is for the kit and the other is for the hardware. Having only two bags to carry is every gigging drummer’s dream.
Another use I can see for it is for the visual aesthetic. It’s not the kind of drum set that you see every day, so having the drummer of a band play on one of these on a stage will turn a lot of heads. Whether you’re standing or sitting to play it, the kit will definitely add a sense of uniqueness and branding for a live performance.
A good example of this comes from a band called Ghost-Note. The drummer, Robert ‘Sput’ Searight, often uses the Tama Cocktail Jam for certain performances.
Famous Players of Cocktail Drum Sets
Cocktail drums have been mostly popular with jazz drummers, although even Travis Barker of Blink 182 played it, so you know that they can be pretty versatile if you’re creative enough!
Other noteworthy players of cocktail drummers include Mick Fleetwood, Steve Jordan and Peter Erskine.
You could get really close to making cocktail kits sound large by putting high-quality drum heads on all the shells, although I personally think their punchier sound with shorter sustain is what sets them apart. Standing while drumming may take some getting used to, but it’s not the only way of playing cocktail kits.
If you’re considering getting one of these, you should ask yourself what you need it for. If you want it as your main drum set, I don’t think it’s the best idea. If you want a new kit to play around with and use occasionally, then go for it!