How much gear is too much gear?

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How much gear is too much gear?

Words by Adrian Violi

Answering the big questions in this month's drum column.

I’m going to discuss a problem with you. This particular predicament of mine will apply
to all musicians and not just drummers. How much gear is too much gear? Some would literally through the milkshake at me and say, “…are you serious? What kind of a question is that?”, which would indicate that no amount is ever too much.

However, there’s another part to this predicament of mine that I wish to – unashamedly – drag you into. What if you’re not actually using any of the gear and crucially (but also, honestly) you don’t truly love it anymore?

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But I actually need this…

Let’s take my current collection of gear and discuss this matter further. I’ve convinced myself that I need all this stuff, by the way.

I recently sold a circa late ’90s Premier Genista drum kit. It was a lovely silver sparkle six-piece with a matching snare. I bought it around seven years ago and the reason for this? A), it was a bargain and B), I needed a birch kit as everything else I had was maple. I needed the birch kit you see.

Did I?!? Absolutely not. I just saw the thing, remembered the brand and model from my childhood as being a pro kit that was awesome and therefore talked myself into it. I used it for a bit, got too used to it and then didn’t gig it again for years. When I moved to a new house, it transported it. I stored it and then stored other stuff around it and on it went.

I have a mid-late 2000s Japanese Yamaha Maple Custom six-piece. Bought it blind! However, this was my gigging workhorse for many years but was never perfectly happy with it. I also have a 1998 Sleishman, which was my first real kit – a powerhouse thing with square sizes – 10×10, 12×12, 14×14 and a monstrous 20×20 cannon for a bass drum.

I used it all the way through university until, the lack of factory designed hardware drove me insane as did the sizes and I bought the Yamaha, which had hardware designed for it until the bass drum felt too big for every gig. So, at one point it was the Sleishman, the Yamaha and then the Premier. None of them did it perfectly. I found a ‘60s Ludwig Super Classic and this fulfilled a desire for vintage that has worked.

As a session player, I convinced myself that snares are absolutely critical, so I bought a ‘60s, Ludwig Supraphonic, a ‘70s Ludwig Acrolite, two Ludwig Black Beautys, a 14×7 Yamaha Oak Custom – the list goes on. I had that matching 14×5 Premier too. However, I reckon I’ve used my 14×6.5 Black Beauty exclusively on everything for the last two years and only recently have moved to using the ‘60s Supra on the gig, with the black beauty in close reserve. The others have just sat there, occasionally coming out for a recording. Do I really need them all?

My cymbals are totally varied too. I still have the 20” Zildjian K Custom Ride I got when I was 16. I doubt very much whether I’ll ever use that cymbal again, but can I bring myself to sell it? I’ve got so many cymbals that don’t really get a run and yet, as every cymbal made is a unique object, it’s hard for me to move them on. Take my 24” Zildjian K Light ride for example. It’s actually not that light, I had to specifically buy a 24” cymbal case and I reckon I’ve used it ten times.

So, what’s the solution?

Ok, so where is this going? Well, I’m confused. Hypothetically, if I was 19 again, I’d have one kit with one snare and a handful of cymbals. This would be my kit and I would gig with it. If you think about it, guys like Steve Gadd (I’m not comparing myself to the master here guys) would use the same kit/configuration and the same favourite cymbals for everything. Gadd has been quoted for using the same pair of hats for so long that he only retired them when they eventually key-holed from the clutch! Why do I really need five pairs of hats?

Weckl would use the same basic format/set up the majority of the time the same with Keith Carlock, or Vinnie – minor tweaks here and there of course, but their kit, their brand, their sound. Which brings me to the next point – my ears have changed. I now really dig the sound of the classic Ludwig and lighter, more responsive cymbals. I like smaller sticks with ball tips for clarity. But now, I’m craving a little more projection so a newer Ludwig Classic Maple might bring the perfect balance of vintage and new. Here we go again. Maybe I need a Yamaha Recording Custom too! It’s birch you see… wait.

The thing is, I could have a kit that if chosen carefully, does the lot and I really wouldn’t need anything else – perhaps the vintage Ludwig for the studio. But then, I also have all the other kits and related gear that realistically, and probably 90% of the time, won’t be used. Or do I need all this stuff in case. I’m not recording every week though, am I?

I know I’m small fry when it comes to this stuff. I’ve had friends with over 40 snares. The question is, would you or could you in fact, sell it all?

Revisit last moth’s drum column on perfecting rudiments here.