Drum sets come in many different configurations. The setup of your drum set should be determined by your personal preference, as well as influenced by the style of music that you play.
When we’re talking about the ‘pieces’ of a drum set, we solely focus on drums and do not include the cymbals.
The ‘pieces’ of a regular drum set are made up of Snare Drum + Bass Drum + (Toms). In general, the only difference between 3, 4, and 5-piece kits are the number of toms.
Why? Because you can just remove the extra toms if you don’t need them.
5 Piece Drum Set
5 Piece drum sets are extremely common. They generally include 2 toms that are attached to the bass drum and one floor tom with metal legs connected to the sides of the drum shell. Alternatively, the toms can also be connected to a rack instead of being connected to the bass drum.
Having 3 toms makes it great for big drum fills. If you play music that has classic tom rolls, then it’s great to have 3 (or more) toms to roll between.
- More drums and sound possibilities, particularly great for fills.
- Really fun to play and roll between multiple toms.
- Looks cool!
- Takes up more space.
- Takes more time to mic up.
- The ride cymbal needs to be positioned higher or further away, in order to get out of the way of the 2nd tom.
- More toms to tune and drum heads to maintain.
- The first tom can often be quite small on drum sets (such as 10-inch toms), which some drummers don’t like gigging with.
4 Piece Drum Set
4 Piece drum sets are also very popular. The two toms offer some variation to play in your drum fills and grooves while allowing you to position a ride cymbal or other item in the place of the second tom.
In the picture above, the first tom is clamped to a cymbal, but they are more often attached directly to the bass drum.
If you own a 5 piece drum set, you can just remove the smallest tom in your set, move the other high tom into its place, and away you go!
- Great for genres such as jazz, where the ride cymbal leads the groove.
- More compact kit to set up and transport
- Fewer toms!
- Not as much versatility.
3 Piece Drum Set
3 piece drum sets are commonly used for drummers that want a really compact option. The street performer in the picture above, no doubt, uses this kit configuration for this very purpose.
Junior drum sets often come in 3 piece configurations due to their simplicity.
- Very compact, easy to transport, set up, and mic.
- It gives a lot more space to cymbals, other percussion items, or sample pads.
- Cheaper set
- Only one tom – not a lot of diversity for drum fills and grooves.
2 Piece Drum Sets
Although not used very often, 2-piece drum sets have no toms at all. This type of drum set configuration is often used for more experimental type kits or hybrid drum sets.
If you’re looking for a really minimalist drum set configuration that’s easy to transport, a 2-piece might be your option! It can be a bit strange if you’re not used to it.
Bigger Drum Sets
Of course, we’ve all seen videos or images of drummers with monster kits! (1980’s hair metal type bands spring to mind, though there are still many drummers of many various genres that use bigger drum sets).
If you have the budget and willingness to transport and set up a drum set with 10+ toms, then you don’t need permission from us!
In general, a 5-piece drum set is big enough for the majority of musical scenarios. Also, metal drummers don’t need a second bass drum if they use a double bass drum pedal.
Below is a 7-piece drum set, because it includes 4 toms (2 clamped to a cymbal stand and 2 floor toms), one snare, and two bass drums.
What are the other elements of a drum set?
The other elements of a drum set are cymbals (hi-hat, ride cymbal, crash cymbal, splash, china, etc.) and hardware (stands, pedals, clamps, legs, etc.).
You can optionally add in other parts as you wish, such as percussion elements and electronic drum pads.
Things to consider before opting for one option
There are things you have to consider before opting to purchase one of the options listed above. Firstly, examine your musical style and what fits it best. Do you play jazz? Then a 4-piece drum set would be ideal for you. Something more generic like pop, hip-hop, or funk? Then a 5-piece kit will do you justice.
Secondly, you should consider your preferences and/or limitations. If you have some slight mobility issues, then a smaller kit will prove more fruitful for your playing. Also, if your preference is “the more the better”, then opt for a bigger kit to satisfy your needs.
Lastly, and this is common, is the looks of the drum kit. This may not be a viable option but drummers do like how their set looks. If you think that a 2-piece set cannot compare to a 5-piece in terms of looks, you are right!
What is the best drum kit for Beginners?
As experienced drummers already know their preferences, I’ll focus on some advice for beginner drummers that still want some guidance on choosing the right set.
Usually, beginners start off with a regular 5-piece drum set. However, I’d say it’s better to go with a 4-piece drum set when starting, or just get a 5-piece and remove one rack tom. You then have a bass drum, a snare drum, a rack tom, and a floor tom to work with which is more than enough to build your skill and gradually add parts as you progress.
For cymbals, I’d say get the standard – Hi-hat, one crash cymbal, and one ride cymbal. This would be more than enough.
I hope that’s explained the differences and pros/cons between 2,3,4 and 5-piece drum sets. If in doubt, it’s probably worth going for a 5-piece set. You can swap out the rack toms as you please. Although drum sets follow a general standard, you have a lot of freedom to mix and match whatever you like into your setup.