Cocktail Drum Sets – All You Need to Know

Cocktail drum sets are an easy fix for a small spaces. They are convenient for smaller bands and for drummers that want a kit that’s easy to set up and pack down.

When you see these drums, you can picture smokey cocktail lounges with bebop jazz playing softly in the background.

Even though those days are long gone by now, cocktail drum kits have shown to be quite a versatile instrument, allowing for a lot of other uses in this day and age.

In this article, we’re going to present to you some of the best options on the market today.

1. Tama Cocktail Jam 4-piece Shell Pack with Hardware

High-quality cocktail drum kit with separate bass drum

It’s no surprise that Tama, one of the drum manufacturers, has a great cocktail drum set in their catalog. With the Tama Cocktail Jam you’ll get a four-piece drum set, with a 16” bass drum, 12” snare, 10” and 14” toms as well as all of the accompanying hardware. You can expand your kit with hi-hat and ride cymbals, as to enrich your sound.

Differently, from most of the other sets, where floor tom and bass drum are basically connected together into one big drum you hit from both sides, here the bass is separate from the snare drum.

This allows for better sound adjustment, as you get with the set Sound Focus Pad, which is meant to muffle the bass sounds from the bass drum. All of the toms are made out of birch, providing for great sound quality and crispy high sounds that will resonate greatly with a band behind.

Also, mobility is a big plus for this set. You can have it all set up or torn down in 5 minutes and it all fits in two bags, which one person can easily carry. If you’ve ever had to haul a whole drum set around for gigs, you know how exhausting that can get.

2. GP Percussion GP75WR Cocktail Drum Set

An affordable cocktail drum set for beginners.

GP Percussion GP75WR is a great, affordable little cocktail drum set. In this set, you will get an 8” demi snare drum, 10” tom, 15” cocktail floor tom/bass drum, as well as the 10” high hat and 15” ride cymbal and a cowbell. This should really prove enough for anyone looking to start playing this type of drums or just wants to expand his arsenal with something cheap, yet sturdy and quality made.

Toms are made out of poplar wood, with PVC covering. The drum heads are decent quality and will provide you with a good sound, though as with almost any new drum kit, it's still worth replacing the heads if you have the money with top of the range options (e.g. great Remo, Evans, or Aquarian ones that suit your style)

All in all, this is not the best cocktail drum set in the world, but it's certainly not bad for its price. If you’re a looking to get into cocktail drums, it's definitely worth considering.

3. Meinl Cocktail Cajon Kit

Cajon Cocktail Kit - Great for a stripped-down setup and quieter gigs

Check out this option if you’re looking for something even more stripped down than a standard cocktail drum kit. Their Cocktail Cajon Kit is a great mix of different types of cajons which are going to give you all of the tenderness and acoustic sounds you need.

In this kit, you’ll find a big cajon, which is played with a beater as a bass drum, as well as pickup snare, tom tap and bongo cajon tap drums included in the package.

Also, you’ll get hotrod sticks to play this kit with, together with beater mechanism for the bass drum. Sound quality is great if you’re looking for more acoustic sounds, but don’t expect this thing to be loud same as the drum kits since it’s not built for that. It also comes at a very reasonable price, so if you’re looking for something that is compact, easy to carry, and produces a lot of cajon sounds, this is you pick.

How many drums are in a cocktail drum kit?

Since cocktail drum kits are made to be smaller in size and more mobile than standard drum kits, it’s no wonder they comprise a smaller number of drums in a kit. Of course, there are some differences between different kits, but usually, there’s one large floor tom/bass drum, accompanied by two other toms on the side and one or two cymbals on the side.

What are the benefits of a cocktail drum kit?

Some might think that the cocktail drum kits are just crammed up standard drum kits with worse sounds, but they are much more than that. They were originally made for bebop jazz bands, which played at smaller places and didn’t really need the loudness of a full drum kit, as well as they didn’t want their space to be used up by the drums.

So, cocktail drums were invented, which were smaller, easier to carry around (which is extremely important when you’re playing other venues every night and have to move constantly) and had a bit damper sound. Today, they are usually used by acoustic bands for these same reasons.

What is the difference between a cocktail drum kit and a regular drum kit?

Some cocktail drum sets are played standing up, opposed to the standard drum kits where drummers sit down while playing. The second biggest difference is that floor tom and bass drum are often essentially one same drum shell. You hit on the bottom of the floor tom to get bass drums, and if you hit on top of it you’ll get floor tom sounds.

Also, cocktail drum kits are much smaller as they were made to be handy and mobile. So, you don’t have as much space to add more drums on your cocktail drum kits as you have with standard kits and you definitely don’t have as many cymbals or control of them as with the standard drum kit.

There is also a slight difference in sound, as cocktail drum kits are quieter than the regular drums and the tones are somewhat higher and crispier to compensate for the smaller amount of drums and quieter sound overall.

Famous Drummers that use a Cocktail drum kit

Even though most of the drummers use regular drum kits, that’s not to say that cocktail drum kits haven’t been used or aren’t being used today still. Usually, jazz drummers are thought of using this type of drums, with names such as Slim Jim Phantom or Peter Erskine coming in mind. Billy Conway, the drummer of Morphine, also used to play these drums as well as Mick Fleetwood from the legendary Fleetwood Mac.

One that might surprise you is that the Travis Baker , the drummer from Blink-182, has been seen playing cocktail drums. This just shows you that you don’t have to play soft jazz sounds to be able to use cocktail drums, but if you’re imaginative enough, you can use them for everything you might need or want.

Mike O'Connor
Mike O'Connor

I've been playing drums for over 18 years. I work as both a session drummer and a drum teacher, and I love to share my knowledge and tips on this site. You can also find me on the Electronic Drum Advisor YouTube channel.

Leave a Comment

Leave a reply

Electronic Drum Advisor