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Compact Drums: Big Sounds in Small Footprints

Find the drum set that matches your lifestyle.

Compact products have been a fad for quite some time now. From fashion-forward kids making fanny packs cool again to sleek carry-on suitcases, it seems like everywhere you look, small is in vogue. But what about compact musical instruments?

As a drummer in my high school’s marching band, this concept was only a dream. I was always envious of the flute players who could carry their instruments in their backpack. Having to lug my drums from place to place became such a hassle that it detracted from the art form.

Fitting a complete drum set into one bag is seemingly impossible. But compact drums (sometimes called traveling or gigging drums) are a reality today. They can be used in a wide variety of applications, from practice to teaching, from playing on small club stages to busking on the streets of your city (assuming you have the proper license, of course!).

It’s important to find the instrument that will not only hold up to your playing, but also matches your lifestyle. If you’re a drummer who lives in a tiny apartment or a drum teacher looking to make the most of the limited space you have available in your studio, you need a drum set with a small footprint. (Note: If you practice or teach where sound is an issue, consider using silent heads and cymbals and pairing them with the Yamaha EAD10 acoustic electronic drum module. This can help minimize sound, while still allowing you to play and maintain the feel of acoustic drums.)

There are plenty of compact options when it comes to finding a drum set that can be used to practice when on the road or in a tight space. While pancake drums, pad sets and some entry-level electronic kits are great for keeping your chops tight, they might not give you the sound you are looking for when gigging. There are a variety of cocktail and mini kits that provide more of a punch while still maintaining a small footprint; these can be great for playing club gigs as well as for recording.

Yet when designing a compact drum set, portability and small size is not the only goal. Making compact drums sound good takes knowledge and experience.

Travel Timpani

When it comes to compact instruments, the key is having a build and design that is focused on sonics. Yamaha has been making drum and percussion products for decades, and was one of the first manufacturers to offer portable “travel” timpani. The company’s TP-3300 Series travel timpani are designed for performances in small spaces like houses of worship or recording studios, yet they deliver a big sound.

Yamaha TP-3300 travel timpani.
Yamaha TP-3300 travel timpani.

Stage Custom Hip

In early 2020, Yamaha released the Stage Custom Hip drum set. An extension of the company’s Stage Custom Birch set — complete with the same exact six-ply birch wood — this innovative product offers a small footprint that makes it ideal for teaching, rehearsal and recording, as well as performance in tight spaces.

The dimensions of the Stage Custom Hip reflect its compact design: a punchy 20″x 8″ bass drum (suitable for use on its own or even as a subkick for larger bass drums); a 13″x 5″ snare drum; a 10″x 5″ tom-tom; and a multi-use 13″x 8″ floor tom, which provides a snare bed with an on/off throw for even greater versatility. This optional snare across the bottom head allows drummers to bring different styles of playing to life.

Stage Custom Hip floor tom snare bed.
Stage Custom Hip floor tom snare bed.

Birch wood produces a lively attack with warm, clear overtones that “speak” openly at both high and low registers, allowing the player to create everything from a funky, tight-sounding presence to an open live jazz feel. And because the Stage Custom Hip utilizes the same tech and spec as the Stage Custom Birch, you can freely mix and match components between the two so you can plug and play different elements from either to create the setup you desire.

The entire Stage Custom Hip drum set can be packed up within a single over-sized bass drum bag with ease, though I recommend giving each drum its own bag for extra cushioning. Pair the Stage Custom Hip with Yamaha HW-3 Crosstown hardware (which includes a snare stand, two cymbal stands and a hi-hat stand, all in one bag), and you have a match made in heaven.

Beyond its advantages when it comes to travel, the footprint of the Stage Custom Hip set is perfect for any small club venue or studio layout that doesn’t have much room for drums. The entire set, including cymbals, can fit comfortably within the confines of about 3′ x 5′.

Stage Custom Hip footprint.
Stage Custom Hip footprint.

The Stage Custom Hip is available in three different finishes (Matte Surf Green, Natural Wood, and Raven Black with Two-Tone Bass Hoops) and utilizes hardware with the tom-ball receiver in the top of the kick drum. This allows the tom-tom to be adjusted to any angle so the drum set can be configured in many different ways, while still enabling the wood shells to sustain their natural vibration for maximum projection.

Stage Custom Hip in raven black finish.
Stage Custom Hip in Raven Black finish (cymbals and hardware not included).

The Video

Ready to hear and see the Stage Custom Hip in action? Check out this video:


Click here for more information about the Yamaha Stage Custom Hip drum set.

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