Ask the expert – advice on assembling a “suitcase” drum kit

Ask the expert – advice on assembling a “suitcase” drum kit

How to build a suitcase drum kit

Paul Hewgill emails:

“I am taking a small worship team to Mexico to serve a group of missionaries for their retreat.  There will be only about 40 of them – so it will be a small room with a basic sound system.  The band will consist of:

  • One guitar player worship leader
  • One bass player
  • One keyboard player/vocalist
  • One additional vocalist

And I would really like to bring my drummer.  They don’t want to have to transport their drums from Mexico City to the resort – 2 hours. And renting doesn’t seem to be available.  They have a djembe, but my drummer isn’t experienced with playing that.  I am considering assembling a suitcase drum set (as you can see many on youtube).  What do you think of that idea?”

Andy replies:

This sounds like a great idea!

If people out there aren’t aware about suitcase kits, they are either a small portable kit where you use an old hardshell suitcase for a kick drum and then just use a small snare, hat, ride and kick pedal that neatly packs inside the suitcase to make the entire system portable. Alternatively, some people actually build a small kick drum into the suitcase as well.

Either way it’s a brilliant way to make a drum kit portable and I’d thoroughly recommend it for missions trips, small gigs, practices where you need to keep the overall volume down a bit. Couple of thoughts:

  • Even for small churches this is a great solution to keeping the volume down if your drummer is a bit wild and untamed.
  • It communicates that you don’t need the latest greatest kit to make a good sound – i.e. it’s about the player, not the gear. I think this communicates a lot into less wealthy environments, especially missions trips. Also if the kit belongs to the church rather than an individual it might even be good to donate the suitcase kit to the church you are visiting after the trip is over.
  • I’ve used a suitcase kit to great effect for practices in someones front room where the volume again needs to be low to not disturb the neighbours. Suitcases are great for this as they still give the overall feel of the kick drum to the rest of the band.
  • When you’re playing try experimenting with stuffing the suitcase with a sleeping bag/duvet/blanket to change the tone and damping.
  • Don’t make a drummer try and play congos/djembe/bongos etc. unless they genuinely know how to play hand drums. Kit drums and hand drums are two completely different instruments with different techniques needed


(Photos where you’ll find lots more info about building a suitcase kit.)

Other posts you may find helpful:

50 tips for drummers

How many cymbals for Sunday?

Free video drum lesson from the Musicademy Beginners Drum DVDs