I love drumming, but hate transporting my whole set around, so I designed a drum kit using a suitcase as the bass drum. The whole set fits inside the suitcase! My suitcase drum set sounds surprisingly good. Audiences love it.
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I built my first suitcase set 6 years ago. It was a big hit, and I ended up playing 500+ gigs on it, mostly around the Midwest. Since that first set, I have constantly been figuring out ways to improve it. For example, I've learned how to fix the problems that plague the use of a suitcase as a bass drum. And I'm going to share that knowledge here.

Gig after gig, people asked me how to make their own. This instructable is a culmination of years of development. If you build one, I would love to see a picture or video of your own suitcase, and am glad to answer any questions you have along the way.

This video -- made almost four years ago by Poodus --- jokingly explains my case for the suitcase drum set.

Notice the Cadillac logo on the front. The first one I built was a BMW -- so named after I found a BMW hubcap on the sidewalk while biking the suitcase home from a gig. The logo pulled off the hubcap and had enough stickiness left to hold it on the front of the suitcase.

That started a crazy trend of fans attaching things to the suitcase. People would show up to the gig with stickers, car logos, name tags, women's undergarments, service bells, and many other things. I wish I had a picture of that kit, after a couple years it was chock full of character.

To my surprise, I broke through the suitcase at a gig. I turned it around and beat on the other side for a few more years before it broke, too. The durability of the old Samsonite cases is something to behold. I played 3-4 long gigs every week for almost four years before the suitcase gave up, and I am a hard hitter. The suitcase in the video is the one I built after the BMW went to the junk yard, the pale yellow made me think of an old Cadillac. I told a fan and he brought in a logo, so it became the Caddy. I can't remember who gave it to me, but I thank them. ENOUGH REMINISCING! ON WITH THE INSTRUCTABLE.

Step 1: Parts, Tools, and How to Find Them.

Bare-bones suitcase drum set parts
  1. Old plastic suitcase, preferably a Samsonite Heritage or Silhouette model. How to find the perfect suitcase is illustrated in the next step.
  2. Hi-hats and lightweight hi-hat stand. (all stands should be lightweight so they can fit in the suitcase)
  3. Snare drum and snare stand
  4. Bass drum pedal, preferably with a pedal board.
  5. Bass drum beater with removable beater (has a locknut holding beater on shaft)
  6. Super Pinky high bounce rubber ball, available online for $2. this serves as the new beater.
  7. Small piece of rubber, 2"x4" is plenty
  8. A 1/4" aluminum plate, 3-4"x4"
  9. 6-8 Small machine screws, washers and lock nut
  10. 3 Medium size machine screws, washers, and lock nuts
  11. Gorilla Glue
Parts list for accessories
  1. Splash cymbal
  2. Ride Cymbal
  3. Floor tom leg mounts
  4. 3/8" rod cymbal holders
  5. cowbell
  6. Anything you else you would want to attach to suitcase. I used to have a BMW logo on the front .
Acquisition of parts
-Selecting the suitcase is perhaps the most crucial step in building a suitcase drumset. I'm working on a video for this, but for now: Thrift stores are the best place to find these old Samsonite plastic suitcases. I have never paid more than $5 for one.

-Suitcase that work the best are full size Samsonite Heritage and Silhouette models.

-The Super Pinky ball has proved to be hard to find at sporting good stores, but is available on Amazon stores for about $2. Click here to buy a Super Pinky.

-Cymbals, snare drum, stands, throne, and bass pedal can be found in many places. Lightweight hardware is undesirable by most drummers and it should be easy to find cheap and used items. Ebay is a good place for cheap cymbals, and a local music store should have some used drums and stands. If you had a friend like me; a drummer, they would most likely have some parts laying around you could easily schmooze. Junk works too, consider using saw-blades or tin pans for cymbals. They don't sound like quality cymbals, but add serious character.

-Floor tom leg mounts for cymbal attachment can be found new, but most drum/music stores have a stash of used drum parts. Usually they are in a dusty corner in a backroom, so make sure to ask. I like to use rusty used mounts so they match the 'decor' of the suitcase.

- Metal plate can be found at any hardware store or metal shop, a scrap that might be considered useless could fit the bill for the suitcase needs perfectly.

-Drill bits
-Craftsman Handi-Cut or razor blade
-Crescent wrench

<p>I did it... without a &quot;Pinky Ball&quot; but with a &quot;Sound Off Damper&quot; for a better Bassdrumsound...</p>
<p>Well done!</p>
Thank you...<br>It sounds very well, we did 2 jams this summer outdoor.
<p>Thanks for inspiring me, thank you so much; this is the result, with an hand made snare drum create by me and a cymbal made from a larger cymbal that was broken. The suitcase is about 70 years old and although it is not plastic (it is made of cardboard), however, is more robust than it looks and it's sound amazing ! (i'm not American so sorry for my bad English)</p>
<p>Terrific use of an old case!</p>
<p>Wow, very cool! I have a similar suitcase. I should try building this. That cymbal looks interesting. Can you tell us more about it? </p>
<p>Hi <a href="https://www.instructables.com/member/Southpaw69" rel="nofollow">Southpaw69</a>, I'm glad you appreciate! It's about a year ago, i'm so sorry I didn't replied but I rarely log in. Anyway: it's a cimbal created by cutting the broken part of a crash and it sound well; a little bit splash/ a little bit crash. </p>
Here's my build, pretty much followed your instructions to a T (I couldn't reply to your post because there was a problem with the captcha, so I had to post a new comment). The only thing I did differently was the tom mounting (close-up shown) - it has a strange attachment for some unknown type of stand, which happens to perfectly fit on an L-shaped shelf bracket, which I've bolted to the top of the suitcase. I use a little dog toy football as the beater and I've wrapped it in duck tape because it was disintegrating slightly without, but the sound is good. I was never going to buy a drum kit but it was a fun project, I enjoy 'playing' it (badly) and in total it cost me around &pound;80. The badge on the front is from a superhero outfit I once wore to a party.
This is great!!!!
<p>Can you tell me more about the pinky ball? i can't get one here in germany. from which material is this ball made? is is a kind of hard or soft foam, or solid rubber?</p><p>i would be happy for informations.</p><p>(sorry for my bad english)</p>
<p>At 79 I thought I can do this so. Here it is ,the 3 drums? are secured by Banister rail brackets (perfect) the throne is a Shower seat with old throne seat fitted (This is to reduce the weight as did leaving out the snare drum (metal) and the stand) The cymbals at attached to the case via basic drum kit brackets. The kick is attach via a large hinge with a felt stick on pad. I added a tinny holder . the suitcase is French made and bought fro a charity shop for &pound;5 </p>
<p>This is awesome!</p>
Thanks Chris &gt;&gt;My tutor really makes this kit sing
<p>PS I have Fitted 2 Floor tom brackets and legs to the sides as it tended to go walk about after a few tinny's. NO Pics yet </p>
<p>I could make this cheaper next time. I used a kick drum riser with a pedal mount when I could have just used a door hinge. Bass spurs work perfect but are cheaper online so I will get them there next time. I run a bass mic through the sound hole. Think I'll make another that looks similar so I can play &quot;double case&quot;. I use a cajon for my throne and use it for added thump. Sounds awesome, I love it. Whole kit basically packs within itself...everything but the cajon.</p>
<p>How did the sound hole work out for you? I was thinking about doing a similar thing. Before and after? Without mic?</p>
<p>Has anyone tried cutting a hole in the resonator side of the suitcase? Wondering what the effect might be. Thanks! Almost done with mine</p>
<p>Great article here! Thanks for the inspiration... a friend and I are starting to book side gigs with this little setup... Gotta give props to my lady for the suitcase!</p>
<p>That looks really nice. Good idea for a lightweight throne.</p>
Cheers for this instructable, I've never really played drums before but wanted one to mess around with with other guys without having to commit to the space/cost of a full kit,<br>Ads
<p>I AM IN LOVE with my suitcase drum set. I hated the idea of having to carry around my whole original drum set around. Too heavy and inconvenient especially for a new yorker. </p><p>I made this suitcase drum set following these instructions! Just awesome. THANK YOU</p><p>What I DID: </p><p>1. I placed two floor tom leg mounts, 1 on each side and actually used one of the floor tom 3/8'' rods to place a ride/crash cymbal. To get the cymbal to stay on the floor rod, the floor rod had a rubber grommet on the end so I cut out a hole right through the center and pushed the rod through and placed the cymbal through and now the cymbal rests on the rubber nicely. </p><p>2. I used a door hinge that I bought from home depot and had that as my mount to clamp my kick pedal to. I wanted to find something that could fold and wouldn't protrude from my case, so the door hinge worked great for the kick, and when I don't need it i just fold it and it apparently clicks into place so the hinge won't flap unnecessarily. </p><p>3. Found an awesome deal from guitar center for a 30 bucks to get a cowbell and tambourine attachment and put it right directly onto one of the floor tom mounts on the side of the suitcase. Great addition to the set.</p><p>*** I still have to redo the hinges so they can be sturdier and also buy a rubber ball for the kick. Other than that, still plays great. Thanks a millions!</p>
<p>YES. THANK you for these thorough instructions. For a while I was discouraged in my search for an Aluminum plate to clamp the kick pedal to. Eventually, I would up at a dollar store looking at some cutting boards and $3 later the search was over.</p><p>Sure, metal would be better but this was easy to cut and seems strong enough.</p><p>The suitcase is small (15&quot; x 20&quot; Samsonite) but sounds great.</p><p>I've been playing harmonica/ guitar/ kick drum, and I haven't had this much fun with music in a long time. Thanks!</p>
I made one of these awhile back and I made over 100 dollars buskering
<p>How do you avoid that the suitcase moves away from you if you hit it while drumming? I know that some drummers connect the (regular) bass drum to the chair with a chain but this is not going to work with the suitcase, right?</p>
i use a couple of strings attached to the drum throne. no more moving away of rhe suitcase
<p>i had some pretty good luck mounting a door hinge on the bottom of the case and placing a bit of velcro for the pedal to grip onto... i also play on a small rug from bed bath and beyond.</p>
what kind of rubber did you use? I've been looking at stores like Home Depot and haven't really found anything suitable.
It should be easy to find some rubber. I used some from a hardware store that was supposed to be for making stairs not slippery. I got a roll of it for a few bucks. A music store should have bass drum hoop protectors that would do the same thing, but might run you $4. If you seriously have troubles finding one, send me your address in a private message and I'll throw a chunk in an envelope for you. Don't let this hold you back. <br>Anyone else know of an easy source? needs to be about an 1/8&quot; thick.<br>
I was just going to use an old bicycle wheel inner tube? My brother has a bike shop so I can get a load of punctured ones for free!
i have a saturn II suitcase with seemingly good latches, but I am still getting quite a bit of rattling from the latches themselves. any suggestions?
I was getting that too. I just put a bit of super glue into and around the lock part as these seemed to be making the most of the rattling. I didn't have a key for the locks and wouldn't want to to use them anyway so they were a bit redundant! But I. Still getting a bit of noise which is annoying so I'm just going to take the latches off and put some guitar case type latches on.
Sometimes the latches are just worn out. A little rattle is inevitable, but they are probably just worn out. I had one like that, to fix it I would carry a roll of duct tape and put some over the closed latches, kind of ugly, but also added some 'character'. <br>In less words.... tape the latches down.
<p>Wow, what a cool idea! Very innovative. I actually bought a Remo Legero portable drum set years ago because I wanted something small like the one you build with the suitcase. Wish I had seen this! </p><p>Do you have any videos or audio of you playing it? I would love to hear how it sounds. Thumbs up for creativity dude! </p>
<p>Thanks to my Son Shane I <br>now have a complete &quot;Drum Kit in a Suitcase&quot; The suitcase fits <br>everything except the Ride Cymbal. Next time I will make sure that the suitcase <br>is big enough to accommodate it. Surprisingly it sounds good, much better than <br>I first thought. I find my felt beater sounds and reacts how I like it however <br>I may have to mic-up the case depending on the venue. How I mount both the <br>Crash and Ride Cymbals are well balanced. For an added touch I added a <br>Tamborine to the Crash Cymbal arm and the Cow Bell mounted to the front top of <br>the suitcase.Thank you Mike for your sharing your idea looks like you have a following of fellow drummers. </p>
<p>This is great, man! Very clean. Attaching your cymbal stands directly to the suitcase is a very nice touch. Could I get a rundown of what you used? More pictures would also be appreciated. ^_^</p>
<p>Not ready but the most important part is done! Thanx for the idea!</p><p>Hopefully soon i will make it a complete drumkit, and post some pics and movies!</p>
<p>What a great idea,I have been trying to think of ways to downsize <br>my drumming gear for a while and while talking to my son about it he told me <br>about your drum kit in a suitcase. Just what I needed so I am well on my way of <br>building it I have all the parts except finding it hard to obtain the suitcase. <br>When I am finished I will post a picture up of it. Meanwhile anyone living in <br>Australia who can help me out with the suitcase email me <a href="mailto:alfieward@hotmail.com" rel="nofollow">alfieward@hotmail.com</a> I live in <br>Rockhampton Queensland 4701</p>
<p>Hello</p><p>Was wondering how you eliminate the rattle of the suitcase handle while playing?</p><p>Thanks!</p>
Awesome! How much would it cost if u start out with nothing? I would love to give this a try. Don't have a lot of cash to spend though, so approximately how much do u think i would need to spend if i can't find any of the items for free?
I don't know if you ever went ahead with it, but it cost me around $100 bucks because I didn't have a lot of spare parts lying around. Make use of friends/neighbors and friendly hardware stores if tools are an issue.
This question is hard to answer, but I would say between 150 and 500 bucks.<br>lots of factors to consider.
Hey Mike, <br> <br>First off, thanks for starting my new obsession with your Instructable. I was literally trying to find the way to do this with minimal tools and budget (being a college kid) starting six months ago. Well, I finally finished it and while I don't have images yet (maybe in a future comment), I can assure you it's functional. I used a popcorn snare with a cymbal stand mount and added a bucket on the side of the case. <br> <br>My only question is how you deal with the volume differential between the drums/cymbals and case. I didn't use a Samsonite as many others have, but that was because I couldn't find any that were suitable, so perhaps my case is thick, but I'm using a hi-bounce pinky on a 1/4&quot; rod for the beater, as per your suggestion. <br> <br>I had to dampen all my cymbals and put a rag on my snare to balance everything tonally. <br> <br>Thanks, <br>Seger
Can you use a wooden plate instead of an aluminum plate
Mike, thank you for this! You inspired me to spend the past 4 months putting together a suitcase set of my own and (finally!) I think I can say it is complete. I only have one question: how do you bend the angled rods you hold your cymbals on? Does it not weaken them enormously?
It would be rad to see a vid or pic of your build. <br>I bent the arms in with my vice and hands, I suppose you could heat them, but they are plenty sturdy without. A little 'chrome' flakes off.
Haven't been on here in quite some time, but I'm still tweaking my suitcase kit. Here's a pic from November 2012 of the suitcase kit at Donn Bennett's Woodstick 2012 in Kirkland, WA. Needless to say, it caught a lot of attention. I'll put up a video soon. <br>Everything but the throne fits inside!
Nice build! Thanks for posting the picture. <br>I'm glad you represented the suitcase at Woodstick! <br>
Bro i dont even play drums. Im a guitarist. I have always sucked at drums whenever i would give it a shot haha. <br>but this AMAZING ible makes me want to build one and start learning as soon as possible! <br>thanks for the great instructable man!!
How do you get the pinky ball on the beater without it falling apart? You mention cutting it down as well but I don't see how that's possible either since the ball is hollow, the washers would just go through.

About This Instructable




Bio: Drummer who builds hot rods and teaches music for a living.
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