Instructables

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.

 
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tonielli made it!1 month ago

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)

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Wow, very cool! I have a similar suitcase. I should try building this. That cymbal looks interesting. Can you tell us more about it?

Southpaw6912 days ago

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!

Do you have any videos or audio of you playing it? I would love to hear how it sounds. Thumbs up for creativity dude!

Alfie Ward made it!5 months ago

Thanks to my Son Shane I
now have a complete "Drum Kit in a Suitcase" The suitcase fits
everything except the Ride Cymbal. Next time I will make sure that the suitcase
is big enough to accommodate it. Surprisingly it sounds good, much better than
I first thought. I find my felt beater sounds and reacts how I like it however
I may have to mic-up the case depending on the venue. How I mount both the
Crash and Ride Cymbals are well balanced. For an added touch I added a
Tamborine to the Crash Cymbal arm and the Cow Bell mounted to the front top of
the suitcase.Thank you Mike for your sharing your idea looks like you have a following of fellow drummers.

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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. ^_^

dackermans843 months ago

Not ready but the most important part is done! Thanx for the idea!

Hopefully soon i will make it a complete drumkit, and post some pics and movies!

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Alfie Ward6 months ago

What a great idea,I have been trying to think of ways to downsize
my drumming gear for a while and while talking to my son about it he told me
about your drum kit in a suitcase. Just what I needed so I am well on my way of
building it I have all the parts except finding it hard to obtain the suitcase.
When I am finished I will post a picture up of it. Meanwhile anyone living in
Australia who can help me out with the suitcase email me alfieward@hotmail.com I live in
Rockhampton Queensland 4701

jbteitelbaum6 months ago

Hello

Was wondering how you eliminate the rattle of the suitcase handle while playing?

Thanks!

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?

ceet2 years ago
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?
smarion ceet1 year ago
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.
mikereetz (author)  ceet2 years ago
This question is hard to answer, but I would say between 150 and 500 bucks.
lots of factors to consider.
smarion1 year ago
Hey Mike,

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.

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" rod for the beater, as per your suggestion.

I had to dampen all my cymbals and put a rag on my snare to balance everything tonally.

Thanks,
Seger
Can you use a wooden plate instead of an aluminum plate
dariomoses1 year ago
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 £80. The badge on the front is from a superhero outfit I once wore to a party.
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mikereetz (author)  dariomoses1 year ago
This is great!!!!
dariomoses2 years ago
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?
mikereetz (author)  dariomoses1 year ago
It would be rad to see a vid or pic of your build.
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.
Everything but the throne fits inside!
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mikereetz (author)  ideofone.ezek1 year ago
Nice build! Thanks for posting the picture.
I'm glad you represented the suitcase at Woodstick!
markus21022 years ago
Bro i dont even play drums. Im a guitarist. I have always sucked at drums whenever i would give it a shot haha.
but this AMAZING ible makes me want to build one and start learning as soon as possible!
thanks for the great instructable man!!
cbower22 years ago
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.
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mikereetz (author)  cbower22 years ago
The real super pinky ball should not be hollow. Is that ball a real one, or more of a racquetball? Its should be high density foam throughout.
WhiteTech2 years ago
I think I've found a new way to jam on the street, :D
Couple questions: 1) Does the suitcase move at all when you kick it? I have issues with this on regular kits, so any ideas would be helpful, 2) where would I find a tom small enough to fit in the suitcase that isn't a toy?
bosniaguy2 years ago
COOL! :D
bertus52x113 years ago
Smart!
abadfart3 years ago
very nice and if you got a real big one you could fit a whole rock kit in
jwteo3 years ago
Great job !
I found similar one with toms, do u know it ?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnbTMeJMP10
mikereetz (author)  jwteo3 years ago
Nice! judging by the date posted, I imagine he utilized some of the ideas found here.
bfabert3 years ago
just got done building my own set, completely inspired from this instructable whilst 'stumbling' the other night.
this set includes vintage green samsonite silhouette bass drum (which I just happened to have lying around in the basement), 13" snare, splash, hi hats, tambourine, crash/ride, woodblock, cowbell, mini timbale... and all the hardware. I can fit a rug in the suitcase too. the throne doesn't fit, but you can carry that in the other hand. cost me around $10. I couldn't find an aluminum plate for the bass drum clamp, so I made one out of steel. if you have the right drill bits, it's pretty easy.
Thanks mikereetz!

by the way, the bass drum beater is made from a cane tip...
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mikereetz (author)  bfabert3 years ago
I love it! Well done, the rug in the suitcase is a great idea.
How are you gonna walk to the gig without your cane!
I would encourage you to get the super pinky for your beater... it will have much more 'woof' than the cane rubber.
Cheers!
Mike
mmacht13 years ago
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?
mikereetz (author)  mmacht13 years ago
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'.
In less words.... tape the latches down.
blodefood3 years ago
This is just too genius!
akkh3 years ago
Nice job man !
There's a guy who mounts bass drum head on the suitcase
and built a full equipped set !
http://d.hatena.ne.jp/ap0/
bfabert3 years ago
I'd also like to point out that taking apart the handle and putting pieces of cotton in there cut down on rattle, as well as shoving a little cotton in where it latches... so did putting a piece of duct tape over the keyholes. wd40 also made the latches easier to close (especially when you stuff everything in there)
Thanks for inspiring my own suitcase drumset. I've been working pretty tirelessly on it since late February. I've got a few photos of its development over the past couple of months on my Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/22964889@N00/

Also, you can see V2.2 of my kit in action on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDSRJVNcYiU

I'll probably make a video of V3.1 this week sometime. Maybe a He Is Legend song...I've been dying to do "The Creature Walks".
mikereetz (author)  ideofone.ezek3 years ago
You're welcome! I appreciate the great video and pics, great building and playing.
I like the strap that holds the (rattling) handle down. Was that factory? Could you send a close up or describe how it works?
Thanks, and congrats!
Mike
orlando333 years ago
Amazing tutorial! Definitely going to build my own over the summer so I don't have to cut my drumming short for college. You sir have some amazing ingenuity about you! Just got a few questions for some advice: What are the dimensions on you snare? How do you keep all the parts, and hardware from shifting too much when you lift the case? How much would you say the project cost you in total? (excluding kit parts you already owned) And where would you suggest looking for cheaper materials, parts, toms or kit parts?
Thanks a lot!
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