Note: I've since sold the Questloves and bought back my Taye GoKit. However, this is a great kit worthy of consideration for the giging player...
I recently (2013) purchased Ludwig’s Questlove drum kit. My reasons for doing this were primarily around the size and configuration. A four-piece Ludwig, which weighs less than most 14×20 bass drums, was hard to pass-up.
Typically, the kit retails for around $400 in the US. Here in Australia, retail is around $750. Still, a pretty attractive proposition, so I ordered one from Drummer’s Dream in Sydney before I left Canada, so it would be here when I arived. Great guys, by the way, Curtis in the drum department was most helpful.
The kit comes in the following configuration:
- 7 x 10 tom (I’ll upgrade to an 8 x 12 the moment one is available
- 13 x 13 floor tom
- 14 x 16 bass drum
- 5 x 14 snare drum
The shells are (apparently-a bit hard to pin down) poplar, with 45-degree bearing edges, and a 1/16″ clearance from the edge. To my ear, they produced a warm tone with a higher-than-expected tuning range, nicely handling my typical ‘tune-high’ approach.
The tom has 6 lugs. The floor tom and snare are 8-lug, and 10 on the bass drum. The drums come with lightweight covers which are intended to double as dampening covers for practice. I wouldn’t recommend these for gigging cases, as I’ll explain later.
The hardware on the kit was more than adequate, and although I would have liked a lighter-weight tom holder, it does come with an additional mount for a right-hand-side cymbal A rail consolette would have been very cool, but on the 16″ bass may not have been practical.
So, it is what it is, a budget-level 4 piece kit designed for the traveling, working-in-tight-spaces drummer. As I reviewed the kit and noted areas that I would like to improve, it occurred to me that with a small investment I could transform this kit into something much better. I agree with Ludwig’s decision to cut costs in order to deliver a kit at this price point, and out-of-the-box it's ready to go. I offer the following as a recommendation on a few mods that I believe will transform this kit into something that will serve any professional working player.
The bass drum hoops that come with the Questlove kit are plastic. However, they’re pretty good quality plastic (I initially thought they were aluminum). And, they’ve got a nice strip of the Azure Blue shell covering, which looks great. My issue with them was twofold: they were hollow, which I’m sure affect the tone of the drum, and the dip in the centre of the hoops would not allow my (circa 1982) Tama Camco bass drum pedal to grip the rim adequately.
Also I chose to not use the included bass drum riser. I find it destabilizes the bass drum a bit too much, and the 16″ drum still allows enough room for the beater to strike, although it does strike the drum in the upper third. I find the drum easy to tune and play.
My fix for the bass drum took two stages. Initially, I added a $3 rubber pad, which I picked up at Drummer’s Paradise in Melbourne. Then, I was surfing Australian drum manufacturers and I came across Red Rock Drums. I sent them an email, and for $100 delivered, I was able to order a set of 16″ maple (unfinished) hoops. Too easy, so I placed the order.
I’m more than happy with these, I purchased a small can of Tongue Oil from Mitre 10, and after a couple of coats it was perfect. And, I believe it has positively affected the tone of the drum, adding lower-end tonality to the overall pitch. I’ve added the rubber protector as well, just to protect the rim. I secured it with Crazy Glue.
I’m picky about heads, as I suppose most drummers are. The heads supplied with the Questlove kit are pinstripes on top and clear, roughly diplomat weight on the bottom. My preference, for the last 20 years or so has been coated Ambassadors on top and bottom, so I purchased a set. Immediately I noticed the tone of the drums open up and I was able to retain depth at the higher pitches I like. The floor tom in particular sounded terrific. The 10" drum will never be perfect, but it does sound better, fuller than expected at the top of its tuning range.
One thing I did notice was that the bass drum heads do not have the larger mounting hoop, which I believe would seat the head a bit better. So, I replaced the batter-side head with a 'proper' bass head with the larger deeper-channel hoop.
The drums sing, and the tuning range is wide and accurate. And surprisingly they hold their tuning extremely well.
This is a simple one, the drums do not come with pre-lubricated lugs, a cost-cutting measure. Another trip to Mitre 10 (actually, same trip) and I purchased a tube of lubricating grease. Also, at an art store I grabbed a small paintbrush. I put a bit of grease on the brush and turned the screws to add just a tiny amount of grease. My process for this was to do this drum-by-drum, lubing all the lugs for each drum, then inserting and finger-tightening. A small thing to be sure, but this will serve you well as you tune the drum for years to come.
Floor Tom Feet
The feet which came with the kit were <em>very</em> low-budget plastic-tips. My belief has always been that by having larger, soft rubber feet on the floor tom, you can greatly enhance the lower-frequency of the drum. So, I purchased a set of Pearl floor tom feet. I believe they are called ‘Air Ride’. Very soft high-quality rubber. To my ears, I immediately hear the difference in low-end and sustain. Additionally I’ve heard people wish for an extra inch or so from the included floor tom legs, and these feet will add about an inch and a half to the height.
One more cheap and effective add-on was a trio of floor tom leg locks which I picked up for $9 at Drummer’s Paradise. These are tiny and shave a minute off set-up time. Easy.
The cases supplied with the kit are thin bags, primarily designed to dampen the drum during practice. For professional applications they’re not really suitable. They haven’t got handles for easy carrying, and in my experience the bass drum legs caused an indentation on the back leather seat of my car because the bag-case was too thin. So, having used Protection Racket cases for about 15 years, it was off to the drum store. I’ve already got their 5028W-01 28″ hardware case, which I love. So, I purchased 16 x 16, 10 x 8 and 14 x 14 cases. Although the largest single expense in my Questlove transformation, definitely worth the investment.
Total Cost and Summary
So, overall I’m very pleased with the kit. A quick e-mail to Ludwig Australia dimmed my hopes for an 8 x 12, but the drums are lightweight, easy to setup, sound great and to me, they look terrific. I understand the cost-saving measures which are an economic reality (although I do wish for a proper logo badge, not a sticker). I’m sure these drums will serve me for the foreseeable future, and I think Ludwig has done a great job providing a kit in this price/weight range.
My total expenses for this transformation are as follows (in Australian dollars):
- Bass Drum Hoops $100.00 Redrock Drums, rubber bass drum pad $3.00 Drummer’s Paradise
- Grease $9.00 Mitre 10
- New heads-Reom Coated Ambassadors top and bottom $82.00 Revolver Drums
- Protection Racket Cases $240.00 Drummer’s Paradise and Revolver Drums
- Pearl Air Ride floor tom feet $17.00 Drummer’s Paradise
This brings the total to $351, and the total kit cost to around $1,000. Not a bad investment for a kit which sounds and looks pretty damn good.