Curing my D.S.A. (Drum Separation Anxiety)

I have been a musician my whole life.  From my teenage years, I have played drums with bands in live settings, from roller rinks to bars to show clubs to festivals.  Being a drummer is as much a part of me as any other aspect of my life.

When Rachel and I decided that living full-time in an RV and traveling was going to be the next chapter in our lives we had to give careful consideration to what we would and would not take with us.  We sold our house and did not want to rent a storage unit to keep items.  As I owned a considerable amount of music gear, from PA systems and light rigs to my beloved electronic drum set, I knew it all had to go.  In a month’s time, what took decades to acquire was sold and dispersed.

My sister agreed to “foster” my stage kit.  I knew it was too much to even think about trying to take with us.  As anyone who lives full-time in an RV will tell you, storage is your most valuable commodity.  Trying to store a 22″ X 18″ bass drum, 16″ X 14″ floor drum, other drums, cymbals and hardware was just too much, especially considering that I would no longer be playing live shows on a regular basis.  By any rational measure, it would take too much storage space for too little return.

This is an electronic drum set that I built to my specifications.  For reference, the bass drum is 22″ X 18″.  Way too big to fit anywhere in my RV.

Of course, when it comes to my drums I have not always been considered rational.  Rachel will attest!

After spending the last 6 months in the RV, mostly in Texas, I realized that there were times when I really missed just being able to play around on my kit.  There are many “drumless” recordings available on YouTube and elsewhere that allow you to play along with songs you like without the drum parts.  Since I play electronic drums I can plug my ipad in to my drum module, plug in headphones and crank the volume ’til my heart’s content and not disturb anyone.

Rachel has plenty of experience with my moods when I’m not able to play for extended periods of time.  She recognized that I was suffering from Drum Separation Anxiety (D.S.A. – it’s a real thing!).  I’m sure she hoped that I would be able to leave drums behind, but she probably knew that was easier said than done.  It was her idea, then, to offer a solution.

Obviously, a 31′ Class C RV is not somewhere you can set up a drum set.  However, they aren’t that much work to set up, especially if you plan to play for a while.  There is no option that is as convenient as my studio in our former house, but like everything else in our lives compromise and revision is necessary.  Setting up outside would be a nice change of pace from a static rehearsal space.  So, it all boiled down to storage.

Rachel offered to give me the space under one of the seats of the dinette.  Over the winter, it held games and cables and various other items which were never used or taken out, so she felt that was space was fair game to re-purpose.  If I could fit a drum set in to that space, she’d be OK with it.

This is the space I had to deal with.  It is 39″ long X 19″ wide X 12″ deep.

With a set group of parameters to work with it was time to decide what kind of drum set to get.  The money from the sales of my music gear allowed me to pretty much get whatever I want, but that is not the primary concern.  Living in an RV is a constant compromise between what you want versus what you need.  I wanted to keep my existing drum kit, but that is unrealistic and, frankly, not what I needed.  I could go with electronic drums that easily fit in to that space, but my experience with e-drums (which is considerable) told me I would not be happy with little 8″ rubber or mesh-head pads.  I wanted something that I could use on stage if an opportunity for a PUG (pick-up-gig) presented itself.

So, my requirements were quality, full-size diameters, and looks good.  I had the advantage of not needing a new module since I owned the Pearl Mimic Pro which is widely considered to be the best electronic drum module on the market.  Given these requirements and the storage space available, I decided on the Alesis Strike kit.

Alesis Strike electronic drum set

The tom sizes are 8″, 10″, 12″ with 14″ snare and bass drum.  The cymbals are fairly flat.  As with all drum sets the hardware is the main concern.  The picture above has a drum rack that is considerably more than I would need.  I still have plenty of available hardware, so I set about building a configuration that would be stable, look good, and compact.  I wanted something that could be set up and torn down easily, but would still look decent if I played a live gig.

My first attempt at hardware

For most of my career I used rack systems (pictured above) to hold the drums.  They are nice because memory locks can be used to make set up quicker and make the rack more stable when assembled.  The rack I came up with was as minimal as I could get.  While I was able to pack it up into the space allotted it was much heavier than I wanted.  Another solution was necessary.

For those not familiar with drums and their hardware, there are basically two ways to support a drum kit.  Racks (like above) and individual stands.  Since I am going for as minimal a set up as I can get, I decided that stands were the way to go.  They fold up very small, are lightweight, and allow for any configuration you need. I prefer a 4-piece set up (kick drum, snare, one upper tom, one lower tom) so I could use just two stands to make the whole setup work.  Here is what I ultimately came up with:

My travel kit, or as Rachel calls it my “redheaded girlfriend”

After discussions with Rachel about storing the kit, we decided that pulling it in and out of the dinette storage every time I wanted to play would be a major hassle, so I would use the large SKB hardware case I owned that was part of the “foster” kit at my sister’s.  It was slightly smaller than the storage of the dinette (37″ X 17″ X 14″) but I would be able to put it in the back of the car  when moving and secure it outside the RV once docked.  That would make setting it up and tearing it down much easier.

SKB case, open
SKB Case, closed

It remains to be seen how well my planning bears fruit.  As of this writing, Rachel and I are preparing to head to Estes Park, Colorado for the summer.  We are still early in our new life as full-time RVers, so it is possible that my D.S.A. will abate over time.  Until then, Rachel and I worked together to find a solution and that is what Our Firefly Life is all about!

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