4 Piece vs 5 Piece Drum Sets

4 Piece vs 5 Piece Drum Sets: A Complete Comparison

When starting out on the drums, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to go with a 4 piece or 5 piece drum set. What’s the difference between these two popular drum set configurations and which is better for your needs as a drummer? This comprehensive guide will examine all aspects of 4 and 5 piece kits to help you determine the ideal setup.

Overview of 4 Piece Drum Sets

4 Piece Drum Sets

A 4 piece drum set contains the core essential drums needed to play a wide variety of musical genres and play the drummer role in a band. Here is what’s included in a standard 4 piece kit:

Bass Drum – The large kick drum played with a foot pedal. Provides the heartbeat and thump of most drumbeats.

Snare Drum – Located next to the hi-hat, the snare is the main drum played with sticks on the top head. It produces the signature cracking snare sound.

Tom Toms – Usually a pair of 1 or 2 mounted tom toms. These provide fills and supplement the bass and snare patterns.

Floor Tom – A medium or large tom mounted on legs next to the bass drum. Used for accents and fills.

This compact 4 piece layout only contains one mounted rack tom and one floor tom. Four pieces is the minimum number of drums required to play full drum set. It’s the most affordable and portable option.

Overview of 5 Piece Drum Sets

A 5 piece kit contains all the drums found in a 4 piece set, plus an additional tom. This extra tom adds more melodic and filling options. Here are the components of a standard 5 piece set:

Bass Drum – Same kick drum as the 4 piece kit.

Snare Drum – Same main snare drum as the 4 piece set.

Tom Toms – Two mounted rack toms instead of just one. Gives additional tom pitch.

Floor Tom – Same floor tom as the 4 piece set.

The key distinction is that 5 piece kits add a second mounted rack tom. This provides another tom voice when playing fills and more overall tonal variety. Let’s now dive into a detailed comparison between these two popular drum set configurations.

Sound and Functionality

The main difference between 4 and 5 piece drum kits lies in their sound capabilities and overall functionality:

Number of Tom Toms

  • 4 piece sets have 2 tom toms – 1 rack and 1 floor
  • 5 piece sets have 3 tom toms – 2 rack and 1 floor

That extra rack tom in the 5 piece kit greatly expands the musical options. You can create fuller fills, embellish beats, and have more tom tones at your disposal.

Tom Pitch Selection

  • 4 piece sets only have 2 tom pitches – high and low
  • 5 piece sets have 3 tom pitches – high, mid, low

With just a high and low tom, the 4 piece limits your pitch range. The 5 piece offers a mid-range tom between the high and low, providing broader tonality.

Filling Possibilities

  • 4 piece sets allow basic 2 tom fills
  • 5 piece sets enable expanded 3 tom and up fills

The third rack tom in a 5 piece kit means you can play busier, more complex fills using all three toms. Fills on a 4 piece set are simpler and repetitive.

Melodic Capability

  • 4 piece sets can play basic 2 note melodic patterns
  • 5 piece sets allow diverse 3 note melodic phrases

With only two tom pitches, melodic options are constrained on a 4 piece kit. The mid and low toms on a 5 piece kit let you play more elaborate melodic ideas.


  • 4 piece sets suitable for simple genres like rock, metal, punk
  • 5 piece sets can play a wider range of genres and styles

While great for straightforward rock drumming, the 4 piece kit limits your versatility. The extra tom makes the 5 piece set adept at jazz, fusion, pop, and other genres requiring more tom tones.

In summary, the 5 piece configuration provides a clear expansion of sound possibilities over the simpler 4 piece kit. But there are also some benefits to 4 piece drum sets, discussed next.

Benefits of 4 Piece Drum Sets

While not as tonally versatile, 4 piece drum sets have some nice advantages:

More Affordable

Having one less drum makes 4 piece kits cheaper than 5 piece sets. This makes them ideal for new drummers on a budget.

Lighter Weight

The smaller shell pack and single rack tom means 4 piece kits weigh less. This helps with portability and transport.

Quicker Set Up

Fewer drums allows for faster setup and tear down. You can be playing faster with only 3 toms and 1 bass drum to position.

Simpler Learning Curve

The limited drums help new drummers focus on fundamentals without getting overwhelmed. 4 piece kits are great for beginners.

Takes Up Less Space

The compact 4 piece layout fits easily into tighter spaces and smaller practice areas.

For drummers concerned about price, portability, or ease of learning, 4 piece drum sets offer some helpful advantages. But 5 piece sets provide much more sonic versatility.

Benefits of 5 Piece Drum Sets

Five piece drum kits offer benefits centered around their expanded musicality:

Wider Pitch Selection

Three tom tones allow endless creativity in constructing drum parts and fills. You can reach higher and lower than on a 4 piece kit.

Fuller Sound

The extra tom fills out the sound with more woody attack and longer, busier fills. Overall improves the musical experience.

Enhanced Melodic Ability

Craft drum melodies and motifs across three tom pitches instead of just two. Unlocks melodic ideas not possible on a 4 piece kit.

Raised Skill Ceiling

Once drum skills progress, the 5 piece kit provides room to keep improving. It won’t limit your ability to apply advanced techniques.

Increased Genre Versatility

The wider range of tom tones makes 5 piece sets adept for jazz, fusion, funk, and other genres in addition to rock.

While more expensive up front, 5 piece drum sets give you far greater creative options and room for skill development.

Direct Comparison of Pros and Cons

To summarize the key differences, here is a direct side-by-side comparison of the pros and cons:

4 Piece Drum Set5 Piece Drum Set
ProsMore affordable
Lighter weight
Simpler learning curve
Expanded tom range
Fuller sound 
Enhanced fills/melodies 
Wider genre versatility
ConsOnly 2 tom tones
Limits ability to progress
More expensive
Longer setup time

Recommendations Based on Skill Level

Based on the information covered so far, here are recommendations for selecting between 4 and 5 piece drum sets based on your current skill level:


For brand new drummers just starting out, a 4 piece kit is ideal. The fewer drums help avoid confusion while focusing on proper technique. Beginners can easily grasp basic beats and fills on a compact 4 piece starter kit.


Once drummers have a year or two of experience under their belt and want more challenge, upgrading to a 5 piece kit is recommended. The additional tom will allow intermediate players to attempt more advanced techniques.


Advanced drummers should certainly utilize a 5 piece kit (or larger). Top players need the full melodic, dynamic, and rhythmic capabilities of a multi-tom setup to perform at a high level and progress even further.

Recommended Brands and Setup Packages

Here are top-rated drum set brands and complete packages for both 4 and 5 piece configurations:

4 Piece Drum Set Packages

  • Yamaha Stage Custom ($$$)
  • Gammon Percussion Full Size ($$)
  • Mendini 16″ Drum Set by Cecilio ($)
  • Ludwig Breakbeats Questlove Bundle ($$$)
  • Pearl Roadshow ($$)
  • Gretsch Energy ($$$)

5 Piece Drum Set Packages

  • Tama Imperialstar ($$$)
  • Mapex Armory ($$$)
  • Sonor Essential Force ($$$)
  • Yamaha Tour Custom ($$$$)
  • Gretsch Renown Maple ($$$)
  • Roland TD-1DMK V-Drum Kit ($$$$)

These top drum set manufacturers offer starter bundles that come with cymbals and hardware for under $500 or full pro-level kits over $1000. Both 4 and 5 piece setups are readily available from major brands.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions drummers have when choosing between 4 and 5 piece drum sets:

What’s the standard drum set for most drummers?

The 5 piece with 3 toms is by far the most common layout. It offers a good balance of expanded sound while still being compact and affordable.

Can I play all genres with just a 4 piece kit?

A 4 piece is very limiting for genres like jazz, rockabilly, afro-cuban that require broader tom range. Stick to a 4 piece only for very basic styles.

If I start with a 4 piece, is it easy to upgrade later?

Yes, you can add a tom attachment arm and extra tom to a 4 piece kit down the road to simply convert to a 5 piece layout in the future.

How many cymbals do I need for each kit?

You’ll want at least 2 crash cymbals, a ride, and hi-hats for versatile playing. This allows appropriate cymbal usage for either a 4 or 5 piece kit.

Are 5 piece kits much harder for beginners to learn than 4?

While containing more pieces, a 5 drum kit isn’t much harder for a novice. Beginning drum lessons start slow and simple no matter the kit size.

Summary and Final Recommendations

For entry-level drummers, grab a budget-friendly 4 piece kit to start out. Once skills progress, upgrade to a 5 piece to unlock wider creative possibilities. Or dive right into a 5 piece kit if budget allows. The optimal drum setup depends entirely on your current ability, genre needs, and budget. Hopefully this thorough 4 vs 5 piece kit comparison has helped identify the best drum set configuration for your needs.