Drum Roll, Please : A Customized Drum Kit

Designers: Dilip Nagarkar, Swetha Sundar, Chao Yin, Critina Wong-Nomura

Supervising Professor: Dr. Larry Bohs



Our client is a 12-year old boy with TAR syndrome, which causes him to have short arms with limited strength and reach.  The goal of this project was to modify a drum kit so he could play comfortably. Modifications included custom drumsticks for each hand, a drumstick-actuated cymbal damper, a contoured and padded seat, extensions for the tom drums to move them closer to his body, and a third leg on the bass drum to prevent tipping due to the tom extensions.  With these modifications, the client can comfortably play all of the components in the drum kit.


The customized drum kit allows our client to indulge in his love of music and learn to play a musical instrument. “Before, I was always the triangle player,” our client told us.

His mother commented, “The drum kit has provided [him] with a cool activity to interact with his friends and increase his hand strength and coordination.  He enjoys being able to do something that his peers do without being “different”.  He loves music and this project enabled him to do more than sing, as finding a way for him to play an instrument was hard for us.  This project gave him the opportunity to do something he never would have been able to do.”


The Customized Drum Kit (Figure 1) includes adaptations to the drum seat, drumsticks, tom extensions, cymbal damper, and the addition of a third bass drum leg. The drum seat is constructed from a 10” wide, saddle-shaped contoured piece of 2” thick wood covered by two layers of foam, upholstered by a mattress pad and black velvet fabric. The manufacturer’s mount is screwed into the bottom of the seat via four ¼-20 wood screws.  The resulting product is comfortable and supportive.

Custom drumsticks are provided for each hand. The left-hand drumstick is the standard 16” inches in length.  Approximately 1” from the large end, a 3” diameter ball gives the client additional support for gripping.  3/4” past the ball toward the small end, the stick is narrowed from the original diameter of 0.55” down to 0.4”, over a length of 3/4”, giving the client a more secure gripping surface.  The right-hand drumstick is lengthened by 4 inches by combining two drumsticks together.  One stick is cut and the end lathed to 0.4” for 2” in length.  The other stick is cut and the end drilled out to accept the “dowel” from the other stick.  The two pieces are glued together. The end of this drumstick is wrapped in athletic tennis tape to facilitate grip.

The toms are the drums that sit on top of the bass drum.  The tubes that normally connect them to the bass drum are extended via a tube connector.  The new length of the extension can be adjusted between 4-16 inches.  Because the longer moment arm increases the stress on the joint of the arm of the tom connector, a support tube is connected from the tube connector down to the support clamps of the bass drum.  This vertical tube releases the stress on the joint.

The tom extensions move the center of mass of the bass/tom combination closer to the user, making the assembly more likely to tip.  A third bass drum leg prevents tipping.  This third leg consists of a 3” long aluminum rod that connects to a 1” stopper via a 1.5’’ long, ¼-20 threaded rod, thereby allowing adjustable height.  The aluminum rod attaches to one side of a hinge with two ¼-20 round head bolts.  The other side of the hinge attaches to a metal strip resides securely between two bass drum support clamps.

The cymbal damper system attaches to the cymbal stand via a 1.8x2x1.2” aluminum support block, which secures onto the stand with a ¼-20 threaded eye screw.  Two 8” aluminum levers attach to the block such that they can pivot as the client pushes on a striking pad attached between the levers on one end.  Two dampers, made from tennis balls, dampen the cymbal vibrations when the client does so.  A spring attached between the damper levers and the support block returns the system to the starting position after actuation.  Total cost of the modifications is about $90.

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