Train’s Drew Shoals played two different kits this past summer to highlight Ludwig’s 45th Anniversary Vistalite series. Both the Green Sparkle set he used at the start of the tour and the Tri-Band Black one shown here were ideal for the variety of genres the band plays. “Vistalites are such a classic, iconic kit,” says Shoals, “and after forty-five years they still sound great in modern settings.”

When choosing his setup, Drew considered drum and cymbal combinations that would help him effectively navigate through Train’s diverse styles. “Some of our earlier songs have an arena-rock feel to them,” he says. “But when you move through the catalog, our recent songs have more of a pop vibe.”

Shoals maintains an assortment of Ludwig snares so he can achieve the best sound for every setting. “My Black Beauty is my go-to snare, as it has a great crack to it,” he says. “But I love Supraphonics when you want a lighter and more airy Motown sound. The Copper Phonics are somewhere in between, with an additional nuance from the softer metal. And people love Acrolites in the studio because they’re super focused and dry. It’s cool to have that variety.” Although on this tour Shoals primarily uses his Classic Maple auxiliary snare to trigger samples, he tunes it so that it produces a fairly dry, controlled pop, when that sound is needed.

Shoals uses a combination of bright and dark cymbals to achieve a classic, diverse mix of tones. “The bright and cutting A Custom crash is a go-to,” he says, “and the K Custom Medium ride has a great bell and a distinctive ping, but is a little darker and doesn’t get too washy.” He adds that the K Dark crash and Constantinople Medium-Thin Low ride add musical color to louder rock songs, and that the Avedis hi-hats, a reissue of Zildjian’s A cymbals from the ’50s and ’60s, are favorites of his as well. “They have a crisp attack without being too tinny,” he says, “and they feel great to play. They’re super musical, and they sit perfectly in the mix in any situation.”

Shoals chose to alternate between Clear Emperor and Red Colortone heads for the toms for both visual and audible effects. “They sound great and look amazing, especially with the Vista kits,” he says. The Coated Emperor on the snare produces an old-school sound that works well with the band’s original songs and classic-rock covers.

Shoals’ toms are tuned low and open. “We want a beefy rock sound that hits people in the gut,” he explains. “We use a little bit of Moongel, maybe one on each tom. For the Black Beauty, I tune just a little above a medium tension. I want it to cut in the mix and have a nice crack to it, but it’s not super cranked. If I want a lower tone, like when we play ‘Marry Me’ or ‘Angel in Blue Jeans,’ I’ll throw on a Big Fat Snare Drum Donut to drop the pitch a bit.”

Shoals says he utilizes triggers on about forty percent of the songs. “You’ll see contemporary-pop drummers using pads and samples,” he says. “They’re part of the set of tools you need to successfully play a modern-pop gig. I embrace the challenge. It’s a lot of fun to recreate the sounds from the record in an organic, live setting.”

Drew prefers to use 5A sticks for studio work or when he wants a little more control. But in a live setting 5Bs and X5Bs provide the extra power needed when playing to an exuberant crowd. “The extreme version is a little longer,” he says. “And it’s nice to have some extra heft to work with.”

Drums: Ludwig 45th Anniversary Tri-Band Black Vistalite
A. 6×13 Classic Maple snare in Charcoal Shadow finish
B. 6.5×14 Black Beauty snare
C. 9×13 tom
D. 16×16 floor tom
E. 16×18 floor tom
F. 14×22 bass drum

Cymbals: Zildjian
1. 15″ Avedis hi-hats
2. 19″ K Dark Thin crash
3. 20″ A Custom crash
4. 22″ K Custom Medium ride
5. 21″ Avedis cymbal
6. 22″ K Constantinople Medium-Thin Low ride

Heads: Remo Coated Emperor on main snare, Coated Controlled Sound Black Dot on auxiliary snare, Clear Emperor tom batters (Drew also uses Red Colortone Emperors), Clear Powerstroke P3 on both sides of bass drum

Hardware: Ludwig Pro Atlas stands, Porter & Davies BC 2 throne

Sticks: Vic Firth 5A, 5B, and X5B

Electronics: Roland SPD-SX sampling pad with RT series triggers on bass drum and auxiliary snare, Westone ES60 in-ear monitors

Accessories: 14″ Big Fat Snare Drum Donut and RTOM Moongel dampeners