Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove: What’s in Those Shells??

uhmm, POP! uhhm, POP! uhhm, POP! uhhm, POP! POP!

Can’tcha just hear it? Honestly I did when I pulled the Guitar Center flyer out of the mailbox. There it was, this shimmering little boppity-bop kit just staring me in the face. Loved the color in about a second, and I could see using it for jazz gigs if it sounded as good as it looked.


So the next obvious question was: What’s in those shells?

And therein began the great quest for Questlove’s Breakbeat kit low-down, yes it did…

The adventure began early Thursday night, when I got home from an idiot day of commute through Los Angeles, January 31. After being mezmerized by the azure shimmer, I scoured the Internet with no luck. Looked on forum pages, no luck. Checked on Facebook and the Ludwig-Musser page, no luck.

Next morning, same drill. Looky looky here, looky looky there, nada. I went to the Guitar Center channel YouTube site and heard part of the kit, but still, no shell info.

I then called Guitar Center in Hollywood. No luck. They had it in the warehouse, but no info on the shells…


Allrighty… well then, why not just call Monroe, North Carolina and ask someone at the factory?


Easier said… seems that number is not exactly hung out on a shingle, which is understandable. They’d be answering questions all day and night and have little time to make drums…

Time for Plan B: call Conn-Selmer, the parent company, in Elkhart, Indiana, and ask them.

So I did.


“Hi, I saw the new Questlove Breakbeats kit and was wondering if you could tell me what the shells were made of?”

The very helpful guy on the other end of the phone said he didn’t know but that he would walk down to some office and find out. So, he did, with his headset in tow, and basically told me this:

“The literature we have… hmmm… says… made of select wood, 7-ply, imported, by the people who do the Elements series…”

So, he told me all he knew, and I really appreciated the fact that he took the time to do some legwork. Seriously, can you imagine your cell phone service being even remotely this helpful?


Okay, select wood it is… whatever that might be. I posted what I had just found on the Ludwig-Musser FB page with hopes of hearing more soon… and about 3 hours later, BAM!


So, this little kit that I am looking forward to has a 5×14 snare, 10″ rack tom, 13″floor tim and a 16″ kick. Other than the small kick, my maple Centennials have very similar sizes. KInda cool. The 16″ kick comes with a riser, which sounds very interesting.


I have wanted Ludwig to come out with a cool little jazz kit for a long time, and if this it it and does the trick, I’m in.

Now in a seriously strange turn of coincidence, it just so happens that my beloved girlfriend was in the process of knitting me a scarf that is guess what color? Well, not exactly, but pretty damn close…


And there you have it: the great quest for Questlove’s Breakbeat kit low-down has been solved, which means we can all:


Update: Saturday. February 2.

I stopped by Guitar Center in Hollywood to see if they had a kit set-up. They did, fresh out of the box.

Sooooo… road test time!

But first let me say that a couple of other guys were checking it out, which let me hear it at a distance. First impression: the kick is awesome. Cool tone, nice thump on top of that. The beater hits about 2-3 inches or so from the rim, which means higher frequencies… hence, the cool tone.

The toms came with pin stripes, and didn’t sound bad at a distance (10 feet at the most). Nice smack. With thinner heads tuned tightly, I suspect my jazz needs would be met just fine.

The snare was not tuned too tightly, but it too had a nice smack. Its sound on the Guitar Center Channel of course is miked, tuned and played by the master himself (Questlove). Still, I had no complaints, and snares off didn’t sound bad either.

But it’s the kick that really got me. Great feel with the riser using a Ludwig pedal, and I got great control and rebound even playing heel down. This mattered most, because in a small club, you need ALOT of control for volume…

Samba, be-bop, funk… again, I had no complaints. The hardware was solid and no muss or fuss, and yes, the drums ARE tiny… but they delivered for what I wanted.

When I asked the guy at Guitar Center what kind of wood they were using, he said it was being promoted as cherry wood. I’d seen “poplar” on the Ludwig Facebook post from the previous day, so I asked him if he was sure…

Five minutes later, he came back and said he’d just called Ludwig and that it was actually basswood. So, there you go.

Now mind you, with the insanity of the NAMM show just passing and a new kit being released, I would expect information to possibly get jumbled and I don’t care. This kit funks, bops, and sambas for me just fine, so it can be comeoniwannabangya wood for all I care.

Ludwig, Questlove, you got my vote.





32 thoughts on “Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove: What’s in Those Shells??

  1. Greg February 3, 2013 / 2:41 pm

    I would believe they are poplar shells. the Element series is 9 ply Poplar. I picked this kit up myself at Guitar Center yesterday as I too thought it could make a great little jazz kit to compliment my larger, rock oriented 7 piece Epic kit. The 16″ kick is a nice contrast to my other 22″. I haven’t had a large opportunity to pay it a bunch yet but I think it will sound great with new heads on the snare at least. The toms and bass already sound pretty good with the stock heads.

    I uses Evans heads so I might put some coated G1 on the toms and maybe a clear EC2 on the bass since Evans doesn’t really make a 16″ bass head. Possibly a G Plus on the snare with a hazy 300 bottom.

    • David R. Aldridge February 4, 2013 / 1:34 am

      It’ll be interesting to hear what drummers use, as you offered, and hopefully they’ll provide comments and critique well as samples of on-line with video clips. I think Ludwig fans will give it a fair shot and see if things work across multiple music genres.

      • Todd Van Gelder February 12, 2013 / 11:32 pm

        I had the same reaction when I saw the GC flyer. I have a great Gretsch Catalina Jazz Club 5 piece with a 16″ BD and small drums all around – but the hardware is heavy. THANKS for doing this homework! This set seems a perfect for gigging vs. my Gretsch – which is great (esp with Jack DeJohnette heads on it), but HEAVY! 🙂 Since a few gigs are approaching fast, good to hear that GC had this set. I assume it’s just a shell pack. Did they have Ludwig hardware ready to sell with the set? It’s really not made clear in any ads or data. Thanks again!

      • David R. Aldridge February 12, 2013 / 11:39 pm

        It’s just the shell pack. I have not really dug into studying the new hardware, but the flat stands look interesting.

      • Greg February 12, 2013 / 11:59 pm

        I have the Ludwig Atlas Standard hardware on my other kit and I’m quite happy with it. I know it is lower quality than The Atlas Classic as displayed with this kit or the Atlas Pro but I think it is pretty safe to say Ludwig knocked it out of the park with the Atlas line of hardware. For the Classic line, a snare stand, hi hat stand, and 1 cymbal stand will probably cost as much as the shell pack.

      • Todd Van Gelder February 13, 2013 / 8:30 pm

        Thanks, re: “just the shell pack. So did they have the new hardware and carry bags in stock with the set? Asking, cause I’ve had issues in the past with GC (and other large, mass market stores) having a set, but not the hardware, or vice-versa. They stock what’s flashy and/or sells fast, vs. having everything ready for purchase, and I must say the compact hardware and bags for the set look very cool (and are kind of the point of the “entire” package). Again, very much appreciated!

      • David R. Aldridge February 13, 2013 / 9:26 pm

        Re: hardware in stock. I didn’t ask or really look around GC for the hardware and I didn’t ask about the carrying bags. I might infer from the Guitar Center Channel video of Questlove that the bag comes with the kit….

        Re: Clubdate hardware, I have not looked at that kit at all and cannot really speak accurately to its configuration. However, as a consumer, you can always go to Ludwig’s Facebook page and send them a message. They have replied to me, so, I do know they have more than just bots manning the helm.

      • Todd Van Gelder February 13, 2013 / 8:52 pm

        One more–I promise-I’m just new to modern Ludwig drums, so my guess is it’s the same hardware shown on the Atlas “classic configuration gallery” page for: the Club Date SE Downbeat Shell Pack. As an IT professional (and a consumer), it’s pretty lame that the link from the Ludwig Gear page to Atlas threw “page not found” errors until an hour ago and that you have to Google +breakbeats +Ludwig to hit the official page, as it’s not under “drum-kits”.

  2. DEW February 4, 2013 / 12:57 am

    I’m having trouble getting my beater to hit the head at under 90 degrees with the kick on the riser. The rim is hitting the chain unless I place it quite far from the head. Were you hitting the head with an overextended stroke?

    • David R. Aldridge February 4, 2013 / 1:30 am

      When I played the kit in Guitar Center, I didn’t seem to encounter any pedal problems. Actually, I can’t say I noticed the beater angle as much as I noticed the beater striking position. The Atlas Ludwig pedal had a little side play, but I like that. However they had it set up seemed to work.

    • T. Van Gelder July 5, 2022 / 11:44 am

      I bought, then returned this Ludwig set. The configuration was ideal for a weekend ski resort gig. The problem was the place was PACKED with folks wearing heavy sweaters, down jackets, hats etc… Great muting for a recording session (LOL) but the drums were barely audible over the guitar amps, keyboards, bass and vocals. In bars holding less than 150, IMO, there’s no reason to mic the drums: Except it was SRO (220+ packed in was the manager’s estimate). One shining point: Though the set is made of Poplar (yuk, unless an inner ply), the small Tom with the stock heads was one of the BEST I’ve EVER heard-it resonated like a $500 maple tom! I’ve since rapped on another one in a store: identical tone! I’ll stick with my Sonor Ascent Beechwood Jazz kit (18″ BD) with an added maple AQ2 small tom that I swap out with the beech depending on gig or recording session type. Lesson here? Like the 1st gen Sonor compact kits & the identical AQX Poplar line they just repackaged as IF new (there’s nothing new): Spend the little extra $$ and get Maple Sonor AQ2s: Everything from the mini-kit with 12″ BD-to the Safari, 18″ BD Jazz, Studio and Stage kits, sound amazing! Plus there’s that “sweet-spot” stick bounce, tone and response inherent to great tone-woods like Maple and Beech. Finally: The 7 ply, 18″ BD on the Ascent & AQ2 Jazz (Beech & Maple respectively) both sound like a mid to low range cannons! The punch is astounding! I’ve had bassists, studio & sound reinforcement engineers say things like” “That sounds like a 22″ but with far more tone!”

  3. Peter Lindwall February 5, 2013 / 7:21 pm

    Hi People:

    Regarding the beater angle, I have an old Pearl Forum Be-Bop kit with an 18″ bass drum (they no longer make this configuration), that I bought for $259.00 for a 5-piece 10 years ago (consequently, I will “customize” this kit at will, this is not my main kit). I added a home-made riser to the bass drum, and since the old Forum had a metal bass drum rim (kinda like the break beat kit, from what it seems in the pictures), I took my old hack saw and cut two slots in the rim about 2″ appart, and then simply bent down the rim to make room for the pedal chain. That way the beater gets a bit closer to the head. If you look at what DW and/or Yamaha does on their 18″ bass drums with risers, you get the idea. Or, get a cheap second 16″ bass drum rim, and cut a slot out of it, or maybe just a regular tripple flanged 16″ hoop for the backside of the bass drum, that could work as well. That should do it!

  4. Daniel Todd Carter. February 6, 2013 / 6:18 am

    I saw this kit and was totally intrigued. I had played the Gretsch Catalinas awhile back and liked the sound and feel, but the problem was they were cheap Mahagony. These drums sounded good up close but faraway they did not project. So… I went just today to Guitar Center in Avondale, AZ and they had this little Questlove kit. I asked if I could set it up and try it out. They were cool with that. I can only say this… after getting the kit set up I immeadiately !!! was blown away by the sound of this kit. Within 3 minutes I had a small crowd around me, (10 to 15 people or so), and I just decided to go for it!! I proceeded to wail on this little kit and the harder I played it the better it sounded. Never in my wildest dreams did I EVER think I would want a kit with a 16″ kick and made out of Poplar, never!!. However, I always knew Questlove was a monster player and if he designed the kit, I just knew it would be pretty kick butt. “WOW”!! MONSTER little kit with a great sound made out of Poplar?? Yes, Poplar. Very small footprint, which is exactly what I need. What more can I say except if you want a tiny kit that ROCKS!!. You need this kit. Mine will be arriving shortly. Thanks Ludwig and Questlove and God bless you for thinking of us small drummers man!!

  5. Jerry February 12, 2013 / 2:11 am

    Ok if the drum head manufacturers would make 16″ bass drumheads like there regular bass heads and put one on that kit imagine the sound that kit will produce Wow!!

  6. Jeff Madore February 18, 2013 / 5:42 pm

    I bought the kit and I’m having issues with the bass drum beater hitting the head at 90 degrees as well. It’s very frustrating and changes the way you play. I shouldn’t have to customize my drum set to have it work right out of the box. I hope Ludwig figures out a fix for this design flaw. I would give the kit a great review if not for this problem. I’ve tried several fixes and two different pedals. The pedal seems like a cheap toy cause it loses action by having to go past the point it should. As some who relies on his kick for fills I’m very unhappy with this flaw.

    • David R. Aldridge February 18, 2013 / 6:16 pm

      If I get a chance to go back soon by Guitar Center in Hollywood, I’ll see which pedal they had hooked up and really take a look at things. Several people have commented on the beater angle issue, and you’re right: out of the box should not be a problem.

  7. Tony Hartt March 9, 2013 / 12:41 am

    Just picked up this kit at GC today. Can’t wait to get em set up. Mine actually came with the bags that you see in the GC Questlove video on YouTube. The bags though are hardly for protection, they are very thin, almost like a recyclable grocery bag material. Mine also came with a pair of Ludwig 7A sticks. Not really necessary, but a nice touch. I have some Ludwig 800 series hardware that I’ll probably use. Hopefully the kick pedal won’t be an issue. Here’s a couple quick pics…


    • Tony Hartt March 9, 2013 / 12:45 am

      Guess my image tags didn’t work. Let’s try this…

  8. Matthew Humphreys June 17, 2013 / 6:21 pm

    I was thinking about the breakbeats by ?uest for my 8 year old twins as that have expressed an interest in drumming and I was wondering if you know the cymbals that
    ?uest Specified? I know there Zildjian but what size and type can anyone Help?

    • Bryce Job January 10, 2014 / 7:29 pm

      If they’re just starting out I’d say get an 18 inch Zildjian ZBT ride/crash and just standard Zildjian ZBT 14 inch hi hats. If they stick with it then you can always upgrade to more expensive cymbals, but to start those should do just fine!

  9. Edward December 29, 2013 / 2:05 am

    This is kind of late, but I have the same problem with the beater having to strike a few inches past the natural strike plane, if the chain didn’t end up grinding against the rim. I thought about cutting up the rim to accommodate, but why should I? I am going to sell it. I love the sound and look, but the kick beater issue was a let down.

    • Glen February 16, 2014 / 12:18 am

      This is what keeps me from buying one. I don’t think it would add much to the cost of the kit if the manufacturer would notch the bass drum hoop. Would using a pedal with an adjustable beater angle be a work around to this problem?

  10. Bryce Job January 10, 2014 / 7:28 pm

    I put evans hd dry on the snare over hazy 300. On toms I did clear hydraulics as they really add some low end to the smaller dimensioned toms over g1 clears. On the kick i left them stock. Being a kickport artist I put one in the redo head and it really beefed up the kick. I’m looking into the aquarian super kick for the batter as it seems to be the only bass drum head made in the 16 inch size. Overall great kit. I use the bags upside down in my apartment and so far no complaints from the neighbors. I’m looking into getting bags for them as the thin bags are already starting to get tears and rips and I’ve only gigged out with this twice. I went to an old army supply store and got the biggest top loading duffle. The kit stacks up perfectly inside the one bag haha. Got a smaller duffel for the hardware so I can carry my whole kit in in one or two trips pretty neat!

  11. Michael Kilpatrick April 24, 2014 / 8:22 pm

    I owned a Breakbeats kit for exactly one day…the bass drum beater issue was a major problem, and the tom mount did NOT hold the rack tom under medium-volume playing. I was surprised that Ludwig would make such a splash with a kit that certainly doesn’t live up to the standards of its higher-end kits. I am a STAUNCH Ludwig user (2 Classic Maple kits), but they missed the boat on this one.

    I did, however, take a stab with the Tama Silverstar Metro Jam Kit…it’s the same sizes as the Ludwig Breakbeats save for the snare, which is a 5″ x 12″ (and was only offered as a limited-edition add-on). The Tamas are all-birch, and blow the Ludwigs out of the water…in terms of sound, ease of setup (no bass drum pedal issues!), and the tom mount holds like glue!

    Finally, I have used the Tama Metro Jam Kit in situations from a TINY club stage (unmiked), to a 1000-seat concert hall (miked) and the drums performed perfectly.

    • Rawhide September 21, 2014 / 3:40 am

      My dog wipes her butt on tama drums. (At my hearing impared friends house OF COURSE!)

  12. Alan Arnold April 5, 2015 / 1:07 am

    I purchased the Ludwig kick and liked it a lot. I was disappointed with the new Atlas hardware and have had several pieces break on me. I am gunshy now and won’t use it for gigs because I can’t take a chance. There is nothing worst than a cymbal stand or Tom failure (which I had both) in the middle of a show. Bottom line. I love the drums and don’t like the hardware.

    • David Aldridge April 5, 2015 / 11:25 pm

      Alan, I was talking with a guy from Sam Ash the other day, and he said the same thing. Hi-hats breaking right out of the box. I dug the Atlas hardware when I saw in introduced at NAMM two years ago, but my first thought when I saw it again this year was, “You guys are trying to do too much in one place.” By that I mean, all the add on’s to the add on’s.

      I would write or call them directly, and post your thoughts on other blogs and Facebook sites, let them know with details and such. Drummers benefit greatly from hearing honest accounts like this. And if the companies are listening, they can too…

  13. Randy June 23, 2015 / 5:07 pm

    I’ve been playing 16″ floor toms morphed into bass drums with a DW cradle, for years and loving the look and the sound! But when I saw these Breakbeats I had to have them.
    They just arrived today & they are awesome. I ordered a second floor tom via Mail & it looks like a small Zepset jazz kit! Love ’em!

  14. drumrdude November 12, 2015 / 3:19 pm

    I bought this kit last spring at a Guitar Center. It was on display, fitted with Remo Silent Heads, and a set of Zildjian Gen 16 quiet cymbals. Loved the look and couldn’t get my eyes off of it. I thought of how cool this would be as a practice kit in my living room. Within a week that display kit was MINE!! Love it. I have put the stock heads on it, to see how it sounded, and could not get them to sound close enough to my gig-kit (Gretsch Catalina Jazz), so I went back to the practice kit setup. It’s a great investment. The ONLY thing I can think of that I don’t like about it is the sticker instead of a badge. But that’s minor.

  15. David Scercy March 8, 2017 / 1:03 am

    I see that most of these blogs are from around 2013. Has Ludwig addressed the issue of the bass drum beater since then?

    • David Aldridge March 8, 2017 / 2:22 am

      I don’t know, but if other readers do and want to reply with information, we’ll post it here.

  16. Darryl Keith Pugh August 26, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    Its now Aug.2017 and I just bought mine a couple of weeks ago. I believe they have made some changes to this kitt and maybe for the better, Maybe! The riser is a bit different not needing a drumkey anymore. But has an attachment locks that can be tightened by hand instead of using a key. I read the shell material is now 9 ply poplar instead of 7 ply. Like a lot about of information about these drums that may or may not be correct. But I can tell you they sound GREAT! I got the Blue. I wantedthe Red but guitar did not offer Red and I wanted to see them up close before I bought them. You can also order these drums through JC Pennys and and even Walmart but only in White or Black Sparkle. I actually love the Blue Azure. They are realy nice looking drums. They look much more expensive than the $399.99 shell pack. I habe been playing drum about 45 yrs and have owned many kits over the years and the sound ofv this small kit is just as good if not better then some of the more expensive I have owned over the years.

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