During his long and illustrious career, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie estimates that there isn’t a brand or type of drum kit that he hasn’t played. But the drumming legend insists that he can sit down behind almost any set and find his sound within minutes. “The sound of the drums comes from me,” he says. “You want Bernard Purdie, you hire Bernard Purdie. You don’t hire a drum set.”

True to his claim, Purdie doesn’t even bring his own kit to the studio when he records — whatever set a particular studio has is fine by him. “The engineers know what the drums sound like, and they know how to mike them,” he says. “I just concern myself with playing. All I’ve got to do is tweak the drums with some tape and tuning, and I’m sounding like Bernard Purdie in no time.” That said, there are certain items that Purdie considers essential to his sound and playing style.

1. Roc-N-Soc Drum Throne

“It’s the best drum seat I’ve ever had. The one drum seat I used to have I got in 1968, a Sonar bicycle-style seat. I kept it for 45 years, and it saved me from having to undergo a back operation. The Roc-N-Soc is similar to a bicycle seat, but it takes up your body. You can play with your feet flat or on your toes. It’s really comfortable, and I wouldn’t play without it.”

2. DW Snare Drum

“I like the DWs. I prefer a 14″ x 5.5″, but I’ll go up to a 6.5″ on occasion. I like the feel of this snare. It’s got a great tone, but of course the sound really comes from me. I make the Bernard Purdie sound. What I really like about it is, it stays. You tune it up, play it, and you don’t have to worry about it. You can take it to the next gig, and it’s right on the money.”

3. DW Bass Drum

“DW again. I like the 18″, but I prefer the 20″ x 14″. It gives me depth, mid-range, highs if I need ’em — it’s the right bass drum. I know how to get my sound for any kind of music because I learned what I’m doing. You put Bernard Purdie with this bass drum, and you’re going to get something that makes you happy.”

4. Sabian Cymbals

“I use Sabian cymbals because they sound right all the time. They’re consistent. I can sit them in the garage for a month, and when I take them out and play them, they give me what I want. I play 13″ hi-hats for speed and agility. I also like the 22″ crashes and the 18″ China Boys. I’ll play different sizes of China Boys if I have to, but the 18s are the thing for me. I can use that cymbal as a crash or a ride.”


5. Custom Drumsticks 

“It took me 22 years to get the sticks that I want, and they’re my own custom brand. These are the only ones that feel right. They’re the longest sticks in the business at 17″ to 18″. Some are hickory and some are oak. I insist on a wood tip, and I need a certain balance from the handle. I can get the Bernard Purdie sound with these sticks.”