alexvanhalendrums.com

Welcome to the Alex Van Halen Drum kits page. This site attempts to list the various drum kits and specs used by Alex Van Halen throughout his life and career, from his early childhood days of being born and raised in The Netherlands, to moving with his family at the age of nine to California, USA and finally building one of the biggest, most successful rock bands in the world along with younger brother and acclaimed guitarist, Edward Van Halen.

This site is a work in progress as all the information gathered here is from various heavily researched sources including from archived interviews (by either Alex Van Halen himself or others that have worked or been associated with him), forums, books, drum magazine articles and from many existing photos that were carefully studied to determine what the details of each drum kit consisted of. The best effort was done with all the information available to try and be as accurate as possible with details such as drum kit brand, drum sizes, finish, hardware, heads, sticks, etc. Any additional photos, errors or factual input on Alex Van Halen's various set ups are welcomed by sending an email to here. Any photos used here are also not owned by this site and are strictly for drum spec purposes only. If there are any photos that should be credited to the owner or have copyright issues, please contact this site.

 

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Site last updated July 1, 2017

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"When I was a kid, I'd go out in the audience and just stare at the drummer. The first thing I did was let my hair grow, but suddenly I realized, 'Hey, this isn't right. There's got to be more to it' " - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex and Edward Van Halen Kids _Alex Van Halen (left) and Edward Van Halen

Alexander Arthur Van Halen was born in Amsterdam, The Netherlands on May 8, 1953. On February 22, 1962, the van Halen family left Holland, after receiving several letters from relatives describing the wonders of California. In their possession were a few suitcases, 75 guilders and a piano. The trip took nine days by boat to New York, followed by another four days by train to California. Sometime after their arrival in the United States, they changed their last name from van Halen, to Van Halen.

 


"The reason I started playing drums was when I heard the Dave Clarke Five and when I saw Ringo getting all the girls in the Beatles' movie. He wasn't exactly the handsomest looking guy, but I figured if drums could do that for him, I'd give it a shot. Also, we [his family] always did have a very musical thing happening. I started out on piano, and went through violin, clarinet, saxophone - you name it, I tried it." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex’s father, Jan Van Halen, was a working musician. Alex developed an interest in music as a young boy and as a grade-schooler in Pasadena, CA, he began taking flamenco guitar lessons. At around the same time, his younger brother Edward had begun playing the drums. Edward had a paper run to pay for the 4-piece $125 Japanese-made St. George drum kit (believed to be in a blue pearl or ripple wrap) he bought but as fate would have it, Alex lost interest in the guitar and spent more time pounding on the drums, especially to the Surfaris' 'Wipe Out' whilst Edward was out delivering papers. They soon switched instruments permanently. Below is a photo of Edward Van Halen at age 11 (1966) behind the St. George drum kit he bought.

Edward Van Halen 1966
Edward Van Halen at age 11 behind the St. George drum kit.

 

Alex graduated from Pasadena High School in 1971 and attended Pasadena City College for a brief period of time where some of his classes included music theory, scoring and arranging. Some of Al's early bands, all of which included his younger brother Edward, were The Broken Combs (who performed lunchtime concerts at Hamilton Elementary School and featured Alex on saxophone), The Trojan Rubber Company, Genesis, and The Space Brothers. Alex also at times filled-in on drums with his father's band. Among his early influences are Buddy Rich, Keith Moon, John Bonham and Ginger Baker.

 

The Broken Combs
'The Broken Combs' circa 1964 - L-R: Edward Van Halen, Brian Hill, Alex Van Halen & Kevan Hill.

 


The Trojan Rubber Company (with friends) January 1971. Alex (rear center), Edward (front with hat).


 


"[On teaching himself drums] Just by listening and by working. When I finally started playing drums full time - which was about when I was 18 - we were playing all the clubs. To be able to work those clubs, you had to be able to play every song that existed, so aside from learning how to arrange songs anywhere from James Brown to Led Zeppelin to the Doobie Brothers, with only bass, drums, guitar and vocal, you really had to really manipulate things. Thet's partially how Van Halen got such a fat sound out of such a small group" - Alex Van Halen

 

Genesis Van Halen
L-R: Edward Van Halen, Alex Van Halen and Mark Stone

In around 1972, the Van Halen brothers formed a trio called 'Genesis' with Mark Stone on bass. As the group gained popularity doing high school gigs, backyard parties, weddings, etc, they changed their name to Mammoth as there was already another band in England called Genesis (which included Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel). In the photo above, it appears that Alex was using a double bass Ludwig drum set in what looks like a Black Diamond Pearl wrap finish. More info is still being sourced regarding this kit so any details or corrections will be be updated as they come to light. One interesting consistency about Alex's kits, even back in the early 1970's, is the way he sets the height of his hi-hats - all the way up!

 


Alex with Edward in their living room at the Van Halen home circa 1972.

 


"Ed and I both played piano, but I gravitated to the drums. When my dad's band would practice at the house, I would jump on the drums. They felt very natural to me. If the drummer couldn't make it to my dad's gig, I would fill in." - Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen
Note Alex's staple hi-hat set up - to maximum height.

 

Alex Van Halen _Alex Van Halen _Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen

Alex, at some point in his mid to late teens, began his long association with Ludwig Drums. The first Ludwig kit he acquired seemed to be either the previously mentioned Black Diamond Pearl double bass kit he used in the Genesis trio, or as shown in the upper photos, a Ludwig Classic Silver Sparkle four-piece set consisting of possibly a 14"x24" bass drum, 8"x12" & 9"x13" toms, 16"x16" & 16"x18" floor toms and a either a Supersensitive or Supraphonic 5"x14" snare. He then expanded this kit into a seven-piece double bass drum set with additional toms and a 14"x26" bass drum which he used at first for the left foot side. Alex used Zildjian cymbals in the early days (before later on switching to Paiste). In the above photos, circa 1973/74, Alex removed the resonant heads from the bass drums and some of the toms (floor toms at first before eventually removing the bottoms from all the toms). Removing bottom heads from toms seemed to be common practice with a lot of rock drummers in the 1970's. The bass drums were muffled with horizontal felt strips. Heads were either coated Ludwig Weatherkings or Remos.

 

Alex Van Halen with Jan Van Halen
Alex on drums in his father's (Jan Van Halen - left, on saxophone) band, circa the early 1970's.

 

 

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen _Van Halen Gazzarries

Van Halen 1975

In 1974 Mammoth brought in David Lee Roth as their singer and soon afterwards, the band was renamed Van Halen. Mark Stone was also soon replaced by Michael Anthony. This line-up would become known as the classic Van Halen line-up and would later go on to enormous success. It seemed in around 1974/75, Alex changed to a deeper 6.5" Ludwig Supersensitive snare drum and also added a deep 14" Slingerland tom in the same silver sparkle finish as the Ludwigs although in the second upper photo, at a band rehearsal, Alex has a different tom set up without the deeper tom. The resonant or front heads were also put back on the bass drums with felt strips for muffling. Alex also started using CS Clear Black Dot heads as well as can be seen on the bass drums batter side in the bottom photo. The left foot bass drum is also noticably larger than the right. There is also a Ludwig L-Cymbal arm attached to the left bass drum tom mount bracket.


"On "Van Halen I" [engineer] Don Landee asked me to take the front heads off the kick drums and I said "what's the matter with you, the drums are supposed to have two heads!" But he knew a lot more about recording than I did, so I accomodated him and his style of working at that point." - Alex Van Halen


Van Halen 1978

Alex Van Halen

Van Halen 1978

Alex Van Halen _ _Alex Van Halen

In 1977 Van Halen signed to Warner Bros. and recorded their first album titled 'Van Halen', which was released in February, 1978. Van Halen then embarked on an extensive tour supporting the likes of Black Sabbath and Montrose among other large acts. Alex put together a new, customized Ludwig Silver Sparkle drum kit although it is unclear if pieces of his earlier silver sparkle kit were used or not. What made this kit unique at the time was the use of four bass drums and joining them together in pairs to create two extra deep bass drums. They were joined, sealed and bolted with black straps (along with chains, added for visuals) to the shells. The right foot bass drums are also larger in diameter than the left ones so it seems Alex acquired an additional 14"x26" and 14"x24" and joined them to the existing ones. It also seems he then decided to use the bigger ones for the right foot side. The tom sizes appear to be 8"x12", 9"x13" and a Slingerland 14"x12" (mounted on a snare stand). Floor toms are 16"x16" & 16"x18" and a 402 Supraphonic 6.5"x14" snare. All Paiste 2002 cymbals with 15" Sound Edge hi-hats and all clear CS Black Dot heads top and bottom. A cowbell is mounted at the front off the large tom via the tom bracket.

Another common feature with Alex's drums in those early tours were one or more small fire extinguishers around the kit with one mounted on the left bass drum shell in this case. It is also believed that this drum kit was used for the recording of the first Van Halen album in late 1977, but before Alex did the joining of two extra bass drums as this was done in the short period after the album was recorded and when Van Halen were getting ready to go out on tour.

 

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen
In late 1978 Van Halen entered the studio to record their second album titled 'Van Halen II'. The above three photos show Alex with the same Ludwig Silver Sparkle kit and parts of what would become his next kit featuring stainless steel shells. It appears Alex used 8"x12" and 9"x13" stainless steel toms as well as 16"x16" and 16"x18" floor toms in stainless steel, along with the existing wooden shelled elongated bass drums. The silver sparkle rack toms were moved to the left of the kit. Alex also added four 8" Tama Octobans in black, to the left of the kit above the floor toms.

 

Alex Van Halen
In the promotional photos for 'Van Halen II', Alex just has his silver sparkle set up (with the larger tom and cowbell moved from the front to the left of the kit, presumingly just for the photo session).

Van Halen 1978 Day On The Green

Alex Van Halen
The above two photos are from the 'Day On The Green' show in Oakland, California - July 23, 1978.

 

Alex Van Halen Ludwig

Alex Van Halen Ludwig

Alex Van Halen Ludwig
The Ludwig Silver Sparkle kit was not used on stage after the second album and tour and eventually resurfaced several years later on display via the Hard Rock Cafe chain. The above photos show most of the kit on display at the HRC in Oslo, although the snare drum here looks like a Pearl model and was not originally part of the kit. Also, the tom mount on the left foot bass drum is not the original classic Ludwig one used for this kit back in the day.

 


 

Alex Van Halen
Alex's next kit was used primarily on the second tour ('World Vacation' Tour) in support of the second album, 'Van Halen II' in 1979. This Ludwig kit's shells are all stainless steel in a similar configuration and sizes to the silver sparkle kit. Again the bass drums are two pairs joined together with the left one smaller in diameter (26" right, 24" left). Toms are 8"x12", 9"x13", 10"x14" with 16"x16" and 16"x18" floor toms. Alex also added Tama 8" clear acrylic shelled octobans in various lengths around the kit. All clear CS Black Dot heads and Paiste 2002 cymbals. A cowbell is mounted off a stand next to the hi-hat. Extras added purely for visuals are red shock absorbers mounted off the bass drums on one side, acting like anchor spurs and chrome 'exhaust' pipes on the other sides. Oh, and also more fire extinguishers!

 

Alex Van Halen
The two shallower octobans were moved to left of the kit and look to be set up to be played from the edge of the drum riser. No dampening on the drum heads except for vertical felt strips on the batter side bass drums and the front heads cut out. The bottom resonant heads and rims were removed from the toms.

 

Alex Van Halen
The chrome 'exhaust pipes' connected to the bass drums can be clearly seen in the above photo next to the fire extinguisher.

 

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen
As the tour progressed, stickers (numbers and 'flammable') were added to the drum shells.

 

Alex Van Halen
In mid-90's, most of this kit resurfaced for display at a Ludwig drum expo in Hollywood, Los Angeles CA.

 


 

Alex Van Halen _Van Halen 1980

Alex Van Halen

In 1980, Van Halen released their third album, 'Woman And Children First' and embarked on the 'World Invasion' tour in support of it. Alex put together a new customized maple white finish Ludwig drum set for the tour. This time around, he went a step further when it came to the bass drums by not only once again, joining two pairs together, but using 'accordion' style large rubber type tubing to adjust the depth as well as angle of the resonant sides. The right foot bass drum is 26" in diameter and the left 24". Toms are 8"x12", 9"x13", 10"x14" with 16"x16" and 16"x18" floor toms. Snare is either a 6.5"x14" Supersensitive or Supraphonic. The insides of all the drum shells are black and Alex also added a large Paiste Symphonic 50" gong mounted on a black and white striped Paiste gong stand. All Paiste 2002 cymbals and a cowbell mounted off a stand next to the hi-hat. Clear Ludwig CS White Dot batter heads on the toms with all the bottom/resonant heads and rims removed. Front bass drums heads were cut out (partially to still display the Ludwig logo). The bottom three photos show this kit on display at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Museum in Cleveland, USA. Another interesting feature with this kit are the two Pearl Vari-Pitch roto toms mounted over tom shells (just above the floor toms).

 

Edward and Alex Van Halen 1980

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen
The above photo shows how the pairs of bass drums were held together with the use of floor tom leg mounts bolted inside the drum and floor tom legs cut to length.

 

Alex Van Halen
A closer look at the Pearl Vari-Pitch roto toms attached to the stand with Pearl tom mounts and arms.

 

Alex Van Halen
A closer look at the Tama Octobans showing the Tama lugs

 

Alex Van Halen
The cymbal boom stands were mounted on both front bass drums using the tom arm brackets and also fixed with a pin inserted into holes drilled through them. The stands would also extend inside bass drums to the bottom of the shell. A likely intended reason for this was for added strength and support when singer, David Lee Roth, would sometimes stand on (and jump off) the bass drums during shows.


 


"Well, in the past I had the Vista-Lite set by Ludwig. It had the black and white stripes and it was put together by gluing the different strips together. One of the first things we do before anything—because Dave tends to jump on the drums, stand on them and humiliate them—is to test them for strength. I stood on the drum and it promptly snapped in half, so we took it to a place where they coated the inside with a quarter inch of fiberglass and the sound on it was unreal. That is what I used in '81." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 1981

In 1981, Van Halen released their fourth album, 'Fair Warning' and embarked on another tour. Alex conceived a new concept for a drum kit and had it put together for the tour. The most obvious feature with this kit is the use of six bass drums. Alex, once again had two pairs of bass drums joined together but this time took it another step further and added two additional single bass drums with each 'connected' to the left and right main ones (via holes cut out of the shell) with 'accordion' style black tubes. This kit consisted of Ludwig Vista Lite drums customized with a quarter inch of fiberglass on the insides for strength and black and white stripes glued on the outer shells. All clear CS Black Dot batter heads with the bottom heads and rims removed. All Paiste 2002 cymbals, Paiste 50" gong and a cowbell next to the hi-hat. Octobans are also included once again with two clear acrylic ones at the front. Alex had also started sometimes using a Tama rosewood 6.5"x14" snare and this was also used on some of the 'Fair Warning' album.

 

Alex Van Halen 1981

Alex Van Halen 1981

Alex Van Halen 1981
Alex had a unique way of getting his snare drum sound with the use of gaffa tape applied in a triangular fashion to the batter head. More of this can be seen on some of his other kits further on in his career.

 

Alex Van Halen 1981 _Van Halen 1981

Alex Van Halen 1981

Van Halen 1981
The fiberglass reinforced Vista Lite bass drums, strengthened to take the 'abuse' on stage by singer David Lee Roth.

 

Alex Van Halen 1981
Alex's 50" gong stand would light on fire in the finale of the show. John Bonham in Led Zeppelin did the same thing for great visual effect, so perhaps with Alex being heavily influenced by Bonham, decided to add this to the show. According to a recent interview with Van Halen bass player, Michael Anthony, Alex's hair would sometimes catch on fire from the lighted gong stand.

 

Alex Van Halen
The kit was eventually put on display at the Guitar Centre in Hollywood, California.

 


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