Drum Sets Buying Guide

Similar to buying any musical instrument, there are many factors to consider when purchasing a drum set. The skill level, genre of music, and price range are three of many considerations that can effect a final purchase. Drum kits come equipped with various parts, and when thinking about how many of these pieces you plan on using when performing, this will alter the price that you pay.

For the Beginner

For first-time players, it is especially important to purchase a suitable drum kit that will help the player to learn easily, provide room to expand, and be cost-effective. Many high-end brands sell affordable drum sets for beginners. Included in most beginner kits are one snare drum, one tom-tom, one floor tom, and a bass drum alongside a hi-hat and crash cymbal. These models are usually no more than $300 dollars and provide the beginner with a no-frills method of practice and education.

For the Experienced Student

Once the beginning student becomes familiar with basic drum-kit technique, it may become necessary to upgrade aspects of the drum kit. Depending on the chosen style of playing, the experienced student may opt for a rock, jazz, standard, or fusion-style drum set.  There are many affordable models that cater to individual playing styles and musical genres.

Finding the Right Brand

Many options are available for the first or second time buyer. Many music stores offer a "store-brand" model that, even though sold without a brand-name, will be durable, expandable, and affordable. Online retailers offer base models that allow the player to learn on an affordable set, and to also upgrade to more expensive hardware. Online auction sites also provide the novice player with the opportunity to purchase an affordable kit.

Though these beginner sets may not have the tonal quality of high-end brands and custom kits, they provide the player with an opportunity to learn proper techniques and style without breaking the bank. These models also demonstrate the importance of proper maintenance of equipment, as some low-end models require routine maintenance and care from the user. The starter models provide many lessons to the novice, both in drumming form and instrument maintenance.


Make sure you have these before and during your play time.

Jazz Drumming

Many options exist for the beginning jazz drummer. Most jazz drum sets consist of four drums: a snare, tom-tom, floor tom, and bass drum, alongside a ride, hi-hat, and crash cymbal. These drums are usually smaller than standard pieces, making them easier to transport and set up in small bars and clubs. Though the sizes of the drums tend to vary, a potential buyer might want to begin with these measurements:
* Bass Drum: 18"
* Snare Drum: 14"
* Rack Tom-Tom: 12"
* Floor Tom-Tom: 16"

Many different retailers cater to the needs of the jazz drummer. As with all percussion, chosen dimensions come from personal preference, and pieces can be bought separately. However, pre-assembled jazz kits can be purchased from nearly any well-known percussion brand. 

Rock Drumming

Nothing is off-limits for the rock drummer, as any piece of percussion that can fit on a drum rack can be incorporated into the player's set. Rock sets tend to be more prevalent, and come in varying sizes as base models. Where jazz kits tend to be smaller for easy transport, rock drum sets tend to be larger in order to produce a bigger sound. In these sets, there is usually a snare drum, two rack Tom-toms, one floor tom, and one bass drum. Many common sets include drums with these measurements:
* Bass drum: 22"
* Snare drum: 12"
* Rack tom-tom: 13"
* Floor tom-tom: 16"

Where many jazz kits usually have only two to three cymbals, rock sets tend to have many more, with a hi-hat, a ride, and many crash cymbals of differing dimensions. When purchasing a rock set, there are two standard setups, standard and fusion. Standard sets are usually bigger, producing a large, broad sound. The wide dimensions of standard-sized tom-toms open the sound of the drum set, and help the player to stand out musically. Fusion sets are typically smaller, and allow the player to move easily between different drums, lending the player greater speed and dexterity. Many of the drums have smaller dimensions, allowing them to fit closer together.

For the Player Looking to Upgrade

Every percussion company sells separate pieces for the drummer looking to upgrade or create a custom kit. If one is looking to replace an entire kit, a shell pack is an affordable choice for the player that already has the required hardware from a previous set. Shell packs include only the drum shells and the hardware used to secure drum heads. A player looking to upgrade may also consider buying custom-made drums. Many manufacturers have custom-shops that provide the player with the opportunity to build a custom piece. These manufacturers are often smaller, but give the customer the opportunity to fully customize their order.

Drum Shopping

* '''Size vs. Tone''': If the potential buyer is looking for a kit that can be transported to gigs easily, then size may be more important than the volume and tone of a jazz kit. While many kits attempt to deliver the greatest amount of tone for size, some kits may sacrifice sound for portability. The best way to find a happy medium between tone and size would come from playing many different sets that vary in size.
* '''Wood''': Different woods create different tones. Choose the type of wood carefully, as every wood has different qualities. Though maple and birch are the most common, woods such as mahogany and basswood create different tones that the player may be interested in exploring. Each wood has different traits that lend themselves to different playing styles and musical genres.
* '''Look:''' Try not to gravitate towards the first kit that's aesthetically appealing. If a kit is in the corner of a room, the low end will be accentuated, and thus you may be tricked into thinking that your drums have too much bass. If a kit is in the open, the reverse may happen, and you may be convinced that a kit is lacking low end. Be your own judge.

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