Drum Set Buying Guide

There are so many drum sets on the market that it can be difficult to know where to start. Whether it's your first set, an upgrade or a complete replacement, Drum Center of Portsmouth has the solution.

A drum set, also called a drum kit, is a set of various drums and other percussion instruments. A drum kit usually consists of 5 parts – a bass drum, hi-hats, snare drum, tom toms, and ride and crash cymbals. Buying one of the best drum sets is one of the most exciting things that can happen to a drummer. Whether you are at the beginning of your journey as a drummer, have reached the intermediate level, or have entered the world of professional drumming, buying a new drum set can be an inspiring and truly joyous moment.

The many sounds of the drum kit cover all frequency ranges, and the instrument is the foundation upon which the rest of the music is built. The drummer doesn’t just set the beat, he’s also the instrument that all the other musicians lean on and that holds the music together. Finding the best drum set for you can do wonders for your playing skills, your individual playing style, and most importantly, for the fun you can have behind your drums.

Drum Set Components

The first thing you need to know is the various components of a drum kit. Without this knowledge it is impossible to understand the functioning of the instrument as a whole.

Bass Drum or Kick Drum

First and foremost is the largest single element of the drum kit – the bass drum or kick drum. This is the distinctively deep drum that helps lay the foundation for the rhythm that every piece of music needs.

Snare Drum

The snare drum is often considered the most important part of the drum kit, as it gives the song its “back beat”. Snare drums come in many different sizes and materials. The snare drum is one of the few elements that is almost always there, no matter what drummer you are dealing with.

It is usually the characteristic sound of the snare drum that defines the sound of the drummer in question, as it can be tuned in so many different ways and produces an almost infinite number of sounds.

Toms

A drum kit can have one, two or more toms, but the main purpose of this part of the kit is to create timbres. The pitches can vary depending on the number of toms, but they are usually used to fill the bridge between sections.

Cymbals

The cymbals can be as varied and versatile in size and character as the toms. They are available in very small sizes; starting from 8 β€œin diameter, they can easily come in sizes up to 24” in diameter.

There are many different types of cymbals, and each of these types serves different purposes. The three most common cymbals included in virtually all drum kits, however, are the hi-hat cymbal, crash cymbal and ride cymbal.

  • Crash cymbal

This cymbal is usually 14″ to 20″ in diameter and provides the explosive sound that is often used to introduce a new part of the song or to end a fill.

Many drummers in hard genres, including hard rock, heavy metal, and more extreme metal genres, often use the crash cymbal as a ride cymbal to add power to the sound of the song.

  • Ride Cymbals

They are usually between 18″ and 22″ in size and are often referred to as “chorus cymbals”. The cymbal got this name because it has a higher and fuller sound than a hi-hat. This is why many drummers switch from the hi-hat cymbal to the ride cymbal in the chorus of a song.

Ride cymbals are made very differently: Some ride cymbals are thinner than others, so they can be used as large crash cymbals. Others are very thick, but have a higher volume and are therefore more suitable for certain types of music.

  • The hi-hat cymbal

It is often placed to the left of the snare drum (for right-handed players) and is often used to keep time. A unique feature of the hi-hat is that it is mounted on a special hi-hat stand that allows it to be operated with the left foot.

This makes it possible to use the hi-hat even when your hands are busy playing the tom-toms or ride cymbal. The hi-hat is one of the most central parts of the drum kit, and virtually all drummers have at least one hi-hat in their kit.

Hardware

Finally, we have to mention all the things that make a drum kit really playable. These include the kick pedal, stands for the snare drum and cymbals, and much more.

Acoustic Drum Sets vs. Electronic Drum Sets

Electronic drums are a good choice because of their compact size and sound – you can turn them down! This makes them very attractive for parents and people who live in close proximity to their neighbors. Plus, they sound great with every beat. Electronic drums work by triggering a pre-recorded or electronic sample, which means you don’t have to know how to tune a drum or how to beat it properly.

In some ways, this makes playing more fun because it sounds so good. The flip side of the coin is that an acoustic drum set will never sound as good. The reason is that you haven’t developed the skills and techniques you need to play with dynamics and make a drum sing.

Many Drum manufacturers offer a wide range of configurations and drum setups. These are just a few of the most common types you will come across.

Standard

A standard drum kit often consists of a 5-piece shell package with a snare drum, two rack toms, a floor tom and a bass drum. The toms are slightly larger in diameter and depth than the Fusion configuration.

This configuration is most often found on complete drum sets aimed at beginners. This configuration provides a good starting point for new drummers to figure out what sound they are looking for, and is versatile for many styles of music.

Rock

A rock configuration is usually a 4-piece kit with a snare, a rack tom, a floor tom and a bass drum. However, some rock kits also include two rack toms or two floor toms. The toms in this configuration are usually larger and produce a deeper overall sound associated with rock music. However, they are not limited to rock music, but can be tuned to many different styles.

Fusion

A fusion kit is usually a 5- or 6-piece drum set consisting of a snare, two rack toms, one or two floor toms, and a bass drum. A fusion kit has a similar configuration to a standard drum kit, except that the rack toms and floor toms are usually smaller in diameter, and in some cases, shallower in depth. These shallower depth toms are referred to as “fast toms.” A fusion setup is often found in funk, pop, hip-hop, R&B and rock.

Bop/Jazz

A bop kit is also called a jazz kit or jazzette kit. This configuration is usually a 4-piece drum set with a snare, rack tom, floor tom and bass drum. The shell sizes are small and produce higher tones typical of jazz and bebop.

Materials for drums

Over the years, manufacturers have experimented with all kinds of materials, including acrylic, fiberglass and even concrete. But the vast majority of drums today are either wood or metal. Most drum kits are made of wood, and often only the snare drum is made of metal. However, in some drum kits, all of the tom-toms and the bass drum are made entirely of metal.

Most drums are made of multiple layers, with the inner layers having the greatest influence on the sound: Many manufacturers therefore produce drums with one type of wood in the middle and another type of wood as the outer layer, often for aesthetic reasons. Below are some of the most common materials:

Maple

It is one of the most popular woods for making high-quality drums. The wood has a warm tone that emphasizes the developed frequencies, which makes maple drums particularly suitable for tuning them low.

Birch

It is a very dense and durable wood species. The sound is a bit more aggressive than maple, because birch also raises the high frequencies strongly. This results in a crisper sound with more punch. The amplified low frequencies thus provide a good balance that does not shrink the sound.

Mahogany

This was once the standard material for making drums, but the expensive wood is unfortunately no longer as common. Some manufacturers still offer mahogany drum kits, but the material is far from being the industry standard.

The wood has a very powerful bass that produces an extremely rich and warm tone often associated with many vintage drums. Mahogany also has an enhanced midrange that gives the drums a bit more punch.

Beech wood

This is not so often used, but the material has some special properties: it is as hard as birch, but the surface is rougher, and you can get a deeper sound with beech drums. If you want the strength of birch but keep the deep, warm sound of maple, beech is a good alternative.

Steel

Steel has some of the most characteristic features, because the sound is very light, has a long sustain and a very penetrating tone. Especially when playing rimshots. Many snare drums are made of steel because the material can penetrate the wall of sound of a live band. Also, it’s normal for beginner sets to include a steel drum because they can often be made cheaper than birch or maple, for example.

Poplar

It is relatively durable and was traditionally used as a “filler” between other layers in drums. Nowadays, poplar is often used in drum kits for beginners, but this does not mean that it gives a bad sound. Sonically, poplar wood is most reminiscent of a mixture of birch and maple, as both the high and low frequencies are slightly amplified.

Brass

Brass has the same bright, clear sound as steel, but with a slightly warmer tone, as the material enhances the lower frequencies and gives the sound more depth and balance.

Drum Construction

Drum shells consist of several layers or plies of wood. Generally, more layers make for a brighter sound and a higher fundamental. Drums with fewer plies, on the other hand, usually sound warmer and have a deeper fundamental. The sound quality of a drum is also strongly influenced by the angle of the rim. A rounded rim produces a softer sound, while a more pointed rim produces a brighter tone.

Drums also come in many different finishes. Covered finishes, for example, are affordable treatments that use vinyl foils available in a variety of looks and patterns. Compared to natural paint finishes, they are more scratch-resistant and durable. Transparent finishes are also widely available and are known for highlighting the grain of the wood and giving it a natural look.

Drum Hardware

Drum & cymbal stands/racks

Cymbals and some types of drums have their own stands. These are adjustable and allow the drummer to position the kit parts exactly where they want them. “Rack” systems integrate the functions of multiple stands. They can be useful for elaborate kits with multiple drums and cymbals.

Cymbals

There are three main types of cymbals: crash, ride, and hi-hat. The crash cymbals are used to provide background music for songs, while the ride cymbal is usually a large, thick cymbal that produces a bell-like sound.

The hi-hats are a pair of smaller, thinner cymbals that are activated by a foot pedal that makes them hit against each other. The foot pedal is included with the hi-hat stand and does not need to be purchased separately. The hi-hats are also played with the sticks.

Drum Thrones

The Throne is the name for the drummer’s seat. The drum throne should be adjustable and comfortable, and the entire drum kit should be placed around it.

Drumsticks & brushes

Drumsticks are a very important part of a drummer’s sound. They come in different sizes and are made of different types of wood. The size of the stick and the type of tip (which can be wood or plastic) produce different sounds. Brushes are sticks that have fan-like metal or plastic brushes on the end. These produce a much softer, quieter sound.

Snare and tom drums

The snare drum is the loudest and most prominent drum. The lower drum head has a system of “snares” or thin wires that give the drum its sharp sound. A drum set usually has three tom drums – a floor tom on a stand, and a middle tom and a high tom attached to the drum set itself.

Drum heads

All drums have heads, which are usually supplied with the purchase. The upper head (the one that is struck) is called the batter head, and the other lower head is called the resonator head.

The heads are tuned with a system of “cleats” that circle the drum. Bass drum pedals. Bass drum pedals are used to play the bass or kick drum. There are two types of bass drum pedals: single and double. Beginners are recommended to start with a single pedal.

Double vs Single Bass Drum

When you’re just starting out, there are some important decisions you need to make about the makeup of your drum kit. Most people recommend that you don’t invest in a lot of toms for your first drum kit, but you might think about adding another bass drum. Keep in mind that this only applies if you’re really into this type of metal music.

While we don’t recommend this to all beginners, as it can get quite difficult, if you think you’re ready to make music with both feet, you can opt for a double bass drum. If you want to play this type of music but don’t want the extra bulk, you can try adding a bass drum pedal that will allow you to play the single drum with both feet.

Factors to consider when buying a Drum Set

Consider the Drum Size

The size of the drum set depends on the space available and who will be playing it. There are different types of drums in a drum set with different sizes.

Some drum set sizes include rock sets, fusion, and hybrids, which are becoming more popular because they take up less space. You can opt for a junior set if you need a small drum set. In short, it is best to weigh your options and buy a drum set in the size you want.

Check what is Included in the drum set

One of the most important things you should consider when buying a drum set is the number of parts you need. This depends on your knowledge, experience, and budget.

You can start small and keep it simple since this is your first time buying a drum set. You can opt for a 5 or 6 piece set and upgrade over time. Pay attention to the number of core drums, cymbals and other accessories.

Determine your suitable sound

When you buy a drum kit, you want to have a sound that soothes your soul when you drum. Choose the right drum kit that can produce your preferred sounds.

Some drums have a high and a low sound, while others have a high percentage of low frequencies. Remember that the size also has an impact on the sound. Therefore, choose a size that will give you the sound you want.

Shell Packs vs Complete Drum Sets

If you search the Internet for drum sets for sale, you will find that the company offers pictures of a complete set. This includes the various drums, the cymbals, the throne and all the other hardware. However, in most cases, the sets only include the drums. This means that you won’t get the hardware or the cymbals that are in the picture you saw when you bought the set.

Such sets are called shell packs. It is important to know that the drums that are included in a shell pack are usually of better quality than the drums that come with the complete sets. Even if you buy the cymbals individually, you can get better quality than with a complete drum set.

Style of music you want to play

The style of music you play requires the right tool for the job. Identify your favorite bands and drummers and research the gear they use – the guy in the jazz trio most likely doesn’t use the same gear as the guy in the metal band, so choose a drum kit that best fits the music.

Four-piece kits are great for jazz and rock and for guitar players, while 5-piece kits are great for almost any situation in between. With 6- and 7-piece kits, you’ll have more options for all drummers.

Consider add-ons

Not all drum sets come with complete hardware. In most cases, you will need to add more parts to your drum set to make it complete. For example, some sets lack drumsticks, music stands, tone rings, mute pads, bags, and amplifiers.

Find out about the hardware accessories of the drum set you want to buy and decide what else you need to add so that you can buy the best drum set for beginners.

Practice Tools and Accessories

Maintaining the quality of your drums is now easier than ever, with a wide range of products available to make your drumming experience more enjoyable. As you can probably imagine, there are thousands of drum accessories such as care and cleaning kits, keys and tuning tools, cases, gig bags and sleeves, spare parts and much more.

Of course, as with any musical instrument, the same applies here: Practice makes perfect, and for this reason every drummer should own a practice pad. Not only can today’s pads and drum mutes mimic the exact feel of drums and cymbals, but your neighbors will thank you for keeping noise to a minimum.

Budget

$150 or less

Don’t consider sets in this area – just get sticks (about $5-15 per pair), an exercise pad (about $25-50), some books, and a subscription to your favorite music service (Spotify, Pandora, etc.). Save your money. Maybe buy the video game Rock Band or Guitar Hero? Seriously.

The drum kit controller is great for practicing. It’s also a fantastic choice for those who “just want to have fun”. If you’re lucky, you can snag a decent drum kit in this price range at a garage sale. Just be sure to read the information below about what to look for in a complete drum set.

$150-300

This allows you to practice coordinating your drumming and simplifies your selection. All new acoustic drum sets in this price range are almost certainly of extremely poor quality in every respect and not recommended at all, or perhaps they are a “junior” set intended for children from about 5 years old. A decent used acoustic drum set can certainly be found in this price range (especially in the $200-300 price range).

When buying a used drum set, pay attention to the brand and whether the set comes with all cymbals and hardware. Some reputable brands that might cost around $300 used are older (1980s-2000s) Pearl, Tama, Yamaha, Gretsch, Ludwig, Mapex, DW, Pacific, Premier.

$300-500

That’s a reasonable price range to buy a drum set that can hold up to a semi-professional level, especially if you buy it used. If you buy a new drum set, you’ll be closer to the $500 mark to get something reasonable.

$500-1000

In many sources, a complete new drum set is offered for $1000. This would break down to about $500 for the drum kit (commonly referred to as “shells”) and about $500 for cymbals and hardware. You can easily spend more than $1000 on just one aspect of a kit, so a higher-end kit is worth $3000-5000+.

Conclusion

Playing drums can be an absolute pleasure, especially if you have the right equipment at your disposal. This buying guide will surely provide you with some useful information for your final decision.

Dian Erwin
Dian Erwin
Dian Erwin is a review writer for Bollyinside, covering topics related to computing, such as laptops, tablets, phones, and other hardware. Dian spends much too much of his free time on Twitter, reading speculative fiction novels, playing video games, and reading comic books. He also enjoys reading video game manuals.

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