6 Steps to Choosing the Perfect Drum Kit
Author: Dave Hockly Date Posted:15 December 2014
Follow the next 6 steps and you will be on your way to making yourself or whoever you’re buying for the happiest drummer out.
1. Decide on an acoustic or electric drum kit
Is noise and/or space an issue? Go electric. Electric drums do not “ feel as good” but are powerful, flexible and quiet. Noise complaints won’t make you a good drummer. Practice will.
If you can get away with having an acoustic drum kit then hands down go for this. It's more fun to play and making loud rhythms and beats is why many people get into drumming in the first place. Smashing an electric kit in front of your friends is not as cool. Sorry, electric fans!
Electric drum kits are great for practice with advantages like trying different kit sounds, having metronomes to help keep you in time and you can play along to songs without letting everyone know you're practicing.
2. Set your budget
How much should you spend? Follow this question with how much practice will you do or how much time do you think you or your player will you invest into drumming?
Entry level kits start at $469. You can quickly outgrow a kit like this as when you can play along to basic songs you want your kit to sound more full.
Higher quality materials are used in more expensive drum kits. That's why they sound better. Simply put, Intermediate kits help make you a better player! If it’s in your budget, we suggest going for something in this range. You won’t regret it. It rewards your practice with sounds you can be proud of.
If you are going to stick with entry level kits, go for this or something similar.
3. Set What you need in a kit
When beginning in drums, it’s nice to have a snare, high-hats, bass drum and pedal, at least 1 tom, 1 floor tom plus crash and ride cymbals. Having the drums in this typical setup above will help with learning. The 5-piece gives you the simplicity of hitting different drums for different sounds. Smaller kits rely on more skill to create a more dynamic sound.
4. Try drum kits out
If you’re still deciding whether to go for electric or acoustic drum kits this especially applies to you.
A shop like MMC has enough drum kits setup to make a drummer have a small heart attack. You will quickly get a feel for how loud, how much space is needed, the feel and sound of the drum kit. You can then compare the quality of one kit directly against another.
Try the options available with an electric kit. You may enjoy being able to flick from a big band kit sound to a trancy electronic kit. Electronic drums are more expensive but the benefits can be well worth it.
We recommend this electric kit for any beginner player.
5. Get a little technical
Note the wood it is made out of, review the hardware (the metal rims around the top and bottom of the drums, pedals, stands, and clamps) and suss out the cymbals.
Drums are formed from rolled plywood. Ply is thin sheets of wood perfectly stuck together. Often 6mm or 9mm. The type of wood used affects the sound.
Maple is the most common wood used for drums because it sounds good (profound I know). It's not cheap, but maple gives a great sound for a good price hence its popularity.
Birch, second in popularity is harder than maple. Birch gives it a brighter sound.
Mahogany. Like Ron Burgundy and his apartment smelling of rich mahogany, this wood is for people who are a big deal. Not really. The wood is softer and sounds warmer. Watch out for lesser quality mahogany passing itself off as the good stuff.
Poplar wood is not as spendy and it's similar to birch. If you can't afford that kit made from Birch, go with Poplar.
Falkata (or spelled falcata) wood is like maple only on a budget. It sounds similar, but it's much cheaper. Check this Yamaha kit made from Falkata that's great for beginners - http://www.mooloolabamusic.com.au/yamaha-scb2fs5sb-acoustic-drum-kit-sapphire-blue-5
Cheaper kits are made with Lauan, basswood, and 'not specified' woods. They don't necessarily sound bad. Have a listen. Use the other criteria to decide if these are up your alley.
Drum hardware at a beginner level can be measured in how sturdy the kit is. Key things to look out for:
- Does your high hat have 3 legs? Tri legs keeps it sturdy on carpet and other surfaces.
- Is it tight? You don’t want a rattling kit. Trust me.
- Does it feel strong? If you feel like you can bend the hardware it will struggle to stand the test of time.
Cymbals are one area as a beginner that you need to be wary of. Cheap cymbals can make your drumming sound like your clanging pot lids. Not in a hardcore way.
It should be clear as to the quality of sound in the cymbals when you hit them. Bigger cymbals should reverberate for awhile with a clean sound. Smaller cymbals should be lighter and shorter. Cheaper cymbals make a noise like a crack.
Where possible, get a separate ride and a crash cymbal. Some beginner kits come with a combined 'ride/crash' version to save money. They do both jobs averagely.
If you're going to upgrade, cymbals packs are the cheapest way to go. Try out cymbals before you open your wallet because they can cost a lot.
5. Lie to the staff about what you want in a drum kit
I’m only kidding. Staff can make you aware of other options you may not have noticed plus help you set and stay within your budget. The more you chat to them the more they can help.
If you’re reading this because you want to shop online then call the shop. Brands protect their prices so you shouldn't find kits much cheaper from direct wholesalers.
6. Buy some earplugs
Get them for whoever is in listening distance. Then you can practice your heart out. I’m jealous just thinking about the excitement of getting a new drum kit. I still remember mine. I was 13 years old. It was a red Tama 5 piece. You’ll never look back and your life will be happily ever after*.
*Buying drums does is not guarantee living happily ever after. They have been known to make lives awesome.
Have you bought a drum kit? What are your recommendations? Did I miss anything? Drop it in the comments!