Tips For Purchasing Your First Drum Kit

drum picThinking about purchasing a drum kit for a new student? Here are some quick tips that will help you in your search.

Think Before Purchasing – Keep in mind that even a beginner drum kit is an investment. Besides being expensive, a drum kit is noisy and very large. You do not need to rush into the purchase, since you will not need a full drum kit to start lessons; a pair of sticks and practice pad can be used by beginner drum students for home practice. If this is for a child, it may be best to wait until you confirm his or her interest level before making a large investment in a full kit. Try setting a goal for your child, and if they reach that goal they can get a full kit.

Consider Used Kits – Many professionals recommend purchasing a used drum kit. Browse Craigslist, where used musical instruments are often posted from people in the area. Music stores and music schools may also have notices up of people selling used drum kits. Another option is to look at Pawn shops or small local music supply stores. E-bay is also an option. Try to stick with someone selling locally, and ask to inspect the kit before purchasing. If a drum kit has been treated well, only the drum heads will show wear or be affected by the age of the kit. These are easily replaceable, and should be replaced from time to time anyway. Generally, if you do a little research and inspect the kit before purchasing, you will get better value for your money buying a used kit. If you can, bring an experienced drummer with you who can help you inspect the kit and tell you whether it has a good sound.

Buying New – If you are buying a new drum kit, go with a store specializing in musical instruments. Avoid purchasing drums in a store such as Wal-Mart or Target. Often, the professionals at music stores are helpful and informative, but they may try to up-sell you on features that are not necessary. For that reason, bring an experienced drummer or musician with you who will know what is necessary and what is excessive.

Play It – Whether you are purchasing new or used, it is important to play the drums. Even if you are not an experienced drummer, you will get a feel for the kit. Trust your instincts: if it doesn’t feel or sound right to you, it may not be the right kit for you.

Price – A good purchase price for a starter drum kit can range from $300-$800. You can purchase a decent used drum kit for around $300-$500 and a decent new budget/starter drum kit will run about $500-$1000.

Look for a Quality Brand – Whether you are purchasing a new or used kit, it is recommended to look for a respected brand and stay away from “off brands”. Name brands will ensure the reliability and resale value of the kit. Brands to look for include DW, Pearl, Tama, Yamaha, Gretsch, Mapex, Sonor and Ludwig. These brands will often have higher-priced, more professional sets as well as budget starter kits for beginner drummers. Brands to stay away from if possible include Percussion Plus, Sunlite, Thor, TKO and Maxwin.

Necessary Pieces – The most standard configuration is a 5 piece drum kit with a bass drum, snare drum, floor tom, and 2 hanging toms. Cymbals for a starter kit should include a pair of hi-hats mounted on a stand with a foot pedal, and one crash/ride cymbal. Most cymbals included in a kit costing less than $500 will be low-grade and easily dented. Hardware should include tom holders for the mounted toms, cymbal stands, snare stands, bass drum pedal and a throne.

Junior Size or Full? – With the exception of students age 6 and younger, it is generally recommended to start with a full drum kit, as this is what they will be using for the lessons. Talk with your child’s teacher about adjustments that can be made to make the kit easier to play for a younger student.

Noise Concerns – A drum kit at your home can be noisy and disruptive. If you are concerned about the noise, you may want to consider purchasing an electronic drum kit. Be advised that most drummers and drum teachers agree that there is nothing like the experience of playing an acoustic drum kit. A second option is to purchase muting pads to place on top of the drums. Main Line School uses this option and it keeps everything very quiet at the school. You will always have the ability to take them off and enjoy playing at full volume whenever you please.

Plan to Upgrade – The great thing about a drum kit is that many of the parts can be upgraded and swapped out for better parts, so as you assess the dedication and interest level of the student, you can plan to upgrade the kit as you go along. Your first upgrade should probably be a new set of drum heads. If your drum kit was used, the heads were most likely worn, and if the kit was purchased new the heads were probably cheap and factory-produced. New drum heads will dramatically improve the sound of the drum. High quality cymbals are also an excellent, if pricy, upgrade. The best cymbals will easily cost the same as the entire starter kit, but students can start with an upgrade to beginner cymbal packs from brands such as Wuhan, Sabian BB, Zildjian ZBT, which are still a considerable upgrade from the cymbals that come with a starter drum kit. You can also add accessories such as tambourine, cowbell, chimes, etc.