As a beginner drummer, navigating the weird and wonderful world of drum set products can be a little overwhelming. When buying beginner drum sets, a certain amount of research needs to be done to ensure that you purchase the right product that suits your needs and budget.
Some of the options and terminology you will encounter can be confusing. Don't worry. We are here to simplify the options and give you some practical pointers on what to look for when purchasing. Buying a drum set should be an exciting step for any beginner drummer, and being informed will help you keep it that way! If you are unsure of any of the terms used in this feature, our glossary can help.
Helpful related articles:
Electronic vs. Acoustic Drums. Which suits your situation best?
Like guitarists can choose between electric or acoustic guitars, we drummers have the same decision to make. Advances in electronic drum technology have made them more affordable than ever. We have written extensively on this topic, and you can get the full low-down in this article.
Acoustic drum sets. All-inclusive starter packages.
If you have decided on acoustic drums, the first decision is to buy a fully inclusive package or select your own drum set and cymbal combination. Let's take the first option. Inclusive packages typically include the drums, cymbals, and hardware (that's the pedals and the stands that hold the drums and cymbals). These packages often include a basic drum throne. Yes, we drummers sit on thrones - it's a posh term for a seat. These convenient combo deals are generally at the lower price point and typically cost between $300-$600. Beware of anything under this price, as you will be compromising on build quality and sound. The cymbals that come with these all-inclusive sets are very basic, and you may only get a set of hi-hats and a crash/ride cymbal (which is just one cymbal used for both functions). If you are not buying an all-inclusive package, you will need to put together a drum set, hardware pack, and cymbal pack.
Selecting a drum set and hardware pack.
Some drum sets come with stands and pedals, referred to as hardware. Some come as shell packs. The latter refers to the drums and holders only. Holders are the arms that attach the toms to the bass drum and should not be confused with hardware. If you are buying a shell pack, you will also need to purchase a hardware pack that includes a hi-hat stand, two cymbal stands (possibly three depending on your chosen cymbal pack), a bass drum pedal, and a snare drum stand. Hardware packs rarely include drum thrones, so be sure to add that to the list too. Don't skimp here! A comfortable, height-adjustable throne will be one of the best investments you can make. If your drum set includes a hardware pack, all you need to add is a cymbal pack, a seat, and some drum sticks. Believe it or not, drum sticks are generally not included, which can lead to a real disappointment if you are not prepared!
What is a cymbal pack?
Most cymbal companies offer a boxed set to help keep costs down. The contents can differ between manufacturers, but generally, it is desirable to get a set of hi-hats, one or two crashes, and a ride cymbal. There are two common boxed set options. A basic box set will have a set of hi-hats and a crash/ride cymbal. Again, a crash/ride cymbal is one cymbal used for both functions and is not two separate cymbals. The second option is a boxed set that includes a set of hi-hats, a crash cymbal, and a ride cymbal. Some packs occasionally come with a free cymbal, usually an extra crash. If this is the case, make sure you have enough cymbal stands to hold them. You may need to purchase an additional cymbal stand. Cymbal packs range in price from $200-$1000+. The starter packs are normally sheet cymbals made from sheet metal to reduce costs, and the more expensive sets are often cast cymbals. These are formed in individual casts and superior in tone, projection, and quality.
Navigating the price points.
All-inclusive starter packages are generally at the lower end of the pricing spectrum, as we have established. If you choose to select a shell pack, hardware pack, and an individual cymbal pack, you are venturing into mid-level and above, and the prices will rise accordingly. This article will help you understand why some drum sets cost more than others.
Understanding drum set pieces.
Drum sets are described as having pieces, the most common being a five-piece setup. Five-piece setups usually include a bass drum, snare drum, and three toms. As you can see, the pieces refer to how many drums you have, and the cymbals and hardware are not included in this count. A six-piece drum set may have an additional tom. A four-piece drum set may only have two toms.
Selecting the right drum sizes.
Starter drum sets are usually five-pieces and come in what we refer to as Rock, Fusion, or Hybrid sizes. Rock drum sets have slightly bigger drums, with a 22-inch diameter bass drum, 12, 13, and 16-inch diameter toms (the 16-inch tom is usually floor mounted with legs, and this is called a floor tom), and a 14-inch snare drum. Fusion drum sets come with a 20 or 22-inch bass drum, 10, 12, and 14-inch diameter toms (the 14-inch tom may have legs or a holder to attach it to a cymbal stand - the latter is known as a hanging tom), and a 14-inch snare drum. Hybrid sets often have a 20 or 22-inch bass drum, 10, 12, and 16-inch toms (again, the 16-inch tom will usually have legs), and a 14-inch snare drum. The current trend is more toward Fusion, and Hybrid sizes since the drums can be set up closer and more compact while still maintaining a good tuning range. Since 10 and 12-inch diameter toms are usually 1-2 inches shallower than rock-sized toms, they can be positioned lower too, which is desirable for younger players.
Choosing the right electronic set.
If you have decided to go with an electronic drum set, it is important to note that a bass drum pedal, speaker system, headphone set, drum throne, and sticks are usually not included. Many online retailers and physical stores offer bundles. It is also advisable to check the features of your electronic drum set. Desirable features include multiple drum set options (enjoyable for experimenting with different drum and percussion sounds), play-along songs, smartphone compatibility (to mix-in and play along with your favorite music), and an onboard metronome. Again, our feature on choosing between electronic and acoustic drum sets can help you understand the practical differences between the two options.
There are some useful add-ons that you might also want to consider. This article highlights the top drum set accessories.
Don't be overwhelmed by the options! We are here to help.
Researching your first drum set can present you with many options. We recommend using this article as a starting point and encourage you to reach out if you need any help. If you have any further questions, please feel free to email [email protected].