Buying starter drum sets online has never been so easy, and there are a number of reputable online retailers that you can find through a simple web search. At Drum Ambition, we always recommend that you support your local bricks and mortar music retailer, because they can help you to make the right decision for your budget, connect you with local teachers, and offer drum set maintenance and after-sales care for years to come. For many aspiring drummers though, the lack of a local music store can make this difficult.
Online purchasing therefore has become very popular. However, potential customers should understand that when doing this, there is a certain amount of research to be done to ensure that what you are purchasing is exactly what you are expecting. There's nothing more annoying then excitedly opening your boxes, to discover that half the parts you need are missing, incomplete, or not what you expected.
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A good budget for a beginner drum set can typically range from about $350-$1000+. You can buy complete budget starter packages at the lower end of this price scale that include everything you need, but for many drum sets, it's important to remember that the stands, throne and cymbals are often not included. Check out our article on choosing between Acoustic and Electronic drums for guidance on budgets, and important differences between the two options. Don't forget we have a glossary for terms that you might not be familiar with.
Here are five common mistakes - most of which are not obvious, that we'd like to help consumers avoid.
1) Shell Packs are not the same as full drum sets.
Some online retailers simply do not make it clear enough that a "Shell Pack" consists of just the drums only. To compound the problem, they often show you an image of the set with cymbals and hardware, and you would be forgiven for thinking that these items are included. This is not the case. Drum sets require hardware including cymbal stands, bass drum pedal, snare drum stand and hi hat stand. Unless it states specifically on the website that this is included in your price, you will most likely have to add a hardware pack, and this can increase your cost from the marked shell-pack price by upwards of $250. Some shell packs come with "holders", but these are the clamps that attach the drums to the bass drum, and this is not the same as drum hardware.
2) Cymbals are not included.
Unless specifically indicated, cymbals are not included in drum set purchases. Again, many images you see will show the set with cymbals, but that does not mean they are included. When starting out, you will need a set of hi hats, a ride cymbal, and a crash cymbal. These can be purchased in boxed sets for better value. Some budget starter drum sets do include a basic cymbal set up, but more often than not, these do not sound great and are often the first thing to be upgraded. You'll find out quickly that if it sounds nasty, you don't want to hit it! Cymbal box sets are great value, but can add up to $300+ to the cost of your drum set. Most cymbal box sets come with a ride cymbal, crash cymbal and a set of hi hats. Some, however, have a combined crash/ride cymbal which is just one cymbal for both functions, so it is important to read the contents carefully. It is also prudent to check that you have enough stands in your hardware pack to mount all cymbals, particularly when some box sets offer additional "free" cymbals. The bottom line here is that it is very important to allow for a good cymbal set in your overall budget. Don't spend your entire budget on the drums, and end up hating your cymbal set! Cheap cymbals are cheap for a reason.
3) The throne is not included.
The seat that drummers sit on is called a throne. Again, unless specifically indicated, these are not included with your drum set purchase. Don't skimp here - a comfortable and supportive throne can be one of the most important items of drum hardware you can buy. Many consumers forgo the throne purchase to save money, thinking that a household seat or stool will make do. This is not the case. Drum thrones need to be height adjustable, and the legs are designed to not interfere with the positioning of the foot pedals. Check out this video on posture and positioning for more information on this.
4) Your drum set will not arrive assembled.
Unless you have pre arranged otherwise with your retailer, your drum set will come boxed for self assembly. By assembly, we mean fitting the drum heads, attaching necessary bolts, and tuning the drums. Some bricks and mortar retail stores can arrange to ship your set assembled, but most online stores do not offer this option. There is normally a premium for this, as it involves assembly time, and more shipped boxes, which means more cost. It's not particularly difficult to assemble a drum set since most come with instructions. However, unless you are experienced, the tuning of the set can be difficult. There are many online videos that can help you with this.
5) Sticks and sound control products are not included.
Some basic starter packages will also include a pair of drum sticks, but these are normally cheap, unbranded sticks. It's extremely annoying to receive your drums and not have the sticks to hit them with! Click here for guidance on stick selection. Sound control products such as mute pads, tone rings and tone control gels are extra. You can find guidance on these products here.