Updated: Aug 10, 2019
So either yourself or your kids have started drum lessons and when you get home to practice, you find yourself practicing on either a practice pad or random objects around the house. You find that you are not as motivated to practice as you are in the lesson room playing on real drums. The time has come where you decide to take the plunge and start looking at purchasing a drum set. As fun and exciting as it is to shop around for drums, there is also some confusion and many questions that come along with this endeavor. That is why I created this guide to help you with purchasing your first drum set.
WHAT DOES A DECENT SET COST?
Let’s start off with the cost. Notice I made a point to address this first since it is usually the first thing I am asked by students. I highly recommend not going overboard and spending tons of money on your first drum set. I say this mainly because A, having expensive drums isn’t going to make you a better drummer. And B, There is massive room for growth on a budget drum set. Plus you can always upgrade Later and therefore, you will notice and appreciate the quality of craftsmanship of a higher end set.
I would say a good price point would be no higher than $600. If your budget is between $200 and $300, that is totally fine and I will cover How to get the best bang for your buck.
PROBABLY NOT THE BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Let’s talk about shell packs. Let’s say you are looking online or at a music store and notice a drum set advertised for $499. You think to yourself “great! This is in my budget.” Well, often times there is smaller writing that says shell pack. This is where only the drums themselves (shells) are being sold. Note that this doesn’t include hardware (stands), cymbals, pedals or seat. This in most cases will bring your grand total to well over $1000.
Now there are full set ups you can buy that includes everything. This is most commonly seen for entry level drum sets and the craftsmanship isn’t the highest of quality. But remember that this doesn’t matter right now. You need something to get you started and practicing at home. Again, you can always upgrade later and even get a decent return on investment when you sell your drums down the road.
ELECTRIC vs. ACOUSTIC
Another question I frequently get is, would I recommend electric or acoustic drums?
Electric drums are great IF you already have experience playing on acoustic drums. There are certain techniques you can only get better at by playing acoustic drums. This has to do with the rebound of an electric pad versus an acoustic drum head. Also, with electric drums you are hearing a pre-recorded drum sound as opposed to you getting that sound out of your acoustic drums. I know for some people volume is a concern. This is why I would recommend getting pads or low-volume drumheads to resolve the volume issue. Here are some great options for low-volume drumheads. https://www.aquariandrumheads.com/product/super-pads/
NEW vs. USED
You can find great deals for shopping both new and used. When you play the drums, you are striking the drum head and not the actual drum it’s self. Drum heads are the equivalent to guitar strings. They will get worn out and create a more dead sound after the drum head has been used for a long period of time. When buying new, entry level drum sets come out of the box with thinner and cheaper heads. And when buying used, there is the possibility of the drumheads being totally beaten and dented. Both is okay because you can easily replace the drum heads and improve the tone of the drums instantly.
This mainly applies for when buying used. The first thing I look for is any dents or gashes in the drum shell. I first will check the exterior finish or wrap of the drums and then turn the Shell upside down to see the condition of the inside of the shell. You can only do this if the bottom head is clear. Next I will check to see if any of the tension rods are missing. You will need to check both the top and bottom of the drums. (See image below for tension rods.)
After that I will check the cymbals and stands to make sure there are no cracks in the cymbals and all the wing nuts are still attached to the stands and pedals. Now that we have covered all the things to look for and considered some options, you are ready shop for your first drum set with confidence.