Drum Set Buying Information

This is a document to give some general information for students looking to buy their first drum set. I’ll try to cover as much information as I can, however, if you have any further questions feel free to ask any time.

“SHOULD I BUY USED OR NEW?”

The first decision to be made is whether to buy used or new drums. Of course you can always get more for your money when buying used. Probably the best source for buying used drums is Craig’s List online. If you find something that looks good you can always forward the link to me and I’d be glad to tell you what I think.

“WHERE’S THE BEST PLACE TO BUY NEW DRUMS?”

If you study with me the Music & Arts in Kent would be the best place to start. If you tell them you're my student you should be able to buy at a discount.  Another popular place to go is Guitar Center. They have stores in Tacoma, Tukwila, Seattle, and Kirkland. They have by far the biggest selection and their prices are very competitive. One thing to be aware of when price shopping drum sets is to pay close attention to what is included in the deal. As I’ve explained down below, cymbals usually will not be included with a set. This is usually a good thing because drum companies generally don’t make good cymbals. Now the really tricky thing is when it comes to the hardware. Below I’ve listed all the pieces of hardware that you need with a drum set (see “4.” On “What do I need in a drum set?”). Believe it or not most drum sets will come without a throne, without one of the cymbal stands, or without both. So it’s probably best to calculate an extra $30 - $40 for a throne and/or an extra $20-$30 for the extra cymbal stand.

“WHAT IS A ‘SHELL PACK?’”

I’m not sure who started this little marketing trick, but it’s quite popular at places like Guitar Center and with most Online stores. This is a way for companies to advertise new drum sets at what appears to be a very low price. But, buying a drum shell pack is what it says. You only get the drum shells! You then have to purchase all the hardware separately. Even the lug cases are stripped from the shells! So after you buy one of these shell packs you then will have to purchase a “hardware pack” separately. Now after you add up all the costs this might still be a good deal. But, just be aware that it’s not as good a deal as it appears. Also, if you buy a set this way from Guitar Center I’d make sure that they agree to assemble all the stuff for you because there are a lot of parts to deal with here and it may or may not come with assembly instructions.

“WHAT DO I NEED IN A DRUM SET?”

Now as to what you need in a set of drums, there are three things that make up a drum set; the drums, the hardware, and the cymbals. When you buy a drum set you should usually expect to get the drums and most of the hardware as one package, but usually not the cymbals. Cymbals are usually bought separately.

A basic drum set should contain the following:

  • bass drum (20” or 22” in diameter)
  • Snare drum
  • 2 mounted toms and a floor tom (10”, 12”, and 14” or 12”, 13, 16” in diameter)
  • Bass drum pedal, hi hat stand, 2 cymbal stands, tom mount, snare stand, and throne (seat).
  • a pair of hi hat cymbals, a crash cymbal, and a ride cymbal.

“WHAT ARE THE BEST BRANDS?”

Some of the best drum set brands are: Yamaha, Pearl, Tama, PDP, Drum Workshop (DW), Sonor, Mapex, Ludwig, Gretch, and Taye. There are other brands that are also good, but these that I’ve listed are the ones that I know are good from personal experience. If you run across something that sounds like a good deal, but it’s not one of the brands that I’ve listed, feel free to ask me about it. Chances are that if I’ve heard of the brand that you’re looking at I should be able to give you some idea of whether or not it’s a good one.

Now onto cymbals, a basic set of cymbals should include a ride cymbal, a crash cymbal, and a pair of hi hat cymbals. Some drum sets, especially used ones, will come with cymbals. If a used set includes cymbals this can often be a great deal. However, with the used stuff be careful that none of cymbals have cracks in them.

 

There are three major cymbal companies. They are Zildjian, Sabian, and Paiste. There are other good brands as well, but I would suggest sticking to one of these three. Professional quality cymbals are very expensive. You might be able to find good ones used, but most people would consider the cost of a truly good quality new cymbal to be a bit too pricey. The best alternative would be to buy one of the “cymbal packs.” All three of the brands listed above sell these. In a cymbal pack you can get your ride cymbal, crash cymbal, and hi hat cymbals for about $250-$300. Some packs come with the hi hat and crash cymbals, but no ride cymbal. Some also come with the ride and the hi hats, but no crash. I really think that everyone should have all three; a ride (20 to 22” in diameter), a crash, (16 to 18” in diameter) and a pair of hi hats (13” to 14” in diameter).

“WHAT ABOUT ELECTRONIC DRUMS?”

“Please don’t do it!”

Lots of parents, or people who live in apartments, like the idea of electronic drums as a solution to the noise factor. Yes, electronic drums can be listened to through headphones so no one has to listen to the drums other the drummer him or herself. Also, you can get a nice little set of electronic drums for not much more money than acoustics. On top of that…..heck they’re lots of fun to mess around on aren’t they? However………..I can’t really think of anything worse for a beginning drummer to learn on than a set of electronic drums. A great deal of what I have to offer as a private instructor is showing students proper technique and how to produce good sounds out of your drums by holding your sticks properly and hitting the drums properly. It’s very difficult for me to convince someone of the importance of these kinds of things when the instrument they are practicing on produces it’s sounds from electronic triggers. It doesn’t matter how you hit an electronic drum. It will always produce the same sound. I’ve had a number of students come to me for lessons over the years who own electronic drums. I have yet to have one of these students last for more than a few months of lessons.

Also, the only electronic drums that even come close to replicating the feel of real drums are the ones that cost over $3,000. The $1,000 level sets don’t even come close. So sorry Mom and Dad. Drums are loud. That’s just the way it is.


I hope that at least some of this information will be helpful for you. I hope after reading all of this you don’ feel too overwhelmed. Once again, if you have any more questions please feel free to ask. Good luck!

PHIL