How to Choose a Drumkit to Buy

Introduction: How to Choose a Drumkit to Buy

This instructable describes considerations to take when buying a drumkit. Whether new to drumming or just not sure how to begin narrowing options, in this instructable i hope to give advice on choosing a kit. It can be difficult to find the ideal kit to suit your style of music, tastes and playing techniques.

This is my first instructable so dont be too harsh lol. As there are alot of considerations to make, i may miss things out.

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Step 1: Consideration 1 - the Cost

Undoubtedly, the cost is the most decisive consideration when choosing a kit. Drum kits can cost from as cheap as £50 to as expensive as £4000. The amount you are willing to spend on a kit is entirely down to you, how much you have or are willing to fork out. Some types of kit are listed below-

Beginner Kits:These are considered to cost less than £200. The build quality is generally quite basic and they are manufactured simply and on mass. Mostly they come with cheap hardware (hardware is equipment such as stands for cymbals and drums, footpedals and stools) and alot come also with cheap quality cymbals. They are a good option for people new to the drums who do not want to spend alot of money and just want to start playing, the reason being they come with alot of beginner hardware. They are not considered to be long lasting, probably being needed to be replaced after under 2 years.

Intermediate Kits: Intermediate kits are generally considered to cost between £200 and £500. They have a fairly good build quality and some also come with beginner cymbals. They are good if you want a decent starter kit at an affordable price with an average to good build quality. They are usually a popular choice among people drumming a little while and students who cant afford high end kits. Big brandssuch as pearl, tama, mapex and gretsh make kits in this price range. Some kits in this price range also boast beng made of good woods such as birch.

Semi-professional Kits: These kits are usually priced between £500 and £1000 although some can be more expensive. The build quality is very good and they are usually supplied with very good hardware to match. Woods like birch and maple are common on kits in this range which give good sounds. They also are generally finished well and are nice looking. They are good for people who have been drumming a few years or people who have money to spend on a very good first kit. As they do not tend to come with cymbals, with many starting drummers intermediate kits are preferred.

Pro kits: I regard these kits as £1500+ although they can be regarded as £1000+. They can be found cheaper. They have the best build quality and many are hand built using specialist woods and materials in special factories. The sounds and finishes are second to none, they are used by most professional drummers. They come with the best hardware. All the big brands have at least one series of kit in this price range. They are the best choice for professionals and drummers who have been drumming a very long time and have the money to spend. There are many custom drum manufacturers who only make drums in this range such as Pork pie, SJC, slingerland and orange country.

Step 2: Consideration 2 - How Many Pieces?

Pieces in kit terms refers to the amount of drums (including the bass drum). The standard kit set up is five piece with a bass drum, snare drum, two toms and a floor tom. The two toms are higher pitched than the floor tom and are commonly mounted to the bass drum. They can be mounted on special cymbal stands, some bass drums being undrilled (i.e, no hole drilled to mount the toms). this allows the bass drum to resonate more, resulting in a better sound. Most bass drums are drilled.

Some kits are available in 6, 7 and even 8 piece. Usually for 6 piece kits either a smaller 8" or 6" tom will be included or another floor tom. These can be more expensive but offer benefits such as a wider variety of sounds ( plus they look cooler :P)

Tom sizes refer to diameter. Simply the larger the diameter, the deeper the sound. usually the larger the diameter the deeper the drum but this can vary. Different set ups have different sizes of toms available, this varies. The standard is usually 12" and 13" or 10" and 12" toms mounted to the bass drum.

Step 3: Consideration 3 - the Drums Themselves

The actual drums are a big consideration when choosing a kit because most kits at a similar price are different.

The Shells:These are basically the drums themselves. Deeper shells usually produce a deeper and louder sound with more projection and volume while shallower shells produce a better sound tone although normally not as loud.
If the wood of the shells is thicker, a greater volume is produced. Like shallower shells, thinner shells promote a better tone and can nicely bring out the sound of specific woods.

It is really just personal choice what to go for, to the untrained ear all materials can sound very similar.

The Material: The Shells material can make a big difference to sound quality. Wood is usually preferred for toms and the bass drum as it has a warmer sound. Metal can be commonly used for the snare as it produces alot of attack and projection.

The most common material to make kits out of are woods. The qualities of some are descibed below.

Maple - This is considered to be a high end wood because it gives a warm sound to drums. It is very popular and used on alot of professional kits. It gives alot of projection as well and is good for live drumming.
Birch - This is considered to be second to maple although it depends on the type of music. It produces a sharper and louder sound which is well defined.
Mahogany - This is another popular wood with low and high end kits alike. It tends to give a mellow sound with reduced projection.
Ash - This wood is usually deemed similar sounding to birch, maybe with slightly less volume ( if anyone can confirm this i would greatly appreciate it :))
Bubinga - This is a relatively new wood being used on the tama starclassic series. Ive heard it has a low tone with lots of attack and is expensive.
Poplar - This is quite a cheap wood, the main wood for beginner kits. It is also sometimes used as an inner ply on high end kits.
Basswood - This is mainly used on intermediate kits. Its use is mainly decorative and as cheaper inner plys.

Shell hardware: This is basically other parts of the shell.

Lugs - Lugs are attached to the shell of all the drums and allow the head to be tightened. They come in many designs. A good type of lug is low mass lugs, they are attached minimally to the shells which increases the vibration and thus sound of the drums.
Hoops - These are also used to attach heads. Flanged hoops are the cheapest and are the easiest to tune. Die cast hoops are better as they give better tones to the drums but consequently make the drums harder to tune. They are common on semi professional kits.
Tension rods - These are basically screws to tighten or loosen the heads. They fit into the lugs. Most ift drum keys although older drums have slotted rods.

Tom mounts - 'Different manufacturers use different methods to attach the toms to the bass drum. This one is attached to the hoop to allow the drum to resonate freely, producing a good sound. Mounts are commonly attached to the tension rods and lugs. Low end kits have drilled toms, the sound quality is not as good as the drum cant vibrate as freely.

Step 4: Consideration 4 - the Hardware

The majority of drum kits come with hardware. The quality of the hardware can be a factor to consider when choosing between kits. Hardware is basically equipment needed to support and play the kit and cymbals. Generally, the better the kit the better the hardware. Kits at similar prices usually have similar quality included hardware. Some kits can be bought without hardware for a reduced rate if you have it already and just want to upgrade the kit. These are known as shell packs. Contrastingly, there are companies which only specialise in hardware. An example is Gibraltar.

Cymbals stands - These as the name suggests are used for mounting cymbals. usually kits include one or two cymbal stands. Straight stands are straight (again as the name suggests, not very original) Usually the angle of the tip can be adjusted to angle the cymbal in different positions. Boom stands offer greater positioning flexibility still. They can be adjusted to almost any position. Stands hold one cymbal but cymbal stackers can be purchased to allow cymbals to basically be stacked onto the same stand. They do not come included with kits generally.

Stands can be double or single braced. Double braced stands are stronger and more durable, thus being better.

Drum stands- Stands can also be used for toms, floor toms or other toms where the bass drum is undrilled. These can also offer flexibility benefits. Racks can be also included with some kits. They are effectively curved bars on which many cymbals, drums and percussion can be mounted. Snare stands are included with all kits.

Stools - Stools come in a variety of shapes and designs. Thrones are special stools which are very comfortable to sit on and are included with some kits. This could potentially be an important factor in deciding between two incredibly similar kits.

Bass (kick) pedal - Like snare stands, bass drum pedals come wit all kits. They can very considerably, the best way to decide between them is to simply try playing with them. Which brings me to my final piece of advice...

Step 5: Try Out Kits!!!!

This is very important! Choosing a drum kits is all about trying to get the look and sound you want. By trying out a variety of kits at a price you want you can really narrow down options. Any good music store will allow you to try out instruments and give you good advice on what to go for. Just be careful of sales talk, question them about things you are not sure about such as low mass lugs and die cast hoops to show them you are serious about choosing a kit you like.

I hope this guide has been useful, i did not see anything like it on the site and thought people could benefit from the advice. Thanks for reading, i apologise if i missed out anything.

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    11 Discussions


    9 years ago on Step 3

    basswood is also used in drum shells to add volume and attack to shells made of the warm, mellower woods like birch, mahogany, and maple.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    there isn't an instructable for this, so i was wondering if you could tell me a couple of good brands of reasonable priced electric drum sets. I'm just starting out playing so i don't need a pro series or anything.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I have a DM5 Pro Kit from Alesis. I got it to practice on when I lived in a small apartment. I shopped for a while and I like it. It isn't a good kit to learn on though....because it feels very different to real drums and cymbals.
    not too expensive.
    Great Modular!!!!
    I use it now in combination with my real kit.....very fun
    Not the best hardware
    It does not feel like real drums
    not easy to transport quickly


    ya i cant decide if i should get a new set or not. i have a Tama swingstar and its in good condition but it needs new heads but thats nbd. the problem im having is this a good or beginner kit? the nice thing tho is i got that kit, hardware, and zildjan zbt cymbals for free!

    Shut Up Now
    Shut Up Now

    11 years ago on Introduction

    my drum set is a beginner set by dw. it is in the pdp series. i have a better sabian B8 crash which is on a nice stand. also i have remo reinforced heads. i like my drum set considering how much it cost.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Getting a decent set is important the one my mom got me is terrible, Westbury is a bad company for drums non of them sound right and the cymbals are bad too don't get solar they are cheap very noobish beginner cymbals i would have got a much better set if i had a say in it.


    12 years ago on Step 4

    Your cymbal stands are especially important--the low-end kit my parents bought me had a hi-hat stand which would not grip the center spindle for very long, and had a nasty habit of letting go of the top cymbal in the middle of songs. The ride cymbal stand, also, would not hold the cymbal at much past 5 degrees off level. Seeing as I couldn't afford new stands at the time, I set the ride stand at an appropriate angle and welded it in place, and put different gripping hardware on the hi-hat stand, solving both problems on the cheap. Really, the best plan, though, is to make sure your stands, even on an ultracheap kit that you plan on using to desruction while you save for a better one, will actually function properly. They might not, especially if you go and buy heavy, quality cymbals.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Overall, good instructable. Here are some additional considerations: 1. In my opinion, the best design is where floor tom is free-standing, on its own legs, and not attached to other pieces of drum kit. This makes your setup more stable and configurable. 2. Consider buying a kit with no or minimum number of cymbals included (they usually bundle lame cymbals with a kit), and then, depending on your style/preference, you can buy additional decent cymbals separately.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    On the last step, the picture of the hi-hat is labeled hi hate rather than hi-hat or hi hat.. Just commenting on getting your spelling right... Good'ible though...


    12 years ago on Introduction

    well, this is an ok I' time you need to spend some time on it and give some detail instead of just throwing this together. ;0) 80) no, really this is totally awesome job....i've been playing for 27 years now and seen quite a few enhancements...back in the 80's a company came out with something called "resonance isolation mounting system" RIMS that make the toms sound phenomenal always try to get them with it (it's the kind of mounting that you show in the tom pic above but a little differ). they are pretty much standard on all the above basic kits and are TOTALLY worth it. also, skip the power toms and go with standard sizes. they are a real pain to get adjusted without banging into each other. also, a throne with a back is also a real back-saver. i'm partial to the TAMA pedals with the iron cobra beaters. also, also....skip the 2nd kick ($400+case) and buy a real nice double kit pedal ($250+no case) . and also, also, the new Roland professional V-kit series ;0)


    Awesome instructable!

    I've been playing for 7 years now, and I'm still using my first set - a really cruddy groove percussion. I've been in search for a new kit for around 3 years now, but I can't seem to commit to anything. Each kit I try is better than the last! (well, the good ones anyway)

    You did a great job in covering all of the topics involving getting a new kit, but I really can't stress enough how important it is to try out your kit before you buy! Oh, and nowadays they're starting to sell electronic sets as beginner and pro kits, so you might want to change you title to "How to choose an acoustic drumkit".

    Also, the three best/main types of wood are maple, birch, and ash. Some stuff you left out about these is that maple is great for studio recording, birch is well designed for live performances, and ash is pretty much in the middle. (I may have my maple and birch mixed up, it's been a few years since I last visited the drum factory near me (GMS)).

    Anyhow, great work!