So you’ve decided to start playing the drums? Awesome! But where do you start? How many drums should your first kit have? What cymbals? And do you really need more cowbell? This drum buyers guide hopes to take some of the stress out of buying your first drum kit.
To play the drums, you will first learn some basic drum patterns. These patterns, or paradiddles, can be played on any surface; from your coffee table to pots and pans. So, why then, would you need a drum kit?
The simple truth is that playing on a kit is just more fun! You will never truly fall in love with the instrument unless you spend time behind your kit.
Practice pads are a great way to practice when you’re at school or in the office, but nothing can compare to the joy and excitement of playing an actual kit.
Here are some simple things to look for when buying your first kit
Contents of your purchase
A full basic drum kit set-up should have: bass drum, snare drum, floor tom, toms (x2), hi-hat, crash cymbal and a ride cymbal. You will also need a chair (drum throne) to sit on as well a bass drum pedal. And don’t forget drumsticks!
There are many inexpensive student kits available which come with everything that has been listed above. These kits are great to learn on, but you won’t be able to play a show with one of these “all in one” kits. So you need to consider upgradeability when buying your kit
Certain kits available only have the shells (the drums without any cymbals or extra’s). These kits have their own advantages and disadvantages.
The biggest disadvantage is cost. Buying all the elements separately will often cost more than a pre-packed all in one kit
The biggest advantage is you will get a better quality set of equipment. You will be able to buy a shell kit and get cymbals that you can gig with later on.
Gigging/Playing a show
Most venues allow drummers to use their in-house drum kits. Drummers are however expected to take their own snare drum, cymbals, and hardware.
So when buying your first kit, you can often get away with a basic kit to start off with then as you get more into playing, you can upgrade each piece of kit. This allows you to spread the initial cost of the purchase out over a few months or years!
When you upgrade your kit, you should first upgrade your snare drum, cymbals, and kick pedal. You can upgrade these in whichever order you want.
These are the components that take the biggest beating overall.
One of the key signature tones of many drummers is the snare sound. Some like a tight firecracker sound, whereas others prefer a looser feel and tone. A good snare drum will last you many years and help define your tone.
Cymbals come in a variety of sizes, styles, and tonal qualities. Just look at any music shops cymbal selection and you will see a wall of cymbals staring back at you. While this can be intimidating, ask the salesman to talk to you about their individual tones and applications.
Some of the top drummers use a ton of cymbals. But the norm is three. You can, of course, add as many cymbals to your kit as you like.
Bass Drum(kick) Pedal
Your kick pedal is used a lot. Every drum beat you play will incorporate the kick into the pattern, more than once. The kick has moving pieces and takes a beating. Especially if you kick hard.
The better the kick pedal, the longer it will last. Just bear in mind that anything with moveable parts will break eventually.
Mapex is known for its quality and great tone. This is a perfect kit for the beginner to intermediate player
Sticks break. No matter how good the quality of the sticks, they break. Some sticks can take more of a beating, but, after time, they will break.
When buying your kit, buy at least two sets of sticks.
They come in a variety of weights and sizes. So start off with a 5a stick, then when you buy sticks again try heavier or lighter sticks until you find the perfect weight for you.
A basic drum throne is all you really need. Just bear in mind that you need to be comfortable on your throne. You will spend hours upon hours over the next few years sitting on your throne in front of your kit.
Make sure that you are comfortable, and you will be happier to spend time playing the kit. If you are uncomfortable on your throne, that will put you off practice. A bad throne is a distraction that you can do without.
Electric vs Acoustic Drums
A simple electronic kit is a beginners dream! You get all the drums and cymbals you could ever need to start playing right away in one package. Don’t like the sound of a kit? Change to the next one in the set! Want to record your drumming? Just plug it into your computer! Easy and simple.
And best of all, they are virtually silent! You can play at any time of the day or night without your neighbors throwing a tantrum!
So why would anyone want an acoustic kit over an electronic one?
The simple answers are price and feel. An electronic kit will often cost more than an acoustic kit. Many new students are reluctant to part with too much money when they are just starting out. The feel of the electronic kit is also very different.
Top of the range electronic kits have a similar feel to an acoustic kit, but these are in a much higher cost bracket. The student line electronic kits are made with hard rubber pads, so they have a completely different feel to an acoustic kit.
So if you switch from an electronic kit to an acoustic kit, you might not have as developed a nuance for playing.
Thinking of Getting an Electronic Drumkit for Your School?
One of the biggest advantages for using electronic drumkits for music lessons is the reduced noise pollution. When you think about drums and drumming, “quiet” is seldom a thought that comes to mind.
Because of how loud drumkits tend to be, learning drums can often be a disruptive instrument. Traditionally, a drummer in a school environment is would be limited to practising at certain times when noise can go unnoticed. To that end, drummers would often not be allowed to have lessons during exam periods.
Electronic drum kits do not suffer from this problem. Assuming that the student is playing with headphones, the most noise an electronic drumkit makes is a dull thud.
Not only does this mean that students can have lessons and practice throughout the course of the day, it also means that exam schedules will not conflict with the need to practice. In addition, it also means that two drummers can sit in the same room and practice on their own kit without disrupting each other.