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How To Choose A Beginner Drum Kit

How To Choose A Beginner Drum Kit

How to choose a beginner drum kit

Choosing a beginner drum kit can be a difficult process. Let us help you wade through the piles of information that is out there and focus on what’s actually important at this level. As soon as you start reading drum kit descriptions you are going to read descriptions of woods, tonal quality, bearing edges and resonance. None of this is particularly important right now. When shopping at the lower end of the scale it’s better to focus on issues such as, what actually comes with the kit and durability.

How much should I expect to spend on a beginners acoustic drum kit?

An important first question. Generally we would recommend spending between £300-£750 on a beginner kit. Generally the more you spend the longer you are going to get out of the kit as your playing progresses but we will go into more detail on why certain kits cost more and the pros and cons later on to help you make your decision. Cheaper kits do exist but we don’t sell them as they are more like toys, they are likely to break, and worst of all spare parts are rarely available for them almost impossible to maintain.

What’s included in a drum kit?

An important term to learn when shopping for drums is the difference between a drum kit and a shell pack. A shell pack includes only the actual drums themselves, whereas a drum kit will come with stands, pedals (collectively known as hardware) and sometimes even a stool and sticks included. It’s worth noting that while a drum kit might include hardware, it might not include cymbals! Generally speaking the more expensive a drum kit is the less it tends to come with included. This is because the higher up the price range you go the more likely it is that someone buying it will have already acquired some of the gear. If you view the “In The Box” tab on any page for our drum kits it should give you a rundown of everything it comes with.

The Mapex Tornado and the Pearl Roadshow are two of the most popular starter kits that come with everything you need and both are highly recommended. Stands, cymbals, pedals, stool, sticks all in the one package and the Roadshow even comes with a free stick bag!

Should I buy a junior drum kit?

Junior kits are a great option for mini drummers. They take up much less space in a room and are comfortable and easy to play for smaller children and are generally recommended for kids up to 9 years of age. Both Pearl with the Roadshow Jr and Ludwig with the Pocket Kit offer fantastic quality junior kits. In an ideal world kids would start on a Jr kit and graduate to a full size kit as they get older but if you’re shopping for a 7 or 8yr old you understandably might not want to spend so much money on something that is likely going to need replaced in a couple of years. In these situations we recommend going for a full size drum kit. It might be slightly large for them at first but it will still be playable. If you are worried about them reaching the toms then a full size drum kit with a 18″ or 20″ bass drum will be slightly smaller but still suitable as they grow. We will discuss bass drum size in more detail further down.

How do drum kits differ as you go up the price range?

With drums as in most things in life you generally get what you pay for and spending more will get you a better quality instrument but it can be hard to spot the differences with an untrained eye sometimes.

Hardware

One of the most important changes is the quality of the hardware (stands, and pedals). Cheaper kits will have thinner, lightweight hardware, whereas more expensive kits the stands will be chunkier, less easy to knock over and more likely to withstand the wear and tear of constant use. The reliability of a stand is most important when the drummer using it might be playing on a stage in a live situation and can’t afford for it to be knocked over mid performance by a clumsy guitarist. Obviously this step is a long way off for most beginners but investing in a kit that comes with reliable hardware can be a money saver in the long run as you can hang onto it so that when you are ready for your next kit you will only be shopping for a shell pack.

Cymbals

Starter drum kits usually come with cymbals included but remember that not all drum kits do. Cymbals can vary massively on beginner kits. The cheaper kits such as the Mapex Tornado and the Pearl Roadshow and any junior kits come with simple, unbranded, cymbals. While these are great for getting started they don’t last forever and if played regularly they will need replaced with a beginner cymbal pack like the Paiste 101 Universal Set or a Sabian SBR Pack in around 6 months. Buying a kit that already comes with a branded cymbal pack means you will already have made this upgrade and won’t have to fork out more anytime soon. Branded cymbal packs are also brighter, more responsive and louder than unbranded cymbals.

The Shells

Shells are what we call the wooden ring that makes up the body of a drum. While they are the main consideration when choosing a pro level kit they are less important on beginner kits. Cheaper beginner kits are made from Basswood or a Hardwood but if you go up into around the £500 range you will find drum kits made from Poplar. Poplar shells are a bit more lively and responsive which gives the drums a lot more potential particularly when used for live performance. The Pearl Export is a blend of Poplar and Mahogany which gives it even deeper tones it is worth noting that the Export is at the top of the beginner price range and stands with one foot in the beginner pool and one in the intermediate.

The Finish

As you go up the price ranges the choice of colours expands massively and the quality of the finishes does also. A bit like choosing a car it can feel frivolous to take colour into account when making such an important purchase but at the end of the day you want to love this instrument for a long time so it’s definitely something worth considering.

Which bass drum size should I choose?

Bass drum size is a personal choice made by each drummer based on the sound they want so at the beginner level it’s not massively important as you are mostly likely some way off having an opinion on this. 22″ is the standard size with 20″ being the next most popular. Drummers playing quieter styles of music such as Jazz generally lean towards smaller sizes of bass drums. A shorter drummer might also find an 18″ or 20″ bass drum makes the toms easier to reach as might a drummer with limited space for their kit might find it fits in slightly easier but it is only a difference of a couple inches and not something to focus on too heavily. Sound wise a smaller bass drum has more punch whereas a bigger bass drum has more oomf.

So what would you recommend?

At Drum Central we don’t sell any kits that we aren’t happy putting our name to in terms of quality, reliability and value for money so you will likely be happy with anything in our starter drum kits range but here’s our current pick:

Just getting started. Not sure if they will stick at it. Don’t want spend too much money…

We recommend the Mapex Tornado drum kits, reliable, great value for money. The core parts will stay solid for a long time and you can upgrade the cymbals and the heads as you go to turn it into an even better kit.

Confident and keen beginner but it will be a while until they are on a stage…

We recommend the Pearl Roadshow Drum Kits. A little bit more pricey than the Tornado but with significantly better quality hardware that will allow for smoother playing and better durability.

Beginner drummer looking to get something they won’t need to replace even if they start playing with a band…

There is a lot of great choices at this price point but the Pearl Export is a best seller for a reason. A little bit more expensive than the other options but with mahogany shells you really get what you pay for with these kits. The 830 series hardware included with this kit is of a quality you wouldn’t ever think of replacing it until you are ready to go pro.

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