Buying a Drumset

It’s been on your wish list as long as you can remember…you’ve saved allowance and gift money for months…and now, you are finally ready to shop for your first drumset. It’s a fairly significant investment. You may not be able to afford your dream kit, but you’d like to buy something that will last for quite a while. So, what should you look for?

BUY USED: It certainly requires more patience, but buying a used drumset can save you hundreds of dollars. A typical used drumset can be found in classified ads or online for around $600, while the same drumset would run you $1200 or more if it was brand new.

BUY BRAND NAME: No one can claim to have researched every drumset by every manufacturer available on the market and every legitimate manufacturer strives to offer a better product for less money. In my experience however, certain companies have consistently produced quality. Based on that experience, I can offer my ideas of what is likely to be a smart investment. While every brand has their best kits and their starter kits (and there is a difference), here are the brands I typically recommend:

  • Drum Workshop (DW or PDP)
  • Mapex
  • Pearl
  • Tama
  • Yamaha

As far as cymbals are concerned, there are a handful of quality cymbal manufacturers and if anything can make or break the sound of a drumset, it is the cymbals (so don’t cut corners in this area). I recommend avoiding the entry line from any cymbal manufacturer and after buying a set of mid-level cymbals, it is a good idea to begin upgrading individual cymbals over time.

  • Dream
  • Meinl
  • Paiste
  • Sabian
  • Wuhan (china or splash cymbals only)
  • Zildjian

WOODS & PLY’s: All quality drumsets are made of quality wood. The best products use maple and birch, with a few companies also using oak. Many entry level kits will use mahogany or a mahogany blend. Plys refer to the number of layers of the thin pieces of wood used in each shell. Most drumsets worth your time are 6-8 plys. The exterior of the shell is either stained with a protective lacquer or a layer of laminate is adhered to the wood. Both are acceptable with the laminate providing slightly more protection and the stained wood creating a more natural resonance.

OTHER FACTORS: A standard drumset includes a snare drum, bass drum (with pedal), three tom-toms (two mounted above the bass drum and one floor tom), hi-hat, crash cymbal, ride cymbal, and a stool. The term 5-piece or 4-piece drumset refers only to the drums included, so the above example is a typical 5-piece kit. All the drums should have both a top and bottom head. The bass drum outside head may or may not have a small hole in it (either way is acceptable). Drum heads for a 5-piece drumset could cost approximately $150 to replace, so if the only obvious shortcoming of a used drumset is the condition of the heads, keep that figure in mind. The primary thing to examine on a used drumset is the condition of the shells (no scratches or dents), hardware (no rattles or wobbles), and cymbals (no cracks). If possible, having a professional or more experienced percussionist come with you to look at a drumset is certainly recommended.