How To Purchase Your First Drum Kit

Gear
Kits aren't cheap. Know what to look for.

Are you ready to pick out your first drum kit? Here are some things to consider before you make the plunge…

Everybody knows that chicks dig drummers, but before we can get there we have to learn the craft, be proficient and of course, have reliable gear. Buying that first kit is a huge decision and few go into it unintimidated.  You will be presented with many different brands, wood types, sizes and colors, etc.  In this article, I hope that I can throw out some pointers and help you pick a kit that you’ll love.

Electric drums or acoustic drums, hmmmmmmm…..

In my personal opinion, you just can’t get the same natural feel of an acoustic kit by playing an electric kit, but that doesn't mean it's not the right decision for you.  If you live in an apartment complex with 7 other neighbors in your unit an electric kit might be the right option.  I'm certain that they would appreciate that decision.  If your parents, wife, roommate and neighbors are a bit more tolerant, I’d go with an acoustic kit.  You will have a better mastery of drumming if you learn the proper feel.

What brand do I get?

Besides the major brands that have been around for years, there are also a bunch of boutique drum companies that are making drums that aren’t necessarily sold in the typical local music store.  I'm no mathemetician, but I'd say there are at least a bazillion options.  Maybe more like a googleplex.  First tip is to PLAY the drums and listen to how they sound.  You can spend anywhere from $300 to $5,000 and up when buying drums, and just because the kit has a high price tag doesn’t mean that they sound the best. Try out some expensive kits and work your way down.  It will help you make value decisions and give you a sense of how a kit should sound.  

What is the best choice wood?

Drums are made out of several different wood types. For example, maple, birch and poplar are just a few types that you may come across. With each type of wood comes a different tone and price tag. Maple is probably the most popular and a little more expensive than the other types, but the tone is going to be very warm (a desirable trait). Try some birch shells and you'll notice they have a brighter tone.  Poplar wood is a less expensive and some people say that poplar sounds very similar to birch.  Again, it all boils down to what your ears like.

What sizes do I get?

Drums come in a ton of different sizes. Honestly it just boils down to a matter of taste and the type of music you will be playing. For example, a lot of jazz drummers play smaller toms and have them tuned higher than your basic rock drummer who might prefer larger sizes with lower tuning.  I personally like larger toms and have them tuned lower for a fatter sound.  My kit consists of a Maple DW collectors series 22x18 kick, 12x9 tom, 16x14 floor tom, 14x6 snare.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that your first kit will probably not be your last.  Your preferences will change as you improve on your instrument so don't break the bank.  As Jason mentioned in his guitar buying guide, you aren't looking for your soulmate, just someone you don't mind rooming with for awhile.  I'd be happy to take any questions in the comments below.

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Comments

drum gear

What cymbals are you using? What heads do you use?

Heads/cymbals

I'm currently using Evans heads. I use the g2 coated heads on my toms, an EMAD on the kick and a genera dry on the snare. Then for the cymbals I'm using a 20" Zildjian K custom ride, a 20" Paiste wild crash and 16" Paiste hats.

Miking

What kind of miking do you use for your lessons/recordings?

Drum Companies

Now in the article, you stated that there are hundreds upon hundreds of drumming companies out there that make drum sets. My question for you is what company do you like the best and why?