Buying Guide for Drums
How to Buy Your First Drum Kit
Buying your first Drum set can be a bit intimidating. You’ve got a lot of parts (many performing unique functions) and… assembly required!
Not the most “beginner friendly” instrument, to say the least. Hopefully, this information will shed some light on the process and get you on your way to makin’ the big “Boom-Chic”.
First thing you need to consider is your budget. Drums are available in a wide range of prices, but unlike most other instruments, you can buy drums one at a time and build your kit as your budget allows. You can start with as little as a snare drum on a stand and a pair of sticks to begin learning rudiments. On the other hand, there are many fine quality starter packs that will save you money and get you rockin’ with pretty much everything you need. There are also Junior Drum Sets that are designed for younger children.
Drum Packs usually come in either 4 or 5 piece kits. They often DO NOT contain cymbals. Check carefully as to what is included in the packs you consider. Here are the pieces you will need to get started: Kickdrum, Kick Pedal, Snare drum, Snare stand, Hi-Hat Cymbals, Hi-Hat Stand, MountedTom, Crash Cymbal, Drum Throne, and Sticks. Larger sets may include a 2 nd Mounted Tom, a Floor Tom and more cymbals.
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When looking for your first drum kit, here are some things you should be aware of:
Shells – Most entry-level kits are made of basswood or mahogany. Higher-end drums use more expensive woods such as birch or maple, which produce a richer, more resonant tone.
Hardware – The stands that hold up the drums and cymbals are called Hardware. A good rule of thumb: Anything chrome is usually considered hardware. Good hardware is double braced and heavier than cheaper hardware. It will hold up much better to the beating it’s going to get.
Here is a description of what you’ll need for your average drum kit:
* Bass Drum – Also known as a “Kick” drum, this is the big drum that sets on the floor. You use a Foot Pedal to play it. While bass drums usually come with heads on both sides, many players prefer to remove the front head and put a blanket or pillow in the drum to muffle or deaden the sound.
* Kick Pedal – A foot-controlled beater that attaches to the kick drum and enables you to strike it.
* Snare Drum – This drum sits on a stand between the players’ knees and has a head on both the top and bottom. The heads are held in place by “rims” which are fastened onto the drum shell by screwed in bolts called “Tension rods”. The bottom head has a series of parallel, mounted metal strands that are tightly stretched across it called “snares”. The snares sympathetically vibrate against the bottom head when the top head is hit. This produces a “sizzle” or crack sound. The snares can be loosened or tightened by a switch on the side of the drum to turn them off and on.
* Toms – These are the other drums on the kit. Sometimes used with bottom heads on and sometimes removed, these drums have a deep, round tone. Toms mounted on the kick drum or a stand, are called “Mounted Toms”. Toms with legs, that allow them to stand on their own on the floor, are called “Floor Toms”.
* Cymbals – made from an alloy of brass and bronze, cymbals add the splash and accent to a drum kit. There are many different types of cymbals that can add a variety of accents and endless setup variations. Over time, as you improve, you will begin to understand and hear the differences between different makes and models. In the beginning, it is best to go with a starter pack. These packs usually contain a crash cymbal, a ride cymbal and a pair of hi-hats. As your playing develops, you can add or replace cymbals for better quality and variety.
Types of Cymbals:
Basic Drum Kit Cymbal Set-up
* Hi-Hats – Two horizontal cymbals that are mounted on a floor stand, facing each other underside to underside. They are brought together, opened and closed, using a foot pedal.
* Ride – Often the largest cymbal in the group, it is used to keep time and is usually played in place of the Hi-Hats. Most drummers find that only one Ride is necessary.
* Crash - This cymbal is used for accents. There is usually more than one in an intermediate or pro set up.
These are cymbals that can be added later to add variety
* China – produces a unique, brash, “trash can lid” type of sound. Used as an occasional special accent.
* Splash – A small, high pitched, quick decaying cymbal for unique accents.
Drum Heads come in 3 different levels of thickness, Thin, Medium and Heavy. It is usually recommended that novice players use Medium heads. New sets usually come with “Single-Ply” Thin heads.
Sticks – Some kits come with them, some don’t – be sure to check. (Many a drummer boy has been disappointed Christmas morning because Santa forgot the sticks!) Either way, sticks easily get lost or broken, so be sure to get yourself a couple extra pair. You won’t regret it. There are many different types of sticks. They come in different widths and lengths, and can be made of different material or have different tips. This is another situation where there is no right or wrong. You’ll have to try different kinds and brands to find out what is right for you. For beginners, it’s good to start with a pair of Wood Tip 2B sticks and make changes from there as you learn what feels and sounds best to you.
Accessories – As previously mentioned, drum kits have many parts that often need special maintenance and attention. Items such as a drumstick holder, metronome and cases, along with educational books, DVD’s and videos are often overlooked accessories that can make the learning experience easier and more fun!