General Question

applesaucemanny's avatar

Drummers, what should I consider when buying my first drum set?

Asked by applesaucemanny (1775points) July 5th, 2009

I read a little about buying a drum set such as don’t be fooled by looks, brands, and stuff like that. I also read that used drum sets usually tend to be a better buy than new ones. The real question here is, should I buy a complete drum set or used parts and put them together?

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23 Answers

Darwin's avatar

How much experience do you have with being a drummer? If you have already been learning then you probably have a better idea about how much you want to continue to be a drummer and thus would be buying something you would keep for a long time.

I would suggest if at all possible you start by practicing on a loaner set simply so you can discover what each bit sounds like and what you feel most comfortable with, as well as whether you really like being a drummer enough to get your money’s worth out of your investment.

And certainly, if in good condition, a second-hand anything will generally be cheaper for its quality than a new one. However, a new and complete kit will be more attractive certainly if you are going to be on stage.

Also, depending on where you are going to practice, you might consider either an electronic kit (so you won’t disturb the neighbors) or drum pads to practice on until you get better.

Fly's avatar

My dad is a drummer, and from watching him, I have some advice that might help you out. Buying used separate parts is generally a better deal because it’s not from a complete set. The problem with those is that sometimes it’s hard to find the other matching pieces separately and for a good price. Those pieces are also often separate for a reason, because they may be missing a part/parts, they’re pretty worn out, etc. These pieces are often fixer-uppers, and sometimes take a lot of time and work before their ready to use, and it’s possible to spend more money buying + fixing them then you would just buying a full used set, especially if you’re inexperienced. You really have to have/know where to get the right supplies for that. If you know what you’re doing or know someone who does, the separate parts may be the way to go. If not, start off with a cheap used set from your local pawn shop or eBay. You can always re-sell that set and buy a better one later.

As @Darwin said, start off practicing on loaners or friends’ sets before you spend the money on a set of your own. That way, you can figure out what you’re comfortable with and possibly find a set that you would be interested in buying for yourself.

There are lots of drummer forums out there that you could check out for more information- my dad uses them a lot, even though he’s been drumming since he was a kid and now plays in a band.

P.S.- Buy a lot of drumsticks. They break all the time.

quasi's avatar

Something I would suggest, is to go for a more minimal drum kit to start off but focus on quality where it really counts (ie. snare drum, drum heads). You don’t need anything too elaborate starting out. You can actually accomplish a lot with just a bass drum, snare, hi-hats, and a ride/crash cymbal. But more than likely, you’ll want a 4-piece with rack tom and floor tom as well. I would recommend locally owned music stores with knowledgeable staff if possible. Music chains are terrible and overpriced. If the drums are used, be sure they are not badly warped, and take them to a good shop to get the bearing edges checked out or re-cut. This will make them sound 100% better. But any way you look at it, drumming is an expensive thing to get in to. Start small, and improve things as you go.

DrBill's avatar

The first thing you should consider is the violent tendencies of your neighbors.

Tink's avatar

Soundproof walls, hardness, style, money, brand, if your gonna be in a band, 5 piece set

quasi's avatar

Wanted to add this after @Tink1113 comment.. I play in a band with a 4-piece set, sometimes only 3-piece, and it is rock music; loud bashing rock music. I’m certainly not alone on this. Quality is always better than quantity when it comes to drums.

Or you could be like this bad mamma-jamma and play a 2-piece kit.

And if you don’t have a soundproof rehearsal space, you can use drum mutes when you are practicing by yourself (if you have a band, that is another story).

DeanV's avatar

Alright. Here goes.

I am a drummer and have owned 2 sets, and played for a little more than a year.

First off, really make sure you want to do this. It is not cheap. I have shelled out more than 600$ for drums, cymbals, and soon heads in the last year, and I got good deals.

Secondly, get a drum set. If you are just beginning I would go with a 4 piece set similar to this. I think those are better sets to start on because it can be shoved into a corner when not being played, can accommodate your cymbals better and bring them close to you, and there are less toms to mess up on. It may be all some drummers need, too.
Understandably, there is always the people that want to surround themselves with as many drums as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fun to play on a set like that, just not great for learning.
I can also not stress enough checking craigslist or ebay for used drums. There is absolutely nothing wrong with playing a set that may not be as pretty as the others, and if you care that much about the looks of the instrument and how you look, you’re gonna want to take up guitar instead.
When buying a drum set, I also try and go with the name brands. I’m big on them because if it does break, there’s an excellent chance it will be covered by warranty, and it won’t break as easily as the other rinkydink brands. They will have better lug construction, better bearing edges, better drum spurs, and will likely last a lot longer.
That being said, my favorite brands are Ludwig and Gretsch with a honorable mention to Tama and Sonor. And check around at what other drummers play. I guarantee there will be nobody out there playing Sound Percussion, Gammon, or Pulse professionally.

Thirdly, buy cymbals. Again, beginning drummers will have highly different expectations. They will buy a some cymbals, and then find later that they may have been using total trash can lids. As far as beginner cymbals, Sabian B8’s are good ways to go, but I like Paiste 201’s. Again, no matter how bad non-name brand drums sound, the corresponding non-name brand cymbals will sound so much worse. You will also likely buy some new cymbals in a few years. Beginner cymbals will crack, but also your taste will change.

Thirdly, learn drum maintenance. I can not stress this enough. A 2000$ drum set will still sound like shit if you don’t tune it correctly, or keep it well maintained. My first drum by was actually An Idiots Guide To Playing Drums and it has helped me so much. It’s an excellent book to have for anybody who is around drums, much less playing them. I can elaborate here if you want, but I’ve already gone on really long.

And notice I didn’t add “Learn to play drums” anywhere in there. The reason I didn’t is because that can come at any time you like. I learned 3 months before getting my first drum set, but I know some people with disposable income that learned a few months after having a set around their house. It’s your choice on that.
Lessons are your choice too. I learned without lessons, but it could be a good idea to take some to learn some snare rudiments, and some easy beats to start off on.

Finally, good luck. Drums are in no way as difficult as guitar, but they require a more complex understanding of music and musical notation to really good. You need to know when to play, when not to play, where a specific fill would work, etc. It’s a lot of work, but damn fun.

Also for muting, I like to put towels or sheets over all the drums, and put some duct tape on the cymbals for reduced overtones. I haven’t had anybody complain, even with a full band.

And @quasi, check out this guy. Bass drum, snare, and hi-hat.

Tink's avatar

@dverhey It looks like you wrote your Will on here :P
@applesaucemanny But he’s right, it’s not cheap but it’s alot of fun, I’ve been playing for two years now! And I’m not in a band and I really don’t want to be yet, but if you decide to drum it’s gonna cost you alittle bit of money, and I’ll add this after I read @Fly ‘s comment, ok if you know you are gonna play hard, buy atleast two pairs of drumsticks, because it’s not cool when you want to practice and one of your damn sticks is broken.

andrew's avatar

I still remember the Fiery Furnaces opening for the The Shins in like 2004 at the Warfield. The drummer set up cymbals 3 feet above his head—they played for an hour straight with no breaks, and he hit so hard and fast that he dented them. Amazing.

Also amazing drumming: woodhands. Two person band. No sampling on the drums. AMAZING live (when I saw them in Toronto).

DeanV's avatar

Hell, I’m not a heavy hitter at all, use really light sticks, and still go through about 2 pairs a month. Lots of sticks are a good idea, but sometimes with those bricks of sticks you end up getting a ton of crappy sticks, which will just last you about as long as 4 pairs of Pro-Mark’s or Vic Firth’s.

Tink's avatar

I hit hard when playing a hard song, regularly I don’t, I’m actually calm when playing. I’ve seen some guys go all out on their drums, and it hurts me to even look at it. So drumstick are a good idea. As for muting the sound, which I had to do because of annoying neighbors, I also put a little thin blanket on top of them, the hi-hat I just leave it because it doesn’t really bother

Fly's avatar

@Tink1113 Yes, definitely at least two pairs. Depending on how hard you play, you can break anywhere from 0–3 sticks (on average), which depends on how hard you hit and the quality of your sticks. My dad who plays relatively hard breaks (on average) a stick or two per gig, so he keeps a small bag of sticks by his drums and quickly switches them out as needed.

Btw, since you’re just learning, there are a surprising amount of good quality instructional videos on Youtube. My dad still uses them sometimes to get the hang of new tricks, but they’re also good for just starting out.

Tink's avatar

The most I’ve ever broken in my drumming life is about 10 sticks

DeanV's avatar

Oh my. I didn’t even answer your question in the details.

I assume you know the difference between shell packs and complete drum sets. A shell pack is the shells of the drums, usually with just mounting hardware, lugs, and heads, where as a complete set will come with hardware for the cymbals, bass drum petals, and the shells.

Personally, for you, though, I would go with a set, then add some cymbals. The stock cymbals that come with those really complete sets (shells+hardware+cymbals) are usually trash can lids; terrible cymbals.

For you, though, I would go with a set like this or this and cymbals like this or this. They will help you get a good jump start, but you will need to replace stuff in about 2 years.

Also, when it comes to cymbals, stay away from a crash-ride as your main cymbal. They sell a lot of packs that come with a crash-ride and hi-hats, and I don’t like those at all. The crash-ride is a cymbal that tries to mimic 2 different cymbals, and fails miserably. It can’t give you a good ride sound, or a good crash sound, or even a good sound at all. You may have more luck hitting pot lids.

I barely break 2 pairs of sticks in 2 months… Jeez.

DeanV's avatar

I just realized I did “thirdly” twice on my long answer… Oh well.

quasi's avatar

@dverhey yeah, i love small kits.. i’m of the school of thought that the less drums you have the more interesting your drumming has to be.

and i noticed a lot of comments about breaking sticks.. i don’t remember ever actually breaking a stick. they do get gnarled up and worn out from hitting the cymbals and eventually need replaced. i usually keep a few pairs around and buy new ones once a month or so depending on how much i’m playing. that is certainly a minimal cost when it comes to drumming equipment.

and i didn’t comment before on brand names.. i have a pearl kit that i’ve replaced the snare on (the snare drums that come with most full kits are not the tits). but as someone said ludwig and gretsch and beautiful. i don’t think there are any reasons to “stay away” from brand names. personally, if I had the cash, i’d get some drums from pork pie.. and their drum thrones are amazing.

Tink's avatar

@quasi Oh they do break… Badly, one time I “accidentally” hit my cousin with one while drumming. It broke in half and hit him on his head

quasi's avatar

@Tink1113 Now that you mention it, I do remember the tip of one of my sticks breaking off and hitting the bass player in the back of the head one time. It just doesn’t seem to happen often.. Others seem to break one in every song. I play pretty hard too so I never understood that.

Tink's avatar

@quasi I don’t break one on every song, just when I was berly begging to learn to drum, but now it’s every other month even when I do drum hard which isn’t that often. Tips, in half, etc. Been there done that

quasi's avatar

@Tink1113 yeah, i think its a technique thing. Rimshots and accidently hitting rims can brutalize sticks.

Tink's avatar

@quasi And apparently people too :)

monkeygirl's avatar

probly tell your dad to get it:)

SoundWave's avatar

I have been playing drums since I was 8 and teaching drums for 30 years. I can tell you that the most important thing about a drum set is the bass drum and hit hat pedals ( pedal holding the small cymbals on the left other foot). Drumming is very physical and based on body control. The resistance of the pedals and their controlability to the new drummer can either be and aid or a hindrance. Pedals that are hard to push for the young players legs will be frustrating and cause them to tense their muscles up…very, very bad. You can make any low cost set sound good with well tuned heads to a new player, but you cannot make them fun to play if the pedals are to difficult to push in time to the music. Ifts fine to buy a cheap set, have someone put good tuned heads on it, and then add good pedals that you bought elsewhere. The low cost brands actually make some decent quality beginner pedals these days.
Enjoy your cymbals of power, have mallets towards none ; D

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