Looking to buy a drum set and feeling overwhelmed? Take a look at my quick and dirty guide below. I’ve divided my recommendations into three separate groups:
Find which segment describes you best and see if the recommendations fit your fancy. Hope you find what you’re looking for!
Obviously the age of the kid is going to determine the size of the kit you’ll be looking for. With that being the case, here are some options I think would work best for different age groups.
Something like this is really more of a toy than a first kit. The setup does not include some very fundamental pieces, like a hi-hat, and the snare drum is up where a tom would normally sit. Not a huge deal at all if the goal is to have something fun for the kid to bang on. But if you feel like they’re showing interest in drums and they’re going to stick with the instrument, maybe look elsewhere.
Something like the kits above is what I’m going to buy my future kids if they start showing interest in drums. Small sizes for their small bodies, and they include a more traditional setup to get them started with the future in mind.
Between ages 12 and 18 there is a good chance your child is going to know what they want, and they’re going to be ready for a full size kit. Some great brands that will fit the bill nicely include:
These kits range from $300 up to $3000 and higher but don’t feel like you absolutely need to purchase the most expensive kit. Starting with something in the $500 range with Birch shells is going to last a long time.
Here I echo what I said for the parents buying a kit for their 12 to 18 year old. You certainly can spend A LOT of money on drums but what’s the point if you’re not incredibly focused and driven at the moment? If drums are more of a passing interest for you, pick up a kit for $300 or $400 and start learning some simple beats from your favorite songs. You don’t need to stress too much about the brand, wood, sizes, etc.
I loved my Black Onyx PDP that I picked up back in 2004 and I kept it until 2016. The thing cost right around $600 and for that I got the following:
10″ rack tom
12″ rack tom
14″ floating floor tom
14″ x 5″ snare
A five shell pack for that price, birch or maple shells, you can’t go wrong. If you really are serious and in this thing for the long haul pick up a cymbal pack from Meinl, Zildjian or Sabian, and not the lowest end packs (Zildjian ZBT and ZXT are low end, Sabian B series are low end) and pick up some double braced stands from Gibraltar.
Okay cool, so those are some great options. Now, what if you’ve taken a look at everything above and realize it’s all simply out of your price range?
Look, I was once on a family vacation in Washington D.C. Around an upcoming corner I could hear the rat-a-tat of what sounded like sticks on plastic buckets and a voice yelling “Take that! And that, and that and that!” The groove was nice. We turned the corner to see a street performer with a makeshift drum kit setup. My ears had not deceived me. He had several white buckets for a snare and toms, and I’m pretty sure he was using a larger size bucket for the kick. He had pieces of scrap metal and pans for his cymbals and I was glued to the ground in front of him, just staring at him work.
My dad came up behind and I said “Dad, this is incredible! This guy is amazing, I love his sound!” My dad laughed, he’d just bought me my first drum set for my birthday and said something to the effect of “All I had to do was flip some buckets over for you and you’d have been happy?”
If you want to start drumming and don’t have money for a kit, then DO NOT let that keep you from starting. Joseph Gordon Leavitt said on a late night interview that he loves drums because it’s the one instrument you can practice and improve on without actually having the instrument in front of you. Seriously, find anything that gives you some tone when you smack it (even pillows will work:), and start drumming.