Buyers Guide: How Do I Choose the Right Drum Kit?
Drum kits are available in all shapes and sizes, but what are some things to keep in mind when purchasing a new kit? Before you buy a drum kit, it's important that you read up on the instrument first. This buyer's guide will give you a quick overview of a drum kit's major features, giving you a better idea of what the many available acoustic drum kits have to offer.
Drum Kit Size
Let's start by talking about the different sizes of drum kits available, as that makes quite a difference. If you're looking for a drum set for your children, then there are special children's drum kits created for that purpose, or, alternatively, you could go for a compact beginner drum kit. That way, you ensure that your child can reach everything properly while playing.
In general, every brand offers kits in a variety of configurations. Popular brands include Yamaha, Pearl, Tama, Mapex and Gretsch Drums, each with their own sound and unique features. The most common configurations are rock, jazz and fusion. A rock drum kit will typically have a large bass drum, giving it a rich and deep sound, A jazz setup is great for lighter music, and usually comes with smaller toms. Then we have the fusion configuration, which is somewhere in between; meaning it has smaller toms, but a larger bass drum. If you're not very tall, then you might want to consider buying a drum kit with a compact, 20" bass drum, for instance. This allows you to keep your setup smaller, keeping everything within reach. If you're a little taller, then a 22" or 24" bass drum is a great choice. For a complete set, of course, you'll also need a snare drum in addition to the toms and the bass drum. However, not every drum set comes with a snare drum included. Luckily, we have countless snare drums available, each with its own special sound and feel.
The depth of the toms has a direct impact on the sound of your drum kit. Deeper toms will generally have a richer, more powerful sound that's great for heavier types of music. Conversely, smaller toms have a higher-pitched sound that's ideal for lighter music, like jazz. As they take up less space, making them easier to manoeuvre, they also make it a little easier to find a good setup.
Reading up on acoustic drum kits, it soon becomes clear that many kinds of wood are used in creating different kits. Each wood type has its own unique properties, resulting in a different sound. Drum shells are made by pressing various plies of wood together, fusing them into a solid whole. Cheaper drum kits are usually made from a single type of wood, whereas more expensive models can use various different wood types at once. The most popular types of wood for making drum shells are birch and maple. Birch is known to provide a bright sound with great attack, while maple is renowned for its warmth. The choice of wood types is very personal, so be sure to try different kits to help you choose the kind that suits you best.
To help your drum kit sound its very best, it's important to get the right drumheads for your drum shells. Usually, a drum kit will come with a set of drumheads already included. These heads can consist of a single ply of film, or two plies. Single-ply drumheads create a more open sound, whereas two-ply heads offer a little more muffling and a slightly warmer sound. Besides the number of plies a drumhead is made of, its finish also makes a big difference. There are clear drumheads that give a bright sound with long sustain (which means the sound carries on for a while, and doesn't die out too quickly). There are also drumheads that have a white coating on top, resulting in a more focused sound with shorter sustain. By picking the drumheads that suit you best, you can personalise the sound of your drum kit.
Of course, you'll need the drumheads to stay on the drum shells when you're playing. Luckily, there are hoops for that exact purpose! The two most popular kinds of hoops are die-cast hoops and triple-flanged hoops. In general, die-cast hoops are used for more expensive drum kits. These hoops are extra durable, and great for playing rim shots, for instance. Besides that, die-cast hoops make it a little easier to tune your drums, leaving you with more time to actually play them. Triple-flanged hoops are made of various layers of metal, meaning they're a little more flexible. They're often used for more affordable drum kits. In the end, of course, it's the combination of the shells, drumheads and hoops that create the sound of your drum kit.
When you buy a drum kit, it's important to note which hardware and other parts are included. Sometimes, you'll just get a shell set, but more complete packages can also include hardware. When we say hardware, we refer to cymbal stands, a snare drum stand, a bass drum pedal and a drum stool, for instance. First of all, it's important that you can sit behind the kit with proper posture and stability. There are various kinds of drum stools (or drum thrones) available, in both single-braced and double-braced varieties. Double-braced thrones are more durable and the legs don't twist as easily, but they're also bulkier and heavier.
Next is the bass drum pedal, which you'll need to play the bass drum. There are different kinds of bass drum pedals, but the main difference is between single and double pedals. A double bass drum pedal has two pedals that control two beaters. This allows you to play faster rhythms than a single pedal would. For beginners, a single pedal is more than enough. If you're into heavier music, however, you might want to consider purchasing a double pedal.
There are many different stands available to hold your cymbals and your snare drum, with the main difference being in the type of legs. Stands with single-braced legs (or single-braced stands) usually come with slightly cheaper drum kits. Double-braced stands are a little heavier and more stable, making them a great choice if you prefer heavier music. A proper set of stands will give you the security you'll need to give it all you've got while playing the drums.
Most drum kits don't come with a set of cymbals, so you'll often have to purchase these separately. As a beginner, you'll find that having a hi-hat, a ride and a crash cymbal will be enough. Beginner drum kits sometimes come with cymbals made by the same brand as the drums, which are fine first cymbals, but eventually you'll probably want to replace them with better ones. By assembling your own set of cymbals, you can personalise your sound, as they come in many shapes and sizes, and are made of various different materials. Each cymbal manufacturer has many different kinds of cymbals in their assortment, ranging from low budget models to unique, top-quality cymbals, so there's plenty for you to choose from! As such, be sure to factor in the possible cost of a set of cymbals when you're planning on purchasing a drum kit.
You can further personalise your acoustic drum kit by adding various accessories and effects to your setup. By adding an additional cymbal arm, for instance, you create room for another sound effect, such as a splash cymbal. If you're more into Latin-American music, then adding a percussion instrument like a cowbell is a great idea. There are various clamps and holders available to mount these instruments on. Furthermore, if you're planning on using your drum kit for performances, you'd be wise to keep it well-protected during transport. There are various cases and bags available that make carrying your drum kit around a lot easier. Be sure to keep in mind the diameters of your kit's drum shells, so you know that a particular set of bags or cases will actually fit your kit! Of course, we also have bags to keep your vulnerable cymbals safe during transport.
Besides that, there are tons of available accessories – from drum sticks to damper pads, and from clamps to all kinds of pedals. When you're just starting out, you won't need all of these, of course, but eventually, they're available for you to add to your own personal dream setup. As you've seen, buying a drum kit is not the simplest of matters, with the veritable plethora of available options. In the end, however, the most important thing is that you choose a drum kit that fits you and that makes you feel comfortable!