Image credit: Sweetwater.
Drum and Drummer: Your Guide to Buying Drum Sets
By Valerie Farabee
When looking for information about other instruments, you are generally only searching for a single instrument - a guitar, a clarinet, a tuba - and this makes it easier to compare price, quality and brand. A drum set is a horse of a different color. As a set it is made up of component parts, some of which are optional, but how are you to know which ones you need versus which ones are add-ons for when you become super trick at beating those skins? Never fear! Priceonomics, in their infinite wisdom, has put me to the task of helping you suss out the best bang for your buck.
Me & My Drum
A drum set, trap set, or drum kit is a collection of drums and other percussion instruments set up to be played by a single player. Most sets start with four drums: a snare drum, bass drum, and one or more tom-toms. This setup is great for a beginner, and it’s easy to add more drums as you get better, become more interested, and want to play more complex beats. As with most instruments these days, kits are available as electronic or acoustic sets, each with its own list of pros and cons.
Dancing to the Beat of an Electronic Drum
Acoustic or electric? That is the question. An acoustic drum set is the one we are most familiar with, a set with at least the four drums described above requiring no electronic amplification. Let’s consider an electronic drum set for a moment, though. An electronic drum is an electronic synthesizer which mimics the configuration and sound of an acoustic kit.
You can play and hear yourself using headphones, but it will sound to everyone else like you are just smacking the hell out of some practice pads. Note: Purchase silencer pads for your acoustic kit and you have achieved the same effect!
For recording purposes, you can plug directly into a computer without needing or adjusting any of those pesky microphones.
Pre-programmed sound sets. These are fun to have available for performances and recording!
Electronics fail sooner than acoustic hardware. This is something to consider if you don’t want to replace kit after kit.
One must have an amplifier to project the sound when performing with an electronic kit.
They are more expensive than comparable acoustic kits when you consider cost to value.
Consider your recording needs when choosing between an acoustic vs. electric set. As a beginner, you’re not likely to begin recording immediately, and you an acoustic set will help you master the basics. As an advanced beginner, or one who is interested in adding effects, trigger sounds and music samples, an electronic drum kit might be right for you.
More Cowbell, Please
Drums kits are highly modular, and beyond the basic 4 or 5 piece configuration, you can add an assortment of percussive accessories with which to round out your sound. Once you’ve setup your essential drum kit, have fun with an extra bass drum, cymbals, woodblocks, cowbells, claves and more! Create a FrankenDrum by adding electronic sensors to your acoustic drum set for the best of both worlds - this one is for experts, only! Don’t forget a foot pedal for each bass drum - you’ll need at least one - and a drum throne to sit on while playing. Unlike traditional stools, drum thrones swivel and allow you to raise and lower your seat.
And the Beat Goes On....A Rather Expensive Trip
Drums cost money. This is no surprise to anyone, it is in fact the very reason you are perusing the priceonomics guide to drums. You can spend anywhere between $25 - $2500 on a drum kit. Electronic drum kits will cost more than comparable acoustic kits, but might be worth it, depending on your skill level and recording needs. If you are a beginner, try to rent a set for a while to see if you will stick with drumming.
Beginner sets can be purchased for between $50 - $500. You can buy these at Toys R Us and CostCo. These are great for kids 10 and under who are just learning and who can’t yet tell the difference in sound quality between a big-box set and the real thing.
If it looks like drumming is for you, or you can finally hear the difference in quality, splurge on a mid-range set that will get you through a couple of years of heavy practice and will be suitable for when you inevitably start performing. These sets are great for high-school to college age students, and can be purchased for anywhere from $450 - thousands of dollars.
For the pro-status drummer, buy a high grade set starting from $2500 and running into the tens of thousands of dollars. You read that right! If you’re going to be in the industry, buy the best that you can afford. These are highly customizable, from the materials used to the number of pieces included in the set, and a professional savant type will be pleased with the tweaks available at this level.
Regardless of buying new or used, to come out ahead you’ve really got to be willing to get educated, wait for the good deals, and spend the time it takes to go look at different sets being sold. Priceonomics is a great place to start! Best of luck in your beat heavy ventures!