If you’ve been thinking about buying your first drum kit, you may have ended up here to make sure that you buy the right things. Stick around, as we have some good advice to give you.
Everyone on our team is a drum teacher, and we’ve helped students buy dozens of drum sets over the years. Over that time, we’ve learned a few tips and tricks to make the process of choosing a first drum kit a joyful one.
Here’s everything you need to know about buying your first drum set.
- 1 Understand What You’re Looking For
- 2 Acoustic Drum Set Buying Guide
- 3 Electronic Drum Set Buying Guide
- 4 New vs Used Drum Gear
- 5 Online vs In-Person Stores
- 6 Tips for Buying a Drum Set
- 7 Final Thoughts on How to Buy Your First Drum Set
Understand What You’re Looking For
Before buying a drum kit, you should ask yourself a few questions. There are thousands of drum kits available to buy, and answering these questions will narrow your search down dramatically.
The unfortunate thing about drums is that they make the most noise out of any instrument. Drums are loud, and there’s no getting around that fact. If you live in an apartment where your neighbors are close to you, getting a loud acoustic set isn’t going to be a possibility (even when going through the most common techniques for reducing drum noise).
The main point here, though, is to decide whether you’re going to buy an acoustic or electronic kit. If you have no sound restrictions, we strongly encourage that you get an acoustic kit. You’ll get more bang for your buck, especially when looking for something with a small budget.
If you can’t get an acoustic kit, at least electronic kits have features that acoustic ones don’t offer. While they’re not ideal for beginner drummers, they’re perfectly usable.
If you’re looking to buy your first drum set, your budget probably isn’t very high. That’s perfectly okay, as most drum companies offer drum kits that are aimed toward beginner players. These drum kits are often referred to as entry-level options, and they have affordable price tags.
Just note that to have everything you need for a full drum kit setup, you’ll need to spend about $500 or more if you’re buying brand new gear.
Electronic kits are more expensive than acoustic kits with comparable quality, but you get a lot of cheaper e-kits that are great for beginners.
If you’re happy to spend more, you’ll be able to get higher-quality gear that falls into the category of intermediate quality.
What’s It For?
Knowing what your kit will be used for is the final question that you should ask yourself. Are you simply needing a kit to practice at home? The sound quality won’t matter too much in the beginning stages then.
Do you want a kit that will last years and still be suitable when your skills improve? You’ll need to invest a bit more in gear so that you’re not constantly upgrading.
Are you buying a drum kit for a child? A smaller kit may be a better option as it will be a lot more comfortable for them to play on.
Drum kits are very easy to add parts to, but you need to make sure that you have a solid base to begin with. Adding a few cymbals to get a better overall sound is a lot cheaper than getting a new kit entirely, as well as better cymbals.
Acoustic Drum Set Buying Guide
Full Sets vs Shell Packs
Full drum sets are packages that are catered to beginner players. They come with most of what you need in a setup, including drums, hardware, and cymbals. Some of them even come with drumsticks so that you can start playing straight away.
Most electronic kits are full packages, but there aren’t as many full acoustic drum set packages as there are shell packs being sold.
If you buy a shell pack, you’ll need to purchase hardware and cymbals separately so that you can have a full drum kit setup.
Most entry-level drum kits come as full packages, and that’s why we recommend them for first-time drum kit buyers.
If you buy an entry-level drum kit, it will come with a set of cymbals. The included cymbals are typically made from brass, and they never sound good. However, beginner drummers most likely won’t notice the low-quality tones when they first start playing. So, they’ll be sufficient for a while.
If you’re looking to upgrade your cymbals or you buy a kit that doesn’t come with them, we suggest buying a cymbal pack. Most major cymbal brands sell cymbal packs to give you a set of cymbals for a better price than if you were to buy them individually.
Make sure to buy cymbals that are made from a bronze alloy. Any bronze cymbal will always sound better than a brass one. The most affordable bronze cymbals are made from an alloy called B8, and B8 cymbals are great to have on your first drum set.
Entry-level kits come with most of the hardware that you need if hardware is included. You just need to buy a drum throne to go with the kit.
If no hardware is included, you should look for a hardware pack that comes with cymbal stands, a snare drum stand, a bass drum pedal, and a hi-hat stand. Most hardware packs don’t come with a throne, so that’s something you’ll still need to buy separately.
If you want to use more cymbals in your setup, you’ll need to buy cymbal stands individually. You’ll also need to buy a double pedal on its own if you plan on using one, as all hardware packs only include a single pedal.
Best Beginner Drum Kits
If you want to buy a drum kit that is very reliable and highly trusted, you should get one from a reputable drum brand. Here’s a list of entry-level drum kits from popular brands that we highly recommend. All these kits come with cymbals and hardware.
All three of those kits have full-sized drum shells and cymbals, giving you a good starting platform for learning to play the drums. As we said earlier, the brass cymbals aren’t great. But you can replace them after a while to revitalize the sound of these kits.
The hardware that comes with each one is very strong, and you can continue using those stands for long after you get new drum gear in the future.
Best Intermediate Kits
If you’re happy to spend a bit more, intermediate kits are a better option to go with as they have better tones from the drums and cymbals. Here are our recommendations for full package intermediate kits.
These kits have better construction, making them feel better to play while also increasing their durability.
Here’s another list of intermediate shell packs. These sets are superior in every aspect to the previous ones, but you’ll need to buy hardware and cymbals separately if you get one of them.
Electronic Drum Set Buying Guide
Electronic Drums Explained
Electronic drums take all the sounds from acoustic drums and store them in a drum module. That module gets connected to rubber or mesh pads that are set up in the shape of a drum kit, and you get to play drums without making a big noise.
You either need to connect electronic drums to a set of headphones or run them through an amplifier. Electronic kits are good for beginner drummers who don’t have the option of using an acoustic kit.
While we encourage you to get an acoustic kit if you can, we can’t deny the usefulness of electronic kits for beginners. Drum modules often come packed with impressive practice features that help you improve your skills.
You get metronomes, play-alongs, and coaching functions that help you work on your timing.
What to Look For
From our combined experience, the best electronic drums for beginners come from Alesis, Roland, or Yamaha. There are several other brands that offer cheap kits, but none of them have the same reliability or sound quality that the three major brands have.
Even within those brands, you’ll find electronic drums that have a kick drum trigger instead of a pedal. We suggest you stay clear of kits like that, as the trigger doesn’t give you the same feeling of using a beater to hit a drumhead. It can be very difficult to transition to a proper kit if that’s what you’re used to.
Like with the acoustic drums, no electronic drum kit comes with a drum throne, so you’ll need to buy that on its own. Thankfully, all electronic kits come with everything else. There’s no need to buy cymbals or hardware separately.
Best Beginner Electronic Kits
You’ll find that Alesis has the most affordable electronic kits. They’re undoubtedly the best electronic brand for beginner drummers, as they offer a lot more within their entry-level range. Roland and Yamaha kits are more expensive, but they have better sound quality and features.
Here are our suggestions for beginner electronic kits:
Best Intermediate Electronic Kits
Intermediate electronic kits are more expensive than intermediate acoustic kits but remember that you don’t need to buy any hardware or cymbals separately. So, the cost often ends up being very similar.
Here are our top suggestions for intermediate electronic kits:
New vs Used Drum Gear
When buying your first drum kit, you’ll be faced with the debate of buying one that is brand new or buying one that someone else is selling. There are benefits of both options, and it’s good to weigh those up to see which route will be better for you to take.
Pros and Cons of Buying New
When you buy a new drum kit, you’re getting the kit in its most pristine condition. You don’t have to worry about any damages, and most new drum kits come with a warranty that lasts a few years. This means that if anything is faulty, you can take the kit back and get something replaced at no extra cost.
You also have a much larger pool of options when you buy a new kit. You can go into your local store to see what’s on offer, or you can look online and order from a wide array of options across different music stores.
The only downside of buying a brand new drum kit is that it will be more expensive than buying a used one.
Pros and Cons of Buying Used
Buying used gear is a hit-and-miss kind of thing. We’ve found some amazing deals on drum gear that we couldn’t pass up, but we’ve also been let down by the quality of certain parts that we’ve purchased.
The biggest benefit of buying a used drum kit is that you can save a bunch of money and still get something incredible. The biggest downfall is that it can be risky to buy from other people.
Another downside to buying used is that the pool of choices is much smaller. The exact kit you want may not be available on the secondhand market, but it will always be available if you buy it new.
So, we suggest buying a used drum kit only if it’s an incredible deal. Otherwise, it’s safer to buy new, especially when it comes to entry-level gear.
If you find a good deal, also make sure to check the quality of the gear in person before buying it. Check for scratches on the drum shells, cracks in the cymbals, and turn all the hardware joints to make sure that nothing is stuck in place.
Online vs In-Person Stores
Buying Drums In-Person
If you want to buy a drum kit in a music store, make sure to speak to a salesperson that will guide you and give you solid advice on what to pick.
You have every right to test a kit before buying it, so go and play it before making the decision to get it. Find all the kits on the floor that fall within your budget and play all of them to decide which one you like the most.
Ask the salesperson about the kits and let them give a bit of input as well. The downside of buying drums in person is that you’re limited to whatever is in stock at your local music store. Walking out of a store with a drum kit is a special experience, though.
Buying Drums Online
Buying drums online will expand your options significantly. You may also be able to find deals on drum gear that you won’t find at your local store, leading you to save a bit of money.
While you won’t be able to talk to someone in person, most online retailers have salesmen that will speak to you over the phone.
Our favorite online store is Sweetwater, as they have the most caring sales team that we’ve ever come to know. If you’re buying a kit online, we suggest you look there first.
While you can’t test online kits before buying them, there should be several videos on YouTube to watch where you can hear how the drum kit sounds.
Tips for Buying a Drum Set
Read Customer Reviews
One of the best things you can do when buying a new drum set is to hear and read what other people say about it. Find the kit that you’re thinking of buying and read the customer reviews on different sites that are selling it.
You’ll be able to see what the kit’s strong and weak points are, and you’ll get an overall impression of it that will either convince you to buy it or look for something else.
We’ve found that most entry-level acoustic drum kits are very competitive with each other. They have similar tones, and they all have excellent build quality.
Electronic kits are a bit different. It’s the nature of technology, and you’ll see that some users have issues that can be very frustrating.
Pick a Finish That You’ll Love
If you’re buying an acoustic drum kit, make sure to get one with a color that you like. Your acoustic kit will be with you for a long time, and it can be demotivating to have a kit that you don’t like the look of.
Electronic kits are all black, so you don’t have much choice in that area!
Final Thoughts on How to Buy Your First Drum Set
To recap on buying your first drum set, you need to choose between a shell pack or a complete drum kit package. If you choose a shell pack, you need to buy hardware and cymbals to go with it. Both options require you to buy a drum throne and sticks (read our guide to choosing sticks).
Our final piece of advice is to learn how to tune drums. Once you buy your first drum set, you’ll be able to make it sound amazing by tuning all the drum shells. Tuning takes time and effort, but the results are well worth it.
If you opt to get an electronic drum kit, you won’t need to worry about tuning. However, you may end up buying an acoustic kit in the future, so our advice stays the same!