Buying Your First Drum Set:
A Beginners Guide
Im not very good. But it doesn't stop me playing...
How much should I spend on a beginners drum set?
What make of drums should I buy?
Where can I find a good deal on a first drum set?
Do you love standing in the middle of a drum shop? Its my favourite place. Even now, twenty years after picking up my first pair of sticks and taking my first lesson in snare drum rudiments, I feel a surge of excitement every time I encounter a vacant set of drums waiting to be played.
I always wanted to play the drums. The idea of pounding out a primal rhythm of any kind, on anything, is as attractive to me as the Death Star tractor beam. Whether its with my fingernails on the kitchen table (driving the family up the wall), on an upturned plastic bucket or best of all, on stage, forcing people to unconsciously move to the beat, I love it.
Im Not Very Good.
But it doesn't stop me playing... | top of page |
Ive been playing for ages. I practice unconsciously on my knees all day long. Ive played as a regular in five gigging, recording bands and as a percussionist extra in a few more. I have recorded as drummer and percussionist on four or five albums But heres the funny thing - Im still not very good. Never have been, actually. Ive met drummers who have been playing for five minutes who have started to out-perform me.
Does this bother me? Not really. I can play well enough to get through a successful gig, and still love every minute of it. I consider myself the perpetual beginner, wide-eyed and raring to go; but not terribly impressive. This is why I urge those beginners amongst you to obey your instincts and persevere! Even if you never get to be great, I GUARANTEE that you will have a great time trying.
So lets say youre a beginner and you want to buy your first drum set. Where do you start with all the drums available today? If you think the noise level is going to be a real problem, check out How To Be A Successful, Silent Drummer, Soundproofing Your Garage and Preparing For Gigs On Your Knees. Lets assume that you have decided to buy an acoustic beginners drum set.
How Much Should I Spend on a Beginners Drum Set? | top of page |
First drum set? Spend as little as possible. My advice is as simple as your drums should be. Dont buy the biggest, best sounding (and probably most expensive) kit available. I have always followed one simple rule when buying my drums which explains why I have never ended up with top-level drum set, but have still been content with my choice of kit:
Buy the drum set that is as good as you are.
Know your limitations. If you get the best sounding kit and assume that your playing will improve as a result, you are wrong. Your playing WILL improve with practice, but if you play on a cheaper starter kit, youll be more eager to make it sound as good as possible by playing it well. Upgrade your drum set as you get better. The improvement in both the drums and in your playing will show all the more.
Some of the finest sounds I ever heard came from old, shabby looking drums, played in dark basement jazz clubs by drummers whose vast experience and talent was matched only by their age. A good drummer could make a rusty oil drum sound good. Its not what you hit, its how you hit it that counts which is why performance groups like STOMP have found so much success.
What Make of Drums Should I Buy? | top of page |
First Kit? Find one that is cheap and sounds as good as possible for the price.
I remember buying my first kit. It wasn't bought because of the make, but because it was there and I could afford it. My dad had made it clear that he didnt want me to buy any drums. But then he went on holiday, I saw a cheap, used drum set advertised in the paper and I bought it. It was the percussion version of Frankensteins monster. A different manufacturer had made each piece, and none of them had been very good to begin with. I was delighted with it. I played and played
When my dad came back he wasnt best pleased - but he got used to it. As I improved, he even claimed to begin to enjoy the sound of me drumming in the room directly over his study. The neighbours were a little harder to convince.
I played those drums for about three years with two bands (Eugene & Methuselah and Flue Man Blue
) before I finally traded them in for an old Pearl Export. When I made the trade, the Export kit sounded fantastic to me because I had grown so used to the old dog that was my first drum set.
One more thing dont worry if your new or used drum set is only a three or four piece kit. In fact, the fewer pieces the better. I have always found too many drums to be too much of a temptation. If they were there, I felt compelled to play them! If octobans, extra power toms and cowbells found themselves within the reach of my sticks, they got hit!
When I reduced the number of drums and percussion instruments within the drum set, my playing improved. Keep it simple!
Where Can I Find A Good Deal on a First Drum Set? | top of page |
Check out your local drum / music shop. I havent found one yet that doesnt do a brisk trade in used kits. Drummers are always trading in their old kits for new, and you can find some good deals. Their old Tama Rockstar could be your first kit. Alternatively, check out eBay. Always plenty of good deals to be had here, but make sure you check the feedback rating of your seller, and especially their charge for shipping, which the buyer will inevitably be responsible for. If you can collect the drums yourself, better still.
When buying a used drum set it's easy to get swept away in the moment and spend more than you should just to secure the drums. Beware of this. Check out the price before you show up (or before you bid on eBay). Compare it with similar deals in your local paper or, better yet, on the Internet. Make sure that the asking price is fair. For me, buying a set of drums is an emotional experience. I get carried away with the excitement and almost always kick myself for spending more than I should, but that's me. See if you can be more level headed.
If you want a new kit, youll find some very good deals at Zzounds who offer extremely good deals on beginners drum sets, both new and used. The shipping is often free in the US (check their policies). Although buying online doesnt give you the sights, sounds and smells of the drum shop experience, they tend to make up for it in price. Compare prices with your local store first!
And if you can't afford your own kit yet? Picture yourself in that drum shop. Youre itching to have a crack at one of the drum sets on display, but youve just heard the twelve year old shop assistant play like Buddy Rich, and frankly you feel
inadequate. What do you do? My advice is HAVE A GO! Take advantage of every opportunity to play on someone else's drums for free. If Id allowed my self-consciousness to get the better of me, Id have taken up the violin.