Best Drum Set Reviews & Tested in 2018. How to Choose a Drum Set
So, you’ve decided that it’s time to get a new set of drums. There are a few things that you should consider when purchasing a set.
- What is your skill level?
- What is your style?
- Are you buying more, or worse, less drum than you need?
Most important, what is a good drum set? Most agree that the best drum sets are not complete without at least a hi-hat, kick, snare, toms and crash. Of course, depending on your skill level, you may choose to create your own kit to match your style.
Whether you are a pro or just learning how to choose a drum set, the drum set reviews contain useful tips and tricks to help you choose the set that will work best for you.
Our Top Drum Sets
- 1 How to Get Started? It’s Easy!
- 2 Best Beginner Drum Set Reviews
- 3 Best Junior Drum Set Reviews
- 4 Best Toddler Drum Set
- 5 Additional Accessories For Your Children That May Come In Handy
- 6 Best Intermediate and Professional Drum Set Reviews
- 7 Choosing the Best Drum Sticks
- 8 Best Headphones for Drummers Reviews
- 9 What to Avoid When Buying a Drum Set
- 10 Best Earplugs for Drummers Reviews
- 11 Best Product Reviews
- 12 Drum Setup FAQ
- 13 Conclusion
How to Get Started? It’s Easy!
What Makes a Drum Set/Kit?
When most people ask this question, the first concern on their minds is actually “how much does a drum set cost?” The determining factor to both questions will be the size of your kit and quality of instrument you purchase. The best starter drum set will have the following pieces:
- Snare: The snare drum is the pulse of your kit’s beat. It’s unique cracking sound is created by the wires that are stretched across the resonant head. There are as many kinds of snare drums as there are types of music, but you’ll know the snare that suits you the second your stick hits the head. That’s why playing your drums before you buy them is so important.
- Bass: If the snare drum is the pulse, the bass is the heartbeat. You will be building your kit around your bass and snare.
- Tom-toms: Tom toms are attached to your bass. They come in many sizes and have heads on both ends to produce different tones. The medium and small toms will be attached to the bass, with sometimes additional floor toms to the right. Occasionally another tom is attached to the cymbal stand.
- Cymbals: There are as many types of cymbals as there are ways to make them. And from bell cymbals to swish cymbals, opinions are just as varied. Most have a crash, ride and hi-hat on their set. After a while, pros will begin to add different types of splash cymbals, China cymbals and swish cymbals.
- Hi-hat: Hi-hats have the most versatile sound on your set. They consist of a set of cymbals, placed one on top of the other on a stand. A pedal is attached to the stand so that the cymbals may be played opened or closed, or with the foot alone for a very short sound.
Your set will grow with you as you branch out into different sounds, but these are the basic components of the best drum kits. The best drum kits for beginners will provide all these parts out of the box.
What Do You Need to Start Playing Drums?
Again, the more prominent question on the mind is usually “how much is a drum set?” This depends entirely on you. You can start with the best cheap drum kit and still get an incredible sound if you choose wisely, or you can go pro right from the start. Whichever you choose, make sure that your drums cover the basics and your type of style.
Benefits of Playing Drums
The best benefit of playing the drums is the obvious one. It’s pure fitness. Even cheap drum sets teach coordination and exercise every part of the body. So, price should never be a barrier to starting. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that knowing how to play a drum set pretty much makes you instantly cool.
To get started on your drumming journey, you can check out our full guide here.
Best Beginner Drum Set Reviews
If you are just getting started, the difference between the best starter drum set and simply a good starter drum set is how well they are matched for your style. If your basic building blocks are well-matched to the sound you’re shooting for, you will be able to build your perfect set as your grow. These five basic sets provide a good foundation to grow from.
Gammon Percussion Full Size Complete
This may be the best drum set for the money if you are a beginner. You can find the full set for less than $260.00, complete with:
- Bass and pedal
- Two medium toms
- Floor tom
- ride cymbal
- All hardware needed including stands, sticks and throne.
Most of the hardware that comes with the kit holds up extremely well. And just like a chain that’s only as good as its weakest link, a kit is only as good as its hardware. You will still be able to use these stands, mounts, clamps and holders after you’ve beaten the heck out of the cymbals and shells.
The snare is not going to be perfect for everyone. The sound isn’t quite as strong as it should be to balance the rest of the set. Also, the hi-hats are only good for the more basic techniques.
The shells are made of nato wood, which gets great lows. This may be what is holding back the sound of the snare, but this also makes the set better for rock sounds
Do not expect this kit to hold up to the type of abuse that a professional musician could subject it to, but all things considered, this is the best drum set for beginners who are still finding their voice.
Sonor SSE 12 SAFARI C1 RGS
This solid four-piece set comes with:
- 10” x 8” tom tom,
- floor tom
- and a snare.
Sonar’s 45 degree bearing edges create incredible harmonic overtones that brighten the sound without taking away from the low tones. Of course, this makes tuning a bit more work. You’ll be shelling out a bit more as you build this kit out with cymbals, hi-hat and perhaps a medium tom, but it’s worth it.
The snare head won’t sound right straight out of the box. It simply needs to be tuned and tightened to squeeze a good sound out, but it pops beautifully once it’s fixed. The best part about this kit is that it can be squeezed into a tight space for a small club, but it still booms hard enough to fill a warehouse. If you are light on travel space, this set can easily be carried in just two cases.
Pearl Roadshow 4-Piece Jazz
It’s hard to find a jazz set this complete for less than $400. The full kit comes with:
- Small tom
- Floor tom
- 14” hybrid hi-hat
- 16” inch brass crash-ride
- and all necessary hardware.
This set is ready to go straight from the box, but if you have already developed preferences, tweaking it is a snap. Pearl has very specific instructions on its website to show beginners how to set up and tune the drums to give them exactly the tone you need.
In short, this set is so complete and well-built, it’s almost too extravagant for a beginner’s set. Despite its durability, it’s built more for jazz and lighter rock; it’s not the best drum kit for speed metal or huge sounds. This is not because it lacks in quality. Rather, it’s specifically built for jazz and excels for this genre.
Sonor Drums SSE 13 MARTINI TGS 4-Piece Drum Set
The Martini TGS 4-Piece set comes with:
- 14” x 12” bass (mount included)
- medium tom tom
- floor tom (legs included)
- and a 12” x 5” steel snare.
It’s a cocktail kit, not a toy. The cross laminated shells provide beautiful resonance and a bright tone that can be tweaked to your exact desire, even very tight, with Tone Tune Safe lugs.
You aren’t done shopping once you’ve purchased the kit. You’re going to need a bass pedal, snare stand and cymbals. But for the price, this is a beautiful quality compact set that will last for years.
PDP Center Stage 5-Piece Drum Set
This well-rounded student set includes:
- medium tom
- floor tom
- 14” x 5” snare
- 16” crash/ride
- and a hi-hat pair with telescoping stand and pedal.
These beautiful drums aren’t going to make the perfect set for a professional, but it is certainly the best drum kit for beginners.
It will probably be best to replace the hi-hat and cymbal before long. They will sound ok out of the box, but you won’t get something that lasts forever at this price range. The hardware, on the other hand is built to last, saving a lot on start-up costs. This makes it one of the best drum sets to start with.
Best Junior Drum Set Reviews
It’s never too early to start playing the drums. Some children start as early as they can hold a pair of sticks in their hands. Most kids don’t become the youngest drumming prodigy or a pro by the time they are in their teens, but that’s not the point of music. Learning a complex and coordinated skill early in life will develop other skills and confidence so each child will grow up to be the best at their own unique talents.
Benefits of Playing Drums for Kids
Drumming provides amazing development boosters for young children. In fact, it has so many benefits that teachers often utilize drums for cognitively impaired children. This is because drumming enhances:
- Cognitive development
- Decision making skills
- Impulse control
- and more.
This makes drums the perfect development tool for children of all ages, abilities and skills.
Drums also teach children a sense harmony and tone. Many people are under the misapprehension that drummers are tone deaf. Actually, they have an even more finely-tuned sense of harmony than the average musician. They have to be able to tune a set and match their instruments so that overtones and harmonies create the best background for their band’s style.
In addition to all these benefits, academic performance is shown to be directly related to musical training. Music lessons build math skills by showing kids how to divide parts of a whole, think creatively and count. As stated in the introduction, becoming the best drummer doesn’t have to be the whole purpose of learning to play. Sometimes the journey means more than the goal.
To help small children learn to play, sometimes it’s best to get a junior kit instead of starting with an adult kit. What is a junior drum set? Junior and children’s drum sets are smaller than adult sets and built for a child’s shorter arm reach. They come in all types and sizes from tiny sets to near full-size sets for teenagers. Whether your child is starting as a toddler or a pre-teen, this review will provide all the information you need to make the best choice for a starter kit.
Mendini by Cecilio 13 Inch 3-Piece Kids 250
This junior set comes with:
- 13” x 8” bass
- 8”x6” tom (mount included)
- 10” x 4” snare (mount included)
- and an 8” cymbal.
- The set also comes with a drum throne, sticks and bass pedal.
The drums come with their own stands, but they need to be tightened occasionally. Still, this small drum set is strong enough to take a beating — which is good since it’s a drum. But the hardware needs to be readjusted so often that may not last as long enough to pass on to the next youngest sibling.
This set’s size is most appropriate for children under the age of seven. You may have to get a shorter seat for very young children so they can reach the pedal because the seat doesn’t lower enough. Basically, this youth drum set will last long enough to let your little one decide whether they want to move up to a bigger set or take on a different instrument. For the price, it’s an excellent buy and will bring hours of fun to your children. They will grow out of it fast, though.
Gammon 5-Piece Junior Starter Drum Kit
This 5-piece junior set comes with the complete set up. It has:
- 16” bass
- a small and medium tom
- a snare with stand
- hi-hat set
- and mounted cymbal.
The hardware pack consists of all the needed stands and mounts, a stool, drum sticks and a key for tuning the drums.
The beautiful wood tone helps your child develop an ear for sound. All the hardware is adjustable, so it can grow a little bit with your toddler. Still, it won’t be useful much past the age of 7 or 8, especially if your child is tall.
All points considered, this is a surprisingly good starter set for the price, usually under $140. It’s a good starter set to see if your child is interested without breaking the bank, and can easily be upgraded with better cymbals and pedals for a small expense. The standard setup is worth it alone, just to help your child get the feel of the usual adult kit setup.
Kids Drum Set 3 Pc 13″ Beginners Complete Set with Throne
This 3-piece set by Best Choice Products is a very basic beginner’s set. It comes with:
- small bass
- 2 small toms
- and one 8” cymbal.
- It comes with drumsticks and a small seat as well.
The kit is more solid than one would expect for less than $80. It may even stand up to the type of beating a kindergarten class can deliver for a few years. The simplicity of the set up can be a drawback if you are certain your child wants to advance. It can also be an advantage for beginners just learning hand/eye/foot coordination.
This is a very junior starter set. It’s designed for toddlers so don’t expect as much from it as you would a larger set. Your kids will have fun with it till it’s time to ask them if they want to move into a more complete set. On the bright side, your child will most likely outgrow it before you need to think about replacement parts.
Pulse 3-Piece Deluxe Junior Drum Set Black
The pulse 3-Piece comes with:
- 16” x 12” bass
- 10” x 4” snare
- one tom
- three-piece cymbal kit with a hi-hat and cymbal.
The accessory kit includes a drum throne, one set of sticks, all necessary stands and a drum key to tune the set for best sound.
It’s worth it to shell out a few more dollars for a sturdier set if you know your child will be playing with it for a while. Still, the sound can be tweaked to personal preference as your child grows. A floor tom can add more variety if your child wants to branch out, and the equipment is strong enough that you can modify it with additional braces and pieces.
Overall, this is a great set for kids 10 and under. It will likely last from diapers to this age with a little work and expansion. You may have to replace the drum throne as your child grows older as well, but you should be able to expect years from this basic set.
Ludwig Junior 5 Piece Drum Set with Cymbals
This full junior set comes with:
- 16” bass with pedal
- 2 toms (8” and 10”)
- a steel snare
- and a floor tom
- three-piece cymbal set (hi-hat and ride)
- And the set comes with all hardware, including throne and 1 set of sticks.
You may not notice much resonance when you play, but you will be able to tune the set to sound very good with the right ear. Like the cymbals, the snare is built for sturdiness, not as much for sound, so don’t expect the set to sound like an adult set. It will, however, play like an adult set. With good spring on both the hi-hat pedal, learning complex rhythms is totally within reach with practice.
This is the granddaddy of all junior sets! It’s the one you buy when you know your kid is born to drum. It’s worth the extra expense, at just under $300, because the overall function is great for a junior set. You may find yourself replacing the hi-hat stand and pedal over time and perhaps the snare once your little one has learned a little finesse, but this is a great set to grow with all the way to the teens.
Best Toddler Drum Set
Remo Rhythm Club Bongo Drum
The best toddler drum set is a simple one. The Remo Rhythm bongo drum is a simple and no fuss starter drum for a toddler. It’s important for a bongo to be well-tuned, so the heads on this drum are tuned at the factory. The heads are synthetic, which makes a less pleasing sound, but the tone won’t change if they are stored in a place that gets damp, hot or cold. They won’t ever be as loud or resonant as an adult bongo set, but in some cases, this can be a blessing, especially if mom is prone to headaches. They will still be loud enough to hear with other kid’s drums and best of all, these bongos can stand up to an entire preschool class year after year.
Remo Kids Percussion Floor Tom Drum – Fabric Rain Forest
This ten-inch floor tom has a surprisingly warm sound for a kid’s toy instrument. The shell creates more pleasing tones because it contains wood instead of just pure plastic, making this a beautiful sounding first drum set. Remo makes its shells by laminating recycled wood fiber with special resins to create uniform, strong shells that will hold up well while your child learns. And best, it’s basically waterproof (and drool proof.) The Fiberskyn 3 Drum Heads are strong too, so they can handle drumsticks, the two included mallets or hands and still produce a fun, musical sound. You may discover as your child gets stronger that this drum really projects, which is great for playing with others.
Remo Kids Gathering Drum
It may seem a bit extravagant to spend more than $70 on a kid’s drum, but this 22-inch gathering drum is big enough for three toddlers to play at once, making it an ideal part of a drum set for 3-year-olds. Kids can learn cooperative play and coordinated rhythm with this beautiful and extremely durable instrument. In fact, this drum is so strong, there are reports of it still producing good sound even after kids repeatedly spill their drinks or stand on it. The tone is not perfectly even, but it’s far from an atonal toy and beats the heck out of clanging pots and pans together. Of course, the volume level nearly beats banging pots and pans together too. It’s nice and loud. This drum is meant to be played in a group.
Remo Rhythm Club Konga Drum
Kids love to rock and roll with this konga drum. It produces a wonderfully clear sound that won’t grate on mom’s nerves like a lesser-built instrument might. Of course, it is quite loud because it’s built for resonance and deeper tones. But the noise is pleasing and fun. The strap lets children dance and play at the same time, so they can learn full-body coordination and rhythm together. It’s also an excellent way for your little one to expend excess energy. He or she can pretend they are leading a marching band or lead the charge. They will wear out before the drum does.
VTech KidiBeats Kids Drum Set
This adorable learning toy helps toddlers learn the joy of music while teaching them how to play. The toy set has three drum pads and even a little cymbal, all with different sounds to help children explore and experiment. The kit plays accompaniment music in different styles so kids can play along. It also has four play modes to teach numbers, letters, play-along and freestyle. The lights and sounds are very stimulating to developing minds, but if parents feel it’s over-stimulating for the moment, the background music and sound can be turned off so kids can just play the pads. It’s very small, so one shouldn’t consider it to be a good purchase for a 6-year-old, but it’s absolutely perfect for baby’s first drum set.
Additional Accessories For Your Children That May Come In Handy
Kids can start out with equipment made for adults, but having sticks designed especially for little hands will make it easier for them to learn to master their sound. Toddler sticks should be shorter and lighter, not only so little hands can grasp them better, but because they work better with lightweight junior drum kits.
It’s also important to teach budding musicians to protect their hearing from day one. The leading cause of hearing loss among musicians is exposure to excessive noise. While most kid’s kits don’t produce the kind of decibel levels that adult sets can, they can still get very loud. Learning to use protective equipment at an early age will ensure they can still hear and love music when their hair is grey and they are teaching their grandbabies to play their first instruments too.
Vic Firth Kidsticks
These hickory wood sticks are built exclusively for little hands. At 13 inches, they are 3 inches shorter than adult sticks, affording children more control over their aim. Their smaller diameter allows children to have a better grip as well. Since they are very light weight, they won’t hurt the drums as much (or you) while children are learning to control their aim.
Snug Safe n Sound Kids Earmuffs
Drums, even kid’s drums, can get very loud. That’s why ear protection is necessary to prevent damage to the delicate nerves of the inner ear. These kids’ earmuffs come at a very small price, less than $20, to preserve the gift of your child’s hearing for life. They are also great for blocking out noise from large crowds or outside events that might otherwise overstimulate your child.
The ear pads are comfortable enough that children won’t fuss about wearing them while they play the drums; plus, they come in a variety of fun colors. The low-profile and lightweight make them even more cozy for long-term wear, up to hours. The headset is completely adjustable to retain comfort and perfect fit from toddlerhood to adulthood, so they will protect your little one’s ears forever with the proper care.
Percussion Plus 300T Junior Drum Throne
Your drum throne is almost as important as your kit. Toddlers and small children won’t be able to reach their pedals from most adult-sized thrones, and kiddie chairs just don’t allow for the mobility needed when learning how to use both legs and arms in rhythm. The Percussion Pluss 300T will help your child maintain the full mobility needed to operate pedals and reach cymbals and toms as they grow. It’s lightweight and single-braced, so it’s not designed to support an adult or even an older child, but this adjustable throne is perfect for toddlers and small children till they are ready to graduate to an adult-sized seat.
Best Intermediate and Professional Drum Set Reviews
When you are ready for a full-sized or professional drums, a full set provides more bang for your buck, so to speak. Not only will you get an entire set at a substantial discount compared to buying pieces separately, but more important, the parts of the set are designed to work together to create the best sound.
At this point, you are looking for a kit with quality parts that will last for years. In most cases, quality is more important than quantity, because a full set isn’t worth it if one is replacing an entire set worth of breakables, such as cymbals, heads and hardware, within a year. If this happens, one would have been better off just getting the basic shells.
If expense is a factor, then it’s best to have a quality kit that can be expanded with quality parts one or two pieces at a time, starting with hardware and breakables and moving on to extensions. The sound is worth it.
Best Beginner Drums vs Best Intermediate Drums
Beginner drum sets, while designed to take a child’s unskilled beating, are built more for sturdiness than sound. Basically, subtle nuances and harmonics are sacrificed to material strength, although the hardware on junior sets is often lacking and needs frequent readjustment.
An intermediate set will be built to support the weight and strength of an adult, with the understanding that the skill level has advanced enough to require fantastic harmonics and resonance. For instance, a quality bell and rim on the cymbal that truly matches the overall tone of the bass, just several octaves higher.
Pacific Drums PDCM2217SB 7-Piece Drumset
The PDP Concept Series is a fully customizable, quality shell pack that comes with:
- 18” x 22” bass
- 14” snare
- 12” and 14” floor toms
- and 3 small toms, 7, 8 and 9 inches.
The set includes some chrome hardware, including tension rods, counter hoop, lug and mounting hardware for the drum shells, etc.
These shells make an incredibly professional studio-quality sound for a very affordable price. The maple 10-ply shell of the snare drum and 7-ply shells of the rest of the set ensure both warm resonance and projection. The set is also available in birch for a slightly more focused, brighter pitch. PDP’s Concept F.A.S.T. sized toms are more shallow than a typical tom. This produces a faster decay so that individual tones become more clear and melodic. With the True Pitch tension rods, it’s possible to build the set out in a way that can practically carry a melody by itself.
This shell kit is a great value for the price. A set like this should be built-out with the drummer’s preferred cymbals and additions after it has been tuned to the player’s personal preferences. This is because the set is built to produce melody and has such a wide range of tuning options and resonance levels that it would be impossible to match the sound with a generic cymbal pack.
Gretsch Drums Catalina Maple CM1-E826P-AS 6-Piece
This beautiful 6-piece shell pack includes:
- A standard 18” x 22” bass
- Three rack toms 7”, 8” and 14”
- One 16” floor tom
- 14-inch snare drum
- Stock Remo heads
There is only room for two toms on the bass rack. The other tom must be mounted to the cymbal stand (not included), which makes placement a bit awkward.
This set 30 degree bearing edges on this set balance the deep, rich warm tones of the maple perfectly. This is part of why the sound of Gretsch has become so popular. All the drums come with a clear resonant head for projection and coated batter heads to add warmth and balance. The bass drum batter head and logo head come with a muffle ring to increase the lower overtones and provide more overall focus.
If you already have hardware, this Gretsch set will help you upgrade your sound without breaking the bank. The kit’s head types and tom sizes are designed so they can be adjusted to any musical style. This is basically the jack of all drum sets that can take on any flavor depending on tuning, adjustment and tone and type of add-ons.
Pearl Roadshow RS525SC/C707 5-Piece New Fusion
This new fusion set is ready to go out of the box, including seat and sticks.
- 22” bass drum
- 10” and 12” toms
- 16” floor tom
- Matching snare
- 3 piece cymbal set (14”hi-hat set and 16” crash/ride)
- Cymbal stand
- Hi-hat stand (with pedal)
- Bass drum pedal
- Tom holder
- Double-braced drum throne
The tone of this kit is fairly decent. It won’t be displeasing to the ears, but it doesn’t provide the type of nuance and subtlety that one expects from a truly professional set up. Also, the tone of the cymbals just doesn’t quite match the muted sound of the drums. Fine-tuning will help, but don’t expect studio perfection sound. Still, it’s hard to beat a sturdy, well-built full set for less than $500 that sounds this good.
This is the perfect kit for young drummer who has decided that they definitely want to go all the way and want great base equipment and hardware that will grow with them. The sturdy hardware alone (except for the drum throne) makes this a good investment that will likely last through several upgrades and even new shell packs for years. Adults will appreciate this set as a secondary practice/groove kit as well.
PDP Concept Maple by DW 5-Piece Shell Pack
The PDP Concept Maple 5-Piece Shell Pack comes with:
- 22” bass
- 10” and 12” toms
- 16” floor tom
- 14” snare
All shell material is made with 7-ply maple and 45 degree bearing edges for a warmer tone. The snare drum is a 10-ply shell. The snare provides extra versatility with a MAG throw-off system that snaps back and forth with the flick of a finger in less than a second.
This shell kit is perfect as an upgrade for an intermediate player who may have a beginner’s set with some solid hardware. Young players and adults alike find themselves over the moon at the rich, warm tones and overall versatility of sound. It will also last for years, so it’s a solid investment.
ddrum Dios M-Series DS MP 20
The M-Series DS MP-20 does not include cymbals or cymbal hardware. The 5-Piece kit does include:
- 20” x 20” bass
- 8” x 12” rack tom
- 13” x 14” floor tom
- 13” x 16” floor tom
- And a 13” x 7” snare drum
The 8-ply shells and non-standard sizes make for an incredible sound once this kit finds its sweet spot. The sound will stand up to any higher-priced kit.
The red sparkle finish is show-ready and the set sounds incredible in a big room or small, this kit will do for both small gigs and practice. It will even sound great in the studio for beginner’s recordings. The tone is so unique that you should get it fully tweaked before you shop for the right cymbals.
Yamaha Stage Custom Birch 5-Piece Shell Pack
Yamaha’s Custom Birch 5-piece shell pack comes with:
- Choice between 22 and 20-inch bass
- Two rack toms (10” and 12”)
- A 16” floor tom
- A 14” x 5.5” snare
This is a gig set, and it’s built for quick set up and tear down. The bass drum legs have stoppers to take the guess work out of positioning. The hooks, mounts and clamps are buffered with resin, which helps cut down on rattling and slipping that sometimes catches up to hardware that is subjected to repeated adjustments.
A great-sounding gig drum that stands up to beating and travel is a rare find—at less than $700, it’s a steal. Coupled with a great cymbal set, this shell pack will last for years.
Tama Superstar Classic Custom 7-Piece
This shell pack comes with:
- A 22” x 18” bass
- Three toms (8”, 10” and 12”)
- 12” and 14” floor toms
- 14” snare
The kick drum is 8-ply as opposed to the usual 7 on maple sets, which adds to the low-end thud. The rest of the pieces are 6-ply. The star-mount double tom holder is easy to adjust for the best tilt. In fact, all the hardware is top-notch.
This shell kit is a fantastic deal for the sound it produces. It’s very highly recommended for the classic rock sound, and will work well for other types of rock. The retro sound is enhanced by the Tama’s old-school T-shape badge and single lugs. While the Star-Mount system looks simplistic, it’s tight. The end result is maximum reverb, projection and sonically-pleasing harmonies and undertones.
Choosing the Best Drum Sticks
It’s a shame that many a drummer spends so much time choosing the right drums, and then bangs away at them with any old set of sticks. The type of sticks you use matter almost as much as your choice of drum. This is why sticks have numbers and letters to indicate their type. The numbering system varies by maker, but the traditional system of numbering has changed over the years anyway.
Here is how the modern number and letter system works: Lower numbered sticks have a larger diameter, so a stick with the number 6 will be thinner and more delicate than a stick with the number 2. Letter designations show their best application. “S” sticks are best for louder volumes. “A” sticks are lighter and more suitable for delicate playing. “B” sticks are recommended for soft rock and jazz.
Aside from the numbers, you want a stick that has the right anatomical features for you. All sticks have a tip, shoulder and butt end. The shape of the shoulder, called the taper, will give the stick a more delicate sound the more tapered it is. A heavier butt can be used to provide more power to the stroke.
Benefits of Having Professional Drum Sticks
Professional sticks are made with the type of music in mind. You wouldn’t want light, thin sticks for speed metal, or you’d be replacing them every 30 seconds during a show. Professional manufacturers consider thickness, taper, tip shape, length and material types when designing the best sticks for a genre and set. With the right sticks, you will be able to coax the sound that your set was designed to make. With the wrong sticks, you’ll always be struggling to get your sound just right.
Good manufacturers know that a fuller tear drop tip will enhance the dark, rich lows of a well-made orchestra cymbal. Nylon tips are durable and make a brighter tone. Small round tips enhance a cymbal’s high overtones. Whatever type you choose, there’s a wide variety of professional drumsticks to choose from, and a well-made set will take your playing to a new level.
Best Drum Sticks for the Money
For all around durability and versatility, it’s hard to beat the Vic Firth American Classic 5A Drum Sticks. This is the most popular size on the market, with a 16” length and .570 diameter. Made of hickory, they are very dense with very low flex to produce a more definitive sound. The lacquer coating and medium sized diameter provides a great, no-slip grip. These sticks are well balanced at the butt end as well—so well balanced, in fact, that they seem lighter in the hands than they are. The balance is uniform across the production line due to the precise manufacturing method and almost nonexistent variations in the denseness of the hickory wood used. You’ll know what you are getting with each pair. They come with either wood tips or nylon tips if you need additional durability. At less than five bucks a pair, these are the best drum sticks for the money on the market.
Best Drum Sticks You Can Find
At over $25, CooperGroove 5A Performance Drumsticks may cost too much for beginners who are still going through a couple sets per week. However, once a drummer has reached pro levels…let’s just say that once drummers go CooperGroove, they don’t go back. The biggest joy these sticks provide is comfort. The grooved handles keep the sticks from becoming slippery with sweat while helping drummers keep track of their grip placement.
The special design decreases shock against the palm of the hands so that drummers can play longer without pain. Combined with an ergonomic set design, even drummers with arthritis and carpal tunnel should experience some relief and enhanced playing time. That alone makes the price of this set a bargain.
Other Great Drum Sticks for Everyone
These great sticks don’t come at bargain basement prices or top-of-the-line design, but they are great all around sets for beginners and pros alike.
- Promark American Hickory 5A Wood Tip Drumstick
These are classic, hickory sticks with a .551” diameter and a 16” length. The classic oval tips produce warm tones while the medium taper at the neck makes a more balanced response. There’s a reason this pair is a best seller. It’s versatile enough to fit multiple genres and styles. They are not glossed or coated, just sanded smooth for a natural finish. It’s a great basic set for drummers who like the natural look and feel.
- Zildjian Trilok Gurtu Artist Series Rock Drumsticks
These rock drumsticks are based on Trilok Gurtu’s Artist Series. The thumb groove increases grip while the DIP handle increases control. This makes them ideal for young drummers who are just learning their grip. They feel a bit heavy, but are well-suited to different varieties of music. They also look very cool with the dark walnut stain and bright yellow grips. At around $8 a pair, this is a very affordable choice, especially if you need to buy several pairs.
- Promark Mike Portnoy 420X Signature Drumsticks with ActiveGrip
These sticks come with a sharp-looking finish that gets tackier with heat. This keeps the sticks from getting slippery with sweat and extended play. Made of hickory and a diameter of .565 inches for a classic feel, they are half an inch longer than the average style (16.5 inches) to add power and projection. The wood tips provide a generally warm tone. They are a little pricier than the average pair at just under $20, but it’s a worthy expense, especially for drummers who sweat a lot during gigs.This is just a basic introduction to choosing sticks. The only way to find the best pair for you is to try them out yourself with your own drum set and musical style. Depending on your playing style, set and the type of grip you prefer, you may find that a more delicate orchestra set fits your needs even if you play light rock and jazz. Or you may prefer a set with narrower necks even though you play death metal. Even if it means you have to keep six extra sets in your back pocket during a gig, if that’s the style that suits your need, don’t question it. Drummers know the right pair when they have found them, no matter the manufacturer’s stated use.
Best Headphones for Drummers
To state the obvious, drums are loud. Headphones are necessary for three reasons:
- to filter excess sound (like crowd noise) so drummers can pick out more subtle music sounds,
- to help the drummer hear what the engineer is hearing when mixing a recording and,
- most important, to protect hearing.
Volume, controlled, noise cancelling headphones will provide the protection musicians need while helping the drummer hear what the audience is hearing so sound and tone can be adjusted for best performance.
Best Headphones for Drummers Reviews
1. Audio-Technica ATH-M30x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
It is this versatility that makes this pair the best bang for your buck, and they will work with every device you desire, even a tablet or smartphone. They provide a full range of sound with afrequency response between 15 and 22,000Hz and a sensitivity of 96dB. The sound shines in the mid ranges, with tight bass and clear, discernable high pitches. They won’t fully block out ambient sounds such as high wind, background hums or audience buzz, but they do a fantastic job at helping musicians identify and isolate their part. For comfort, they don’t clamp too hard, but will stay put during a gig. The very long cable is sturdy and thick, so it will last longer than most. These headphones are the holy grail of headphones due to their versatility both in the field and in the studio.
2. Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Headphones
These closed-ear headphones can reduce up to 32dB worth of ambient sound with almost no external leakage, so other’s noise won’t interfere with your listening and you listening won’t disturb others. The replaceable coiled cord can stretch between 3.3 and 9.8 feet. Earpads and headband padding are replaceable as well to increase the life of the headphone set. They will stay comfortable through extended wear, even for hours in a hot, uncomfortable setting. The sound is warm and natural with excellent frequency response of 8 – 25,000 Hz. They are pricey, coming in at around $100, so if budget is a concern, there are lesser priced models that fit the bill. If budget is no concern, then these should be a nice investment that will last for years, especially because it has replaceable parts.
3. Vic Firth Stereo Isolation Headphones
Vic Firth knows what musicians need and these headphones are no exception. They give great protection from loud music, filtering out ambient noise up to 24dB, so drummers can focus on their rest of their band without damaging their long-term hearing. The 6-foot cord is straight for those who aren’t fans of coiled chords. They are, unfortunately, not as sturdy as other headphones in their price range, but the sound is great. They can be used with iPods, smart phones and MP3 players as well, and since they cancel out so much background noise, users will find themselves listening at lower volumes, which is also better for the ears.
What to Avoid When Buying a Drum Set
There are a lot of pitfalls that one can suffer when shopping for drums. These are the 3 things to avoid so buyer’s remorse isn’t part of your musical experience.
- Buying less than you need: Online pictures can mislead buyers that don’t read the fine print. Advertisers don’t always explain that a kit doesn’t come with all the hardware shown. Read carefully to see if your potential purchase is a “shell pack” or a full set. Drums are often sold as shell packs that don’t include cymbals because players have different preferences for sound. Often, all the hardware needed to mount the tom toms isn’t included either because one tom is meant to be mounted on a cymbal stand. Read carefully to see what hardware is needed so it can be purchased at the same time.
- Buying things you don’t need: If you already have a hardware set you love, why purchase all the extras again? Consider a shell pack that is well matched with your own cymbals and accessories instead.
- Buying pieces that don’t sonically match: This is a difficult thing to do just by reading. If you aren’t buying a full kit, then a good store will let you bring and mount your own equipment so you can hear the harmonics with your own ears and sticks.
Best Earplugs for Drummers
Even with noise cancelling headphones, drummers may need earplugs to further protect their hearing. Noise-induced hearing damage can be irreversible and even progressive with older age. Damage has already occurred once a person begins to hear a high-pitched ringing in the ears. This damage is called tinnitus, and it can get very loud, drowning out all the subtle nuances of sound that professional musicians need to hear. Don’t risk it. High quality earplugs not only protect the delicate nerves of the inner ear, but help to filter out excess noise for better tone perception as well.
Good quality earplugs have a noise reduction rating (NRR) between 20 and 35. You will need a higher rating for louder music and background noise. Most earplugs are foam, although some prefer silicone plugs for comfort. Those who are willing to make the investment may want to consider a specialized set of earplugs designed specifically for musical use. A pricier, but very good alternative are non-disposable, custom-made plugs that specifically fit your ears and sound needs.
Best Earplugs for Drummers Reviews
Etymotic Research ER20XS-SMF-P High-Fidelity Earplugs
These earplugs come with a neck cord and carrying case so they won’t get lost. The shorter stem discreet and designed to fit comfortably under helmets or over-ear headphones. They are completely reusable, with interchangeable and replaceable eartips to extend their life. The 20-dB sound reduction applies equally to the entire tone spectrum to preserve overall sound and clarity. Eartips should be replaced every few months to retain elasticity and preserve noise protection. The three flange tips come in sizes from large to mid size, with standard size fitting most ears. The mid-size tips work well for girls and young teens, so parents can encourage their children to preserve their hearing from the start.
Vater VSAS Safe and Sound Ear Plugs
These VSAS earplugs come with a keychain carrying case so they are always with you when you need them. They also include two different inserts with sound protection ranging between 16 and 30dB. Both inserts fit into the carrying case with the plugs so both levels of sound protection are available at all times. The level of sound protection for each of the inserts varies across the spectrum. They both block less sound on the low spectrum and more on the high. This causes a little loss in the clarity of both music and voices, but it’s nice to be able to change the inserts depending on background noise.
EarPeace Ear Plugs – High Fidelity Hearing Protection
These earplugs deliver roughly the same sound quality as regular foam earplugs, but they are much more comfortable and come with a convenient carrying case. The three flanges of the earpieces are designed to filter sound without completely muffling it, but they tend to filter the sound unevenly. Basically, users will hear more lows and midrange while losing much of the highs. If basic protection is all that is needed, these will do. But if specific tones need to be preserved, such as in a recording situation, drummers might want to opt for a pair better suited to musical use.
Heavy Duty Ear Protection for Drummers
Sometimes, earplugs or basic headphones just won’t do. A typical arena concert can produce continuous sound levels in excess of 120dB, while continuous sound in excess of 90dB can cause permanent hearing loss. So, in a situation that produces an excess of 120dB of noise, earplugs that provide less than 30dB of protection will still leave the user subject to 90 or more dB and thus, not prevent ear damage. Situations like this call for the big guns for big protection.
Best Product Reviews
ClearArmor 141001 Safety Ear Muffs
These earmuffs have the highest NRR rating to provide hardcore hearing protection when it’s needed most. This rating makes these headphones powerful enough to provide protection on gun ranges, construction sites and the loudest concert venues. If more protection is needed, they can be comfortably doubled up with performance earplugs to provide even more protection in the loudest situations. The adjustable headbands provide for the tightest comfortable fit — which is necessary for the best protection — with well-cushioned pads to keep ears from becoming painful with extended wear. At less than $30, this is a small price to pay for long-lasting protection that will help preserve your most important musical tool (your ears) for life.
Vic Firth Drummer’s Headphones
These headphone ear protectors are well-suited for lighter use, with a noise reduction rating of 22 decibels. This makes them ideal for the lighter noise levels of a practice room or studio, but probably not strong enough for the loudest concert sounds without additional ear plugs. While they don’t provide as much sound protection as other headphones, they make a good secondary set for musicians who prefer earmuffs to plugs, but want protection with a lighter NRR rating for greater sound clarity at practice.
Drum Setup FAQ
Question: I want to get a drum set for my 8-year-old. My friends tell me electronic drum sets are great for cutting down on noise. Is this a good option for someone who is just starting?
Answer: This depends on how far they want to go with drumming. Electronic drum set can be a great alternative, but there are certain things that you can only learn with an acoustic set. If you can stand the noise, this is the better starting option because acoustic sets teach drummers how to coax out subtle tones and notes that can’t be reproduced yet by electronic kits. Electronic drum kits are beginning to catch up to acoustic kits, but for learners, teaching subtlety is key.
Question: What height should I set the drums and the throne up compared to my child’s height?
Answer: Honestly, setup is a matter of personal preference. Everyone does it differently. The only truly important thing to remember is that your child needs to be able to comfortably reach the pedals and all their cymbals. Also, note if there is any pain after a few hours of playing. If there is, you should readjust the set for greater comfort. Understand that drumming can cause repetitive motion injuries, so the most ergonomic setup can help to avoid this problem.
Now that you know more about the types of drum sets and music equipment available for both aspiring and professional drummers, you can get started with the fun part…shopping! Whether you are shopping for yourself or for a gift, remember that the little things are just as important as the big.
If you are shopping for a gift, take a little time to find the answers to a few questions first so you can make the most of this guide.
- First, how old is the drummer? If you are shopping for a very young toddler, it may be too early for a junior set. On the other hand, a 6-year-old may get more joy out of a larger set that he or she can grow into.
- Next, what is the skill level? There’s no need to break the bank for an experimental whim, but if the person you’re shopping for is sure of their direction, it’s time to consider sturdy hardware and a set they can grow into.
- Where are they playing? Are you shopping for a pro who might play a large club, or someone who mostly jams at home? Sound projection will be a big factor here.
- What equipment do they have already? If they already have equipment, find out what they are happy with and what they want to improve. In other words, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
- Finally, safety first. Ok, that’s a funny way to stress importance, but people tend to remember the last item on a list best. There is a rash of severe hearing loss suffered by modern musicians. We now know what causes it and how to prevent it in the future. It’s time to protect the next generation of musicians so they can enjoy making music every day of their life. So if they don’t have ear protection, make that your number 1 purchase.