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How to Choose an Acoustic Drum Kit

By Brentyn, published on 16/08/2018 Blog > Music > Drums > Buying the Correct Acoustic Drum Set for You

“Playing fast around the drums is one thing. But to play music, to play with people for others to listen to, that’s something else. That’s a whole other world.” -Tony Williams

Many British citizens claim that they cannot live without music in their lives.

If you are reading this article you are part of this group of music lovers. Musical melodies add spice to life and make people forget about their daily problems.

Playing the drums can be done using nothing but drumsticks and household items such as pans, pots and books or through the use of electronic drums, but nothing will replace the sound of the snare drum, bass drum and cymbals.

However, as a beginner buying a drum set can be quite intimidating and scary.

  • How to choose?
  • What is important?
  • How much will it cost?

Superprof has prepared the steps to take in order to successfully choose the right drum kit. 

Why choose an Acoustic Drum Kit?

When living in an apartment, it is rather advisable to invest in an electronic drum set. The pad will allow you to stifle out the loud noises and your neighbours will thank you in the long run.

However, an electronic drum kit is quite limited, especially in terms of sound quality on a lower-priced model that is good for beginners.

The quality of the sensor also requires accurate tweaking that leaves little nuances to the playing of the drummer. The sound is not of high quality and is less good.

The touch and the feeling of play will be of a higher quality on acoustic drum kits. 

The sound emitted and the beats created on a traditional drum set are what make the drumming experience memorable and pleasurable to the player.

Also, on a purely aesthetic level, the acoustic drum is much more pleasing to watch than its electronic version.

In addition, striking on the bass drum and hi-hat pedals is difficult to reproduce on electronic drums.

An of course, like any other thing, the acoustic drum kit has some disadvantages:

  • It takes up quite a lot of space in the living room,
  • It must be tuned,
  • It makes a lot of noise and requires a soundproof room in order to not disturb the neighbours,
  • Regular maintenance is required,

However, during music lessons or classes, no drum instructor will teach you on an electronic drum set. These qualified teachers understand the benefits of learning on an acoustic set. True, electronic drums are good if you want to play in a corner of your apartment without disturbing your neighbours.

Drum kits vary according to the drummer There are simple, beginner drum kits and there are more complicated ones for advanced drummers. (Source: Visual Hunt)

If you have dreams of playing in a band, an acoustic drum set is necessary, especially if you have plans of playing on stage.

You can go much further in a drummer’s game if you buy drums that are acoustic!

Choosing Drums as a Beginner: Set a Budget

Before embarking on a massive spending spree at the first music store that will cross your path, you must be aware of the price that a set of drums can cost for a beginner.

Two options are available to you as a beginner drummer:

  • The purchase of a complete kit,
  • The purchase of a set of drums and a separate cymbal kit.

When you start and especially if you are not sure to continue on, it is far better to buy the kit of drums as you would buy your electric guitar with the amp.

With practice and with the style of music you want to play you can then choose each element of your drum kit.

In both cases, your beginner drumkit must not cost less than £270 in order to get a quality percussion instrument that will last a long time. 

Eagletone and Tama offer exquisite complete drum sets for beginners between 320 and 600 £. A drumkit from Yamaha can equally prove to be a great option.

For a good value for money, it is better to have a more generous budget between 400 and 600 pounds. However, be aware that the most suitable budget for a new set of acoustic drums is priced at £800 in order to get good quality cymbals and all the right fittings.

New or Used?

The main issue with complete kits is that the cymbals are often fragile and frankly have a terrible sound.

The drum hardware may be weak and will not support the frequent mounting and dismounting especially if you are already booked for shows.

The hi-hat foot is often too light and will struggle to withstand heavy use without slipping. 

However, it’s enough for a beginner who does not carry his drumset from show to show.

If you want to play regularly and your purchase is reflected after a few months of practice playing the drums, look towards buying a used set.

For the same price, you can find superior brands of drums such as Pearl or Ludwig.

There are many websites now offering second-hand items for great deals. Check out the UK based website Gumtree to find previously used drum kits that are available near you for a bargain!

While shopping for the drumset of your dreams, look for it in new and used. You can save more than half of your money and get exactly what you want. That sounds like a win-win situation to me!

Superior Quality Drumsets

If you have already made up your mind and want to continue learning the drums without having to replace your kit frequently, a mid-range set is for you!

You will enjoy a quality of sound that is more favourable than an entry-level model and an added bonus is that you will keep your drumset for a longer period of time.

Be careful, however, these are only the drums (snare, toms, bass drum): there are no drum accessories such as pedals or cymbals. These will have to be bought separately depending on your own musical preferences.

There are several recommended brands for cymbals: Zildjian Planet Z, PZ4PK, Paiste: 101, Sabian: Solar, Meinl: HCS & MCS.

Here are 3 good quality drum kits:

  • TAMA Superstar Hyperdrive 100% Birch,
  • PEARL Vision Drums available in 100% Birch or Maple wood,
  • YAMAHA Stage Custom in 100% Birchwood.

The prices of these drums are between £450 and £950. Without any problems, these drumsets will allow you to perform at concerts and practice at home with a higher quality sound.

Sometimes, on high-end kits, the set is sold without the snare drum.

Learning to play the drums like all musical instruments (bass guitar, acoustic guitar, saxophone, clarinet, violin, cello etc.) requires a certain financial and time investment.

Choosing your Drumset: for what Style of Music?

Playing musical instruments The rhythm of a drummer changes depending on the style of music played. (Source: Visual Hunt)

When you are a beginner, it is advisable to opt for a fusion or rock/fusion drum kit.

This is a standard configuration with drums neither too big or too small, which can primarily play rock but also funk and soul:

  • A snare drum,
  • A bass drum,
  • One or more toms (a high one and a medium one),
  • A floor or low tom,
  • A hi-hat,
  • A crash cymbal,
  • A ride cymbal.

Just think of buying drumsticks and a throne (stool) to complete the whole kit. A drum pedal is usually provided.

However, if you search for a drum kit with a style of music already in mind, note that not all drum sets are suitable for all musical styles.

Nothing or no one is preventing you from playing jazz on a rock configuration but your rock kit will deliver more power, not necessarily adapted to the smooth nuances of jazz.

Indeed, the wood will not necessarily be the same and the size of the shells will also vary:

  • Rock/Funk: birch shells are recommended with a 22″ bass drum, 12″ and 14″ medium toms, and a 16″ tom bass,
  • Fusion/Funk: birch shells with a 20″ bass drum, 10″ and 12″ medium toms, and a 14″ tom bass,
  • Jazz/Latin: shells made of beech or mahogany (a lot more expensive!) with a bass drum of 18″, 12″ medium tom and a tom bass of 14″.

It is also important to note that the size of the drums also depends on the size of the drummer. Ask for professional advice!

A left-handed drummer will simply change the arrangement of the elements making up the drumset.

At a Music Store or Online?

Trying out the drum kit at a music store before buying can be a great idea.

Concentrate during that time on what you want to buy. If they are drums, do not use cymbals. You will wear out your ears unnecessarily and not be able to hear your new music.

You can ask the shop owner or seller for advice on a beginner drum kit but it is highly recommended to go to the store with a more experienced drummer or music teacher. Their advice is priceless and will help you choose the correct acoustic drum set.

Also, remember that the sound will not be the same in the store as it will be in your own home. In a music store, there are other instruments near the drum kit and the floor and ceiling conditions are not the same. The environment is very different.

The best is to try several acoustic drum kits and then have someone else play them so that you can hear the sound from a different angle. 

Finally, if the salesman wants to sell you the demo, negotiate the price: the skins have been used and the clamping screws and fasteners have already been pressured.

If you decide to buy off the internet, you have to be sure of your choice: have already tried the drum kit or received the advice of a professional. The DRUMSHOP offers great sets at unbeatable prices. There is even a pre-loved section that sells used drum sets in great condition for those who do not want to spend extra money unnecessarily.

Buying the Perfect Drumsticks

Drumsticks come in all shapes and sizes There are different sizes of drumsticks to match the desired sounds of the drummer. (Source: Visual Hunt)

Sometimes acoustic drum kits are sold with drumsticks. But more often than not you will have to buy some.

For a new drummer, it is highly recommended to start with the 5A drumsticks. They are of average size and weight and great for any style of music. 

There are several well-known brands that offer quality drumsticks such as Tama or Zildjian but when it comes to the best-specialized drumsticks Vic Firth is the industry leader.

Indeed, depending on the style of music you play and the way you play, the size and weight of your chopsticks will vary greatly.

The most common sticks are 2A (large sticks), 5A (medium sized) and 7A (finer).

The drumsticks also adapt to the complete set of drums that one chooses. Therefore, during a change of drumsets, it is possible to no longer feel comfortable with the chopsticks chosen in the beginning.

Here are some good to know tips:

  • The long sticks bring more power, whereas the short ones bring forth more precision,
  • The larger the diameter, the heavier and more durable the drumstick will be,
  • The round tips provide a more precise sound whereas the teardrop tips bring more heat.
  • Walnut is the most used wood for making drumsticks.

Defining an Acoustic Drumset

What are the components of an acoustic drum kit?

Drum kits can be divided into four equal parts: Breakables (drumsticks, cymbals, snare drum), Shells (bass drum and toms), Extensions (cowbell, tambourine, chimes), Hardware (cymbal stands, drum stands, pedals).

What is the drumset key?

It is used to adjust and readjust the elements of the drum but also the tension of the skins.

All you music lovers out there now know a little bit more about the classic acoustic drum kit!

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