So you’ve decided to play the drums. Great choice! Drumming is a great activity for both your brain and your physical well-being.
Even if you’re completely in the dark when it comes to drums, if you have the will, dedication, and the right information, you’ll be able to find a great drum set that will help you learn and grow into an awesome musician.
What makes up a typical drum set?
The image above shows a standard five-piece drum set. This kit includes a kick drum, snare drum, toms, crash cymbal, ride cymbal, hi-hat, kick pedal, and a throne. A drum set usually includes at least four drum shells, as well as metal hardware to hold said shells and cymbals. In addition to the instrument itself, you’ll need a drum rug to hold your kick drum in place.
I say usually because a drum set really can mean whatever you want it to mean. It could be as simple as a kick drum, snare drum, and a hi-hat cymbal.
Some drummers play drum sets that are so massive, they require many hours of setup the day of the show. Check out this video of Lorne Wheaton setting up Neil Peart’s massive drum kit before a show.
Here are some of the common drums and the definition of each:
- Kick drum – This drum is usually the largest and sits on the floor with the heads perpendicular to the others. A kick pedal is needed to play this drum from a sitting position. The kick provides the bottom end and boom of a drum set.
- Snare drum – The snare drum is both the loudest and most important part of a drum set. A snare drum is generally between 5″ and 7″ deep and contains metal snare wires that are attached to the bottom drum head. Upon being struck, the snare drum provides a snappy sound with a quick attack. Snare drums are most commonly played on beats 2 and 4 in popular music.
- Tom drums – Toms, or tom-toms, are resonant drums that have no snares. These drums are typically used in fills and also in certain grooves to add more spice and potentially melody if it’s called for. The most famous example of tom drums is the fill section from “In The Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. Here’s 30 minutes of that drum fill for no reason.
- Cymbals – These instruments are made from metal and provide either a loud accent when playing or provide a steady rhythm. For the purposes of this article, we will be dealing with the basics: crash cymbals, ride cymbals, and the hi-hat. We’ve narrowed down a list of our favorite cymbal packs, so you can read that if you desire.
- Drum throne – Most drummers play sitting down. For this reason, it’s important that they use what is known as a drum throne. These seats are adjustable in height and are typically a circular shape. Depending on what you buy, yours may have a backrest on it, though these aren’t for everyone.
Our beginner drum kit reviews
Mendini Full-Size Kit – Drum kit under $300
- Recommended Age Group: Adult , Teen
- Cross laminated poplar shells, Black powder coated triple flanged hoops and lugs
- 22" x 16" bass drum, 12" x 8" and 13" x 9" tom toms, 14" x 5.5" matching snare drum
- 16" x 16" floor tom, 14.5" hi-hat and 16" crash cymbals
- Includes: Round padded height adjustable drum throne, A pair of wooden drum sticks, Double braced snare, cymbal and hi-hat stands, Chain drive bass drum pedal, Easy to read set up instructions (Assembly is required)
Starting off at the very, very, entry-level is Mendini’s full-sized adult drum set. Mendini recommends this kit for adults and teenagers. The shells are cross-laminated poplar shells. They don’t sound too bad. However, you’re not getting that wonderful of quality when you spend under $300.
What’s in the box?
In the box, you’ll get a 22″ bass drum, 12″ and 13″ rack toms, 16″ floor tom, a 14″ snare, 14.5″ hi-hat (strange sizing), and a 16″ crash cymbal. Mendini also includes a drum throne, wooden nameless drumsticks, a snare stand, a cymbal stand, a hi-hat stand, a chain drive kick pedal, and instructions for assembly.
Sound of the Mendini
The shells don’t sound terrible and actually, with some good tuning, you can make this drum set sound pretty good. The cymbals, on the other hand, are a lost cause. The crash cymbal literally sounds like a piece of sheet metal when struck. The hi-hat cymbals are no better. If you do buy this kit, I HIGHLY recommend that you upgrade your cymbals eventually.
I have always had this belief that you learn quicker and faster the better your drums and cymbals sound. It excites you more as a player when you feel good about your performance and sound. I’m no psychologist and cannot prove this claim, but it is my opinion.
My overall thoughts
If you’re super serious about starting to learn the drums, I’m gonna suggest that you completely avoid this drum set. It sounds like complete garbage for starters. While it does come with cymbals, there’s no way you’re going to want to play them.
In my post that covers buying a drum set for a child, I do mention the junior version of this kit in a positive light, but for a beginner kit for a teenager or adult, I just can’t recommend this for learning on. If you’re really hurting on the budget end, this is what I’d consider being the last resort when buying a drum set.
Ludwig Accent – Beginner kit under $400
- 22" Bass Drum
- 10, 12, 16" Toms
- 14" Snare Drum
- 13" Hi-Hats & 16" Crash Included
- All Hardware Included
Just moving one step up from the Mendini gets you all the closer to a professional sounding drum set. Ludwig makes excellent shells for this price range and you really can’t go wrong if this is your first drum kit.
What’s in the box?
The Ludwig Accent also comes with everything you need to get playing: the kick drum, snare drum, toms, floor tom, a crash cymbal, hi-hats, a kick pedal, throne, sticks, and a drum key. The toms on this kit are smaller than the Mendidi. You get a 10″ and 12″ tom drum, much preferred in my world. Hardware is also included, as expected.
Sound of the Ludwig Accent
These shells sound amazing for the cost. I honestly believe that I could tune one of these up and take it to the recording studio to do a session with.
The toms are very warm and have nice sustain when in tune. The bass drum is a little boomy, but this can be fixed by both switching out the batter head (to an Aquarian Super Kick II) and adding a pillow to the inside of the bass drum.
My overall thoughts
If you’re very excited about learning the drums and are on a limited budget, this is definitely the kit to pick. You won’t be spending much more than the Mendini and will get a far more tremendous value from this drum set. This drum kit has the potential to last much, much longer than that pile of junk.
Pearl Roadshow – Best Under $500
- Item may ship in more than one box and may arrive separately
- Ready to rock right out of the box!
- 9 ply, 7mm Poplar Shells & 1.2mm Triple Flanged hoops. Comes with Heads and Double Braced Hardware.
- Drums Included: 22x16 Bass Drum, 1x8 Tom, 12x9 Tom, 16x16 Floor Tom, 14x5.5 Snare Drum
- Cymbals Included: 16" Brass Crash-Ride, 14" Hybrid Hi-Hats
Despite my first ever drum set being from the big name brand Pearl, I have not always been the biggest fan of their products. While they do make wonderful sounding drum shells, their hardware has always turned me off.
The hardware feels very clunky to me, even with recent innovations. With that said, the Roadshow is still a popular choice for beginners and isn’t necessarily a bad choice.
Being one step up from the Ludwig Accent, the Roadshow is going to give you a better sounding kit overall. The shells do sound a bit more professional and bigger sounding, in my opinion. The snare drum gives a nicer crack and the toms are open and massive sounding.
Pearl offers you more than just one shell configuration with the Roadshow. If you want a traditional rock drum setup, they’ve got you covered with bigger toms. The fusion setup has shell sizes similar to that of the Accent drum kit.
What comes in the box?
For the rock configuration, you get a 22″ kick drum, 14″ snare drum, 12″ rack tom, 14″ and 16″ floor toms, a 16″ crash-ride, 14″ hi-hats, a drum throne, necessary hardware, a kick pedal, drumsticks, and a drum key. Be aware that this drum kit will ship in two separate boxes.
My overall thoughts
Despite my negativity with Pearl over the years, I still manage to believe that this is the best drum set for a beginning player. You get great sounding drum shells right out of the box and can really use this kit for whatever your needs may be. Whether you’re learning drums for the first time or are ready to gig out at local clubs with your band, you can’t go wrong with these shells.
One thing that is going to be common with all drum sets that come with cymbals is that they are going to be bad sounding, albeit, these are the best sounding cymbals on the list thus far.
Tama Imperialstar – Intermediate kit under $700
- A great-playing 5-piece drum kit for an unbelievably affordable price^This complete kit comes with everything you need - hardware, cymbals, stands, and pedals included!^Poplar drum shells provide you with a satisfyingly full sound with plenty of natural warmth and balanced dynamics^Precision-crafted bearing edges provide enhanced sensitivity, a wide tuning range, and great resonance^Quality Meinl cymbals include a set of hi-hat, a ride, and a crash
Tama Drums is one of the largest manufacturers of drums in the industry. This is the company’s entry-level drum set and, believe me, its quality far from entry-level. While we are moving into a bit more pricey territory, there’s a good reason for it.
We are just crossing the line into serious, quality, drum sets. The last two kits on our list have significantly better hardware design, color options, and better sonic performance overall.
Right of the bat, aesthetically, you can’t go wrong. Tama’s Imperialstar is offered in many different finishes and colors; this is something you don’t see on a lot of beginner drum sets. These drums just look professional.
What comes in the box?
Tama’s Imperialstar kit comes with a 22″ bass drum, 10″ and 12″ toms, a 16″ floor tom, and a 14″ snare drum. In addition to drums, the cymbals that are included are actually from a real, reputable cymbal maker, Meinl.
Included are cymbals from their HCS line: 14″ hi-hats, 16″ crash cymbal, 20″ ride cymbal, and a free 10″ splash cymbal. Now, these cymbals are still very much entry-level, but they do sound much better than any of the prior cymbal options.
My overall thoughts
I am currently debating myself buying a newer Tama Imperialstar for a touring kit. It sounds so great for such a low cost. This kit is perfect for the beginning drummer or for an experienced pro-level player. I have always been a big fan of Tama drums and love this kit. If you have a little more money to shell out and are very serious about playing drums, this is the kit to pick.
You can read our full review on the Tama Imperialstar here.
Gretsch Energy – Great value for under $1,000
Despite my hatred for Pearl’s hardware, here’s a company whose hardware I love: Gretsch. You may have heard of this company before from your guitar player buddies. The Energy kit is an excellent sounding introductory drum kit, and while I do think the Tama Imperialstar does look nicer overall, the Energy takes the cake for its sound.
The kit from Gretsch is available in a variety of different finishes and colors.
What comes in the box?
The Energy kit comes with a 22″ bass drum, 16″ floor tom, 10″ and 12″ toms, a kick pedal, and includes Planet Z cymbals from Zildjian. One thing to keep in mind is that this drum kit does not come with a drum throne.
My overall thoughts
Gretsch makes excellent, quality instruments. They have made killer guitars and awesome drums for many years. The Energy kit is no different. This is by far the best quality drum set for a beginner we have listed. It may be a little overkill if you’re just starting out, but you won’t regret playing this drum set.
Things to consider when buying
Are you really interested in playing the drums?
Before you go dropping a bunch of cash on a new drum set, be sure to have a really solid interest in playing the drums. If you’re unsure, it might be wiser to try and find a used drum set on Craigslist or on eBay.
Playing drums requires a lot of time and commitment. This instrument is not that easy to learn and many young players tend to give up prior to hitting that eureka moment. Brace yourself for the long haul. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.
How big of a drum kit do you want?
Most of the drum kits on this list are five-piece kits, but don’t let that stop you from adding on extra drums and additional percussion accessories. Some of the most creative drummers around have unique setups and drums that deviate from the norm.
Is noise a concern at your place of residence?
Let’s face it. Drums are noisy. If you have neighbors that live on the other side of a paper-thin wall, there’s no way you’re going to get away with playing a loud drum set. If you live in an apartment or duplex, you may have to opt for an electronic drum kit instead of an acoustic drum set.
Do I need to wear ear protection when playing the drums?
While you don’t necessarily have to, I strongly suggest that you invest in either some isolation earmuffs or better yet, some in-ear monitors. Your hearing is extremely important, especially as a musician. If you get in the habit of playing drums without protection, your hearing will be the first sense to go as you age.
Do I need to start out with drum lessons?
In today’s world, you really don’t have to start off with drum lessons, though it can be very beneficial. Luckily, drummers today have access to a massive library of instructional videos on platforms like Drumeo and even YouTube. If you don’t want to invest in private lessons right away, start off watching videos and learning on your own!
Thanks for reading. Are you a new drummer? Be sure to leave a comment down below with how long you have been playing. If you have any questions, feel free to also leave a comment and I’ll get back to you shortly! 🙂