I don’t wanna work. I just wanna bang on the drums all day. (I know, right? Now that glorious bit of pop is stuck in your head! You’re welcome.). Seriously, though.
You’ve decided that you’re tired of tapping your hands on your knees, or your pencil on your desk, or your feet on
the floor, and you think you may actually want to buy some drums.
Stop right there. Don’t think about it any more. Learn to play flute instead. You’ll always be the last one to get set up, you’ll have to endure constant jokes from other musicians, you’ll never be as cool as Neil Peart… Drums are a rabbit hole you don’t want to go down.
Still there? Okay! Now you’re ready for the knowledge I’m about to drop on you. Being a drummer is awesome! Yeah, there’s a lot of gear to learn about, and lug around, but dude… Neil Peart! Keith Moon! John Bonham! And my personal favorite, Bernard Purdie. (Bet you didn’t know that!)
If you’re still reading, then that means you’re in it to win it, so let’s talk about how much a drum set costs. As with anything worth doing, there are a number of price points out there. From practice pad kits and junior drum kits to intermediate, professional, and electronic kits, we’ll try to give you an idea here of what to expect when it comes time to whip out the wallet.
Junior Drum Kits
Junior drum kits can run the gamut from ridiculously cheap (seriously, like under a hundred bucks cheap) to a reasonable $250 and beyond. If you aren’t really sure you (or your kid, if that’s why you’re reading) want to play the drums, you can throw down the $97 for the ultra cheap kit, but seriously, if that’s the case, see the opening paragraphs again. Just get a flute.
If you actually want to give junior a chance to learn percussion, then you should consider the investment in a junior kit from Ludwig. The LC178X kit runs for just under $250, and features a 16” kick, a 10” rack tom, 13” floor tom, and a 12” snare. It includes relatively sturdy hardware and cymbals. The whole thing is ready to go out of the box, and it’s a decent sounding kit,
which will give the little rascal more inspiration than a set of Quaker Oats canisters, coffee cans, and Pringles tubes.
Intermediate and Professional Kits
When you are ready to beyond the basic starter kit and move toward something you’ll be able to perform or record with, you should look to an intermediate or professional drum kit. Whether you’re a weekend warrior playing backyard barbecues, a church drummer, or a touring pro, investing in a good kit is always a good decision.
For most of these applications, a standard drum kit will include an 18”-22” kick drum, a 14”-18” floor tom, either one or two mounted toms (these can range from 10”-14”) and a 12” snare drum. A hi-hat, crash, and ride cymbal are also pretty standard fare on most intermediate or professional level kits.
One of the coolest things about being a drummer, though, is that your kit is as individual as you are! You may be a Charlie Watts style minimalist and only want a three or four piece suitcase style kit, or you may be Alex Van Halen and want a kit the size of Manhattan.
Whatever you choose, you can expect to spend between $500-$850 on an entry level kit from Tama or Pearl. At that price point, you could feel comfortable playing weekend gigs, church services, or small to medium venues. If you’re going to start going on the road, or recording seriously, then you might want to consider dropping around $1500 or more on a more professional drum kit.
The major brands to look at, of course, would be the afore mentioned Tama and Pearl, but there’s also DW, Sonor, and Ludwig to consider. Smaller boutique brands like Allegra out of Portland, OR offer some really competitive alternatives to the big boys, too.
Whichever kit you choose at this level, you’ll probably want to upgrade your cymbals and hardware as you go. For the most part, the standard hardware is functional, but this essential component of the kit is one of the prime areas for customization.
Is drum hardware expensive?
Yes and no. Again, the thing here is that your hardware requirements are going to be as unique as the music you play. For sure, though, you are going to need a reliable and smooth kick pedal (single or double), a sturdy hi-hat stand, either cymbal stands or a rack setup, and a good throne (it’s good to be king, after all).
For the moderately frugal player, Gibraltar offers some decently sturdy hardware at reasonable prices. Most individual pieces like stands and kick pedals will run you between $50-$100, while smaller items like clamps and keys will generally run under $20. Of course, the major manufacturers listed above will also have competitively priced hardware at similar levels of quality to the kits they sell.
Are cymbals expensive, too?
Well, they can be. You can get some awesome hand-hammered excellence from Zildjian for a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, or you can find some more economically-friendly alternatives from those illustrious Turkish experts and other major brands like Paiste and Sabian.
As I mentioned above, you’ll want a decent hi-hat, crash, and ride for sure. Other popular additions are splash and China cymbals. Hi-hats from Zildjian start at around $115 for the entry-level ZBT series, and go up from there. Figure a couple of hundred for a decent set. 16” crash cymbals start at just under a hundred bucks, while you can expect to spend a little more for an 18” or a larger ride cymbal. Splash cymbals can be had for as little as $30.
How much does an electronic drum set cost?
But I live an apartment, or I have to be quiet for some other reason… you should definitely look into the electric alternative. As a former Roland V-Drum owner, I can attest that once you get used to the cymbal feel, they’re awesome! You can get an entry level V-Drum kit for around $500, while the more intermediate and professional level kits will run $1500 and up.
The advantages, besides the volume control, are a plethora of authentic samples and kits to choose from, and the sensor technology and rebound surfaces are getting better all the time. Another really interesting alternative for drummers of all skill levels is the Aerodrum air drumming system. It’s essentially a motion capture system that lets you drum your heart out without hitting anything but air.
Drummers who are used to playing, you know, drums, will probably need to adjust their playing style to make the tracking work, but for beginners, this could be a great way to turn your passion for tapping on the desk into actual music. At only $189, it sure doesn’t hurt much to at least give it a try.
Whatever your budget, finding the right drum kit at the right cost doesn’t have to scare you away. Now, flaky guitarists, arrogant lead singers, nerdy keyboardists, and weird bass players, that’s a whole other story.