Buying Guide: Drums & Cymbals (Quick Guide)
Table of ContentsDrum Set Varieties
With the huge variety of drum sets available, how do you decide which set is right for you? First ask yourself what kind of music you like. Does Slipknot's Joey Jordison rock your world, or is Steve Gadd a lot closer to your musical universe? The point is that while there are drum sets that work for a variety of styles, in general it's a good idea to choose a drum set in a size and configuration that fits the style of music you like to play easily.
A smaller 4-piece kit lends itself to jazz, world, jungle, and acoustic styles well, and also makes a good choice for younger or smaller players. 5-piece, 6-piece or larger, and double bass sets are great for rock and other styles where a lot of power and projection is required. If you're into techno, hip-hop, or want to be able to trigger a wide variety of sounds you'll want to consider an electronic drum set.
If you're just starting out, an entry level set makes a lot of sense. This way you can test the waters and get a feel for drumming without sinking too much money into your purchase. If you've already got a lot of playing experience under your belt, there are many mid-priced intermediate sets on the scene these days that look and sound amazing for the money. For drummers who have paid their dues, played countless gigs, and saved up the bucks for their dream kit, the high-end drum market offers a more diverse selection to choose from then ever before.
Another element you should consider is the kind of wood used in the making of your drums. Maple, mahogany, birch, oak, poplar, beech, basswood, are among the many kinds of woods used for drums and all have unique sound qualities. Maple is the most popular wood used for drum making, with a warm, balanced tone. Mahogany yields a bit more low end than maple. The tough, dense consistency of birch produces a focused, bright tone. Poplar is a low-cost alternative to maple or birch, with a sound similar to birch or mahogany. Basswood is a plentiful wood that also makes a good, less expensive alternative to maple or mahogany.
Drum shells are made of several plies, or layers of wood. In general, the more plies a drum has, the rounder and fatter the sound. Drums made with fewer plies usually have a brighter, more resonant sound.
Most drum sets come without cymbals, so you'll want to find cymbals that fit the music you like to play and the set that you've chosen. There are a variety of different kinds of cymbals that satisfy various roles within the drum set. The most popular categories of cymbals are: ride cymbals, for keeping a steady accompaniment; crash cymbals, for accents and crescendos; and hi-hat cymbals for use with a hi-hat stand in keeping steady tempos. Various effects cymbals add unusual sounds and colors to the mix. While traditional cymbal-manufacturing giants like Zildjian, Paiste, and Sabian continue to dominate the market, there's an expanding universe of options to choose from when it comes to cymbals.