Pope’s Percussive Preferences…a guide to your first drum kit.
By Harry Pope, BDMA Drum Tutor.
I’m Harry and I’m Becky’s resident maker of noise. Or drummer. Take your pick. This short blog post will be about selecting a drum kit, geared mainly towards the beginner side of things.
Okay, so when looking for a beginner kit for a young child (or a big kid like me) there are a few things to look for.
Firstly, size is a big factor. The drum kit is a physical instrument and despite what is marketed as “beginner” kits, there’s no need for a kid under ten to have a big 22″ rock sized bass drum, and in fact one of my other pupils who is seven runs into a fair amount of difficulty because of that exact problem. I have NO idea why schools keep buying these oversized behemoths of drum kits.
So I’d advise either a bass drum between the sizes of 16″ and 20″. I still use an 18″ on some of my gigs, so don’t worry about growing out of it anytime soon. Trust me, if they start a band and you end up ferrying them to gigs like my dad did then you’ll thank me.
THIS is what I had as my intermediate kit. MISTAKE, no matter what the guy in the drum shop tells you!
Also note the 90’s kid hair. Groovy.
So: smaller kit please.
Also, it’ll take up less space, and it’ll be a bit quieter which is always good for the rest of the family!
There are a few things that you would want to check out for a first kit. The “all in one” starter kits I really wouldn’t recommend, because their main selling point is including everything you need in one package, despite the fact that none of them are really any good. They might look alright in the stock photos, but when you get them out of the box they might end up looking like this…
All the larger brands of drums have low – mid range kits which are much, much better quality. Also, I really would not rule out second hand kits, as a well kept mid-professional level kit would be ten times better than a new kit at the same price.
You can essentially break the kit down into four parts: the shells, the hardware, the cymbals and the heads.
The shells themselves are pretty straightforward: as long as they’re round and are sanded down properly you’ll be fine. Seems simple, but a lot of the beginner kits can end up a weird oval shape, and then you’re in trouble. If you’re worried, then you can take the heads off and rest them on a tabletop. If they wobble then they’re out of round and that’s a no-no. Avoid like the proverbial plague. Or the actual plague. Whichever is worse.
The hardware (cymbal stands, snare stand, screws to keep the heads on etc) is an important one. With a slightly more expensive kit than the Taiwan/Chinese “beginner” kits, chances are all the hardware is made in the same factory, and won’t be too far off the professional level standard kits, and therefore will survive the energetic onslaught of excitable children for years. I still have some of the hardware from my first kit years ago and it still works fine. I really recommend Yamaha hardware, as it’s made in their motorcycle factory, which for obvious reasons has to have amazing quality control. Even their lightweight hardware can withstand a crazy loud rock drummer laying into their kit with all the subtlety of a small bison. But anyway, enough about my teenage years.
The cymbals are probably the trickiest. What I would say is buy some reasonably cheap ones, e.g. The Solar range by Sabian, or the Zbt range from Zildjian. They’re much less likely to break, and will do for a good few years or even longer. The cymbals included in a cheap beginner set are just cheap brass cutouts (yeah, really), and I’ve seen them snap or turn inside out when hit – they sound awful and break pretty soon. The other option is to buy some better level second-hand cymbals, made in Istanbul. They have a lower price tag than the American ones and always just as good, even better. The holy grail of ride cymbals, the 50’s K Zildjian was made in Turkey, and they sound like a good back massage feels. Mmmmm.
The stock heads you get on a lower level kit are never particularly good, generally cheap plastic. A £300 kit with good heads will sound better than my £3k kit with rubbish heads.
ANYWAY. Basically what I’m trying to say, is that if you spend a little more now, and let me give you a hand with it, then it’ll save you money in a year or two if he or she loves it and keeps it up, and it’ll also hold it’s value a lot better if you ever want to resell it.