Drum kits can sometimes be very expensive things to buy. The looming purchase of an expensive drum kit is enough to chase many beginners away. Like with everything else, there are some cheap options available. Cheap drum sets often have a bad reputation for sounding weak and not being durable. However, those are comments coming from seasoned drummers who know the difference between certain qualities of hardware. If you’re a beginner or a parent looking to buy a drum kit for your child, sound quality isn’t going to matter as much.
Why Buy a Cheap Set?
The biggest reason would obviously be to save on costs. It’s a common trend for people to start hobbies and then quit six months later because they didn’t enjoy them as much as they thought they would. Getting a cheap drum kit would allow you to test the waters without losing too much money if you realize you’re not actually interested.
The great thing about drum kits is that there is a huge secondhand market for them. Cheap drum sets can easily be sold to other people looking for an instrument to start playing. Does that mean you should buy a secondhand kit? You could, but you still won’t be spending a lot of money if you buy one new, so it may just be a better deal in terms of quality and durability.
Types of Drum Kits
The two main types of drum kits would be acoustic and electronic. Acoustic kits are the standard drums that everyone is used to seeing. They have metal hardware with wooden shells and make a loud noise when you play on them. They also have a set of cymbals that are mounted on cymbal stands. Drums along with cymbals would make a standard acoustic drum kit setup.
Electronic kits are rubber pads connected to a module. These are intended for areas where noise is an issue. They’re quiet and can be heard through headphones or a speaker. Electronic kits have come a long way in recent years. They used to be really expensive and only the best ones had somewhat decent sounds. You can find some high-quality ones on a budget nowadays that even have mesh pads. What are mesh pads? We’ll get to that later.
Things to Check Before Buying
When buying a drum kit there are a few things you need to look out for. Checking whether the kit has these things will help you make sure that your purchase will be worth it. Things to check for are the sizes, shell material, drum heads, cymbals, color options, and hardware.
Drum kits come in all shapes and sizes. The size of your drum kit should depend on who it’s for. If you’re an adult and you’re getting the kit for yourself, a standard size would be the best thing to get. When I say standard size I mean that the rack toms should be around 10 to 12 inches and the floor tom should be from 14 to 16 inches. Snare drums are typically 14 inches and bass drums are 20 or 22 inches.
If you’re getting a kit for a small child, smaller sizes would be better. There are many cheap junior drum kits on the market that cater more to children.
If you decide on getting an electronic drum set, the sizes won’t matter as much because e-kits are designed to save space.
Most higher-end drum kits are made from different types of wood. Each wood has unique properties and the types of wood can range from birch to maple to African mahogany. Cheap drum sets are cheap because they don’t utilize these woods. They’re typically made from poplar or Asian mahogany. These woods are a lot cheaper to process, leading the drum kits to cost less.
It’s important to note that stock heads on a cheap drum kit will almost always sound bad. There are a few things you can do to improve the sound such as muffling and fine-tuning. However, the best sound you can get from those stock heads still won’t sound fantastic.
The best thing to do is to replace the drum heads entirely. Putting on some Evans or Remo heads will dramatically improve the sound. It will add a bit to the costs though.
You can’t have a drum kit without cymbals. They produce the high-end sound that rounds out a drum kit setup. Every kit needs to have certain cymbals. The most important ones are the hi-hats. This is a pair of cymbals that close together to make a ‘chick’ sound. They’re held together by a hi-hat stand. The stand has a pedal that allows you to control them.
The next important cymbal would be a crash cymbal. This cymbal is a bit bigger than the hi-hats and produces an accenting crash sound. Cheap crashes generally have a tin-like sound.
The final important cymbal is the ride cymbal. It’s the biggest cymbal and is placed to the right of the drum kit.
Even the cheapest drum sets will come with these cymbals most of the time. So, just make sure that the kit you’re buying does as well.
This is probably the least important aspect of buying a kit. However, it can make a huge difference. Every drum set has different finishes to choose from. It gives you a sense of personal flavor and allows you to have a color that you really like. Cheap kits never get too crazy in their options. So, you’ll be choosing between solid colors.
The final thing to look out for would be hardware. This is everything that holds the drums and cymbals together. Make sure the kit comes with stands for each drum and cymbal. One piece of hardware that often gets forgotten is the drum throne. Drum thrones are seats that are specifically designed to make you feel comfortable while playing the drums, so you’re going to need one. Not every kit comes with a drum throne, but most entry-level kits do.
Top 5 Entry-Level Kits
Mendini by Cecilio
This is a junior acoustic drum kit that is fantastic for small children. The kit comes with a 16 inch bass drum, 8 and 10 inch rack toms, a 12 inch floor tom, and a 10 inch snare drum.
The shells produce a sound that isn’t the greatest. However, kids don’t care about sound too much. They just care about hitting things, and let me tell you that this kit is fun to hit. The kit comes with instructions on how to set it up and it should take about an hour to do so.
The kit comes with two cymbals. The first is an 8 inch pair of hi-hats. These hats are firm and produce a toy-like sound. They open and close like standard hi-hats which is pretty rare for a kid’s drum set. The second cymbal is a 10 inch crash that is mounted to the bass drum. This crash produces a bright sound that decays quickly.
In terms of hardware, the kit comes with a hi-hat stand, a cymbal arm for the crash that mounts to the bass drum, a snare stand, and a drum stool. The hardware is flimsy, but it’s perfect for a child.
The kit comes in four color options which include blue, black, green, and red. Each finish has a slight sparkle, causing the kit to shine in the light.
At around $200, this is one of the cheapest drum kits you can get.
With its slightly larger drum sizes, the Gammon entry-level kit is perfect for adults looking for a cheap set. Included in this purchase is a 22 inch bass drum, 12 and 13 inch rack toms, a 16 inch floor tom, and a 14 inch snare drum. It also comes with a pair of 12 inch hi-hats and a 14 inch crash cymbal. Supporting all the drums and cymbals is a hi-hat stand, a cymbal stand, a drum stool, and a bass drum pedal.
The shells are made from a cheap wood that causes the drums to produce a punchy tone. They sound good when tuned somewhere between low and medium. The hi-hats sound crispy while the crash cymbal has a high-pitched attack.
The hardware is pretty sturdy and has a black metal finish that blends in with the kit. There are six finishes to choose from, giving you plenty of choices when it comes to visuals.
You won’t find a full-sized drum set for cheaper than this, making the Gammon Percussion kit a great choice for adult beginners.
Moving onto some higher-quality options, the Pearl Roadshow is the most affordable kit offered by Pearl. Pearl is a highly accomplished drum manufacturing company that offers kits for beginners all the way up to professional players.
The Roadshow is a 5-piece kit that includes a 14 inch snare drum, 10 and 12 inch rack toms, a 16 inch floor tom, and a 22 inch bass drum. The shells are made from poplar wood which gives them a tight punchy tone.
The 14 inch hi-hats and 16 inch crash are made from brass and produce solid sounds that you’d expect from those types of cymbals.
The biggest selling point of this kit is the hardware. Pearl has a reputation for producing seriously heavy-duty hardware and the stands in this kit live up to that. Hardware of this quality isn’t common in beginner drum sets.
The kit has several finish options as well as a few configuration options. If you need a cheap set with some high-quality hardware, the Pearl Roadshow is the way to go. You may need to replace the cymbals somewhere down the line.
Alesis Nitro Mesh
Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of having an open space to play drums without worrying about angry neighbors. You could be living in an apartment or any space where noise is an issue, meaning an acoustic kit wouldn’t be a viable option. This is where the Alesis Nitro Mesh comes into play.
It’s an electronic drum kit that has a high-quality build and comes with some cool features. The drum module has 40 preset drum kits, giving you lots of sound options to mess around with. You can also set up your own kits with the 385 available sounds. A great feature of the module is the included 60 play-along tracks. Each track is a different musical style, giving a wonderful platform for drummers to boost their skills.
Every drum pad on the kit is a tuneable mesh head. Mesh heads have an authentic feel and rebound that is similar to acoustic drums. You can tighten or loosen them to get your preferred feel.
This kit comes in at just under $400, making it one of the most affordable electronic drum sets on the market.
Ludwig Element Evolution
The final kit on the list is a fair bit more expensive than the others. However, not much can beat the Ludwig Element Evolution when it comes to value for money. It’s a relatively cheap drum set that even gigging musicians can use.
It comes with a 14 inch snare, 10 and 12 inch rack toms, a 16 inch floor tom, and a 22 inch bass drum. Along with that comes a full set of Zildjian I cymbals. Zildjian is one of the top cymbal brands, meaning you’re getting some high-quality cymbals. Those include a pair of 14 inch hi-hats, a 16 inch crash, and a 20 inch ride. Lastly, the kit comes with a full set of double-braced hardware.
If you’re looking for an affordable drum kit but plan on taking drumming seriously, the Ludwig Element Evolution is one of the best options for you.
Hopefully from this list, you’ve seen that even in the cheap category of drum sets, there’s something for every situation. You may need to make some upgrades in the future if you decide that drumming is something you’re going to stick with. The first upgrade would need to be cymbals as beginner cymbals don’t sound too great.
Drum kits can be a huge investment that will bring a lot of joy to whoever plays on them. You won’t regret getting one.