Acoustic Drums Buying Guide

Choosing the right drum set is more than just finding the one you look best sitting behind — though we know that plays into it. Here are some other things you should think of ahead of the cool factor.

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8 Things to Consider When Buying a Drum Set

1. Drum Sets Most sets start with four drums: a snare drum, bass drum, mounted tom and floor tom. This configuration is ideal for beginners, and it's easy to add drums as your play improves and becomes more complex.

2. Surroundings If it's possible, test out a few drum sets before you buy. As you do, consider the surroundings the drums are in. Stores with tile floors and lots of windows will make them sound more open and harsh, while carpet will absorb and muffle the sound. Drums near corners will accentuate the lower resonating sounds. A few hits on each drum should help you with your decision.

3. Size The diameter of a drum affects its tone and pitch more so than anything else. The wider the drum, the lower the tone. The depth of the drum shell is responsible for the duration of the note and its volume. There's more articulation in a shallow drum but more volume and less stick rebound in a deeper drum.

4. Drumheads The heads on the top of a drum are batter heads, while the heads on the bottom (or front of a bass drum) are called resonant heads. There are two main types: coated (subtle sound with less ring, best for brushwork) or clear (bright sound that carries well through the mix). For both coated and clear drumheads you have the choice between single ply (lively sound and quick response, suited to jazz) or double ply (more controlled and durable, favored in rock circles).

5. Woods Maple has been the most popular drum kit choice for years, as it provides a balanced sound at low, mid and high frequencies. Birch offers a harder sound and more volume; walnut has a deep tone and rich sounds; basswood and luan are less expensive options (they emulate maple with slightly less warmth and resonance). Other considerations are mahogany, poplar and oak.

6. Construction The texture and thickness of a drum's shell is another contributor to its sound. A thick shell (double ply) sounds best when tuned to a higher range, while a thinner shell (single ply) has a more resonant sound and lower fundamental note. The rougher the interior of the drum, the less resonant the sound.

7. Bearing Edges Bearing edges, where the drumhead meets the shell, come at different angles depending on the drum. Sharp edges (45°) produce bright tones and a lingering sustain. Rounder edges (30°) are slightly more controlled in tone and softer sounding; these are found more on older drum sets, and players look for them when wanting a vintage sound.

8. Snares No drum set is complete without a snare. Metal snares carry a bright, cutting tone while wood snares have a warmer, mellower sound. They are generally 14" in diameter and between 3-1/2 to 8" in depth.