The drum kit you purchase influences your ability to play as well as playing style. Whether you are a pro, intermediate, or beginner, the drums will determine your level of development, success, and enjoyment as a drummer.
If you've just started learning how to play drums, you need an affordable but reliable kit. Once you improve your skills and feel it's time to upgrade, you can choose sets for recording or gigging, without being limited by a budget. Finally, at the pro-level, you'll know which drum sets suit you in kit configuration, drum tone, and the size of the shells.
This article reviews the best affordable sets for 2020. Because the price range for drum sets can fall anywhere from a few hundred dollars to nearly $10,000, we will discuss our top three picks for the best drum kit for under 500 dollars.
Here Are the Best Drum Kits Under $500
Ludwig makes some of the highest quality drum sets for new drummers. The package contains 22x16 bass drum, 12x9 tom, 10x8 tom, 14x6.5 snare, and 16x16 floor tom. It also comes with a hi-hat stand with cymbals.
The drive configuration is complete with durable hardware and a chain-drive pedal. The brand upgraded these features to give the drummer an enjoyable drumming experience. The best thing about these drums is that they are available at an affordable price range.
- All-inclusive set for beginners
- Unique design with a red finish
- Affordable price
- Perfectly balanced pedals
- Comes complete with cymbals
- Durable hardware
- Includes a hi-hat stand and a seat
- Easy to assemble
- The seat is not comfortable enough
The Ludwig Accent Drive 5-Piece drum set is an ideal choice for adult beginners. It is affordable and produces excellent quality sound.
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If you want your first experience playing drums to be unforgettable, the Rebel by Mapex drum set is the best choice for you. The package comes equipped with cymbals, stands, pedals, sticks, and throne.
The cymbals include a 14" crash and 16" ride. The drums also have Rebel by Mapex series shells, which are famous for their solid tone and durable covering. The bass drums give the set a full low-end punch, and the toms are at a lower height for younger players.
- Comes with a throne, cymbals, sticks, and pedals
- The shells produce great tone
- Bass drum produces solid low-end punch
- Suitable for younger players
- Affordable price
- Great Mapex Lug design
- Fully adjustable tom mounts
- Accurate and faster tuning
- Self-muffling and powerful bass drum
- Durable coverings
- Rebel double-braced hardware
- The kit doesn't come with an installation manual
The Mapex Rebel 5-Piece SRO offers everything you need in a beginner drum set. Its adjustable toms make it a fantastic kit for both adults and children.
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Coming in at just under $500, the Pearl Roadshow kit is well worth a look. Its bass drum, tom-toms, and snare all feature a 9-ply Poplar shell that provides excellent tonal power. The hardware that comes with this kit makes it an amazing price for what you get - and a drum throne is also included.
You can use this kit for both practice and gigging, as the set Roadshow snare is powerful enough for loud play but also sensitive enough to play at quieter volumes. The whole kit is adjustable in just about every way possible, making it great for people who love to customize and personalize their sets.
- Professional Pearl Stick bag and two sets of Maple Drum Sticks included
- Drum throne included
- Multi-angle locking tilters for maximum adjustability
- 2 year warranty
- Roadshow kick pedal designed for effortless play
- Matching shell and finish
With a great warranty and an excellent kit for pretty much any skill level, the Pearl Roadshow set is a brilliant choice. It’s priced at just under $500 dollars, but it’s one of the best sets you can get at this price level.
Interested in this kit? You can purchase it here!
What to Look for in a Drum Set
Here are the essentials when looking for a good drum set while staying within your budget to guide you on your buyer's journey. Some of the things to consider include:
Cymbal & Stand
Because you will be playing your cymbals more frequently than some of your other drums, it's crucial to check the quality. Cymbals should be the first component you look out for when purchasing your sets.
Ensure the drum set has two cymbals: a crash and a ride. The ride cymbal is usually thicker and larger than the crash. It is responsible for the higher pitches that improve the quality of sound in choruses and guitar solos.
Just like with the actual cymbals, you shouldn't compromise the quality of your stands. Your stand needs to be sturdy. It shouldn't necessarily be heavy-duty, but you should avoid brands that have unstable or extremely lightweight stands.
When purchasing your drums, make sure the toms and bass drums are of a size you can comfortably play. Younger or smaller drummers should go for drums with smaller depths and diameters to make practice and performance enjoyable and comfortable.
Another factor you'll want to consider is the height of the seat. Preferably, you want an adjustable drum throne. An unstable or wobbly stool will mess up your control and balance when playing.
To make sure the sizes are right, apply the rule-of-thumb test. When sitting, ensure the upper legs are above the 90-degree angle while the feet are firm on the floor. Next, ensure you can reach all the pieces. Your arm length shouldn't fully extend to reach any part of the set. You should be able to reach the toms and cymbals and easily get back to the original position of 90 degrees from the arms being vertical to your upper body.
Whenever you're playing, ensure you are comfortable and in a natural posture. Failure to consider this might make it difficult for you to move freely or do other activities.
It's vital to consider what you want to do with your acoustic drum set. Are you going to use it to learn and practice, play live on stage, or record at home?
Because you are likely to stick with a set of drums for a few months at least, you should think of the long-term use. Consider what you'll use the drums for in the next five years or so. If you're undecided, go for budget kits.
If you anticipate home recording sessions, consider purchasing an electronic drum set. Electronic kits are convenient for home-recording purposes. An electronic drum set is also ideal for indoor use when there is limited space.
The possible setups for drum sets are limitless. However, there is one standard setup that you can use to play most of the songs you hear. It involves arranging your set from left to right in the following order:
- Crash cymbals
- Snare drum
- Small tom
- Bass drum
- Medium tom
- Floor tom
With this arrangement, you'll only need a few years of practice to master playing the instrument.
The tuning of the drum set is also essential. Without proper adjustment, a novice player might assume the kit is of inferior quality. The tuning of the drums is the difference between pleasant sounds and noisy sound. The quality of the materials also influences the sound of the drum sets.
What Makes Up a Drum Kit?
Here are the parts that make up a typical drum set:
The Bass Drum
The bass drum, also known as the kick drum, is the largest of all. You play it using a foot bass drum pedal attached to the hoop or rim of the drum.
The resonant head of the drum will sometimes have a hole in it, which can vary the tone of the drum. For live performances and recording, drummers often insert a mic in the hole as well.
The kick is what drummers use to soundcheck. If asked to play only the kick, you should play solid hits of the bass at a regular volume.
Sometimes, drummers will place a pillow or other damping material on the bass. This technique is useful in controlling the resonance of the drum and diminishing the volume level. The bass drum has spurs (feet at the resonant head side), which, when angled, minimize movements of the drum while playing. There's a wide variety of bass drum sizes; the most common are 20 or 22 inches in diameter.
Some drummers, especially those that play in the metal scene, may have more than one bass drum to play faster rhythms. An alternative of using two drums is using a double bass drum pedal, which allows you to use both feet to strike a single bass drum.
The Snare Drum
Snares are an essential piece of the set and form the center of the kit. You can play them in multiple ways, and they are often the backbeat of the familiar 8's beat.
The snare consists of a metal or wooden shell with resonant and batter drum heads. Snare drums are commonly 14 inches in diameter and 6 inches in height.
Snares produce a classic snare buzz sound. They achieve this through a mechanism known as snare strainer, which has wires attached. The tool also includes a throw off, used to switch the snares on and off. Finally, an adjustment thumb-screw varies the tightness of the wires.
Snares go on a unique stand with legs and a three-arm basket to keep it in position.
This pair of cymbals close against each other when you press their foot-operated pedal. The hit-hats are available in multiple sizes, but the most common is the 14". These cymbals are the most dynamic because of the different sounds they produce. You can achieve different tones with various techniques:
- Leaving the hats fully open and hitting the top one with drum sticks. The cymbals don't vibrate each other, so the only sound produced is the ring of the top hat.
- Holding the hats closed from the foot pedal and hitting the upper cymbal with sticks.
- Holding the hats half open with the foot and hitting the top hat with drum sticks so that the cymbals vibrate against each other. This technique produces a swishing sound.
- Playing the hi-hats with your left foot only.
- Splashing the cymbals, i.e., closing the cymbals with your foot and then immediately opening them to produce a ring of the hi-hats. The sound is similar to that of the hand-operated crash cymbals in an orchestra.
- Varying the sounds by playing different parts of the hi-hats, such as the bell, bow, and edge.
On a five-piece drum set, you'll commonly find high toms, mid toms, and floor toms. The floor toms are separate from the others and have their own three legs. Tom toms are available in a variety of sizes, mostly 10", 12" and 14" on a fusion kit, and 12", 13" and 16" fusion kits.
Most toms have batter and resonant drum heads, although the resonant head isn't compulsory. One of the most common arrangements of the high and mid toms has them attached to the bass drum. You also can clamp them on the cymbal stands.
The Ride Cymbal
This larger cymbal generally sits on the right side of your setup. It's usually 20," and a heavier cymbal played with the tip of the drum stick to produce a ping sound.
To produce a more defined ping, you can play the bell of the cymbal by using the tip or shoulder of the stick. Make sure you don't crash this cymbal because it could get damaged.
The Crash Cymbal
Smaller than the ride at approximately 16", crash cymbals hit hard when you use the shoulder of the stick. Crashes produce accent notes.
However, you can play a crash as the ride to play solid rhythmic patterns similar to the sound produced by hi-hats or rides. This technique is common in rock music, especially the loud parts of the song.
The throne is the stool you sit on when playing the drums. It is a round padded stool that has three chrome legs. The height is adjustable to suit your personal preference.
To measure the right height of the stool, you should ensure your feet are flat on the floor with your thighs slightly sloping downwards.
The items listed above are the most common in five-piece drum kits. However, there are a few extras you might want to consider. They include:
- The splash cymbal—A small crash cymbal, usually about 8", used to give a variation of texture to your play. It produces excellent sounds when used as a subtle accent cymbal.
- Crash/ride cymbal—This alternative is cheaper than purchasing separate cymbals for the crash and ride.
- China cymbal—The cymbal has an upturned edge, mounted upside down so that the shoulder of the stick hits the bow, to produce a distinctively trashy crash sound.
What Makes a Drum Kit Great?
Here are our findings and recommendations to help you get the best set:
The drum kit should come with specific necessary elements. The five drums discussed above are mandatory for any set unless a young drummer is using it. The hi-hats and two cymbals are also essential for optimal performance. Adding at least two tom-toms makes it an ideal kit.
The quality of the shell material dramatically influences the sound and performance. The significant difference is why manufacturers are keen to mention the material that comprises the shell.
Drum shells are typically wood, but the type of wood may vary. Don't expect cheap drum models to make shells with expensive wood such as mahogany.
The appropriate wood for manufacturing drum sets is a lightweight type that delivers consistent sound. Warm and soft tones are suitable for many genres of music.
The quality of the shell also determines the kit's cost, which is why some kits are more expensive than others. Maple, for instance, delivers bright and warm tones, which is appropriate for jazz music.
The drum throne is an essential part of the kit. It's uncommon for manufacturers to sell sets without a throne because they affect the drummer's comfort and reach of other pieces.
To enhance comfort while playing, you should ensure the drum throne has padding so that you can play for long periods without discomfort. The throne should also be adjustable.
Hardware and Assembly
There are a few hardware parts that drum kits should have. These include stands for the cymbals, the drum pedal, and a pair of sticks. More professional and complex sets have additional components, such as cymbal arms, when you need multiple hi-hat stands.
Assembling a drum is quite easy, but this doesn't mean you don't need instructions. It's best if you purchase drums that come with clear guidelines on its assembly. If they don't come included, you can check online for the manufacturer's instructions.
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