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How Big Should My Drum Set Be?

Building a drum set for your unique sound requires an understanding and appreciation of all that goes into a drum kit. There are multiple drum types, materials, and set-ups that go into this instrument and each requires careful consideration and understanding.

Having a combination of drum sizes and the right materials will go a long way in creating the sound you seek. If you are new to drumming or a seasoned expert, this is the advice you need on deciding how big your drum set should be.

What is in a Drum Set?

With such a variety of drum sets out there, you really need to know what parts you need and what their purpose will be in the music-making process.

The main components are the snare drum, bass drum, one or more mounted toms, and a floor tom. Optional parts include cymbals and other hardware. If you are a beginner, a four piece with the snare, bass, and two toms will be a solid starting point as you figure out your sound.

In terms of optional hardware, you can look into a bass drum pedal, hi-hat stand, snare stand, and cymbals. It is possible to buy all of these in a kit – a cost-effective way to build your drum set.

Another element that is extremely important in building a drum kit is the wood and construction of each part. Many different types of wood are on the market and go far in making unique sounds. Some of those include:

  • Maple: the most popular wood for drum making with a warm, balanced tone
  • Falkata: a cheaper version of maple that delivers similar sound quantities
  • Birch: dense and tough with a bright tone as the product, really great for recording
  • Mahogany: this one is said to have a “vintage” sound and produces a warmer sound than maple
  • Poplar: produces a similar sound to birch or maple for a cheaper rate
  • Basswood: another alternative to maple or birch that gives a great lacquer finish
  • And more!

What Type of Music Do You Play?

One of the first steps in deciding how big a drum kit should be is to consider what type of music you are trying to play. Typically, a light jazz sound can successfully utilize a smaller kit. A larger sound requires a larger kit. So, rock music will definitely need a bigger kit for the best sound. The bass drum and toms should be in the same size range with appropriate diameter and depth.

If you want a common drum set combination, most kits will suggest a 14” snare, 12” and 14” toms, and a 20” bass. Toms can be single rack or more. There isn’t a “right” way to combine sizes, number of drums, and other configurations. There are essentially a limitless number of ways to put together a perfect drum set.

What Sound Do You Want?

In line with the type of music you play, your drum set pieces will be influential in producing the right sound. Typically, the differences within a piece will go far in producing the right sound.

For example, take a look at the snare drum. The most common snare size is 14” x 5”, which is easy to tune and play. It gives a medium tension that goes far in producing half the songs in the world. A deeper model, the 14” by 6” will have a lower frequency. It is a better option for rock or pop drum sounds. The 14” x 7” has a lower snare sound. It gives a really deep, ‘thuddy’ sound. The size of the snare depends on the intended outcome, and that goes for other drum set pieces as well.

How Many Pieces Do You Need?

The drum set size will be influenced by how many pieces you want. You can go with the basic four-piece option or something with more pieces to it. If you are a beginner, a four- or five-piece kit is enough to start with. Keep practicing and you can work your way up to the thirty-piece kit that rock god Neil Peart uses. One day.

Anyway, deciding how many pieces you want be a determining factor in drum set size. One of the first additions that beginner drummers usually bring in is a second bass drum. If you are looking to create some bass-heavy sounds, two bass drums might be necessary. Learning how to use one foot pedal is a difficult task, so only go this route if you think you can commit to learning a double bass rhythm.

What Shell Size is Right?

Deciding this factor circles back to the type of music you want to play. The shell can be scrutinized down to the inch, but for the most part just consider:

  • Rock/standard sized kits: larger shells, better suited for rock
  • Jazz/fusion sized kits: smaller and better suited for lighter music

What is Your Budget?

Drum sets are not cheap and are constantly being tweaked and improved by the drummer. It is an ongoing investment rather than a one-time deal. Deciding how big or small to go will definitely need to be shaped by the budget. If the budget is low, perhaps start smaller, with a lower cost, and work your way up to a bigger kit. Don’t buy more drum than you can realistically afford. After all, if you are working overtime to pay for the upgrades, when will you have time to play?

Ask an Expert

At the end of the day, a drum set is personal and a reflection of the drummer. If you aren’t sure how to create the best sound, talk to an expert! At Drum Center of Portsmouth we’re ready and waiting to help you build the right drum set to get your drumming career started or spur it along. With stock reflecting everything from name brands to complete sets to individual pieces, you’ll definitely be able to build the right drum set at the right size and a great price.