Drums have been around pretty much as long as humans have. Research shows they were one of the very first instruments ever made, and they appear in almost every culture. Over the years, we’ve made countless improvements that have led to today’s infinite selection of drums.
It’s great to have options but having so many can make it hard to pick the set that will be perfect for you and your band. The guide below provides some basic information you’ll need to get started.
Determine Your Needs
Before you start assembling your drum set, you need to sit down with your band members and discuss your needs. Some factors to consider are:
- Type of music
- Available space
- How you will transport your equipment
- What type of venues you’ll need it for
- How much you are willing to spend
- And your level of experience
Before you buy, it might be helpful to test out some drums with your band members present. This will help to make sure they all like the sound and tone that the set makes.
Breaking It Down: The Anatomy of a Drum Set
In order to be able to find the right drum set for your band, you first need a thorough understanding of all the different components that go into it. It’s the same as when a doctor needs to know everything about the body before they can start treating it. So here is your first course on Drum Anatomy 101.
Drum kits have four main components that make up the basic layout: a bass drum, a snare drum, a floor tom, and a mounted tom.
This layout was made popular by the Beetles drummer Ringo Starr. Since Ringo, it has remained a staple in the drumming community. It works so well because it gives you all the basic sounds you might need. Plus, it is easy to transport and takes up the minimum amount of space.
Most drum sets will include these components at a minimum. Fancier ones will often include additional pieces like cymbals or different types of drum heads. Many musicians will start with this basic configuration and add more accessories as they go. What you choose to add – and what brands you buy – will often be determined by the factors outlined above.
Standard VS Fusion
Most drum sets will be labeled as either a Fusion or Standard configuration. These are defined by the drum diameters. Fusion sets have smaller diameters and deliver a punchier tone. Standard sets have larger diameters that give a bigger tone and louder volume.
The drum head that you play on is the batter head. The head on the other end of the drum is called the resonant head. However, drums that are made for maximum brightness and attack will have just a batter head. The material of the drum head and its thickness can have a dramatic effect on the tone and sound.
Most drums nowadays are made with Mylar heads. Mylar is a type of plastic that is very durable and can come with either a coated or uncoated finish. Choose a coated finish for a warmer sound with less ring to it. An uncoated head is best for sharper sounds and more projection. For recording or studio purposes, coated heads tend to be preferable.
When it comes to thickness, you can choose between one and two-ply. The thicker the head, the more controlled the sound. Thicker, two-ply heads tend to be more durable than thinner ones and tend to be favored by rock players. Single-ply heads produce a livelier sound that makes them more popular in jazz music.
Consider Specialty Drums: Snare Drums
No discussion of drum heads is complete without visiting the unique heads of the snare drum. A snare is a special type of drum known for its snappy, crisp sound. This signature sound comes from its snares – metal wires that are situated against the very thin, bottom head. The top head is usually thick and coated to help balance out the responsiveness of the bottom.
Snare drums can be used in almost any type of music piece, so most drummers have at least one in their kit. They can be made from a wide variety of materials. The shell material will affect the sound it makes. Most drummers prefer a wooden snare for its slightly warmer tone.
When it comes to choosing a snare drum, it might be best to try out a couple different ones. That way, you can see which fits best into the songs you want to play.
Consider Specialty Drums: Electric Drums
Electric drum kits are one of the newest innovations to hit the percussion scene. They’re rapidly gaining popularity. Yes, there are many drummers out there that feel like electric drums are a form of cheating, or that they cheapen the art of drumming. However, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Electric drums are easily portable, have adjustable volume, and can make almost any sound imaginable. This makes them great for band practice. They’re also great for recording studios because they can plug directly into the sound mixing board.
You can use electric sets for stage performances. However, if you do so, you’ll need to use an amp and a speaker monitor that is connected to your kit.
To Sum It Up
Building a drum set and buying additional pieces is a process. You’ll get better at it as your skill as a drummer grows. If you’re just starting out, remember that most kits come with four basic components: the mounted and floor toms, the bass drum, and the snare. You can buy additional pieces to widen your sound range. When buying drums for use in a band, test out drums with your other band members before you buy. This will ensure that everyone will be happy with the sound and tone range.