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How to Buy a First Drum Set

If your child wants to play the drums, trying to find the right kit for them to start on can be pretty confusing. Here are some pointers to help you find the right thing for your child. Once you've chosen a drum set, bring your budding musician to School of Rock for a tour and free trial lesson, and we'll help them love learning and playing music!

How To Buy A First Drum Set

The right place to start drum shopping depends on the person you're shopping for. If you're buying a kit for your young (single-digits) child that might or might not take an interest in it, you could be able to get away with buying the least expensive all-inclusive kit. If your kid gets into it though, you'll probably be shopping again within a year.

The options open up considerably if you decide to spend a little more up front, and you can find a kit that will last a long time, sound good and get your kid through at least high school. Important note about drums: Drums need regular adjustments to sound good and be fun to play. Luckily, this kind of regular maintenance is easy to do once you know how.

School of Rock in Ballwin, MO is hosting a free clinic about drum setup and maintenance Tuesday January 13 from 6-8pm. You can also set up a tour at the School of Rock in your community and ask for help getting your drum set ready for lessons.

The Least Expensive Option – Pros and Cons

If cost is your main concern and you're shopping for a young kid, you can find something inexpensive for her/him to bang around on. The least expensive option is an all inclusive bundle, but you'll want to verify what's included in the package. A drum set needs shells (the actual drums), cymbal stands, cymbals, bass drum pedal and a throne to be fully functional. If you're shopping online, be sure to read the list of what's included. Some of these sets have more in the online photo than actually ships with the set. The least expensive all in one sets come with a couple of warnings. The shells will be usable, but the cymbals and hardware will likely be a little flimsy, probably needing to be replaced in the near future if the kit gets regular use. But if what you're looking for is a mix of toy and instrument, maybe this is the right choice.

Level Two – Lots To Choose From

If you're able to go to the next level, you can put together a drum set that your child will be able to play for a long time, that will stand up to some abuse and sound pretty good.

Intermediate All-In-Ones

The second tier of all-inclusive kits can be pretty decent and will save you having to assemble a set from a la carte pieces. Just like the big guitar brands have affordable sub-brands, the big names in drums have entry level models that are usually quality. Many of the mid-range kits that include shells and hardware don't include cymbals or a throne, so be sure to look at that before you make a final decision.

If cymbals are included, make sure there's a brand name on them – you don't want cymbals no one is willing to claim. If you end up deciding to buy cymbals separately, there are loads of options – more info below.

Take a look at the hardware and make sure it looks solid. If you're shopping online, you can zoom in on the images of the gear for a closer. Each of the three legs on the cymbal stand(s) should be made of two pieces. If each leg is “one-ply”, so to speak, or the pieces that loosen and tighten look like standard hardware store wing nuts, you're probably going to have to replace that stand sooner than later.

Buying Shells, Hardware, and Cymbals Separately

This is the approach that will take the most time on your part, but you can end up with better quality and potentially save some money, too.

Buying New

There are a lot of options for “shell packs” that will get you a set of drums without hardware or cymbals. You'll get a broader range of brand and aesthetic options this way, and most brands and models should be totally decent. It's always wise to read up on the reputation of the brand and any reviews you can find of the specific product you're looking at. There will likely be more than one option at each price point, so choose something with a good reputation that your kid will think is cool.

One of the big concepts at School of Rock is that if we help our students love playing their instruments, they get better that much faster. Having a set of drums that look cool and excite your kid's interest can make it that much more fun to sit down and play.

You can also find bundled hardware and cymbal sets that tend to be less expensive than buying pieces separately. Pay close attention to the images and descriptions of the hardware if you're buying online and don't get anything “one-ply.” If you're shopping in person, the salesperson will tell you that it will save you money in the long run to buy decent hardware up front and they're right. For cymbals, make sure you're getting something name-brand. Zildjian, Paiste, and Meinl are some of the better-known names, but not the only good ones.

Buying Used

Drums, cymbals and hardware don't tend to lose quality with use unless they're mistreated, and you can find nice gear at a good price shopping for used gear. Most instrument stores will have used gear, and if you're in a shop with a good reputation you can feel pretty confident you're getting something in good condition. You can also find good pieces from private sellers, just look closely at each piece. Here are some things to watch out for with used drum gear.

Look closely at the shells for any cracks or missing hardware. Little screws and nuts can be replaced if the drum is sound, but if you're not getting a great deal it's probably not worth replacing little parts. It's likely that used drums will need new heads (the parts that you hit). It's not difficult to change the heads on a drum set, but it's another potential cost to take into account.

For hardware, make sure none of the pieces that tighten and loosen are stripped and none of the pieces that should be straight are bent. Cymbal stands should have two felt discs for the cymbal to sit between and a piece to hold that all in place on the stand. Usually that top fastener screws down on top of the upper piece of felt, though some newer designs you can just pinch to release.

Looking at used cymbals, every crack, no matter how small, will grow over time. Any crack in a cymbal you're considering buying is a sign to pass. Sometimes little cracks can appear along the circular grooves of a cymbal and be easy to miss, so look closely for that. If the hole at the center of the cymbal is not a perfect circle, it's a sign of stress on the cymbal probably due to not being fastened on the stand properly. Also look for little cracks around the center hole as a sign of damage that will quickly lead to the cymbal sounding bad and being unusable.

How The Heck Do I Play This Thing?!

The last thing you want, once you've picked out the right guitar or bass for your kid, is to have it sit untouched for the rest of her/his childhood. At School of Rock, we focus on teaching students to enjoy playing their instrument first and build the broader concepts of music on top of that foundation, using performance as the motivation and the payoff. When students know that they're going to walk out on stage in a real rock venue and play a legit concert, the practicing tends to take care of itself.

We would love for your child to have all of the pieces in place the second they get their instrument – guitar lessons, bass lessons, a beginner or intermediate/advanced winter day camp, a concert to start rehearsing for. At School of Rock, we take total beginners and within a few short months have them performing on stage, going on tour, building confidence, and making lifelong memories and friendships with kids that love the same things they do.

-Original post by Jordan Heimburger, GM School of Rock Ballwin

Jordan is a guitarist extraordinaire and passionate music teacher who has toured locally and nationally since the early 2000s in original rock groups The Incurables, The Feed, and The Cree Rider Family Band, and lends his talents to tribute bands Celebration Day and Street Fighting Band. A St. Louis native, Jordan brings more than six years of teaching experience at local music schools and summer camp teaching groups and individuals to perform.

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