A band is only as good as its drummer. Despite the wealth of bad drummer jokes out there, drummers are the backbone of any group. Imagine Led Zeppelin without the powerhouse of John Bohham behind the kit, Cream without Ginger Baker. With no disrespect to Kenney Jones or Zak Starkey, The Who simply wouldn’t have been The Who without the flailing rhythmic tour-de-force of Keith Moon.
Whether you’re a beginner just starting to explore the world of drumming or an experienced player looking to upgrade your kit, finding the right drum setup to suit your sound and style is crucial for your musical journey.
The best drum kits in 2023 at a glace:
• Best budget kit: Mapex Tornado III Rock Fusion Drum Kit - View on Gear4Music
• Best electronic budget kit: Roland TD-07DMK Electronic Drum Kit - View on Amazon
• Best rock kit: Tama Imperialstar 5pc Drum Kit - View on Gear4Music
From the kick drum to the hi-hat, each drum kit component contributes to its overall sound and feel. Whether you prefer the punch and projection of a rock kit or the versatility and articulation of a jazz setup, the right drum kit can unlock your full potential as a drummer and inspire you to create unforgettable rhythms.
In this guide, we have curated a selection of the essential drum kits available in 2023, as we have before with electric guitars and bass guitars. But before diving into the world of drum kits, you need to consider a few factors. Ask yourself what style of music you play. Are you drawn to the thunderous energy of your Bonhams and Moons, the intricate patterns of jazz drummers like Buddy Rich or Art Blakey, or the groove-driven shuffle of a player like Bernard Purdie, whose magic can be heard on records from James Brown to Steely Dan? Understanding your musical preferences will guide you towards the drum kit that can deliver what’s right for you.
Also, think about where you’ll be playing the drums. If you primarily practise at home or have limited space, a compact kit with smaller drum sizes or an electronic drum kit may be ideal. On the other hand, if you frequently perform live or record in a studio, you might want a larger kit that offers more projection and tonal versatility.
Remember to listen to your instincts and trust your musical taste. Drumming is an art form; finding the drum kit that resonates with you is personal. Take your time, explore different options, and don’t hesitate to seek advice from experienced drummers.
The best drum kits in 2023
The best budget drum kit
The Mapex Tornado III Rock Fusion Drum Kit is a great option for drummers who want a powerful and
- A reliable five-piece entry-level kit
- Hardware included
- Classic rock kit size
- Cymbals are basic - crash/ride in particular will want an upgrade at some point
The best electronic drum kit for beginners
The electronic drum kit has come a long way. No longer the plastic-y hexagonal pads seen getting a
- Reliable and responsive
- Versatile sound library
- Perfect for practice at home
- Electronic drum sets are harder to expand
- Doesn’t feel as organic to play as an acoustic set
- Kick pedal not included - but they are easy to source
The best rock drum kit
The Tama Imperialstar is a perfect base for a rock drummer to start building their kit. The
- Snappy snare
- Powerful kick
- Balanced and punchy tone from poplar construction
- Cymbals not included
The best compact drum kit
The Yamaha SBP0F4H Stage Custom Hip is a compact drum set with a reduced footprint that, despite
- Compact set
- Tight sound profile
- Durable construction
- No hardware or cymbals included
The best electronic drum kit
The Roland TD-17KVX2 is a superb electronic drum kit that combines the playability of an acoustic
- Realistic playing on drums and cymbals
- Excellent sound module
- In-built tutoring for improving fundamentals
- Hi-hat stand and kick pedal not included
- We’d have liked a larger diameter floor tom for realism’s sake
Hardware and Cymbals
The best budget hardware pack
The Complete Drum Hardware Pack by Gear4music features double-braced stands for hi-hat, snare,
- Reliable build
- Covers the essentials
- Only the basics
The best hardware pack overall
The Yamaha HW780 Hardware Pack is a comprehensive set of drum hardware designed for durability and
- Durable construction
- Works on versatile kit sizes
- Easy to set up
- Cheaper options are available, though they are more basic
The best budget cymbals
The Paiste 101 Brass Universal Cymbal Set is a budget-friendly option for drummers. This set
- An affordable set for newcomers
- Bright sound
- Not as durable as more expensive sets
The best cymbals
The Zildjian Planet Z Complete Cymbal Pack includes a 20" ride cymbal, a 16" crash cymbal, and a
- Very bright sound
- Detailed ride cymbal sound
- Expensive for newcomers
Bass drum: Also known as the kick drum, this is the largest drum in a standard kit. Played with a foot pedal, it provides the foundation of the rhythm section with a deep and powerful low-end sound.
Snare drum: A central component of the drum set, positioned between the drummer’s legs on a snare stand. It has metal snares or wires stretched across the bottom drumhead, producing a distinctive sharp and crisp sound when struck with drumsticks or brushes.
High tom: A smaller tom drum that can be mounted on the bass drum or a separate stand. It delivers a higher-pitched sound compared to the bass drum and snare drum. The high tom is often used in fills and melodic patterns.
Mid tom: Positioned between the high tom and low tom in terms of pitch. It offers a balanced tonal range and is helpful for fills, rhythmic patterns, and adding variation to drum grooves.
Low tom: Also known as the floor tom, is the largest tom drum in a standard kit. With its deeper and resonant sound, the low tom adds a heavier and more powerful impact, accentuating beats and providing depth to drum fills and patterns.
Hi-hat: A pair of cymbals mounted on a stand that can be opened and closed using a foot pedal. They produce a crisp ‘chick’ sound when played with the foot pedal or struck with a drum stick when closed, or deliver a pronounced sizzle if struck when open. The hi-hat is crucial for creating rhythmic patterns, adding accents, and maintaining a steady beat.
Crash: The medium-to-large cymbal that is often used to produce a loud, explosive sound. It provides a strong emphasis, typically used to mark transitions or to accentuate climactic moments.
Ride: The ride cymbal is a large versatile cymbal that is designed for “riding”, or playing a continuous rhythmic pattern. It has a defined, sustained sound with varying degrees of wash and shimmer. The ride cymbal can create grooves, keep time, and add texture to drumming. Drummers often use their bell or bow area to produce different tonal qualities and effects.
A cymbal’s construction materials significantly impact its sound, durability, and overall performance. Here are some of the most common metals found in cymbal construction:
Bronze: This is the most common material for cymbals. It’s a mixture of copper and tin. Bronze cymbals are versatile and can produce a wide range of sounds, from bright and cutting to dark and warm tones.
Brass: Brass cymbals are made of copper and zinc. They are more affordable than bronze cymbals and tend to have a bright and cutting sound. Beginners often use them.
Nickel Silver: Nickel silver cymbals are less common but still used by some manufacturers. They have a bright sound like brass cymbals but with added complexity and overtones.
B20+: Some cymbal manufacturers create their own special alloys by adding different elements or using alternative compositions. These alloys can offer unique sounds and tonal options.
Why does drum size matter?
The size of a drum plays a crucial role in shaping its sound, projection, and overall characteristics.
Tone and sound: The diameter and depth of a drum directly influence its fundamental pitch and tonal qualities. Smaller drums tend to produce higher pitches with a quick decay, while larger drums offer deeper tones with longer sustain.
Projection and volume: Larger drums, such as bass drums with 22" or 24" diameters, have a greater capacity to move air and thus produce a louder and more powerful sound. On the other hand, smaller drums may provide a more focused and controlled sound that is well-suited for quieter settings or specific musical styles.
Articulation and response: Smaller drums generally have a quick attack and shorter sustain, resulting in a more defined and focused sound. Larger drums offer a broader range of tones and a more sustained resonance. Drummers consider these factors when selecting drum sizes to match their playing style and the musical context.
Portability and setup: Smaller drums are typically more compact and lighter, making them easier to transport and set up in various venues or practice spaces. Larger drums may require more effort to move and set up, but they can deliver a bigger sound and presence on stage.
While drum size is a significant factor, it is important to remember that it is just one aspect of a drum kit’s overall sound. Other variables such as shell material, drumhead selection, tuning, and playing technique contribute to the final sound produced. Drummers often experiment with different drum sizes and configurations to find the ideal combination that suits their musical preferences and playing style.
Are electronic drums good?
Yes – electronic drums are good. In fact, electronic drums can be an excellent choice for drummers, and here’s why. First off, they’re a lifesaver when it comes to noise control. No more worrying about noise complaints – you can practise without disturbing your neighbours or family by using headphones or connecting them to a sound system.
Another great thing about electronic drums is their versatility. You can switch between different drum kits with the push of a button, from classic rock to electronic beats. Want to experiment with exotic percussion sounds or add some electronic effects? Electronic drums have got you covered.
They’re also fantastic for practising and honing your skills. Many electronic drum kits come with built-in metronomes to help you improve your timing, and some even have play-along tracks so you can jam along. The sound modules often make it easy to record your drumming sessions, too, letting you listen back to identify areas for improvement.
When it comes to performance and recording, electronic drums shine too. You can plug them directly into a sound system for gigs or connect them to your computer for studio recording. You have complete control over the mix and can add effects to spice things up.
Lastly, electronic drums are portable and space-saving. They’re lighter and more compact than acoustic drums, making them ideal for gigs, rehearsals, or small practice spaces. You can easily pack them up and hit the road without breaking your back.
Ultimately, electronic drums are a fantastic choice for drummers looking for versatility, noise control, practice features and portability. While they may not perfectly replicate the feel of acoustic drums, their unique advantages make them a popular option for many drummers.
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