Drum Kits

Monday, 3 November 2008 | Tags: , ,

The beat-keeper is one of the most important roles of any musical style. Before you buy a drum kit, however, there's a lot to know to ensure you get the most bang for your buck.

The Basics

  • Drums can be bought as complete sets (more economical for beginners), or you can build your own set by purchasing pieces individually. 

  • Components of a drum kit include:

    • A bass drum, which sits on the floor and is played by depressing a pedal. It’s typically the time-keeping drum.

    • The snare drum, at the center of the drum set, is used the most often to create the backbeat and fill accents; metal wires stretch across the bottom skin of the drum to create a sharp rattle or slow hiss sound when the drum is hit.

    • Toms are pitched drums. Typically there’s a floor tom and 1-2 rack toms in a set.

  • Cymbals don’t usually come as part of a drum kit. A typical set of cymbals includes:

    • A ride cymbal, which range in size from 16-24 inches and make a loud full sound.

    • A hi-hat, a set of two cymbals, one facing up and one facing down, is played by stepping on the pedal or hitting with sticks.

    • A crash cymbal is larger and well-named for their loud, sharp sound used as a quick accent.

    • A splash cymbal is a softer version of the crash cymbal.

  • Good mechanics affect the sound:

    • Look for an adjustable base pedal. It shouldn’t be squeaky or slack.

    • Tension rods, or tuner rods on the drum, should be smooth and easy to turn.

    • A sturdy double-braced stand is important to sound quality.

    • The edge where the drum skin contacts the shell should be perfectly round and perfectly flat.

  • Used drums are always a good way to save money. To ensure quality, look for:

    • The drum plastic should be firmly attached to the shell of the drum.

    • The bearing edge, where the drumhead comes into contact with the shell, shouldn’t have any chips and it should be level.

    • Make sure all the necessary hardware is included.

    • Check cymbals for cracking and chipping around the outside edges. The center hole should be round, not oval, in shape.

Other Considerations

  • Bad drumsticks can compromise sound. Look for a perfectly matched pair by rolling them on a flat surface to make sure they’re even and not warped.

  • To quiet the drums for practice, buy rubber pads to go on top of each to muffle the sound.


We tested these four drum kits with the help of Tragically Hip’s drummer, Johnny Fay:

  • rb: $295
  • Yamaha: $649
  • TAMA Swingstar: $895
  • Sonar: $1,195

Our tests and results include:

Play Test

  • The rb had an uneven tone, with some flatness and dead spots.
  • The Yamaha had a well-blended sound
  • The TAMA and Sonar were also decent kits, but we felt the prices were too high for a beginner investment.


Our listening panel and our professional drummer chose the Yamaha kit as a good starter kit with an even, solid sound.

   Thanks to Our Experts

  • Johnny Fay, drummer
  • Randy Turner, drummer and drum maker
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