Guide to Buying Drum Sets

Drum sets (or drum kits) come in many different sizes, colors, and configurations, so we’ll only cover the basics here. A complete drum set will always include a bass drum (or kick drum) and a snare drum. The bass drum is the largest of all the drums and produces a deep, rich, heavy sound. The standard size bass drum is 22″ in diameter, but can range from 16″ to 28″. It is played by kicking a pedal (one foot) or a double pedal (both feet) for more advanced players, which causes a mallet to strike the drum. The snare drum (sometimes called side drum) is the most played piece of the kit and produces a short, sharp, “snap” sound when you hit it with a drumstick. Snare drums are available in many different diameters and depths, but typically are 13″ or 14″ in diameter and 5″ or 5 1/2″ deep. The snare drum gets its name from the wires or “snares” stretched across the bottom head with a device called a strainer that’s mounted on the shell, which resonate when the top head is played.

The other drums are simply called toms. If the tom is mounted on another item, like the bass drum, it is called a “mounted” tom. If it is attached to a cymbal stand it may be called a “hanging” tom. If it has legs and can stand on its own it is called a floor tom. Standard tom sizes are from 10″ to 14″, although most drum manufacturers have sizes available from about 6″ to as much as 18″. The smaller toms will create a higher pitched sound, while the larger toms generate a lower pitch with more bass tones.

Drums come with a variety of finishes. Covered finishes are an inexpensive alternative consisting of vinyl wraps with a great variety of patterns and looks to choose from. Covered finishes provide great durability and resist scratches and nicks better than a natural finish. Transparent lacquer finishes enhance the woodgrain for a beautiful natural look.

Drum shells are made of several plies, or layers of wood. In general, the more plies a drum has, the rounder and fatter the sound. Drums made with fewer plies usually have a brighter, more resonant sound and a lower fundamental note.

Some of the world’s best drum sets are made by Pearl Drums, Mapex Drums, PDP (Pacific Drums by DW), and Gretsch.


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