The 10 Best Drum Sets

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Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive

Since the initial publication of this wiki in February of 2015, we've made 24 edits to this page. Few instruments have been as integral to music's historical development as the drum. If you learn to play today, no matter what your favorite style is, you'll always find people to jam with and bands to join. We've compared some of the best kits, from tight, three-piece jazz units to booming, rock-and-roll trap sets, and included budget-tier options as well as professional-grade ones. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best drum set on Amazon.

10. Gammon Percussion Complete

9. Mendini MDS80

8. Pearl Roadshow

7. Yamaha Stage Custom

6. Ludwig Accent Drive

5. Tama Imperialstar

4. Gretsch Catalina Maple

3. Pearl Export Series

2. Gretsch Catalina Club

1. Pearl Masters Maple

Special Honors

Gretsch Renown Having developed a reputation as a set that can keep up with kits twice its price, this one exudes timbral warmth with its tight kick drum resonance, expansive projection from the toms, and — thanks to the company's customary attention to detail — hardware components that place less strain on important resonating points, allowing harmonics to breathe. gretschdrums.com

Tama Starclassic Performer B/B What sets the Starclassic apart from the competition, tonally, is the non-traditional hybrid-wood composition of its shells. Rather than using a single wood throughout, these feature a birch outer ply and a walnut inner ply. The result of this is a deep, punchy resonance and a crisp attack, both which make it a kit that's well suited for rock, metal, or — depending on the drummer's style — jazz. While the previous iteration of the Starclassic used hybrid shells made of birch & African bubinga wood, due to environmental restrictions, production was paused. After research and testing, the company deemed walnut to be not only a suitable replacement, but perhaps a superior one, offering a warmth and fullness that trumps bubinga's capabilities in many ways. tama.com

Editor's Notes

June 21, 2019:

Most of our picks are sold as complete kits, meaning they include the shells, heads, hardware, cymbals, and sometimes they even provide a drum throne and kick pedal. Obviously, this is ideal for beginners looking to make a single purchase that will come with everything they need to assemble and start playing their kit on the same day.

With that said, our new addition to this list, the Pearl Masters Maple Absinthe (ranked #1), is sold as a shell-only bundle. This is a professional-grade kit, so chances are, if you're interested in buying a set that costs as much as this one does, you'll want to choose your own cymbals and heads.

While tonal preferences are subjective, objective claims can be made about the quality of the materials certain companies use, or the craftsmanship involved in the production of a kit. Usually these correlate with a drum set's price — the more expensive, the better the quality of the materials and craftsmanship involved. We took these objective metrics into account when ranking our favorites. However, the most expensive kit won't necessarily be the one that you like most. What you should do is head to a music shop and try out some of the kits you're interested in. We are, after all, talking about the most visceral of instruments when we talk about drums, so to fully come to a decision, we believe it's important that you hear them in person, then take some time to ruminate before making your choice.

A Few Areas to Consider Before Buying a Drum Set

It's pretty obvious that drum sets vary in size depending on their layouts, and thus require adequate room to be placed.

It's pretty obvious that drum sets vary in size depending on their layouts, and thus require adequate room to be placed. That being the case, you'll want to measure whatever space you have allocated for a drum set, and then compare that space to a drum set's square footage, and getting those specifications should be an easy task.

For traveling musicians, and especially bands, you may need to take similar precautions to ensure that a drum set will fit into the back of a van, bus, or the backseat of a car. You may also need to take note of a drum set's weight, especially in the event that you'll be carting that drum set several nights a week, from door to door.

Drums are no doubt an investment, and besides measuring out a specific space for them to nest, it's ideal to assess if maintenance is required for the pieces, prior to placement. Check for things like, bald tripod foot support, worn out heads, and built up dust. The more the drum set is cared after, the more likely it is to last longer. When everything looks squared away, place the bass drum in the center of your chosen spot, and build up around it with the other pieces. Ideally, you'll want your equipment to rest on tripods or four-point bases with rubber caps along each leg for better floor contact. Professional drum sets tend to connect the tom-toms to a bass drum, thereby increasing the overall center of mass.

If you happen to be buying a drum set for the first time, it's important to strike a balance between seeking out a (relatively inexpensive) beginner's set and seeking out a kit that can generate great sound. This may require some research, including listening to a handful of video demonstrations by way of a manufacturer's website. Once you've found a set that meets your needs, check to see whether that set comes with an adjustable stool. You cannot get very far on the drums if you don't have a place to sit down.

Several Little-Known Benefits Associated With The Drums

Playing the drums can provide you with a sense of rhythm, sure, but did you know that playing the drums can also provide you with a running list of ancillary benefits? Physically speaking, for example, learning to play the drums can help you to build strong forearms and biceps. Playing the drums can also channel your energy, a reality which has proven therapeutic for patients who are suffering from acute anxiety, attention deficit disorder, or similar symptoms of duress.

In terms of rhythm, learning how to speed up a song's time signature can improve your ability to think on your feet.

Playing the drums will likely enable you to understand sheet music and scales, both of which are based on mathematics. Playing the drums may also open the door to performing with a band, an ensemble, or perhaps even an orchestra, any of which can allow you to engage in a collaborative process that finds its roots in the ancient drum circles of old.

Biologically speaking, repetitive drumming catalyzes your white-blood-cell count, which, in turn, increases your body's immunity to disease. Focusing on the drums can also enhance your everyday cognitive skills, if not your IQ. In terms of rhythm, learning how to speed up a song's time signature can improve your ability to think on your feet.

Music, at its best, has the power to unite people, and to raise their spirits. Learning to play an instrument can provide you with access to that conversation, regardless of whether you aspire to play in the philharmonic, or you'd simply like to keep a beat in the garage.

A Brief History of The Drum

According to historians, early primates were the first beings to beat, or drum, their chests rhythmically as a way of establishing dominance, or communicating displeasure. This learned behavior is so rudimentary - and yet universal - that it is still practiced by apes throughout the world to this day.

While drumming as a concept dates back millions of years, the earliest man-made drum dates back to China around 5,000 BCE. This excavated drum - much like several similar drums that have been recovered from the ruins of Ancient India, Peru, Egypt, and Greece - was made from a cylindrical gourd that had been hollowed out, before being covered by an animal skin. A lot of these primitive drums were designed to be played not by wood, but by hand.

These drummers were also enlisted to let civilians know whenever a military faction was about to enter, invade, or cross through a small town.

Whereas the Ancient Chinese were the first to use a drum during their marching exercises, the Ancient Romans were the first to use a drum as an instrument of war. Centurion drummers were enlisted to send coded messages across sprawling battlefields. These drummers were also enlisted to let civilians know whenever a military faction was about to enter, invade, or cross through a small town.

American Indians, by way of comparison, are known for using drums during their healing rituals. American Indians are also known for developing the drum circle as a means of encouraging community, while passing down the oral histories of their tribes.

The drum has evolved over the centuries as an instrument that is defined by different cultures. Bongo drums and conga drums have remained a prevalent part of many island cultures, giving birth to ska, and reggae, and calypso. American drum sets have incorporated elaborate kits, along with hi-hats and foot pedals, giving rise to the ramshackle sound of rock and roll, and blues, and jazz.

Today, a drummer could be anyone from a professional percussionist to a beach bum, busking for tips in the sand. As fate would have it, drumming is not only the oldest, but also the most accessible form of rhythm known to man.

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Daniel Goldstein
Last updated on June 25, 2019 by Daniel Goldstein

Daniel is a writer, musician, and frequent traveler with a bachelor’s in creative writing from the State University of New York. In recent years, his writing chops have developed alongside his musical skills, thanks to a rich double life. During the day, he apprenticed with “Rolling Stone” journalist and critic Will Hermes, and when the sun set, he and his NYC-based, four-piece band gigged at high-end venues across the northeastern United States. His affinity for sharing things he's passionate about has culminated in nine years of experience as a music teacher at elementary schools, where he honed his ability to simplify and elucidate concepts to the uninitiated. All considered, he feels most at home writing about instruments, audio electronics and backpacking gear.


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