Help a music teacher find an acoustic kit

MeMitch

New member
Hi,

Thanks in advance for any help!

The short(er) -

I teach music for a living (mainly piano and guitar) and want to upgrade from my 2nd electric kit, a Yamaha DTX-450K. I currently have a couple of early elementary school aged drum students, and I also often play the drums along with my other students to help them keep better time and start getting ready to play in groups.

Though I have a fairly large, downstairs, daylight basement music studio, I need to keep the sound down to a “reasonable” level, so I don’t annoy my lovely wife who already hears music coming through the floor from the basement studio at least 6 days a week. I have a large grand piano in the studio, so it doesn’t need to be super quiet, but I need to keep most of the sound downstairs and below the “drums easily cut through walls level” you often hear when people are practicing. I don’t want to build a soundproof room or area, because I enjoy the open feel of the studio, and it would make it harder to play and instruct students during lessons.

I’d like to spend $1500 or less, but could spend up to $2000 for a great sounding set up that will last a while. I’m planning on looking around and buying lightly used gear (like I usually do) to get more for my money, but I can do something else if there’s a good reason.


The long -

I’ve been playing music since I was 12 years old (I’m now in my late 40s) and teaching private music lessons for a living for almost my entire adult life. So, I like to think I have good enough ears to hear “quality” sound, but I’m not a snob about it. If something cheaper gets the job done - great!

I started teaching drums about 2 years ago as a favor to a student’s family who’s younger, 4 year old son wanted to try playing drums. I bought a cheap, electronic (Simmons I think) kit from Craigslist and started teaching him basic stuff. He took a break for a while, but is now taking lessons again and working on basic rock beats at 6 years old. Other student’s families saw the electronic drum set and wanted to know if I taught drums (“Yes, (very) beginning.” Was my answer). So, I picked up a couple of more students that way.

I moved on from the Simmons kit when it started occasionally missing on more complicated rock beats. I then upgraded to the Yamaha kit I have now. It has decent sounds, but after improving a bit more, I’ve realized the rubber pads and cymbals don’t really have very much feel. (Perhaps that took longer than it should have for me to realize … LOL.)

A couple of days ago, I passed on buying a barely used, Roland TD-17KVX V with high hat stand, kick pedal and amp for $1450. I knew I should buy it if I wanted a better electric kit, but I realized that’s not what I want. I went to Guitar Center afterward, and the nice saleswoman let me try out the sound drilled Zildjian cymbals they had set up in one of the music lesson rooms. What a revelation! A cymbal with feel, actual different physical parts, and a difference in sound with wood or nylon tipped drum sticks.

Anyway, obviously electronic drums have come a long way in the last few decades and have some advantages (similar to keyboards/digital pianos), but they aren’t the same as an acoustic kit. To paraphrase the great, Joe Zawinul “I play keyboards not to replace the piano, but to give me different sounds to use and express myself.”

I’m hoping besides recommending some basic gear I should look at, that you can help me get the kit quiet enough, but not any softer than it needs to be. Hopefully, that way I retain as much quality sound as possible. From online and YouTube research, I’ve found the following sound reduction strategies, listed from more mild to more extreme –

Lighter drumsticks played with a lighter touch
The Pro Mark Hot Rod style drum sticks
Darker/Extra Dry cymbals
The couple inch thick, outer edge, drum head, lay on Evans pieces
Drilled cymbals
Silent stoke (or not quite as quiet) drum heads
Rubber practice pads over the drum heads

Am I missing some important ones? Are some of these not worth bothering with?

Obviously, I’d like to test them all out, but most drum shops don’t set up their nice, display kits with silent stroke heads … LOL. I felt like the drilled cymbals were softer than I needed them to be, especially the crash (it’s a crash cymbal after all!), but when I played the snare in the Guitar Center practice room, I (much less my wife) found myself thinking “Holy crap this is loud!” It was a pretty small practice room, though I think the walls and ceiling were carpeted.

I have enough space that the footprint of the drum kit shouldn’t be much of an issue. I’m mainly playing rock (at lower volumes) and learning basic jazz beats. I imagine I’ll be playing even more jazz before too long, because I’ve done that on other instruments. The kit is pretty much for my home studio use. I already play with my students and may jam with others or move it to a jam session, but I don’t see myself gigging or recording with it in the near future. Should I buy a jazz or smaller (drum size) kit and just play rock on it too, since I’m not gigging, using this as an effective way to get high quality sound at a lower volume?

Are there any drum shops in the greater Seattle area you recommend visiting? West Coast Drum Shop looks cool, but Bellevue isn’t usually the cheapest part of town to buy things in. Though, I have no problem paying a bit extra to music shops staffed with music lovers who know what they’re doing and help you find the right gear.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks! I know this is a giant tome of a post, but please let me know if I’ve left out any important information that would help you make a recommendation. And again, thanks for any help! I'm really enjoying learning a new instrument.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
For a digital package and realism Pearl is the company to watch now IMO.

If you don't need things to be all that portable and only need a few quality sounds I'd personally add triggers to an acoustic kit expand as needed and use VSTs.

There are all types of mesh heads and quality ones feel a lot better than Silent Strokes. The best ones get close to acoustic heads in density and therefore also volume, but there's everything inbetween.

Here's a channel to check out. https://www.youtube.com/c/65Drums/videos
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
short answer:
grab a decent kit (any thing in the $900-1300 price range is going to be solid; company doesn't matter) the Zildjian L80 quiet cymbals, and then put the Remo Silent Stroke mesh drum heads on the set

this will make it so that the students don't have to alter their technique when learning

I am a 35+ year percussion teacher/band director, and one of the toughest things I deal with when getting young students is them having "soft hands" because they have been told to play quiet all of their lives. It is really hard to "undo" this aspect and give them confident hands after it has been burned into their muscles. I am not meaning for them to beat the crap oput of the drums, but many of the faster patterns they will encounter as they get older can't be executed with "soft" hands...soft meaning a flimsy grip with little pressure in the fingers.

It is also sort of mentally defeating to see all of your friends getting to make "the regular sound" on their instruments, and you always have to only "be seen and not heard"...

I think the cymbal/head combo above will allow the students to play with a good, strong stroke, and keep the noise situation in control!! The meshh ehads also recreate the rebound they would feel on a normal head REALLY WELL!! And this feel is crucial in the beginning stages to have the correct kind of soft, or flexible hands for later on
 
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brentcn

Platinum Member
short answer:
grab a decent kit (any thing in the $900-1300 price range is going to be solid; company doesn't matter) the Zildjian L80 quiet cymbals, and then put the Remo Silent Stroke mesh drum heads on the set

this will make it so that the students don't have to alter their technique when learning

I am a 35+ year percussion teacher/band director, and one of the toughest things I deal with when getting young students is them having "soft hands" because they have been told to play quiet all of their lives. It is really hard to "undo" this aspect and give them confident hands after it has been burned into their muscles. I am not meaning for them to beat the crap oput of the drums, but many of the faster patterns they will encounter as they get older can't be executed with "soft" hands...soft meaning a flimsy grip with little pressure in the fingers.

It is also sort of mentally defeating to see all of your friends getting to make "the regular sound" on their instruments, and you always have to only "be seen and not heard"...

I think the cymbal/head combo above will allow the students to play with a good, strong stroke, and keep the noise situation in control!! The meshh ehads also recreate the rebound they would feel on a normal head REALLY WELL!! And this feel is crucial in the beginning stages to have the correct kind of soft, or flexible hands for later on
Yes to all of this. Get an acoustic kit with L80 cymbals, and muffle the toms with Remo Silent strokes (or Evans Sound Offs if you prefer). I'd recommend an Aquarian Superpad for the snare. To save some money on muffling the bass drum, just fill it completely full to the top with old blankets and pillows.

I have enough space that the footprint of the drum kit shouldn’t be much of an issue. I’m mainly playing rock (at lower volumes) and learning basic jazz beats. I imagine I’ll be playing even more jazz before too long, because I’ve done that on other instruments. The kit is pretty much for my home studio use. I already play with my students and may jam with others or move it to a jam session, but I don’t see myself gigging or recording with it in the near future. Should I buy a jazz or smaller (drum size) kit and just play rock on it too, since I’m not gigging, using this as an effective way to get high quality sound at a lower volume?
The size of the kit won't matter very much. A smaller bass drum is fine for learning rock. Just buy the kit you want for your recording/playing enjoyment, and muffle it for lessons.

Drums are loud. There is a volume decrease in going to an 18" kick from, say, a 22" kick. But it's still a bass drum -- it's loud.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
As a rock leaning towards jazz kit, I think a 20, 12, 14 kit will suit you just fine. Plenty of rock guys play 20 inch bass drums, and plenty of jazz guys play 20 inch bass drums. Rack/floor combos are usually a 12/14 (4 piece) or 10/12/14 (5 piece) ..... and most all kits come with 14 inch snares. And if you're gonna get into brushes, a 14 inch snare is probably a good size.

Used will definitely save you some money. If your kit's never gonna leave the studio, an intermediate kit will last you forever. Heck, even a starter kit will last you forever. It's the constant tear down/set up that wears drums out.

You've got a Guitar Center in Seattle ..... so any used stuff in their supple chain can be sent there (for you to pick up) or delivered to your home. Then there's CraigsList, Reverb, FB Marketplace, eBay, etc ..... to shop. Zildjian L80 and Sabian Quiet Tone are the 2 big contenders for "quiet" cymbals, but there are others like Wuhan, Agean, Kasza, etc. Do some research ..... plenty of online video demo/reviews out there.

Same goes with "quiet" heads. There are quite a few to choose from ..... and a lot of demo/shootout video's to compare.

I'm partial to Kasza cymbals and TRUsound drum heads ..... but you do some research.

Welcome to Drummerworld.
 

toddmc

Gold Member
I'll echo what everyone else hear has said. Doesn't have to be Remo Silent Strokes- plenty of other mesh head companies out there which will do the job for less money.

You could also consider these for dampening sound on an acoustic https://www.groovewarehouse.com.au/rtom-black-hole-practice-pad-set-10-12-14-16-22

I think the sound-muted A-kit is the way to go with your students over an E-kit. This way they keep the A-kit feel (as close as possible) so it's not too much of a change for them when switching between the two.
 

Fritz Frigursson

Senior Member
as someone who has learned both on e kits and silent kits, i guarantee students will have much more fun on a good e kit than they will with any silent kit. reason being the e kit actually feels like you’re playing an instrument and not a compromised one like the mesh setup. the mesh kick is absolutely horrible, it’s bouncy as hell and is not realistic by any means. it’s like playing on mosquito nets, because it is exactly that. you get 0 sound from those which might be a good thing for you but i can assure you it’s horrible from the player’s perspective. the cymbals are half decent though. not too many complaints there. the e kit is going to offer actually realistic sounds and feel because the pads are better designed to feel like a kit. is it perfect? far from it, but it will be a motivator for students, as long as the kit isn’t a cheapo one from medeli. i can tell you i had much more fun playing my TD11kv at home than the silent kit at my music school. when i transferred over to acoustic a few years ago it only took a couple hours to get used to the rebound and hand placement, but it was not a chore or an impediment.

in short, the treated acoustic may cost less and seem like the more realistic option, but a good e kit from roland (upwards of the TD7KV) is going to be a much more enjoyable experience for the player because you get actual sounds and you feel like playing an instrument, not a practice device.
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
Yes - sound is good, but quiet is also good.
An acoustic set fitted with mesh heads, triggers, and a module would probably give you the best of both worlds.
Want quiet - turn the volume down. Want loud - turn it up.
Triggers have their own set of problems though - misfires, cross talk, and so on, and they can be a hassle to set up.

I've seen a few pad triggers that are the same size as acoustic drums, that you just set on top of the drums,
and wire them into a module. Pearl makes Tru-Trac, and I think I've seen a few from other companies too.
They're a bit pricey though.

My own solution when I want quiet is to use brushes and a Sound-Off bass drum mute,
but that's not ideal for everyone, especially for someone just starting out.

If you're teaching young kids, it would also be good to point out the need for hearing protection
if you're going to be using acoustic drums.
At this time, I think there's no perfect solution, only trying to pick the best compromise.
 

MeMitch

New member
Thanks for all of the help! Sorry for my delayed response. I spent Friday evening, as well as most of Sunday and Monday driving around the north and eastside of town scooping up pretty good deals from Craigslist. Then, I had to get back to work. As you can see in the picture below, currently drums have taken over about 1/3 of my studio. They also seem to be a good advertisement, as I have another student or two interested in drum lessons.

The good -

If I buy the L80 cymbals and silent stroke heads, I'm pretty much on track for being just over my original, "hopeful" budget. I picked up a 1999/2000 Pearl Session Custom, maple, 5 piece set up (without snare) for about 30% of my budget. The outside finish of the shells have some minor flaws, but seem to be solid and well built overall. It's a 22 inch bass drum, but the quality of the kit and price were too good to pass up.

Sunday, I was able to get a bunch of basically new gear for around 60%+ ish of new price - Pearl throne, two DW 3700 cymbal boom stands (still had the tags on them), DW 7000 hi-hat stand, DW 3000 double bass pedal, DW practice pad tower (I'm not counting the practice tower or half of the double, bass drum pedal in the kit price). On Monday, I picked up a lightly used, DW, 6.5 inch maple snare in good shape and a Mapex snare stand.

I mostly down to just needing to choose cymbals and heads.

The less good -

I'm realizing I might be a semi-idiot having bought a deep(er) snare drum and assuming a 6 year old will be able to play an adult size kit. (Piano keys are all the same size - so no problems there, but guitar players often play 3/4 size guitars starting out.) Obviously, the electronic kit is much more adjustable being rack mounted and smaller. The throne also goes noticeably lower. Maybe I can get a shorter snare stand, but at this point, my youngest students would only be able to play the snare standing up, which is okay, but they couldn't really sit on the new throne and reach a pedal.

I'm only into the electronic set up for around $350, so keeping it isn't the end of the world, it's just taking up a bit more space in the studio, and I wouldn't have bought the DW practice tower to demonstrate to my students on. Though, it's nice to stand up and stretch my legs occasionally. I sit down a lot of the day while teaching.

Also, the large tom appears to be an opti-mount on a cymbal stand. Any recommendations on what brand and where to find or buy that mount? And, I think I can separate the DW double bass drum pedal, but I need a spring and additional mount for the head/beater that will go on the slave pedal that I was planning on using on the practice pad tower. Good place to buy those parts/accessories?

Lastly, I find myself wondering if I can (mostly) have it all... Keep the electronic kit for the younger kids to play, because it fits them. Also, they can largely beat on it without too much worry, because it's pretty durable and fairly inexpensive. (I'd probably resell the DW practice tower.)

For the acoustic kit -

Option 1 - Ziljian L80 cymbals and Remo silent stroke heads for $350 new. Seems like there's not much of a discount on these used. I played the Sabians, which were louder, but I didn't think had as good an overall tone quality or feel. I like the Youtube demos of the Agean Rs, because they are louder (for low volume cymbals). However, there are next to none on Reverb and they seem to be $800 plus new, which is more than I would currently like to spend on low volume cymbals.

Option 2 - R Tom black hole heads (or Sound Percussion pads, which I think feel less realistic ... ?, or ?) over normal drums heads with cymbal pad/mutes on real cymbals. Then, I could play a normal, acoustic set during the day when my wife is at work (usually, 5 days a week, but currently only 2 due to COIVD). Similar feel on the drum heads for my students I think, but probably worse on the cymbals ... ? R Tom heads are a bit more expensive, but not terribly so, if they get the job done well. Real cymbals will probably be more money than the L80s, even used.

Option 3 - ? Recommendations ... ? It's hard to figure out all of the low volume drum options and where they fit overall, because shops aren't (understandably) set up to demo them. I want to try the Kasza cymbals too, but Guitar Center didn't have them in stock and they're currently on indefinite, COVID backorder.

Thanks again for all of your input and help!
 

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Someone's Dad

Senior Member
My boy has the RTOM Black Holes and L80 cymbals. They’re a great combination and the Black Holes feel and sound better than his previous Pearl mesh heads. And less springy than Silent Strokes. However the key selling point of the Black Holes is that they can be fitted and removed easily and it’s that rim mechanism makes them really expensive.

RTOM make a cheaper option Low Volume head without the rubber rim mechanism:


I can’t say how good they are, but probably worth investigating. I suspect the “sound patch” is part of the improved sound and feel of the Black Holes, but whether that will translate to the low volume heads, I don’t know.

I’d definitely say that the L80s are the more important part of the equation - they’re real cymbals and react to the way that you hit them in a way that pads and rubber just don’t.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
but I need a spring and additional mount for the head/beater that will go on the slave pedal that I was planning on using on the practice pad tower. Good place to buy those parts/accessories?
Take them off of the main pedal secondary side.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
Also, the large tom appears to be an opti-mount on a cymbal stand. Any recommendations on what brand and where to find or buy that mount?
First off ..... you did real good. Nice kit.

Gibraltar is probably the most affordable option, new ...... if you can find the parts used ..... even better. You might find a real Pearl tom arm used, off eBay (or somewhere). And a lot of different companies make aux. clamps. So, there's that option.

But basically what you need is ......

The Gibraltar SC-700HA is the Pearl style tom arm you'll need. About $26. You can use the Gibraltar SC-BGC (basic grab clamp) to attach it to a cymbal stand. About $21.
 

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I'm realizing I might be a semi-idiot having bought a deep(er) snare drum and assuming a 6 year old will be able to play an adult size kit. (Piano keys are all the same size - so no problems there, but guitar players often play 3/4 size guitars starting out.) Obviously, the electronic kit is much more adjustable being rack mounted and smaller. The throne also goes noticeably lower. Maybe I can get a shorter snare stand, but at this point, my youngest students would only be able to play the snare standing up, which is okay, but they couldn't really sit on the new throne and reach a pedal.
Is that set 22, 10, 12, 14? You can probably set up a comfortable "one up, one down" configuration. Angle the bass drum to the right and find a good place for the 10" - maybe mounted from a cymbal stand. Yamaha snare stands go pretty low, but there might be even shorter ones. You could also cut off the pipe of a cheap snare stand to make it go lower.
If all else fails, you could convert the floor tom into a bass drum with a cradle. Since you use silent heads, the difference won't be as big. I guess the Pearl Jungle Adapter requires a 16" floor tom with legs, but there are other options.
 
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