New Drummer - Looking for Advice!

robertb

Junior Member
Hello fellow drummers!

I just got into drumming a while back and I’ve got a couple questions regarding what kind of kit I should buy, the sizes of different drums, the difference between beginner and intermediate kits, etc. However, let me start by introducing myself.

My name is Robert, I’m 15, and I live in Canada. I’ve always enjoyed listening to and fooling around on the drum kit at school, but recently, I begun to take the drums on as a legitimate instrument in music class and have decided to embark on a quest to learn the kit and everything it has to offer over the course of the next few months (well, not everything, but I hope to make considerably good progress). Nothing gets me hyped up like playing the drums at school and just jamming out with no worries, and it’s usually the most fun I have all day. Now that I’ve been playing around for a while (since mid-February), I think it’s time to take the instrument a bit more seriously and perhaps even get a kit of my own for playing at home. Some of my friends who play in bands or own a set of drums at home have already told me that I have potential to be good if I practice, and I want to make the most of what I have by learning the best instrument the world has ever given us; the drums.

However, I don’t just want to leap into the world of drumming blindly, and I want to make sure that I’m ready for what’s ahead. I don’t want to make uninformed decisions now only to have them kick me in the ass later. With that said, I have a few questions that I’m hoping all of you experienced and beginner drummers alike could help me answer (always good to get perspective from fellow beginners). I greatly appreciate those of you who take the time to respond, and hopefully can aid me in progressing as a player.

So:

1. Firstly, I see drum kits everywhere advertised as either beginner, intermediate, or expert kits. To me, a drum kit is a drum kit. Period. With that, I ask, what’s the main difference(s) between the different classifications of kits, and why do drummers advise beginners to stick to beginner kits (I’ve read claims that expert kits will discourage beginners for whatever reason). Hopefully, you could shed some light on the specifics of each kit type.

2. Nextly, I'm probably looking towards a Pearl kit just because it's a big, trusted name that I've seen many other drummers play. What would be the difference between the Export, Forum, and Vision series? Which one would be classified as the highest quality sound and build, and which one would you recommend for a beginner (assume money is no object)?

3. Third, bass drum sizes. What are the traditional bass drum sizes, what is the difference in sound and difficulty of playing (if there's any difference) and which sizes are more suited to which genre of music (I will play mostly rock music, maybe some more modern music, and, very rarely, metal)?

4. Should wood type be a concern for a beginner? If so, please enlighten me on the different types and what their purposes are. If not, don't worry about elaborating.

5. If a set is in nice condition, no cracks in the cymbals, no major dents in the hardware, and generally well-maintained, should I resort to buying a used set (through a classifieds site like Craigslist or Kijiji)? My parents are kind of cash-strapped right now, and so I've decided to approach the purchase with my own money saved-up. That being said, I don't necessarily have two thousand bucks to blow. However, I've seen some relatively nice kits on Kijiji in the range of 700 to 1000 that include all the drums in pristine condition, all accessories and stands, and have either Zildjian or Sabian cymbal sets and Remo or Evans drum heads. These, being the big names, make it seem like these drum kits are well worth the price, and some ads have been up for months (telling me there's definitely room for negotiation). Tell me, would you ever consider buying a used set as a beginner?

Let's say something like this: http://ontario.kijiji.ca/c-buy-and-sell-musical-instruments-drums-percussion-Excellent-condition-Peal-Export-ELX-drum-set-W0QQAdIdZ461586210

6. Getting a teacher; like mentioned above, my parents are kind of cash-strapped right now and I know that lessons are not the cheapest thing. I feel as if this is my biggest obstacle. I want to know if there's anybody that's taught themselves to play drums using, say, the internet, without the use of a teacher. I'm 100% aware that a teacher is the absolute best path to go on if you want to have good habits and progress quickly, but are there any less costly alternatives? Say, could I have a lesson every once in a while (like, once a month/two months) and use online resources and books to teach myself? What would you suggest? I know it's a good idea to get a teacher, but it's not looking like a bright option for me and my parents right now.

That should be all for now. Hopefully my long post is not too much of a burden on anybody's time, and I'd be extremely grateful if you could at least give me a few suggestions about starting out as a drummer. I've looked around for most of these answers on the internet, but very few were clear and/or detailed, so I've come to you, ladies and gentlemen. Hopefully this is the beginning of a long and enjoyable drumming career. Thank you very much fellow drummers for your assistance, and rock on!
 

StickIt

Senior Member
Most of the answers you are looking for are discussed in detail somewhere or other in this forum.

Your Question #:
1. Search the forum for "Beginner Kits"
2. Search the Forum for the names of each of those kits.
3. Search the forum for "Bass drum sizes"...there is a great thread around here where all different sizes were compiled based on primary type of music played by different members.
4. Search for "Type of wood"...but probably, no would be the answer overall, each has its good points
5. Search for "Used Kits"...it's hard to make a recommendation if you haven't played the kit
6. Get a teacher. There are members here who give lessons on Skype. There is a thread dedicated to teachers here. I just struck up a conversation with Matt Smith, and am going to start online lessons soon, at a really great rate.

Good Luck!
 

JDavis64

Member
Hello Robert!

First off, welcome to Drummerworld! I can definitely understand that you don't want to just jump into the world of drumming blindly, so I will answer as thoroughly as I can! I have been playing for over 10 years in several different styles, including; metal, classic rock, punk rock, and funk.

1. From the drums that I have played and seen, the classification is generally based on the type of wood. Basswood, poplar, plywood generally make up beginner kits. Birch and blends of birch, poplar, and other cheaper woods generally make up intermediate kits. Maple, African Mahogany, Birch blended with Kapur generally make up expert kits. As I emphasized, that is generally speaking and it can vary. Since you mentioned Pearl drums in specific I will go into detail regarding Pearl's kits in #2.

I recommend beginners to buy inexpensive kits to start out with. I've seen people get into drumming, invest a lot of money into it, and a short time down the road, they just aren't interested in it anymore, or something comes along where they aren't able to play anymore (kids, work, etc.), and the drums end up collecting dust. I hope that isn't the case, but it's something to think about.

Another thing to consider is that a drum kit takes up a lot of space compared to a guitar and amp. It's not something that can be easily tucked away and pulled out on a moment's notice. It takes time to set it up and take it down. Do you have space for it? Is there space where you can leave it set up all the time? Are you looking to play gigs with it or just to practice at home and maybe play out a while down the road?

4. A little bit out of order, but I want to go into more detail about different types of wood before I get into specific kits. Different types of wood produce different sounds. Maple brings out more low end frequencies and have smooth mid and high frequencies. Maple is generally described as "warm" sounding, not too sharp, not too low. Birch brings out low and high frequencies a little more than the mid frequency, as usually described as "sharp" or "bright". African Mahogany brings out a lot more low end frequencies, but not nearly as many mid or high frequencies, so is very "boomy". To put those 3 main types of wood in perspective, African Mahogany brings out the most lows, but the least mids and highs. Maple brings out more lows than birch, but less than African Mahogany. Birch brings out more highs and just a tiny bit less mids than maple. Those are the main types of wood.

Basswood, plywood, eucalyptus and tulip wood are some low-end types used in cheap kits. Those types of wood are softer, easier to manufacture, but are not as durable and aren't as tonally pleasing as other types of wood. To keep prices low and provide quality sound, some companies will use a cheaper type of wood for the inner plys, and use birch for the outer plys. Those are refered to as blended shells.

Shell thickness also comes into play. Thin shells, which are either measured as 4 ply (Imperial measuring), or 5 mm (metric measuring) thick, resonate (ring) and are more sensitive (meaning you can really tell when you hit it hard or soft), but aren't as loud as thicker shells. Medium shells, (6 ply, 7.5 mm) are louder than thin shells, but don't resonate and aren't as sensitive. Thick shells (8 ply, 12.5 mm or 10 ply, 12.5 mm) are a lot louder than medium shells, but don't resonate and aren't nearly as sensitive as medium shells. To summarize thickness, thin shells are ideal for recording, medium shells are ideal for general-purpose, and thick shells are ideal for live performance.

Of course the sound produced by the drums also depend on the type of heads used and how it is EQ'd and setup with microphones and a mixer. I can go into more detail with that if you want me to.

2. Pearl is a great choice. I have a Pearl Vision myself. I'll start with the Pearl Forum since that's the cheapest and work up to the more expensive. The Forum is made out of 100% poplar shells. Poplar is a very cheap, soft wood. It's cheap to manufacture and it's not as durable as other woods.

The Pearl Export is made out of 6 ply blended poplar and Asian mahogany. The Asian mahogany is not nearly as durable as African mahogany, but it is slightly more durable than poplar, which makes the Export a bit more durable than the Forum.

Pearl Vision kits come in different styles. The Vision VBL Birch is made out of 6 ply thick, 100% (you guessed it) birch shells. The Vision VBA uses 6 ply BirchPly, a blend of birch and plywood. The Vision VB uses 6 ply birch/basswood shells. The pure birch is a little more expensive than the birch blends, for reasons stated earlier. The Vision VSX and VX are a little bit different. They are made of birch and basswood blend, but the rack toms are made out 6-ply shells while the floor toms and bass drums are made out of 8-ply shells. This helps balance the dynamics that are caused by different thicknesses.

My personal recommendation? If you're going to buy new, get the Pearl Export. It's available online, including all of the drum heads and hardware, for $600. Add a Zildjian ZBT crash cymbal (that will double as a ride) and a hi-hat, for another $160. Then with sticks and a throne, you'll be good to go.

5. The used kit you are looking at is a great deal, considering it includes stands, cymbals, heads and everything you need. I would go for that one. I definitely recommend asking the seller if you can test it out before you buy it.

3. The standard bass size is 22" (diameter) x 18" (length). Generally, the bigger, the more boom, the smaller, well, smaller sound, less boom. 22" x 18" is right in the middle, and can be adjusted for most types of music. It is very general purpose and can be adjusted via tuning. I can go into more detail with tuning if you want me to. I know this is a lot of information so far.

6. I recommend starting out with self-practice and looking up free lessons online. After a few months, if you are still struggling, then I would try to find a teacher.

That concludes my version of drums 101, any questions? Haha :)
 

robertb

Junior Member
Firstly, thank you both very much for your responses. JDavis, you definitely gave me much more than I ever expected and I'm glad that I'm at least a bit more prepared to purchase a kit.

I think that I will be using the drum kit mostly at home. Perhaps there will be the occasional time when I might bring it to jam at a friend's house, but that is only a possibility; don't want to set anything in stone until I start to play.

And yes, I understand your concern that I might get bored of it. Don't want to be the one that purchases a $1500 kit only to stop playing it after two months. However, let's assume that I continue to play for a couple years. Would you consider the Vision a better choice than the Export if I could get it used for a decent price? In terms of durability, how significant would the difference be? Either way, I guess the biggest concern is always sound quality, and I will definitely try out the kit from a seller before ever buying it. I am in no way a professional and I won't be able to distinguish minor differences in sound, but I know a crappy sounding drum set when I hear one. :)

Finally, if you don't mind me asking, how did you learn when you first began drumming? Did you use self-teaching or did you have a teacher (I'm assuming you were 11 when you begun?)? For me, it's not really an issue of self-motivation or persistence. There's just a huge concern that if I develop bad habits, that they will be difficult to reverse and undo after months of drumming improperly. I can always resort to a lesson every once in a while like I said, and I'm not trying to question your judgement (after all, you have lots of experience), but based on what I've read around on the internet, other forums, this forum, and so on, people seem to be very opposed to self-teaching for more than a month. Even if I manage to make good progress and play very well within a few months, I still risk the bad habits that could prevent me from moving any further ahead. Would you happen to have any perspective on that?

Once again, greatly appreciate both your inputs, and thank you for taking the time to help me out! :)
 

lsits

Gold Member
I would recommend an intermediate-level kit. Something like a Pearl Vision, Yamaha Stage Custom, or Gretsch Catalina. You can find good used prices all day long on the Stage Customs.
 

JDavis64

Member
Assuming you are going to play for at least two years, I would recommend spending a little extra money and get a Vision. When I refer to price, I am referring to what I find on Musician's Friend. It's a great website.

You can get a Pearl Vision VBA birch/basswood kit for $600. Add on a Pearl 900 hardware pack for another $430, or a Sound Percussion hardware pack for $200. The Pearl hardware is a lot higher quality, a lot longer lasting than the Sound Percussion hardware, but it's twice the price. The hardware pack includes a bass drum pedal, hi hat stand, a snare stand, a straight cymbal stand and a boom cymbal stand. Without taxes or shipping expenses, you're looking at $800 - $1,030 for the drum shells (they come with heads) and hardware.

Here are some links so you can take a look at those in detail:
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/drums-percussion/pearl-vba-vision-birch-5-piece-shell-pack
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/drums-percussion/pearl-900-series-hardware-pack
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/drums-percussion/sound-percussion-5-piece-drum-hardware-pack

My personal recommendation is what I have right now. It used to be sold on Musician's Friend but it is no longer available, but I found it on a different website for the same price. It's called the Pearl Vision VX927. It's $1,000. It's a 7-piece as opposed to the standard 5-piece. It comes with an additional rack tom and an additional floor tom. It also includes heads, and the Pearl 900 hardware pack. So for the same price as buying the Pearl Vision VBA and Pearl 900 hardware pack, you can get the Vision VX927, which has two extra toms, for the same price. Or if you don't want the two extra toms because space is a concern, go with the Vision VBA.

http://www.musicarts.com/Pearl-Vision-VX927-7-piece-Standard-Drum-set-483396-i1410659.mac

I have had that particular kit for 4 years now. I rarely use all 7 pieces, but it is nice to have the extra toms, depending on what kind of style or show I'm playing. Punk rock; one rack tom and one floor tom. Soft rock: the two smaller rack toms and the smaller floor tom. Classic rock/hard rock: the two bigger rack toms and the bigger floor tom. Metal: all three rack toms and two floor toms. Having that versatility is really nice.

Did you also want to talk about cymbals? Can't have a drum kit without cymbals.

Yes, I was around the age of 11 when I started playing percussion. I started in 5th grade band as a snare drummer. I learned snare drumming from a music teacher, with one lesson a week, but my teacher did not offer lessons to percussionists until the 9th grade. I received a First Act drum kit and started practicing on my own, although the snare drum techniques transferred over the drum kit. I looked up video lessons online and read books and also tried to cover songs by ear.

I definitely understand your concern of developing bad habits. When I mentioned "self-teaching", I meant that to be combined with looking up videos and free lessons online. To some people, being self-taught means that the drummer never took a lesson or looked at a piece of music, just learned completely on their own, like Buddy Rich. I think that's what others mean when they say they are against self-teaching. To me, being self-taught means that you never had a teacher or someone who was physically there and was there to give you personal, step-by-step instructions and feedback, but you learned by reading and watching videos, etc. But again, that depends on perspective.

So to clear up. I recommend looking up free drum lessons online. Here's a link to a great website that provides in-depth demonstration of posture, technique, different playing styles, and includes play-a-longs and free sheet music. http://www.freedrumlessons.com/

I also recommend getting a lesson once every couple of weeks if you can. Just to have that one-on-one personalized instruction and feedback. After a while when you have developed proper posture, grip, etc., then you can transition to an independent learning style, or you can continue with an instructor. It's up to you. It really depends on how comfortable you are.

One thing though regarding bad habits. If you EVER experience pain while drumming, STOP immediately. 99% of the time, pain is the sign of improper technique or posture, especially in the hands and wrists. The other 1% is when sticks break and the broken parts come flying back at you. It's happened to me. :)

I don't mind your questioning at all! One of the best ways to learn is by asking questions and clarifying. :)
 

robertb

Junior Member
Thanks again JDavis! You know your stuff, to say the least! :D Definitely some great advice; I'm looking to start working on some basic rudiments soon just to build the basic foundation. Have also begun to expand my search and contacted certain ads for used drum kits. It'll be a while before I even get the kit, but I'm definitely prepared.

One more question, while we're at it; some people put pillows or blankets in their bass drums to muffle the sound and make it much shorter and "punchier". Is this correct? How does this sound in comparison to just tuning it to a tighter, shorter sound? What I guess I'm really trying to ask is what's the difference between using a pillow OR just tuning it a bit tighter (or even doing both) and, although it comes down to what the drummer prefers in the sound, are there certain advantages to both methods of changing the bass sound?
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Welcome to the forum, & congratulations on taking such an open approach at the start of your drumming journey - a pleasure to see :)

Don't get too hung up on wood species. In the kind of kits you're considering, the difference isn't that pronounced, but as JDavis pointed out, try to go for a kit that uses an accepted standard species such as birch or maple, & avoid basswood & similar "filler" woods. In that price range, avoid mahogany completely, because it isn't mahogany (I know, confusing isn't it :( ) In this price range, the wood species is more an indication of overall quality than anything else.

As for Pearl stuff, I was a big fan of the Export series back in the day. Not sure what the new issue Export series is like though. I have personal very bad experience with Pearl Vision. My son bought one and it was terrible, although that's likely to be an isolated case. For someone in your position, I think Yamaha stuff is worthy of strong consideration. Their intermediate drums are as good as anything out there, & their hardware is peerless. Nobody does consistency like Yamaha.

Bass drum pillow? I'm absolutely the wrong person to ask on that, as my bias is so strong. It does have it's place, but search the forum on that subject, & park it for another day. It's way down your list of considerations right now.

Buy new or used, it's up to you. New gives you the comfort of warranty & condition. Used gives you the benefit of a much lower price, or better stuff for the same money. If you're buying used, then the two biggest questions you need to get assurance on are 1/ are the shells round. 2/ are the bearing edges in good condition/correctly machined in the first place. Outside of those two big ones, most other factors are easily identifiable by eye & common sense.

Aside from making sure your first kit functions well, put the bigger portion of your budget into pro level cymbals. You'll benefit from that decision immediately & also in the long term. They will stay with you when you eventually upgrade your drums. Buying pro level cymbals used is the way forward, but to decide what cymbals you want, try different ones out whenever you can.

Good luck :)
 

SquadLeader

Gold Member
Some brilliant advice on this thread. And some great insight into the technicalities. Amazing how much you can learn about drums just reading these forums.

I'd get a cheap entry level kit by a decent manufacturer. I can recommend the Sonor I bought. It's a 503. I got it for the grand sum of £90. I keep on wanting to get rid and invest in a better one but my head just pulls me up short everytime because it's still superb sounding both in rehearsals and at gigs. I love it. Got a set of Sabian XS20 cymbals for £100. Straight onto the road and gigging with it.

For that kind of price it doesn't really matter if you get bored and drop out...can just give them away.

I wouldn't spend more than peanuts on a first kit for reasons mentioned throughout this thread.
 

poika

Silver Member
One more question, while we're at it; some people put pillows or blankets in their bass drums to muffle the sound and make it much shorter and "punchier". Is this correct? How does this sound in comparison to just tuning it to a tighter, shorter sound? What I guess I'm really trying to ask is what's the difference between using a pillow OR just tuning it a bit tighter (or even doing both) and, although it comes down to what the drummer prefers in the sound, are there certain advantages to both methods of changing the bass sound?
I keep some degree of muffling in my bass drum, as I like the kind of thump you get from it. I also keep the heads pretty loose. From my experience tuning the head tight does not really give you a punchier attack sound.

I'd say in general that anything involving the bass drum, eg tuning / reso head / port hole / pedal is the thing that differs mostly from player to player. I can play any kinds of cymbals and any kind of snares and any kinds of toms and get away with it, but for me playing an un-muffled, tightly tuned bass drum with no port hole, using a direct drive pedal is actually really difficult. It's not even about the sound, it's about the feel you have and how the pedal reacts on the drum head.

Try out different types of bass drum set-ups (full reso head vs. ported head, tight tuning vs low tuning, direct drive vs chain drive pedals etc.) and see what feels most natural to you. Also listen to the type of bass drum sounds that are in use in the kind of music you will most likely be playing.

Whether you play heel up or heel down also affects how you might want to set up the bass drum.

Conrats on finding a joy in playing drums. Just make sure not to get too deep in the internet gear frenzy and not to get peer pressured into what you should have or how you should go about your business. As long as you enjoy playing then all else is secondary ;)
 
J

Joseph "Stix" Davis

Guest
I am JDavis64, but I changed my email address, and since my old account didn't have any groups or very many posts, I made a new one! I recently got a job as a DJ. My DJ name is Stix, and I thought that was more interesting than my old email and username. :)

You are quite welcome! I always enjoy helping others! :)

Don't get too hung up on wood species. In the kind of kits you're considering, the difference isn't that pronounced, but as JDavis pointed out, try to go for a kit that uses an accepted standard species such as birch or maple, & avoid basswood & similar "filler" woods. In that price range, avoid mahogany completely, because it isn't mahogany (I know, confusing isn't it :( ) In this price range, the wood species is more an indication of overall quality than anything else.
Ah, yes, that is correct. Mahogany gets really confusing. I'm not 100% sure on this, but I believe in the lower priced kits, the Asian mahogany is really luan, a cheap wood, but I think in the higher priced kits, the African mahogany is legitimate mahogany. I'm not sure, it would be nice if they clearly stated what type the wood is to avoid confusion!

Aside from making sure your first kit functions well, put the bigger portion of your budget into pro level cymbals. You'll benefit from that decision immediately & also in the long term. They will stay with you when you eventually upgrade your drums. Buying pro level cymbals used is the way forward, but to decide what cymbals you want, try different ones out whenever you can.
Another excellent idea! I bought a full set of Zildjian A Customs right away, instead of buying cheap cymbals first. They were pricey, but almost 5 years later they are still shining and still sound amazing!

One more question, while we're at it; some people put pillows or blankets in their bass drums to muffle the sound and make it much shorter and "punchier". Is this correct? How does this sound in comparison to just tuning it to a tighter, shorter sound? What I guess I'm really trying to ask is what's the difference between using a pillow OR just tuning it a bit tighter (or even doing both) and, although it comes down to what the drummer prefers in the sound, are there certain advantages to both methods of changing the bass sound?
Playing with a pillow inside will muffle the bass drum. Putting too many pillows and pads inside will result in a dead "thud" no matter how the heads are tuned. If your bass heads are tuned too loose, you'll get a dead "thud". If your bass heads are tuned too tight, you'll get a higher sound, but it will ring a lot. Generally, if your bass heads are fairly tight, you'll get a decent rebound from the head, as it should be. If they are tuned too lose, there will be little to no rebound, and your legs will have to work more. But as poika pointed out, the type of heads, muffled/unmuffled, ported/non-ported, heel up/heel down, and type of pedal can make a difference on how it feels playing.

But again, it depends on what YOU want. You just need to play around with the bass drum and pedal when you get it. Tune both heads loose, tight, one tighter than the other, different settings and tension on the pedal, etc. and find out what works best for you and the type of music you're playing.
 
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