One of the most important factors in being a drummer is, quite unsurprisingly, having some drums to play on. Now we all grew up tapping our fingertips on tables, and slapping beats on our thighs. Most of us graduated to bashing out barely recognizable beats on the kitchen’s pots, pans, and garbage bin, too.
Now it’s time to move up one more rung of the ladder. It’s time to become the owner of a drum set. “Sure,” you’re thinking, “but how much does a drum set cost? Isn’t it like a thousand bucks or something?”
Could be. But it could also be a lot more affordable than you think. To figure out the price of a drum kit, you have to factor in all the drums, hardware, and cymbals, plus a few hidden costs too. Don’t worry – I’ll walk you through it.
Kiddie and Starter Kits
The basic idea behind drum kits for kids and starter kits is that you will hopefully out-grown them before they fall apart. That’s what manufacturers hope, anyway.
I mean, come on – unless you’re a rare prodigy and start at age 4, it won’t be more than five years before you need to move from a kiddie kit on to a full-sized one. Not only for the ease and comfort of playing but also for the quality of sound, too. And after playing for five years, you should know if you’re going to continue the rough and tumble lifestyle of a drummer or not.
The same goes for a starter kit. These probably take only one to two years of abuse before you either decide to give up on your rockstar dreams or else graduate to something that sounds a whole lot better. So, in either case, you really shouldn’t be looking to pay much more than $300 for a drum kit.
If you’re a parent
Looking for a kiddie kit for your little ones to bash their hyperactivity out on? I suggest both the Eastar 16 inch drum kit. We’re looking at decent quality here – not too tough, but enough for little players. Plus, the price hovers right around $200, which isn’t enough to break the bank.
For a little bit more money, you could invest in the better-built D1 kit by ddrum. This kit will sound better and last longer, so it’s a good choice if your kid’s a genius. And we know that, of course, your kid is a genius.
For adult-sized beginners
Or huge kids, you could get by with the Eastar 22 Inch Drum Set. This is a 5-piece set that comes with a throne plus a hi-hat stand, a crash stand, and some pretty horrible cymbals to match.
I’d strongly recommend changing the cymbals, plus modifying the kit as much as your wallet will allow. You’ll want a pillow in the bass drum to reduce the reverb, and if you get new heads on each of the other drums, things can start to sound alright.
Beginner Drum Kits
Once you get through the kid or starter phase, which you may have managed by borrowing a friend’s drums as I did, or by making your own drums out of old barrels like a creative friend of mine, it’s time to move up. What you need is a durable and decent sounding drum kit that can bring you into the world of “real drumming.”
In other words, you want what you play to sound approximately like the drums on the records you love. Skill level aside, drum quality is a pretty big factor here. A standard drum kit has about three to five drums. Absolutely necessary are a bass drum and a snare, and then the number of toms you want is pretty flexible.
But if you’re serious about becoming a drummer, I’d recommend a 5-piece kit, or at minimum 4. This gives you a lot more variability in what you can play than just boom-chick-boom-chick on the bass and snare.
So what does a 5-piece set of drums cost?
I’d say that for something of beginner quality, you want to be looking at the $500 mark. You could pick up the Pearl Roadshow 5-piece kit including crash and hi-hats for this price, or else the Ludwig Accent Drive with crash and cymbals as well.
These are comparably well-built drums, simply made out of a cheaper material – poplar wood. Their hardware is all solid and well-designed, enough so that either kit should last for decades with the right maintenance, of course.
Once again, though, the “included” cymbals are going to sound a little better than the starter kit ones and should be replaced as soon as you can get the money together.
The Price of Intermediate and Pro Drum Kits
Let’s say you’ve been playing on a great beginner drum kit for years. You’ve made the emotional investment and put in the requisite hours to truly call yourself a drummer. At this point, you’re probably going to want to make another investment in a really special drum kit. Who knows, this might be the drum kit to last your entire career as a drummer.
After all, unless you really, truly “make it” out there in that cruel, dog-eat-dog (or should that be drummer-beat-drummer?) world, who needs more than one drum kit? Sure, you might need a practice kit at home and one for travel and gigging, but even then, most drummers get by with just their one great kit.
So what’s it going to be?
If you’re still what we might call an “intermediate” drummer, which means you’re not getting paid to drum, you probably won’t want to invest more than $1000 in a set of drums. But of course, this will probably only get you the drums, leaving cymbals and their hardware out of the equation.
There are some fantastic options out there…
DW’s Concept Series Maple Exotic Shell 5-piece kit sneaks in under $1000 and includes five maple-shelled drums plus all of their mounting hardware. Mapex’s Armory Series 6-piece kit fits this price range, barely, with a smart set of birch and maple hybrid shells. And the Gretsch Catalina Maple 7-piece set also gives you a great maple shell set with heads and hardware.
If you want to get a professional sounding kit, the sky’s the limit – both for quality and price.
I’ve long lusted after, but will never be able to afford, the Mapex Saturn Evolution 5-piece (over $2500) and the Ludwig Vistalite John Bonham Zep 5-piece (a steal at only $3,500). But hey, we all need dreams, right?
Now hold on here. Weren’t we talking about “how much does a drum set cost?” Well, yes, and any good set has to include cymbals. The problem is that cymbals can add a huge extra cost to your drum set. As an example of yet another piece of gear that keeps me up at night, the Zildjian Project 391 Limited Edition 10” Splash costs a measly $1,500 all on its own.
You’d have to be nuts to SPLASH out that much on one cymbal!
But good cymbals from makers like Zildjian, Meinl, and Sabian don’t come cheap. Even the most basic drum set probably includes a set of hi-hats, a crash, and a ride cymbal. Well, each of these will probably cost around $100, so you’re looking at $300 for a basic, quality set of cymbals.
If you want a lot more crashes, splashes, and effects cymbals, be prepared to push things up to near the $1000 mark. To save a bit of cash and still get great cymbals, look for a set from a single maker. They drop their prices by something like 20-40% from buying cymbals individually and also generally give you a nice even spread of tones.
Sabian has an SBR Performance Pack of cymbals for less than $250. Meinl’s Classic Customs Pack is a bit over $500 for five cymbals. Zildjian’s K Sweet Cymbal Pack, though, will set you back over $1000.
Well, hey, if you want cymbals, you’re going to need stands to hold them. Not to mention arms for toms and a bass pedal, too. You’ll notice that, just like with fine dining, the more you spend on a drum kit, the less you get.
Most intermediate and professional kits come with the drums only, or perhaps the drums and the hardware to put them together, less a snare stand. That’s because the pros are so discerning in their choices of hardware. This is because it’s hardware that helps you position your pieces exactly where you want them and keep them there.
As a rule of thumb, a good medium-quality cymbal or drum stand costs about $75. That’s each. A kick pedal or a hi-hat stand, both of which vary according to personal preference, will be $100 or more. And don’t forget a comfy throne. It slowly, slowly adds up, doesn’t it? Luckily cheap drum kits usually come with just about everything included.
If all of this is starting to sound like a major investment and you think you should just buy a car or put a down payment on a house instead, there’s another option. Electronic drum kits can be cheaper and, let’s face it, a much quieter way of getting drums into your life.
The Alesis Drums Nitro Mesh Kit is under $500 and is a 5-drum and 3-cymbal set. It also has a drum module that can change all the sounds and make it seem like you have 40 drum kits under your command. Roland makes a much more expensive TD-17KV set that’s also a sampler and sequencer.
In either case, these drums can give you as much pleasure (well, maybe) as an acoustic kit.
Looking for Great Drums?
We are here to help. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Jazz Drum Sets, the Best Cheap Beginner Electronic Drum Sets Under $500, the Best Beginner Drum Set, the Best Portable Drum Kits, the Best Drum Set For Kids, and the Best Snare Drums you can buy in 2021.
And don’t miss our handy guides on How to Play Drums, How To Set Up Your Drums, What You Need To Know When Buying Cymbals, Different Types of Drums, and Best 5 Reasons Why Kids Should Play Drums for more useful information.
So… How Much Does A Drum Set Cost?
In the end, it all depends on the drummer and the level of kit you want to invest in. Starter and kiddie kits can be had for just $300. Push that to $500 for quality beginner kits, $1000 for a good lifetime lasting intermediate kit, or out into orbit for a pro kit.
Remember that cymbals and hardware might not come with more expensive shell sets and represent a major extra investment. But in the end, it’s going to be worth it. Because once you have drums, you are a drummer, and that’s about the best thing in the world to be!
Until next time, let your music play.