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Bill Powelson's School of Drums

Buying A Drumset

So, the drum lessons are progressing well and the practice rig is a drag. It will be decision time soon. Eventually there will be thoughts of owning a drumset along with these often asked questions:

. . . In this lesson we will deal with these issues one step at a time.

Should you buy used drums?

I am happy to answer that question with a very firm yes! If you know what you are doing, you can find many bargains in your home town or a neighboring city. You must first know a little about the many product names and types (some of this information is coming up . . . in the following paragraphs). Avoid all middle men, pawn shops, and used bargain stores. These people have usually bought at a good price but they are looking to make a profit . . . from you. Be aware of all recent and past general prices'. Buy direct from the owner and do not be afraid to haggle over price. It is a good rule of thumb when buying used equipment from an individual to ask the right questions. Try to discover the original list price, then try to find out how much they actually paid. Take the lowest figure they tell you and divide by two. If you pay more than half the original purchase price, it may be too much. Have the ready cash in your pocket and make a ridiculously low offer at first. Make them work to get you above that original offer. Look at the condition of the equipment and find reasons to frown, even if you are madly in love with the rig.

To find these bargains, keep an eye on the musical want-ads in your local newspapers and suburban shopping guides. You might even try running a 'drumset wanted' ad in any of those same newspapers.

Buying used drum equipment will mean that you must ignore your preferences. You most likely will not get to choose your favorite color. Specific brand names may not be an option, but you can wind up with more drums for your money.


This can be a touchy subject with some people. Many people are believers in the 'biggest is best' theory. If you are of that persuasion, I would not try to change your attitude or opinion. If you can afford $1500.00/$5000.00 US dollars or more for a drumset, then I would recommend that you begin looking for a brand name that has won your confidence. You may choose from many brand names. Pearl, Ludwig, Tama, Sonar, Yamaha and Premier are well advertised quality drumset manufacturers. Many other brands besides these are solid and reputable. Quality brand name drumsets will begin somewhere around $1800.00 and the best of these may go beyond the $5000.00 barrier. The red drumset that I am using as my logo at the top of this page is a popular brand name model list priced at $1999.00 (US) without cymbals. This set with high end cymbals will approach $3000.00 or more. I love those drums but they are a bit out of reach for this impoverished drum teacher. They are also a tad impractical for many beginning students. $3000.00 is a big investment!

What are the alternatives?


What are the logical alternatives for the aspiring beginner? Would you buy a Cadillac just to learn to drive? Probably not! I recommend that most beginners start in the low or middle price ranges. You can always upgrade to higher quality over a period of several years.

Ponder these questions:

  1. How much can you afford to spend?
    • Unadvertised 'off brand' drumsets with five or more pieces may range from about $400.00 to $1200, depending on many factors. The ingredients in this equation include quality, popularity, size and how much profit your dealer might want for his or her pocket. The drumset in the first illustration is an inexpensive, unadvertised drumset listing at $600.00. Drumsets like this can be purchased at a discount in the US for less than $525.00. This price should include mid-grade cymbals. Notice the depth of the toms. Deeper toms will produce better tone. I feel this set is quite suitable for a beginning student on a budget. A comparable advertised 'brand name' drumset of the same size may cost $1200 /$1500 (US). You will pay dearly for advertising costs when you buy brand names.

    Less expensive drumsets are not as durable, the shells consist of cheaper woods, the hardware is not as stable and the finish may not be as tough. This fact is also true with most low end brand names. Lower price usually means lower quality with anything that you buy.


    • Try to decide upon the optimally affordable drumset size. I prefer to see a student begin with at least a five piece set like the one in the first illustration. Nevertheless, if that is beyond your budget, then maybe a less expensive five piece set (as in the second illustration) might be more affordable. Be certain that the price is right. This drumset would list at $550.00. If the dealer is treating you right, this drumset would be more reasonably priced at around $450.00 (with hh and 18" crash ride cymbal.)

    • Determine the maximum amount you can afford to spend.
    • Get the highest dollar for dollar value possible within that predetermined framework.

  2. Children of small stature, under the age of eight, may need something smaller like the Jr. kit in the third illustration.
    • Three and four piece sets similar to the kit in illustration #3, can be purchased at a discount for less than $350.00. (This should include Hi-Hat and 18" crash ride.) Drum kits of this type are too small for the average adult. The bass drum is 16" x 10" and the mounted toms are 8" x 6" and 10" x 6". If ambition is running high and the budget is low, it may be the best bet for some small folks. At least it would be better than not having any drums at all.


    The discount and mail-order houses will offer great savings. You will find many advertisements in the drummers trade magazines like 'Modern Drummer'. Get a copy and do some checking. Choose a specific drumset that you wish to purchase, then try to get written price quotations from several dealers. Make them dance a little for your dollar. Let them know about it if you have a solid quote from a competitor that is unquestionably lower. They will usually try to match it if they possibly can. . . . but do not fib! They will know if you are fibbing.

  3. To . . . The Lesson Menu. 125 Drum Set Lessons. This is a free (structured) course in drum set techniques, for ALL students of drumming, beginner thru ultra advanced. The author is a veteran professional drummer and teacher, with over 50 years experience.

    Here is another link to help you save big when making the decision to purchase a drum set:

    Buyer's Guide: More . . . money saving tips.

    Copyright Bill Powelson 1994 all rights reserved.