Best Beginner Drum Set – A Guide To Finding Your Perfect Match

Looking to start your drumming journey? Well look no further! Whether you’re looking for that first piece of kit that can take you from novice to professional, a simple practice machine, or a children’s starter set, this page will help you to find it. Be sure to check out our guide to getting started for more general information.

 

Table of Contents

Before You Buy a Drum Set

Whether you are a parent looking for your kid or a bit older and looking for yourself, before investing in a kit, you should first buy a practice pad and some standard all-purpose 5A drumsticks and just start practicing and getting the feel for the drums. It is a quiet, cost-efficient way to see whether the drums are for you. As explained in our article on practicing tips (LINK) when you start to play the drums, the best way to learn is to practice the rudiments, such as singles, alternates, paradiddles, etc and work on technique, speed and so on. All of these can be accomplished on a practice pad which is much cheaper than buying a full kit! If however, you are ready to move on to a drum set then keep reading.

How Do I Find My Perfect Match?

 

 

It may seem quite overwhelming wading through the muddle of terms thrown up when looking for that first bit of gear and it will probably leave you with a fair few questions –  How big should the bass drum be? Should I learn on an electronic set or an acoustic? Do I need a double bass to play rock? Should my child learn on a 3-piece, 4-piece or a 5 piece? My 3-year-old has started dressing like Keith Moon, should I be concerned?

We will answer all of these questions (apart from the last one) and give you an in-depth review of all the drum kits available, as well as some articles to direct you down the right path. For example, if not sure if acoustic or electric is better to begin on, read this article which should hopefully shed some light on it. If you are leaning towards an electronic set then go to our guide on the best electronic set for beginners.

What To Look For?

There are many factors when finding your first set all of which we discuss in our reviews. The basic set is the 4-piece consisting of a snare drum, single-mounted tom, floor tom and the bass drum. These and the cymbals when starting out are more than adequate – they worked for Ringo after all. Very portable and great for jazz, blues and rock. That being said, as you will see from the reviews, many starter sets come as a 5-piece as they include a second mounted tom. Whether 4-piece or 5, this section will focus on finding the best beginner drum set. Where possible we will look at kits that include pedals and cymbals, as we appreciate that as a beginner that you don’t want to get your drums home only to realize that you don’t have cymbals or stands! Unfortunately, many kits are sold as shell packs with only the drum shells. We will be sure to include a mix so that whether you want to find your own hardware or want the complete pack, you have options to choose from.

Whilst this article is dedicated to full acoustic kits, if you are looking for the best marching snare drum then we have a page dedicated to that. If you are looking to jam on the steel drums then check out our reviews of the best steel drums to learn on. Afro Cuban more your style? We have a page solely looking at the best cajon for beginners. We have also looked at accessories like stands, pads and sticks. Parents, if you are looking for a junior, then you will want to look at the best beginner drum sets for kids or toddlers which discusses what to look for without being too technical. Overall it is a great guide that should save you a headache. We have done the hard work so that you don’t have to! To all of you out there – if you have decided to learn on an acoustic set, be sure to grab some mutes and dampeners. This way you can practice well into the night without annoying everyone within a half mile radius! Parents – look now, thank us later.

How our reviews will work?

For all of our reviews we will be taking into account following criteria –  overall sound, shells and heads, hardware (thrones, pedals, stands) and cymbals, and best value. We will give them each a ranking out of 5 and if you click on a particular model you will be able to read the full review for it. We will try and not bog you down with too much information. It is unlikely as a beginner you care how many lugs your bass drum has. You just want it to be easy to play, sound good and look good.

Top 10 Best Beginner Drum Sets (click here for more):

No drum kit can ever be called the best as it ultimately depends on what you are looking for. How can you compare a shell pack from DW to a learner kit from Gammon? ‘Best’ will subjectively rely on how much you are looking to spend, the purpose of the instrument, the space available, amongst other things. That being said, below represents our view of the top 10 best beginner drum sets on the market at the moment. They aren’t just ranked for quality but across a number of categories. These are all full-size kits so as long as the player is over 5ft, they will be fine. If you are on the slightly smaller side then be sure to check out our tips and tricks when setting up. We have also taken into account that as a beginner you probably don’t want to modify different elements or buy a shell pack without cymbals so have tried to include at least one complete pack in each category.

 

ModelName/ RatingSummaryCheck Price
Best Beginner Drum Set Under $500

    Pearl Roadshow

Score:    (4.75 / 5)

Perfect kit for beginners. Best low-mid range complete kit
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
Mapex Mars

     Mapex Mars 

Score:    (4.60 / 5)

Stunning finish, and sound. Best midrange shell pack
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
PDP Encore

    PDP by DW Encore

Score:    (4.65 / 5)

Great budget beginner set. Best low-end complete kit
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
Best Beginner Drum Set Under $1000

    Natal Drums Arcadia UF22 5

  Score:    (4.85 / 5)

Playing ability well beyond their price. Slickest set around.MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
DW Design Series

  DW Design Series

Score:    (4.65 / 5)

Next level build quality. Best high-end shell pack.
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
Tama Imperialstar

   Tama Imperialstar

Score:    (4.40 / 5)

Solid entry-level kit. Best mid-range complete kit
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
Ludwig Accent Combo with Zildjian Cymbals

Ludwig Accent Drive

Score:    (4.35 / 5)

Budget kit with great cymbals and hardware. Great low-mid range complete kit
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
Tama Superstar

Tama Superstar Classic

Score:    (4.75 / 5)

Beautifully constructed semi-pro kit. Best mid-high end shell pack
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove

Ludwig Breakbeats

Score:    (4.70 / 5)

Well designed for travel. Compact kit. Low-mid range 4-pc shell pack
AMAZON
GUITAR CENTER
MUSICIAN'S FRIEND
Best Cheap Drum Set

Gammon Percussion 

Score:    (3.95 / 5)

True budget complete kit.  Best for 8-11-year-old beginners.AMAZON

 

 

Pearl Roadshow (Best drum set under $500)  

Best Beginner Drum Set Under $500
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In our number one spot is one of our more affordable kits that thoroughly deserves its place. At this price, it would be easy to think that the set will compromise on sound and quality and that once you get it home and unpack it, you will wish you hadn’t. This is not the case. As a beginner, we would say look no further. The Roadshow is a complete kit that you can start playing the minute you get it – it includes sticks, a throne, stands, a pedal, ride and hi-hat cymbals and the shells, all for under $500. You will want to change the cymbals eventually as they aren’t great but they will do for the first few months. Even taking into account the cost of a new cymbal pack these are still unbeatable for a beginner. With a stylish finish and an incredible sound, you will not be disappointed.

Pros

  • Very affordable complete pack
  • Easy to set up (see full review)
  • Hardware and cymbals included
  • Well constructed, great sound

Cons

  • Cymbals aren’t great

Mapex Mars Series Rock

Mapex Mars
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An incredible kit at a reasonable price. It does not include hardware or cymbals, which a lot of drummers would say is a good thing as it gives you the freedom to choose your own solid gear and that often hardware is an afterthought with these complete kits. The Mapex is a truly a special shell pack and good value for its place at number 2 on our list.

Pros

  • Big tone and responsive sound
  • Can be used in studio or concert hall
  • Deep, powerful yet focused bass
  • Little to no tuning required.
  • Stock heads sound great
  • High-quality shells and mounts

Cons

  • No hardware or cymbals included
  • Snare drum feels a bit flimsy

PDP by DW Encore

PDP Encore
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This charming kit jumped into our top 10 due to the quality of drums and sound you get at such an incredibly low cost. You also get all the hardware and cymbals with it! PDP are part of world-renowned drum makers DW and were created to produce high-quality sets at an affordable price and they have done so fantastically. Loaded up with the quality and features of DW, but without the hefty price tag. This kit really is a beginner’s dream. It may not compare to the Mapex Mars or the Tama Superstar whose shells could take you through to a professional level, but as a first drum set there is no beating the PDP by DW Encore, which has enough quality to ensure that you won’t need to upgrade it within 6 months.

Pros

  • Entry-level price with high-end DW features
  • Surprisingly good sound
  • Slick finish with 4 styles to choose from
  • Complete pack with hardware

Cons

  • Cymbals, heads and hardware are poor
  • Can be tricky to set up

Natal Drums Arcadia UF22 

Best Beginner Drum Set Under $1000
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The Natal drums are a thing of beauty. Originally making iconic latin percussion instruments like their fiberglass congas, the British company Natal relaunched with its critically acclaimed ‘Originals’. These were revered for their design and lauded for their sound. Since then, much like DW, Natal set about making an affordable kit whilst retaining the quality and in the Arcadias, they have done exactly that. If you aren’t familiar with all things drumming then Natal may not sound too familiar to you, not being a household name like Gretsch or Pearl. That doesn’t detract from these drums. At the mid-range price point, they don’t come with cymbals or a throne but they do come with a hardware pack which contains sturdy stands and a pedal. It is rare that we can’t find something wrong with a set, but we are struggling with this jaw-dropping set.

Pros

  • Stunning value
  • Expert craftsmanship
  • Hardware pack included (see review)
  • Breathtaking sound

Cons

  • No cymbals

DW Design Series

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The most expensive acoustic set that you will see on this website, the DW Design could not be left out. Incredible for beginners, intermediates, hell, we would tell Chad Smith to get one of these. It is DW quality at an affordable price. It does not come with hardware so you will have to buy all of those bits separately, but if you wanted to find what is essentially a professional kit that isn’t going to cost you thousands then this is it.

Pros

  • Despite price great value for money
  • Immaculate hard rock maple shells
  • Loud, crisp, full-bodied sound
  • Great versatility
  • Incredible articulation and even fade
  • Easy to play at any level

Cons

  • Pricey for a first set
  • No cymbals or hardware

Tama Imperialstar with Meinl HCS Cymbals

Tama Imperialstar
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Barely missing out on a top 3 finish is the Imperialstar, produced by Tama who are known for not only of drums but also their hardware. Known for their quality and style, these entry to intermediate level drums are no different. Drummers will swear by Tama and defend it to the death and for good reason. This set is perfect for most styles of music and we especially love how it sounds for rock and metal. It is a complete pack, so you will have all the hardware and cymbals you need to get going.

Pros

  • Complete kit with good quality Meinl cymbals
  • Great value for money
  • Solid heavy duty hardware
  • Precision sound bearing edges
  • Good sound for an inexpensive kit
  • Easy setup and tuning

Cons

  • Heads aren’t great
  • Not the biggest sound

Ludwig Accent Drive with Zildjian Cymbals

Ludwig Accent Combo with Zildjian Cymbals
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The baby brother and more affordable version of the Ludwig CS series. At an incredibly low price for a kit that includes 2 fantastic Zildjian cymbals and all the hardware needed, the Ludwig Accent Drive was not too far away from our top 3. A solid first kit for any beginner to get to grips with drumming and then due to the cheap cost, very easy to upgrade to their next set when ready. Great to learn on, even if you will outgrow them quite quickly. Once you do though, at least you still have the Zildjian cymbals!

Pros

  • Zildjian cymbals
  • Good quality shells
  • Good resale value

Cons

  • Poor heads that need tuning
  • Shells are not birch like CS series
  • Hardware feels cheap and unstable
  • Throne needs replacing

Tama Superstar Classic 

Tama Superstar
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These were a joy to review. Better quality than the Imperialstar – shells constructed beautifully from 100% pure maple. If this were a list of the top mid-level kits then this would be in the top 3 hands down but given its price and the fact that it is the shells only we couldn’t justify placing it any higher. If you are serious about drumming and want a kit that you carry through with you for years to come and play gigs with then the breathtaking Tama Superstar Classic may be the kit for you.

Pros

  • 100% pure exquisitely made maple shells
  • Huge sound from Toms and Bass
  • Gig/ concert ready
  • Semi-pro level kit at a remarkable mid-range price

Cons

  • For a beginner a little pricey as only a shell pack
  • No hardware of cymbals

Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove 4-Pc with Tama Throne

Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove
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This compact kit is the only 4-piece that made it on to our list. Inspired by Sonor who started making micro kits in the 90s and who feature in our best jazz drum kits for beginners, Ludwig have teamed up with the king of groove, Questlove to create a set a fraction of the size with all of the kick and they have done so fairly well. The compact Ludwig Breakbeats are great not only for jazz but for small apartments, bedrooms and studios and they are extremely portable. They are also for obvious reasons great for kids and beginners. Overall an extremely affordable kit that lives up to its vision (and for only $10 you get a Tama throne with this combo!) with a choice of 3 funky finishes this is a kit that won’t disappoint.

Pros

  • Small stature, big sound
  • Great range for a small kit
  • Extremely affordable budget kit
  • Looks groovy, sounds groovy

Cons

  • Toms feel a bit flimsy
  • Ludwig/Questlove logo looks a bit cheap

Gammon Percussion

Best Cheap Drum Set
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Hardware and cymbals:  
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The Gammon – a drum set on a budget. This kit is the practice kit of practice kits in such that all you should do is practice on it. This will be the definition of no-frills and it is here simply because of its low price. Made for those who just want something cheap to practice on before they upgrade or to test the waters on. The sound and response may not be the best but given how unbeatably affordable it is it snuck into our top 10. There are other kits at a similar price or lower that might as well be toys. This is still a drum kit. Think of it this way, if you can make something sound good on this, then you make something sound good on anything.

Pros

  • Unfahtomably cheap
  • Still a drum kit

Cons

  • Sounds flat
  • Poor hardware, cymbals and shells

Best Drum Set Under $1,000 (click for full reviews) :

Now if you are just starting up, $1,000 may seem like quite a large sum to part with and that’s why we have categories for kits Under $500, as well as a  ‘Cheap’ category. If however, you are not put off by this price tag then you will have a great range of kits to choose from as a beginner. Whilst you can always spend more it isn’t necessary or advisable for a first-time player.

Natal Drums Arcadia UF22 – Gray Strata 
imperiBest Beginner Drum Set Under $1000
Shells and heads:    
Hardware and cymbals:  
Sound:     
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The Natal drums are a thing of beauty. Originally making iconic latin percussion instruments like their fiberglass congas, the British company Natal relaunched with its critically acclaimed ‘Originals’. These were revered for their design and lauded for their sound. Since then, much like DW, Natal set about making an affordable kit whilst retaining the quality and in the Arcadias, they have done exactly that. If you aren’t familiar with all things drumming then Natal may not sound too familiar to you, not being a household name like Gretsch or Pearl. That doesn’t detract from these drums. At the mid-range price point, they don’t come with cymbals or a throne but they do come with a hardware pack which contains sturdy stands and a pedal. It is rare that we can’t find something wrong with a set, but we are struggling with this jaw-dropping set.

Pros

  • Stunning value
  • Expert craftsmanship
  • Hardware pack included (see review)

Cons

  • None

Tama Imperialstar with Meinl HCS Cymbals

Tama Imperialstar
Shells and heads:   
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Check price

Full review

Tama is not only a great manufacturer of drums but also hardware, known for their quality and style. These entry/intermediate level drums are no different. The Tama Imperialstars are our top mid-range complete packs. Drummers will swear by Tama and defend it to the death and for good reason. This set is perfect for most styles of music and we especially love how it sounds for rock and metal. It is a complete pack, so you will have all the hardware and cymbals you need to get going.

Pros

  • Complete kit with good quality Meinl cymbals
  • Great value for money
  • Solid heavy duty hardware
  • Precision sound bearing edges
  • Good response and sound for an inexpensive kit
  • Easy setup and tuning – instructions included

Cons

  • Heads need replacing
  • Not the biggest sound

Mapex Mars Series Rock 

Mapex Mars
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An incredible kit at a good price. It does not include hardware or cymbals, which a lot of drummers would say is a good thing as it gives you the freedom to choose your own solid gear. Often hardware is an afterthought with these complete kits. This is a truly a special shell pack and good value for its place in the top 3 of our list. This is much as we would recommend for you spend on a new shell only pack at this stage of your playing career. Already this is as much drum as you will need for a long time. These shells will at the very least take you passed the intermediate but remain wonderfully easy for a beginner to learn on.

Pros

  • Big tone and responsive sound – drums can be used in a studio or in a concert hall
  • Surprisingly deep and powerful, yet focused bass drum
  • Little to no tuning required.
  • Factory heads sound great and do not need changing
  • High-quality shell and sturdy, durable SONIClear tom mounts great for the resonance.
  • SONIClear bearing edge gives clear tone with quick rebound.
  • Mid-range price for high end sounding kit

Cons

  • No hardware or cymbals included
  • Snare drum feels a bit flimsy

Best Drum Set Under $500 (click for full reviews):

Unfortunately the drums are not the cheapest instrument. That being said, $500 will give you quite a bit of choice. So whilst some of this list may be priced a lot lower, they still hold up against some of the heavy-hitters and are real quality sets.

Pearl Roadshow (Best drum set under $500!)
Best Beginner Drum Set Under $500

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In our number one spot is one the Pearl Roadshow and it thoroughly deserves its place. At this price it would be easy to think that the set will compromise on sound and quality and that once you get it home and unpack it, you will wish you hadn’t. This is not the case. As a beginner, we would say look no further. This is a complete kit that you can start playing the minute you get it – it includes sticks, a throne, stands, a pedal, ride and hi-hat cymbals and the shells, all for under $500. You will want to change the cymbals eventually as they aren’t great but they will do for the first few months. Even taking into account the cost of a new cymbal pack these are still unbeatable for a beginner.

Pros

  • Pearl’s quality and technology at a budget price
  • Easy to set up (see full review)
  • Solid Hardware
  • Well constructed, stylish finish and surprisingly well-rounded sound.
  • Punchy, crisp snare

Cons

  • Cymbals aren’t great.

PDP by DW Encore 

PDP Encore
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Value:    

This charming kit flew in to our top 3 due to the quality of drums and sound you get at such an incredibly low cost. You also get all the hardware and cymbals with it! PDP are part of world-renowned drum makers DW and were created to produce high-quality sets at an affordable price and they have done so fantastically. Loaded up with the quality and features of DW, but without the hefty price tag. This kit really is a beginner’s dream. It may not compare to the Mapex Mars or the Tama Superstar whose shells could take you through to a professional level, but as a first drum set, there is no beating the PDP by DW Encore, which is good enough quality that you won’t need to upgrade it within 6 months.

Pros

  • Entry-level price with high-end DW features
  • Incredible sound and shells
  • Slick finish with 4 styles to choose from
  • Complete pack with hardware

Cons

  • Cymbals, sticks, heads and hardware are not the best
  • Can be tricky to set up and no instructions

Ludwig Accent Drive with Zildjian Cymbals

Ludwig Accent Combo with Zildjian Cymbals
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The baby brother and more affordable version of the Ludwig CS series. At an incredibly low price for a kit that includes 2 fantastic Zildjian cymbals and as well as sticks, cymbal cleaner, drum polish, a polish cloth, literally everything you need to start playing. The Ludwig Accent was not too far away from the top spot in terms of best value for money set, let down slightly by the shells and hardware which are by no means bad. A solid first kit for any beginner to get to grips with drumming. You can take the cymbals on to your next set so all you will need is the shell pack and some stands making it very easy to upgrade. Great to learn on, even if you will outgrow it quite quickly.

Pros

  • Complete set – all hardware, sticks and Zildjian cymbals
  • Good quality shells
  • Good resale value

Cons

  • Not tuned well to start and heads need to be replaced
  • Shells are ‘select veneers’ and not birch like CS series
  • The hardware feels cheap and unstable
  • Throne needs replacing

Best Budget Drum Kit (click for full reviews):

We say cheap, but that shouldn’t deter you. Cheap doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It may well be the case that picking up the sticks for the first time, you don’t know if the drums will be the instrument for you. If this is the case then you will want a nice cheap and cheerful set to get the feel of the instrument. We have looked into the reasonably priced whilst trying not to compromise on sound:

Rogue 5-Piece Complete Set

Best Budget Drum Set
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Our favorite full-size 5-piece complete drum set under $300. The Rogue comes equipped with all the hardware and cymbals you need to start drumming straight out of the box. The most common problem you will find with sets at this price is that the shells are poorly constructed so the sound is woefully boxey and thin. This set sounds surprisingly good and the tones are pleasant. We are not saying that you can compare it to the Pearl Roadshow or the Tama Imperialstar and you aren’t going to be gigging any time soon with it, but at its price point it is a bit of a revelation given what we have come to expect of these extreme budget packs. So as long as you buy this with the right perspective and expectations, you will enjoy this perfectly affordable kit for a new drummer testing the waters.

Pros

  • The snare is punchy and crisp
  • Shells well constructed
  • Hardware is reasonably sturdy
  • Easy to assemble

Cons

  • Heads need changing
  • The bass pedal is poor
  • Cymbals are not great
  • Needs a lot of tuning

Gammon Percussion Full Size

We say cheap, but that shouldn’t deter you. Cheap doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It may well be the case that picking up the sticks for the first time, you don’t know if the drums will be the instrument for you. If this is the case then you will want a nice cheap and cheerful set to get the feel of the instrument. We have looked into the reasonably priced whilst trying not to compromise on sound:

Best Cheap Drum Set
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The Gammon – a drum set on a budget. This will be the definition of no-frills as is quite normal for a complete pack at this price point. Made for those who just want something cheap to test the waters on. That being said it is popular amongst learners on a budget; it is the ‘Ford’ of the cheap drumming world. The sound and response may not be the best, you may get a few unwanted overtones but it will do the job. There are other kits at a similar price or lower that might as well be toys, so all things considered it’s not a bad drum kit to get you through the first half year. This is a semi-solid full drum set that will be easy enough to set up and play. There are always ways to make a cheap drum sound better and the video after the reviews gives some great tips.

Pros

  • Exceptional Value
  • Real acoustic set
  • Easy to assemble

Cons

  • Cheap construction
  • Flat sound

Mendini by Cecilio Full Size 

Mendini Red
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At this price, the manufacturers are really pushing the limit of how much they can give you at such a low price and it is quite telling when it comes to the Mendini’s hardware and cymbals. The shells however look and sound ok. This is the ultimate practice set to get you off the mark and then once you have decided (as we are sure you will) that drumming is for you, you can trash this set without a second thought. As a parent who isn’t sure if their kid will keep playing and doesn’t want the hassle of finding used kits, here is the solution. Cheap, easy and non-committal.

Pros

  • Everything you need to start playing
  • Remarkably cheap
  • Shells finished nicely and sound ok
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Cymbals, throne and stands feel cheap and poorly made
  • Lots of tuning required
  • Heads are poor

Best Drum Set For Kids (click for full reviews):

This is an age where they might not be big enough to play a full-size kit but that shouldn’t mean that they should learn on equipment that won’t serve them well in the future. It is important to strike a balance between cost, playability and how closely it resembles the full-size kit. In the full article we have also looked at kits for those in that tricky age 6-11 which is somewhere between a kids kit and a full-size one.

Gammon 5-Piece Junior (3-8 years old)
Gammon Junior Percussion 5-piece

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This wonderful kit heads up our list as the fantastic starter 5-piece kit is perfect for 3-8-year-olds. Placed in between a toy and a real kit, this wooden shelled, chrome-finished set is great for fledgling percussionists. As a 5-piece with two cymbals and all the hardware it replicates the set up of a full-size drum kit exactly, so the experience will be a lot more similar than a 3-piece such as the Sound Percussion set in at number 3. Whilst the cymbals are poor and the drums don’t produce the same response or tone as say the Ludwig in at number 2, they are more than enough for your kid to get the feel of things and really experiment with rhythm and sound. They are much more affordable than the Ludwigs which is why they take our number one spot. Unless you are looking for a really serious set, then these will be perfect and your kid will love them.

Complete with:

16″x10″ Bass Drum, Wood Snare drum, two mounted Toms, a Floor Tom, -8″ Hi-Hat Cymbals, 10″ Crash/Ride Cymbal, Snare Stand, Hi-Hat Stand, Bass drum pedal, drumsticks and a stool/throne.
This shrunk down all in one kit comes with everything your kid needs to start their drumming journey. They will love it!

Pros

  • Has all the elements and equipment you get with the full-size kit.
  • Affordable and good quality.
  • Sturdy stands, shells and throne

Cons

  • It does not have the sound or response of a real drum set.

Ludwig Junior Outfit (ages 3-8)

This is an age where they might not be big enough to play a full-size kit but that shouldn’t mean that they should learn on equipment that won’t serve them well in the future. It is important to strike a balance between cost, playability and how closely it resembles the full-size kit. In the full article we have also looked at kits for those in that tricky age 6-11 which is somewhere between a kids kit and a full-size one.

Best Drum Kit for Kids
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This superb kit is in a league of its own when it comes to a drum set for kids aged 3-8. This isn’t an imitation kit or a toy, this is a shrunk down version of a full 5-piece kit with Ludwig’s quality, sound and playability. The reason that it is not in our number one spot is the price. Most people when looking for their 5-year-old aren’t looking for a serious kit, they are just looking for something that their kid can get to grips with drumming on. If however your kid has shown an interest in drumming and it is clear that they are channeling Keith Moon then you may want to get this kit. If they are planning on practicing and we mean dedicated practice learning rudiments, speed, etc and not just playing around then this is the kit for them. For the other kits on this list, it would be tough to do any serious practice, but this drum set resembles the feel and response of an actual kit.

Complete with:

You might expect the drums to sound a bit lifeless and flat but in fact, it sounds crisp and bright, the snare is punchy and the toms are full-bodied. The heads are surprisingly responsive and you get a good boom from the bass. We think that any drummer would be surprised at the sound it packs for its shrunken stature. So much so that for young kids we would advise getting some earplugs whilst they get used to the volume. The hardware (pedal, stands, mount and throne) is really sturdy and doesn’t feel lightweight or flimsy, The one downside is the cymbals. They are not the best and sound a bit thin but that’s pretty unavoidable with complete sets, even with full-size kits. You can eventually replace them but it is not necessarily straight away. If your kid is 5 or 6 be sure to check out the Ludwig Pocket below.

 

The set includes:

  • Bass drum: 16″ x 10″
  • Tom: 8″ x 5″ and 10″ x 5″
  • Floor tom: 13″ x 10″
  • Snare: 12″ x 4″
  • 2 x cymbals, a bass pedal, stands and a throne (seat)

This really is the ultimate kit for a young child and can even be used as a mini kit as you advance. In fact, it is so good that some older drummers use it as their traveling kit!

Pros

  • An actual drum kit with Ludwig quality.
  • Good quality shells, heads and hardware
  • Everything your kid needs to truly advance and progress.

Cons

  • Cymbals are not great

Sound Percussion Labs Lil Kicker 3-Pc (ages 3-8)

Sound Percussion Labs Lil Kicker
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This lovely little 3-piece is a great option for 3-8 olds who want more than a big toy and at $150 you will be pleasantly surprised that these are anything but. At this price and for this age you would probably not expect much more than cheap plastic but the Sound Percussion Labs team have produced a decent set of wooden kids drums that are well on their way to the real deal. The drum shells and resonance are better than the Gammon’s in at number 1, however, they were pipped to the post as the Gammons are a 5-piece. This pack consists of:

 

  • Bass drum: 16″ x 12″
  • Tom: 8″ x 5″
  • Snare: 10″ x 4″
  • Hi-hat cymbals and ride/crash cymbal
  • Bass pedal, stands and a throne

With an unexpectedly good snare and tom and a bass drum that is surprisingly boomy this set is perfect for your kid to start practicing on. Of course, you have to take into account the cost and be realistic, this isn’t going to sound the same as a full kit, but if you were to replace the drum heads and cymbals you would have yourself a fairly good kit. Don’t forget the old drummers trick of putting a pillow inside the bass drum. The stands are not heavyweight but sturdy enough, as is the throne. Overall these are a great way to get your child into drumming, as it will give them the feel of what a full-sized drum set feels and sounds like.

Pros

  • Excellent quality at an ultra-low price
  • Great drums that are a step up from toys
  • Drum shells are well constructed
  • Choice of 3 colors.

Cons

  • Cymbals and drum heads are not great
  • Assembly can be a little tricky

Best Toddler Drum Set (click for full reviews):

The kids are our future, which means that toddlers are our kids’ future (or something like that). It is never too young to start learning, provided that they aren’t trying to eat the drumsticks. So whilst having lessons at this age may not be advisable, it shouldn’t stop them having a good play. Some of you right now are probably imagining this:

But the sets below do offer a little more than that!

 

When it comes to imitating the drumming experience for a tiny tapper, then this set is the tops. It is the priciest on our list but still very affordable for a toy/set of this quality. Calling it a toy doesn’t do it justice, as it looks like a professional drum kit and your kid will feel like a real rock star playing this. Yes, it does sound like someone hitting on pots and pans but it looks like an adult set and for a kid, especially those who are already drumming on whatever they can get their hands on, this is the perfect introduction to the drumming world. It has a snare drum with its own stand, a mounted tom drum, a cymbal and bass/kick drum with a pedal! Due to its realistic layout, your child can play around on this great imitation set a get a real feel for sitting on the stool and experimenting with sound and rhythm at an incredibly young age. With a whole host of colors to choose from you can match the kit to your kids favorite color. We rate this as the best drum set for a 2-year-old.

Similar to our set in the number 1 position, this set is again an imitation, fully-functional set for those little budding rock stars. Equipped with bass drum and pedal, snare drum with a separate stand, a mounted tom, sticks and a stool, this is everything a peewee player needs to get going. This set is $50 or so cheaper than our top set so makes it a great budget option, but as a result it is a little flimsier. However, as long as you don’t try a put a heavy-handed 7-year-old in the chair then you should be fine. Easy to tune and easy to assemble, if your kid likes drumming then they will love this! With a choice of 3 colors and a RockJam logo on the bass drum this is a sure fire way to set your kid on the path to Rockdom (a province of Rock City).

VTech KidiBeats (ages 0 – 3 years)

Best Musical Percussion Toy for Kids

 

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Check Price

 

Some of you may have ended up here looking for the best musical toy or drum for a toddler or baby and are now being faced with actual mini drumsets! If you are one of these people and you just want a fun toy to let your kid play around with rhythm, beats and general sensory development then look no further. In at under $20 is this wonderful and colorful toy by Vtech. With 4 modes: Free Play, Letters, Numbers, and Follow-Along, it will teach your kid a bunch of skills in a fun and engaging way with light up pads and different melodies. It is a wonderful toy and highly rated among parents. We would say that this is definitely the best musical drumming toy for a baby.

Best Jazz Drum Kit for Beginners (click for full reviews):

So this may not be for a first-time drummer, but more a first-time jazz drummer. These kits are configured slightly different from a regular set, most notably they have an 18” bass drum, as opposed to the larger 20 or 22″. Click more reviews for a rundown of what to look for.

Sound Percussion Labs Street Bop Birch

Best Jazz Drum Kit for Beginners
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Coming in at the top of our list is the unfathomably affordable jazzy 4-piece bop kit from Sound Percussion Labs. Whilst it may not be able to compete with some of the others on this list when it comes to quality of sound, it is still up there and with a change of heads could easily be used for gigging.  As a shell pack, you will still need to buy the cymbals and stands (as with all jazz sets) but factoring that in you still aren’t going to be breaking the bank. At this price you aren’t going to be expecting DW or Sonor Vintage quality, but you are still getting a lot of drum all for under $300! High quality at a low cost.

Pros

  • Unbelievably good value for money
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Incredible craftsmanship for shells and bearing edges
  • Wonderful wooden hoops
  • Can be used to gig

Cons

  • Tom and snare heads need to be changed to gig
  • Snare lugs and strainer feel cheap

Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove with Tama Throne

Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove
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Ludwig have teamed up with the king of groove, Questlove to create this funky 4-piece set at a fraction of the size of their full-size kits, but with all of the kick. This compact kit is great for small apartments or studios and is extremely portable. Ludwig Breakbeats by Questlove is the only set to find its way into our top 10 acoustic kits, jazz and kids (with their junior ‘Pocket’ model) reviews which is a testament to what they have created. High-quality kit at a low-end price. Overall an extremely affordable kit that lives up to its vision (and for only $10 more you get a Tama throne with this combo!)

Pros

  • Small stature, big sound
  • Great range for a small kit
  • Extremely affordable budget kit
  • Looks groovy, sounds groovy
  • Surprisingly good snare drum

Cons

  • Toms feel a bit flimsy
  • Ludwig/Questlove logo looks a bit cheap

Gretsch CT1J484SWG 2014 Catalina Club Jazz

Gretsch Catalina
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It may only have just made into our top 3, but it is number one for sound and style. Gretsch are world renowned for their quality and the Catalina Club Jazz is proof of that. Stopping it from taking the top spot was cost. Whilst it is worth every penny and in fact great value for money, it is a good couple hundred of dollars more than our top 2 and so when you add in the cost of the cymbals and hardware it is not the ideal first-time buyer kit. If you have the budget and the vision then you will be over the moon with what you get in the Gretsch Catalinas.

Pros

  • Unbelievable value for top-notch Gretsch drums
  • Professional level
  • Classic and stunning mahogany
  • Gretsch 30 degree bearing edges
  • Magnificent shell construction  finish
  • Compact and portable
  • Easy to assemble

Cons

  • High cost for an entry-level 4-piece set

Best drum throne (stool):

We have included this, as a good drum stool is vital to your long-term playing. If your stool is too hard or uncomfortable then it will affect your playing posture and you will eventually experience lower back pains, this is very common with drummers. Whilst it can be tempting to keep the default throne or look for the best cheap drum throne, don’t! It is worth paying a little bit extra for the sake of your back. You just need something sturdy, that doesn’t squeak and is well padded. You don’t have to spend a fortune. We would recommend one of the following two:

  1. PDP By DW 700 Series Tractor Style Drum Throne

  2. Gibraltar Softy Drum Throne

Both of these are easily adjusted and supremely comfortable, the latter being the traditions circular shape. If looking for a younger player then we recommend the Percussion Plus 300T Single-Braced Junior Drum Throne. It is not as stable as the adult thrones, which is fine as it is for younger kids ages of 5-10.

Before you start

Something that is often overlooked when people start drumming are the fundamentals. (Usually this is met with a groan). If you are just beginning you will want to slowly work your way through the 40 basic rudiments of drumming. Some of these may be more applicable to marching band, but all of them will serve you well in the future and are great for your repertoire. It will help you deal with tricky riffs and rhythms with ease as you advance. We cannot stress this enough. If you are taking lessons then this will be drilled into you, but if not we highly recommend checking out this website which has great instructions on some early techniques. So put in the time now – practice, improve your technique, speed and control with these rudiments and in the long run nailing these will be the difference between a mediocre player and you a fantastic one.

When trying to build your speed, start slow! Many of us have tried to roll as quickly as possible only to end up shouting with sticks on the floor. Start slow and build up the speed using a metronome. Keep practicing and the speed will come naturally. Also, remember that drumming can be a true test of physical (and mental) speed and endurance so when you pick up the sticks each day it will take you a little while to warm up. Don’t be disappointed if your starting speed isn’t the same as the previous days ending.

Drum Roll Please

The drums can be a daunting prospect, it is not just thrashing around until you produce something that resembles a beat. It takes practice, dedication and is a true test of stamina and endurance, more so than many other instruments. It doesn’t matter if you start playing on your dream set or an old 2nd hander with a wonky bass pedal, ultimately it is you playing the instrument and not the other way round (whatever that may mean!). Irrespective of the kit you choose, it will be your passion that is most telling. If you can shine on a $200 basic Gammon set, think what you can do when you when you finally upgrade? Sometimes it is more important to get the right cymbals or drum heads as these can have a bigger impact than the drums themselves.That being said there are plenty of substandard kits out there but we believe that everything that has been compiled and reviewed on this site deserves its place for one reason or another. Each make and model has its own selling point and own nuances and it is about finding the one that suits you. So have a browse and you should be able to find the best starter drum kit for you.

As a final thought, always remember to keep in my mind other instruments, as drums are part of the great percussive genre. This means you don’t always have to play just one instrument or be the drummer in the band. You could mix your drum setup with other instruments. You could mount a marching snare drum in place of a regular snare to achieve a different sound or even bring in the marimbas and bongos, like these guys.

So always be creative and always be flexible. Good luck shopping and keep on rolling!

Getting Started

So you have ordered your kit and it has arrived, so now what? Well you don’t have to sit there with imaginary sticks anymore, you can actually get going. Here is a video with some great beginner exercises that are well explained:

 

Check out his website for some more free drum lessons!