For many parents, the drums represent an instrument that is physically challenging but yet fun to play. It’s no wonder that so many parents are choosing to introduce their kids to drumming at all ages. In this article we will discuss what makes a good drum set for kids to play and what you should think about when purchasing the first drum set for your child.
Drum sets come in all shapes and sizes. You can get beginner sets and professional sets, and everything in between. Drum kits can also be made from a variety of materials too. Most standard drum kits you will see on television are made from wood, although they can also be made from plastics and metal – which are called an ‘acoustic’ drum set.
We are going to go over some of the basics of drum sets and then focus on drum sets that are just for kids. The more you understand about the terminology and features that are offered, the better purchasing decision you can make.
Electronic Drum Sets
One type of drum set is the electronic drum set. Electronic drum sets are usually a lot smaller in size to acoustic drum sets and provide a number of benefits. The sound levels generated from an electronic drum set are way lower than an acoustic set and for this reason they are a popular choice among many consumers. Electronic drum kits are ideal for use as a practice tool in areas where noise levels must be kept down.
Acoustic Drum Sets
Looking at a standard acoustic drum set, we notice that there are many components that make up the instrument in its totality. Acoustic drum sets are the most common but can be unique in what they offer.
Below are some more common pieces found in a traditional acoustic drum set.
The biggest drum on a drum set is called the ‘bass drum’. This is usually anything from 16 to 22 inches in diameter. This drum is played by using a bass drum pedal. Bass drum pedals are designed to be played with your foot and there is a beater which strikes the drum when you press down on the pedalboard.
Every drum on an acoustic drum set has at least one drum ‘head’. These heads are sometimes referred to as ‘skins’ because in many hand drums they were and are made from actual animal skin. Drum heads are tightened to the top and bottom of each drum in order to produce a music tone.
On a drum kit, the drummer usually only plays on one side of each drum. For this reason, the drum head on the top, or the ‘batter’ head, is usually thicker and more durable than the head on the bottom, the resonant head.
The snare drum is the most played drum on most drum kits. It usually sits directly in front of the player so they can easily reach it. The snare drum has a unique sound. It’s the sound you think of when you hear a march. There is usually a snare strainer on the bottom of the drum that sits just on the resonant head. This strainer changes the sound of the drum and makes it sound much more like a marching snare drum.
On most drum kits you will have more drums, usually five in total for more professional sets. After the bass drum and snare we have the toms. On a five-piece drum set there are three toms. Two of these toms typically are mounted to the bass drum and are often called the Rack Tom. The third is often called a floor tom. You will recognize a floor tom as it will usually be one of the bigger toms, and often it will have 3 supporting legs.
Every drum set needs a set of cymbals too. The minimum amount of cymbals with any professional drum set is usually three, but there is no limit!
Most drum sets for kids under 16 or so do not usually have that many cymbals included.
Hi-hat Symbol – The hi-hat is made up of two cymbals placed on top of each other in a cupping manner. Both hi-hat cymbals are then placed onto a hi-hat stand to be played. The hi-hat stand will have a pedal that controls the top hi-hat cymbal and allows you to open and close the cymbals together for different sounds.
Ride/Crash Cymbal – Along with the hi-hat you will typically see a ride cymbal and a crash. These cymbals are similar in nature although usually the ride produces more of a controlled ‘ping’ sound. The crash is used to accent parts of songs and is used in big orchestras too.
A typical 3-piece drum set or sometimes known as a “trap kit” will usually have a Bass Drum, a Snare Drum and a single Tom Drum. A 5-piece usually contains the Bass and Snare drums but will also have 2 Rack Toms and a floor Tom.
An individual drum will usually include the following components:
Shell – this is the outer core of the drum and is usually metal or wood in better sets and is what everything else attaches to.
Tension Rods & Lugs– the tension rods screw into the lugs which are attached to the drum shell. This allows the user to properly tune and tighten the drum head.
Hoops (or Rims) – the rim mount or hoop is what allows the drum head to be secured to the drum shell. They are often made of metal or wood.
Top & Bottom Heads – this is the part of the drum your child will be hitting, they will hit the top (commonly called the batter head) and the sound will resonate to the bottom head.
Mounts – these are the pieces that the suspension hardware will be attached to.
Some drums may have additional parts like the Snare Drum will have additional parts like a throw lever and snare wires.
Additional Hardware Parts Typically Found In Drum Sets
Most drum sets will need assembly and we have outlined below some of the more common parts you can expect to find depending on the kit you purchase.
Stand for the snare drum – this is a 3-legged stand that your snare drum will sit on.
Floor Tom Legs – The 3 usually curved legs that attach to the Floor Tom to stand it up.
Rack Tom Mount and Holders – These are the “arms” that attach the Rack Toms to the Bass Drum.
Feet & Pedal For Bass Drum – the feet will be two small metal pieces that attach to the bottom of the drum that will raise it off the ground a bit to prevent scuffing on the floor. The pedal is attached to what is called a beater that is then used to strike the drum when the pedal is pushed down.
Stand For Hi-Hat Cymbals – usually a 3 legged stand with a pedal that will control the open and closing of the cymbals when pushed.
Cymbal Stand – The 3-legged stand that suspends the Ride or Crash cymbal (occasionally an arm mounted to the Bass Drum on lower-end kid’s drum sets).
Seat – these are not always included in all children’s drum kits but when they are they may need to be assembled.
What To Consider Before Purchasing A Drum Set For Your Child
When you are looking for a drum set for your child it’s important to keep in mind certain factors. The most important thing is finding a drum set that is physically the right size for your child. This means selecting the right sized drums and cymbals, as well as a suitable drum throne and sticks.
Also, will you be putting them into a more formal music program or teaching them the drums at home? This can make a difference in what you need as well. If you are considering more formal drum lessons either with a school or teacher, it may be beneficial to get recommendations from them to ensure your child has a drum set that will help them in their lessons.
Children up to 6 years
Luckily there are drum kits aimed at all ages and all sizes. For smaller kids up to around 6 years old, you can pick up ‘toy’ sets that are aimed at this age group.
These sets come with everything the child will need to get started although they will not be the most robust sets. Usually a toy drum set like this is a good introduction to drumming for many kids and will eventually be outgrown.
Toy drums are considered those that are typically under $100 and are most commonly made of plastic. We really only recommend this for kids up to 5 or 6 year olds. Because of the lack of features it will not do well in growing with them so any drums that are in this category should be considered a temporary drum.
Children up up to about 11 or 12 years
For slightly older kids, or kids that are showing great progress on the toy kit, you can look at a ‘junior’ acoustic drum set. These kits usually come with smaller sized drums to adult drum kits. You can find acoustic drum sets with smaller 16 inch bass drums and 6, 8 or 10 inch toms. These smaller sizes will make it easier for the child to reach each drum.
Children 12 and up
If your child is ready for the step up, you can go for a full-sized drum set. It’s not unusual to see a child of 10 or 12 years playing on a full-sized adult drum kit. It really depends on the individual, their size and their ability.
If you do purchase a larger sized kit for your child, you can lower the components on the drum set to suit their stature. The drum throne can be lowered. Likewise the snare comes with a stand that can be lowered. The toms and cymbals can be repositioned for more comfort too.
Differences Between Adult Drum Sets and Kids Drum Sets
There is just no way around it – no matter what you think, there are plenty of differences between adult and kid versions of drum sets. The pricing of kids drums just do not warrant the finest quality or sound, but are typically good enough for most younger players why may not have the ears yet to hear the difference.
Quality and construction are the most common complaints when it comes to these kits. Reports of having to replace drum heads is common since the drum heads are typically made of a thinner less durable material than the adult sets. Cymbals and foot pedals are also commonly complained about due to damage after repeated use.
Drum Kit Brands
You should give thought to the brand of drum you decide to get – it can definitely effect the sound and future sales opportunity when your child outgrows it. Many of the low cost off-brand drums do not have the best sounds as are available in more notable brands – their goals are to produce a product that entertains, not one that builds skills and passion for learning.
At some point your child is going to want to upgrade, and it would be great to ensure that you can recoup most of your money by reselling their older set. Name brand searches for specific drums are more common and by purchasing a more commonly known brand like Ludwig or Gammon can help you sell it a bit easier.
In order to help yourself make the best drum kit purchase you can ask yourself three questions:
- Will your child be able to physically play this drum set?
2. How long will it be before they grow out of it?
3. Have they already shown a genuine passion and interest for the drums?
Have questions or concerns?
While we hope this guide will help you better understand what to look for when purchasing a drum set, we know you may have questions! If so please send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as we can.