Calgary Drummer, Percussionist, Composer, Educator...

Selecting A Drum Set
Selecting a Drum Set:
Acoustic vs. Electronic
When you take a look around at music stores and you will see many different instrument options ranging from $399.00 for an acoustic drum set with all the hardware and cymbals, to $5000.00 for just the drum shells and hardware, without cymbals. Why is there a big difference?
There are acoustic drum sets and electronic drum sets. Some electronic sets have rubber padding, some with mesh.  The big question remains: Which one would be best for you?  I will try to guide you through the choices so you can feel confident in making a choice that best suits you and your budget.

Acoustic drum sets have been around in some form or other for over a century, and gained popularity in the 1930s.  Their configurations vary, but they are typically a set of drum shells, hardware to hold the drums and cymbals, cymbals which includes a high hat and crash/ride and potentially a full ride cymbal, a stool or "throne" to sit on, and a kick (bass drum) pedal.  They are fully functional without any electricity, and eco-friendly as they are drummer-powered!!

Option One: The Acoustic Drum set

Advantages to an acoustic drum set include:

- Natural sound with countless possible timbres and colours

- Natrual strike response through sticks

- Gives the ability to develop sense of musical touch through a variety of colours and sounds availble in the drums and cymbals

- Price points vary from low to high, depending on quality

- Very responsive to dynamic changes

- Tunable to your taste

- Unlimited configurations, accessories and possibilities

- Very easily adjustable to accommodate for height, leg length, torso length to ensure natural playing position

- Less expensive to rent


- Very loud instrument, especially when played by beginners

- Many pieces to set up with a larger space requirement

-  Must be tuned occasionally to produce a desirable sound

- Heads need maintenance and replacing

- Must use hearing protection

- Sticks get chewed up from use


Option Two: Electronic Drum Set

Electronic drum sets come in many different shapes, sizes, brains, with or without monitors, recording capabilities, and head materials. Mesh heads are an option on some Roland drum sets, or a combination of mesh and rubber padding, or all rubber padding. I recommend getting at least the snare drum with mesh padding, as it has more of a real feel than rubber does, and will help in developing some snare drum technique through a more natural feel.

Advantages to an electronic drum set include:

- Much quieter than an acoustic when played with headphones on

- Many interesting sampled sounds including different drum sets, world drums, industrial sound, techno, interesting configurations of sounds which can be inspiring and fun

- Metronome is included in the "brain" of the kit

- Volume control with a button

- Typically has less pieces once it is assembled, making moving it quite simple

- Pacticing with headphones can help with focus

- Do not need to be tuned, although some pads do need to be tightened occasionally

- Smaller space requirement

- Come in a variety of price ranges


- Less sensitive to touch

- Feel is not the same as acoustic, and varies by sensitivity settings

- More expensive to rent

- Has a limited amount of colours/sounds which do not always reflect the true capacities of an acoustic set

- Dynamics cannot always be increased with playing velocity if the volume button is set too low

- Less sound colour possibilities on the drums and cymbals creating some challenges with developing musical touch

- Rubber padding doesn't respond the way plastic heads do, and as such has more vibration traveling up a wooden stick (this can lead to repetitive stress strains)

- Frame positioning can be limited by the tubing provided, and not always easily adapted for ergonomic playing

How do you decide what is best for you?

One of the best ways to decide what is best for your needs is to rent a drum set. Rent the best you can afford within your budget until you know you are committed enough to make the investment to purchase. There are many affordable options when renting, and you can even request certain cymbals if you want to try them for a minimal cost. It's the best test drive you will ever get from a drum set, acoustic or electronic!

Remember your goals. If being loud is ok, and doesn't limit your practice time or strain household relationships, acoustic is a good way to go. Make sure that you use hearing protection when you practice because hearing loss is permanent! You can use large headphones which cover the ears entirely, or there are a variety of ear plug options available from inexpensive drug store plugs to custom made earplugs with a variety of decible cutting filters.

If you live in a condo or have neighbours who will not tolerate sound well, electronic is a good choice. Practicing with headphones drastically reduces sound, but remember that your bass drum pedal hits the floor and does cause some noise.

If you have a child or teen who shows an interest and you're not sure how committed they are to the instrument, rent. Give them a limited amount of time with a drum set to see how committed they can be to the instrument.

Acoustic is always less expensive to rent.

For more rental information on drum sets, go to Long & McQuade's website by clicking HERE.