There are two types of drum sets you can purchase or rent; Acoustic or Electronic. There are some pros and cons to each.
Acoustic Drum Sets
Acoustic is always a great choice for the best learning and sound experience. A good drum set needs to be tuned well, fit your body size and predominant style, with decent sounding cymbals, and a drum throne that is sturdy with easy height adjustment. Reputable student drum brands are: Yamaha, Sonor, Ludwig, Gretsch, Pearl, Mapex, Premier. Reputable cymbal brands are Sabian, Zildjian, Istanbul, Meinl, Paiste.
When buying new, they are sold as a shell pack (the drums and sometimes hardware), and often cymbals, bass drum pedal and a throne (seat) are sold separately. The big stores sell "student pack" drum sets, but often the quality is quite low. Purchasing a drum set used on buy and sell sites make it more affordable to get drums and cymbals as a package. Cymbals are only "bad" if they have keyholes or if they are cracked. Otherwise, they are sturdy, and you can get higher quality for less money (even at the local music store).
Acoustic drum sets come in different sizes. A junior drum set is smaller for kids to play on up to about age 10. Some reputable brands for junior kits which are also good for adults are Ludwig's Breakbeats kit, and the Sonor Jungle kit. Adult sized drum sets will work well for taller kids, and kids who need to grow into the kit. Bass Drum sizes start at 16" (Sonor Jungle kit or Ludwig breakbeats as mentioned), 20" bass drum for a "jazz" kit which is a great size for short adults and still achieves big sound good for jazz, rock, funk, and 22" bass drum for a big sounding "rock" kit. It is more challenging to play lower dynamics on a larger bass drum.
Pros to an acoustic kit:
- always touch sensitive
- good for dynamic development from pianissimo to fortissimo
- good sound production is dependent on playing spot and technique
- cymbals have many different colour tones achievable depending on where the cymbal is struck
- gig friendly
- tune-able to your sound preferences and feel
- no electricity needed
- can be dampened with mutes, SoundOff or Mesh heads if your budget allows
Cons to an acoustic kit:
- takes up a larger space
- loud to the rest of the house and neighbours
- there are bad quality student model cymbals out there that can hinder musical development (choose the best quality in your price range)
Electronic Drum Sets
Electronic drum sets are a good option for those with a smaller spaces, if you have sound sensitive people living with you, if you live in an apartment or condominium with close neighbors, if you have to practice while kids are sleeping, or if you are shy about being heard.
Reputable brands of electronic drum sets include Roland (one or more mesh drums are an excellent choice), Yamaha (DTX series is a higher quality model), and Alesis is who a relatively new, but reputable company. You want to select a drum set that has functional hi hat pedal and bass drum pedals. Kits that have a bass drum pad which uses a real drum pedal instead of having a stand alone trigger pedal are preferable, and if you can afford to upgrade to a real hi hat with triggers, that is the best option.
- Take up less space
- Set up is straight forward
- Sound can be contained to earphones
- depending on model, many sound patches can be explored for non-traditional drum sounds and world drum sounds
- Keeps resale value
- Needs electricity
- Repetitive stress injuries are common on electronic drum sets.
- There is a lot more stick vibration
- Players tend to hit harder than necessary as the volume does not get louder than where the speaker is set
- Not as dynamically sensitive
- Less sound colours than an acoustic
- Good quality is expensive and tend not to lose value when used
- Replacement parts on some models can be difficult to get and costly to repair
There are hybrid drum sets with electronic and acoustic components. Whenever something is substituting for the real thing, you will miss out on some aspects and advantages of an acoustic drum set. There are also practice pad drum sets, which are good only if the other two options are not available. This is only good for muscle memory, not building musicality. Practice Pad kits have only one purpose, and they lack any REAL sounds which will hinder creativity and musicality on the kit (if you can't imagine the sounds it would make already)
One last consideration for the acoustic kit is why you're buying it. Is this for practicing? Is this for gigging? Is this for basement recordings? Is this for smaller practice spaces? Is this for possibly gigging later, but maybe not right away? What is your budget? If this is primarily a drum set that will be a practice kit, or maybe you already have an expensive and sweet sounding acoustic kit and your sound needs have changed... there are lower sound option add-ons for you. Sound Off drum mutes are one option ($180C). These are made of a heavier rubber, and don't help much with keeping a real feel of the drums, but do dampen the sound quite effectively.
Remo makes the Silent Stroke Mesh head which are relatively new to the scene. You would remove your top heads and replace them with the mesh heads (cost around $150 - 200 for the whole drum set) to turn your acoustic into a quieter version of itself. Pair the Remo Silentstroke mesh heads with Zildjian's Low Level cymbals (like the L80 Low Volume 468 Box Set, around $380CAD), and you are getting the advantage of having a kit you will be able to gig with when you trade out heads and cymbals if you want to. Now for an extra $500, you have an acoustic kit turned into a lower sound level practice kit.
YouTube is a great resource when researching your future drum set. You can get sound bytes and demos on nearly every product out there. So go ahead, dig in, and see what you find!
BUDGET. Buy the best quality you can afford. When purchasing an acoustic kit, you can always upgrade cymbals by purchasing them used, individually. You don't have to get a matching set. Pawn shops, FB Marketplace, Kijiji, Craig's list are a few places you can find great deals on used gear.
Beware that used electronic kits, especially those that are already obsolete, will be tough to find replacement parts for.
I hope this guide gave you some of the information you were looking for about different drum set options.