Deciding on a drum set for a beginning drummer, either for yourself or as a parent of a drum student, can be an overwhelming experience. To help you out, I’ve applied my years of experience as a drum instructor and have condensed the choices for you here.
After considering (and testing) about a half dozen different drum kits, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Pearl Roadshow series of kits is the best for beginners on a budget. It is a tremendous value for the features you get and sounds great when properly tuned.
One common mistake I see new drummers make is that they spend too little on their first kit, and end up just buying another kit shortly thereafter. The Pearl Roadshow kit isn’t too expensive though (cheaper than some other beginner kits) and includes everything you need to get started!
What To Look For
In making my decision on which kits to recommend, I used the following criteria, which are likely to play into your purchase decision as well:
- Price: I wanted to select something easily attainable but not so inexpensive that it would fall apart on you immediately. As such, I tried to stick to the $500 mark.
- Build Quality: It’s hard to gauge a kit’s quality when shopping online, and so I actually went and looked at (and played) these kits in the store. I haven’t recommended anything here which didn’t pass muster.
- Value: Different than price, I also took into account what was included for the money. In most cases, the inclusion of cymbals and some other hardware-related features helped me in narrowing down the recommendations.
Why I Chose Pearl Roadshow
Pearl is considered one of the best drum manufacturers out there, and they have been in the ‘budget drum set’ game for a long time. The introduction of this Roadshow series a few years ago solidified Pearl’s dedication towards providing beginners with fantastic value and quality.
At under $500, you’ll be hard pressed to find another drum set that is, as Pearl likes to say, “Ready to rock right out of the box”. It ships in two boxes and comes with the drums, hardware (including a throne), cymbals and even a pair of sticks!
Another feature you’re unlikely to find often at this price point is a matching snare made of wood. Most budget drum sets include a snare drum made of metal.
Configurations and colors: There are four versions of this kit to choose from (Rock, Fusion, Jazz and New Fusion) with four different available finishes (Charcoal Metallic, Jet Black, Red Wine and Bronze Metallic), all of which can be viewed here.
I have always been a fan of Pearl hardware as it’s very simple to operate and manufactured with strength and durability in mind. At this price point, you might expect flimsy stands and pedals, but that is not the case with this kit. The bass drum pedal is even a ‘chain drive’ pedal, where a lot of beginner kits’ pedals are driven with a plastic strap.
Now, about those cymbals… No – these aren’t a shiny new set of Zildjians. The cymbals included in this set are a pair of 14″ hi hats and a 16″ crash-ride and are meant to help a beginner get started but not be their primary cymbals for years to come. They are stamped out of brass sheets (instead of cast). At some point, the serious student might consider an upgrade into a cymbal pack, but these will be perfect for starting out and exploring the viability of drumming as a hobby.
My runner up recommendation for a beginner drum kit would be the PDP by DW Encore series of drums. While a bit more expensive than the Pearl Roadshow kit, you’re getting a very similar quality drum set with matching wood construction snare drum, along with an upgraded cymbal pack.
The included cymbals with this kit are the Paiste 101 series of brass cymbals, which will be an upgrade over what’s included in the Pearl kit and likely last a bit longer. There is also a second crash cymbal included as well as an extra cymbal stand to hold it.
PDP is a sub-brand of DW Drums, which is arguably one of the world’s premier drum manufacturers. This offshoot exists as to allow DW to offer a budget brand to the market. As with anything DW, you are going to get a very good quality drum set with PDP.
Other Brands To Consider
- Tama – Their Imperialstar kit is one to check out
- Yamaha – Known for their precision and solid construction, the Rydeen and Stage Custom Birch kits are more geared towards beginner, budget-minded buyers
- Gretsch – Their ‘Energy’ series kit gets high marks for quality and includes a set of Zildjian cymbals
- Ludwig – They’ve been around for AGES and are still going strong. Their Accent series is targeted at those starting out in drumming.
- Mapex – The Rebel and Storm series drums should be checked out
I wrote a pretty thorough guide to selecting a drum set for beginners, which covers in great detail all of the little nuances which go into selecting a drum set. Go check it out!