Best Beginner Drum Sets – Buyer’s Guide and Reviews

Our Pick for Best Beginner Drum Set

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Pearl Roadshow

Our top pick for best beginner drum set goes to the Pearl Roadshow. For the money, you get a really great starter kit, with better than average materials such as poplar shells and decent cymbals. Not the cheapest on the list, but great value with everything you need, from one of the best manufacturers.Check Price on Amazon

There’s no better feeling than grabbing a pair of drum sticks and tapping out a rhythm on a drum kit – ask any drummer and they’ll tell you playing drums is euphoric! You just need to see Keith Moon of The Who in action to see why (though admittedly there may have been other reasons to explain his ‘excitement’).

While it takes a lot of time and patience to master, they’re still one of the easiest instruments to learn. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, do yourself a favor and get a decent kit to start with.

In this article, we review the best drum sets for beginners and contrast and compare the different kits on offer at the moment. Note, we only look at acoustic drum sets, not electronic.

At a Glance – Our Pick of the Best Beginner Drum Sets

Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices, and customer reviews on Amazon.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

The Main Components of a Starter Drum Kit

If this is the first time you’ve bought a drum kit, you’re probably feeling a little bit overwhelmed.

One of the things you’ll find is that different starter kits come with a combination of parts – they don’t all come with everything you’re going to need. So what are the main components you’re going to need?

  • Toms (usually on a tom rack, though sometimes you might get a floor tom)
  • Bass or ‘kick drum’ with a bass drum pedal
  • Snare drum
  • Cymbals (crash ride cymbals hi-hats) with stands
  • Drum heads
  • Drum throne (that’s a seat to you and me)
  • Pair of drumsticks

In the reviews below, we include what each starter kit does or does not include.

Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations

Budget

As you’ll see, there are some fantastic budget options, however, if you’re planning to really get into drumming, or you restarting a hobby, think how likely you’ll outgrow a budget set after a year or so. You may be better off saving up for a better set that you won’t grow tired of after a short time.

It all depends on how serious you are about getting into it, and what amount of disposable income you have.

High-end kits aren’t always the best solution either – unless you’re not going to be on stage in front of huge audiences, then it may not be worth buying a flashy set that is likely to get knocked about by the odd drunken stage invader at your local bar.

Brand

We all have our favorite brands, but remember a drum set by one brand could be taken to the next level by adding a shell from your least favorite brand, and you’d never know unless you took the time to explore all the options.

The more time you spend getting to know about gear, whether that’s stuff from your favorite brands or not, the better your kit will sound.

Portable

How portable do you need your drum set to be? Consider weight, size, ease to collapse. We review four and five-piece kits below. If you need something that’s going to be easy to sling in the back of a cab, then look for a four-piece with small shells, like the Ludwig Breakbeats (see below).

Product Round-up and Reviews – Best Beginner Drum Sets

Gammon Percussion

Gammon Percussion Full Size Complete Adult 5 Piece Drum Set with Cymbals Stands Stool and Sticks, Black

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Unlike the others on this list, Gammon is a small company owned and ran by a single-family. Their drums likewise have a ‘homely’ feel to them, usually encompassing a warm sound. They look good without being flashy and have a fair and affordable price that fits with the solid performance their drum sets deliver.

They aren’t producing the world’s best drums, but they aren’t trying to either. What you get with Gammon is durable, reliable and sounds excellent – perfect for live performances with a band thavt’s growing a loyal fanbase.

You could easily start out learning on a Gammon entry-level set, upgrade the pieces as you develop, and never need to go looking at other brands even as a professional.

This full-size kit is intended as a total beginners’ drum set but would suit young adults and teen novices and includes all five drums (22” bass drum, 14” snare drum, 16” floor tom plus 13” and 12” mounted toms). Two cymbals are also part of the set, a 12” hi-hat stand and a 14” crash cymbal. As well, you get stands, stool, sticks, hardware, drum pedals, and a drum key.

As the cheapest product on the list, this is squarely targeted at the adult beginner who doesn’t want to drop a ton of money on their first kit. It’s perfect if you fancy giving drumming a try without committing too heavily financially.

PROS

  • Capable of covering most tracks that a learner would want to copy from their favorite bands.
  • It comes with an assembly guide and instructional learner DVD.
  • The low cost makes it a good starting point for those who aren’t sure if they will stick with drumming for an extended period.

CONS

  • As a low budget product, the Gammon Percussion lacks in ‘oomph’ and can sound a little tinny.
  • Cymbals will need to be upgraded to a better quality replacement as soon as possible for a dedicated learner.

Mapex Rebel 5-Piece

Mapex RB5294FTCDK Rebel 5-Piece Drum Set with Hardware, Cymbals and 22' Bass Drum - Black

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Another complete drum set, like the Gammon set, this comes with all the hardware and is an excellent choice for the novice. It includes a 22” bass, 16”, 12” and 10” toms and a 14” snare, and for cymbals, you get a 14” hi-hat and a 16” crash cymbal, as well as all the other bits you get with the Gammon. What sets this apart though, is the choice of wood, poplar, which gives the set a warmer sound. This is reflected in the slightly higher price (compared to the Gammon).

Other standout features include a Remo self-muffling kick drum head, ideal for playing lower volumes. This a complete beginner set for someone willing to pay that little bit more for better quality shells.

PROS

  • Hardware is a good standard and long-lasting.
  • Poplar shells add to the tone of the drum shells.
  • Everything needed to start playing is included.

CONS

  • Like many entry-level drum sets, the included cymbals are the weakest link.
  • Drum heads are also worth upgrading to more durable varieties.
  • No drum mutes included, so will need to be purchased separately if the volume level is a concern, as the low frequencies can easily penetrate walls and floors.

Pearl Roadshow

Pearl Roadshow 4-Piece Drum Set, Bronze Metallic (RS584C/C707)

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If you’re willing to spend a little more money, the Pearl Roadshow is easily one of the best first drum kits for beginners (in fact, it’s our favorite of the bunch). The instructional videos on Pearl’s website make setting up, tuning, and getting started easy for someone who has never done it before.

The kit includes 22” bass, 10”, 12” and 16” toms, 14” snare and two cymbals, 14” hi-hat and a 16” crash cymbal plus all the hardware.

PROS

  • Available in a variety of colors
  • Uses poplar wood for the shells, which is a significant upgrade from veneers (although by no means able to compete with high-end shells)
  • Cymbals stands are of high quality

CONS

  • Although the cymbals stand will stick with you for a long time, the cymbals themselves need upgrading immediately.
  • The drum throne is quite small, and a larger size will be preferable for adult learners.
  • The drum heads should be replaced with higher quality heads, which is very inexpensive.

Ludwig Junior

Ludwig 16B-8-10-13F-12S Junior Drum Set - Blue

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An exact replica of a full-sized adult drum set, the Ludwig Junior is one of the best drum sets for kids. In addition, as it’s a full size kit condensed, it will teach them good habits – plus they’ll learn how to set up the drums and tune them right from the get-go.

The drums are sufficiently smaller for kids: a 16″ x 10″ kick drum with a double tom mount, a 13″ x 10″ floor tom with legs, a pair of 8″ x 5″ and 10″ x 5″ mounted toms and a 12″ x 4″ snare. Plus, you get everything else you’d expect from a complete set.

As it’s a miniature version of a full-size kit, it’s one of the best junior drum sets available.

PROS

  • Perfect set for a child.
  • Very sturdy hardware will keep it in playable condition for a long time.
  • It isn’t some chintzy wannabe kit and doesn’t sound like a toy.
  • It comes with everything needed, such as sticks and a learning DVD.

CONS

  • Almost as expensive as full-size adult kits, there are cheaper alternatives out there if you’re less fussed about quality.
  • Low-quality cymbals (although kids likely won’t notice or even care).

Pearl Export 5-Piece

Pearl EXX725S/C 5-Piece Export New Fusion Drum Set with Hardware - Jet Black

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Now we come to one of the best drum brands on the planet, Pearl, who are a huge brand in terms of market share and user satisfaction (there are proper raving fans out there). Pearl is known for producing solid quality drum sets in the mid and budget range that outperforms what their price tag would suggest, being on par with sets that other brands charge much higher prices for. As a brand, they offer a solid introduction for novices and can cater for a drummer as they grow in skill and knowledge.

Their Export range is an excellent example of a perfect beginner to moderate set, for the individual who can already play but wants to take their playing up a level.

The one we have here is the New Fusion, with 6-ply poplar/mahogany shells made up of a 22×18 kick drum, 10×7 and 12×8 rack toms, 16×16 floor tom, and a 14×5.5 snare, as well as a selection of stands. Unfortunately, this set doesn’t come with cymbals, which is a shame.

Standout features include their proprietary opti-loc suspension system for mounting three toms that can resonate freely while remaining wobble-free.

For the money, you get some decent equipment here, and they’re a superb mid-priced option, ideal for home or playing small gigs.

PROS

  • Decent beginner to moderate set.
  • 6-ply poplar/mahogany shells.
  • Opti-Loc suspension system.

CONS

  • It does not include cymbals.

Ludwig Breakbeats 4-Piece

Ludwig Breakbeats 4 Piece Shell Pack w/Riser-Wine Sparkle, inch (LC179X025)

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If you check out the drums in any recording studio, you’ll probably notice the Ludwig brand somewhere. They’ve set the standard for high-end drums, although they aren’t shy about putting a price tag that matches their reputation.

For the Breakbeats range, they’ve gone the extra distance and made arguably the best portable drum set at a very affordable price. Even better, it’s designed by the legendary drummer/frontman of the rap band The Roots (Questlove), who is renowned for sculpting ridiculous grooves.

So what do you get? Well, it’s a 4-piece set, and positioned on a riser for optimum reach with a very compact 14×16″ bass drum, 7×10″ tom, and 13×13″ floor tom. This gives you the perfect set-up for creating beats in tight spaces.

Unfortunately, this is only a shell pack, so you’ll have to buy the rest of the hardware yourself, but if you’re looking to switch out your shells, this is a great option.

This is an urban drummer’s dream, as its a gritty, raw, ‘break-able’ kit for gigging in clubs fits in the back of a cab. As well as the compact, mobile design, you get quality Remo heads and a velvet storage bags. It will no doubt suit the drummer who wants travels/gigs a lot but wants to upgrade their shells.

PROS

  • Superb for gritty, funk-laden, jazzy grooves.
  • Riser for optimum reach makes it ideal for small gigs.
  • Designed by The Roots drummer.

CONS

  • Only a shell pack, you’ll have to buy other hardware separately.
  • Only 4-piece.

Yamaha Stage Custom Birch 5-Piece

Yamaha Stage Custom Birch 5pc Drum Shell Pack - 22' Kick, Raven Black

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Nobody can question Yamaha’s class when it comes to electronic drums. It turns out they do acoustic drums pretty well too. A case in point is this 5-piece kit made from that highly sought after and resonant wood, birch.

With a gorgeous high-gloss lacquer finish and six-ply structure, this kit produces a warm and punchy tone with increased resonance and sustain. Thanks to its YESS mounting system (YESS stands for the Yamaha Enhanced Sustain System), you get a crisp attack that ‘opens out’ the sound of each shell.

In addition, it comes with die-cast claw hooks and rubber insertion plates to reduce noise, as well as buffered resin clamps to keep rattling at a minimum.

Unfortunately, it’s only a shell pack, so not ideal for the complete beginner, unless you’re willing to buy all the other hardware separately.

Birch is a favorite with jazz players and gives you a warm vintage tone. This model is one of the best jazz drum sets out there. It’s also great for transporting too, as the built-in stoppers make it easy to take apart and set back up again the same way.

PROS

  • Birchwood, great for jazz.
  • YESS mounting system.
  • Buffered clamps to reduce rattling.

CONS

  • Drum snobs may turn their noses up at the brand.
  • Shell pack only – no cymbals, stands, or kick pedal, or drum throne included.

ddrum PMR 424 ZG Paladin

ddrum PMR 424 ZG Paladin Maple Rock Drum Kit, Zombie Green Satin (Refurbished)

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Now we get to the premium products, the first on the list is the Paladin from ddrum (no, it’s not a typo). This is a complete set, but with only four-pieces. However, for the price, you get a lot of the best material – i.e., maple – which gives you a warm, vintage sound.

With maple four-ply tom shells for maximum resonance, and eight-ply maple/poplar bass and snare drum shells, it produces a classic, bright voice, you get unimpeded resonance.

The deep green zombie color is knock out too.

The dimensions are Bass Drum: 14″ x 24″ Snare Drum: 6.5″ x 14″ Tom : 10″ x 13″ Floor Tom: 16″ x 16″

PROS

  • High-end choice of woods for excellent resonance.
  • Complete set, but only four pieces.
  • Zombie green color.

CONS

  • Pricey for a four-piece.

Gretsch Renown

Gretsch Drums Renown 4-Piece Shell Pack Vintage Pearl

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If you want to go ‘full-maple’, the Gretsch Renown is for you. These exquisitely made drums are made with seven-ply natural maple, 30-degree bearing edges, and exclusive ‘silver sealer’ interiors. This kit delivers the traditional Gretsch sound with an exceptionally open, harmonic tone that provides the versatility needed to meet the demands of the hardest working drummers.

It’s a four-piece shell pack, with 10” and 12” mounted toms and 16” floor tom. You also get Remo snare, toms, and bass heads.

PROS

  • Awesome Gretsch sound.
  • Seven-ply maple build.

CONS

  • Pricey.
  • Only a shell pack.

So, Which Should I Buy?

So which is the drum set for beginners?

Out of all the drum kits we’ve reviewed, we think the Pearl Roadshow is the best value for money. You can’t question the brand’s quality, and for the price, you get a lot of drums for your dollar.

At a slightly higher price range, if you’re looking for something smallish and relatively cheap the Ludwig Breakbeats is great for smaller venues, apartments, home studios, or wherever you can squeeze it in. Especially if you looking to produce the sort of gritty, urban beats you’d find on a hip hop track. The only downside is it’s only a shell pack, so buying the extra bits will cost you. 

From the high end, for a complete set you can’t beat the ddrum, especially if, like me, you think the zombie green looks incredibly cool.

Ged Richardson

Ged is the Founder of Zing and guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band Django Mango. When he's not writing or noodling on a guitar, he's tinkering with his vintage Campervan.

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