5 Characteristics to Look for When Buying a Drum Kit

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5 Characteristics to Look for When Buying a Drum Kit 5 Characteristics to Look for When Buying a Drum Kit


A conventional drum kit consists not only of drums but cymbals too. A drummer strikes the objects in a kit with sticks , rutes, or brushes and plays from a seated position with each of the instruments placed in standard pattern. Drums, sticks, and seating ultimately all form part of a complete drum kit although sticks are regarded as an accessory even though essential to drum playing. The throne is similarly viewed as an extra, despite being a specialist item. When referring to the size, the number reflects how many actual drums are included.
Drum kit size, actual drum size, drum depth, and type of drumhead will all affect the sound created by a drummer. Unlike the size of a venue or an audience, these characteristics can be controlled by the drummer and need to be considered carefully before a purchase is made.

Different Size Kits

The smallest drum kit, which leaves out tom-tom drums, can be played from a standing position and consists only of two pieces: the pedalled bass drum and the snare drum with hi-hat.
Space might be a consideration, either for practice or for performance venues. The size of the performer may also influence the size of the most appropriate drum set.. Suitable for beginners or juniors , the three-piece drum kit consists of a bass drum, snare drum, hanging tom, and a pair of hi-hats and crash/ride cymbal. The hanging tom and the cymbal are both affixed to the bass drum. Sizes vary, with smaller diameters available for particularly young drummers.

Four Piece Drum Kits

Popular with jazz musicians is a four-piece kit with an extra floor tom making up the number. Of course, an extra hanging tom can be added instead to augment a three-piece set-up. When this happens, the space taken on the bass drum by the hanging tom means that the cymbals must now be mounted on floor stands.

Five Piece Drum Kits

However, most drummers hope to extend their kits and can have configurations that form a fusion five-piece kit. The five-piece reference is to the number of drums and not the number of objects or instruments involved in the set-up. Cymbals can mount up when various individual sounds are sought. Ride cymbals to maintain rhythm, crash cymbals for dramatic impact, and effects cymbals such as swish or pang style china cymbals each add distinctive options to a drum kit. As long as the drummer has enough stands and the cymbals can be placed within reach of the drummer, the only limitation is floor space.

Seven Piece Drum Kits

A seven-piece kit might consist of two double bass drums, a snare , two hanging toms, a pair of hanging floor toms, hi-hats, and a selection of cymbals which includes three crash cymbals, a ride cymbal, a splash cymbal, and china type cymbal to complete the combination. Once drummers begin to assemble kits this size, there can often be a crossover to the timpani section of the orchestra to seize other instruments as additions. Octobans,, or tube toms, might make an appearance as a drum set of choice, and Cuban timbales are often popular add-ons to a large kit.
Large, extended drum kits, as well as containing many of the items listed above, may also have electronic drums to add to the drummer's repertoire and for convenience of acquiring different sounds and tones which would otherwise be difficult to set up mid-set.

Size Selections for Different Drums

Different manufacturers list the dimensions for drums in one of two ways. Originally, drums were listed first by depth and then by diameter using inches, but many have changed to listing the dimensions as diameter first followed by the depth measurement. Both listing types still exist. For example, Yamaha favour the more recent listing (diameter x depth) and have stated their concert standard tom drums are made to the following pattern , "For every 1 inch increase in diameter, increase the depth by 1/2 inch," whereas Drum Workshop list their instruments by depth x diameter. Yamaha list their tom toms as such: 6"x6.5", 8"x8", 10"x9", 12"x10", 13"x10.5", 14"x11", 15"x11.5", 16"x12". Drum Workshop list their Classic Series tom toms like this: 7x10", 8x12", 9x13", 14x14", 16x16", 16x18".
An example of popular configurations of drum kits available as standard off the shelf purchases in a UK outlet.

Number of Pieces

Ranking based on sales

Popular Name for configuration

Drum sizes





Bass Drum

Snare Drum

Tom Toms
* = Floor Tom


Five-piece drum kits


20 Fusion



10", 12", *14"




22 Fusion



10", 12", *14"




22 Fusion Plus



10", 12", *16"




22 Rock



12", 13", *16"


Six-piece drum kits


6pc 20 Fusion



*8", 10", 12", *14"




6pc 22 Fusion



*8", 10", 12", *14"




6pc 22 Fusion Plus



*8", 10", 12", *16"




6pc 22 Rock



*10", 12", 13", *16"




6pc 2 Up 2 Down



10", 12", *14", *16"


Drum Depth Affects Drum Sound

Several factors affect the sound a drum gives out. Among them, depth is a much discussed issue. Tuning a drum is essential for the correct sound. It is useful to listen to links which show drum tuning in order to differentiate between the types of sound a drum can produce. The type of header will also affect how a drum resonates, as will the object used to strike the surface.
The greater a drum's depth, the deeper its sound will be. A shallower drum will give more 'snap' and a deeper drum will produce more 'boom'. The perfect sound for a drummer is achieved through tuning the instrument by tightening the tension rods that hold the head in place. When fitting a head to a drum, ensure it is clean. Position the head and screw the tension rods finger tight. To tune, begin by rotating the key on a rod, which will be referred to as 'A'. Count the number of rotations required to make it tight. Tap the drum a couple of inches from the newly tightened rod, and do the same on the opposite side. If there is a great difference in the sound produced, adjust the rod with small tweaks until both sides return a similar even sound which will suit style of play and personal preference. Repeat the process on its opposite side 'B'. Imagine a hexagon with the points reading clockwise as A, C, E, B, D, F. Next, rotate rod 'C' and then its opposite 'D', and finish with tuning 'E' and then 'F'. Minor adjustments to regulate pitch require only an eighth of a turn tighter to heighten pitch or an eighth of a turn looser to lower pitch.
When tuning the underside head of a drum, pitch can be matched to the top/batter side or set at a higher or lower range by being tighter or looser. Purists advise matching pitch for the optimum sustain and tone from the drum. A muffler will remove unwanted overtones.

Types of Drumheads

Calfskin and goatskin were traditional coverings for drumheads, and even today the covering is often referred to as a skin despite its more probable manufacture from synthetic material. Using natural materials, the drum will require more tuning as weather and ambient conditions, particularly moisture levels, will affect the tension of animal skin. Single ply, individual sheets of Mylar ranging from 7mil [thousandth of an inch] to 12mil thickness are sensitive but lack durability. Double ply skins are typically twin layers of single ply 7mil though some specialists have customised bonding. As well as increased durability, double ply skins offer minimal overtones and a thicker, more controlled sound.
Drumhead coatings will make a difference to drum sound. The increased mass created by an additional coating dampens the sound slightly, leaving a warmer, less snappy sound than a non-coated skin achieves. Pre-muffling treatments are available for bass drums, and speciality finishes using centre dot heads, Kevlar (or similar fibre), or pinholed circumferences allow drummers to strike their drumheads more robustly and to tighten them more severely.

How to Find a Drum Kit on eBay

From the site homepage at eBay, hover the cursor over Sports & Leisure. From the options that appear, choose Musical Instruments. A new page listing this category will open, and on here select Drums (listed under Percussion). When directed to the Drums category listings, simply click on the Drums & Drum Kits option in the grey menu box on the left for a variety of choices. Refine the search by any of the parameters listed, including sub-types or brand names. If already familiar with eBay, just type the desired keywords into the search box at the top of the page and click 'Go' for a set of best match results.


Use sound as the guide for a drum kit purchase. Be aware that sound can be altered by careful tuning and selection of drum size to complement a configuration which suits the style of the performer.

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