How to Buy a Used Drum Kit

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How to Buy a Used Drum Kit

Whether it’s for an aspiring professional drummer, or just an amateur who likes to play along with friends for personal amusement, it is important to possess an instrument that is fit for the purpose. In other words, it can not only do the job that is required, but makes the musician feel comfortable when playing it. The market is full of drum kits of all styles, sizes, designs, and price levels, so the first decision to be made is what sort of drum kit is required. Then, it is time to check out the prices and see if what is desired comes within the budget, if this is already decided. Should a decision not have been made, a realistic budget can be set at this point. One thing to bear in mind is the more money the kit costs, the better it will be in terms of performance, the musician’s ability notwithstanding.

About Drum Kits

Drum kits can be configured in a variety of ways, but the standard set is known as a five-piece drum kit. Together with the sizes (depth x width), this comprises a bass drum (18 x 22 inches), a snare drum (5.5 x 14 inches), two rack tom-toms (toms) (9 x 12 inches and 10 x 13 inches) and a floor tom (16 x 16 inches).
Even though it is called a standard five-piece, it does also include cymbals – one ride (or crash/ride) and two hi-hats. The kit should also include the following stands and accessories: a snare stand, a cymbal stand, a foot pedal for the bass drum, a hi-hat stand, a hi-hat clutch (holds the top hi-hat cymbal), mounting for the toms to be mounted on the bass drum, legs or a stand for the floor tom, a drum key for tuning, and a throne or seat.
The above is suitable for a standard rock kit, but if the music to be played is different, the drums may vary in number and size. For example, a jazz drummer may forego the larger of the rack toms, and the four-piece drum kit would contain drums with slightly smaller sizes than their counterparts in a five-piece standard kit. In between those two types of kit comes a fusion kit, which is bigger than a jazz kit, but smaller than a rock kit. As a general rule, the wider the drum, the lower the pitch, and the deeper the drum, the louder it will be.

Drum Kit Materials

Drum shells are usually made of wood. Maple is the most popular, as it produces a warm, balanced tone, while birch, with a slightly brighter sound, comes in second. Falkata is often used as a substitute for maple, as it gives a similar sound, but is cheaper, while shells made from poplar are well-liked, as they are not very different to the sound of birch, but cheaper. African mahogany is also used and gives a deep, rich tone, but it is expensive. Drum sets at the lower end of the market are very often made from the softer basswood and lauan, as the wood is more plentiful and, consequently, cheaper.

Drum Shell Construction

Drum shells are normally constructed by bonding thin wooden plies to each other, in either sixes or nines. Six-ply drums resonate more, but nine-plies are louder.

Other Vital Components of a Drum

The construction of the drum shell is but just one element in the overall quality of the finished product, and the quality of the parts attached to the drum shells plays a major role in how the finished drum sounds.

Component

Supports the drum head and may be sharp or rounded. A sharp one gives a brighter tone, while a rounded one is more muted. It must be level, as when it isn't, tunig the drum becomes tricky. The bearing edge is more important than the wood used in the drum’s construction, as proper tuning can make cheap wood sound good, while a drum made from expensive wood, but with a poor bearing edge, will never sound good.

Reinforcement Rings

Situated just below the bearing edge, they are used to change the sound of the drum. They reduce the vibrations of the shell, while the weight they add to the drum gives it a slightly higher pitch and more volume.

Drum Rims and Hoops

These hold the drum head in place and can affect the sound. Most are made of steel, although some drums have die cast hoops. The heavier they are, the better. If they're too thin, it can be difficult to tune the drum. Triple-flanged hoops have an extra flange on top that cuts down on the drumsticks’ wear and tear when playing shots near or on the rim. Most bass drums come with wooden rims, while snare drums using the wooden variety are very expensive.

Drum Lugs and Tension Rods

Drum lugs are adhered to the outside of the drum shell, and are attached to the hoop by tension rods. Using a drum key, which is not unlike a mini wrench in appearance, the drum is tuned by adjusting the tension rods. Different drum manufacturers have different style drum lugs, which add a touch of uniqueness and personality to the drums. However, looks are secondary to the number of lugs in attendance. Too few lugs make the job of tuning very difficult. As a guide, a twenty-two-inch bass drum should have ten lugs, as should a standard fourteen-inch snare drum. For toms with a width up to thirteen inches, there should be six, while those over that width usually have eight.

What to Look For in a Used Drum Kit

If possible, have the kit inspected by a professional drummer, or at least, someone who has several years’ experience in the field. However, if that isn’t possible, check the following: the top and bottom drumheads are present and undamaged, all the drum lugs and tension rods are present and functioning, the exterior finish on all the drum shells is in good condition, and free from cracks and warping, the stands and accessories are all present and relatively sturdy, with all the locking mechanisms secure, the wing nuts are present for the tops on the cymbal stand, and the cymbals are free of cracking along the edges and chipping around the centre.
Also, don't forget to ask about the history of the drum kit, and find out why the person is selling. Possibly most important of all, test it for stability and sound, and check the adjustability and comfort of the seat. Finally, before making that crucial decision, remember that named brands are probably more reliable and more likely to offer a better resale value.
Bear in mind that although a used drum kit should contain the drums, cymbals and accessories previously mentioned, that may not always be the case. That doesn’t mean that the kit isn’t worth buying, as additional drums, accessories etc. can be bought as required and added to the kit. Likewise, some items not mentioned in the standard five-piece drum kit, such as drumsticks or extra cymbals, may be offered for sale. Also, while many used drum kits will have originally been bought as kits, some will have been assembled piece by piece. Again, one is not necessarily better than the other, so don’t be put off at least having a look and a trial play.

Prices of Used Drum Kits

The price of a used drum kit should be closely allied to the quality and condition of the kit, and the way to ascertain if that’s so is by comparing the specifications and quality of different drum kits. Check around stores that deal in used kits and it’ll soon become clear as to what not only represents good value, but also what can be obtained for a particular budget. Also, check classified advertisements in specialist magazines and local newspapers, and, wherever possible, make an appointment to inspect the kit in question. The same applies to anything that might be found through an online search.

Finding a Used Drum Kit on eBay

First of all, go to eBay’s homepage, where a category menu can be found in the left-hand column. Hover the cursor over Sport & Leisure, and a sub-menu with some more links will appear to the right. Click on the link for Musical Instruments, which brings up a page detailing Categories within Musical Instruments. Notice that there are three columns. In the centre column, look for the category of Percussion. This is sub-divided further into different percussion instruments, so browse down the list until the cursor alights on Drums. Click the link and it will bring up the first page of all drums for sale on eBay. If a particular type of drum, drum kit, size, price range, condition or brand is required, look down the sub-menus in the left-hand column of the webpage and check the appropriate boxes for whatever is wanted. It’s also possible to specify the item’s location to within a certain distance of any town or city, which is very useful if the drum kit is to be tested before buying.

Conclusion

Buying a used drum kit needs a lot of pre-thought and research if the final purchase is to give complete satisfaction. The marketplace contains many different brands, styles and types of drum kit, varying in condition and quality. As such, it’s a trap for the novice and the unwary, so thorough research is a given. It’s vital to not only inspect the kit before purchase, but also to play it. This can be daunting for a person new to drumming, so if at all possible, take an experienced drummer along to do the testing and help with the inspection. If that proves not to be possible, then follow the checklist detailed previously for the best possible assessment, which, in turn, will lead to enjoyment of the drum kit that is eventually chosen.

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