Acoustic or Electronic -- Which Drum Kit Should I Buy For A Beginner?
As a working / teaching drummer with over 20 years experience I often get this question thrown at me, the first option should always be an acoustic drum kit. However I also understand that acoustic drum kits may not be suitable for many households, especially with today’s high density living. If one of your main considerations is the need to keep the volume down, a decent level electronic kit is certainly a worthwhile and acceptable recommendation. I actually prefer playing an electronic kit as opposed to an acoustic kit fitted with sound dampeners (Sound dampeners negate the natural ‘rebound’ and for me playing drums is all about ‘mastering the rebound’). I also find the added bonus of playing along with either the built in or external music tracks on electric kits to be a huge bonus for young beginners ... well it's a bonus for pros as well for that matter!
The fact of the matter is there are a lot of drummers that buy electronic kits, due to the convenience of them being more ideal for home practice. I myself play live with an acoustic drum kit and practice at home on an electronic kit. With headphones plugged in, an electronic kit is basically silent and with high urban density living these days, this is quite often essential. So you could conclude if it’s good enough for a pro to practice on, it should be good enough for a beginner to get started with. However just like many instruments on the market there is a level that I draw a line through. Let me expand a little on what I mean about the quality of both an acoustic kit and an electronic kit to be suitable for a beginner.
Many customers ask me about the cheap drum kits on the market advertised around the $399 price. I find these kits to be false economy, the hardware (stands, tom holders, tuning rods etc.) are built to minimal standards – the adjustment screws often strip or break and will need replacing. Parts are rarely available so replacing the entire stand is often required. The skins provided are the cheapest/thinnest single ply models on the market and last between 1 week to a couple of months, so a there's $200 spend is just around the corner from your initial purchase. The other major weakness are the cymbals provided with these packs. They again are very thin and ‘flimsy’, and usually last for 6 – 9 months. Again another $250 to replace them with more descent quality cymbals with longer life spans. So those with calculators can work out in the space of one year you will spend approximately $1000 and the end result is you still have a poor quality kit now just fitted with better skins and cymbals, the last issue is the resale – of course these unknown brands are almost impossible to move on and are quite often discarded or given away so your $1000 has just evaporated into thin air.
Recommendation: It is for those reasons above that my recommendation on an acoustic kit for beginners is the YAMAHA GIGMAKER. This a well made kit complete with descent quality long lasting Paiste cymbals. The hardware is also well built with high quality adjustments parts that don’t strip or snap on you. The provided skins are also strong enough to last a couple of years or more with general use so there is very minimal upkeep. The other main reason for recommending this kit, and moreso the Yamaha brand is for resale value. At some stage it will become inevitable that your first drum kit will need to be sold off - either from the desire to trade-in up to a better kit down the track, or from not wishing to pursue learning drums any further. At some stage, you or your kids first drum kit will need to be sold. Investing at the start with such a well known brand as Yamaha means you may be able to sell on to the next beginner at 50 -60% of your purchase price, as opposed to the not as well known 'entry level $399' brands where you may not have any value left at all – it makes a lot more sense!
Also, let’s not forget the student actually will have a far better time playing a good sounding drumkit which might just make the difference between becoming a musician (YES DRUMMERS ARE MUSICIANS!) or going back to playing computer games.
If you have decided to go down the path of electronic kits, and the student is less than 7 years old, I recommend the DTX400 by Yamaha. This kit is well priced to compete with the lesser quality copy-cat kits out there - easy choice!
For those between 7 and 12, I find the DTX450 with the ‘real’ bass pedal and tower to be more ideal.
Students over 12 years old should really consider the DTX522. This is pushing over the $1000 mark, however I find students over 12 will outgrow the DTX400 series too quickly and would then need to upgrade. The DTX522 is the current version of my very own kit, so it’s a one time purchase to become the only kit you would ever need to provide a student until they are at the level of ready to gig.
I know you must all think I work for Yamaha by now but I actually play a Gretsch acoustic kit, however I always recommend Yamaha to beginners or more importantly to their parents, the main reason for this is resale as mentioned above.
**You must remember the main market you will on sell your beginner instrument to are of course other beginners. **
‘Industry’ brands like Pearl, DW, Gretsch,Tama, Mapex, Roland, 2Box, Mark Drum or Alesis are known to musicians but not well known by ‘Mums and Dads’. It makes more sense to choose the brand the general population knows and respects ... and for good reason – its good stuff!
Come visit us at Sound Centre, or give us a call at any time on (08) 9370 1185 if you have any questions or would like further advice. We're here to help!
SOUND CENTRE DIRECTOR