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Are you thinking about stepping into the world of drumming, but aren’t interested in breaking the bank? A hobby that can potentially change your life can seem very exciting at first but keep in mind, it’s definitely an expensive passion.
If you are also looking for better deals and the best price on drum sets, though, good news. You have come to the right place. Fortunately, cheaper drum kits don’t always mean bad quality drums or inferior sound.
Toned-down versions or junior drum sets cost significantly less and are great options for both professionals and beginners. Yes, drumming can be an expensive hobby… but only if you want it to be. But if you are on a budget, you have to shift your focus towards products that offer maximum value for money.
I understand the struggle, which is why today:
- I’ll be exploring some of the best drum sets that can be bought for under $500.
- I will also be reviewing these drum sets based on the overall value, build quality, aesthetics, and sound.
- And finally, I will also be elaborating on some of their pros and cons to help ease your judgment.
Are you ready? Then let’s go ahead and make some music together!
When Should You Consider Buying a Cheap Drum Set?
There are several scenarios where opting for an inexpensive drum set can work out in your favor. For instance:
- When you’re a new student who is still getting used to the kit. A lot of people tend to focus on the gear in the early phases of their drumming journey when it’s supposed to be the other way around. You would be in a much better position to pick out the right drum kit for yourself once you’ve tamed the basics of drumming.
- You’ve got a small child at home who wants to get into drumming. If your young children are showing interest in drums, you should think about getting them a junior set, which is essentially a scaled-down version of a standard drum kit.
- You’re a studio drummer looking to get your groove on at home as a warm-up or practice. If that sounds like you, then a beginner drum kit should do the job fairly well for you.
- You’re a music teacher looking to pass the passion onto your pupils. Music schools and private teachers don’t necessarily need the best sounding drum kit for their students, so they can easily get away with employing inexpensive drum kits that are still well built.
- You are a returning enthusiast looking to revive their drumming skills. In this case, a starter kit might be the best choice for you. For instance, a four-piece drum kit will not only cost you less, but it’ll also have all the essential components you’d need to get started with basic lessons.
How Much Should I Expect to Pay for a Drum Kit?
On the whole, a budget-friendly five-piece drum kit should typically not cost you over $500. A drum kit is intricately assembled using many different parts, so in most cases, the price is justified.
However, in some cases, brands may try to inflate the prices of their kits based on their reputation and market share. Yes, that’s shady and they should be ashamed of themselves for doing that, but that’s also a whole different story.
In general, a standard drum kit needs:
- A set of drums (toms and snare)
- A kick drum
- A drum throne
- And most importantly, sticks
In terms of materials, most budget kits use Poplar, which is an unfussy shell material. Although it is a cheaper alternative to say ebony or walnut, if constructed properly, these kits can sound absolutely killer.
If you are an intermediate-level player, then it is highly likely that you have your eyes set on a specific pair of cymbals or snare drums that musically speak to you. In that case, you may want to start devising an upgrade strategy for your drum kit.
You can expect to spend up to $1500 – and even more – if you are planning on putting together a multi-piece drum kit. When you rise to studio-level quality in the drumming world, be ready to spend north of $2000 just for the drum kit alone.
Adding custom drum heads, cymbal stands, kick pedals, and other accessories are only going to drive the price even higher. Most drum kits that professional drummers use, especially the multi-piece kits, can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $12,000.
The Major Differences Between Budget and High-End Drum Sets
Every drum kit consists of three primary elements: wood, hardware, and drumheads. Based on how budget and high-end drum kits handle these variables, here are some common differences between the two categories.
- Drum shells in cheap drum sets are typically made from 2-ply woods, such as poplar or Luan, whereas expensive drum kits can have multi-ply drum shells made from premium woods such as mahogany, birch, or maple.
- Cheap drum kits will have sub-standard hardware that will always be prone to some errors, whereas expensive drum kits have top-notch hardware which rarely fails (provided you maintain them properly).
- Budget drum sets feature cymbals made from brass and other inexpensive metal alloys that tend to tear with nominal use, whereas most high-end cymbals are made of bronze, which sounds crisper and lasts much longer.
- Budget drum kits have low-quality drum heads, which don’t sound as good, whereas expensive drum sets carry drum heads made from high-quality polyester that sounds great and can take a beating.
- There isn’t optimum attention given to details in cheap drum sets, which can raise tuning and stability issues, whereas expensive drum sets on the other hand are known for their flawless engineering and design elements.
The Advantages of Budget Drum Sets
To give you a fair idea of where budget drum sets shine the most, here are some key points:
- If you are a newcomer to the drumming world, you want to take things slow in the beginning. Consider buying a starter drum kit that has all the essential components (like toms, snare, and the bass drum).
- Make sure you get used to the layout of a drum kit and learn some basic exercises before you take the next step. Investing a lot of money in an expensive kit at the beginning of your venture will not yield better or faster results. Additionally, you may have to go through the hassle of reselling it in case you change your mind in the future.
- Whether you are a student or a seasoned drummer, practice must be an indispensable part of your routine. If you want to work on your chops in your own personal space and time, a compact drum kit can do wonders for you.
- If young children are showing an interest in learning drums and music, it is wise to start with a small-scale investment. You never know with kids if it’s just a phase or they will hold on to a hobby for long. A junior drum set costs much less than a standard drum kit and is specially designed for children.
- Cheap drum kits are mostly made from lightweight material so they are not exactly a bulky commodity to travel with. A budget kit might just be the answer for you when you want to travel without having to lose drumming privileges.
- If hardware and tone are not your preference, then a budget drum kit is a far more economical option than expensive drum kits. This way hobbyists can get the gist of rocking out on real drums without having to break the bank.
The Disadvantages of More Budget Drum Sets
Cheaper drum sets aren’t without flaws, though. Here are some of the more notable downsides of budget drum kits:
- If you are looking for flawless workmanship, finish, looks, and hardware, then cheap drum kits are going to let you down. Let’s face it: they’re not made from the best materials, which does show in their aesthetics and performance.
- Drummers looking for studio-quality sound may find themselves struggling a lot with their budget drum kits while recording. From tuning issues to drums sliding off their stands, budget drum kits will never cease to surprise you with their accidental failures.
- Cymbals are an integral part of the percussion family due to their distinct sound. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but budget drum kits rarely come with acceptable cymbals. They either tear really quickly or sound seriously awful.
- Tuning efficiency is one of the main components of drum kits. The drum heads in cheap drum kits are not evenly placed or properly centered, making it harder for inexperienced players to tune them.
- If you are looking to build speed and accuracy, then practicing with a budget drum kit can actually negatively impact your progress. If you are working with bad-quality hardware, drum shells, or cymbals, you may develop equally bad habits that could be hard to get rid of in the long run.
The Best Cheap Budget Drum Sets for 2022
I’m excited to show you my top picks for the best cheap budget drum sets, but first, I wanted to go over a few things I considered before adding them to my list. If these drum sets didn’t meet my rigorous evaluation criteria standards, they simply didn’t make it onto my list.
What Was My Evaluation Criteria?
While coming up with this list, my focus was fixed on the following factors:
- Sound Quality. You don’t want to compromise a lot with sound quality when picking out musical instruments. I made sure that every pick in this list crosses a reasonable threshold of sound quality to make it viable for both beginners and intermediate players.
- Drum Heads. Coated or Clear? The majority of the sonic characteristics of your drum kit come from the drum heads. I made sure to emphasize the type and quality of drum heads that come with these drum kits to give you a broader perspective of their sound.
- Shell Pack or Full Kit. Some brands make shell packs, while others make entire kits with hardware included. We can’t argue about the approach brands take to make their products, but that’s how most of the drum kits are sold in the market.
- Hardware and Accessories. This is an important aspect to consider before buying drum kits. Depending on your playstyle and other requirements, you may want to add extra cymbals, stands, or foot pedals. I’ve rounded up all the accessories that come included with these drum kits and any additional components that you may need to buy.
- The Actual Cost. I chose an upper limit of $500 while making this list. This is a reasonable cut-off when it comes to drum sets for beginners, and I was easily able to secure good build and sound quality with the picks.
My top listing on this occasion is a drum kit from Sawtooth that looks and sounds incredible. This four-piece drum set from the Command series packs a vintage sound from the late 60s in an affordable package. It’s not just the looks, either – it even plays just like drums of the past!
This shell pack comprises a bass drum with a tom mount, a floor tom, a rack tom, and a snare drum. All the drum shells are made from six-ply poplar, which creates a classic warm and punchy tone from the 1960s.
There are plenty of adjustment features found here, like the flanged hoops on toms and the adjustable bass drum riser. All of these will help let you customize your sound to a reasonable limit.
All of their kits also come with:
- A virgin bass drum with telescopic spurs
- A 7mm textured coated batter heads on the snare and tom
- A 7mm clear resonant head on the tom
- A 7 mm clear batter head for the bass drum
Many of you may not have heard or seen many Sawtooth kits around, but trust me, I was glad that I stumbled upon them. The only downside to this product is that it’s a shell pack, so you will need to supply your own hardware and cymbals.
- Great color and aesthetics
- Classic vintage sound
- Bass drum comes with a mount for toms
- Sound can be a little too thin for some music genres
- Only a shell pack
The Pearl Roadshow has been at the top of the ladder of beginner drum kits for a long time now. This kit costs a hundred or so dollars less than the stage-perfect Pearl Custom kit, but it also offers a lot more in terms of versatility.
It’s truly a complete package for a student drummer, and even better? It comes with cymbals and all the necessary hardware included. The poplar wood used to make the drum shells delivers a consistent well-rounded tone for all kinds of musical situations.
If you don’t like the stock heads, though, feel free to upgrade to custom heads. That can definitely drastically improve the quality of sound. The kit comes with 14” brass hybrid hi-hats and a 16” crash, which is well suited for beginners.
You also get an 18” bass drum, a 10” tom, a 14” tom, and a 14” snare. The bass and snare drums pack plenty of punch and impact, which goes really well with hard rock, heavy metal, and other similar types of music.
- Quality hardware
- Great sound for the price
- Full kit with cymbals and hardware included
- Not suitable for intermediate players
- Drum heads are not good quality
The Tama Club-Jam is a scaled-down drum kit, meaning the drum shells are smaller than the average size. This makes it a fantastic choice for beginners and kids. This can also turn into a compact travel kit for drummers due to it being really lightweight.
The Tama Club-Jam introduces a subtle combination of six-ply 7mm poplar and Massawa woods, both of which can be associated with high pitch sound creation. As a result, you get a thick and punchy sound from the drums which can still carry quite a lot of depth.
This 4-piece shell pack features the following drums:
- 7″ x 10″ tom
- 7″ x 14″ floor tom
- 12″ x 18″ bass drum
- 5″ x 13″ snare
The ride cymbal is mounted to the bass drum, which really comes in handy when you are limited on floor space. This kit works particularly well for children, too, thanks to its compact size. Even people with small arms find it really easy to access each and every drum in the kit.
- Compact and lightweight drum kit
- Well-suited for beginners and children
- Ride cymbal mounted to the bass drum saves space
- Only a shell pack
- Not suitable for more seasoned drummers
The Questlove Pocket Kit is another great addition to the compact drum kits from the famous drum manufacturers, Ludwig. This four-piece drum kit is suitable for children aged four years and above.
This kit was designed in collaboration with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, so you know there is a lot of ingenuity that went into its design. Furthermore, this compact drum kit comes with:
- A 16” bass drum
- A 12” snare
- And 10” and 13” toms
I can safely call this a complete package for beginners because it comes with all the hardware, cymbals, stands, throne, drum sticks, and the drum key. If you are a beginner, I promise, you will love playing this little rocker.
If you think there’d be any compromise on the end of sound quality because this is a compact kit, then think again. The drum shells are made of seven-ply poplar wood with 45-degree bearing edges, which provide great response and a thick powerful tone.
- Great quality hardware
- Complete drum set
- A killer sound
- Cymbals sound a bit dull
- Stock drum heads aren’t that good
It’s unbelievable how many people transitioned to using electronic drums full time after spending some time with this kit. After all, electronic drums solve one of the biggest problems that most drummers face, noise complaints.
You can practically use this kit anywhere and anytime, without having to worry about making too much noise. If that still doesn’t impress you, then the eight-piece configuration with 8” dual-zone snare pads definitely will.
This drum kit also comes with:
- An 8” snare pad
- Three 8” top pads
- Three 10” cymbals
- A bass drum pad
The nitro module is fairly powerful and can hold a decent collection of in-built drum kit sounds, effects, and tracks. Additionally, you also get a metronome, sequencer, recorder, and a few other features that aid your learning.
- Mesh drum kit
- Easy setup, even to first-timers
- No noise
- The double bass isn’t very consistent
- Not acoustic drums
- Limited choice of drum and cymbal sounds
This gig-ready five-piece drum kit has helped launch the musical careers of many drummers. Some of the biggest names in the industry like Ringo Starr, Quest Love, Buddy Rich, and many more have been associated with Ludwig, so you know there is something concrete behind that speculation.
This is the only five-piece kit in the list which comes with a snare drum, bass drum, two rack toms, and a floor tom, all of which are wrapped with attractive finishes. Additionally, you also get hands-on a snare stand, a hi-hat stand, a boom cymbal stand, a kick drum pedal, and a double tom mount.
Ludwig never compromises on build quality, looks, or sound, so don’t think twice before you buy if you can afford this rig. This is a gig-worthy kit, meaning if maintained properly, it can last you from the day you started your drum lessons to the point where you start actually gigging.
- High-quality, value-priced complete drum kit
- Hardwood shells deliver an impressive attack range
- Great sounding bass drum
- Setup isn’t easy, especially without instruction
- Some hardware components are of inferior quality
My Top Recommendations
- Ludwig Accent – The Best Build and Sound Quality
- Pearl Roadshow – The Best for Beginners
- Alesis Nitro Mesh Electronic Drum Set – The Most Versatile Drum Kit for Novices
Best Use Tips for Drummers
If you want to start playing the drums like the pros, then here are a few tips to help you master the art:
- Focus on Comfort
- Don’t Forget Your Posture
- Master Your Bass Drum Technique
- Practice, Practice, Practice
- Time Management and Consistency
- Set Up Your Cymbals
- Know Where to Hit The Drums
- Hold Your Sticks Correctly
Focus on Comfort
Many beginner drummers tend to construct their kits based around an idea they got from looking at their friend’s setup or something that looks remotely acceptable. It is really important to factor in how you feel when you sit on the throne in front of a kit, though.
The overall size and the distance between each drum matter a lot, since you’ll want to be able to reach them comfortably while playing. Angle the rack toms and the bass pedal correctly every time you play so you don’t develop any bad habits when learning.
When it comes to the snare drum, make sure it sits comfortably between your legs and just a tad bit above your knee height. As you spend more time with drums, you’ll soon discover that some elements accentuate your playstyle while others hamper your progress. You can use this knowledge to shape your idea of future drum kits.
Don’t Forget Your Posture
Drumming is all about physical and mental control. If your posture is incorrect, then you won’t be able to exercise your physical strength properly. This means that your control will be off and you’ll quickly exhaust yourself. It also opens up doorways to many possible injuries.
Set your drum throne at the right height and distance from the drums. You want your thighs sloping downwards towards the knees slightly, so it is easier to sit upright for longer durations. Place the hi-hat stand and bass drum pedal in such a way that it roughly makes a 45-degree angle with your feet.
Master Your Bass Drum Technique
The way a bass drum is hit helps give that signature taste to every drummer’s sound. You want to get a handle on that technique as quickly as possible. Make up your mind on whether it’s going to be, too – heel up or heel down.
Both techniques come with their own flavor of sound and other aspects:
- Heel up if you want to transfer maximum power to your toes and play double bass rhythms at high speeds.
- Heel down if you are more of a gentle player, allowing you to have more control over the intensity and articulation of your hits.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Want to be a good drummer? Then you need to practice! There is no finish line when it comes to drumming. Some of the best drummers of our generation made it to where they are by consistently working hard and improvising over thousands of hours.
Time Management and Consistency
Drummers maintain the beat of the song, so trust me when I say this. If a drummer makes a mistake, it can be heard from a mile away.
Metronomes are a drummer’s best friend and are not only great for practice, but they’re almost essential during recording sessions. As a drummer, getting accustomed to using metronomes at all times will make your life a lot easier.
Set Up Your Cymbals
If not set up properly, cymbals can easily downgrade the sound profile of your drums. Cymbals need to have a lot of room to breathe so they can produce those crispy accents. If you tighten it too hard, you may end up choking the sound, which is definitely not desirable.
When adding a cymbal to your kit, make sure it has plenty of room to wiggle and swing. Mount them on a cymbal stand and ensure there are no obstructions in their way.
Know Where to Hit the Drums
Knowing how and where to hit the drums is part of the fundamental subset of skills. You should always hit the drums in the middle, unless you are creating embellishments. Developing proper basic techniques is vital if you want to master more advanced skills in the long run.
Hold Your Sticks Correctly
While we are on the subject of basic drum skills, let’s not forget that the way you hold your sticks is also crucial to every playstyle. You don’t need to grip on the sticks really hard but make sure it’s tight enough so the sticks don’t fly out of your hands.
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: Cheap drum sets usually make use of poplar for the shell material. It is much easier to process and source from many parts of the world. They usually lack the power and vibrance of tonal expressions when compared to expensive woods but otherwise make up for a decent sound.
Answer: A good beginner drum set costs around $500, give or take. Some price factors are:
Number of drum shells
Quality of wood
Hardware and accessories
Whether it is custom-built or handmade
Answer: A high-end drum kit usually comprises thousands of components, all of which have to fit reliably and stay intact. Better quality parts tend to sound better and last longer, too.
This is why they are often more expensive than their cheaper counterparts. On top of everything, the research and patent costs stack up, too. This drives the prices of some drum kits to extremely high limits.
Answer: Standard drum kits typically come in a five-piece configuration, which includes:
Two high toms
A floor tom
A set of cymbals
A snare drum
A bass drum
The number “five” refers to the number of drums that are present in the kit. For students, this setup is more than enough to get started with basic rudiments and drum exercises.
My Final Thoughts
The price of an average drum kit often leads people to develop a negative opinion about them. As you can see from this list, there are plenty of options under the $500 price tag that genuinely look, play, and sounds incredible.
A good brand caters to a wide range of customers and the budget customer is always on top of their agenda. My favorite from this list has to be the Ludwig Accent, thanks to its incredible versatility and relatively affordable price.
Regardless, the best cheap budget drum set is the one you’re actually going to play. So feel free to go out there and pick out your favorite from this list, just as long as it fits your needs and feels like home when you sit on that throne.