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Whether it’s for a kid, a newbie toddler, or you’ve just started to find your entire kit too cumbersome to move around when busking or gigging at bars or small venues. These small, portable size drums will often save you a buck or two and still have enough playfulness in them to satisfy many scenarios. Apart from that, it’s also an excellent way to get a youngling in the family on that drum seat and make sure his flailing limbs can actually reach the ride or the smallest tom.
In this article, I’ll give you a general guide to choosing your small rig, comparing possibilities, sound quality, and even different components. You’ll be surprised how many styles a 16″ bass drum can fit.
My Top Three Picks
- Ludwig Breakbeats
- Yamaha Stage Custom Hip
- Pearl Roadshow Jr. Jet Black
The Main Market Segment Looking for Mini Drum kits
If your looking for a small-sized drum kit, the most probable thing is that you have either encountered:
- You’re having problems adapting your set to a small space. Normal-sized drums sets are often too clunky or loud to play in small clubs or accompany other non-amplified instruments, such as acoustic guitars, cellos, or even dry vocals.
- There’s a kid, infant, or family member willing to go haywire on a normal drumset, and banging the damn thing at a regular size sounds like drowning in hell, or his/her little limbs just can’t get it down on a normal drum set.
- You’re trying to convince your partner to get your kid a drumset, and the mini-kit just has that “adorable” look that just convinces.
How To Pick A Drum Set?
If you have decided to buy a drum set, you should know that you will find many options on the market. To choose the most suitable model for you, you should pay attention to certain elements.
- The bass drum is the largest drum and the one that produces the lowest and deepest sound of the whole set. It is also the only one that is not played with drumsticks, but with the foot, thanks to a strategically placed mechanical pedal. You can find models with double pedal to play with both feet and get a faster rhythm. However, it requires more coordination, and you will rarely find it in a mini-drum setup.
- The toms are the ones that emit deep and more harmonic sounds. There are also two types: aerial and floor toms. The former are smaller, have a higher pitched sound, and are mounted on the bass drum. The latter are independent and have a low-pitched sound. On the other hand, the snare is a drum that produces a more metallic and louder sound.
- There are three types of cymbals: hi-hats, crash and ride. The hi-hats are two cymbals of the same size that are mounted inverted on a tripod. They incorporate a pedal that causes the cymbals to crash and open, creating various types of sound. The next two types of cymbals, crash and ride, are similar. But while the crash cymbal emits a louder and more strident sound, the ride cymbal is more like a bell.
Another aspect that you should consider when buying a drum set is its size. Drum dimensions are usually measured in inches, and you should select a size according to your needs. If you want to play jazz, for example, you will benefit from a smaller set, especially regarding the bass drum dimensions. The most recommended size would be 18 inches, but the mini-drum kit’s 16″ can work perfectly. However, if you want to play rock, you will want to opt for larger pieces that will give you more volume and punch.
You should also evaluate the space you have available because it is not the same to play in an apartment as it is to play in a house with a basement. To install a drum set and play it comfortably, you need a space of approximately 1.5×1.5 meters if you have a standard drum set. And if you’re planning on getting a mini-drum kit, all mounted, it might only be a half-meter less.
The tuning of this instrument depends on the material with which its components are made. Therefore, it is essential to choose a model whose materials guarantee its capacity to emit good tonalities. Wood is the most used material for the manufacture of drums, but each type has its own characteristics. The most commonly used woods are fresco, maple, mahogany and linden, due to the acoustic properties they provide.
However, it is also possible to find models made of walnut, which, depending on its tuning level, is capable of producing bass sounds or higher-pitched tones. Birchwood drums, for example, are the most recommended for use in recording studios because they provide a great balance in equalization.
You will also find oak drums since this wood is characterized by providing volume and producing bass with more presence. Those looking for a full-bodied and more harmonic sound can opt for cherry.
As you probably know, a common drum set consists of several parts. Although each set will depend largely on the drummer’s preferences, there is a general rule of thumb that includes a pair of toms, snare and bass drum, as well as a hi-hat and a pair of suspended cymbals.
Logically, this is simplified for Mini-Drum Kits. In general, there are 3-piece and 5-piece sets on the market. The former are simpler and perfect for children as they are simpler but close enough to “real” drums to learn the basic skills. These sets usually include a snare drum, tom and bass drum, with a suspended cymbal.
As the name implies, 5-piece kits consist of five parts. There are two more toms in the set, as well as a hi-hat. Thus, they closely resemble a complete drum set, although each part is smaller, in order to make them ergonomically more suitable. Naturally, these are a bit more expensive.
I can’t tell you which one to buy, but you definitely won’t go wrong with any of these models.
What ages are Mini-Drum Kits Ideal For?
There is no universal rule. In most cases, mini-drum kits are recommended for children between the ages of 3 and 10, but in reality, height is more of an important factor. These kits are usually designed for children under 5 feet (1.50 meters). Sets also vary in drum size. For example, the 3-piece units are designed for smaller children, while the 5-piece units tend to have slightly larger dimensions, so they are for children of medium height.
My Criteria For These Recommendations
- Best value for money
- Popularity. That many people recommending these kits, and being recognized on stage played by important musicians should be taken into account.
- Sound. These kits, though you sacrifice come deep-end in the bass drum, deliver a crisp sound that fits many genres.
- Portability. Take into consideration that most kits only come with the shells, the hardware. Cymbals, hi-hats, you can purchase apart depending on your desired setup.
The Top 6 Mini-Drum Kits 2021
These are a mix of sets specifically marketed for kids or marketed just as small setups, as I will specify:
This beauty is one of the most attractive mini-kits designed for this purpose. Starting from its beautiful aqua blue color (also available in charcoal color), it has an incredible sound for its size. Its shells, with 6 layers of 7 mm, made of a mix of poplar and mersawa, it achieves a surprisingly deep sound for its measurements. This is the most economical kit in the list and without a doubt a very good option.
18″ x 12″ Bass drum
10″ x 07″ Tom
14″ x 07″ Floor Tom
13″ x 05″ Snare
Ludwig’s bet is one of the best-rated and perhaps the most popular on this list. Designed by Questlove, legendary drummer of The Roots and collaborator of artists such as D’Angelo, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, or Amy Winehouse, it is a super comfortable, versatile, and affordable kit for its quality. Its 7-ply poplar shells are available in blue or glossy black and really pop out amongst others.
16″ x 14″ Bass drum
10″ x 07″ Tom
13″ x 13″ Floor Tom
14″x 05″ Snare
DW’s New Yorker, in its more economical PDP range also enjoys good reviews, although it has not been as successful. The same brand has also designed a premium version with slightly smaller dimensions, the DW Design Mini Pro, but I find it prohibitively expensive.
16″ x 14″ Bass drum
10″ x 08″ Tom
13″ x 12″ Floor Tom
14″x 06″ Snare
The Pearl alternative is not far behind either. Although a little more expensive than the previous ones, it maintains a very affordable price for its quality, around 400 euros. With 6 layers of poplar, like the Tama Club Jam, it includes Remo UT and Powerstroke 3 drumheads on the bass drum, as well as chrome hardware like the Ludwig Breakbeats. A very complete and practical kit that is also available in various colors and finishes.
16″ x 14″ Bass drum
10″ x 07″ Tom
13″ x 12″ Floor Tom
13″x 5,5″ Snare
The Yamaha mini kit is the one that differs the most from the rest, both for its birch wood and its measurements, especially its 20″ x 08″ bass drum, which stands out from the 16″ x 14″ or 18″ x 12″ of the other brands. However, it is the best-rated drum kit on the list and includes some very interesting details such as the snare on the tom base, which can act as a fat snare. A wonderful kit with the only drawback that it goes up to almost 600€.
20″ x 08″ Bass drum without the rosette
10″ x 05″ Tom
13″ x 08″ Floor Tom
13″x 05″ Snare
The special thing about the Roadshow Junior is that the process from the boilers to the hardware and skins is professional and it is not a toy, but a real instrument. The five-piece boilerplate set consists of six layers of poplar, this wood offers a balanced and warm sound. It includes hi-hat and a 13″ crash.
16″ x 10″ Bass drum
08″ x 05″ Tom Tom
10″ x 5.5″ Tom Tom
13″ x 08″ Floor tom
12″ x 04″ Snare
In case you haven’t considered it, there are other options such as electronic drum kits, or even smaller combinations for mini midi drum sets.
Alesis is one of the reference brands in electronic drums, and after years of developing and innovating with drums, offers the definitive set for the little ones. The Debut kit has all the drumheads in mesh, offering a better rebound and a very noticeable noise reduction. In addition, it comes with everything you need to start playing (saddle, headset, and drumsticks). There is a drawback depending on what your preference may be, and while electronic drum kits may “imitate” the feel of real drums, if you really want to learn what a real drumset feels like, this has its shortcomings.
Made with 7 pads, two pedals for hi-hats, bass drum, and drumsticks included, this electronic drum kit is sensitive to both hands and drumsticks, it plays both ways. It has USB and Midi output for all Daw software. It can be used with batteries or a power adapter. Definitely the strangest of all setups mentioned here- but I bet you didn’t even know this gadget existed!
Answer: Yamaha, Pearl, Tama, DW, and Yamaha are some of the best brands. They have products in an ample range of prices.
Answer: Drumming lessons vary from country to country, around 40$/hour in the US to 20-30€ in Europe.
Answer: With an electric drum kit, there is no loss of sound quality, and the volume is always adjustable even if you hit hard. On the contrary, acoustic drums are hypersensitive to the force of the blow, which translates into more sound volume. Electronic drums, however, will always feel unnatural.
Answer: The drumkit is not an easy instrument to get a grasp of. That is why the recommended age to start learning to play drums is between 6 and 9 years old. At this time, your child is already able to decide what activities are of his preference and is fully capable of performing with skill in whatever he sets his mind to.
I have reviewed the mini-kits of the best drum brands, but of course, there are other alternatives to adapt to a gig in a small space. One of the most common alternative options is to use a flamenco cajon, which can even be used with a bass drum pedal, a shaker, or a combination of both instruments. Whatever your options are, you won’t go amiss with those mentioned above. I hope you found the article useful, and whatever you end up getting, the most important element is the player, not the instrument!