Best Beginner Drum Set: Top Starter Models & Buyer’s Guide
Starting drums can be much harder than many other popular musical instruments. They are so complex and different from anything else! For this guide, I went 20 years back, when I started playing the drums. Of course, the beginner drum kit I had those times isn’t available now, and I can hardly remember the model name, but I definitely remember how it feels to begin. Since then, many beginners went through my courses, and we’ve tried too many learning drum kit models to keep it. Below, I will tell you everything you need to choose the best beginner drum set and excel.
In addition, I share some useful tips that can help you to learn to play drums in the right way. My #1 pick is Pearl Roadshow. It’s available in several configurations to meet genre specifics and let you start learning with the genuine setup from the very basics. Still, I can’t guarantee that this kit will match your particular needs, so make sure to read 5 super-detailed reviews of my favorite entry-level drum set models. I covered high-quality sets of different configurations and price segments, so you will find the one you need for sure.
- Best Beginner Drum Set: My Top 5 Picks
- Starter Drum Kit Buyer’s Guide
- Grow Together
Best Beginner Drum Set: My Top 5 Picks
- Pearl Roadshow
- Ludwig Black Sparkle
- Ludwig Element Evolution
- Tama Imperialstar IE52CCPM
- Ludwig Accent Drive Series LC175
Here is my own test-based listing of starter drum sets. I thoroughly checked each of these kits for writing every beginner drum set review below.
1. Pearl Roadshow – Best Beginner Drum Set
Katsumi Yanagisawa founded Pearl in 1946 and re-specialized in drum production in 1950. In 1957, Yanagisawa’s son took advantage of the newborn rock-n-roll genre and started exporting Pearl drums all over the world. The brand has introduced new materials and multiple innovations that had changed the way modern drums and racks look and function.
Pearl Roadshow is the best starter drum set for adults and teens that I know for several reasons. First, it’s available in different configurations, including:
- Jazz – a perfect 5-piece set for learning jazz. Includes an 18” bass drum, a 14” floor tom, a 13” snare, and a rack tom.
- Fusion & new fusion – both are standard 5-piece kits but feature drums of different diameters. The first version includes a 20×16″ bass drum, a 14×14″ floor tom, 12×8″ and 10×7″ toms, and a 14×5″ snare drum. The second offers the same elements, but all of them, except the snare, are slightly larger in diameter and produce a louder sound.
- Rock – this set comes with a 22×16″ bass drum, two 18×16″ and 16×16″ floor toms, 12×9″ tom on a stand, and a 14×6.5″ snare.
All of the kits come with Pearl ride cymbals and high-hats on durable stands. The metal is pretty basic, but lets you start playing right out of the box without any additional expenses. Another nice add-on is the professional stick bag with a pair of decent beginner-level maple sticks.
The shells of all the versions are made of 9-ply white poplar, which is a relatively soft material with balanced darkened tones. The bass boost is just awesome, so you can really groove the room with this one. The rack with double-braced parts is made to last for decades so that you can easily sell it when the time comes for a more advanced set.
- Complete Drum Set -The Pearl Roadshow drum kit comes complete with everything you need to start drumming right out of the box. This set comes with drums, hardware, cymbals, and drum throne. We even throw in sticks and a stick bag so there is no delay
- Set Includes-22x16 bass drum, 14x6.5 snare, 12x9 rack tom, 14x14 & 16x16 floor toms, cymbal stand, Hi-hat stand, snare stand, Single rack tom holder, kick pedal, drum throne, 16" crash/ride cymbal, 14" Hi-hats, 2pair of maple drumsticks, and stick bag
- Available in 4 different versions;
- Sticks and pro stick bag are included;
- Perfectly-balanced tone and bass boost;
- Ride and high-hat with stands are included;
- Affordable & comprehensive.
- The cymbals could be better.
2. Ludwig Black Sparkle – Good Beginner Drum Set (Apartment-friendly)
Ludwig is a native American brand that was founded in Chicago 112 years ago by brothers William F. & Theobald Ludwig. Both were professional drummers with rich performance experience and drum-building knowledge. The company has always been in high demand in the USA. However, the global success came when Ringo Starr played Ludwig drums on a historic 1964 gig on The Ed Sullivan Show. Since then, the brand became extremely popular amongst rock and jazz drummers of the new wave all over the world.
Ludwig Black Sparkle is a simple drum kit, but it’s of exceptional quality. Sparkle comes in classic nacre black and nacre white versions. The coating hides 7-ply hardwood shells. They don’t reveal the actual wood name for some reason, but I’m pretty sure that it’s birch as the attack is just great, while the high notes are sharp and dark.
Due to the compact size, you can fit this one into a small room without sacrificing tonal characteristics too much. The kit includes a 14×16″ bass drum, 13×13″ floor tom, and a 7×10″ tom. The whole thing is stackable so that you can transport it easily if needed.
This minimalistic setup is excellent for jazz and other genres. You are free to add the second rack tom and any cymbals if needed. On the one hand, it’s quite frustrating that they didn’t include the cymbals and stands, but it’s also a good point if you want to invest in good cymbals from the start. I only don’t get why the snare stand isn’t included.
- Apartment-friendly and compact for the street musician
- Positioned on a riser for optimum reach, its compact 14x16" bass drum, 7x10" tom, and 13x13" floor tom creates a set-up for sculpting grooves in tight spaces
- Hardwood shells add high notes and darken the tone;
- Compact beginner set for apartment and street;
- Comes with great Remo heads;
- Cool storage bags included.
- One rack tom and no cymbal/snare stands.
3. Ludwig Element Evolution – Advanced Starter Drum Kit
You already know about this inspiring brand, so let’s focus on its next great beginner-level instrument. Element Evolution LCEE220 is an excellent full-sized 5-piece kit that comes only in standard fusion configuration. It includes a 22″ kick, 10″ and 12″ rack toms, a 14″ snare drum, and a 16″ floor tom.
The shells are made of high-quality poplar. The sound can be easily confused with the Pearl Roadshow New Fusion kit, but it’s a bit richer on overtones and has slightly deeper bass. Attack and sustain are also impressive. I can’t say that these characteristics make it a better-sounding option than Pearl Roadshow, but you should consider them anyway.
What makes this a premium beginner kit really special is the set of high-quality Zildjian cymbals with excellent double-braced legs. These cymbals are very bright and durable. The good news is that they are included with a partner discount, so it’s a bit cheaper to buy the full set instead of buying a kit and the same cymbals separately. The drum throne and the mounts are also included so that you can unpack and play right away. Don’t forget to order the sticks along!
This kit is the most expensive on my listing, but the price is its only drawback. I recommend it if you want to get a slightly more premium feeling and have a full standard set of cymbals in the initial package.
- 5-piece Drum Set with 22" Kick
- Hardware - Blue Sparkle
- High-quality poplar shells provide rich sound;
- 3 bright Zildjian cymbals included (with stands);
- Large deep kick;
- Drum throne included;
- Full-sized pieces.
- It’s quite expensive.
4. Tama Imperialstar IE52CCPM – Great Value for Money
Tama is another highly popular Japanese drum set manufacturer. The company was founded in 1974. Since then, it has built a huge network all over the world, so you can find these drum sets in virtually any music store. The Imperialstar series is one of the earliest drum set lines by the brand, and it remains in high demand and receives regular improvements.
The IE52CCPM full-sized 5-piece kit comes with a 22″ kick, 10″ and 12″ rack toms, a 14″ snare drum, and a 16″ floor tom. These are totally the same sizes as Ludwig Element Evolution offers, but for a lower price. Besides, the kit includes 3 beginner-level Candy Apple Mist cymbals by Meinl, which is a great German percussion brand. All the stands, an adjustable drum throne, and pedals are also included. You only have to order a pair of drumsticks to start practicing.
The shells are made of 9-ply poplar without reinforcement rings. Compared to Pearl Roadshow and Ludwig Element evolution, it sounds closer to the first kit. The tone is rich, the bass is dark and boosted, while the snare and rack toms provide excellent articulation without too high frequencies. Due to this, Imperialstar is great for starting without knowing which genre is yours. It’s not too expensive, very stylish (classic shiny red finish), and full-sized.
- High-quality 9-ply poplar;
- Full-sized set with rich dark sound;
- 3 excellent Candy Apple Mist cymbals by Meinl included;
- Throne and pedals included;
- Standard fusion configuration.
- It’s quite expensive but cheaper than Element Evolution.
5. Ludwig Accent Drive Series LC175 – All-Inclusive Cheap Beginner Drum Set
The Accent is one of the most long-running and demanded lines of Ludwig drums. It’s an affordable kit with a reinforced foundation, which is designed to last for decades. The gear belongs to the 200 Series, which has already been tested with time.
This 5-piece kit includes a 13″ hi-hat, 16″ crash/ride cymbal, 9 x12″ and 8 x 10″ rack toms, a 16 x 22″ bass drum, 6.5 x 14″ wood snare, and a 16 x 22″ bass drum. All the shells are made of a 9-ply 8-mm hardwood composite. This would usually mean more highs and brighter sound, but the actual output is smooth and pleases ears with relatively deep lows. The brightness is still here, though. It’s not as dark as most of the softwood kits above but not as sharp as the Black Sparkle. You can look for sound comparisons on YouTube to hear the actual difference.
The cymbals are mediocre but not too bad for the price tag. Most beginners feel ok about them during the first 2-3 months. The stands are great, though. In the box, you will also find a pair of Vic Firth Peter Erskine Big Band Signature Sticks. I’d not call them a universal option for beginners, but they are very convenient anyway, and it’s not bad at all if you start with them. This model has a long taper for faster rebound and lets you articulate the cymbals very well due to the teardrop tip. Finally, you will find a comfy throne and standard pedals inside.
- Ludwig Accent Drive 5 Piece Complete Drum Set: an all-new, all-inclusive, outside-the-box drum set package for the new drummer that needs everything!
- The drum set features 13" hi-hats, 16" crash/ride cymbal, 16 x 22" bass drum, 9 x12" and 8 x 10" mounted toms, a 16 x 16" floor tom, and a 6.5 x 14" wood snare.
- Excellent 200 Series gear;
- Full-sized kit with rich lows and smoothed mids/highs;
- Affordable full-sized adult kit;
- Cool color options;
- Comfortable throne and limited Vic Firth Signature Sticks included.
- The cymbals are mediocre.
Starter Drum Kit Buyer’s Guide
If you’re not sure about any of the kits that I reviewed, you can use the knowledge from this guide to do your own research. It will also help you understand the topic much deeper and make a step towards being a real drum expert.
How to choose the best beginner drum set?
This can be an overwhelming process, but knowing the main features to consider, you can select a set that will match a player of any age and with any budget. Here are the essential considerations.
In this article, I cover only acoustic beginner-level sets, but you can also look for a top electronic model if you have strict volume limits and a small apartment. Acoustic drums are a more natural option to start with as they:
- provide the best response;
- have extremely broad dynamic diapasons;
- don’t require amplification at rehearsals;
- offer classic learning experience;
- are not as distractive as electronic kits and let you concentrate purely on drumming rather than on sampling and sound engineering.
Electronic kits provide a very different feeling and usually cost a lot more. They are a great alternative if you cannot start with an acoustic kit.
I won’t go into listing particular dimensions for each possible beginner drum set, but you should measure the size of your room and try to fit the kit you like into the space you have. It’s quite easy to do virtually as you can take a tape measure and draw the kit’s dimensions on the floor to see if it fits. You should also consider offsets behind the throne and in front of the kit to make sure you have enough room to sit, and the front side isn’t too close to a wall.
As for the height, you should take a full-sized kit if you’re above 13 years old. If you are 10-12 years old, look for a kit with a 16” bass drum and 6”, 8”, or 10” inch toms. Smaller children need compact kid sets to be able to reach every piece without bending over the set.
The most universal option to start with is a standard 5-piece kit. Don’t forget that cymbals don’t stand for pieces. The most standard 5-piece set includes a kick drum (also called a bass drum), snare, floor tom, and 2 rack toms. Custom configurations for jazz practice may include a single rack tom instead of two. Some beginners start with 2 floor toms and a tom on a separate stand. Your mentor can help you to choose the right config for your specialization. If you want to be a self-taught drummer, you can’t go wrong with a standard fusion configuration that I described first.
The kit may come without cymbals at all, but you need at least a high-hat and a ride cymbal to start. Crash cymbals are optional for the very beginning, but I recommend you to get a couple when you feel the need to add something.
I can’t say that materials matter a lot when you start, but you should be able to differ them anyway. Some of the most popular options include
- Maple – more centered than birch, smooth high and lows, sounds bright-but-warm, and offers a slightly boosted bass;
- Birch – offers boosted highs and darker tones with excellent attack;
- Mahogany – rich low frequencies, great attack, strong punch, and smooth mids;
- Bubinga – boosted attack and brightness. It’s opposite to mahogany and poplar;
- Poplar – quite soft and dark tones, which are easy to confuse with mahogany.
Small junior kits vary from $150 to $300. If you are 12-13 and older, you should opt for the best set you can afford. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the most expensive of the options, but not too cheap either. The average price for beginner drum sets is $500, but there are great kits for $400-$480 too. Higher-end beginner sets may cost up to $800 and usually include some useful extras.
Tips on how to learn to play drums
If you have enough willingness, discipline, and dedication to practice the drums, you should either find yourself a good teacher or teach yourself using the wide range of materials available around. No matter which option you choose, these tips will help you to excel:
- Start a practice routine – start with deciding on when, where, and how you will practice and get a pair of good drum sticks. It’s impossible to start if you don’t have a convenient permanent place!
- Learn basic beats – start with the simplest beats you can find on YouTube or in tutorials. Raise the difficulty gradually. Step up only when you feel relaxed and confident with a beat.
- Learn essential fills – fills are the relatively small elements that are used to brighten up the main beat and to make it groovier. Learn the fills separately first, and then try to mix them with the beats.
- Never play without a metronome – a drummer is the heart of almost any band, so he/she must be as accurate as a Swiss watch. It’s impossible without a metronome ticking in your ear with the needed speed. Start with the lowest BPMs and raise the speed very slowly, week by week, until you play clearly in any tempo. It may seem easy to play at low speeds, but don’t let this feeling fool you as it takes time to build precision at different tempos.
- Learn drum notation – this is the most boring part for everyone, but it’s actually a key to the most effective practice. Reading the notation is much faster than watching videos and lets you play literally anything without even hearing it.
- Learn to play the rudiments – you can use drum rudiments to build beats and fills. Start from learning single stroke rolls, double stroke rolls, paradiddles, and flams. Most other rudiments are built upon these four.
- Don’t forget about hearing protection – acoustic drums are very loud, so it’s essential to use hearing protection to avoid any forms of hearing damage.
- Get a practice pad – it will help you to get enough practice even if you’re far away from your kit. It may look too plain, but it’s a powerful tool for mastering your skills.
And don’t forget to learn how to position your drums before you start!
Keen beginner drummers flood my blog’s email box with questions every month. Many questions are similar, so I decided to include them here so that you don’t have to wait for my reply.
Which drum set is the best for beginners?
My favorite drum set for beginners is Pearl Roadshow. It’s a line of excellent starter drums, which is available in several configurations, including rock, fusion, new fusion, and jazz. You can pick the one you like the most for the same price. Each version includes 5 main pieces, a ride cymbal, high-hat, and an adjustable throne.
How much does a beginner drum set cost?
Teenager and adult beginner-level acoustic drum sets usually cost from $400 to $800, depending on the brand, extra gear, and materials. Of course, you are free to look for more affordable options, but you’re not likely to find something of great quality unless you’re looking for a compact kit for your child. Pricier options are also easy to find, but I’d not recommend starting from “the best of the best” to avoid frustration if it appears that drums are not the instrument you want to play for life.
Can I teach myself drums?
Fortunately, we all have access to the Internet and books with drumming lessons. If you are really motivated, it will take several weeks for you to learn the very basics and start playing simple songs. A drum set is incredibly rewarding and lets you feel the progress more vividly than most other instruments do. I recommend you invest in a high-quality online or printed tutorial in the most convenient format, download an in-ear metronome app, and try to play real songs as soon as you understand how to have a good posture and hold the sticks right.
Is it harder to learn drums or guitar?
The difficulty depends on what you want to achieve. For example, playing lots of popular rock songs requires you to know just a few basic chords and plain technique. The basic drum parts may appear similarly easy for you, though. Learning both instruments requires building neural pathways and training different groups of muscles. The first is possible due to neuroplasticity that lets us grow new neurons by repeating something over and over, while the second is collateral but essential for using your new neurons to play music.
To my mind, it’s important to get the best kit that you can afford to be able to grow along. A thoughtfully selected instrument will offer you a lot of musical “space” for exploration and experiments. As soon as you start feeling at least a bit bored with your beginner kit, try changing the pads, add new cymbals, and try new tuning options! Each kit from my listing is enabled to grow together with you, but you can find another alternative with your new knowledge as well!
Did you find the information you needed here? Which beginner kit seems to be the best for you to start with? Let’s chat about it in the comments! See ya!