Gretsch Catalina drum kit, good for a beginner?
May 9, 2013 9:05 AM   Subscribe

I've finally got a house with a basement, and I'm about to realize a long-held ambition to learn the drums. How should I get started? Should I learn some basics on a practice pad before I shop for a kit, or should I buy the kit I (think I) want?

I've always admired these Gretsch Catalina Club kits, purely based on aesthetics and zero knowledge of drums. The budget is fairly flexible as long as I can keep everything under a thousand bucks. I don't really aspire to anything other than playing along to songs. I really don't expect to be performing anywhere anytime soon.

Any recommendations of hardware, cymbals, sticks, DVDs, or books are welcome!
posted by ndg to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I studied drums as a kid and sucked, sucked, sucked! Man, did I suck. I think a significant part of my sucking is that I only ever practiced on a pad at home and flopped my feet about like I was hitting pedals. I really don't think that's a good way to learn, or at least, learn very much.

Since then I moved to guitar, and now bass, and now electronic drum kit (awesome Maschine Mikro MkII!), and as soon as I get a music room or basement, I'm getting a kit. I ache with anticipation.

I don't know the Catalinas, or any kit by name, really--but if you have craigslist where you live, I'd buy used. The deals on some of the kits I see are really ridonkulous. At least in the Boston environs, it seems like there are always teenagers being bought really nice drum kits and either getting bored, or driving their parents insane. Or both. Can be had for a song.

Keep us posted on your Keith Moonery.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:22 AM on May 9, 2013

A buddy of mine has that exact kit, and it is terrific. Well worth the money. He got his for a bit less than the listing you've linked to here, so maybe shop around and see if you can get a deal or a coupon.

The coupon/codes sometimes don't work on specific brands. If that happens contact the place. For instance right now at Musician's Friend there is a "save 15% off of anything $300 or more" deal, but in the fine print there's a giant list of brands that aren't included. Including Gretsch.

BUT! When I recently bought a pretty high-end, name brand instrument on there I had the same thing happen, and I clicked the little "talk to us now" doodad, and explained my situation and they matched that offer with a one time coupon, saved me about $300 and put me well below any advertised price anywhere on the internet. I think it is something to do with advertised price agreements with the brands but it is really worth asking.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:50 AM on May 9, 2013

And, having snooped in your past questions, here's a used Catalina kit for $500 on CL (including a throne), and there were some for a bit more that might suit you.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:57 AM on May 9, 2013

Do you plan to play jazz? If so, that's a good intro level jazz kit that will be decent for gigs and playing at home. If you're not interested in jazz you're going to want to go with a kit that's got at least a 20" bass drum if not a 22" (or 24" if you want John Bonham-esque boom). If I were you I'd go to the closest Guitar Center (or similar store) and see what kind of deal they'll cut you on a kit and cymbals there, especially a used one. It's been a while since I've bought anything major from GC, but in the past they'd usually throw in ~$100 in gear if you bought something major like a drum kit or amp stack.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 10:02 AM on May 9, 2013

I like the kit you're thinking about.

I started drumming with a Pearl kit similar to the one you're looking at, only mine had two tomtoms (you can get away with one for a beginner). I didn't have a practice pad.

My advice would be to invest in a decent throne down the line. The throne I bought with my kit hurt my butt badly! But I moved up shortly thereafter to a Roc N Soc throne. Then, I could spend HOURS on my kit!

I don't have any advice on instruction-based literature - I went at it without lessons.

Good luck, and have fun!
posted by MeatheadBrokeMyChair at 10:09 AM on May 9, 2013

I would say that it depends on the songs you intend to play along with. If they're Metallica songs, then that kit wouldn't be ideal. It's really designed for jazz drumming. However, if you like the way a jazz kit sounds, then I don't think you could go wrong with that one. If you intend to do more rock-style drumming, then you probably want a bigger bass drum and deeper toms, and possibly a deeper snare. Pretty much any other entry-level kit by any major manufacturer will have those features.

For cymbals, you need to make a similar decision: rock or jazz? Jazz cymbals don't really give you the right sound for playing rock, and vice versa. Cymbals that work well for rock will be somewhat cheaper. These would be cymbals like the Zildjian "A" line or Sabian "AA" series. Jazz cymbals would be the Zildjian K line or the Sabian HH line.

Finally, your first question was how to get started. If lessons are in your budget, I'd say find a good teacher. But again, keep in mind the style of drumming you want to do. Pretty much any teacher will be able to teach you rock drumming, but if you're interested in jazz, latin, or other styles, you'd want to find someone with expertise in those areas. Also note that a teacher could help you choose what equipment to buy, so if a teacher is in the budget, hold off on buying anything until your first lesson.

Unfortunately, I can't recommend any good books or videos that you can use without a teacher. That doesn't mean they're not out there. The books I used when starting out would have made no sense to me without a teacher helping me use them.
posted by crLLC at 11:46 AM on May 9, 2013

I love Gretsch drumsets and they were the first real drumkit I've bought. Gretschs are built well and versatile. You can play jazz but many rockers and even punkers use the kits well also.

I would recommend getting a teacher. They can help guide you from proper stick control from the very beginning. I typically recommend a jazz or funk teacher because usually those are usually music school taught and have better form. It's super easy to get into rock drumming, but jazz or funk can really teach you grooves that make you excel as a drummer.

Get a practice pad and the Stick Control book and get a handle on rudiments and it will be invaluable to helping your skills around the kit. I would also recommend going to a music store and trying out different snares. Kit snares are so so at times and there are some $100-200 snares that are going to sound much better than the kit snares. Also try out cymbals as well. They can get super expensive but focus on a good hi-hat first. Then you'll also need a crash and ride. You can try getting the cymbals on craigslist to get them cheaper. DW hardware is probably the cheapest decent stuff you can get.

Good luck and have fun!
posted by xtine at 12:17 PM on May 9, 2013

I know you've already best-answered Admiral Haddock's link, but if you can afford it you really should snatch that up as soon as possible. The ride and hi-hat that come with that kit are amazing; you're essentially getting the full drumset for about $100.
posted by ltisz at 4:31 PM on May 9, 2013

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