Drums on the cheap
March 20, 2013 1:09 PM   Subscribe

What's the best and least expensive way to get a reasonable drum kit?

So, we're in the band, see. We trade off the drums and guitar song-by-song. It's fun. He has a drum kit; I don't. I've got a place to rehearse, I just need a (full) kit. This won't be for much more than practice and the occasional rehearsal on my side of town (as well as a potential back-up for gigging in case something breaks...which is likely considering). So, quality is not the issue.

Problem is, we're both massively budget-constrained. We've been shopping around for used sets, but there don't seem to be many available (DC) . We've gone to the Guitar Centers. Way too expensive, even for the four-or-so used kits they have lying around. We're hoping to spend less than $500 (substantially less, if possible). Amazon seems to sell some sets at the $200 price point that get awful reviews. Of course they get terrible reviews, but it seems they're not even worth the plastic they're made from.

So, if you were in our shoes, what's the best path? Are there drums out there for us somewhere?
posted by General Malaise to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at Hello Music? Sort of a Gilt type site for musical instruments. They have some cheap kits occasionally (plus all the other odds and ends, cymbals, stools)

Alternatively, I'd just scour CL for components--a tom here, a snare there--it doesn't sound like a mixed set would be an issue for you. Plus it would force you to be creative if all you've got for the next two weeks is a tom and a high hat...
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:16 PM on March 20, 2013

You need to find someone who bought their kid a drum set that never gets played, and who wants to get rid of it more than they want the maximum money. I'm not sure what a minimum decent drum set normally costs, but I think it's more like $1000 than $500.
posted by thelonius at 1:20 PM on March 20, 2013

I'd go straight to craigslist - you should be able to find a decent set with cymbals and hardware for less than $500 used pretty easily.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Looks like craigslist DC isn't too bad for drums. Here's a kit that won't sound too much like hell and it's substantially cheaper than $500. There are a few more like that: this one doesn't look bad, neither does this. Keep your eye out for brand-names: Pearl, Tama, Mapex, or Ludwig will almost always be serviceable even at a low price point. Same for cymbals - if all you care about is a rough approximation of a cymbal crash or hi hat chick, Sabian and Zildjian's cheapest don't sound *too much* like trash can lids. The ones I all linked are complete: piecing together a kit is fun and definitely possible for under $500, but it always seems to turn out more expensive than you think.
posted by ltisz at 1:25 PM on March 20, 2013

Admiral Haddock - I've never heard of that site before. Good find, and exactly the type of thing I was hoping this question would lead me.

thelonious - You're right; $1000 is a much more realistic starting price, but that's way too high for us right now, hence the hope we can do it way cheaper.

InfidelZombie and Itisz - Ha, I've been scouring CL for weeks on this quest, and somehow haven't seen those listings. I had just figured the DC area was a black hole free of kits that parents got their uninterested children. Definitely going to have to check those out.
posted by General Malaise at 1:30 PM on March 20, 2013

You can find a cheap kit if you keep your eyes open and are patient. Watch Craigslist, thrift stores, and pawn shops. If you're starting from scratch, you'll probably get it cheaper if you buy a whole kit rather than looking for individual components. No one sells individual toms if they're really cheap; they're not worth it.

Some of the cheap off-brand kits I've seen use smaller diameter pipe on the hardware, so you wouldn't be able to just swap in a tom for a broken one on the big set. Stick with the brands ltisz mentions and you'll do okay.

Actually, looking at ltisz's links, just buy one of those Ludwigs and put the savings into new heads and maybe an extra cymbal if you can swing it.
posted by echo target at 1:32 PM on March 20, 2013

If you play gigs, ask the drummers in other bands if they have any old gear they're looking to get rid of. A cheap (or free!) kick pedal or cymbal stand or whatever can save you a bundle.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:44 PM on March 20, 2013

DC? Atomic Music. Go there. Don't go anywhere else.

They will have deals and everything will be in working order. You just need 1 or 2 toms on top, one on the floor, a snare and stand, a ride cymbal and stand, a crash cymbal and stand, hi hats a stand and a pedal and a bass drum and pedal.

I can't recommend Atomic more highly--its by the College Park Ikea. So cheap.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:47 PM on March 20, 2013

There are a lot of ~ $400 starter sets from online music stores that look pretty decent, e.g. this or that.
posted by w0mbat at 2:33 PM on March 20, 2013

Are electronic kits on the table? e.g. these... they start super cheap but can scale up to very high quality sound/responsiveness/etc.

You need an amp or headphones to go with it, but you then have the advantage that you can play quietly/silently and thus have more flexibility on where you can practice.

I have a nicer one now but I started with an el cheapo kind of like this, which was great for beginner-level practicing for a couple years.
posted by anotherthink at 2:44 PM on March 20, 2013

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