Drummers -> Upgrading from entry-level kit?

Discussion in 'Drums & Percussion' started by TedEH, Aug 30, 2018.

  1. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    tl;dr: Where should I be looking for better-than-entry-level drums / shells?

    Long version:
    I ended up being a drummer for a bunch of reasons that aren't super important, but I've been getting by with some pretty basic drums for a while. I have one of those simple westbury kits that I threw some mesh heads on for "silent" practice, and a ddrum/d2 kit that I added a decent snare and good cymbals to that I use for everything else. They're both very basic entry level kits that I got for maybe $100 each and I've done as much as I can to tune them up, but now that I've been taking the drumming thing more seriously (in one band I've switch to drums permanently, and for another I'm at least filling in for now) - and this means playing shows, as well as some plans to record shortly - I'm starting to feel like I'm hitting the limit of what I can get out of these shells. I like the cymbals I've got, the pedals, etc., but the kick sounds pretty lame in particular and the toms aren't going to impress anyone. I've had to bring this kit to two shows so far and it feels sketchy :lol:.

    So while I don't want to drop thousands into a custom / high-end kit and fancy hardware and racks and all that nonsense, I feel like there should be some middle ground in terms of just some shell+hardware packs I could get that would get me closer to pro-sounding with fresh skins and a good tuning. The catch is that I'm not sure where to look in terms of brands, models, used vs new, what kinds of materials or styles to avoid, etc. My aim is to stay under $1k cad, and I figure that should be more than doable. Any suggestions? Also willing to listen to advice as to whether or not upgrades are even worth it compared to trying to tune what I have better.
     
  2. SYLrules88

    SYLrules88 I play drums!

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    sometimes you can find a decent used kit for cheaper than it should be. it seems like when people want to get rid of drums, they really just want to be rid of them! if you have a local music store that allows people to display their gear for sale, it would be worth inspecting what they have. FB marketplace and craigslist might be good places to look too but I really prefer to look over drum gear before I get it.

    If the kit is used and several years old, it feels like it's very likely that any hardware thrown in with it will be in poor shape. really, as long as any screws and wing nuts aren't stripped out, it'll work until you can upgrade your cymbal stands, one by one if need be. brands, really any of the major brands are pretty trustworthy. Tama, DW, Pearl, Yamaha, Sonor, and others. Can't help you with specific series though, I haven't looked at brand new drums for a while. Tuning, I've owned a cheap Rogers starter kit and there definitely was a point where I couldn't tune it up any better and had to deal with what I got. Had a Yamaha stage custom 5 pc in high school, and as long as I kept good heads on it, I could keep it sounding pretty good. If you've got even a mid range kit, Id say stick with double ply heads for the toms, a thick coated head for the snare, and don't tighten the snare side head too tight, and you'll be good.

    Funny story about my current kit. It's a 6 piece DW maple kit that came with lots of hardware, cases for everything, and even a rolling hardware case. Got it all for $1K. Last year I found out that it used to belong to another local drummer in a band that my band play shows with fairly often. He custom ordered it in the late 90s. Shells are still in great shape aside from the wraps peeling up in a few spots. But it was a custom order, probably cost almost three times what I paid for it, and I got cases and hardware with it. don't underestimate the used market!
     
  3. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Thanks, definitely keeping an eye on used markets.

    I'm pretty convinced what I have doesn't qualify for "mid range" in any sense. The snare probably does, but I got that separately. The cymbal stands aren't going to blow anyone's minds, but that's not an element I'm picky about, and I have no complaints about the them. They hold cymbals. Good enough. :lol: Mainly it's just the kick and tom shells that I feel are very junky sounding. On one level I can't tell if this is because I'm not experienced at tuning them, but at the same time, I play on other peoples kits and it's just.... nicer. :lol:
     
  4. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    Do you know any drummers? Perhaps ask them if they wouldn't mind trying out your kit and see if they can tune it a little better.

    Dialing in a kit is like setting up a guitar. Getting the basics is fairly straight forward, but there are nuances and quirks that someone more green might not be privy to.

    I'm not any sort of drummer, I've dabbled, but I probably know even less than yourself.

    I will say, for whatever reason, some of my favorite kits I've messed around with have had shells that were maple and birch ply'd together. The drummer I jam with has a maple/birch Mapex kit, I believe he said the shells were sold in a set for about $700. They seem high quality, and sound good, even with a shit drummer like me messing around on them.

    I've also noticed that drums are kinda like animals. Folks get them, but either can't deal with them or thier living situation changes and try to unload them quickly and cheaply. So definitely give the local classifieds a shot. Remember, you don't need a completely matching set. You can piece together some cool kits for really cheap if you're not worried about matching aesthetics or brands.

    All that said, with a budget around $1k, have you considered triggering your current kit?
     
  5. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Triggers wont work for me cause our jam room doesn't have the PA support for it.

    The get-some-help-from-a-real-drummer idea is a good one though. I was watching a video or two this morning about tuning, and the more I think about it, I think I may be partly shooting myself in the foot my tuning my reso head on the bass drum way too low. I don't remember why I was doing that.
     
  6. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    I remember when I got my first kit my drummer came over to try it out, after I thought I set it up okay. After they did some tweaking, and informed me I was using the "wrong" beaters for the bass drum sound I wanted, and needed to purchase a particular set of heads for my floor toms, we got the kit sounding much much better. All I had to do was buy the parts (like $60 or something) and provide some beer.
     
  7. Ordacleaphobia

    Ordacleaphobia Can only power chord

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    I know Mapex and Gretsch turn out some good stuff you can find in that kind of mid-tier price range.
    I'd personally caution against Tama; I know they're the namest-of-the-name brands, but I've had nothing but terrible luck with Tama anything (except pedals, their pedals are great).

    Have you tried using some different heads on your kit? I played on a $100 Yamaha kit for about 8 years and got that sucker sounding pretty damn good after I found the perfect set of heads for it. Could maybe circle back to the 'ask another drummer' idea; if you know a guy that usually has a good sound, ask him what heads he's using.
     
  8. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    The heads might also be a really valid point -> I swapped the heads on the toms and they improved by 2000% with fresh heads and a tuning. The kick drum is still using the heads that I got it with it, mostly because I didn't want to invest in it at the time. Might be worth trying that before going too far with buying new things.
     
  9. Jacksonluvr636

    Jacksonluvr636 SS.org Regular

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    I assume you play metal being on here. A lot of guys like maple and birch.

    For brands, PDP is a good mid rage, Gretch actually sound very awesome, deep and powerful and Sonar seem very easy to play and sound good.
     
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  10. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Surprised to hear the name Gretch on that list. Something about that name strikes me as aiming for "vintage" sounds.
     
  11. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    I think vintage is more dimensions than anything else.

    I would also suggest finding out what kits cost say $1000-$1500, try them if possible, then hunt down a used one.
     
  12. Jacksonluvr636

    Jacksonluvr636 SS.org Regular

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    I do not know enough on the specs of all the drums I have heard but I have played with two guys that had two different Gretch sets, my friend still has one so if it is something of serious interest I could ask exactly what he has. But both of them were probably the best drums I have heard while playing with a drummer. Just deep and powerful, their playing of course probably plays a factor but I say don't sleep on Gretch.

    I mentioned Sonar because of playing drums off and on, my drummer from a really old band I was in had a Sonar and it was set up so good I could fly on that kit and play better and easier for whatever reason and they sounded just as good as any old mid grade Pearl or Tama.
     
  13. Ebony

    Ebony Drums

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    Not quite. "Vintage" is usually about getting a pillowy, mid-rangy sound with muffled overtones and minimal amounts of attack and punch. Round bearing edges, medium-to-thin shells usually with reinforcement rings and often shells made either partially or entirely of softer woods like bigleaf mahogany and poplar. Typically sought after by players within the realms of big band, classic rock and other lowfi genres. There is an element of sizes to the vintage-game, but that has more to do with availability.

    If the kit is going to be used mainly for live metal and recording, here are some considerations I would take into account:

    - Straight-walled shell (=without reinforcement-rings). Re-rings raises and weakens the fundamental pitch and adds overtones.
    - Shell thickness. Anything between 5-8mm is reasonable. Thicker shells give you more projection and punch, often at the cost of adding nasty, inharmonic overtones and loss of sensitivity. Thinner shells give you more sensitivity, resonance and a broader dynamic range. The thicker the shell the higher the pitch.
    - Sharp bearing edges on toms. Allows the drums to be tuned lower and produces more attack.
    - Drum depths. I would shoot for between 14-16 inches on bass drums (20-24 inch diameter) max 9-10 inches on toms (8-14 inch diameter). Very few drums with greater depths than these have actually been designed to be that depth, most of them are purely the result of marketing bullshit and pseudo-science so there is no reason to go there. With floor toms you have to take what you get.
    - If possible, avoid bass drums with mounts in them.

    Things like 100% precise bearing edges and sturdy hardware is not a given below 1K in new condition. Having good bearing edges is a must, so if you buy a kit with bad edges, I would pay someone to have them recut. Not terribly expensive. I don't know what money people are throwing out their drum kits for on the used marked in Canada, but I can provide a list of some good series that might possibly be attainable:

    Pearl VBX (discontinued), Mapex pro-m(discontinued), Yamaha Stage custom, Tama superstar, Premier Gen-X.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2018
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  14. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I've seen a couple o stage custom kits pop up used nearby, but they're selling whole kits -> cymbals etc, that I don't need. Could do some negotiating maybe.

    At a show last night, one of the drummers had a really nice sounding kick -> took a look and it was a Gretch :lol:
     
  15. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    An update:
    I watched a bunch of videos about bass drum tuning, then re-tuned.
    I picked up one of those guides/kits and cut a port hole in the reso head of the bass drum.
    I grabbed one of those torque keys to help get me a little closer to proper tuning on everything else.
    And some moon gels to get me the rest of the way there.

    Sounding much better now. Still maybe not enough to convince anyone these are "pro" drums, but it's a workable sound now. Good enough that I don't feel the need to run out and buy new drums. I think I've successfully put off the upgrade for now. :lol:
     
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  16. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Does that really make it a "success," around here? :lol:
     
  17. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Haha, maybe not. :lol:

    I was actually making some pretty big mistakes in terms of tuning to what I wanted to hear. I know there's not just one way to tune, and a lot of it is taste, but I wasn't tuning in a way that worked for me. The reso head on my kick drum was very loose. I don't remember where I had seen some advice about doing it that way. I had the reso head loose and the batter head pretty tight. The result, including the lack of a port hole, meant there was a very flabby/boxy sound coming from the reso head, and the batter side always had this really quick bounce back that made the pedal jump and hit the skin a second time. I've now done the opposite: the batter head is looser, which gives the initial impact a nice slappy sound, and the reso head is tightened up, which took away the boxy sound and tightened the whole tone of the drum.
     
  18. dhgrind

    dhgrind SS.org Regular

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    I just started playing drums, bought the tune-bot studio, and all new heads for my drums and also ported the reso on the bass. sounds way better.
    If you do still want better shells i keep getting recommended the mapex saturns. Which if you already have decent hardware/cymbals/snare it'd be a nice set.
     
  19. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I occasionally see a bunch of Yamaha Stage (I think?) shells pop up locally, but usually a bit pricier than I can justify on a whim. Eventually I'll probably cave and grab something like that, hah.
     

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