A drum kit is not a cheap instrument to buy brand new. Used drums are often the way to go for drummers who are just getting started. I started out at age 13 with allowance savings and birthday money piled together. I knew I wanted drums and had been asking my parents for a couple of years. My parents told me that I would have to start saving and buy one with my own money. Little did they know that the determination I had was great enough that it actually worked out. By my 13th birthday I had a whopping $350! (that was a small fortune for a 13 year old in the early 90s.) It was time to buy the drum kit I had wanted for so long. Although I knew nothing about buying used drums, I got lucky and managed to buy a decent 5-piece drum kit from a nearby music store.
Today, there are many manufacturers making cheaper entry-level drum kits. Many of them are poor quality and won’t last you very long if you don’t know what to look for. It is generally much better to spend your money on used drums that are higher quality at a cheaper price. Here are a few things to consider when buying used drums so you can be sure it’s reasonable quality for the price.
Plan Your Budget
It goes without saying that drums can range from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars. Decide what your budget is before you begin to look for drums. Give yourself an absolute maximum that you are willing to spend and only search for drums at that price or lower. Otherwise you may end up finding a kit that you like but can’t afford. Remember that you might have to fork out extra some money for other pieces that are not included. You could also be missing an important piece of hardware, like a throne. This means you may have to buy a few things after purchasing the drums…so keep that in mind when you are looking.
Have a Purpose
What is the purpose of this drum kit? Are you just starting out? If so, you can probably spend less and get something suitable for a beginner to practice with. In the future, you will be ready to spend a little more on a kit that you will keep for a long time. The other thing to consider here is sizing. Below you will find a chart to give you an idea of standard drum sizes.
Where To Find Used Drums
Music Store – Local music stores usually have a selection of used drums for sale. There is usually a sales person who can answer questions too, but remember that they are there to sell you something. Look at kits, ask questions and then compare with other sources before you go ahead and make a purchase.
Classifieds Website or Newspaper – These will have a ton of choices, but remember to browse for local results. A drum kit is not an easy thing to ship and you’d get a better deal if you can just pick them up directly from the seller.
Word of Mouth – Talk to people you know. There is a good chance that a friend or family member might have used drums they’re looking to sell. They may also know someone who does. Facebook is also a great way to find a deal among people you know or people in your local community.
5 Tips for Buying Used Drums: What To Look For
The number of pieces of a drum kit refers to the number of drums. This does not include cymbals. If there is a Bass Drum, Snare Drum, 2 Toms and a Floor Tom, then that would be a 5-piece kit. Cymbals are often sold separately but when they are included with a drum kit, they are often lower quality. They are usually the first things you will want to upgrade. I’m going to deal exclusively with drums in this article.
1. Condition of the Shells
A shell is the actual round wood part of a drum. This is what you should look at first. Make sure the drums are round! If there are any dents or visible warping then you know they haven’t been properly cared for and may not sound very good. Generally speaking, if there aren’t too many scuffs or scratches then it’s pretty safe to assume they’ve been cared for. There are a few ways however, to check the condition of the shells.
- Drums should look perfectly round. Any visible warping is a bad sign. To check for more subtle imperfections, place the drum on a flat surface and see if there is any wobble. Keep in mind that the hoop could also be warped rather than the shell.
- Look at the bearing edge. This is the edge of the shell that makes contact with the drumhead. There shouldn’t be any cracks or chunks missing. It should be the same distance from the hood, all the way around.
- Look inside the drum (the resonant bottom heads are usually clear). There shouldn’t be any cracks anywhere at all.
- And finally, how do they look? You cannot fix scratches and chips. Chances are the drums weren’t taken very good care of If they look beat up. However, imperfections can exist that are not visible to the eye.
2. Inspect the Drum Hardware
The hardware on each drum is important. It’s a good idea to check and see if the actual hardware on each drum is in reasonable condition. If there is a lot of visible rust any lugs are missing or tuning rods (the screws that fasten the hoop onto the drum), it could mean that those parts might need replacing. Hardware can be replaced relatively cheap, so it isn’t always a deal breaker if parts need replacing. You wouldn’t want to buy a drum kit however and then have to replace all kinds of parts. If the hardware is in good condition with no missing parts, it is usually a sign that the drums were well cared for.
3. Cymbal Stands, Pedals, Throne and other Hardware
A drum kit can be sold without cymbals or hardware. More often used drums are sold including cymbal stands, pedals, a throne and other hardware like a Snare stand and Floor Tom legs. These parts should be in reasonable shape as well because a single cymbal stand can cost you between $60-$120 new. The last thing you need is to spend hundreds of dollars on hardware for the used drum kit you just purchased. Look for the following things when inspecting the stands and hardware.
Make sure that none of the screws or wingnuts are stripped. Stands need to be adjustable. The stand is pretty much useless if the screws are stripped. Also check to make sure that there felts and a cymbal holder on the top part of the stand. If it is bare metal, you will need to buy these parts. Otherwise the metal contact on your cymbals will surely crack and damage them.
Bass Drum and Hi-Hat Pedals
The Bass Drum Pedal is an important part of the drum kit and should be in reasonable shape. All you really need to do is tap your foot on one to make sure it functions smoothly. The Hi-Hat stand will always have the pedal attached to it. The most important thing to look for is that it comes with the “clutch”. This is the metal piece with felt dividers that holds the top Hi-Hat cymbal. If there isn’t one, it an easy part to buy separately.
Stands should always be adjustable, so once again, make sure the screws are not stripped. If you notice a wad of duct tape anywhere that it can be adjusted, that is a strong indication that the stand needs to be replaced. It’s also important to make sure that your stands and Floor Tom legs have rubber feet. If the feet are bare metal, they could slide and move when you are playing the drums if they are setup on a hard floor. Not only that, they will also scratch your floor considerably. If there are no rubber feet it’s not a deal-breaker but be sure to always set them up on a rug or carpet.
The drum throne is the stool where a drummer sits but isn’t always included. If there is one, it is worth sitting on it to see whether it is sturdy. Sometimes the screws which place the top onto the legs can become worn out and stripped. The result is a wobbly feeling seat. This can cause you discomfort in your back and legs when playing for a long period of time. If you like a kit but it has a wobbly throne, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. If you need one, a new throne usually costs $100 or more.
4. Check the Cymbals
Not all drum kits come with cymbals. If they do, then you’ll want to check for any cracks or dents. It’s perfectly fine if they’re dirty, but they should be in reasonable condition. Any mis-shaped areas or missing chunks is a problem. This will negatively affect the sound of the cymbal and make it virtually unusable. Cymbals come in all shapes and sizes and so they are a personal choice. If a used drum kit does come with cymbals, consider that to be a bonus. If you don’t like them , you can always trade them in towards new cymbals that you like the sound of.
5. Play the Drum Kit
It’s always a good idea to sit down and play a drum kit to get a feel for it. This is the best way to decide if the sizes are right and the sound and feel is close to what you are looking for. Just remember that a bad sounding drum kit doesn’t mean they aren’t good drums. Old or over-played drumheads can make a great drum kit sound awful and out of tune. Look for excessive wear and little dents from aggressive or prolonged usage.While a drumhead typically only costs $20-$40 to replace, you might want to avoid used drums that have worn out heads on every drum. It is quite costly to replace them all and you don’t want dish out all that money right after buying the kit.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below.
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