Best Beginner Drum Sets (2021) – Quality Starter Kits

Updated on by Gavin Whitner | There may be affiliate links on this page.

Drummers are so underrated that it’s not even fair. Everyone recognizes the lead singer or the lead guitarist but very few people take their time to notice the drummer. This happens a lot, especially in pop music.

Being a drummer carries immense responsibility – it’s the drum that dictates the rhythm. It takes years of practice to develop all that muscle memory and groove memory.

But of course, everyone has to start somewhere. Don’t worry, it’s never too late to pick up an instrument, not even drums.

Best Beginner Drum Sets for Any Style of Play

There’s no right or wrong music genre to begin your drumming experience with. Here are my picks for the best drum sets for beginners regardless of musical style and experience.

The Pearl Export is the most sold drum kit of all time. It was many drummer’s first drum kit, including mine. There is so much that makes these kits as popular as they are, especially for beginners.

The Exports have come in all shapes and sizes over the years, but this particular one has a combination of poplar and mahogany for the shells. These shells are incredibly versatile, leading the kit to sound great in all styles of music.

It’s not the cheapest kit for a beginner. However, it’s a good enough kit to survive through an intermediate level as well. This makes it a great investment, especially since it comes with a set of heavy-duty hardware stands.

The pedal that is included is very high-quality, especially for its price range. It’s smooth and offers little resistance. It’s also very durable which means you can expect to play with it for years to come, long after your novice days are over.

Pearl’s tom mounts are often quite difficult to maneuver, especially in their lower-priced kits. So, it will take a bit of time to get your rack toms into a comfortable position.

  • High quality pedal
  • Poplar/mahogany shells
  • Most sold drum kit of all time
  • No cymbals included

The Tama Imperialstar is a 5-piece kit that is made from 6-ply poplar shells. These shells have a quick decay and full-bodied tone. This makes them great for being mic’ed up.

If you’re on a budget, then the Imperialstar is a really good choice for a studio drum kit or for playing live. The drum mics will pick up the full-bodied tone and produce a really high-quality sound.

The kit comes with Meinl HCS cymbals. Anyone who has played these will know that they sound fantastic. They’re one of the best budget sets of cymbals on the market. They’re versatile, working well for both jazz and rock.

The best part about this kit is the snare drum. It has a sharp sound with plenty of attack. Usually, entry-level kits have poor quality snare drums. Not this one.

The mounting system is lacking a bit. I’ve found myself struggling to position the toms comfortably on Imperialstars that I’ve played on in the past. This has been an issue for me, but it might not be one for you, since everyone has a personal way of positioning their toms.

The Imperialstar and Pearl Export are in tight competition with each other. The Imperialstar comes with cymbals, making it a better all-round package. However, it doesn’t have the sweet mahogany wood like the Export has, meaning the depth of tone isn’t as good.

  • Good for recording
  • Included Meinl HCS cymbals are versatile
  • Great snare drum
  • Hard to position toms comfortably

The Ludwig Element Evolution kit is great for beginners but also offers enough for intermediate players.

It’s a 5-piece kit built from resonant poplar shells. The shells deliver a fantastic attack and a good amount of sustain. The sustain can be easily controlled, depending on your preferences.

The heads that come with the kit give the shells the punch they need. It’s not common for a kit to come with stock heads as good as these.

The kick drum sounds really good without any muffling, meaning you can get that big John Bonham sound that Ludwig kits are known for. If it’s too boomy for you, a blanket placed inside the kit will tone it down easily.

The kit comes with Zildjian I Series cymbals. This includes hi-hats, a crash, and a ride. These cymbals are quite heavy, making them great for rock and metal. They’re a bit harsh for jazz though.

The kit includes double-braced hardware, ensuring that your cymbals are going to feel very sturdy and secure. The cymbal stands have boom arms, allowing for customizable placement of the cymbals. The cymbal stands are what make this kit a good option for intermediate players since they will need the sturdiness.

The throne that comes with the kit isn’t the greatest out there. So, you might want to buy a separate one at some point if you get this kit. You also may be expecting a pair of sticks to come with a kit seeming as it comes with everything else. Note that it doesn’t come with sticks!

  • Comes with great stock drumheads
  • Kick drum sounds good without muffling
  • Throne isn’t great

Although PDP’s claim to fame is their Concept Maple kit, the Centerstage deserves to be given a bit of attention. It’s an all-in-one drum kit that features the same high-quality design features of PDP’s better drum kits.

The shells are made from poplar, giving the drums a full-bodied tone with a quick decay. The kit uses DW’s True-Pitch tuning rods, making it easy to tune the drums to sound great.

The kit comes with standard size drums, including a 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom, and a 22” kick drum. The hardware is the best part of the kit since it’s the sturdy hardware used in all of PDP’s drum kits.

The crash cymbal and hi-hats included with the kit aren’t the greatest. They’ll also break after a fair bit of usage. If you’re looking for the best sound possible from your entry-level set, the first thing to do would be to replace the cymbals.

  • High-quality construction
  • Sturdy hardware
  • True-Pitch tuning rods
  • Cymbals aren’t great

With its low price and high production value, the Stage Custom is one of Yamaha’s most popular drum kits. As a beginner, you might want to get a kit that is still going to hold up when you progress to intermediate status. If that’s the case, this is the kit for you.

The toms have a wonderful singing tone with a strong attack. This tone is what makes the Stage Custom such a sought after affordable drum kit. The sound of the drums can easily be controlled with some muffling, making it easy for beginners to get a great sound.

The snare has a great rimshot crack and is quite sensitive to ghost notes. The 10 lugs around it give it a high tuning range.

One of the best things about Yamaha drums is their tom mounting system. This kit uses the YESS system which allows you to position the rack toms very comfortably. It also keeps them highly secure, stopping them from wobbling when you hit them.

The kit isn’t purely intended for beginners as it comes as a shell pack. This means that no cymbal stands or cymbals are included. You’d need to buy those separately.

Doing this would bring the overall price to above $1000. While that may be fairly expensive for a beginner set, it will be hugely worth it in the long run. I know several professional drummers who are still playing on Yamaha Stage Custom kits.

  • Seriously high value for the price
  • YESS tom mounting system is great
  • Snare has a high tuning range
  • Doesn’t come with hardware and cymbals

While the Pearl Export is the most sold kit of all time, the Roadshow is the true entry-level product from Pearl. It’s specifically designed for beginners. It’s a 5-piece starter drum kit that offers impressive sound quality and durability. As expected from a manufacturer like Pearl, you get very decent hardware with dual-reinforced and double-braced legs.

Stability is important when you’re a beginner, as it can give you a big confidence boost. The sizes of the drums resemble a professional kit more than a starter kit. The bass drum is 22” and the snare is 14”.

I should mention that this kit is also available in slightly smaller size configurations, one with a 20" kick drum, and one with an 18" one. So, if you're looking to get this as the first kit for a kid or a teenager, those might seem like more suitable options.

There are three toms included as well as a crash/ride and hi-hat cymbals on stands. The cymbals aren’t the greatest out there, but they’re perfectly usable for beginners.

Due to the good quality of materials used and the overall sound quality, the big advantage of the RS525 kit is that you can also use it for gigs and rehearsals. Not many beginner drum sets allow you this opportunity, so this is something that makes this kit extremely versatile.

The best thing you can do when getting this kit is to change the drum heads. The stock heads that come with make it sound like you’re hitting cardboard to an extent. Putting some high-quality heads on will dramatically improve the sound.

  • Stage-ready starter kit
  • 5-piece set
  • Drum key included
  • Poor-quality stock drum heads

Similar to the Stage Custom, the Gretsch Catalina Club Jazz comes as a shell pack. It’s also a great option for beginners that want to have a kit that will hold up when they’re not beginners anymore. The benefit of this kit is that it’s compact. The small drum sizes make it a great choice for anyone who is doesn’t have a lot of space.

This kit has a 14” snare, 12” rack tom, 14” floor tom, and 20” kick drum. The drums are made from mahogany wood, giving them a vintage tone that works well for playing jazz or classic rock.

The kick drum is quite boomy. However, you can put a blanket in there and it will cut the boom down significantly.

Another benefit of this kit is that it is easy to travel with. The small sizes make it great for gigging. So, if you’re a beginner who might want to play some gigs one day, the Catalina Club Jazz will be a great choice for you.

The big downside to this kit is that it doesn’t have a middle tom. As a beginner, many learning materials require the use of a middle tom and not having it may lead to some confusion. So, you may need to purchase a middle tom separately and attach it to a cymbal stand.

  • Versatile tuning range
  • Compact
  • Large selection of colors
  • Great for jazz
  • Doesn’t come with hardware and cymbals

The Accent-series of drum kits from Ludwig includes some of the most popular starter sets sold worldwide. There’s a simple reason behind this.

These drum kits offer a good balance between price, hardware quality, and sound. They come with the components necessary to build a solid foundation and have room leftover for progress with minimal investment afterward.

The Accent Drive offers a nice 5-piece setup complete with a high-hat, crash, drum throne, drum sticks, and pedal. It has everything that the Pearl Roadshow has, except it has a slightly more vintage tone thanks to the Ludwig construction.

The sound of the toms and bass drum is quite round and punchy. The kit thrives with lower tunings and tends to sing when hit hard. You’ll find that lower-priced kits don’t sing when you hit them gently.

The snare drum that comes with the LC175 is neither here nor there. You can make some adjustments to it to fit your play style, but don’t think that you can achieve too much by doing so.

The good news is that it doesn’t really have that bucket sound that most cheap drum kit snares have, and it’s quite loud too. If you want to exercise snare accents, this is a good set to start on.

The contrast between the cymbals is not amazing. While the hi-hat offers decent clarity and enough power, the 16” crash just doesn’t seem to have enough sustain. This may very well limit the drum kit’s use for more intermediate players that want to learn more techniques and tackle more musical genres.

Similar to the other kits that include cymbals, you’ll need to upgrade them somewhere down the line.

  • Durable construction
  • Clear sounding drums
  • Drum throne, sticks, and key included
  • Quality exterior polish
  • Cymbals will need to be upgraded eventually

Visually the Ddrum D120B D Series beginner drum set looks fairly attractive, especially for younger kids. Whether you pick the black model or the crimson, the quality of the finish is more than respectable and may even pass as a stage-ready kit.

In terms of components, this drum kit has everything you need from drums to hardware to cymbals.  The drum sizes are slightly smaller than a standard set, making it another great option for kids.

As far as tone and power, you can get quite a lot from the D120B even though it’s a bit scaled down from a standard full-sized drum kit. Still, this drum set isn’t designed for live gigs. It works best as a practice kit for someone who is just starting out.

The cymbals are okay for what they are. The ride is the better of the two, sounding quite punchy when hit with force. The hi-hats aren’t good. They have a slight raise at the lip, causing them to not feel like standard hats. I’d suggest replacing these first before anything else.

Another minor inconvenience may be the drum throne. It’s also downscaled to match the rest of the kit, which means that it leaves out little adjustment options for taller drummers. However, a cheap replacement can always be purchased for more comfortable practice sessions.

  • 5-piece drum kit
  • Stick bag included
  • Full hardware set
  • Durable build
  • Good value for money
  • The drum chair is low
  • The hi-hat isn’t good

Although this kit is targeted at adults, it honestly isn’t a good option compared to the other beginner kits from major drum brands. Instead, it’s better suited for kids or teenagers. It’s an upgraded version of the Junior kit that was previously mentioned.  The durability is considerably higher as the drums can endure harder hits.

The sound quality is above average but nothing near stage-viable. Because of this, it’s not really a good adult drum set but it’d be great for teen practice and teen garage bands.

The drum sticks are surprisingly good, as is the drum stool. The stool is adjustable and has quality padding. The bass drum pedal uses chain drive but it lacks a certain sensitivity that fast tempo genres such as progressive and metal call for.

My biggest gripe with this kit is how the toms mount onto the bass drum. The mounts give no room for adjustability, stopping you from positioning the toms in a way that a professional drummer would. This will start you out with some bad habits.

Overall, it’s a great set for what it is. If you or the person you’re buying it for aren’t highly interested in drumming just yet, then it’s a great affordable option. If you have a bit of experience with the drums and would like to improve your skills, I’d suggest getting a kit from a major brand.

  • Good intermediate drum kit
  • 5-piece kit
  • Quality laminated poplar shells
  • Average quality bass drum pedal
  • Can’t position the toms properly

The Gammon kit is very similar to Mendini kits. However, I feel that this one has higher-quality components and is even suitable for adults as well.

It’s a full-on entry-level set that comes with drums, hardware, and cymbals. It even comes with a solid pair of drum sticks. The biggest reason to why I like this kit more than the others is because you can position the toms in the correct way.

The wood used for the kit is what makes it so cheap. While the drums don’t sound the best, they definitely have room for adjustments to improve on the sound. If you equip them with good drum heads, the kit is almost comparable to the Pearl Roadshow.

The cymbals, on the other hand, are pretty bad. It’s a common trend with these cheaper beginner kits. They’ll be usable at first, but you’ll find yourself wanting more in the long run.

The kit comes with everything you need, even a drum key. I’d suggest getting one of these Gammon kits if you’re not convinced that you’re going to play drums in the long run.

  • 5-piece set
  • Can position the toms properly
  • Weak cymbals

Sticking with the topic of cheap entry-level kits, the Rise kit by Sawtooth is another notable option on the market. While it’s not as well-known as the Gammon or Mendini sets, it’s worth mentioning in this list since it has a fair amount of good things to offer.

The reason this starter drum set is best suited for students is its superior durability. This is made to withstand a pounding on a daily basis without cracking the cymbals every week from intense activity or poor-aimed hits.

The set lets you play a variety of genres as it is a 5-piece set with three toms, a hi-hat, and a crash ride. They’re all on stands except the two front toms which are on a mounted system for better stability.

All the tools needed for assembly and adjustments are included. You’ll also have everything you need to learn how to tend to your drum kit, not just how to play on it.

The biggest thing that separates this kit from the others is the shiny finish on the drums. It arguably looks a lot better. Pair the finish up with the black hardware and you have yourself a kit that looks great on a stage. The cymbals also sound slightly better than the previous entries.

The sound of the drums is lacking, though. Similar to the other kits, it’s best used as a tool to see if someone is interested in taking drums further without spending too much on a fancy kit.

  • All accessories included
  • Great durability
  • Sparkling finish
  • The toms don’t sound great

If you want a high-quality drum kit for a small child, getting one that comes from a top brand will always be the best option to go with. It will just cost slightly more than the other junior kits on the market.

Since sound doesn’t matter too much for kids, we’re going to start with the visuals of the set. It’s a sturdy-looking kit that accurately reflects the appearance of a full-sized acoustic it. The finishes all look clean and the hardware looks shiny and professional.

Since the kit has everything you need to start playing, it acts as a great initial platform for any child to learn the drums from. They’ll get a good feel of how all the components of a drum set work.

Although this is a pint-sized drum kit, you shouldn’t underestimate the build quality. The drum hardware is all steel and features traditional mounts which allow for easy kit configuration and assembly. The shells are made of wood which makes the kit all the more durable over time and also sounds a lot better.

Unfortunately the same can’t really be said for the bass drum. Regardless of the build quality, the sound seems a bit too punchy at times. You could try adjusting the tightness but high-level adjustments like this aren’t really part of the design plan.

The cymbals are not high-end but considering the limited amount of power a kid can hit them with they’re unlikely to break for a long time. What’s also interesting is the fact that you can tune the heads so you’ll be able to squeeze out even more sound clarity than with the default setup.

The drum throne is comically small. It’s perfect for small kids, but you’ll need to get a new one as your child grows.

  • High quality finish
  • Durable materials
  • 5-piece kit
  • Simple assembly
  • Easy-to-tune toms
  • A bit pricey
  • Kids may outgrow the set quickly
  • Bass drum sounds a bit dry

If there’s one thing that truly makes this Lagrima beginner drum set for adults stand out, it is the overall quality of the build. Everything from the steel and PVC hardware to the drum skin is top-notch, which says a lot about this lesser-known brand.

The 5-piece drum kit comes complete with a hi-hat, pedal, crash, throne, and sticks which are surprisingly light and easy to learn with. A high-gloss finish is applied to all the drum shells and gives the drum set a stage-ready look.

The notable feature of this kit is the 22” bass drum. The bass drums on the Gammon and Mendini sets are smaller and provide less punch. This bass drum is quite beefy.

The toms and snare drum are the same dimensions as regular drums from popular brands. Overall, it’s a standard-sized kit that comes at a much cheaper price than the others on the list with the same dimensions.

The sound just isn’t as good as those kits from popular brands. If you’re looking for a kit that you can play on a stage, this isn’t the kit for you. Instead, it thrives as a practice kit that you can snag up for a cheap price.

The hardware, although solid in its uses, is quite flimsy. This is due to the rods being thinner than the ones on standard hardware. The kit is a bit lighter to compensate for it, but I wouldn’t suggest using the hardware for any other drums other than these Lagrima ones.

I also found that the bass drum pedal moves around a bit, even when it’s secured down tightly.

  • Standard-sized kit at a cheap price
  • Throne, key, and sticks included
  • Powerful snare
  • Flimsy hardware
  • Wonky bass pedal

Knowing the Big Three Components

There are many pieces to drum sets and it’s not easy for a beginner to know which ones are important and worth the money. Here’s what you need to know about the starter pieces.

As far as you’re concerned, at the beginning of your learning journey your drum kit only needs three components:

  • Bass drum - the biggest drum that’s usually at the center of any kit. This is how you get your downbeats.
  • Snare drum - the sharp sound created by the snare establishes the rhythm of any song.
  • Hi-Hat - the hi-hat accompanies the snare. Both the hi-hat and the bass drum are played with pedals so they both make for good practice.

Everything else you get on a starter kit is pure luxury. In terms of initial investments, you don’t really need toms or extra cymbals. That is, if you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with knowledge at the start.

Adult Drum Kits vs. Junior Drum Kits

For the inexperienced user, it’s tempting to believe that an adult drum kit is better than a downscaled version even if both are designed for beginners. The only time when an adult set is the best option is when you know you’re serious about drumming and you know you’ll quickly grow into it.

Sure, adult drum kits tend to have a louder sound, but that doesn’t always make them a better choice.

I guess another advantage of having an adult-sized drum set is that it’s easier to find quality replacements for your cymbals, as the stock ones will sooner or later crack. It’s also easier to replace the drum heads with higher-quality ones while keeping the same shells, although this isn’t always advised.

My Take on Standard vs. Electronic

Nothing beats the sound of an expertly made traditional drum kit. However, not everyone has the luxury of having a space to practice in. This is where the electronic drum kit comes in handy.

If you don’t want to bother your parents, siblings, neighbors, and what have you, getting an electronic kit might be the only way of learning to play the drums. They make virtually no noise and while they’re mostly used for recording purposes, they can make your dream come true in an apartment setting too.

Unfortunately, electronic drum sets can get expensive. They only make sense as a beginner option if you’re sure about your commitment to become a drummer.

Should You Always Trust the Brand?

There are a couple of well-established brands that cater mostly to drummers in their learning phase. That’s not to say that popular manufacturers don’t also come out with decent starter drum kits for the masses.

The downside of most of these pro starter kits is often the price. You would expect that top drum kit manufacturers would offer higher quality drum sets with better materials, superior sound, and durability. Sadly that’s not often the case.

Brands that focus on creating learning equipment often deliver superior products. So, don’t be fooled by logos if you’re buying a starter set. You may be on your way to overpaying.

Genres Matter Too

Last but not least, think about the genre you want to play. Skills and preferences develop and change over time but the initial choice is very important. You may not like learning rhythms for rock on a 5 or 6-piece set made for jazz or progressive.

The genres also dictate the difficulty of the learning curve. It is sometimes best not to overcomplicate things by having too many drum components to hit, i.e. multiple toms and multiple cymbals or even a double bass pedal.

No one says it’s mandatory to start with basic setups but it sure helps in some situations. Depending on what genre you want to play at the beginning, you’ll need a particular type of drum setup and sound to get the ball rolling in your favor.

Should You Add Value to Your Beginner Set as You Progress?

As I've already mentioned, it’s not always a good idea to start buying high-end components for your beginner adult drum kit just because you’ve gotten a lot better. If that really was a good idea, then we would see a lot of professional musicians playing on cheap shells and hardware and adding professional skins, cymbals, and pedals to the mix.

Take double bass pedals for example. As sturdy and durable as some beginner drum kits are, most of them can’t handle the abuse of a double bass pedal. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a single-chain or a double-chain model.

Ultra rapid kicks that pack even more power won’t work without a super stable setup. You also have to take into account the fact that a beginner-grade bass drum doesn’t have the necessary hardware to support a double bass pedal.

Pretty much the same thing goes for everything else. The skin is not strong enough to handle the extra power. You can’t just mix and match any drum kit rack with any drum set and hope that all your cymbals and toms are within comfortable reach.

Tips and Tricks for the Absolute Beginners

Drum kits designed for beginners don’t always come with detailed assembly instructions. Of course, these days it’s easy to make it a DIY project after watching a YouTube video. However, unless you’re taking lessons from someone, there are a couple of things about drum maintenance and proper playing that you can’t play by ear or learn from books.

Keep in mind that even the highest-quality beginner drum kits have an expiration date. That’s because the cymbals and the skins are usually the first to go.

In order to get the most use from your toms, it’s best to put down some tape on the skin and try to keep your hits consistent to that area. This not only helps exercise precision but also allows you to spare the skin for a bit longer. In order to place the tape in the right place, you have to hit the toms in various spots until you find the best tone. Once you got that down, stick a 2-3 inch piece of tape on it and focus on hitting the mark.

Taking care of the cymbals is also important. Unless you hit them like you’re trying to break a wall, you shouldn’t have to worry too much. However, you need to take extra care when you’re taking them off and putting them into storage. Dropping them or banging them together can cause them to instantly crack, especially those found in beginner kits.


Wrap Up

Based on the quality of most starter drum kits, you may be wondering if it’s really worth buying one instead of getting a professional kit. Here’s one way to look at it.

Professional drum kits are very expensive. What you see at concerts or in recording studio costs serious dough. Drumming is not easy to pick up and a lot of beginners might feel overwhelmed and quit even from a basic 3-piece drum kit.

The whole point of a starter set is to have something that won’t break the bank while still coming close to professional playing conditions. Once your muscle memory is formed and you’re ready to commit and improve further, only then does it make sense to go the extra mile for professional sound quality.

About Gavin Whitner

A guitar player, songwriter, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

11 thoughts on “Best Beginner Drum Sets (2021) – Quality Starter Kits”

  1. Does anyone have advice on which ludwig starter set is better – the accent or backbeat models. I’m at the low-med. Intermediate level (e.G from 1 -10; I’d modestly say I’m a 4). I play a wide variety of jazz (dixie, swing, newage, traditional, & some progressive) but also play rock, heavy metal, & bluesy rock – ranging from fleetwood mac to journey, dylan, styx, zep, dio iron maiden & matalica. I’m looking for a compact set mostly to practice @ home, but good enough to play at occasional small gigs or jam sessions. Also, for around $35, I thought I replace the heads with wht. Nylon vs the poly heads the kit comes with. I want to buy asap, so I’m looking for a few quick opinions from more experienced musicians

    Reply
    • The Breakbeats is slightly better, but is also slightly costlier considering it’s sold as a shell pack + snare, as opposed to the Accent Drive, which is a full kit comprising of cymbals and hardware.

      Reply
  2. Hi there
    My question is :
    Junior and jazz/beboo kit looks like almost the same , sometimes just because of the throne dimensions and the cymbals .
    I’ m Thinking about buy a ‘cheap‘ but decent/ good quality kit to convert to hybrid , so i need a solid durable mechanics and shells to trigger and maybe dimensions of a jazz/bebop kit .
    Would it be worth it to buy a pearl or a ludwig junior kit ?
    Thanks and ciao

    Reply
  3. Thank you for this informative article. My son is 11 and currently plays the bass but I know his true desire is to play the drums. The breakdown of the various drum sets and other information provided is extremely helpful!

    Reply
  4. Hi Gavin
    Really enjoyed reading this article.
    Thinking of playing the drums but not too sure where to start do this article certainly helped and gave me lots to think about.
    Take care stay safe

    Reply

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