Alright, I’m going to try get through this article without making any ‘needs more cowbell jokes’. We’ve all heard them a thousand times and don’t really need to hear any more of them. Well, I’ll try my best not to make any!
Drums and percussion can mix together to create some dynamic sounds and cowbells are an easy way to do that. A cowbell can really drive a song forward, sounding just a bit more aggressive than any cymbal can.
In my opinion, these are some of the best cowbells for drum kits.
Best Cowbells for Drum Kits
Meinl is a company that is most well-known for making cymbals. However, they also produce some really high quality percussion products. The Groove Bell is a cowbell designed with the help of famous clinician, Mike Johnston.
This cowbell is designed to be versatile. It comes with 2 Benny Greb Cymbal Tuners which are magnets that manipulate the sound. Without the magnets, the cowbell sounds loud and open. The smaller magnet eliminates some of the overtones and the bigger magnet lowers the pitch of the cowbell.
These magnets allow you to get several different sounds out of the cowbell, making it a high value for money product.
This cowbell has a great worn-in industrial look that will look as great several years later as it will on day one.
Mike Johnston has been involved with a few signature products, with the Groove Bell definitely being one of his best.
The RTDKP drum kit pack is a one-stop shop for adding percussion to your drum setup. This pack also comes with a tambourine, but this whole pack has a similar price to the other cowbells on this list, so the tambourine is a bit of a bonus.
The cowbell is quite small and has a high pitched tone. This tone is loud and cuts through any mix of instruments with relative ease. It doesn’t respond too well to soft playing, making it a better option for loud situations.
The pack comes with a clamp to connect the cowbell and tambourine to a cymbal stand. Most cowbells don’t come with this, so it's a great feature.
The LP Ridge Rider is a cowbell that was designed with the help of the Chad Smith. He’s the drummer for the legendary funk band The Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s also famous for looking like Will Ferrell, the actor who made the cowbell jokes famous. Pretty ironic!
The Ridge Rider cowbell produces a low-pitched sound that is quite dry and will stand out firmly in a mix. It’s loud and can take a good beating.
It has a ridge rider on its surface that helps clean up unwanted overtones and also keeps the bell from bending. This is what makes it so durable.
It has a welded vice-clamp that keeps it held tightly in place. Cowbells often move out of position the more you hit them. Not Chad Smith’s Ridge Rider.
It has a bright red color that definitely stands out on a stage and adds to your overall drum kit aesthetic.
The Pearl Primero Rock cowbell is a 10” bell with a large playing surface that adds a unique bell sound to your drum setup.
It’s labelled as a rock cowbell, but it does work pretty well in any style of music you play it in. It has a smooth tone that complements a drum kit sound.
It has a slightly rounded surface that makes it easier to play on. Some cowbells have a rigid structure that makes it uncomfortable to hit with a stick. The rounded surface of the Primera cowbell makes it great for playing with the tip or the shaft of your drum stick.
It comes with a Pearl PPS30 mount, allowing you to mount it anywhere you can fit it in your drum setup.
This cowbell is very affordable, making it a great budget option.
Cowbells don’t have a wide range of sizes. Most of them fall somewhere in between 5” and 10”. The bigger a cowbell is, the deeper it’s going to sound. The deep sound will blend more into your drums depending on how heavy it is.
The smaller a cowbell is, the higher it’s going to sound. This high pitched sound can be useful, but drummers generally prefer the deeper cowbell sounds.
Heavy cowbells will be louder while the lighter ones will be softer. It’s a good idea to have different sized cowbells lying around so that you can pull out the one that fits the situation that you’re in.
Some cowbells come with some unique features. They could include other percussion accessories like a tambourine and everything would be mounted to one stand. A great example of this is the Rhythm Tech RTDKP-U.
Getting a cowbell bundle like this often provides you with a higher value for money than a single cowbell would. So, you should look for products like that if you think you might want more than just a cowbell.
Other cowbells may have small accessories that set them apart from the competition. For example, the Meinl Mike Johnston Groove Bell comes with two small magnets that allow you to alter the sound of the cowbell.
Something that drummers will always have to deal with when it comes to cowbells is how to mount them onto their drum kit. Cowbells typically have a hole that you can screw a hardware arm through.
Before buying a cowbell, check to see if it includes a hardware arm that can clamp to your drum kit. If it doesn’t come with one, you’ll need to buy one separately. One of my favorite clamps is from Latin Percussion. It tends to hold onto the drum kit incredibly securely.
The decision of where to mount the cowbell comes down to personal taste. Some drummers like to put it on the bass drum and have it resting just above their legs. Other drummers prefer to have it on the snare drum or separate from the drum shells entirely.
Adding Percussion to Your Drum Setup
Adding a cowbell to your drum kit setup can add a wonderful element to your playing. Cowbells have a thick sound that pierces very easily through the drum tones, making them great tools to have when you need to play something loud and forceful.
They don’t have any sustain, so the short sound is highly effective for getting out of the way quickly. Cowbells have their place in both rock and jazz drumming, meaning they’re versatile pieces of percussion.
If you don’t play with cowbells often, I’d suggest you try them out more frequently. They have the potential to spark up your drumming. Choose one from the above list and you’ll be good to go!
Cowbells are relatively inexpensive additions to any drum kit setup. They can add a nice groove to a song and have a distinct sound that everyone recognizes. Just remember that some cowbells don’t come with mounting rods, meaning you’ll need to buy that separately.
Cowbells can be used in a lot of styles of music. They were made pretty famous in the 70s and 80s when classic rock drummers used them. They also cater to latin drumming, which filters through into jazz. If you want to be a versatile drummer, you’re going to need to have a cowbell in your setup.
Although they’ve been the punchline to drummer jokes for years, they really are a valuable piece of equipment to have in your setup. You can never have too much cowbell in your drumming. It truly is the only prescription for a fever.