Jazz is a daunting style of music, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. There’s a good reason that no one learns to play swing rhythms in their first drum lesson, it can get very technical!
However, jazz is one of the most freely expressive styles of music. It will feed your creative side in a way that no other style can do.
As a drummer, you need the best jazz drum set within your budget to take on this thing called jazz. So without further ado, here are some drum kits that will be well suited for the job.
8 Best Jazz Drum Kits for the Money
Table of Contents
- 8 Best Jazz Drum Kits for the Money
- Things to Know About Jazz Drumming
Sonor has a line of compact drum kits in their AQ2 series. They all have the same build quality, structure and make up, they just differ in shell sizes for each kit. I have specifically picked out the Sonor AQ2 Bop kit as a good choice for jazz.
The snare is 14”, while the toms and bass drum are 12”, 14” and 18” respectively. This is a typical “bop” setup, as the kit is appropriately named. This setup was made famous by legendary jazz drummers such as Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes.
This kit is made up of maple shells, which give it a warm tone. The snare drum is one of the highlights of the kit. It is quite heavy and has a wide dynamic range, with a cracking rimshot sound.
The hardware of the kit is seriously heavy-duty and highly adjustable, making it long-lasting and secure.
The Sonor AQ2 only comes as a shell pack, so you will need to get cymbal stands separately.
The Gretsch Catalina Club Jazz is arguably one of the most famous kits in the jazz drumming world. Their mahogany shells give a vintage sound which is sought after by jazz drummers.
The snare is 14”, while the toms and bass drum are 12”, 14” and 18” respectively.
The snare drum is highly versatile. When tuned low, it fits perfectly into that “vintage” jazz sound in styles like bebop. When tuned high, it packs a punch and works well in the modern jazz sound.
The toms have a wonderful, sustaining ring when tuned high and a solid boom when tuned low. The floor tom will produce a classic “bigness” that fills a room, so you will be able to play those Gene Krupa-style tom solos.
The bass drum is really boomy, which is ideal in a jazz setup, where the bass drum mostly fills the role of another tom instead of being a time-keeper.
The Catalina Club Jazz kits also have a wide selection of colors to choose from.
The Yamaha Stage Custom Bebop is the standard Stage Custom with the shells in bop sizes. The small bop sizes make the kit perfect for a jazz setup.
The Bebop kit comes with 12” and 14” toms, with an 18” bass drum.
The birch shells produce a lively attack, with warm and clear overtones. The hardware comes with die-cast claw hooks, which improves sustain and resonance, a key aspect of getting a good jazz tone from your toms.
The Stage Custom Bebop shell pack doesn’t come with a snare drum. This could potentially sway people away from getting the kit, since some could argue that with only 3 shells, it isn’t giving you value for the money.
Jazz is complex style of music, but it definitely isn’t limited to only intermediate and advanced players! Once a beginner learns what swing is, he will be ready to dive into this style, which is why I have included the Pearl Roadshow in this list.
The Pearl Roadshow is an entry-level, all-in-one stop for someone buying their first drum kit. It comes with drum shells, cymbals and hardware all together. The 4-piece Roadshow option comes with a 13” snare, 10” rack tom, 14” floor tom and 18” bass drum.
The shells are made from poplar, which makes them durable and gives them a powerful tone. They are designed to sound playable right out the box, so you won’t need too much knowledge of tuning with this kit.
The kit comes with a pair of 14” hi-hats and and a 16” crash cymbal. You’re going to need to purchase a ride cymbal to complete your full jazz setup.
Lastly, the kit even comes with a drum throne!
The Gretsch Renown fits into the world of higher-end kits. The maple construction and 30-degree bearing edge makes the shells very versatile.
The kit comes with 10”, 12 and 14” toms. The bass drum is 20”, with a significant low boom that would be great for a big band.
The hoops of the shells are more flexible than low-end kits, which allows for easier tuning. It also makes it feel good when rimshots are played on the snare drums and toms.
The kit has a soft attack in general, but it is very warm. That warm sound is what makes this kit fit right in for a jazz setup.
The kit comes with Remo Ambassador stock drumheads, which are popular among jazz drummers.
Unfortunately, the shell pack doesn’t come with a snare drum. The toms also mount onto the bass drum, whereas other high-end kits have bass drums that haven’t been drilled to create a mount, in order to preserve the sound quality.
The Ludwig Breakbeats was designed by Questlove, who is the drummer for The Roots. The Roots play throughout New York and are the house band for the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The idea behind the kit is to be easily portable, but it will double up as a great jazz kit as well.
The 4-piece shell pack includes a 14” snare, 10” mounted tom, 13” floor tom and a 16” bass drum.
The kit will sound better when tuned high, but that is ideal for most jazz settings. The bass drum has a well pronounced thud and subtle sustain, while the toms have a cleanly balanced tone.
If you’re going to be playing jazz gigs in different venues every night, this tiny kit is a great option!
Okay, it seems a bit weird to have a 6-piece kit on a list of jazz drum kits, but hear me out.
Jazz is a style that is constantly evolving, which means you are going to see all different types of drum setups. Famous jazz drummers such as Larnell Lewis and Robert ‘Sput’ Searight are using 6-piece setups with Snarky Puppy. That’s why I’ve included this 6-piece option.
The sizes are 14” for the snare drum, 10” and 12” for the rack toms, 14” and 16” for the floor toms and 22” for the bass drum.
The toms come with individual mounts, meaning they won’t mount onto the bass drum. This makes them easier to position and preserves some of the bass drum quality.
The Armory drums are packed with sustain and a full tone. The drums are going to sound huge and will work wonderfully in a big band, funk or fusion environment.
I’ve heard that the Pearl Export is one of the most sold drum kits in history. I don’t know how true that is, but there’s a good reason for that being a possibility.
The Export is the chameleon of drum kits, meaning it’s pretty much good for everything. If you are looking to dive into jazz playing, but still want to explore other styles, then this kit is a great option.
The kit comes with a 14” snare, 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom and a 22” bass drum.
It’s made with durable and reliable hardware that helps it produce a versatile sound. The drums will sound great when tuned high, and even greater when tuned low. However, you won’t get a richly dark sound, because the poplar wood makes the drums sound bright and focused.
The kit comes with hardware and cymbals, with the bass drum pedal being the main highlight.
Things to Know About Jazz Drumming
Jazz is an extremely broad term. There are many different sub-styles within jazz, with music groups of all shapes and sizes. The main two types of jazz ensembles would be big bands and jazz combos.
Big bands typically consist of around 20 musicians. The drummer in a big band plays a vital role in holding the rhythm section together, meaning the drum kit you use has to pack a punch.
The drums need to be present in the music, so a big band drummer will typically play on a kit with larger drum sizes. This is similar to other styles such as rock.
Jazz combos are a different story. They usually consist of 3 to 6 soloists, the drummer being one of them. Yes, you read that correctly, the drummer is one of the soloists. The drum setup in a jazz combo will typically be quite small, since it doesn’t have to compete with a large group.
In summary, use a big kit for playing in a big band and use a small kit for playing with a jazz combo.
Most sub-styles within jazz are very top-heavy, meaning that there is more emphasis on the cymbals than there are on the drums, especially in swing.
So, you’re going to have to have a decent set of cymbals. Jazz drummers tend to use cymbals that have vintage tones, meaning they sound washy, full and warm.
The ride cymbal is the most important, seeing as you’ll be hitting it the most in a jazz setting. It is the heart of a jazz drum setup. It should be articulate, clear and very colorful.
The hi-hats are the second most important cymbals. You can play a whole jazz gig with just hi-hats and a ride cymbal. It’s vital to have hi-hats that have a distinct “chick” sound when closing them together with the pedal, as that is where you’ll keep time.
Drumhead choice and how you tune them is generally similar across all the sub-styles in jazz. Jazz kits are tuned high so that they can sing. Single-ply heads make this possible, with coated heads being the preferred option.
Coated heads cut overtones and add warmth, without sacrificing response, feel and resonance. They are also ideal for brushes, which are a common tool in a jazz setting.
With jazz being so broad, it is important that you get a drum kit that covers a lot of options. The kits on this list fit that description well, making them some of the best drum kits for jazz.
Jazz is great to play and it will fuel your drumming creativity. So, go out, get a kit, and practice your double-time swing!