I have taught guitar and drums for several years. Here is some advice for getting young people started in music.
Need a Kid's Drum Set? Start Here.
If you're thinking about buying a drum set for a child, I can help. My years of experience teaching music, along with my years spent raising two musical kids (drums/guitar/keyboards), have made me a good resource for anyone thinking about buying a drum set. Selecting a quality, affordable kid's drum set can be confusing and wind up costing you more than it needs to, so here are some real-world tips and suggestions for finding a good, affordable drum set that a kid will love.
My Top Choice for an Inexpensive Starter Drum Set for a Younger Child
For a child between the ages of 4-8, I recommend this drum set by De Rosa. De Rosa makes good, solid kits that generally run under $150 and have all the parts you need to start rocking immediately. These cool kits are basically a grown-up drum set scaled down for a kid, with all the details intact. They also sound surprisingly good for something so affordable.
I have had drum students who had De Rosa kits as early as age 8, and it was a good fit. Of course, they will pretty quickly grow out of a kid-sized drum set like this, but that's to be expected. If your child shows a real affinity for the drums, then you can expect to step up to a bigger drum set in a few years.
My Experience as a Musician and Music Teacher
I have been in touring and/or recording rock bands for almost 35 years, and now at (ahem) 49 years of age, I can safely say that I know what to look for and what to avoid when buying an instrument. In addition to my road gig experience, I have taught drums and guitar through the years. As part of my teaching work, I have helped dozens of students and their families decide which guitars, amplifiers, and drum sets to buy. I take into consideration some things others don't, like playability, durability, and the cost of accessories.
A Drum Kit for an Older Child
If all goes well and your child is happily getting better and better on the drums, and the kid's set they started on is getting a little small, then it's time to step up to a bigger kit. Fortunately, you still don't need to spend a lot of money to get a great intermediate drum kit. When my kids showed that they had the drive and ability to actually play the drums, I found a kid's drum set that wasn't totally for kids -- think of it as somewhere in between the set they start on as children, and the one they eventually buy when they get serious about playing as an adult.
The drum set I got for my kids is this Gammon drum set with a 16" kick drum. This one is well under $200 and has everything you need to set and start playing immediately.
But I think that any young drummer starting out today should get himself a great teacher and learn all there is to know about the instrument that he wants to play.
— Buddy Rich
Things You'll Need
It's one thing to decide to buy a kid's drum set. It's another thing to be completely ready to play. Here's a handy list of those little things no-one tells you you'll need, direct from an experienced drum teacher:
- Sticks; junior size if your drummer is very young
- A "drum key" ( a special, easily-lost kind of wrench that you need to adjust the drums)
- Ear protection
- A "throne" (an adjustable stool for drummers)
- A rug to protect your floors
- A brick or weight to keep the drums from "walking" across the floor when played
- Duct tape to deaden cymbals and snare so they're not so loud
- Gloves or tape to protect hands from blisters
- Understanding neighbors
Kids in Rock Bands—It's Not Just Noise
There is good evidence that kids who start playing music at an early age, whether drums or guitar or more traditional choices like violin and piano, establish neural pathways that give them a head start of school subjects, especially math. My own kids started out on drums before the age of five, and I wish I had bought them something small like the first drum set in this guide, rather than the bigger kit we wound up with. As a guitar and drum teacher, I immediately saw the value of a really little kit for really little people—assuming the drum set in question is well-made and has all of the necessary parts.
Years ago, when I was coming up, the answer to this question was usually, "No, and I want to keep it that way." Rock bands were loud, noisy, and the domain of long-haired, drug-fueled rebels. No parent that I was aware of would ever encourage their kid to start one. And if the kid did, then they made it hard to find a place to practice. Nowadays, parents are singing their kids up for rock band lessons, for money. What happened? Whatever it is, I'm all for it.
This Is Pretty Awesome
Like nearly all De Rosa kits, this kid's drum set is built to "real" drum kit specifications. In other words, this is not a toy, even though it's a drum set designed for kids—and it's pink. I want to make it clear that I don't assume all girls want a pink set, or that boys can't play one (look at Poison, for example). But if you have a kid who simply must have a pink drum set, then this pink De Rosa drum set is a solid choice. This set comes with all the bells and whistles and hardware you need to start rocking right away. When you choose a drum kit, you need to make sure that ALL the necessary parts are included. It's not uncommon for a "drums for sale" listing to include only the drums themselves, leaving out cymbals, cymbal stands, the kick-pedal, and so on. You don't want to be desperately trying to find an open music store on Christmas Eve. Trust me on this, because I have been there, and it's no fun.
How to Choose the Right Drum Kit for a Young Person
After many, many years playing in bands, teaching guitar and drums, and raising two musical kids, I have learned a few things about how to buy musical gear for young people. I have bought a lot of gear and instruments over the years, and I have made a fair number of mistakes. I wish someone had told me some of the things I am about to tell you! Of all the items that I bought for my kids or helped my students buy, drum kits are probably the trickiest, especially when you attempt to buy one for a child. There are some real pitfalls that you can avoid if you have a little advice. So let's look at some of the most popular beginner drum sets out there, and talk a little about which ones will work for you, and which ones won't.
Another Good Drum Set for Kids
This is a real rock set, with five drums and pro-quality hardware. It's a little smaller than an adult set, but otherwise it's the same quality. In other words, it's not a toy! "Five pieces" refers to the number of actual drums, not the entire package, which includes the cymbals, stands, adjustment tools, and so on. The components of this Gammon 5-piece kit are pretty much all the beginning student needs when it comes to starting on the first day -- it's more complete that some other kits out there, which is why I like this kit.
Be Safe—Protect Their Ears!
One of the first things I tell the families I teach is that their child needs a set of headphones THAT THEY WILL WEAR. Playing drums can get loud, and the drummer needs ear protection. These headphones are all good choices. What matters most is not so much the degree of noise cancellation -- all headphones will get the job done -- but rather will the kid put them on willingly. My advice is to start out on the right foot with headphones from the get-go. Make it part of the gear, and make putting on the phones part of playing the drums. Hopefully, your child has a long and rewarding career ahead of them in music, so make sure that the people in the audience aren't the only ones who can hear the music!
The Electronic Option
Pyle Pro 9 Piece Electronic Drums Set
When my own kids were learning how to play the drums, and later when they each had their own band, our house was truly loud. I had no problem with that, but the parents of several of my students weren't quite as tolerant. For a few of them, it got to the point that they stopped paying for lessons and the kid was forced to switch instruments. That was a bummer for both me and the student.
One excellent solution to the noise issue is a set of electronic drums. Electronic drums are something of a miracle for an old-school guy like me—they're affordable, durable, and almost completely silent if you aren't wearing the headphones. If you ARE wearing the phones, then you hear a breath-taking range of sounds, thanks to digital modeling technology. Most of these kits offer a variety of classic drum sets, effects, and even locations, from the deep echo of an auditorium to the perfect "dead-room" effect of a recording studio. They typically have a recording option, too -- some with the recording power and features of a full-on studio. And the whole time you're playing, people can be standing next to you having a conversation at normal volume.
It sounds too good to be true, but these sets are affordable and easy to set up and operate. For a beginner or a kid, this electronic set by Pyle is around $200 and has basically all of the features of a pro set costing ten times as much.