Although the drum kit may look complicated at first, the components of all drum kits n large or small n fall into three broad areas. These are drums, cymbals and hardware. The way these three areas have developed over the years could be treated as three separate stories. First there are the drums themselves: cylinders of wood, metal or synthetic materials with membranes tensioned over one or both ends. The technical term is emembranophone’. Then there are the cymbals, which are metal plates that have been intensively worked.
They are classified as idiophones, meaning instruments that make a sound via their own body. Finally, and of crucial importance, there is the hardware. This comprises the stands that support the drums and cymbals and the pedals that operate the bass drum and hi-hat cymbals. The point is that the cymbal is a quite different instrument from the drum, with separate origins and evolution. The drum companies make the drums and the hardware, but rarely do they make the cymbals. Crafting a wooden shelled drum is a very different game from hammering out a bronze cymbal. Cymbal companies are quite distinct, and yet drums and cymbals have come to be played in such an integrated manner that the term edrum kit’ or edrumset’ is taken to include cymbals as well as drums.
And although we always refer to drum stores, selling cymbals is as important to the retailer as selling drums. The eskins’ on the drums are called heads. Nowadays they are nearly always synthetic, mostly made from special plastics. Heads too are usually produced by different companies from either the drum or cymbal makers. So straight away you can see that at least three separate companies will normally be involved in producing your kit. The importance of this for would-be drum kit purchasers will become apparent as we go into greater detail. The standard drum kit today n is certainly so far as the manufacturers are concerned n the five piece kit. This means there are five drums.
Note again that there is no mention of cymbals or stands. However, since the drum companies also manufacture hardware, a basic kit will usually include a snare drum stand and one or two cymbal stands, along with a bass drum pedal and hi-hat pedal. Until recently it would not include any cymbals, since n for the last time n the drum companies don’t make them. It can come as a shock to discover that a good set of cymbals can cost almost as much as a good set of drums. However, as the competition has become increasingly hot, and particularly with more and more incredibly cheap starter kits made in Taiwan, China, and elsewhere, it has become the norm for starter packages to include everything that the beginner needs.
That is, as well as the five drums, pedals and stands; there will be a stool (or throne) and three or four rudimentary cymbals. Not only that, they even throw in a pair of sticks and basic set-up and tuning instructions. This is a welcome trend, because previously the newcomer often got an incomplete package.
And since the kit consists of so many parts it’s easy for a starter to be confused. Lesson number one: if you’re a first time buyer wanting a budget kit, make sure you get a deal which includes everything you might possibly need to get you started, sparing you the ignominy, frustration and expense of a return visit to the store the following Saturday.