Updated October 2022
Investing in any drum kit is a big commitment, and it makes sense that you will want a professional-quality drum set that grows with you. This is entirely possible! Professional drummers are using the same drum shell sets as everyone else. The difference is that they swap out and upgrade the most important pieces, such as the drum heads, cymbals, and pedals. That’s why their kit sounds like it’s on another level!
This is good news, since it means that you can get a great professional drum kit as a beginner without spending the earth. You just have to make sure you choose something with an excellent shell set (which is the basic drums, usually five pieces). This kit won’t sound as good as it can out of the box, but as you grow and learn, you can upgrade certain pieces until you have your own personalized professional drum set.
On this page, we share our top five picks for the best professional drum kits (updated for 2022) that are accessible for beginners in terms of price and come with everything you need to start drumming now. We have also included a guide to the key things to consider when deciding whether a drum kit is right for you.
Quick Product Links
- Alesis Nitro Electronic Mesh Drum Set
- Gammon Percussion Complete Drum Set
- Ludwig Breakbeats 4 Piece Shell Pack
- Pearl Roadshow 5-Piece Drum Set
- Tama Imperialstar Complete Drum Set
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Choosing A Professional Drum Set: Key Considerations
When choosing your professional drum set the most important thing to consider is the quality of the shell pack, which are the main drums. This is usually a five-piece set, but other configurations exist.
You will want to make sure your drum shells are made from good-quality wood, such as maple, mahogany, poplar, birch, oak, lauan, or basswood. Check the number of plies, which are the layers of wood. As a general rule, the more plies, the lighter the note, and fewer plies give a warmer and lower sound.
Also look at the quality of the drum fixtures, including the hoops, lugs, tenuous rods, and mounts. These should all be sturdy and made to last.
If you get these decisions right, then you’re likely to have a good base kit on which you can build for years to come.
But you are presumably also looking for a set that you can play now, so consider the following as well.
Complete Drum Set Or Shell Pack
These terms can help you understand what you’re getting. A complete drum set includes stands and it often includes cymbals. Some manufacturers add extras, which can help you get started. A shell pack includes just the drums – usually a snare drum, a bass drum, a floor tom, and a rack tom or two.
Your decision will probably depend on whether you want something designed as a single kit that is “ready to use” or whether you want to customize based on some of your favorite features and playing style. If you have been drumming for a while, you might already have great stands and could just be looking to upgrade the drums themselves.
Acoustic Or Electronic
Most drummers opt for acoustic drum kits for traditional gigging. But electronic drum sets offer some advantages, particularly if you’d like to practice in your home or apartment without disturbing anyone nearby, or if you’re very tight on space. Electric drums can also be great for recording if you want to produce a clear and crisp sound.
Number Of Pieces
You will find drums listed in terms of number of pieces, which refers to the number of drums (bass, snare, and toms) in the kit. The standard number is five, but you can get kits with more or less, usually four, six, or even seven.
How many pieces you need depends on your drumming style. If you’re looking for a professional kit, you probably know how many drums you need. If you are just starting out, go with a five-piece set. You can always add to it later if you want to.
The shells are the wooden (or sometimes plastic) cylinders that hold your drum heads. Professional kits usually come with two size options:
- Jazz/Fusion – smaller drum sizes, designed for a lighter, less prominent sound
- Rock/Standard – larger drums with louder voices, versatile enough for rock, country, metal, etc.
The style of music you are playing with your band will dictate which of these is better, as you need to coordinate with the other instruments.
Does the kit come with one or two bass drums? A few kits come with a double bass setup that’s ideal for playing metal. Most players – especially beginners – favor a single bass setup.
Some professional drum sets come complete with good-quality drum heads, while others leave it up to the buyer to purchase drum heads separately. It’s worth noting that the drum heads that typically come with kits are OK for practicing, particularly if you’re a new drummer, but not at all ideal. This is one important upgrade that you’ll want to keep in mind later on, as premium drum heads are far superior to factory heads that normally come standard.
Throne Sold Separately
A few drum kits come with a throne (seat) but many do not. The reason for this is simple: drum thrones come in different sizes and configurations to suit individual needs. If you are on the shorter or the larger side, then the standard drum seat probably won’t suit you and you won’t want to prioritize it as part of your kit when making your purchase—you’ll need something more specialized.
Bass Drum Pedals
Your chosen drum kit may or may not come with a bass drum pedal. If it does come with one, it’s usually a basic model and you will probably want to upgrade this component in time. Don’t let the lack of a pedal keep you from getting the kit you really want!
Once you begin researching, you’ll find that drum prices vary greatly by brand, as well as by what’s included with the kit. Be suspicious of anything that sounds terribly cheap, unless it’s on sale (maybe due to being discontinued by the manufacturer, for example). Watch out also for drum kits over about $1,000. Any higher than that, and you’re probably better off building your own set with components that meet your exact specifications.
What drum kits do professionals use?
Professionals use the same drum kits as beginners, but rather than using the kit out of the box, they will have swapped out some essential pieces for better sound. Professional drummers are probably using more expensive and better-sounding drum heads, have bought their favorite cymbals separately, and have upgraded items like the bass drum pedals.
Among the most popular brands with professional drummers are Tama, Pearl, DW, Ludwig, Yamaha, Mapex, and Alesis.
How much does a pro drum set cost?
You can get a decent set of drums for gigging and recording for less than $1,000. But top end professional drummers will spend a lot more on their drums, probably at least $3,000, and maybe as much as $10,000. But these drummers aren’t buying kits. They have probably invested in a favorite shell set but have invested in all their other pieces separately to make their own ideal kit.
What is the difference between a drum set and a drum kit?
The term “drum kit” is usually used for a set of drums and cymbals purchased as a complete kit from the manufacturer. The term “drum set” is more often used for a set of different drums, cymbals, and other components that the drummer has put together to make their ideal set. But in day-to-day use, the two terms are used pretty much interchangeably.
Professional drum kits aren’t that different from the kits used for learning and practice. The difference is, rather than using a set “out of the box” and expecting it to sound decent, professional drummers find a great quality shell set that they love and then customize their kit with specific pieces based on their experience.
So, a professional drummer might be playing on the same kit as you are, but chances are they have changed their drum heads for a more expensive and resonant option. They have purchased better-quality cymbals and swapped out the bass drum kit for something more responsive and which never gives an unwanted double kit.
Depending on the type of music that they play, they may also have swapped out one of the drums, for example the bass, for something with a more specific sound. This is how drummers end up spending thousands of dollars on their kit.
But the good news is that you can get a great professional kit as a beginner without spending the earth. Of course, it won’t sound as good as a professional kit until you start swapping out the pieces, but this is something you can do in the future as you have more experience and awareness of what you want. The key is that good quality shell set.
What to read next? Our guide to bass drum pedals.