Electronic or Acoustic? What name brand is the best? Wood, metal, or acrylic? What are the most common sizes? These are some of the common questions I get from students trying to purchase their first drum kit. I've compiled 2 lists of my top 3 recommended electronic drum kits and top 3 acoustic drum kits for under $500 to get you started on your rhythmic journey.
Some things to think about: The obvious major benefit of electronic kits is the ability to play with headphones, keeping a manageble volume level for the rest of the family and neighbors while still allowing the student to rock out as loud as they want. I feel this is a major benefit for students, especially because the sheer volume of a real acoustic drum set makes it very difficult to stick to a practice schedule without aggravating family and neighbors. Also, all the electronic kits I recommended above have an "AUX Input" which allows students to mix in a laptop, iPod, etc to play along with music or practice with a metronome. Finally, electronic drums take up about half the space and are much easier to record that acoustic drums; a luxury I wish I had when I was starting out. It is for all these reasons that I recommend electronic drums to my students for their first set. Some argue that the downside to electronic drums is a lack of feel. I could agree to some extent, however, the technology has come so far that in many cases, I believe the sounds to be clearer/cleaner than acoustic drums.
Some things to think about: Although I prefer electronic drums for students, practice sessions, and even rehearsals; make no mistake, I do prefer the feel of acoustic drums and believe they are much more fun. I think that saving a real acoustic drum kit as a goal/prize to motivate students to work hard and develop on their electronic drums is a great idea that I have seen work really well several times in my experience. Once the student gets to a point where they start performing with their own band, in school, church, or at talent shows, and the need for their own drum kit becomes eminent, pull that trigger!
Maple or birch shells are the most common for professional drummers. Only the Pearl Roadshow (above) has a hybrid birch shell, the rest do not have maple or birch shells because of the $500 price cap. Brands are really a preference of the player. Many players pick a brand for superficial reasons, like whatever their favorite drummer plays. Maybe in a future blog I will compare the prices, value, and features of competing brands but in general, the top brands offer very comparable products.
I also chose standard Pop/Rock sizes for all the kits I recommended above. Generally speaking, that refers to a 22" bass drum, 14" snare, 10-18" toms. Sometimes bigger drums are used in Hard Rock and smaller sizes for Jazz, Funk, Fusion, or Reggae.
Best of luck with your new purchase and feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.