How to Choose the Right Drum Set for Your Child

Drum Kit for Kids

So your kiddo came to you and said that their musical heart beats to the rhythm of a drum kit—congrats! Learning the drums is a fun, fulfilling endeavor that opens up a wide world of music and instruments to explore. It also comes with a learning curve—especially if you and your child are new to the instrument. But we’re here to help. 

In this article we’ll explain how to choose the right drums for your child in three easy steps. But before we dive in, let’s review some basic drum terminology. This will help you learn about the instrument and make a more informed instrument purchase.

Know Before You Buy: Common Drum Terminology Explained

  • Bass Drum – The bass or kick drum is the largest drum in the kit. It’s played with a foot pedal and is responsible for producing the lowest rhythm tone. If you’ve ever remarked how “punchy” or powerful a drummer sounds live, you’re usually talking about their kick drum. 
  • Toms – Toms, also known as tom-toms, are cylindrical drums that vary in size to give players a wide range of sounds or tonal variety. Smaller toms, known as “rack toms,” are mounted above the kick drum and produce a higher pitch. Larger toms, known as “floor toms,” are positioned around the drummer on the floor and produce lower pitches. Think of hard-rock drum fills that roll on forever: The drummer is definitely playing across their rack and floor toms. 
  • Snare – A snare is one of the most unique drums in a kit. Unlike other drums, snares have wires positioned on the underside of the drum. When the drum is struck, the wires vibrate against the bottom drumhead, or “snare head,” to create a snappy sound. If you’ve ever heard a military march, you’ve heard a snare drum. 
  • Cymbals – Cymbals are metal percussion instruments that help a drummer accent a rhythm or maintain steady timekeeping, and produce sounds that contrast nicely with the rest of their kit. The most common cymbal is a hi-hat, a small cymbal typically purchased in pairs and included in most kits.

    Other basic cymbals include the crash: a loud, explosive-sounding cymbal used to accent a heavy downbeat and most commonly heard in rock music. A ride cymbal, on the other hand, produces a more subdued and sustained “ping” sound that works well with mellower music and is central to jazz.

    Some beginner drum kits also come with a second cymbal, often a hybrid crash/ride.

  • Hardware – Hardware is a catchall term that describes various components and accessories used to set up a drum kit. In other words, it’s everything but the drums and cymbals themselves. Hardware includes drum and cymbal stands, pedals, thrones or seats, and more. Hardware can easily be replaced or added to increase the performance and longevity of any drum kit. 
  • Jr. Kit vs. Pocket Kit – These terms can be used interchangeably to distinguish drum kits designed for younger, smaller players from standard-sized kits. 
  • Drum Kit vs. Shell Pack – A “drum kit” is a term used to describe a complete drum setup—kick drum, toms, snare, cymbals, everything. On the other hand, a “shell pack” consists only of a kick drum and toms. When starting out, it’s good to buy a drum kit that gives you everything your child needs. Shell packs are great for more advanced players who want to start customizing their kits with particular cymbals or a snare that doesn’t come as part of a kit. 

Now that you’re tuned in to some drum lingo, let’s dive into how to choose the right drum kit for your child.

Step 1: Decide on an Acoustic or Electronic Drum Kit

Deciding whether to go with an acoustic or electronic drum kit is the first and most important step toward purchasing drums for your child. Each type of kit comes with benefits and drawbacks that should be considered. Here are some things to think about…

It’s likely that acoustic drums are what inspired your child to play in the first place. The importance of that can’t be overstated. Sometimes being proud of your instrument is what keeps musicians engaged when they’re just starting out.

Acoustic kits also teach children different playing techniques they can’t learn on electronic drums. For instance, they’ll learn how to regulate the volume and dynamics of their playing, as well as how to play with touch and feel. Electronic drums are essentially triggers for programmed sounds, and can’t fully reproduce the feel of an acoustic kit. 

On the downside, acoustic drums are big and loud, which can limit where and when they can be played. If you have a house with a basement or back room where your child can practice freely, that’s ideal. 

Electronic drums are a fun, convenient, and quiet way for your child to start playing. They require almost no setup or tuning, meaning your child can start playing and sounding great right out of the box.

Also, electronic drums come with a pre-programmed bank of sounds that your child can play around with to make practice fun. Common sounds include a range of percussion instruments from around the world, vocal sounds, sound effects, and more. 

Most importantly, electronic drums are quiet, so your child can practice whenever they want without disturbing the household or neighbors. 

Electronic drums do come with some drawbacks, however. Specifically, they just don’t feel and play the same as acoustic drums. This means it’ll be harder for your child to learn certain skills or techniques on the instrument. And since school band programs use acoustic instruments, your child could be at a disadvantage if they’re only familiar with playing on an electronic kit. 

Step 2: Choose the Right-Sized Kit

When learning how to play a new instrument, comfort is key. So choosing the right-sized drum kit for your child may very well be what keeps practicing fun and fulfilling for them. 

Keep in mind that standard-sized drum kits are too big for younger children. The kick drum will be up to their chin, they won’t be able to reach the pedals, and they’ll struggle to play around the kit. All that will lead to an exhausting practice session for your child. 

Instead, purchase “Junior” or “Pocket” drum kits that are sized for children and smaller players. These types of kits will have toms and a bass drum that are more compact.

Step 3: Invest in Quality Drums

Notice that we recommend buying quality drums, not expensive drums. There are quality drum kits that suit every budget; you just have to know what to look for.

Buy from a brand that holds its resale value. For acoustic drums, that means brands like Pearl and TAMA. For electronic drums, look at Roland, Yamaha, or Alesis. Buying from a brand like this ensures that you’ll get top dollar when it’s time to reinvest in a bigger drum kit for your growing child.

Get a drum kit that can be tuned and hold its shape. When choosing the right drums for your child, make sure you’re buying an instrument, not a toy. Acoustic drums should be made of wood and feature drumheads that can be tuned. 

Our Top Drum Kits for Kids

Check out these three drum packages that will fit your child, as well as any budget:

Follow these guiding principles when buying a drum kit for your child, and you’ll find a quality kit that gets your child excited to practice and learn more. But at the end of the day, you’ve already succeeded. Getting your child started with music and encouraging them throughout their journey is what really matters.

Shop more Drums & Percussion at Music & Arts!


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