top of page


This month's

Thank you for taking advantage of today's freebie. You can find all kinds of great content with any of my affordable subscription plans, which includes all instructional, guidance & tutorial media, informative articles and engaging podcasts. Give it a try!

My current freebie is regarding the purchase of drum gear. First you'll read an article related to this. At the end of the article is a download button for my Buying Drum Gear PDF booklet & video. Enjoy!

Essential Advice to Buying Drum Gear!

Article Graphic.jpg

Welcome to Essential Advice to Buying Drum Gear! Are you at a crossroads as what to purchase? Overwhelmed by the vast amount of drum gear out there? Which drum heads to buy, what China cymbal, which kick drum pedal, what brand of drums, etc. Well, you're in luck, as I've got some great tips and advice for you.

Some of the most common questions I see across social media are related to what brand or type of drum gear to buy. What follows next in those comments sections is an overwhelming onslaught of varied opinions and sarcastic responses, which I believe simply add to the frustration of trying to decide what to buy.

Questions related to drum gear are also some of the most common questions I receive from drummers via my website and social media accounts, which is why I decided to write this article.

Let me start out by stating that just like drum sound, taste in music, and choice of whiskey are all subject to personal preference, so are the types of drum gear that we use. There is no "best". What I prefer in a China cymbal sound will be different from twenty other drummers. I like a fat punchy drum sound in my drum kits, you might like a wide open resonant sounding kit. I like thicker, heavier drumsticks for power, the next person might prefer a thinner lighter stick for more finesse work.

You get my point. And all of that is perfectly okay. In fact, it's super important. Otherwise, we'd all play and sound the same way. How boring would that be?

So, the key term in this entire discussion, regardless of the type of drum gear, is personal preference. What you select regarding drum gear should have nothing to do with what any other drummer prefers. It only has to do with what you prefer. But how do you effectively determine what you will prefer when you have no idea which brand or model of a particular piece of drum gear you're looking for? Knowledge!

However, if you were thinking when you saw the title of this program that I was going to give you advice as to the best of this, and the better of that, regarding what to buy, well, that's not what's going on here. What I am going to give you is advice on how to become self-sufficient when searching for, and deciding on, the gear you want to buy.

Don't ask your friends. Don't ask another drummers. Don't post questions on social media. What you need to "do" is become aware of key information and understanding regarding the process of selecting and buying drum gear. Knowledge! And that's what I am here provide you with. As I always say, don't listen to anyone else . . listen for yourself.


Let's start off with the most basic element in the drum gear chain — drumsticks. They are the main tool in your drumming arsenal. No sticks, no drumming. But what brand? What model? What size? What weight? What type of wood? It can definitely be an overwhelming scenario and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to selection options.

Here's what I call the big three stick manufacturers: Promark, Vic Firth and Vater. Following up the big three are Ahead, Zildjian, Meinl, RegalTip, Innovative percussion, Promuco, Finley, Millennium and Cooper Groove.

After that you've got about a dozen of what i like to call boutique stick makers, such as Los Cabos, Diamondback, Scorpion Percussion, Excel and others.

Then there about a half dozen small-time stick makers that you'll stumble across, followed by a slew of off-brands. The bottom line? A lot to choose from!

But wait, the selection options then grow exponentially across all the manufacturers. Thick, thin, light, heavy, wood tip, nylon tip, barrel tip, round tip, oval tip, acorn tip, teardrop tip, arrow tip, longer, shorter, hickory, maple, oak, birch, clear coat, unfinished wood, numerous colors, aluminum, fiberglass, synthetic, custom models, artist signature models, and on and on and on. Seems like a monumental task to zero in on the sick that's right for you doesn't it? But relax, it's really much simpler than what it seems. I got you!

Stick manufacturers try to out-do one another by offering a huge amount of options. Why? It's an illusion. Don't get me wrong, all those different sticks exist. The illusion exists so that a particular manufacturer can keep you overwhelmed on their website, or by seeing their name more often in product listings, due to their vast amount of options, so that you'll feel that you don't need to look anywhere else, because they've got you covered, and then some! However, in reality, only the top twelve to fifteen percent of any manufacturer's particular models sell in any great volume.

I'm not going to go into stick details here, because I cover the important aspects of that in one of my guidance programs and in a podcast. For now, let me super-simplify all of this for you. Don't worry about all the different options! My advice is simply go to a music store or drum outlet and try out different sticks to see which feel best to you. I can tell you that 2a, 2b, 5a, 5b, 7a and 7b are by far the most common models, and I explain those number and letter designations in the guidance program and podcast. You'll find all of these common models at any store that sells drum gear.

Then over time you can experiment with other sticks if you want, but I am here to tell you that any other stick is merely some form of slight deviation from those that I just mentioned, created to form that illusion I mentioned earlier, or to appeal to some personal preference that catches your eye. In reality, at the very worst, they would mildly affect your playing, if at all. Most options are nothing more are cosmetic or marketing gimmicks. However, in time you will find that none of that will affect the way that you play. I can play just as well with any drumsticks that you put in my hands.

Kick Drum Pedals

The next item to talk about in the progression of gear is the next extension of your body utilized in striking the kit, the kick drum pedal. The one simple rule that you need to keep in mind is this: there s no magic pedal that is going to make your feet play better, faster or more complex, regardless of what manufacturers tell you, or their endorsers tell you. It s as simple as that.

Now, having said that, I will say that pedals, whether single or double, have become a competition in the work of art category. They're like race cars for your feet. Sleek, shiny, machines engineered for speed and fluidity. I honestly love looking at them online. However, beyond their beauty and engineering, when it comes right down to it, they all operate and function the same. You press your foot, and the kick drum goes boom.

Now, do they feel different. Yes. Do some have more adjustability than others? Yes. Is there one particular feel that works best for playing great kick drum? No. Nevertheless, how the pedal feels to you is very important, not just physically, but how your mind perceives it mentally. And your mental perception of this is indeed just as important as how it feels physically to your feet. Positive state of mind equals successful application with the body.

So, pay no attention to what any other drummer says about any particular pedals, or even what manufacturers say for that matter. My advice is to go to a music store with a drum department, or to a drum outlet, and try different pedals. There's belt drive, single chain drive, double chain drive and direct drive. See how they feel. See which type, brand or model feels most comfortable to you.

All of this is definitely more important when you are first starting out in drumming, or if you are thinking of transitioning from your first budget pedal to an upgraded model. However, I think it's safe to say that any quality brand-name pedal can work for you, it just takes a bit of getting used to and a bit of practice. Any quality pedal combined with good foot technique equals great kick drum laying. I think the amount and variety of pedals out there is total overkill. However, it's the same illusion effect as with stick manufacturing.

As a veteran pro drummer that has been playing drums for over fifty years I can tell you that I can play just as well with any pedal. Great pedal work is never about the pedal, it's all about the player, period. Any pro player can play just as well on any pedal. Every pedal I have purchased over the past fifteen years has been online, no trying it out first. I simply buy what looks most appealing to me. I could purchase any of them and play just as well, so for me it has come down to aesthetics (visual appeal). The coolness factor. Is there a bit of adjustment and getting used to a new pedal? Always, just like breaking in new footwear. But it's a minimal transition.

Shell Packs

Now that we've covered the gear that you utilize to strike your drum kit, lets move on to the kit itself. For now I will specifically be talking about the drums themselves (shell packs - toms and kicks). If at all possible, please don't buy a shell pack that includes a snare. In those situations the snare that comes with a shell pack is almost always the weakest link. Snare drums are a whole different scenario, so find the shell pack that you want, and then find the snare that you want (I'll cover snares further on in this article).

Alright, my simple rule regarding shell packs is a drum, is a drum, is a drum. I know that drives most drummers and manufacturers bat-shit crazy, but I have the experience and knowledge to make such a comment, not only from playing so many different drums over the past 50+ years, but also customizing drums for so many years. So, before you fire off an email telling me that I'm whacked, let me explain.

The basic first question is, do different drums sound different. Of course. A kick drum sounds different than a tom. A twenty inch kick sounds different than a twenty-four inch kick. So, what exactly do I mean when I say a drum, is a drum, is a drum? First, keep in mind that drum sound preference is quite different than drum sound. And sound in general is subjective to different drummers' ears. So, there's two things going on regarding a drum, is a drum, is a drum, so let me expand.

First, any drum can be made to sound fantastic. Yes, that is one hundred percent true, much to the dismay of drummers that spent six thousand dollars on a Varus or DW drums shell pack. As a matter of fact, I have 1976 set of Kent Drums that I paid $80 for from a high school friend that sound just as good as any shell pack out there, including the $6K Varus or DW ones. They don't look as cool as modern kits. However, I did recently upgrade all the lugs, counterhoops and mounting hardware. Now they sound and look as good as any $3K+ shell pack made today. Again, a drum is a drum is a drum. Check out my tutorial entitled Soundcrafting.

Secondly, if you were to take ten toms (same dimensions), or ten kicks (same dimensions), from ten different manufacturers, with similar shell material and thickness, put the exact same heads on them and tuned them exactly the same, I guarantee you the sound difference would range from almost no noticeable difference to very little difference. Now combine them with other instruments, or put microphones on them with some EQ and mix them and I guarantee you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between them. Again, a drum is a drum is a drum.

Now if you want to talk visual appeal, then yes, the way drums look can definitely look different from one level of drums to another, or one wood type to another, etc. . . but NOT $3K to $8K worth of different.

The same goes for durability. Aside from visual appeal, top-tier drums will hold up to the rigors of touring better then budget-level ones. And granted, one would expect the cost to go up. But again, NOT $3K to $8K worth of durable.

But as far as sound . . . any drum can be made to sound fantastic. So don't break your bank account for what endorsers and manufacturers tell you about sound.

The moral of that story is you don't need to spend a lot of money to have a great sounding shell pack. Choice of heads, tuning and other variables that you can control all play a part in the final sound those drums produce, including how a drummer hits the drums! You just keep tweaking until you dial in the sound you want, and it doesn't take a $3K+ kit for that. As a matter of fact, unless you're going to be a touring drummer, any $800 to $1500 shell pack will sound great based on everything I've mentioned.

So, what's my advice when it comes to buying shell packs? Buy with your eyes. Buy the shell pack, or drum kit, that turns you on the most. The kit with the looks that will inspire you to get behind them every day, all day. Then make them sound the way you want them to. That's it.

Snare Drums

Now, as I mentioned earlier, snare drums are completely different animal altogether. There's no, a drum is drum, is a drum scenario going on with snares. The snare drum is no doubt the most important sound going on with a drum kit. And it's certainly the most standout sound coming from a kit.

The most important aspect when shopping for a snare drum is knowing what you want your snare to sound like, such as, do you want a fat low-pitch sound, or a tight high-pitch sound with a lot of pop? Of course those are just two examples in a wide spectrum of available snare drums, but it will make things much easier when shopping for a snare if you have a good idea of what you want sound-wise.

The reason knowing what you prefer sound-wise is so important, is because of the vast selection options available when it comes to snares. There are so many factors that affect the sound of a snare drum, such as varying diameters, depths, shell materials, shell thickness, number of tuning lugs, snare wires, snare strainer mechanisms and type of counterhoop. Then if you combine all those variables in an even wider variety of configurations, the sounds become seemingly unlimited. Then add in different drum head styles, and it's an overwhelming scenario.

What kind of variety am I talking about? Well, Sweetwater, one of the largest music gear retailers on the planet, sells over seven-hundred different snare drums. yes, you read that correctly . . 20 pages with approximately 40 snares per page. Now, the nuances between them might be small, but that doesn't change the fact that it's impressively overwhelming selection.

So, what's my advice when it comes to buying a snare drum? Well, first I would tell you to do plenty of research. Browse through snare drums on a site like Sweetwater. They do a pretty good job in describing the sounds of their snare drums, as well as providing sound samples. You can also get on YouTube youtube and search snare drums, which will provide you with a shitload of videos sampling snare sounds. And they do a great job of capturing those sounds. There's also a lot of snare drum comparison videos, which helps even more.

The bottom line, as with shell packs, is for you to find the ultimate combination of sound and visual appeal in a snare drum. How you feel about it, not how anyone else feels. Then, when you've zeroed in on a particular snare and make your purchase, once again, you need to be patient with the process of zeroing in the sound of your snare. As with shell packs, I have never had a snare sound like I want it straight out of the box. You'll need to experiment with different heads, tuning and muffling or dampening techniques. I almost always change the snare wires. So there are a lot of steps to making your snare sound the way you want it to.


From the drums themselves, the next logical progression brings us to drumheads. Besides sticks and pedals, I would say that heads are probably the next most personal choice when it comes to gear selection. Heads are what apply the expression of your sticks and pedals to the drum shells. And I would say that the heads, and how you tune them, plays the biggest part in how your drums sound, more so than anything else, especially the shells. Choosing the right heads for your kit can spell the difference between a drum kit that speaks to you on an emotional level, and one that just makes sound.

Unfortunately, heads can be some of the most challenging drum gear to buy, in that there is little to no way to sample them before buying, unlike drums, sticks, cymbals, pedals, etc. Your best bet is, again, get on YouTube and find videos that feature heads that you might be interested in, or comparison videos. There's plenty of them, and they give you very good sound representations to at least get you close to hearing what different heads generally sound like.

However, there's no way of getting around the fact that you could spend some serious cash trying out different heads in your quest to zero in on the sounds you are looking for from your snare and shell packs. It's not cheap to experiment with changing heads for the sole purpose of hearing what they sound like on your kit.

So, what's my advice when it comes to buying drumheads? Well, first, determine what type of sound you desire in your kit. For example, are you looking for an open resonant sound, or would you prefer a dryer and more punchy sound? Then, do your research. Go to the websites of drumhead manufacturers and read about the properties of their different heads and how those heads would perform in relation to your desired sound. Then get on YouTube and get into some sound samples and comparisons regarding heads.

Then start out with the heads that you think would best fit the sound you are going for. Once you get them installed on your drums, experiment with tuning and dampening or muffling as needed, all in an attempt to zero in on your desired sound. If you can't get those particular heads to give you the desired sound, then you will at least have a good idea what style of heads you probably need to gravitate toward.


Now that we've covered everything drum related, it's time to talk about cymbals. I would say that cymbals vary more than any other component of a drum kit. Snare drums run a close second, but the nuances from one cymbal material to another, one cymbal manufacturer to another and one manufacturing process to another, really take variety to another level. I would venture to say that no two cymbals sound identical, even the same size cymbals from the same manufacturer production model. There will always be a slight variation.

And while there is a lot to choose from when it comes to cymbals, one thing I can say for sure is this . . when you hear a cymbal that you love, there s no questioning or denying it. It's like getting shot in the forehead with a suction cup dart gun.

As with snare drums and drum heads, you should have an idea of what type of cymbal sound you would like. Do you prefer a thin, bright and loud, or thick, dark and earthy tones. This is just one basic comparison among a sea of difference.

So, what's my advice when it comes to buying cymbals? First, pay attention to what cymbal sounds you like in music that you listen to. Research the drummer and their cymbal setup. Most big drummers have endorsements and their cymbal setups and cymbal selections are listed on the manufacturers website.

Get on YouTube and find cymbal comparison videos. Most are broken down into cymbal types, such as hi-hat, ride, crash, China, etc. Also, most of the cymbal manufacturers also features sound files or videos showcasing their cymbals. Unlike drums, the one nice thing about listening to cymbals online is that the recording of cymbals is pretty darn accurate, as cymbals usually have little to no additional processing, such as EQ or other effects, so you get a good representation of their sounds.

And again, you find what is most appealing to you visually and sound-wise, not what anyone else tells you.

Stands & Hardware

And of course, last but not least, the component that brings everything together as a cohesive unit that we've discussed thus far; stands and hardware.

Now, for me, stands and hardware are the most fun to buy, because it's pretty cut and dry, and there are all kinds of cool stands and gadgets for mounting your drums, cymbals and percussion on. And it's nowhere near as mind-bending as selecting everything I have previously mentioned thus far. Stands and hardware are just fun.

With stands and hardware it really only comes down to two things; the conditions under which you will be using them, and the quality and robustness required to meet those conditions. That's it.

If you will be touring, gigging on a regular basis, or frequently setting up and tearing down your kit, then you need good quality top-of-the-line stands and hardware. Never skimp when it comes to this, it's just not worth it.

Now, on the flip side, if your kit will be static, let s say, in a home or studio, not being subject to the rigors of constant setup and teardown, then inexpensive light-duty stands and hardware will be fine.

For example, my current kit doesn't move from my studio. The cymbal stands are not brand name. They were under fifty bucks each on Amazon, but they are surprisingly beefy considering the price. However, the wing nut assemblies, tilter mechanisms and tube thickness wouldn't last three months on the road. But that's okay for my scenario. They look great and they work for my requirements. I don't need stands priced from $120 to $180 a piece. The only stand I spared no expense on was my Pearl hi-hat stand. You don't want to skimp on a hi-hat stand.

So, what's my advice when it comes to buying stands and hardware? Make your selections based on your situation, plain and simple. All of the manufacturers make good stuff when it comes to stands and hardware, so just find what fits your budget, because it's not all top-of-the-line super expensive stuff. All the manufacturers make good quality stands and hardware at a mid-price level.

So that wraps it up. While there's a lot going on with a drum kit, and more than plenty of options to choose from, buying drum gear doesn't have to be a difficult or confusing process. Just follow my advice and before you know it, you'll be playing on your dream kit!

bottom of page