Drum Equipment Guide

So, you’re interested in learning to play the drums, but unsure what equipment you’ll need? The following drum equipment guide is designed to help students/parents work out just that. Not everything on the list is essential for everyone (you won’t need an amplifier if you get an acoustic drum kit), but it’s a good place to start:

  1. A drum kit (electric or acoustic), e.g., Alesis NitroRoland TD or Yamaha Rydeen
  2. Headphones, e.g., Sennheiser HD 206
  3. One or more pairs of drum sticks, e.g., Vic Firth 5As
  4. A pair of brushes, e.g., Vic Firth Retractable Brushes
  5. A stick bag, e.g., Vic Firth Standard Stick Bag
  6. Ear protection, e.g. HearProtek
  7. Drum key, e.g. Stagg Drum Key
  8. Metronome, e.g. Korg MA-1RD
  9. Music Books, e.g., Trinity Drum Grades
NB: More information about buying a drum kit, including finding a good second hand one, is available here
Drum equipment list

Electric Drum Kits

Acoustic drums are VERY loud and if you live in a terraced or semi-detached property you will most likely upset your neighbours the moment you start pounding away. Electric drum kits offer the perfect solution.  They are also more compact so they won’t take over the entire room. Two popular kits at the moment are the Alesis Nitro and Roland TD-1DMK (see below for a side-by-side comparison). Both kits are fitted with mesh heads. Mesh heads are very quiet and produce a realistic playing surface. The different drum sounds themselves are stored in a ‘drum module’ or ‘brain’.  There are hundreds of sounds to choose from which helps to keep the learning experience fun and engaging.

Both kits also come with dual zone snare drum pads. In short, the snare pads have two sensors which can be used to trigger two different sounds, e.g. the normal snare drum sound and a rim shot. The cymbals also have two sensors, which allow them to be ‘choked’ (muted) to stop them from ringing. 

Another important feature is the built-in metronome.  All musicians are guilty of ‘rushing’ and ‘dragging’ from time to time. Practising to a ‘click’ can be very beneficial in the development of one’s sense of time.  In my lessons, I often use the metronome to help students stay in time when they’re learning a new passage.

Alesis Nitro vs. Roland TD-1DMK

Alesis Nitro

Roland TD-1DMK

8” mesh head snare (1)

8” mesh head toms (3)

10” rubber cymbal pads (crash w/choke, ride, hi-hat) (3)

Rubber bass drum pad (1)

8” mesh head snare (1)

6” mesh head toms (3)

10: rubber cymbal pads (crash w/choke, ride, hi-hat w/choke (3)

Rubber bass drum pad (1)

Includes bass drum pedal

No bass drum pedal (Roland RDH-100 sold separately)

Includes hi-hat pedal / controller

Includes hi-hat pedal / controller

Dual zone snare drum

Dual zone snare drum

40 ready-to-play kits 

60 play-along tracks

350+ expertly curated sounds

15 preset kits – excellent quality sounds (better than Alesis)

10 coaching modes

Built-in metronome

Built-in metronome

1/8” headphone socket

1/8” headphone socket

Aux input – plug in your phone/devise and play along to tracks

Aux input – plug in your phone/devise and play along to tracks

Sturdy, 4-post aluminium rack

No stool

Study rack. Excellent build quality

No stool

Drum sticks and drum key

Power supply

Power supply

80% 5 star reviews on Amazon

75% 5 star reviews on Amazon

Having compared these two kits, I would argue that when cost vs. features are taken into account, the Alesis Nitro wins. Whilst the drum sounds may not be as good as the Roland’s, but for beginners there’s still plenty to get excited about. Unlike the Roland kit, the Nitro comes with bigger 8″ pads, a bass drum pedal, drum sticks, and a drum key. If you get the Roland kit you will need to buy all these things which at the low end could cost an additional £100. All that said, if I could afford it, I’d go for the Roland kit.

Headphones and Amplifiers

Unless you opt for the Alesis Nitro Bundle, you’ll need to purchase headphones separately.  Most general purpose stereo headphones will do providing they have a 1/8″ jack and a long enough cable. If your headphones have a 1/4″ jack, you can buy an adaptor to convert the jack to 1/8″.  I always prefer headphones which cover the ears as this helps to block out external sound.

The alternative to using headphones is to play through an amplifier like the Alesis Strike 2000w Ultra-portable drum speaker. This is one of the best drum amps on the market, producing (if desired) a very loud, clean sound; however, this is most definitely the expensive route, and if you want an electric kit because they are quieter than acoustic kits, then use of an amplifier defeats the object.

Acoustic Drum Kits

If you’re fortunate to have enough space and don’t need to worry about annoying the neighbours, I would recommend a good entry level acoustic kit. There are hundreds to choose from, however most won’t come with cymbals which you’ll have to acquire separately. Fortunately, Yamaha have come up with a tidy little package at a tidy price to resolve this. 

The Yamaha Rydeen Series offers up a drum set which includes all the hardware, drums and cymbals. The drums themselves are made from poplar wood and come in the following sizes: 22″ bass drum, 10″ and 12 “tom toms, 16” floor tom, and 14 snare drum. The hardware pack includes two cymbal stands and a hi-hat stand. The cymbals are from Paiste’s 101 Brass series and offer very good sound characteristics for the price. Drum Stool and drum sticks are not included. Yamaha make excellent musical instruments, and for the price this drum kit is fantastic value for money.

Drum Sticks and Brushes

You won’t far without a pair of these! I recommend the Vic Firth 5a for beginners because they aren’t too heavy but still pack a punch. I’ve been playing with them since I was a beginner, to the point that no other sticks feel right (with maybe the exception of the Vic Firth 5a Extreme!).  I’ve linked to both wooden and nylon tipped versions. Nylon tips last a bit longer than wooden tips, and they sound brighter and more defined on cymbals.

For some of the Trinity pieces (mainly of the jazz variety) brushes are required, so it maybe worth getting some of these. I’ve linked to Vic Firth retractable brushes below. Providing they are looked after, they will last for ages. To keep everything safe, you’ll need a stick bag. The Vic Firth stick bag is made from a tough nylon fabric which works well to protect sticks. It also has a large pocket on the front which can be used for other bits and bobs such as drum keys, earplugs, etc.

Ear Protection

When I was learning to play the drums, my parents were sensible enough to ensure I always wore a pair of ear defenders. These fitted over my ears and dramatically reduced the sound level hitting my ear. (Amusingly, as a direct consequence, I ended up hitting the drums harder, so the sound levels went up for everyone else in my family!)  Ear protection is ESSENTIAL.  Over the years, I have met SO MANY drummers who suffer from tinnitus, the unpleasant condition of hearing constant ringing in the ears. If you play the drums – in particular acoustic drums – you are exposing your ear drums to potentially damaging levels of sound. But there really is no need. Your hearing can be protected by simply using a couple of earplugs.  

The  HearProtek earplugs below are designed especially for musicians. They allow the wearer to select which frequencies they wish to filter. These are good because they have a neck cord which means they’re less likely to go missing. If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper (and probably more robust), try the Portwest  ear defenders.


Whilst electric kits like those mentioned above have built-in metronomes, acoustic kits do not. Fortunately, there are several other options. If you own a smartphone you can most likely download a metronome app. However, these sometimes come with more features than you really require. For a no thills option, you could try Google’s own free metronome (just search for ‘metronome’!).  For a good old fashioned approach – that doesn’t require a broadband connection – try the Korg MA-1RD

Described as ‘indispensable rhythm training aide for any musician’, the MA-1 is a compact metronome that solidly covers all the basics with a broad tempo range and a rich variety of beats and rhythm patterns. The MA-1 also shows the beat in an innovative way that makes practising easier.

And Finally...

I hope you have found guide useful. For other options when purchasing a drum kit, read this post.

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