Ballpark Estimate: $800 to $1,300 (plus $100 a month for lessons)
Admit it- we all have done it. You’re driving in the car and “In the Air Tonight” comes on the radio and you get to that drum fill. You break out the air sticks and bang away on your steering wheel and for that few seconds you’re a rock star drummer! Perhaps your child comes up to you after watching their favorite band on TV and decides that they want to play drums like their new hero? Maybe you play another instrument and want to branch out into the world of rhythm? What will it cost you to trade in those air drumsticks for real ones?
Go to School!
The most important part about learning to properly play the drums is having appropriate instruction. There are many forms of drum lessons available, from private instruction to online courses and books. The obvious benefit from a personal drum instructior is the interaction between student and teacher. If you have questions about a particular part, or if you have faulty mechanics for example, you will have someone to correct your drumming technique. Also, the drum teacher will be able to tailor their drum lesson to reflect the desires and abilities of the student, infinitely increasing their effectiveness and value.
However, private drum instruction is more costly than print and online methods. The usual private drum lesson will range from 30 minutes to an hour and pricing varies by the teacher’s experience level and location. The drum instructor usually gives lessons in a music store or in their own studio (basement or rehearsal space). Some drum instructors will come to your home and allow you to use your own equipment in a friendly environment. This “house call” type of instruction is usually the most expensive.
What you can expect to pay for drum lessons:
- $15 to $30 for an in-store or studio 30 minute drum lesson
- $25 to $60 for an in-store or studio 60 minute drum lesson
- $50 to $100 for a drum lesson in your home, usually lasting an hour
While drum lessons seem expensive, there really is no better way to learn. You will be watched by someone who knows the instrument and can give you advice to improve your playing, which enables you to become more proficient in a shorter time frame. However, if you want to substitute or supplement your lessons with online drum courses and books there are plenty available:
- Online Drum Courses – prices anywhere from free to $150 for an advanced DVD pack. Average is around $40 per lesson plan
- Drum Lesson Books – prices anywhere from $15 to $50 with an average of $25
Get Equipped – Practice Pads
When drum lessons begin, you’ll probably begin with rudiments and stick mechanics on a practice pad or snare drum. This is a good place to start, because it doesn’t make a ton of noise and will allow you to perfect your drum rudiments through all levels of drumming. There are entire drum kits available made from practice pads to give you a drumset feel without the noise and size of a traditional drum kit.
- Drum Practice Pad – costs between $15 and $60, with an average of $30
- Drum Practice Pad Kit – costs between $100 and $250 with an average of $200
Get Equipped – The Drums
So you’re done with the practice pads and want to move on? You will need a drum set. Entry level drum equipment ranges in quality from inexpensive junk to tremendous quality. There are several reputable brands that manufacture quality drum set at entry-level prices. These drum sets include Tama, Gretsch, Pearl and Pacific (by DW). They sell full drum set packs, including all drum shells, hardware, stands and pedals. Cymbals are extra (and will be covered later in this article). An entry level drum kit will usually consist of the bass drum, a snare, 2 rack toms and a floor tom, a hi-hat stand, 2 cymbal stands and bass drum pedal.
- Entry Level Drum Sets – cost between $300 and $500 with an average around $450
- Mid Level Drum Sets – cost between $500 and $800 with better hardware and drum shells, averaging $700
- Higher End Entry Drum Sets – will cost between $750 and $1,200 and will have much better finishes, drum shells and overall quality. Average price around $900
The sound of the drum will change from manufacturer to manufacturer and from wood to wood. You may find that you like the attack of a Maple kit, or the volume of an Ash kit. You need to go to a local music store to try out various kits and see which finish and sound you like best.
Get Equipped – Cymbals
Ok, so you’ve purchased your drum set. Now you just need the cymbals to finish off the kit. Cymbals are usually made from brass and are the “accent” pieces to your kit. The standard entry level set will include a pair of hi-hats (upper and lower), a Ride cymbal and a Crash. There are many different styles and sizes of cymbals as well as metallic combinations and alloys and they all affect the sound of the instrument. There are many packs that are sold for all levels of percussionist and, unsurprisingly, range in price wildly. There are some “name brands” of cymbals that make a quality product at reasonable prices; Sabian and Zildjan are the big 2 of the cymbal industry. Some other brands make very good cymbals but could be pricier and not directed at the entry-level drummer. As with drums, you should go to the store to check out the cymbals to see what they sound like because two of the same size and manufacturer could sound different due to the creation process.
- Entry Level Drum Cymbal Packs – includes a crash, ride and hi-hats. Cost between $150 and $225. These are machine made and will have a noticeably different sound than their expensive counterparts.
- Mid Level Drum Cymbal Packs – includes a crash, ride and hi-hat set. Cost between $250 and $360. They are made of better material and will sound and last better than the less expensive options.
- High End Entry Level Drum Cymbal Packs – includes a crash, ride and hi-hats cymbals (some hand hammered) of superior quality, and generally better materials and sound. These will cost between $400 and $700.
- Extra Drum Cymbals – there are packs of cymbals that cost north of $600 that may contain another crash or splash (effect or accent cymbal, usually around 10” in size)
Get Equipped – Accessories
Aside from the drums and cymbals there are a few additional things you will need purchase to learn drumming. Sticks are obviously essential, and come in many sizes, finishes, tips (wood or nylon) and brands. Again, your best bet is to ask your instructor for their suggestion on size and just go to a store and see what feels comfortable. A quality stick should feel very comfortable in your hand.
- Drum Sticks – will cost between $4 and $15 per pair with an average of $6 per pair.
Other accessories include the drum Throne, a seat that can be adjusted in height to fit each player perfectly. This is a lot better than sitting in a stationary chair and risking back and knee injury! You can also purchase things such as drumstick bags, cymbal and drum shell cleaning products, tambourines, cowbells and other effects. The sky is the limit when adding to your drum set’s palette!
Practice Makes Perfect
Drumming is a very rewarding undertaking but it is one that requires a large amount of time. This is one of the biggest costs associated with becoming a drummer. In order to learn how to play the drums you will need to practice, practice and practice some more. This is the only way to get better at this instrument. Your body has to learn things like limb independence, sight reading of music, and staying at a constant tempo. Remember this cost (TIME!) when considering whether to pursue this activity!