Buying used drum sets can be a great way to save some money, but if you’re not careful, you also run the risk of getting a drum set that is faulty or broken. The risk is even greater when buying a used starter drum kit, as starter kits include cheaper hardware that is more likely to break. This does not mean that you should avoid cheap used drum sets altogether because starter kits can last for years if not abused. A cheap starter kit that’s been used at home and is sold by someone who simply outgrew it, can often be be an excellent opportunity for a bargain.
The most important thing to do when buying a used drum set is to inspect the merchandise. The components of a drum set can be put into three categories, which you can think of as three separate inspection “zones”. The first is the drums, which include the shells, lugs, bolts, rims, hoops, and heads, the second is all the cymbals, and the third is the hardware, which includes the stands, mounts, braces, bass pedal, and the hi-hat assembly.
Inspecting the Drums
The most irreplaceable part of a drum is the shell. If the shell is damaged, you might as well get a whole new drum, therefore it is particularly important to make sure the shells are good. The shells should be perfectly round and with no cracks. It is easiest to spot an oval shaped part, when looking at it directly from the top. Also look for any inconsistencies in the gap between the rim and shell, which should be the same all around. To check for cracks be sure to also look at the shell from the inside. This is easy if the drum head is transparent, but if not, consider removing it.
The rims and hoops should also be perfectly round with no dents. The rims and hoops can be replaced, but it’s up to you if you’d like to bother. A damaged shell, rim or hoop means the drum has been seriously abused or dropped.
Next check the lugs and tension rods. The rods should all screw into the lugs to produce tension, otherwise, the thread is probably worn. Bring a drum key to check the tension and go through all the rods on each drum. This may take you a few minutes but you’ll know what you’re buying. Replacement lugs and rods can often be found, but make sure to check for availability at a store before committing to the purchase.
Dented or worn out drum heads are not a major concern when inspecting used drum kits because they are easily replaced and are the most disposable part of a drum set. They’re like the tires of a car, which wear out with normal use. If you get good heads with your used drum set, consider it a bonus, otherwise just get new ones.
The snare drum has some extra parts related to the snare wires that stretch across the bottom head. There is a throw mechanism that engages or disengages the snare wires from the head. This mechanism is controlled by a lever at the side of the drum. There is also a knob that controls the wires’ tension. Make sure both mechanisms are working and that no snare wires are missing or damaged.
Inspecting the Cymbals
A good set of cymbals can cost as much as the rest of the drum set. If the price of the set you’re inspecting includes a good set of cymbals, it is best to make sure the cymbals don’t have any dents and cracks. Otherwise, if the set included starter cymbals that came with the original purchase and sound like garbage can lids, they are not worth much anyway, and therefore you might consider just tossing them out, dents or not, and buying a new cymbal package.
Inspecting the Hardware
Check for any bent stands and braces. Also test if any retractable and bendable parts of the stands still do their job without much trouble, and stay in place once tightened.
The most damage susceptible portions of the hardware are the moving parts. These are the hi-hat clutch and pedal, and bass pedal. Be sure to try those out.
A Check List for Inspecting Used Drum Kits
Briefly, this is what you should go over when inspecting used drum sets:
- Shells – Are they round? Do they have any cracks?
- Rims and Hoops – Are they round? Any dents?
- Lugs and Tension Rods – Do they produce tension? Any missing?
- Snare – Are the snare wire mechanisms working? Are the wires okay?
- Stands and Braces – Are any bent? Do they extend and retract easily? Do they hold their position?
- Moving Parts – Are the hi-hat mechanism and bass pedal working?
Like with all secondhand items, buying a used drum set will cost you less than buying a new one. But, if not careful, you also run the risk of overpaying for something that is of poor quality. Therefore, if you’re a drum novice and not too familiar with the workings of a drum set, it is best if you either bring someone knowledgeable to inspect the drum set with you, or buy a used drum set from a reputable dealer.