Buying Guides / 20 May 2020

Learn a New Instrument: Drums and Percussion Picks

If you grew up hitting any surface in front of you to a rhythm, there’s a big chance you’d gravitate towards the boisterous world that is drums and percussion. The oldest known musical instruments known to man have made leaps and bounds today. Modern percussion is as wide-ranging as they come with more types of drum and percussion instruments that you can shake a stick at.

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Drum kits, Cajons, Bongos – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by choices, even for those who aren’t starting out! So, we’ve put together a quick-and-easy guide to get your drumming journey started. 

The drum kit

Drum kits have been providing the beat to modern music since the early 20th century. While the drum kit got its start as the rhythm section in jazz bands, they have crept their way into every imaginable contemporary music genre today. If you’re a beginner or a hobbyist looking to start out with the sticks, a 5-piece drum set will get you on your way with all the basic sounds that you need: a snare drum, a bass (kick) drum, dual-mounted toms, and a floor tom. 

While you can choose to add an assortment of drum extensions and toms later down the road, many drumming greats have made do with the basic 5-piece throughout their illustrious careers. 

TAMA RM52KH6C-BK Rhythm Mate

TAMA RM52KH6C-BK Rhythm Mate
A 5-piece drum kit with all the hardware and cymbals you need

You don’t have to compromise on quality when you purchase your first kit! Tama’s Rhythm Mate series is a great choice if you want a quality drum kit that has all you need to start playing the drums. 

You get a 5-piece drum with stands and a drum throne, and a cymbal set together with their HP10 adjustable drum pedal. Tama’s built the Rhythm Mate to its impeccable standards. As one of the leading drum builders in the world, every kit goes through stringent quality control processes stemming from immaculate Japanese craftsmanship.

Ludwig Accent Drive

Ludwig LC17511DIR Accent Drive drum kit.
If you like an American flavour to your first kit,
Ludwig drum kits should be up your alley

If you’re serious about drums then you’d do well to start off with a solid foundation, and it doesn’t get any more solid than the Ludwig Accent Drive.  

A complete 5-piece drum kit that gives you everything you need to get you off and running (a kick drum, a snare drum, two mid toms, a floor tom, a hi-hat stand, 13″ hi-hat cymbals, a crash cymbal, a snare and hi-hat stand, a kick drum pedal, and a throne), you’d be hard-pressed to find any other kits that deliver such great value. Compounded with the famous Ludwig build quality that has been supplying legendary drummers with their iconic sounds for over a century and you know that you’ve got a kit that will be ready to rock right out of the box.

Electronic Drums

Few can afford the luxury of banging on their drum kits without the neighbours calling the cops! Enter the electronic drum kit.

Modern electronic drums today boast an increasingly realistic library of drum sounds and velocity-sensitive triggers that rival the sonic and tangible qualities of the acoustic drums. They’re ideal for silent practice sessions with headphones and are also versatile enough to be used in a band setting hooked up to a PA system for amplification.

Alesis Surge Electronic Drum Kit

Alesis Surge Electronic Drum Kit
Quiet drumming is possible with the Alesis Surge Electronic Drum Kit

An electronic kit for the modern drummer – the Alesis Surge Mesh Kit has a whole array of performance features that differentiates it from the other electronic sets out there. Most notably is its full set of tunable mesh heads that allows for a custom playing response – unheard of at this price point! 

The Surge also comes complete with 40 classic and modern ready-to-play kits that can be tweaked to your heart’s content. For the extremely detailed types, you can also use the 385 superior drum, cymbal, and percussion samples included in the Surge module to create your very own custom kits. Coming at you with 60 practice tracks, an inbuilt metronome, a USB-MIDI output, and a music input – it’s a great practice and music creation tool for drummers of all levels.

Cymbals

Cymbals are just as important as a drum shell when it comes to drums. Today, most cymbals are made from brass or bronze. They are usually characterised by the quality of the alloy, the shape of the cymbal and the method of their manufacture. Cymbals go a long way when it comes to shaping your personal sound as a drummer. Whether you’re looking for some cymbals for your first kit or simply looking for a change of flavour from your stock cymbals, they’re a lot of fun to go shopping for.

SABIAN SBR5003 SBR Performance Cymbal Set

SABIAN SBR5003 SBR Performance Cymbal Set

If you’re looking for a focused cymbal sound to complete your kit, the Sabian SBR series should be right on your radar!  Featuring a 14″ SBR hi-hats, a 16″ crash and a 20″ ride, the SBR5003 Performance Cymbal Set has a crisp, bright, and expressive top end that livens up your drum sounds in an instant. If you’re looking to spice up your kit without thinning out your wallet, you’d do no better than to scoop up these great value Sabians.

MEINL Cymbals BCS141620 BCS Cymbal Set

MEINL Cymbals BCS141620 BCS Cymbal Set

Based out of Germany, Meinl is actually one of the first companies to offer pre-packed cymbal sets as we know them today. With that in mind, it seems apt that the Meinl BCS cymbals are featured on this list. 

Designed for beginners and student musicians using a durable brass alloy, the BCS set gives you the best of both tone and durability while you build up your drumming chops. These cymbals (14″ hi-hat, 16″ crash, 20″ ride) offer excellent value and have the sonic versatility to fit any style of music that you may be getting into while exploring your sound. 

Read more: A Simple Cymbal Guide for Beginners

Cajons

Originating from Peru, this box-shaped percussion instrument probably began life in the hands of African slaves in captivity. Made from repurposed packing boxes left behind from work, these first cajons were easy to disguise as a seat or stool to evade the disapproving attention of their captors. 

In current times, the cajon has become a widely played instrument seen with buskers or bands performing in venues around the world.  And it’s extremely easy to learn – you can hit the cajon just about anywhere on its face, and you’ll produce a unique drum sound.

MEINL Percussion SUBCAJ6MB-M Vertical Subwoofer Cajon

MEINL Percussion SUBCAJ6MB-M Vertical Subwoofer Cajon, Makah-Burl
A great looking beginner cajon for the fashion conscious

A great choice for the environmentally conscious beginner, the MEINL Vertical Subwoofer Cajon has a black MDF body and Makah-Burl front plate to create a durable and great sounding percussion instrument. This cajon features forward projecting sound ports in place of the traditional rear-facing style and an internal reflex channel that results in enhanced bass note projection – a particularly desirable trait for live and unplugged situations. Using their expansive expertise in drum manufacturing, Meinl has managed to imbue MDF wood with increased strength to make it a viable material for percussion instruments.

Read more: Your Guide to Buying a Cajon

MEINL Percussion CAJ2GO-2 Backpacker Cajon

MEINL Percussion CAJ2GO-2 Backpacker Cajon, Natural
The ideal cajon for portable playability

Take your cajon just about anywhere with the CAJ2GO-2 Backpacker Cajon, a perfect portable percussion instrument made to go where no cajon has gone before. 

Lightweight and resonant, the CAJ2GO comes with extra strong padded shoulder straps so you can carry it around like a backpack. Sonically, the long, narrow birchwood body of the cajon gives you a deep bass on the front end and cutting accents and crisp finger rolls on the sides. There are also rubber feet that allow the cajon to resonate at its full potential while protecting the instrument from the abrasiveness of the ground.

Conga

The conga has its origins both in Africa and Cuba, hence its designation as an Afro-Cuban percussion instrument. You could hear the sounds of the conga everywhere in Cuban music in the beginning of the 20th century. But it was only until the late ’30s and ’40s that the congas grew exponentially in the international scene. During this era, some of the greatest musicians brought the conga into the mainstream with the advent of Latin Jazz. 

Today, the conga still sports the same barrel shape as it did in the early 20th century, but it has gone through significant changes in both barrel design and materials. 

Natal NGU1011-MCN Natural Wood Congas

Natal NGU1011-MCN Natural Wood Congas

Founded in 1965, the Natal Percussion Company have a long history of producing high quality percussion instruments that captured the interest of various music greats. Fast forward to today, the company has remained faithful to their original designs and even utilises the original moulds in their manufacturing process. 

This commitment to quality has remained steadfast with the NGU1011-MCN, a remarkably pleasant sounding conga set with rich and warm overtones. With Thai oak shells, natural hide heads, and sturdy chrome-plated hardware, these congas are a great platform to get into Afro-Latin percussion!

Bonus gear

Soundbrenner Core

Soundbrenner Core Pulse Metronome Watch. Keep perfect time for your drums
Bringing a new meaning to personal timing

A bonus inclusion due to its sheer utility, the Soundbrenner Core is an awesome piece of gear that plays well into one of the core functions of a drummer – keeping time. 

An intuitive haptic metronome, the Soundbrenner releases powerful pulses on your wrist or anywhere on your body so that you can stay on tempo without any annoying beeps and boops associated with older timekeepers. In addition to its usage as a metronome, the Soundbrenner also functions as a contact headstock tuner and a dB meter/alarm – useful for quick tune-ups and saving your ears during gigs! Best of all, you can use the Soundbrenner Core as an everyday smartwatch. You can take calls, receive texts, and set wake-up alarms right on your wrist without having to pull out your smartphone. 


If you’ve got rhythm in your bones, drums and percussion are a great way forward for you to express yourself. A new skill, increased neuroplasticity and you also get to burn away some calories with some cardio – what’s there not to love about the drums?

If you enjoyed this read, check out the breadth of percussion based instruments in our wares!

Shop drum kits, cajons, bongos

Got any questions about percussion instruments? Send us a message or come see us at any of our Swee Lee stores and we’ll help sort you out!

Read more: What are the Best Instruments to Learn Music with?


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