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Help me choose a drum set

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  • Help me choose a drum set

    I would like to purchase a new drum set up for my church and would like to have help in the selection. I am a bass player with 25 years experience playing in praise and worship bands. I have a brother and son that are drummers so I know a little of the lingo. The church currently owns an older Roland v-drum setup but would very much like to move to acoustic drums. Here are the requirements......

    It must sound good.
    It must look good.
    It must not be to loud.
    It must be mic'ed
    It must accommodate a range of drummers with varying playing styles and skill levels.
    I would like to stay under a $3000 budget but I am flexible to an extent.


    The sanctuary is fairly small (350 - 400 seats) and not designed for good acoustics. We have added sound baffles to beams and walls so it is fairly flat now.

    Please give me feedback as to shells, cymbals, hardware, heads, and mics keeping in mind my budget. I would like to oversee this purchase myself to keep from having squabbles due to personal preferences of the drummers involved.

    Thanks for the help.

  • #2
    A couple of general thoughts before getting more specific:

    -You can get a lot of drum kit for $3000, I'm gathering from your post that you need to purchase mics within that budget as well?
    -Don't skimp on cymbals. The right heads and tuning can make a mediocre drum kit sound amazing, but cymbals sound the way they sound. Spend the money upfront.
    -Acoustic drums are going to be pretty loud. Some kits will project a little more or less than others, but you may need to look at some kind of baffling if you really want to tone it down. In a 400 seat room, tough to say what your experience would be. Could definitely go either way.

    Having said all that, I would look at some of the midrange Yamaha & Tama kits or the higher end Pacifics. A $1500 kit from either of those brands would take you a long way. Evan DW makes a $1600 shell pack (although then you'd have to buy separate hardware). As far as cymbals go, I'm a big Paiste fan. That said, the lower range Paistes don't hold a candle to what Zildjian's making in that range. If you can afford Alphas or above, Paiste is the way to go.

    I'll take it a little farther... If you asked me to build a kit for worship for under $3000, here's what I'd buy:

    Yamaha Tour Custom drums (all maple shells - 22x17" kick, 12x9" rack tom, 16x16" floor tom, 6x14" snare) - ~$1300, comes with hardware.

    Paiste 2002 cymbals - 14" Sound Edge Hats ($350), 20" Ride ($300), 16" & 18" Crashes ($210, $255) - extra Yamaha cymbal stand for the second crash ($60)

    That would be your kit with cymbals for around $2500, which would give you a little breathing room to buy mics. You'd have quality, versatile sounds. Obviously, this is all very subjective, but I'm nerdy about it and that's what I would do in your shoes.
    Eric Frisch


    • #3
      This is exactly the type of feedback I was looking for. I would need to include mics and possibly a shield of some sort. Do you have any input on mics or heads? Also I have heard that Yamaha tends to be a bit louder than say Gretsch or DW any thoughts on that?

      Thanks for the help.


      • #4
        Others may disagree with this feedback, but I've played gigs with even the cheapest drum mics and been happy with the sound that I had. Shure makes a 6-piece mic kit in their PG line for $400 that I've used extensively with different kits in different settings (from a small church to a national touring act), and I've always been happy with what I got from them. Obviously you can spend a lot more if you want to, but that would be a good starting point, IMO. Heads are a really subjective thing. Putting a different head on a tom can cause it to sound totally different, so a lot of your head choice would be based on what kind of sound you're going for. I can tell you what I use on my (very similar) Yamaha kit, but your experience may vary:

        Remo Coated Ambassador on snare top
        Remo Coated Pinstripes on toms
        Remo diplomats as resonant heads
        Evans Emad bass drum batter (adjustable muffling - brilliant!)
        Aquarian coated front bass head

        I'm a big fan of coated heads on toms... some folks aren't. Again, you just kind of have to feel out what works on your kit in your setting.

        As far as volume stuff... I've never really been a subscriber to the idea that a certain brand would be louder than others. In my experience, the biggest thing that affects volume of a kit is material. That's one of the reasons that I suggested a maple kit - it's going to have a warmer (if not quieter) sound than say a birch kit or a kit with a metal shelled snare. To return to the point from my first post, though - a drummer playing hard on acoustic drums is going to put out a lot of sound, period. There may be some subtle differences depending on what you get, but I wouldn't let it drive your decision.
        Eric Frisch


        • #5
          Drum kit

          I think you've gotten some great ideas from these other guys..and obviously, you know what is best for your venue, as far as volume and such are concerned.

          So, this may be relevant or not--but I've gotta say I have become a huge fan of the cajon. It certainly cannot replace a kit with cymbals and high-hat, and it is not sufficient to back up an electric/rock sound, but if the sound is acoustic driven and you want a volume-controllable live instrument they really work well. If you have a second percussionist who can play some cymbals, shakers and djembe or something it's a very cool vibe.

          Anyway...I'm sure you probably want a drum kit to get the diversity of sound you're looking for, but a cajon is a really nice option to have around!


          • #6
            Adding to Trents comments on the cajon, my hubby plays the Cajon along with a Djembe and his High Hat. He sometimes adds a shaker as well so he has sort of a mini kit that works well for a more acoustic set. His particular Cajon includes a snare which adds a very nice sound.


            • #7
              I agree with the comments on the Cajon and Djembe. We have and use both and love to have them available.

              As far as the kit......Sounds like if I get a good quality maple shell set, don't skimp on the cymbals, and pick up a set of sure/sennheiser mics, and then play with heads until we get the right sound......We should be good.

              Thanks for all the good input.


              • #8
                Hi, I'm Ursula's hubby (see post above). Our sanctuary is about half the size of yours, also not designed for good sound, crazy reflective surfaces everywhere. We did put a sound curtain on the back wall (behind the stage) and that helped - but I digress.

                The hand drums are great and not as loud fer sher, but assuming your after a kit...

                One brand is not louder than another, IMHO. They all make so many lines. You've played music long enough to realize the following formula:

                Acoustic drums = LOUD

                We have an old Tama Rockstar kit at church, not great, not really ideal (big, deep drums), and volume has definitely been an issue over the years. They have coated G2's on them, and we don't mic at all except for the kick for just a tad more low thump. Before I go any farther with that, let me say that the single biggest thing in the volume equation is the guy with the sticks. I went to a conference and saw a guy demonstrate FAST playing at a volume low enough to play with a an unplugged acoustic guitar and single vocal - with regular sticks. Amazing control, and I learned that day that IT CAN BE DONE! However, many drummers are not willing to go there.

                We always had a shield, about 6-7' high, with no roof or sound absorption. After we put the curtain up recently we left it out as an experiment and several people (musicians and not) in the congregation told me the drums were not louder than with the shield. So I question the effectiveness of a shield without absorption and a roof. The iso-booth (I call it the monkey cage) is VERY effective, but I don't like playing in those, I feel like a leper But my worship leader said if we have a fill-in drummer she's putting the shield back up because I've worked on volume control. She's not convinced that it's without effect, but I kinda think it might be pretty worthless. I suspect it muddies up the sound as it bounces between the shield and back wall.

                Now, to the drums! IMHO, smaller and shallower shells will be a bit quieter. At church we have rock power sizes - 22x16, 12x11, 13x12, 16x16, 14x6.5, not ideal. I'd probably choose a 20" kick, 10x8, 12x9, and a 14x12 or 16x13 FT. If you get a 4-pc (2 toms), there are less heads to replace and that's a very popular config nowadays. I've been taking my own snares for a while, and my used Ludwig Acrolite ($115 shipped with bag) is definitely less loud and rowdy. As for brand, IMHO you can get more for your $$ with Mapex. For the $1600 mentioned above you can get a Saturn kit which is pro-level stuff. Meridian maple or birch kits are well under a grand and also very good. The drums sound great, the hardware is durable, they have a lifetime shell warranty, you really can't go wrong. If your interested I can hook you up with a site where you get discounts and free shipping.

                Heads - big topic, but in general, more muffling = less sustain AND slightly less volume. Muffling can be an extra ply, something between the plies, control ring around the edge (underlay), coating, etc. Evans Hydraulics (2-ply oil-filled) are definitely less loud than many heads, but they are SOOO dead that I don't like them. Clear single ply's will tend to be the loudest. My preference is coated singles, I like the old-school sustain of them. Since you want to mic, more muffled heads may be appropriate. 2-plies, maybe Pinstripes or EC2's. 2-ply are also more durable, and if your gonna have a rotation of drummers you are surely gonna have at least one gorilla who tends to dent heads. So I'd say 2-ply is a must. I agree the the EMAD kick head can't be beat (so to speak - hahaha).

                Cymbals - Go for B20 bronze cymbals, not the cheaper B8 stuff as it's brash, bright and loud. I do have a B8 china (sounds like a china, but super loud, don't play it at church), and a Paiste PST5 B8 splash which I think is great. But in general, go for B20. Since you are after volume control, get medium thin cymbals, esp. darker sounding ones. Zild K's are really nice and tend toward the thinner and darker, but also quite expensive. If you get really thin ones the aforementioned gorilla will crack them. Sabian AAX are nice, as are many others. Sabian XS20 are nice B20 cymbals for a lower price than many of them - a really good value, check them out.

                Speaking of the gorilla, I don't quite know how to do this, but train your guys to respect the equipment! Sometimes that involves significant changes in playing habits.

                I've always heard that cheap mics makes for garbage in - garbage out. I don't have that much experience. But you can get a Shure DMK drum kit package with (3) SM57's and a Beta 52 for the kick, plus 3 sturdy rim-clips for under $400, and this company called Karma sells a pair of overhead condensers for $150 that everybody really raves about. In fact, you may be able to get by with just a kick, snare and overheads, but you'd have to be careful with the overheads and the monitors, and you need enough headroom for overheads.

                Holy smokes, that got long. I hope you're still awake, and I hope it helps! Drum shopping - what fun!

                God bless, Jeremy
                Last edited by Gearhead; 02-03-2011, 01:40 PM.


                • #9
                  Like Gearhead, I'm a huge Mapex fan....great sounding, quality drums at affordable prices. The 2 most important things to consider are drummer skills & tuning. A $10k set of DWs will sound like a First Act kit from Walmart if they're not tuned properly. Volume - this depends on your drummer. Yes some drums are louder than others, but if your drummer (s) are bashing away like gorillas with baseball bats then its gonna be loud no matter what kit/acoustic treatments/shield/etc....unless they're in a fully enclosed gobo/aquarium.

                  For mics, I'd consider Audix & Sennheiser, IMO they sound much better than Shure on the same drums. Here's a site I found a while back with quite a few samples of different mics on the same drums Tech info Hopefully that'll be of some help.
                  Drummer & Technical Director - Carolina Bays Church - Little River, SC
                  Owner - G.A.S. Powered Productions
                  "When you are down to nothing, God is up to something"


                  • #10
                    That's a good point about the tuning. Who's gonna adopt these drums as their very own? I played in a Christian band for a while and got the chance to play the kits of quite a few different churches. Church drums are...well...an adventure. You can tell as soon as you see them and maybe hit them once or twice if they have somebody who loves them or not They don't need a lot of maintenance, but a careful tuning at setup, the occasional dusting and tweak on the tuning, and the occasional head change help keep it sounding good. If nobody will do this they will sound bad and end up getting beat up faster due to lack of ownership, ya know?

                    I played in one tiny church that had a 6-mo-old Tama, really nice, maybe a Starclassic? It had been donated and looked great, hadn't been beat up yet. But nobody knew how to tune it, I mean, the FT head had a big wrinkle in it! I took about 40 min tuning carefully before we played and it sounded fantastic! It was just sitting there with that untapped potential.



                    • #11
                      I'd like to add something about a shield also...sometimes they can do more harm than good. A shield is a reflective form of acoustic treatment. They don't absorb any acoustical energy, they simply redirect it. If you have a hard reflective surface behind the kit, the sound is simply going to bounce back & forth between the shield & the wall, eventually escaping the "fish bowl" into the house causing all kinds of issues deteriorating the sound. This is one of those times where a shield would do more harm than good. The volume level isn't really lowered, the transients are just smeared & bounced all over the place, muddying the house sound. Money would be better spent acoustically treating the sanctuary first, then buying a shield if volume is still a problem. The wall behind the kit needs to have some absorption to avoid those nasty reflections. Without that, the shield is doing more harm than good. If you have a lot of space behind the kit, you may be ok without it, but unless you have a large,theatre style platform, chances are you'll need the rear absorption.

                      A shield is a great tool if used properly. However, just like a chimp with a chainsaw, it has the potential to do some serious damage.
                      Drummer & Technical Director - Carolina Bays Church - Little River, SC
                      Owner - G.A.S. Powered Productions
                      "When you are down to nothing, God is up to something"