Anybody Play Super Cheap Drums?

Old Drummer

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A guy I've dealt with before in my local drummers' Facebook group is selling a 4-piece kit of an unknown brand for $100. The photos actually don't look bad (usually I can identify toy drums from photos) though the kit can't be quality. I assume the drums are poplar (unless there's an even cheaper material) but so what? Poplar can sound good. The real risk, it would seem, is hardware so weak that the drums are unusable. But even hardware can be replaced.

I also admit to having an admiration for bucket drummers, or more practically, for finding honor in defying markets by playing really cheap drums. Of course, I wouldn't do this with cymbals, and this kit doesn't include a snare, so the snare could be quality. But if the kick and a couple toms could be made to sound OK, I can't shake the feeling that this would be a fun way to go.

Plus, who cares about cases (or spilled beer)? For $25 a drum, there's not much to lose.

Anyone actually do this, or am I contemplating wasting $100 along with some aggravation?
 

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Tornado

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A guy I've dealt with before in my local drummers' Facebook group is selling a 4-piece kit of an unknown brand for $100. The photos actually don't look bad (usually I can identify toy drums from photos) though the kit can't be quality. I assume the drums are poplar (unless there's an even cheaper material) but so what? Poplar can sound good. The real risk, it would seem, is hardware so weak that the drums are unusable. But even hardware can be replaced.

I also admit to having an admiration for bucket drummers, or more practically, for finding honor in defying markets by playing really cheap drums. Of course, I wouldn't do this with cymbals, and this kit doesn't include a snare, so the snare could be quality. But if the kick and a couple toms could be made to sound OK, I can't shake the feeling that this would be a fun way to go.

Plus, who cares about cases (or spilled beer)? For $25 a drum, there's not much to lose.

Anyone actually do this, or am I contemplating wasting $100 along with some aggravation?
I think you are right to suspect the hardware to be bad to useless. It's really not about the shells or type of wood those shells are made out of. They'll be fine provided they've got reasonable bearing edges. But price out hardware if you think you might need to replace it. New lugs, tension rods, and rims will cost way more than these drums.
 

dirtysicks

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You can get some decent used kits for $100 nowadays. I’ve seen old school Tama Rockstars and Swingstars for that plus about $30 shipping on GC.com and those can be made to sound nice with good heads and tunings. I would go that route to avoid worrying about having to deal with hardware issues.
 

5 Style

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I have a kit of mogrel 60s era Japanese drums. At least one peice is Pearl though they all might be Pearl... or some kind of similar knockoff. I managed to get a bass, rack tom and floor tom all seperately, but all with the same red sparkle finish and all have the same kind of imitation Slingerland lugs so the kit doesn't really look "mongrel." Since they're cheap drums I had no issue drilling them out and putting sturdy, modern tom hardware and floor tom lugs on it so it can be set up and taken down really quickly. I got the pieces so long ago I can't quite remember how I acquired all of it, but I know that the bass was given to me and I believe that I got either the floor or rack tom for free as well and then whatever drums I paid for wasn't much. Probably the biggest expense was for the hardware that I added and the drum heads.

Make no mistake, the kit is cheap... in cost and in quality, but I still prefer the sizes (with a 20" bass drum!) and the short depth of the rack tom, not to mention the overall vibe of it to a cheap modern kit. The tone is nothing to write home about, though the bass with the hydraulic head that I have on it sounds much fuller than one might expect. The two toms are a bit thin sounding to tell the truth, but they work OK with the highish tuning that I like (they would sound really flat with a lower tuning, I think). The shells are really splintery, cheap and thin and looking at them it's surprising that they sound as good as they do... I really like it for a rehearsal kit (low expectations!)...

I only own a few snares but my two favorites are Ludwigs that I got for cheap, each $100 or less - an Acrolite and a wood Ludwig Standard. The Ludwig Standard in particular sounds fantastic to me. Sometimes you don't need to spend a lot to get very fine sounding gear....
 

Johnny K

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Yup. The jam house has a pawn shop SLP that was a wreck when I started to play there with the band. I had to take it completely apart, clean it, de-rust it and put it back together. I think i spend less than 100 bucks. I had some take off heads in a bin and I had to buy a wood hoop and a cheap kick reso head. Totally worth it to not have to lug my drums around. I just bring a snare and a cymbal bag. I wouldnt take it on the road, but it sounds good for what it is.
 

Old Drummer

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Thanks for the opinions and experiences, folks. Interestingly, there are different viewpoints.

My takeaway is that the only way for me to know is to take a drum key, a stick, and maybe even a spare head or two over to the seller's house and make him watch me for about an hour while I fool with his drums. Playing them won't likely be enough, not only because the sounds can change with different heads and tuning, but also because hardware seems the hidden deal stopper. Although selected pieces of hardware can probably be replaced cheaply enough (well, if I can find pieces that fit) having to replace a lot of the hardware could turn out to be expensive. I think I'll have to test every tension lug by turning it, remove at least a couple heads, and otherwise give the kit a thorough inspection.

I don't know whether or not I'm up to all this, and the guy might be better off selling the drums to a mother buying a starter kit for her kid. I might well pass after inspecting the drums anyway. But the experience could be fun, so I'll see if the seller wants to waste some time watching me dismantle his drums.
 

High on Stress

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Every week I play on a cool
Whitehall kit at a shared practice space. I’m not even sure who owns them. The heads have not been changed in the four years we have been using them and they sound great behind the kit and out front. Having said that, the hardware is flimsy and occasionally fails and I doubt they would hold up to repeated set ups and tear downs.
 

On the one

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I bought a Sound Percussion 5pc set off a guy for $60 drums only at a yard sale. Drums are in good shape just needed heads and the bass drum has a white paint stain. I use it for a beater and take it to my wife's school for music appreciation, she teaches special ed kids. We interact with the kids and sometimes hands on. The kids love it, we do it periodically out the year.
 

CC Cirillo

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One band I play in rehearses after hours in a business office. The lead singer is kind enough to provide a bass drum/kick pedal/throne/snare stand/hihat stand and cymbal stand. All his young son’s kit. (His son isn’t interested.)

I bring my light Old Beat hats and an old 60’s thin crash ride or maybe my K Custom Dark Ride.

The cheap kick pedal had surgical tubing replacing a broken spring. I replaced the spring and it works fine.

The bass drum is a Sound Percussion 20” that sounds funky in a good way.

I bring a ‘64 Supraphonic or ‘69 Acrolite and I got a rocking little bikini rehearsal kit. Sounds nice on rehearsal recordings.

The SP brand snare is there, too, but it’s a 13” that I could not get to sound good due to broken wires and a jacked up throw off.

With a good snare and cymbals I think one can get by just fine with cheap drums and entry level hardware as long as you aren’t digging in too much. At louder volumes this kit would come apart.

For me, it’s a good exercise in finesse.
 


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