A Beginners Guide to Drum Kits

When starting out a new hobby it’s all exciting, uncharted territory. It can also be a little nerve wracking as there’s so much to take in and learn. 

Learning to play the drums is no different. There are so many parts to learn the names of and get the hang of. But once you get the hang of it you’ll have so much fun.

To help speed up the process and alleviate some of your nerves we’ve compiled a beginner’s guide to drum kits.


Anatomy of a Drum Kit

The first thing you need to learn when starting to play the drums is what each part does. Drum kits are made up of a variety of drums and cymbals that each make unique sounds and serve specific purposes in music. 

So, let’s take a look at the common drum kit components.


Hi-Hat Cymbals

The hi-hats are a pair of 12-15" cymbals that are mounted on a stand and brought together by a foot pedal. They can be played while open with sticks or clashed together with the pedal. 

The size and weight of your hi-hats will determine their pitch and sound. If you’re looking for a bright and crisp tone opt for a 13-14" cymbal, whereas if you want a darker and warmer sound go for a 15-16". Once you gain experience you can start to experiment with different size tops and bottoms to create unique sounds. 

The hi-hats serve as an important timekeeping tool that can add sound effects and change the dynamics of a song. 


Crash Cymbals

Crash cymbals get their name due to the loud, sharp ‘crash’ noise they make when they are struck. They are thin cymbals that are used to accent significant beats or mark a change in a song, such as transitioning into the chorus. They are usually hit at the same time as the kick or snare drum. 

Crash cymbals are generally between 8-18", if they are less than 13" then they are referred to as splashes as they make a softer sound. Both sizes and sounding cymbals will serve the same purpose in your music.

When setting up your kit, the crashes are traditionally placed on the left side of the kit. If you have two crashes then generally there would be one on each side.


Ride Cymbal

The rides are the largest of the cymbals ranging between 20" and 24". As with their size, they’re also heavier. They are played by hitting the tip of your drumstick on the cymbal’s body, or the shoulder of the stick on the bell. Where you hit it will determine the strength of the sound it makes. 

Drummers use the ride cymbals for their bright and sustained sound. It helps maintain the rhythmic pattern of a song, often referred to as the ‘ride’ hence its name. 

These cymbals generally sit on the far right of the drum kit directly above the floor tom. 


Tom Toms

The tom toms or rack toms are used to provide embellishments to melodies and solos. Toms are generally on the smaller side, ranging from 8" to 18".

The toms are often not used as frequently as other parts of your drum kit, however they are an essential part of the kit and play an important role in music. They can be specifically tuned to match a set of pitches, for this reason it is common for experienced drummers to have more than one tom in their kit. It is a good idea, even for beginner drummers, to have a high tom and a low tom to learn with and get the feel of their sounds.

The rack toms are often mounted on the frame of your kit just above the kick drum. 


Floor Tom

A floor tom is a double-headed tom drum that provides a deep end to the tom tom frequency. 

They produce a booming sound that varies in pitch and resonates in the music. The floor tom can add colour and expression to your music. They have always been an essential part of any drummer’s kit. 

Some drum kits can have up to three floor toms. The most common is the standing tom which usually stands on three legs next to and behind the kick drum. The other two floor toms if you have them are mounted directly above the kick drum, next to the standing tom. 


Snare Drum

Snares are a shallow drum with a rack of strings stretched across the bottom head. They provide the backbeat in popular music.

They can be played by striking the head alone or the head and rim at the same time to perform a rimshot. This is a technique that sounds difficult to perfect, but once you’re skilled enough it will become an almost unconscious manoeuvre.

The snare is one of the most central pieces in a drum set. They are usually just played using sticks, however as you gain experience you can start experimenting with using a brush or rute to create different sounds. 


Kick Drum

Kick or bass drums are played by pressing down on a foot pedal. They are a large, low sounding drum. Kick drums can range between 16" and 28". The wider the drum the lower the pitch of the drum sound.

Large drums can tend to resonate and ring for longer durations, so many drummers will use pillows or blankets to muffle the sound and minimise the ringing. 

The kick drum often acts as a base for the rack tom mounts, placing it around the centre of your kit for perfect access to the pedal.

You can visit our website or our friendly team of musicians in our Nambour store for more tips about purchasing and setting up your beginner drum set.