This is the favicon of Skillz Drum Lessons

Get personal drumming advice

Click Here

What can you do to make your instrument sound better? How can you upgrade your drum set? If money is no issue you can just buy whatever you want and if you don’t like it you dispose of it. Sound familiar? Not to me. And it certainly wasn’t like this when I was just starting out playing drums.

So you really have to think hard about how to spend your money. But how do you know what the most important to invest in right NOW? Every ad is telling you their material is the best. It all looks good. The pros probably have much more and better gear than you do. If this is you then you’ve come to the right place. In this article I’m going to delve into drum set upgrades.

Part 1 – Click here if you want to know more about drum set additions.

Part 3 – Click here if you want to read more about drumming upgrades.

Here’s part 2 in our ‘What to buy next’ series: Drum Set Upgrades

Is it always a good idea to upgrade? Yes and no.

  1. You should upgrade in the following circumstances:
    • Your drum set sounds like shit and you’re certain you’ve tweaked it to the best of your abilities.
    • Because your – insert musically valued and trusted relation – tells you to.
    • You have too much cash lying around which you would otherwise totally blow on stupid crap.
  2. You should not upgrade in the following circumstances:
    • Beautiful shiny ads tell you to.
    • Well known people with endorsements tell you to.
    • You think your dynamics will be awesome once you get that better snare drum.

Bottom line, doing an upgrade can do a lot for your drumming if it motivates you. You might want to play more and more often once you have a beautiful drum set. Or you might be able to concentrate better on your actual playing once you’re no longer annoyed by that awful sounding hihat.

But don’t kid yourself. You won’t become a better player by buying better stuff. Loving to practice and play drums and music does all of that for you.

What can you do to make your instrument sound better? How can you upgrade your drum set? If money is no issue you can just buy whatever you want and if you don’t like it you dispose of it. Sound familiar? Not to me. And it certainly wasn’t like this when I was just starting out playing drums.

So you really have to think hard about how to spend your money. But how do you know what the most important to invest in right NOW? Every ad is telling you their material is the best. It all looks good. The pros probably have much more and better gear than you do. If this is you then you’ve come to the right place. In this article I’m going to delve into drum set upgrades.

Click here if you want to know more about drum set additions and what to buy next for your drumming.

What can you do to make your instrument sound better? How can you upgrade your drum set? If money is no issue you can just buy whatever you want and if you don’t like it you dispose of it. Sound familiar? Not to me. And it certainly wasn’t like this when I was just starting out playing drums.

So you really have to think hard about how to spend your money. But how do you know what the most important to invest in right NOW? Every ad is telling you their material is the best. It all looks good. The pros probably have much more and better gear than you do. If this is you then you’ve come to the right place. In this article I’m going to delve into drum set upgrades.

Click here if you want to know more about drum set additions and what to buy next for your drumming.

What can you do to make your instrument sound better? How can you upgrade your drum set? If money is no issue you can just buy whatever you want and if you don’t like it you dispose of it. Sound familiar? Not to me. And it certainly wasn’t like this when I was just starting out playing drums.

So you really have to think hard about how to spend your money. But how do you know what the most important to invest in right NOW? Every ad is telling you their material is the best. It all looks good. The pros probably have much more and better gear than you do. If this is you then you’ve come to the right place. In this article I’m going to delve into drum set upgrades.

Click here if you want to know more about drum set additions and what to buy next for your drumming.

2. Drum set

Yup we’ll start with the most obvious: a new drum set! Getting a new drum set is always nice. Just thinking about it is exciting.

Upgrade your current drum kit

While you could buy a new set, you could also do some other things.

  1. Heads – But and install a new set of heads. Maybe this time you want different kind. Whatever you do, buy quality drumheads. Good heads can make budget drums sound decent, and bad heads can make the best drums sound like poop.
  2. Hoops – Replace your snare’s triple flanged hoop with a die cast or a wood hoop and you’ll get a different instrument. The sound of your rimshot and rimclick depends greatly on which hoop you use. The effect of these hoops in a nutshell:
    • Triple flanged hoops – Lots of overtones, most open sound.
    • Die cast hoops – More controlled, focussed sound, with a lot of volume added from the crack.
    • Wood hoops – A warmer, more mellow sound, usually a bit softer than the other two.You can replace the hoops on your toms as well of course. But I personally always prefered looking for another drum set instead of doing this. As a bonus your sticks will last longer from using a die cast hoop instead of triple flanged. If you play rimshots that is. So if you decide to replace these, your investment will pay for itself in the long(er) run.
  3. Suspension system – Do not underestimate what this can do for your drums. This is the sequence of hitting a drum and getting resonance as a result:
      • Stick hits batter head of drum which starts to move air makes the shell vibrate.
      • Head starts to vibrate making the shell vibrate and sing.
      • Air inside the drum moves goes back and forth between the batter head and the resonant head. This makes the shell vibrate as long as the air is moving .

So you see it’s all a matter of vibrations and air flow. When a tom holder is attached to the shell this will be set into motion as well. Simply put, part of the energy which moves the shell is now used to (try to) move the tom holder. A good suspension system lets the shell move freely.

So by using a good suspension system your toms will sound louder, longer and more open.

If you have a modern medium or upwards priced kit you’ll most likely have a good suspension system on your toms already. But if you have a set of drums from the early nineties or older, chances are you don’t. If you want a more open sound try a set of RIMS or the equivalent from a different brand. If you can find a set of these second hand somewhere you can always sell them if you don’t like the new sound.

3. Snare

Different heads or hoops don’t make enough of a difference? Then you could opt for buying a better snare. The advantage of buying a snare is you will want more than one eventually anyway. Snares influence the flavour of an entire drum set quite significantly.

This is exactly the reason why drummers bring only one kit to a studio session but they will take ten snares or so.

When buying a snare you can choose whatever you want because it doesn’t have to match the rest of the kit. A lot of high end kits come without a snare anyway. Lots of drummers are very particular about the sound of their snare(s). Therefore these may be of a different series from the rest of the drums. These probably will be of more than one brand.

Upgrade your current snare

But there are actually a few more components to a snare drum besides heads and hoops. These things may be holding your current snare back from producing exactly that tone you want from it.

So if you think your snare is a structural underachiever check these before buying a new one:

  1. Snare wires – Check your wires to see if they are still in good shape. If you have loose ones hanging from there just cut them off. Gavin harrison does the same as he finds there are too many on there.
  2. Snare wires part deux – If your wires lose their tension quickly, try replacing the nylon straps with a cord. Or if you’re worried that cords may damage your bearing edge you could also try snare wire belts. I personally never experienced any trouble with cords.
  3. Washers – If your snare detunes too quickly you might just need a few plastic washers for your tension rods. You can replace the metal washers with the new nylon ones for just a few cents.
  4. Lubricant – If your snare tunes very difficult and the tension rods don’t seem to be even when tightening them by hand, you might need to lubricate them. Just use some good ol’ Vaseline. If you have a severe case which has led to forcing the tension rods in you might need to redo the threaded holes of the lugs. You can use a tap and die set to do that. If this seems beyond your capabilities or you simply don’t want to do it then pay your local hardware store a visit and ask them.
  5. Moongel – If your snare sounds way to ringy you could use a few pieces of moongel on the head.
  6. Strainer – A better strainer can do a lot for a snare. It’s not just about keeping a certain snare setting for longer periods of time. A bad strainer can also really hurt the sound in a bad way. It may have loose parts which cause the snare to rattle. Or the strainer could choke the sound of the snare too much. The question however is if your snare is worth the investment because good quality strainers don’t come cheap.

As you can see there are lots of things you can do to make a snare sound better before you decide you need to buy a new one. You have to determine if it’s worth the investment though. But the things you buy can always be used on another snare in the future. So chances are it will be a sound investment somewhere down the road.

4. Cymbals

You want better sounding cymbals? You have a choice of either replacing them one by one or more of them at once. There really is not much more to be said here. You can’t do much to improve the tonal qualities of a cymbal. Other than the obvious where you don’t have protection in between the cymbal and the stand it’s on.

Let’s quickly go over the options and see if we can determine which cymbal should be replaced first. We’ll assume you currently have a standard setup of hihat, ride and crash in sizes 14, 16 and 20. We’ll also assume you very unhappy with the sound these ‘instruments’ are producing.

The basic idea is really simple. If you are limited by a certain budget you upgrade cymbals based on importance. This can simply be the cymbal you use the most in your playing. But it can also be the cymbal which sounds the most abrasive or disruptive.

Let’s make this a black and white thing to make the distinction very clear.

  1. Jazz drummer – This is a no brainer. Invest in a good sounding ride first. You can get beautiful sounding second hand rides for around $200.
  2. Rock drummer – A bad sounding crash will probably be more disruptive than a bad sounding hihat or ride. You can get very nice sounding second hand crashes for around $100. If all of your cymbals sound equally appalling you might want to invest in a medium quality cymbal set first. Decent sounding sets can be found second hand for around $200.

The hihat gets very little attention here. Don’t for a second get the idea this is because the sound of the hihat is not important. I remember getting my first really good quality hihats and they made a world of difference. But I was on a budget so I made the choice to first replace the crashes and ride. I even bought a chinese cymbal before replacing my hihat. This made sense back then as the band I was in was playing a lot of metal music. Our set list of covers went from Alice in Chains to Sepultura so I desperately needed good sounding effect cymbals. But getting a set of really good hihats transformed my playing instantly.

So the bottom line is you decide in which order the cymbals need to be replaced. First things first.

5. Hardware

1. Hihat stand – A stable, sturdy hihat stand which has a silky smooth action is worth its weight in gold. Not having to worry about whether it’s going to function every time gives you he piece of mind you need to focus on what matters: music. Also for double pedal players having a hihat stand with legs which rorate or a two legged hihat stand is paramount for comfort. As a bonus you’ll be able to play easier and better so what’s not to like?

 

 

2. Bass drum pedal – A double pedal would be considered an addition so we’ll just mention replacing your current single pedal. Having a decent bass drum pedal is essential to playing well and relaxed. There are many, many fine bass drum pedals out there. And you don’t have to rob a bank to be able to buy one. Even some of the ‘budget’ ones are really good these days. If you have a pretty decent idea of how to produce good strokes on a bass drum, a good bass drum pedal becomes invisible. It should make you forget you’re playing one.

 

 

3. Stool – This is easily the most overlooked upgrade to a drum set. And probably one of the most important ones. This is typically one of those upgrades which doesn’t affect your sound directly but will absolutely affect it indirectly. You’ll play so much better once you sit well the difference will be unbelievable. And the longer rehearsals, gigs, (practice) sessions you play, the more difference this will make because you will get much less fatigued with a good stool.

 

 

4. Cymbal stands – Replace your straight stands with boom stands. This lets you set up your cymbals more conveniently. Even better, it allows you to experiment more freely with positioning of cymbals. If I was buying a cymbal stand I would never opt for a straight one. It’s definitely worth the extra few bucks. Just don’t get the most expensive ones unless you have a very good reason to do so. The basic sturdy ones will last you a lifetime if you don’t abuse them too much.

 

 

5. Multi clamps – Another great piece of metal which can really help your playing become much more ergonomically sound. If you have your toms hanging from the holes in your bass drum it will give you more freedom of placement. My personal preference is to have the rack toms a little further to the left. This simply wouldn’t be possible without multi clamps. Or you could go for the next option.

 

 

6. Drum rack – This may seem like just a replacement which looks cooler or not depending on your taste. It’s actually more than that. For the same reason I really like multi clamps I really like drum racks. You have a little bit less flexibility with the rack but the always suit me fine. Just be careful when you gig a lot because those suckers can be heavy..

6. Small things

And there are quite a few smaller things which can be a huge upgrade to your drum set. Here’s a list I’m sure will keep growing over time!

1. Hihat clutch – You want to replace the clutch if you have a good hihat stand but experience any of the following symptoms:

  • The top hat cymbal falls down the whole time
  • The top hat is keeps creeping up the hihat rod
  • The top hats gets loose really quickly

First you should make sure these issues can’t be solved by tightening a screw, ring or bolt, or by simply replacing any of these or other elements of your clutch.

 

1. Hihat rod – If this rod is bent it will cause friction when opening and closing the hats. You can try taking it out and straightening it out yourself. If it’s bent too severely you want to replace this.

 

2. Springs of your bass drum pedal – Make it feel as responsive as it was when it came out of the factory. And by the lord of holy Macaroni, please, PLEASE get rid of that squeeky sound in your bass drum pedal.

 

3. Beater – If you have a good pedal but the beater is too hard or too soft depending on the sound you want and need you might want to replace this one.

 

4. Washers between the tension rods of the snare or toms. This can get rid of unwanted fast and sudden detuning.

 

5. Silicon gel to make the tension rods go smoother so the drums will tune better.

 

6. Tunebot – This can be an invaluable upgrade to any drum set. It is in fact both an upgrade and an addition so this will be in both blogs as an option. The TuneBot will tell you exactly what the tension of your head on the drum is at a specific tension rod. Not only will it help you get a good sounding drum due to evenness of tuning. It will also help you remember which settings work for which circumstances.    

 

7. Metronome – There are plenty of software metronomes out there. You could just download an app for your phone or computer. But there may be a reason for you to want a hardware solution.

 

8. Falam slam to protect your bass drum head

 

9. Upgrade the room your drums are in

  • Too dry – Try adding some wood instead of using sound absorbing material.
  • Too harsh – Try adding some foam or some other form of sound absorbing material.

 

10. (Drum) rug – This doesn’t actually have to be a special fancy drum rug with a nice logo on it. Especially if you don’t have to carry your kit (yet) a normal rug will do just fine. But if one or both of your pedals or even your bass drum is walking away from you while you’re playing you should make it a point to not play again before getting a rug to put your drum set on. Period. End of story.

 

As you can see from this list there are quite a few small things which don’t have to cost a small fortune to maximize your current setup.

Conclusion

 

If like most people you are on a budget and can’t spend thousands of dollars at once on drum equipment you can do it in smaller increments. I sincerely hope this list will give you a few good ideas of where to start. Or maybe it puts you in the right direction of coming up with a different, better idea. If it does, please share it with us so we can all learn from it.

Always remember you can make your instrument sound a lot better by learning how to play better. Even the best instruments in the world sound like crap in the hands of a layman. So don’t forget to invest seriously in educational material. There is some excellent material in our shop. Or invest in some one on one drum lessons. Either with me – in the Netherlands or long distance via Skype – or get some private lessons with someone highly acclaimed in your neighborhood.

Sharing is caring!

error: Content is protected !!