Escaping Toyland

by Will Romano

In the past, when a child begged for his or her first drumkit, parents priced professional musical equipment only to settle for fragile, mass-produced toys—or shied away from buying a drumset altogether. Today, after collecting feedback from retailers and consumers alike, manufacturers offer budget-conscious parents high-quality, affordable junior kits that meet the demands of the growing children’s drum market.

Modern Drummer spoke with several industry experts to gain insight into the junior drumset phenomenon. If you’re planning to purchase a children’s kit this holiday season, make sure you follow these tips.

Avoid kits with plastic hardware and non-wood drum shells. Most junior kits on the market feature metallic hardware, tunable heads, and drum shells fashioned from poplar, basswood, plywood, or other woods. “These junior kits are not toys,” explains Wayne Williams, VP of sales and marketing for M&M Merchandisers, which markets GP Percussion products. “They’re variations on their adult drumkit counterparts.”

Size it right. Your child’s height and commitment to drumming will dictate how small or large a kit you’ll need to purchase. “We always recommend a larger kit if the child will be taking drum lessons,” says Vintage Drum Center president Ned Ingberman, a retailer who’s tracked the kids-kit trends for the better part of a decade. “I know some drum teachers who prefer a child to play on a complete set.”

Look for all-in-one packages. Many five-piece kits include brass crash/ride and hi-hat cymbals, a drum throne, sticks, a tuning key, and hardware such as a bass drum pedal, hi-hat and snare stands, and a cymbal arm or floor stand. However, not all three-piece kits are as complete. Accessories and add-on equipment are sold separately on the Vintage Drum Center site:

Maintain the kit. Due to wear and tear, cymbals, drumheads, and sticks will likely need to be replaced on a regular basis.

Decide whether you want the highest-quality kit for your child or the highest-quality kit at the lowest price. Most kid kits are available as three- or five-piece setups with smaller than professional-size drums, in a variety of color options. Prices for three-piece sets range from under $100 to around $150. Five-piece kits run from $150 to $300 or more. “If you’re interested in seeing your child develop as a musician, make the investment in a name-brand kit,” advises Josh Touchton, ddrum division manager, Armadillo Enterprises, Inc.

Buy adjustable hardware. Some five-piece kits, such as those made by Cannon, Union, and DeRosa Bridgecraft, will accommodate a child up to five feet tall.

Protect the kiddies. Some three-piece kits feature snare drums mounted to the bass drum for your child’s safety. “If you have a three-year-old playing a kit that has the snare secured to the bass drum, it will be a lot more difficult to knock the snare over and hurt the child and the drum,” says Ingberman.

Manufacturer warranties vary from a few months to a year—but you can forget about blanket coverage. “Any issue with the craftsmanship of the kits, such as if a hi-hat pedal fails or a lug casing cracks—that’s certainly something we would cover,” says Jim Bickley, VP of domestic sales, Universal Percussion, which markets the Cannon JAMM and Ka-Boom kits. “If a child severely damages the drums on purpose,” adds ddrum’s Touchton, “that’s not usually covered.”