Did you know that you don’t always have to spend on a good drum sound? I have seen many beginners struggle in such a manner.
In this guide, I will be sharing a few simple hacks that will give you desirable tonal value.
Well, let’s get right into ways to make cheap drums sound amazing.
Can you make a cheap drum set sound good?
Yes. You just need to learn:
• Why must you tune your drum kit and install new heads?
• The right time to dampen and get better sound from your kit
• Getting quality cymbals
• And the “kick port” of your drums.
Most drums are sold as a shell pack, except for some beginner sets that come with everything. The factory drum heads suck.
And we know it is the heads that make a sound.
Therefore, get new heads, and other things will fall in place.
Apart from that, check out the following tips.
12 Ways to Make Cheap Drums Sound Better
Can a cheap drum set sound Good? I have come across this question many times. It made me come up with the following ideas.
1. Change your drum heads
When you buy cheap drums, they come with poor-sounding drum heads. And even if they are good at first, there will come a time when they will not be good enough.
If you see scuffs and dents on the drum heads, it is clear they are no longer useful. Sometimes you might not even see the apparent damages, but you will notice how the sound changes.
When buying a drum kit, the first goal should be to improve its sounds. And this is the best approach.
• How can you tell if your drum head is damaged?
There are several ways to tell when your drum head is no longer up to the task. But the quickest one is to remove all the tension from the head. Loosen the tension rods, and you can tell the issue with your drums.
If you can see the normal smoothness of the drum with a flat surface, there is no need to worry. But if it sags, change the head immediately.
Different drum dimensions exist for different uses. A typical five-piece kit should have 22-inch, 16-inch, 14-inch, 13, and 12-inch drums. Buy drum heads that fit your dimensions perfectly.
2. Fix internal hardware
Now that the old skin is off do not put on a new one without inspecting and tightening the internal mounting hardware.
Check the washers on the screws and discover those that have become loose. All you would need for this task is a screwdriver.
Tighten every screw one by one. Assuming you have the right screwdriver, this process should not take long.
Check the lugs and make sure the threads are well stripped. Look at the positioning of the gasket, keeping it between the drum head and the shell.
• What to check
There are many things on the internal hardware, and all of them should be checked. There is no better time to have a look at your lugs, making sure there are no threads stripped down.
Also, ensure the gaskets are well located. Sometimes this is the mother of all issues with the sound of your set.
Another thing most people forget is the air vents/grommet. You can tighten them easily using a pair of pliers. But don’t overtighten.
3. Check the bearing edge
There is no better time to inspect and wax the bearing edges. These components are quite complex and amusing.
Bearing edges are not very easy to fix, and inspection will not be easy either. Removing the drum heads makes things even more complicated.
But you can still do it by:
• Running your finger along the edge to feel any dents or bumps. Ensure your finger flows smoothly.
• Evening them out
• Move to the bottom side of the snare and rectify the edges.
Not very many issues will need your attention in terms of repairs. You might just need a few wood fillers and sandpaper to get it done. But it would be best if you were very careful.
If you are not sure about this, it would be best to call your local drum builder to work on the edges. The last thing you want is to make a mistake cutting through the edges.
Waxing is quite easy. Use a small amount of wax along the bearing edges. Waxing allows your drums to have better tuning and vibration on the head.
One must be very careful when doing this. Avoid melting any wax on the drum head. Use beeswax if possible, and apply only a small amount on the bearing edge. You don’t want to cause any damage in the process.
4. Check for fit issues with drum heads
You want to make sure the “collar” of the new drum heads fits well over the bearing edge. This process begins by buying the right head sizes for your drums.
Out-of-round shells will either flat-out, or they will not sound well.
There is not much if one has to get such heads. You just have to confirm when buying the heads.
Vintage drums are harder to work within finding suitable heads, especially if you buy online. It would be best if you visited your local drum store physically.
• Finding the perfect fit
If you have any drum built before and in the 80, that is vintage. They tend to be thicker on the shells and are slightly larger.
That means the drum heads you buy online might not even work.
A bit of experimenting will get you the right fit. Carry the kit into your local store and work with the seller to find a good fit.
• Drum covering
This is another crucial factor that can significantly affect the circumference of your shell. Older drums are more vulnerable.
In this case, try trimming back some of the covering to discover the tension rods.
Remember that the drum head plays the main role in the sound of your kit. Therefore, you need to make sure it’s well cared for.
5. Tuning your drums properly is key
Drum tuning is an art on its own. It takes time and constant practice to get everything right.
If you have never done this before, take some lessons, or find someone who understands to help. But because you are already here:
• Use your fingers to tighten all the tension rods. Be sure to distribute the tension evenly around the drums.
• Repeat until there are no wrinkles on the head.
• Move around the head, tapping in closely on each tension rod with your drum key, and make sure they have the same pitch. Repeat if necessary.
Something to remember
You can get fancy with your tuning. Try matching the resonant note of your drum shell to the tuning note. This is an advanced approach that many people don’t know about.
It takes a lot of practice to get there, but you will eventually have it.
6. When to muffle
Muffling and dampening are among the best methods to make your drums sound better. But it is often overdone.
Use a thin pillow that barely touches the batter head for your bass drums. Most people use pillows and blankets.
For the snare drum, it would be best to let it ring. But sometimes, you can use your wallet on the edge of the drum to cut down the sharp tone. You can use a set of O-rings to control the overtones. It allows them to just pop smoothly with every strike.
The biggest challenge is often on the toms. There are so many sound options. You might not even need to muffle them if you have them well-tuned. You can use O-rings or moon gel to reduce the sustain and overtones.
Muffling is one of the best ways to make your drum sounds better. But it does not mean you must do it all the time. It depends on the style you are playing and the sound you are looking for in the drums. Sometimes it’s better just to let it ring.
7. Buy the right cymbals
It is hard to imagine how drums would sound without a pair of cymbals. And that is why you will need to invest in a decent set.
This is where you truly get what you pay for.
Most beginner sets come with cymbals, which are nothing to be proud of. You can as well use them for trash or leads.
“Invest” because a good cymbal set will serve you for a long time. And they might just get better with age.
• Best starter cymbals
The best word to use when buying cymbals is investing. You are not just wasting your money but securing something that will help you in the future.
Most major brands sell ‘starter’ sets, usually consisting of hi-hats, a crash, and a ride. Consider the Zildjian ZBT Starter kit, for instance. It’s a good quality set that goes for less than $250.
As much as they are not the best, you can count on them to deliver good sound.
8. Kick drum port
One vital aspect of tuning your bass drum is making sure it’s properly vented. If not, it will be too resonant and sound poorly.
Besides, you will not get a lively response from the bass drum pedal.
Most drummers add a hole to the front drum head.
Doing this ensures:
• Proper venting, allowing air to flow freely. When air is free to escape from the drums. It allows them to resonate naturally. Air pressure interference makes your drum sound like a basketball.
• The drum becomes naturally muffled because of the ventilation. You get a more resonant drum with a punchier sound.
• It is easy to connect a microphone to the drum for easy recording. You don’t need to remove the resonant head. A hole in the front head means you will not have any issues setting up your microphone. Without it, you will have to remove the front head.
Allow your drums to breathe. That is the main aim of having an air vent. Imagine if you were locked in a small room with no ventilation. The same choking feeling you experience is what the drums have.
9. Find the right kick drum beater
Even with the best bass drum pedal, you can still fail if the beater is not good. There are different weights and materials used in making beaters.
Since they are universal, you can experiment with different brands until you get the right one.
• The classic beater is made from felt. It assures a soft, smooth attack with a more focused kick drum sound.
• Wood beaters are not very common, but you can get more attacks from them.
• Plastic beaters are more durable, popular than heavy heaters.
• Acrylic beaters are the strongest and offer a sharp and bright attack.
• Some beaters are double-sided. Hence, you can switch between materials, depending on your needs.
10. Find your sticks
Drum sticks play a very vital role in the sound you get from your drums.
The sticks themselves make a difference in sound, but the tips offer an even bigger impact:
• Wooden tips produce a natural and somehow muted tone.
• Nylon tips deliver a much brighter tone. The material is a bit harder.
Try out different options until you get the right one. Luckily, there are a lot of choices. And they are not expensive. One can buy as many different drumsticks as they want and experiment with them.
11. Check and or change the snare wires
The wires on your old snare wires may need replacement. They are durable, but that does not guarantee a lifetime of services.
And because there are different types of snare wires, avoid buying directly online. Visit your local drum store and sort them out one by one.
12. Pick the right hardware
This may not seem important, but it is. Your drums will sound better and be easier to use if you have the right cymbal and snare stands, drum throne, hi-hat stands, and kick pedals.
Adjust them well and tighten any loose wing nuts or screws you see. The aim is to get rid of those rattles.
Frequently asked questions
Do vintage drums sound better?
Yes. When it comes to getting natural sound, nothing works better than vintage acoustic drums. However, you will need to check that the drum heads are too damaged and the hardware is well set.
Do drums sound better with age?
Age drums are called vintage because they offer excellent and natural sound. As they grow older, most high-end drums tend to sound better.
Just like cymbals, vintage drums are pretty good. Many people would go to any extent to buy such kits. And you will realize most of them are pretty expensive.
However, understand that some drums just grow old and get worse tonally. You need to discern between old drums and vintage ones.
How do I get the best sound out of my drums?
The best way to get the right sound from your drum kit is to buy an expensive kit. Unfortunately, this is not an option for more buyers.
There are many tricks to make your drums count.
First, learn expert drumming skills. You will not get good sound if you don’t know how to play. Take your time to practice and achieve your drumming goals.
Change the drum heads and cymbals. Once you are ready to start playing seriously, get new drum heads for your cheap shells. Good cymbals can make all the difference.
Learn to tune your drums in the right way. Even if you have the best drums, bad tuning will only make them sound like trash.
Last but not least, enjoy what you do. If you play your drums with enthusiasm, you are more likely to get the most amazing sound.
How To Make Your Cheap Drum-Set Sound Amazing?
If you are running low on cash but still need good sound, just get that cheap kit. You can make people think your beginner drum kit is a professional product.
I have been teaching young drummers how to have a killer-sounding drum kit for under $500. Here is a summary of what you can do:
• Buy one item at a time. Most complete beginner kits sound like trash, especially the cymbals. Instead, buy a shell pack and they buy a nice set of cymbals. Go for the cheapest shell pack you can find, even at $200 or $300. And then invest another $200 on or $300 on cymbals.
• Change the drum heads. Factory drum heads are disappointing. Search for better, well-sized heads that fit on your shells.
• Tune them right. Tuning your drums is everything. You will only get good sound from well-tuned drums.
• Set your hardware well. Remove any rattling from your hardware, and you can be sure of great sound.
There is no reason you should break the bank to get good sound from your drums. I hope this guide has helped you realize how you can still use what you have for great results.
And once you have that desired sound, keep it there. Ensure a regular checkup – tuning, cleaning, oiling hardware, or changing heads will give your drums a long life.