There is no strict definition regarding what is a complete drum kit, there is plenty of room for extending. Perhaps the most basic drum “kit” I have seen so far consisted of a snare drum and a wooden box the drummer used to kick which gave a deeply-pitched sound.
It was a really interesting proof that it is not our equipment that decides how well we can play.
Apart from extreme cases like the one mentioned, one can play almost anything with the following three members of the drum set: the snare drum, the hi-hat and the bass drum. Even in these cases, there are some standards that you will probably meet: a 14” snare drum with a depth between 5.5” and 7”, a bass drum with a diameter of 22” and a standard hi-hat with a 14” diameter.
Apart from the three standard building blocks mentioned in the previous paragraph, a so-called “standard” drumsets may include a few other parts. The most common of these are the toms, situated above and around the snare and bass drums. The main role of the toms is diversifying the groove.
In beginner rhythms they are mainly used for fills, however, many Latin rhythms incorporate them as essential parts of the groove. Apart from toms, some auxiliary cymbals are also usually considered standard. The main standard cymbals (apart from the hi-hat) are the crash cymbal and the ride cymbal.
Few drummers keep their sets to “standards”. There are various opportunities to extend your set, varying from adding splash cymbal to setting up double bass pedals or setting up dimming pads on your drumheads. Many of these extensions have reasonable purposes.
For example, the use of dimming pads should not be exclusive to professional drummers – getting rid of unwanted overtones is something that will definitely shape the sound of the whole drumset.
The history of the drumset does not date back centuries as in the case of other major instruments like the guitar or the piano. Actually, the development of the drum set only started about a hundred years ago when, due to space limitations, some musicians decided that the different parts of the percussion line could be played by a single drummer.
Ever since that – and especially since Ringo Starr played his Ludwig kit on American television in the sixties – the definition for what “drum kit” actually means has gone through an exponential growth.
Drummers like Neil Peart or Terry Bozzio have built sets featuring tens of toms and cymbals, four-five bass drums, multiple bells and sometimes even multiple snare drums. Frankly, unless you want to play maybe chromatic scales on your drumset – you do not really need this many accessories.
We did not talk about hardware. However, the hardware of the drums (mounts, stands, racks, and so on) is essential when measuring the quality of a drum kit. When you buy your first – possibly cheaper – drum kit, you will be given cheap stands, quirky pedals and the likes. If you want to call your drum kit complete, a first acquisition should definitely be a good set of cymbal stands and a quality pedal.
Once you have these set up, you can start saving money for the nifty things mentioned earlier. Remember, stability and quality is more important than having a bunch of bling-bling that you do not even know how to use.
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