A common question asked by students is, “Do drum kits come with cymbals?”  Most drum sets do not come with cymbals.  Professional and intermediate-level kits do not include cymbals. Most entry-level drum kits do not come with cymbals.  Some manufacturers, however, offer complete, entry-level packages which include drums, cymbals, stands, and pedals.

Buying a Complete Entry-Level Drum Set with Cymbals – Advantages and Disadvantages

Traditionally, drum sets and cymbals were sold separately.  Eventually, drum companies started to offer all-inclusive packages, making the purchasing process easier.  This option has some benefits and drawbacks, which will be discussed below.

Advantages

  • Everything is included – These packages have just about everything needed to play.  They include drums, cymbals, stands, and pedals.  Some sets even include a drum throne (seat).

    These kits include a pair of hi-hat cymbals. They will also include either one multi-purpose crash/ride cymbal, or two separate cymbals (one crash and one ride).
  • The price is lower – The prices of the complete package is considerably lower than purchasing the drums and cymbals separately. 
  • Some packages have higher-quality cymbals – Packages at a higher price point in this category tend to have better-quality cymbals.  A drum manufacturer may team up with a reputable cymbal company, providing decent cymbals that match the sonic quality of the set.

Disadvantages

  • Some packages have lower-quality cymbals – Packages at a lower price point may have subpar cymbals.  These cymbals can often be thin and flimsy. 

These lower-quality hi-hat cymbals may sometimes invert when played with the foot pedal.  The ride and crash cymbals may be thin, resulting in bends or dents.  Quality cymbals are usually not thin enough to have this type of damage. 

  • Some packages do not have separate crash and ride cymbals – As previously mentioned, some packages come with one multi-purpose crash/ride cymbal instead of two separate cymbals.  While this keeps the price low, the drummer will eventually want to add or upgrade the cymbals. 

There are a few ways in which the drummer can add or upgrade cymbals.  On a drum set with a multi-purpose cymbal, the drummer will usually add an additional cymbal.  An extra cymbal stand will also be added to hold the cymbal.  The drummer may use the multi-purpose cymbal as a crash cymbal, while adding a larger, ride cymbal.  Eventually, the multi-purpose cymbal and hi-hat may be upgraded as well.  

These disadvantages can be avoided by purchasing a package at the upper end of the category’s price point.  If the package has a separate crash and ride cymbal, the addition of another cymbal and stand will not be necessary.

Buying a Set with Hardware, but No Cymbals

The term hardware, as it pertains to drum equipment, refers to stands, pedals, and other drum/cymbal mounting equipment. Drum thrones may also be considered in the hardware category.  Many intermediate-level sets come with drums and hardware.  Some entry-level kits also fit in this category.

These sets usually come with all the necessities, except cymbals.  The drummer must purchase cymbals separately.

Below are some pros and cons of this category, as it pertains to cymbals.

Advantages

  • The drummer can choose his or her own cymbals – A drummer who wants the freedom of selecting his or her own cymbals may prefer a set in this category.  The drummer can either handpick cymbals separately or purchase a cymbal pack.  These options are discussed in detail later on this page.
  • There are many drum set options in this category – Not every drum manufacturer offers complete packages (with hardware and cymbals).  To widen the search for a drum set, the drummer may want to look into sets that come without cymbals.  There are generally more options in this category.

Disadvantages

  • The total cost can be expensive – It is generally more expensive to purchase the cymbals and drum set separately, as compared to an all-inclusive package.
  • The novice drummer may not yet know what sound he or she is looking for – Some cymbals can be dark and dry (short sustain).  Others may be bright and washy (full of overtones).  The longer someone plays, the more they will get to know the sound they are looking for. A drummer may be more inclined to purchase a complete drum set with inexpensive cymbals before investing in higher-end cymbals. 

Purchasing a Shell Pack
Adding Hardware and Cymbals Separately

Shell packs consist of drums, usually bass drum and toms.  A snare drum is sometimes included.  The only hardware included are tom mounts and floor tom legs.  The drummer must supply the remainder of equipment separately.  This offers the drummer some advantages and disadvantages when considering a cymbal setup.

Advantages

  • The drummer has the benefit of choosing his or her own cymbals and cymbal stands – The drummer can choose both cymbals and stands.  Drummers who hit harder may opt for heavier cymbals and heavier-weight cymbal stands.  Other drummers prefer lighter cymbals with thin, lightweight stands.  Drummers have the benefit of configuring their drum set with the components that work best for them.
  • The drums in this category are usually of superior quality – While a few intermediate drum kits fall in this category, most shell packs are professional level drums.  They are often constructed from high quality wood, such as birch and maple.  The high quality drums pair well with handpicked cymbals, resulting in a great sounding set. 

Disadvantages

  • There choices may be overwhelming for a novice drummer – A beginning drummer may be unsure of which specific items to buy to complete the drum kit.  The shell kit needs stands, pedals, cymbals, and a drum throne to be playable.  A drummer buying his or her first set may want to look into a complete setup, or (at the least) a set that comes with hardware.
  • The price is higher than other drum set options – Since most shell packs are intermediate quality or greater, the price will be more expensive than the previously mentioned options.  The price of the shell pack is not the only consideration.  The stands, pedals, cymbals, and drum throne must be considered when budgeting for a set.

Options for Purchasing Cymbals

There are three main options for outfitting a drum set with cymbals: purchasing new cymbals separately, purchasing a cymbal pack, and purchasing used cymbals.  These three methods will be discussed below.

Purchasing New Cymbals Separately

Drummers who are looking for a specific, individualized cymbal sound may want to purchase each cymbal separately.  Below are some benefits and drawbacks to purchasing each cymbal individually.

Advantages

  • The drummer will be able to choose his or her own sound – Each cymbal can be handpicked, allowing the drummer to obtain a very personalized sound.  There are many cymbals in this category.  Cymbals of all levels (from beginner-level to professional quality) can be purchased individually.  The drummer can mix and match cymbal lines.  For example, a drummer may choose a Sabian HHX ride cymbal, an HH cymbal, and Evolution hi-hats. 
  • The drummer should not need to upgrade cymbals soon – Since the drummer will have chosen sounds that he or she is happy with, there will be no need to upgrade cymbals anytime soon.

Disadvantages

  • Cymbals purchased separately are often more expensive – Cymbals purchased separately are more expensive than pre-packaged sets. The drummer, however, has the benefit of choosing the prefect cymbals from the manufacturer’s various lines. 
  • The novice drummer may be overwhelmed with the choices – As mentioned previously, beginning drummers may not be versed enough in the instrument to know what sounds they are looking for.  Those drummers may prefer a pre-packaged set of cymbals, as described below.

Buying Cymbal Packs

Cymbals are often pre-packaged in boxed sets.  These are usually packed according to the cymbal line.  For example, Sabian offers cymbal packs from many of their cymbal lines.  Cymbals from the AA, AAX, HH, HHX, B8, lines (and other lines) are offered as pre-packaged sets.

  Below are some advantages and disadvantages of cymbal packs.

Advantages

  • The price is less expensive than purchasing cymbals individually – The cymbal packages will cost considerably less than purchasing the same cymbals individually.
  • A wide range of cymbal packs are available – There is an array of cymbal packs available.  Drummers can buy packs consisting of beginner, intermediate, or professional-level cymbals.

Disadvantages

  • All cymbals are from the same line – Since all the cymbals are from the same line, the drummer cannot mix and match cymbals.  For instance, the drummer will not be able to have one cymbal from a hand-hammered line and another cymbal from a machine-lathed line.  For such a combination, the cymbals must be purchased separately. 
  • The cost is often more expensive than purchasing used cymbals – Although cymbal packs are offered at a discounted price, the price can still be quite high.  Drummers will generally spend more money on a cymbal pack than they would spend on pre-owned cymbals.  This option will be discussed in the next section.

Purchasing Used Cymbals

A commonly asked question is, “Should I buy used cymbals?”  Used cymbals are certainly a money-saving option.  There are, however, a few pros and cons to consider.  These are addressed below. 

Advantages

  • Used cymbals can be purchased at a reasonable price – Drummers often find great bargains on pre-owned cymbals.  Used cymbals are often sold at a fraction of the price of new cymbals.
  • Drummers can start with higher-quality cymbals – Many drummers start with entry-level cymbals and upgrade as they progress on the instrument.  Purchasing used cymbals allows the drummer to obtain a better sound at a reduced price.

Disadvantages

  1. The cymbal may be damaged – The main disadvantage of purchasing used cymbals is the chance of buying a damaged cymbal.  There are a few types of damage to look for: cracking and keyholing.
  • Cracks in cymbals – Cracks are not as easy to spot as one would assume.  The crack can start at the edge and extend inward.  A more difficult crack to spot runs along the lathing marks.  This would be similar to an old vinyl record with a crack running along the grooves.  Cymbals may crack around the bell (or dome).  Another place to look for cracks is the mounting hole in the center of the cymbal.

    It should be noted that some cymbals (such as crash cymbals) will usually be struck harder, and generally break easier than hi-hats or ride cymbals.
  • Keyholing of cymbals – Another thing to check for is keyholing.  This happens when the hole is lengthened, making it look like an oval – or keyhole.  This often comes from metal-on-metal contact, usually caused by not using a cymbal sleeve.  If the cymbal is free of cracks and keyholing, the cymbal may be a good deal when compared to a new cymbal.

2. Lack of a warranty – New cymbals usually come with a warranty.  Many cymbal companies offer a two-year warranty on their cymbals.  Used cymbals do not carry this type of warranty.

Extra Cymbals and Stands

Drummers may often wish to add cymbals beyond the standard setup of one crash, one ride cymbal, and one pair of hi-hats.  Drummers will often add extra crash cymbals.  They may also add other “effects” cymbals such as splash and China-type cymbals.  It should be noted that every added cymbal must be placed on a cymbal stand or cymbal-mounting arm.  Extra cymbals and cymbal mounting options are discussed in detail in another article on this website, How Many Cymbals Do I Need.


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