A steady pulse is one of a musician’s greatest asset. For you to play in and out of time or through syncopations, you must have a thorough mastery of time. The same is true for a drummer, being the steady backbone of the band. All the thump and clicks the drummer produces equates to the overall coherence of groove that the band would reflect. To this extent, his kit must cut through all the instruments that are in constant play. For a jazz drummer, his drum kit’s sound must be subtle yet clear in providing all the low frequency beats the genre needs. In this regard, what should we look for in a jazz drum kit?
Wood: One of the biggest contributing factors in a drum set beside the skin is the tonewood used. Maple is one of the ideal tone woods to look for because of its warm sweet tone. Other tone woods are just fine, provided that you can adequately tune the kit to adapt the low tuning that the genre needs.
Size: This does not only refer to the size of the bass drum of Tom, but also if you would need a four, five, or six piece set. Remember, you do not have to stick to the traditional sense of having a four piece configuration just because you are playing jazz. Also, it is much easier to remove that spare Tom if you want to have a four piece set, rather than go through all the trouble of looking for additional hardware to augment your kit if you are to play other genres.
Level: This generally depends not just on your level as a drummer, but on how long you are planning to keep your set. Most beginners tend to look on their first set as a practice set and later on buy another one after they improve. There is nothing wrong with that but remember; you can truly maximize your potential as a musician if you would have the proper instrument to channel all your creativity through. Think of your drum set not only as an investment but as an extension of your personality as an artist.
With these things in mind, here are our top picks for the best jazz drum set/kit available.
The 2014 Catalina Maple series from Gretsch is truly a versatile piece of equipment. This kit is made from 7-ply, 7.2 mm Maple shells cut with a 30-degree bearing edge giving this kit a very warm and roomy sound which is a must for jazz, great for stage and recording. The set also comes with coated Remo drum heads which give the kit its distinct batter and classic look. Included with this drum set are GTS mounting system which does not utilize any metal or tube protruding from the Tom, allowing it to resonate freely. The toms that come with the set are 10″ x 8″ and 12″ x 9″. The floor toms are 14″ x 14″ and 16″ x 16″ respectively. The Bass Drum is 22″ x 18″, and the Snare is 14″ x 6″. As an added bonus, it comes with an 8” Tom free, making this a complete 6 piece set. Truly this is a set that can cover all available genres; from jazz to metal – you name it. The best thing is it is a breeze to tune and produces full rich tones straight from the box.
Gretsch CT1J484SWC 2014 Catalina Club Jazz
Gretsch is a progressive music company that continuously acknowledges the strength that tradition provides in this fast paced world – hence the Catalina series is born. The Catalina Club Jazz is a 4 piece set that includes a 14″ x 18″ Bass Drum, 5″ x 14″ Snare Drum, 8″x12″ Rack Tom and a 14″x14″ Floor Tom respectively. The black and silver Catalina Club round badge symbolizes the company’s homage to the great drum kits of the past. The GTS mounting system is also incorporated in this set, giving the Tom much freedom to resonate fully. The 14-inch deep bass drum is masterfully crafted to deliver warm solid punches. The kit’s strong points are in jazz, but a great deal of adjustment had to be made if you’re planning to use it for rock or other “heavy” genres. Truly a piece of instrument that would define the groove any artist would need.
Mapex Mars Series 5-Piece Jazz/Rock Shell Pack Bloodwood
The Mars series from Mapex is a five piece drum kit with Birch used as its tonewood which gives off a bright and clear tone. The SONIClear tom suspension system facilitates the direct transfer of sound, warding off unwanted frequencies for ease in tuning and precision of sound even in lower tunings which are great for jazz and blues. The Bass drum is 20” x 16″, the mounted Toms 10” x 7″ and 12” x 8″, the Floor Tom 14” x 12″, and the Snare is 14” x 6-1/2″. With the set’s bright characteristics, it has to be tuned accordingly for use in jazz or blues. A great set nonetheless or its price.
Sonor Drums SSE 13 MARTINI TGS 4-Piece Drum Shell Pack
The Martini TGS from Sonor take the word “Cocktail Kit” and elevates it to a whole new level. The Bass Drum is 14″ x 12″, mounted with an 8″ x 8″ Tom, the Floor Tom is 13″ x 10″, and the steel snare is 12″ x 5″. The tone wood used is Poplar which is naturally bright sounding, but can well be adjusted for lower tunings to accommodate genres like jazz. The only downside of this set is the skins that come with it – you would have to change its drum heads to fully appreciate its sound. But the advantage of having this kit is its size – the whole set could easily fit at the back of your car! Portability of sound at its finest.
Pearl RS584CC91 Roadshow 4-Piece Drum Set
Pearl has been one of the world’s renowned drum makers with regards to quality meets price. The Roadshow series is one of Pearl’s junior sized jazz kit that definitely is a bang for the buck purchase. Pearl utilized its Heat Compressions Shell Moulding System (HCSMS) to come up with a 9-ply, Poplar shell construction. This 4 piece drum set comes complete with a 16” crash, a 14” set of hi-hats, the cymbal stands, a dual chain drum pedal (most sets does not even come with a pedal), and a drummer’s throne. The Bass Drum is 18” x 12”, the Tom is 1” x 7”, a 14” x 1” Floor Tom, and a 13” x 5” Snare. The set also comes with a Pearl stick bag with a couple of pair of drumsticks inside, and an information sheet containing the link of how to set up our drum set, in case this is your first time in assembling a drum set. All you would need to play drums out of the box – a definite steal for its price!
Union DB5770(WR) 5-Piece Jazz/Rock/Blues Drum Set with Hardware, Cymbals, and Throne
The DB5770(WR) drum set from Union is a very good beginner’s set. It comes with a 16″ x 20″ Bass Drum, 8″ x 10″ and 9″ x 12″ Tom, 14″ x 14″ Floor Tom, and a 5.5″ x 14″ Snare Drum. The set also comes with a 14″ pair of Hi-hats, a 16″ Crash, a snare stand, boom stand, hi-hat stand, and a drummer’s throne. Also included as its accessories is a pair of drumsticks and a tuning key. A very good deal for a student or a weekend drummer.
Read our review of best intermediate drum kits.