A steel drum is a percussion instrument that’s been around for centuries. It's one of the oldest percussion instruments, and it can be used for many different types of music. There are a few steel drums worth using because of their quality construction and the amazing sound they produce. Finding the best steel drums for beginners in 2021 can be a challenging task. We’ve made a list of the best for you to choose from.
If you’re a drummer, you know how important it is to have the right equipment. You might be the guy who jams every night at the club, but if you only have one or two drum sticks, it‘s a lot harder to play your heart out. A good set of steel drums can help you make the most of those few sticks. The best steel drum sets are built to handle the heaviest music, so your chops and timing will be on point. They also have a variety of padding and sound-producing features that will make your playing sound as good as it feels. Steel drums come in a range of sizes and thicknesses, and it can be tough to decide on the one that's right for you. Luckily, we're here to help. Our shopping guide details the considerations and features you need to know before buying a steel set. We ve included some of our favorites, too.
What are tips for finding the right steel drum?
Once you’ve identified the right drum for your needs, you should consider some of the additional factors we discuss below. We‘ve provided some tips to help you identify the most efficient way to make your purchase. All steel drums are a bit different, so don't assume you can buy the same drums for any of your instruments. Remember, some drums have longer necks than others. This may result in a longer drumhead for a snare or a shorter one for the bass drum. Different players prefer different options. Before buying any drums, it's a good idea to put together a list of all the instruments you plan to use the drums on and how often. The more drums you buy, the easier it will be to find the best one. You're more likely to get a better drum if you spend more money on it. If you purchase a full-size drum, make sure you get the longest drum head you possibly can. Having a drum that's too long could result not only in it sounding odd but also in the player losing hold of his/her position in key situations. A more versatile option is a two- or three-piece drum set with an upper and lower drum (or bass and snaffle drums) that can be swapped out for different sounds as needed.
What are options to consider when looking at steel drums?
Most brands off two different drum sizes in their lineup: 16 and 20 inches. Both sizes offer a similar sound, with the 20-inch drum tending to have a more open sound and producing a punchier, richer sound. However, the bigger drum makes it more challenging to play. We also like the 10- and 12-pound kickplates from other brands. While they aren’t the most expensive drumheads out there, they're definitely the best ones we've seen. With a 14-gauge steel, these kick plates won't chip or warp. They also give you the option of either a black or white finish. The 24-ounce steel drum also features a solid 14 gauge steel. It has a classic black finish and comes with a choice of four different finishes.
How expensive are steel drums?
You can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $1,000 for a steel drum set, depending on the type and quality.
For $50 to about $150, you can find a set of three to six steel drums. These are usually made of high quality steel.
If you’re interested in a customized steel set with some rare or unusual metal, expect the price to approach $200. Steel drums in this price range are either handcrafted or made from a single piece of solid steel.
How do we chose our selection of steel drums?
The selection of steel drum heads is not an easy one to make. We try to cover off all the important features in our reviews and also look at a lot of other factors to ensure you don’t get your hopes up too much.
The brand is a big deciding factor when it comes to the quality of a product. You will be more inclined to buy from a brand that is known for their expertise and for producing good sounding drums.
Price is also an important factor, particularly when you are buying a kit which is going to last you for years. Some of the higher priced models are made from better quality materials but might not have as high of quality sound.
Reviews are the best way of knowing how a drum is likely to sound when played. They are a great place to find out about the sound of multiple drumheads so you can make a really informed decision about which one is right for you.
What are features to look for in steel drums?
Before deciding which of these fantastic steel drums are going be the right ones for your next set of drums, check out these key features to think about.
Although it might be tempting to go for a smaller size drum, you might find it's not as practical for playing live. The drums don't have to be huge to give you a good sound, but they should be made to fit together so that you have the option to play them in different ways.
This is another crucial factor to consider, especially if you plan to use the drums for gigs. Choose a material that will give a durable and reliable sound that doesn't degrade after a few uses.
Another essential factor is maintenance. If you use your drum set regularly, then it needs regular cleaning to keep it in the optimum condition. Look for drum shells that are powder coated in an anti-scratch finish.
You don't want to get too carried away and purchase a huge drum and then find that it doesn‘t work as well as you thought. It might sound silly, and you probably wouldn't want your friends to notice, so it's important to look for shock absorbers on your new drumhead.
About Steel Drum
A steel drum is made from a steel mesh, which is plated with nickel, brass or copper. This mesh is reinforced with a layer of plastic to prevent jamming. A drumhead is generally made of 1/2-inch steel or heavier. The mouth of a drum should be threaded for a comfortable fit. It is advisable to use a band saw to make the drum rounder. Be aware that a round steel bar tends to break easier than a square one.
Steel Drum FAQ
Q: How do steel drums work?
A: Steel drums are a type of musical instrument. They are manufactured from a material called drum shells. Drum shells are hollow and filled with an insulating substance. When you hit the drum with a mallet or malleable implement, the shell vibrates and the instrument emits a sound according to the force it receives.
Q: What are the different types of steel drum sounds?
A: There are three main types: Bass Drum: The main sound produced by the steel drummer is a low-pitched, repetitive sound. The sound is often produced when the drummer hits the clap with the hand drum. It can also be produced with plucks, snare rolls, and blows. Double Bass: Two or three bass drums join together to make a triplet sound, which is produced using a bass kick and a hi-hat. Timbre: There is an overall pattern to all steel percussion instruments. Each instrument produces a distinctive sound that is not dependent on any other particular component. Steel percussion is used in many styles of music. If you would like to learn more about steel instruments, keep reading.
Derek is a professional musician who specializes in percussion and works with the independent WGI group Cap City Percussion. With a Bachelors of Music from Capital University, specializing in Music Industry studies, he consistently finds himself playing and teaching percussion to anyone who has the will to learn. Derek is also a former member of DCI groups Legends (2014-15) and Colts (2016-18); he is also the percussion technician and instructor of the drum line at Olentangy High School. You may find him playing a gig throughout the greater Columbus, Ohio area.