I am intersted in learning to play an instrument and drums are what i thnk i'd like most. I've have never played any instrument before, so i don't really know what to look for. I have a budget of up to £500 to spend. I would rather spend less, but don't want anything that is going to need replacing too soon. The genres of music i would mainly play are indie, reggae and hip hop if this helps at all. I would just be playing for fun also, so colours etc are irrelavent for me. If anyone could offer some advice or reccomend some specific drum kits for me it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Yes it's obvious but it's often forgotten. You have to play on something you like and you are comfortable with. And by you like, I mean anything that is important to you : it will be the sound of course but also the the look, the size, etc... As Simon said, the motivation and the passion are the most important points in learning.
It could be difficult to make your own opinion as a beginner but if you test few kits in differents shops, you'll make your own and that's what matter.
Choose a shop where you can get good advices for beginners. I have seen some shops myself where the vendors just want to speak with experienced drummers and don't take time to understand beginner's needs. For me, a good vendor will speak about sensations/feelings first, and ask about yours if you test something.
Choose the kit for its practical side also, you may not want to buy something that don't fit in your car or in the room you plan to easily.
Don't buy an expensive kit or a really cheap kit without checking the real usefullness. For example, you don't need a dual pedal (kick) at this point, if you have to choose, put the money somewhere else.
About the crap or not crap : test the kit and check for any abnormal sounds (hit the rim of the toms, the cymbals, the bell of the ride...).
A drum kit is pretty tough. However, your toms can be damaged and especially your cymbals can crack if you don't hit them correctly. Practice on a practice pad (or buy and electronic drum if you have money) when you can before testing new stuff on your drum kit ;)
This is pretty much what you'll learn and need in order of use :
At phase 2, if you have a ride and a crash on your kit, this is better not only because the ride and the crash have two differents goals but mostly because you'll have two differents spots and usually two differents angles to hit when practicing and reading music sheets.
You don't need anything else for at least 6 month to 1 year depending on your practice/goal and you'll be able to play most songs with a kit like that.
As already said, Pearl kits are usually a good way to start. On Export series, you can see you have a real ride and a real crash. Target series are good for the price but you'll get an hybrid crash/ride cymbal. I saw some guyzs playing on the Rhythm Traveler, the sound is pretty ok and the kit is really small and is sold with mesh heads.
One thing I would ask is whether you intend to take formal lessons or experiment yourself. If you are planning on taking formal lessons I would get in touch with a teacher first, for two reasons. Firstly, your teacher may start you off on a practice pad to work on basic technique. A practice pad is invaluable in my opinion and something I still use in my daily practice (I've been playing for a little over 30 years, teaching for 20). Secondly, your teacher may have a connection to a music/drum shop and may be able to get you a discount on drums. You are certainly correct to avoid buying something that won't grow with you to an extent. You will also have a better chance of getting some money back should you choose to give it away at some time in the future. Speaking personally, I recommend Mapex as a brand that gives exceptional value for money, but that is a personal opinion and I should disclose that I was a Mapex endorsee for a number of years.
+1 for the Export as suggested below .. my second kit was a Pearl Export and it was nice kit for the price.
A little advice: not all cheap drums are crap, Pearl (for example) have some great shell even on the low-end kits. In this case you get some cheap drum heads that you need to change asap in order to get a very good sound. I've played on a few Export Series drumkit (400€ worth) with good Evans drum heads (i dont actually remember which) and they sound amazing! And i've seen some bands using that kits and get some really really good sounds. As Simon Rigby said, get in touch with a teacher and get some advice from him.
You might try Mapex.
For that money, I think you could land a Mapex set, and I think you do have some choice as far as finish/lacquer.
I used to own a Mapex mid-range kit. Not bad for the price.