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Kindly note that I am not looking for specific product recommendation.

All that I am looking for is specific "what to expect" if one buys the absolute el-cheapo (~$200), entry-level drum-kits, for learning and practice, and proving to dad that it is something she wishes to pursue seriously.

More specific questions:

  • Between stainless-steel and fiberglass (remember el-cheapo, not the 70's expensive ones), is one better than the other ?
  • Should I expect that they would lose their tuning very frequently ?
  • Do these sound terrible, irrespective of tuning ?
  • Do they warp, crack and break easily ?

If someone has owned them, and found them to be something to be avoided at all costs, I'd like to hear the reasons, not just subjective opinion (e.g. they crack / warp in 6 months, the heads tear with 3 months of light use, parts need to be changed very frequently etc.)

  • I doubt they will break much more easily, but otherwise they won't sound very good and won't tune as well, and I doubt it's worth figuring out if one is better than the other. At $200 (USD, I'm assuming) for a whole kit, you're getting the lowest price I've ever heard of, and probably the lowest possible quality. – Todd Wilcox Nov 2 '15 at 13:02
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    I keep recommending that beginners buy used equipment. For your $200 you should pick up a kit that was 400-500 new. That way you get some quality, at least. If it's a kit that is 5, 10, 15 yrs old, and still works well, there's your quality. Wooden shells are commonest, and the fittings are morte likely to break than the shell itself. Renew if necc. And the bonus is when you come to sell, you won't lose lots! – Tim Nov 2 '15 at 13:23
  • @Tim, while I can see absolutely well the wisdom in your recommendation, the problem is 'where I am', I just don't come across 'used equipment'. I've been looking for used set for the past month, but haven't come across anything yet. – icarus74 Nov 3 '15 at 6:23
  • @icarus74 - I bought a used trombone on Ebay and it worked out great. I don't think you need to limit yourself to what's available locally. – aparente001 Nov 5 '15 at 3:45
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    Different types of wood is what defines a drum kit. For $200 the shells will most likely be poplar - the cheapest type of wood drums are made of. Just get crappy wooden shells and look for nicer cymbals. You can always tune a drum but not a cymbal. – Kolob Canyon Feb 22 '16 at 16:12
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It al depends on what sound you prefer/want to achieve. Acrylic shells sound different than wood but it is not a worse or better sound than wood shells. It is just a different sound; just like different kinds of woods - maple, birch, bubbinga, etc.- affect the fundamental pitch of a drum. And that is just one aspect of the "drum sound." Another aspect are the drumheads: the type of heads you put on them - single/double ply, coated/clear, hydraulic, etc; and how you tune them determines the resonance, attack, and feel of how the drum is going to sound. And another aspect is what sound do "you" want to achieve. That being said, acrylic shell by nature are going to sound boomier and "boingier" than wood shells because the sound does not get absorbed by the acrylic shell like it does inside the wood shell. Wood shells have a more "warm" sound which is a more popular preference. That doesn't mean acrylic sets are not desired. Keep in mind that bands such as Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chilly Peppers, Mars Volta, Pink Floyd, all have either toured and/or recorded with acrylic sets; so ask yourself what kind of sound do you want to achieve.

I don't own an acrylic set, but I've heard that acrylic shells tend to require just a tad more care than wood shells, especially if you are on the road - otherwise they're brittle and break apart rather easily.

Since you are starting, I would recommend get a wood set. As Tim suggested, you can get a great $500-600 used wood drum set for $200 or less. If your music store doesn't have a used set in your range, try craiglist or ebay. I've seen great intermediate drum sets for as little as $150. As your skills progress and you develop a taste/ear for "your" sound, and once you are ready to upgrade to better/nicer/new set, you be able to make a more educated purchase and get the kind of drumset and hardware you want.

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    For $200 OP will probably be getting a poplar kit or maybe poplar mixed with maple or birch. Also, buying locally is better because you can take the drum head off and look at the bearings of the shells to see if they're warped. It is near impossible to tune a drum with severely warped shells no matter what drum head you use. – Kolob Canyon Feb 22 '16 at 16:17
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Be patient and check papers, Craigslist, ect... $ 200.00 will get you very nice set from someone who needs fast cash, and found their music career will not be a stellar one...

  • This is more of a recommendation on how to find a cheap set, and not an answer to the questions posed. For example, this says nothing about the difference between fiberglass and stainless steel. Can you edit it and include any answers to the questions at hand? – Todd Wilcox Mar 27 '16 at 18:15

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