Jazz drum kits are different from the rest because they don’t require too much gear and instead rely more on the bass/snare drum and ride cymbal. The sound of jazz is often very lightweight and soft. This is a selection of drum kits best suitable for jazz.
Jazz drumming is a highly demanding art form where you have to keep time without compromising on musicality. In early jazz, the drummer’s job was to simply give the music a lively pulse. However, soloists such as Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich helped to make drums a prominent lead instrument in jazz.
So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re out there keeping a swing beat or ripping out jaw-dropping solos. What you need the most is a great-sounding kit that fits your style.
My first recommendation would be the Gretsch Drums Catalina Club Jazz. A classic kit trusted by many jazz drummers for its great sound and versatility.
My second recommendation would be Pearl Roadshow 4 Piece Jazz. If you’re starting or are just a few years into your journey, this kit is a very nice budget kit.
- The 5 Best Jazz Drum Sets (Bop Kits) 2023
- 1. Gretsch Drums Catalina Club Jazz
- 2. Pearl Roadshow 4-piece Jazz
- 3. Gretsch USA Custom
- 4. Ludwig NeuSonic 3-piece
- 5. TAMA Club-JAM
- What type of drums are used in Jazz?
- What are the Most Common Materials Used for Jazz Drums?
- Which drumheads should you choose for Jazz?
- The most important cymbal for Jazz – The ride
- What to look for when Buying a Jazz Drum Kit?
- How Hard is Jazz Drumming?
The 5 Best Jazz Drum Sets (Bop Kits) 2023
Let’s look at them in more detail:
1. Gretsch Drums Catalina Club Jazz
When you put the classic tone and look of a traditional jazz kit, and add modern hardware, you get the Gretsch Catalina Club drums. They give a nice warm but punchy sound, which is great for jazz and rock music.
The Catalina Club shells are built with 7-ply mahogany wood and have a vintage finish. They look and sound classy, especially in an intimate setting.
- Softer mahogany shells
- Controlled kick drum sound
- Comes with good stock heads
- It’s a shell set (you need to buy hardware separately)
Gretsch has made the bass drum 14” deep. This gives you good control of the sound you want while being nicely compact.
While these drums keep their retro look, the hardware on the shell pack is anything but. Handy features, chrome finish, and good stock drum heads really make the Catalina Club Jazz an easier kit to get started on.
2. Pearl Roadshow 4-piece Jazz
Pearl is a name to be reckoned with in the drumming world. With the Roadshow 4-piece Jazz, the drum giants bring their coveted name at an affordable price.
Pearl Roadshow is a good starter kit or a backup kit. It is made of poplar shells and already comes with 14” brass hi-hats and a 16” crash/ride. A great way to get your drumming journey up and running.
- Hardware is included
- Good sound for this price range
- The stock cymbals are not great
- Stock drum heads
With this kit, Pearl has made efforts to provide a good beginner kit without compromising on the hardware. The lugs, bearing, and hoops in this kit are straight out of their intermediate line.
Despite the smaller size of drums, they do give a nice, clear sound. Both the snare drum and bass drum stand out with a wide range of tuning options.
Overall, if you are just getting started or need a standby kit for the road, the Pearl Roadshow 4-piece Jazz is a decent, yet inexpensive option.
3. Gretsch USA Custom
The quintessential Gretsch kit with the Round Badge stamp. These durable drums have defined Gretsch’s brand for over 65 years.
There is a reason for their reputation, though. They produce a dark, chewy response, and the classic jazz sound you hear in big band performances.
- Amazing sound
- Great build quality
- They are not cheap
As the name suggests, Gretsch USA Custom allows you to customize your kit from a ridiculous range of options for each drum. Although, these specs aren’t limited to drum shells. You can also choose your preferred hardware. Everything from mounts and internal mufflers to the batter and resonant heads.
Even though they are on the higher end of the spectrum, they truly are classic drums. So, if you want the trademark Gretsch sound, go for USA Custom.
4. Ludwig NeuSonic 3-piece
NeuSonic is Ludwig’s award-winning series and this kit represents its new age. The 3-piece kit is a good one to have if you are a professional drummer who needs a rich tone.
The shells are 3-ply maple exterior and 3-ply cherry interior. This boosts their high-end capabilities, making them ideal for all occasions.
- Made for the road
- Lightweight and portable
- 3-ply maple and 3-ply cherry hybrid shells
- Not much!
Ludwig NeuSonic also has solid shell-pack hardware. Furthermore, it is lightweight, making it a very practical kit for traveling drummers.
It carries the aesthetics of traditional Ludwig as well. All of these features make them stand out as a very nice bop kit to have.
5. TAMA Club-JAM
Even though TAMA is well-known for its rock-oriented kits. The Club-JAM, however, adds big time to their jazz drums portfolio.
Club-JAM’s biggest asset is its compact design. The small dimensions and a cymbal holder mounted on the bass drum make them perfect for small, club-sized gigs. The kit is also very portable.
- Compact size
- Perfect for small venues
- Conveniently portable
- Poplar shells
- Doesn’t measure up in sound to the higher-end kits on this list
- Might be a bit too compact for some drummers!
As far as sound goes, Club-JAM’s small size gives a snappy, responsive sound. The shells are made of poplar wood, which brings out a beautiful, warm tone.
What type of drums are used in Jazz?
High-pitched, low-tuned resonant sounds are the hallmark of jazz drums. It has been so since the early days. This sound can be found in the lighter woods like mahogany, poplar, birch, and maple, especially regarding the resonance.
Back then, mahogany wood used to be the staple in bop kits. However, maple drums have taken over as the mainstay, given their efficient manufacturing.
What are the Most Common Materials Used for Jazz Drums?
When it comes to the topic of materials for a jazz drum kit, a few come to mind. You have poplar, mahogany, maple, oak, birch, so let’s dive more in-depth into each one.
Maple is the most popular and best drum material and for good reason. It’s probably the best for the overall sound quality of a kit, hence its frequent use in most kits.
Poplar wood is a more budget option, more commonly used as an alternative to maple. A highly distributed material which is why it can be found on so many drum kits.
Mahogany is one of the more durable options but comes with a bit of price on it. It helps in producing amazing sounds due to its unique structure and timbre.
Oak is another durable option and is a very well-rounded material as well. Highly used due to its aesthetics and good quality sounds.
Birch is frequently used because of the thick and durable nature it possesses. Withstanding more power while providing more precision in playing.
Which drumheads should you choose for Jazz?
Evans G1 coated and Remo Ambassador coated are well-known and make for good drum heads for jazz. The stock heads that come with drums can often be a bit sub-par. It’s best to toss those factory heads out and go for better quality drum heads.
The most important cymbal for Jazz – The ride
The majority of jazz is played in a swing feel and the ride cymbal is the hero. The groove is built on it and the band depends on it. The ride has a soothing sustain which compliments the sound of the rest of the kit. So, it is important to get a good ride cymbal in your collection and not just focus on crash cymbals.
Jazz often requires a lighter ride than rock or metal since the music is more mellow. If you play in a more big band environment, something like Zildjian K or K Constantinople Renaissance might be good options. If your music is more contemporary, dry-ride cymbals are also a good choice. Check our our article on the best cymbals for jazz for more information.
What to look for when Buying a Jazz Drum Kit?
There are a few things to look for in a jazz drum kit, starting with the most obvious one and that is – is it the full package? You’ve probably already seen ‘shell pack’ which means that the drum kit comes with its individual parts like a snare, a floor tom, a rack tom, and a bass drum with their own set of hardware, as opposed to a full drum kit.
If you want to avoid this, keep a close eye on the descriptions, as many can come as a shell pack and not a complete drum kit. My advice, check the hardware list, if the kit has a complete set of hardware, then you are getting a full kit. Also, most kits doesn’t include a drum throne, so make sure to set aside a bit of your budget for a good one.
Another obvious one is to consider the price. If you are on a budget, then proves no point to go all out on a high-quality drum kit and breaking the bank. You should slowly progress and start with a 4-piece drum set with good quality instead of opting to go all out on the best jazz drum kit right away.
Lastly, durability and quality are something to consider too. This can be anything from even the bass pedal to any other set of gear you are purchasing. Durability is a key factor and is good for longevity, whereas quality is good for sound.
One last piece of advice, get good drum heads if you can. Remo heads are probably the more frequently used by most so try that. Remo drum heads offer a good well-rounded sound suitable for most anyone.
How Hard is Jazz Drumming?
Jazz drumming is commonly considered a difficult genre to play on drums. No teacher ever starts beginner drum lessons with a swing beat. This is because playing even basic jazz requires an understanding of the feel and the triplet subdivision.
As you progress further, jazz drumming gets tougher with odd times, polyrhythms, polymeters, etc. But don’t let this discourage you. Take it head-on as a challenge. Realize that the more you practice, the better you will get.
Here are some easier songs you can practice to enter this daunting realm:
Cantaloupe Island – Herbie Hancock
Bye Bye Blackbird – Miles Davis
Study The Greats
You can see a broader world when you sit on the shoulders of giants. A good way of expanding your horizon and getting inspired when you’re down is by listening to some of jazz’s all-time great drummers.
Legends like Buddy Rich, Art Blakely, Elvin Jones, Gene Krupa, and Louie Bellson have been immortalized because of their contributions to this craft. To this day, they continue to fuel many drummers around the world.
Start with them and don’t stop.
Finding the perfect jazz drum kit is a tedious task given the sheer amount of options out there.
I have made it easier by narrowing down to five with my top recommendation being the Gretsch Drums Catalina Club Jazz.
My second recommendation is Pearl Roadshow 4 Piece Jazz.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your personal preferences. You know best about what kind of music you play, what kind of environment you play in, and your budget. When you do find a kit though, make sure you make the most of it.