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, players like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich solo’d their way into the limelight and made drums a lead instrument for 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 a jazz drummers for its great sound and versatility.
My second recommendation would be Pearl Roadshow 4 Piece Jazz. If you’re starting out 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) 2021
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.
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 and bass drum stand out with a wide range of tuning options.
Overall, if you are just getting started or need a stand-by 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 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’re 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 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. Add to that its light weight and it becomes a very practical kit for the traveling drummer.
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.
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.
You’ve seen the range of drums available to you. You might have even made a choice. But here are a few tips that you should keep in mind as you start exploring jazz drumming.
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, and maple.
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. Poplar shells work fine too if you are just starting out and don’t want to spend a lot on your first kit.
Which drumhead should you choose?
A drumhead to a drum is like strings to a guitar. Buying the right heads is essential if you want to do your kit justice.
Most kits come pre-installed with factory heads or entry-level heads. If you know your sounds, toss those factory heads out and go for coated heads. Evans G1 coated and Remo Ambassador coated are well-known and make for good batter heads.
The most important cymbal – The ride
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. 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.
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.
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.
In fact, here are some easier songs you can practice to enter this daunting realm:
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.
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.