Mind Matters






Publication: Modern Drummer : MD
Author: Schallehn, Bernie
Date published: May 1, 2012

I BOUGHT JUNK DRUMS

I won a set of used drums in an online auction, at a fantastic price. My problem is that they turned out to be junk. The kick pedal fell apart, the crash cymbal cracked, two of the tension rods on the tom are stripped, and a lug snapped right off the bass drum. The seller had a no-return policy, but the kit looked great in the photo, so I thought I was getting an excellent deal. I hate the drums now, and I want to take a hammer and smash them to pieces. I'm wondering if I should just quit playing altogether.

Dominic S.

Dominic, take my next statement and make it a core belief of yours: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

My friend, you got suckered. But please don't let some crappy equipment diminish your fledgling interest in drums and drumming! Until you're in the position to buy a better-quality set, keep playing this one-even if it eventually disintegrates into a heap of splintered wood, metal, and plastic. Think of it as a practice kit. You're still building your chops each and every time you play. Take your focus off the drums and put it on your drumming.

When you're ready to buy a different set, make sure you know what you're getting. If you choose to go the online route again, buy locally. That way you can actually see the drums in person and take them for a test drive. Arrange to meet up with the seller, and take your time in giving the drums a careful visual inspection. Then play them as you normally would. How do they feel under your sticks? Solid and sturdy or shaky and cheap? Check the cymbals for cracks and keyholing. Are the stands in good working order? Don't be afraid to touch the kit to get a tactile sense of its quality.

If you're a heavy hitter, play hard-but not so hard that you put dents in the heads. Ask questions of the owner, the main one being: Why are you selling your kit? If the answer sounds shady, trust your gut, thank the seller for giving you the time to check out the drums, and leave so you can look for other kits that are for sale. If the owner won't let you play the drums, walk out the door-immediately. He or she is probably hiding something (like when the online ad said "no returns").

When people buy a used car, they often bring their mechanic to check out the vehicle before they even think about forking over any cash. If you know an experienced drummer-maybe your instructor, if you're taking lessons-have him or her look at the kit with you to help you judge whether the drums are of good quality and in good shape.

You should also check your local music store for deals on new and used equipment. They have a reputation to uphold, so they're not apt to sell you junk. And many have a thirty-day return policy, in case you're not satisfied with the kit.

Okay, last hurdle: what to do with your junk set As I said, keep playing the kit until you can upgrade. When that time comes, don't unload your crappy drums on some unsuspecting buyer. The drumming community is a fairly tight-knit one, so this move would likely come back to haunt you.

Drummers tend to be weird about snare drums. I've seen guys playing a beautiful top-end kit with a low-end snare. We often develop an affinity for a certain snare sound or timbre, even if it's coming from a cheap instrument.) If you're going to sell anything-and if it hasn't fallen apart-try selling your snare. Or see if there's a residential treatment center or nonprofit in your area that would welcome a donation. You might be surprised by how thrilled someone is to have your cast-offs, and you'll feel good inside.

One fast thing: caveat emptor, or let the buyer beware.

Author affiliation:

Bernie Schallehn has been a drummer and percussionist for over forty-five years. He holds a master's degree in counseling psychology and, while in private practice, held the credentials of a certified clinical mental health counselor and a certified alcohol and substance abuse counselor.

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