A guide to starting percussion in elementary and middle school

So you just enrolled your child in band at your elementary or middle school, excited about starting percussion, but have received a list of books, mallets, and gear to buy. This list can be quite costly, so we’re going to break down each item and what will get you the biggest bang for your buck.

The Standard Snare and Bell Kit

Most schools require a snare drum and bell kit when starting percussion, which can be quite expensive to buy, and some people rent. Although you probably won’t use your snare drum and bell kit past elementary school, it is still useful to have, to practice at home in middle school and beyond. The standard kit comes with…

  • 2.5 Octave Aluminum Bells
  • 13” x 3.5” Wood Snare with Black Finish
  • Bells/Practice Pad Stand, combo Snare Stand
  • 8” Tunable Practice Pad
  • pair of 5A Drumsticks
  • pair of Phenolic Bell Mallets
  • Nylon Bag case with wheels to hold everything

The Pearl PL910C Educational Snare and Bell Kit is the most popular and reputable kit which you can find online right now for $379.99 with free shipping.  Your local music store may also carry this kit, although the price is likely to be higher, but they may offer rent or rent-to-own options.  You will find other types of starter kits online that may be cheaper, but do make sure a snare drum is included.  The Pearl PL910C is a good starter kit and the snare drum especially is usable beyond elementary school.  If you really do want a cheaper alternative though, you can also consider the Sound Percussion Labs Snare and Bell Kit which indeed is less expensive, but also not as good as the Pearl kit.

But Wait, There’s More!

In addition, students should have a standard pair of drumsticks that will serve them well in the band setting. The pair of 5A’s included in the kit work, but most bands encourage you to get a pair of SD1 snare drum sticks since they are a bit thicker and have a perfectly circular beaded tip. Vic Firth SD1 are the standard go-to sticks and often found around the $10 price point.

Students may also want to have a tuning key which allows them to tune their snare drum and practice pad, and make additional adjustments to their gear. While I personally prefer the standard drum key over continuous motion keys, they often both come in the same pack so you can use either one.

Finally, you will want to purchase a music stand in order to practice at home without the detriment of bad posture.

Final Thoughts

You may be wondering if making this type of investment is worth it when first starting percussion, especially if you were thinking percussion would be the least expensive alternative of instruments and that you’d only have to buy a pair of sticks.  The truth is that percussionists play a variety of instruments and the initial beginner investment to start is on par, if not cheaper than other single instruments.  Most of what comes in the beginner kit can be reused past middle school, and if you or your child has truly “outgrown” the kit by way of talent, then it truly will be money well spent.

Prologix CRASH by Rich Redmond Practice Pad: All-In-One Chops Builder