The Best Drums For Jazz

Jazz drums

In this article, I’m going to share 4 drum kits that I think are the best drums for Jazz. Jazz drum sets are a special breed of drums. Their sizes are smaller than Rock or Pop drum kits and are also often tuned higher in pitch. They’re melodic, full of tone and a heck of lot of fun to play!

Drum kit setups

Jazz drum kit setups usually only have 4 drums that includes a bass drum, snare drum, rack tom and floor tom. Creating many musical ideas with such few drums is one of the exciting challenges in playing on a Jazz drum kit.

The drum sizes of a standard Jazz drum set are:

  1. Bass drum: 18 inches x 14 inches
  2. Snare drum: 14 inches x 5.5 inches
  3. Rack tom: 12 inches x 8 inches
  4. Floor tom: 14 inches x 14 inches
A typical Jazz drum set setup.

The other important parts of a Jazz drum set are the Ride cymbals and hi-hat. In Rock or Pop drumming we usually have at least one crash cymbal and one ride cymbal. In Jazz drumming, it’s actually very common not to have a crash cymbal and instead have two or more ride cymbals.

The reason for this comes down to the way we play Jazz on the drum set. The ride cymbal is our time keeper and the pulse of our groove. Having more than one ride cymbal gives us additional color to play time for different sections of a song.

If we have only one ride cymbal, the sound can quickly become monotonous. Having at least one more ride cymbal gives us contrast in our sound.

Ride cymbal and hi-hat sizes are typically:

  1. Hi-hat: 14 inches
  2. Ride cymbals: 20-22 inches

I also want to mention that ride cymbals serve as crash cymbals too. In Jazz drumming, our ride cymbals are multi-purpose.

Playing one of my 20″ ride cymbals in a recording session.

To learn how to play a swinging ride cymbal groove, you can also check out jazzdrumschool.com for my Intro To Jazz Drumming Course.

Small drums set

Are you tired, like me, of lugging around heavy drum sets and with heavy double-braced hardware? Well, the good news is, small drum kits are the best drums for Jazz.

Most Jazz drum sets are also called “Bop drum kits” (short for “Be-Bop”). They’re known for their compact size and portability.

Bop drum kit

A Bop drum kit has the standard 4-piece drums, ride cymbals and hi-hat. The hardware is also usually lightweight and compact.

Some Bop drum kits also have smaller drum sizes than listed above. My Bop drum kit for example has a 16-inch bass drum, 10×8-inch rack tom and 13×13-inch floor tom. I also use either my standard sized 14×5.5-inch snare drum or the more compact 13×5-inch one.

Get a full Jazz drum set

When looking for a new Jazz drum set, be sure to get a complete set of drums. Make sure that it includes all of the parts I’ve listed above.

The reason is, when you’re on a gig, those are the parts that most other musicians are comfortable hearing. They’re also the parts usually needed to play Jazz music. You can of course add more cymbals and drums and here are some examples of those.

Adding to your Jazz drum set

Sometimes I use another China cymbal to ride on like in the pic below. In Jazz drumming, the China cymbal can also be a ride cymbal and light crash cymbal. We won’t often hit it hard like we do playing Rock music.

Standard Jazz drum set with a China cymbal.

You could also add another floor tom or an extra rack tom. There are no real rules about your Jazz drumming set setup, but just be sure you have the basic Jazz drum set and you’re good to go.

Best drums for Jazz

Now we come to my favorite part of this article. I want to share some Jazz drum set recommendations that I have personally played on over the years.

These are drum kits that are durable and sound great. If you don’t want to break the bank, I’ve also got a list of drum kits under $1000.

By the way, I’m sharing affiliate links in this article. Buying through me is a convenient way to get your drums and hardware and an easy way to support this blog. Thank you 🤙

Jazz drum set at any price

If price is not an issue for you, I’ve got a drum kit that will sound great on stage and in the recording studio. In general, higher-end Jazz drum kits are also made of a thicker ply Maple wood. This makes the drums a bit heavier to cart around but the sound is rich and warm.

My recommendation for a high-end Jazz drum kit is the Pearl Masters Maple Complete shell pack.

By the way, a shell pack is just the drums with no drum hardware. The drum hardware in the pic above shows double-braced hardware. Don’t buy this kind of hardware unless you’re looking for a workout! Below, I share an affordable single-braced hardware package.

This kit sounds amazing, especially in the recording studio. It projects with a warm tone and resonance. All of the drums are easy to tune to each other and resonate well together.

This is a super kit for pro drummers and any drummer wanting an authentic Jazz sound for their drumming. Be sure to swap out that front bass drum head with one that doesn’t have a hole for maximum bass drum resonation.

Best drum sets under $1000

Here are 3 Jazz drum sets that are very reasonably priced and sound great too! The first kit is the Tama Superstar Classic 4-Piece Shell Pack.

If you’d like a modern look to your Jazz drum set, this kit will stand out! It’s not all about looks though. The sound is also first class. Tama drums have been around a long time. In fact my first drum kit was a Tama set.

Again, we’re talking about thicker ply Maple shells. You get that high-end sound without the high-end price point. Built to last and definitely road worthy as well. Some of the best drums for Jazz.


The second kit is the Pearl Decade Maple Bop drum shell pack. Like the Tama kit above, you get that classic Maple sound with the compact Bop-sized drums.

The really nice thing about all of these kits, is you get the snare drum too. Pearl makes some of the best snare drums around so you can’t go wrong with this shell pack.

I don’t endorse Pearl or any other drum manufacturer. I’m simply sharing the kits I have played and have been impressed with.


The final of the Jazz drum sets I recommend, is one that I actually own and use all the time. It’s my Pearl Midtown drumset. I also have a full review of this kit in another blog article and in the video below.

This kit is made of Poplar wood which is not a hardwood like Maple. Even so, the sound is pretty darn good! I’ve used it in the recording studio and at live performances.

Non-standard drum sizes

The drum sizes are not your standard Jazz drum set sizes. Instead you have:

  1. Bass drum: 16 inches x 14 inches
  2. Snare drum: 13 inches x 5.5 inches
  3. Rack tom: 10 inches x 7 inches
  4. Floor tom: 13 inches x 12 inches

Don’t let this compact size fool you though, these drums can sing and really cut through the mix. For such an inexpensive shell pack, this drum set really packs a punch.

I can use it for Jazz, Hip-Hop, Soul, Gospel, Pop and many other styles of drumming. If you want a very inexpensive kit that will look and sound great, I recommend the Pearl Midtown drum kit. They’re some of the best drums for Jazz I have played.

Drums Hardware

Now for the part of a drum set that usually weighs more than the drums! As I said above, when we play Jazz, we don’t need double-braced drums hardware. Single-braced, lightweight drum hardware will do the trick.

Get a hardware package

In my video above, you will also learn about my compact, lightweight drum hardware setup. Links for all of that hardware are in the video description. Here’s a great standard hardware package I also recommend.

Hardware packages generally save you more money than buying each of the pieces separately.

Tama hardware is some of the best designed and durable drums hardware on the market. The Tama HC4FB Classic Hardware Set hardware package is also incredibly lightweight. I own the hi-hat stand from this set and love it!

If you’re going to buy a lighter weight drum set, my advice is not to bulk up on the hardware. Keep the weight reasonable and save your back.

The drum throne and kick pedal

If you also need a drum throne (drumming stool), I encourage you to check out my article about 3 great drum thrones I recommend.

For a great lightweight kick pedal, I recommend the Yamaha 7210 Single Foot Pedal with Single Chain Drive. It has great action and breaks down easily to fit into tighter spaces in hardware bags.

Conclusion

So, if you’re ready to take the plunge and get a Jazz drum set, I think you can’t go wrong with the kits I’ve recommended above.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and there are other drum manufacturers out there that make good kits. These happen to be some that I know first-hand through various playing situations. For this reason, I can personally recommend them.

I encourage you to go to your local music store and drive the drum department manager crazy with an afternoon of playing various drum kits. Have fun and keep swinging my friend!

What do you think are the best drums for Jazz?


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