When it comes to buying used drums, there are a few key features to look for to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Some are more obvious than others, but all of them are important. It’s best to inspect the drums in person, but at the very least the seller should be able to answer any questions about these key features. Remember, the sound of the drum kit is not as important as you may think at this stage. It will sound different once you outfit it with new heads and spend some time tuning it up. If you follow these guidelines, it should tune up with no problems and serve you well for years to come.

1. Lug Smoothness

Check to ensure that each of the lugs and tension rods is working properly. It is not uncommon for lugs or tension rods to rust or seize over time and render one of the lugs unusable, which in turn makes the drum un-tunable. This issue can usually be fixed by purchasing a replacement part for a few bucks, but on older model drums, those parts are not always readily available.

2. Finish Condition

Be sure to closely inspect the finish on the shell as well as the finish on the hardware. Most grimy or dirty drums can be cleaned up to look beautiful again, but if there are deep scratches in the finish or any pitting in the chrome, those are there to stay and will affect the value of the kit. Some surface scratches may be removable with a car buffing compound and some elbow grease, but deeper scratches will require a complete refinish to correct them. It’s a good idea to take a cloth and mild cleaner with you when inspecting the drums so you are able to clean off any suspect areas and better assess the extent of any damage.


3. Shell Roundness

You will want to make sure the shells are round, or at least round enough for the drums to perform correctly. A simple way to do this is to see if the drum heads easily fit on each shell. If the shell is out of round, the collar of the drum head will have a tough time fitting around the outside of the drum. If it requires any force at all, that drum will be very difficult, if not impossible, to tune well. This could be caused by exposure to water, extreme humidity or heat, or just a poorly made shell.

4. Bearing Edges

You should also inspect the bearing edges for dents, dings, or other damage. If the bearing edges are not in good condition, it will be necessary to have them recut before the drums are ever going to tune up properly.