Jazz can be one of the most technical and complicated styles to play on the drums. It relies on a heavy sense of coordination and musicality, making it a style that mostly intermediate and advanced drummers play.
Jazz drums typically sound very different from standard drums. They’re tuned higher and have more sustain across the set. For this reason, many drummers have drum kits specifically for the purpose of playing jazz.
Luckily, every drum kit company produces what they call “bop” kits. So, we’re going to look through some of the best ones.
9 Best Drum Kits for Jazz Drummers
Sonor was one of the first companies to push their compact kits. These came in the form of the Bop, Safari, and Martini. Each kit had small sizes and was purposely designed to fit into tight spaces.
Sonor recently did a complete redesign of these kits and rereleased them under the AQ2 series. Without sounding too dramatic, the AQ2 kits are some of the highest-quality compact kits on the market.
I’ve put the AQ2 Bop shell pack on this list as the sizes are perfect for most jazz setups.
This kit has an 18” bass drum that packs a heavy punch. It can sound boomy and jazzy with no muffling, but it can also produce a solid thump when some pillows have been placed inside. It’s the perfect size for a versatile jazz musician.
The rack tom is 12” while the floor tom is 14”. The maple shells along with these standard sizes give the drums a warm tone that is fairly earthy. They’ll sound great in whatever musical context you put them in.
A standout feature of this shell pack is the snare drum. Typically, snare drums in compact kits are always the weak point. The 14” AQ2 snare has a tight crack and controlled buzz.
You could use it in any style and it would fit right in. Its wide tuning range and musical overtones make it a vital part of the AQ2 setup.
The stock drumheads that come with the kit aren’t the greatest. If you’re going to play jazz, you’ll need to replace them with some higher-quality single-ply heads.
Stage Customs are famous for being affordable with professional sound qualities. They’re one of Yamaha's most sold kits and for good reason. The Stage Custom Bebop is a 3-piece shell pack that includes a 12” rack tom, 14” floor tom, and 18” bass drum.
The shells are made from 100% birch wood. This wood gives them a warm tone that is extremely clear. The toms start to sound punchy when you put thicker drumheads on them. Their sizes are great for most jazz scenarios and will emphasize all your fast notes because of their clarity.
The rack tom is mounted with Yamaha’s YESS mounting system. This system makes the tom extremely easy to set up and comfortable to play. It doesn’t move around thanks to the heavy-duty quality of the tom arm.
The Bebop kit comes with a rod that can mount one tom. However, you can buy a separate rod to mount two if you ever need to.
The kit doesn’t come with a snare drum which is one of its only downsides. However, the shell pack is extremely affordable, so you’re getting some high-quality equipment at a low price.
The Gretsch Renown kit sits somewhere between intermediate and top-level. It’s a bit more expensive than the other kits on this list thanks to the high-quality construction of its shells and hardware. Included in the shell pack is a set of 10” and 12” rack toms, a 14” floor tom, and a 20” bass drum.
The drums produce a vintage tone that is reminiscent of drums from the 50s. That tone is mixed with a sense of punchiness that makes the kit a good modern option.
These two tonal qualities make it an overall versatile kit that is suited for any style. However, the vintage sound works wonders in a jazz setting.
The maple shells deliver a balanced amount of cut, warmth, and volume without being overbearing. The bearing edges are slightly shallower than standard kits, making the attack of the drums softer.
The drums use Gretsch’s 302 hoops which are more resonant than die-cast hoops. The lighter weight and extra resonance make the toms sing beautifully.
If you need a top-quality kit that works well for jazz as well as other styles, the Gretsch Renown is a good option. The standard shell sizes work well for rock and metal and the resonant toms work well for jazz. You’d just need to buy a separate snare drum to complete the kit.
The Tama Club-JAM is a compact kit designed for easy transportation and to fit into small spaces. It’s the perfect kit for playing jazz in small clubs and pubs where you don’t have a lot of space. It’s the smallest kit on this list. So, let’s see if the smaller size is worth it.
The shells are made of 6-ply poplar/mersawa and produce short tones with little sustain. The sound is focused and tends to resonate far even though the drums are small.
The floor tom is 14” with a 7 inch depth. You won’t find many floor toms as shallow as this, giving the kit a unique feature. The rack tom is 10”, the snare drum is 13”, and the bass drum is 18”.
The shells have triple-flanged hoops that give them a fat attack. Overall, you have a seriously small and punchy drum kit. Another feature of the kit that is a space-saver is the cymbal arm mount on the bass drum.
You can set up a ride cymbal without needing an extra stand. This lowers the footprint of the kit as ride cymbal stands generally have to be set up with wide legs.
The snare drum has a boxy sound to it. As said previously, snares that come with compact kits aren’t great, so it’s no surprise that this snare doesn’t have the best sound. You may have to swap the snare out if you’re not happy with it.
Considering all the features, the Tama Club-JAM is a great kit for small venues and busking. It may not be the best option to have as your only kit, but it will certainly work well for traveling.
This kit is truly a unique product from Tama. Spruce wood is typically used for acoustic guitars and is highly unconventional to be used for a drum kit.
Unique woods like this are normally only used for the most expensive drum kits on the market. However, Tama has taken it and put it into a pro-sounding kit at a relatively affordable price.
Included in this shell pack is a 12” rack tom, 14” floor tom, and 20” bass drum. Each drum has a beautiful wooden appearance that is crowned with die-cast steel hoops.
The spruce shells provide a very wide tuning range. The drums can be tuned low and boomy or high and resonant, perfect for jazz. The steel hoops provide cutting tones that balance out the warmth of the spruce wood.
The kit comes in two finish options which are satin wild spruce and turquoise. The biggest selling point for me is the beautiful aesthetic of the satin wild spruce. It just has such a natural vibe to it that it makes me want to display the kit on a shelf.
Unfortunately, the kit doesn’t come with the S.L.P Fat Spruce snare drum. It’s a snare that has the exact same construction and finish, making it a bit disappointing that it isn’t included.
The Gretsch Catalina Club is one of the most popular jazz kits on the market. If you’ve ever been to a jazz festival, you would have undoubtedly seen one of these being played at some stage or another. The vintage tone along with the smaller shell sizes make it the perfect fit.
The shells are made from mahogany and have a wide and open tone, especially the bass drum. Their low-end punch combined with some high-quality drumheads makes them sound highly musical and articulate. Although the kit is small, the drums produce a fairly big sound.
The bass drum has a shallow depth, giving you more control over foot patterns. This is great for jazz as you may have to play some fast samba patterns. Having more control means you’ll have a cleaner sound. The bass drum has a lot of boom, so you may need to muffle it a bit.
One great thing about Catalina kits is that there are a huge amount of finishes to choose from. So, you may just find a kit in your favorite color.
Overall, the Catalina Club is a reliable jazz option with relevant shell sizes, warm low tones, and it comes in several finishes. One downside is that Gretsch’s tom mounts in these kits can be difficult to position comfortably.
7. Pearl Export
The Pearl Export is the most sold drum kit in history. With that being said, this kit obviously offers features that are great for any drummer. However, I’ve put it on this list because it’s a full-sized kit that comes at a seriously affordable price, making it a great choice for any jazz drummer looking for a cheap kit.
The kit makes use of Pearl’s Superior Shell technology, meaning Pearl uses a unique process to construct the shells and make them durable and appealing.
The shells are made from a combination of poplar and mahogany. The poplar gives the drums a smooth and even tone while the mahogany provides resonance.
The shell pack comes with 10” and 12” rack toms, a 16” floor tom, a 14” snare drum, and a 22” bass drum. These are the biggest drum sizes on this list, but the kit would work fantastically for heavier jazz fusion scenarios.
The toms use Pearl’s Opti-Loc mounting system. It ensures that the drums keep their sustain and fit comfortably in place without moving. This is an improvement on the older versions of the Export models as their toms were tricky to position at times.
Similar to the Gretsch Catalina, the Pearl Export has a good amount of finishes to choose from. If you’re a beginner or intermediate player looking for an affordable kit, the Export should be somewhere near the top of your list.
Ludwig has an extremely rich drum manufacturing history and they provided kits for many of the jazz drumming greats in the 20th century. This Ludwig NeuSonic takes all those years of drum-making experience and adds some modern flairs.
It’s a 3-piece shell pack that includes a 12” rack tom, 16” floor tom, and 22” bass drum. The shells are made from a mixture of maple and cherry wood. The maple provides warmth and punch while the cherry wood provides presence and projection. The end product is a drum kit that has some serious authority.
The kit has the classic Ludwig aesthetic thanks to the Keystone badges and the Mini Classic Lugs. These features are present in most Ludwig kits, meaning you’ll be proudly showing off the Ludwig tradition when playing.
This is the only kit on this list that has a virgin bass drum, meaning the rack tom has to be mounted to a cymbal stand. The mounted rack tom means that the bass drum keeps all of its tone without having any obstructions, resulting in a powerful boom.
Overall, it’s a great kit for anyone that loves the Ludwig brand. It will work well for jazz as well as rock or country.
The Decade Maple is Pearl’s intermediate kit. It comes packed with features from higher-end kits but is priced for the everyday casual drummer. This specific shell pack has a 13” rack tom, 16” floor tom, and 24” bass drum.
Those are some pretty big sizes for jazz. However, the kit would do seriously well in a big band.
The maple shells boast heavy low-end and smooth mids and highs, giving you versatile drums with a wide tuning range. The shells are highly reliable, meaning they’re a great option for recording.
The main curiosity point of this shell pack is the huge bass drum. Typically used for rock, 24” bass drums have a massive sound. This massive sound would work well in a setting where there are several horn players, meaning you’d need a big sound to be heard.
It wouldn’t be the most common choice for jazz, but this Decade Maple would be a great option for some very specific scenarios. If you’re wanting a big sound, it’s definitely a kit to look out for.
Remember when choosing a drum kit that it should support the music you play. You’ll find that most jazz kits have small bass drums because a lot of jazz is played in small venues.
If you’re going to play jazz in a bigger venue or studios, a bigger bass drum wouldn’t be too bad.
Jazz is all about technique and feel. So, if you think the drum kit doesn’t sound great, it may be a fault in your playing. Just something to think about. A high-quality drum kit might help though!