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Having a drum set cowbell can lead to tons of interesting groove opportunities. It adds a unique dynamic to your drum setup that many drummers love. If you haven’t tried playing with a cowbell for drums before, you should give it a go!
We’re going to look through some of the best cowbells that are suited for drum sets. Hopefully, you can choose one of these to buy for yourself. You never know when you’re going to need more cowbell.
What are the Best Cowbells for Drum Sets?
Cowbells for Drum Sets Reviews
The Mike Johnston Groove Bell is the most versatile cowbell on this list when it comes to how it sounds. It’s a cowbell that has been designed specifically for drummers to use in their setups.
It’s an 8” bell that has two dampening magnets. The magnets allow you to alter the tone, meaning you can control how much sustain and how many overtones you can get from the cowbell. Putting one magnet will soften the sound while putting two will kill the overtones completely.
It has a fairly mellow sound, especially when you put the magnets on it. It’s not too harsh, yet it’s strong enough to drive through a mix of drums and cymbals.
If you’re one for aesthetics, you’ll love the finish on the Groove Bell. It has a slightly worn-out appearance, giving it a rustic vibe that makes it look great when set up on a drum set.
- Offers a range of different sound options
- Doesn’t sound too aggressive and can suit a range of musical styles
- Sonically and visually impressive
- Magnets can move around when riding the cowbell
The Ridge Rider is the signature cowbell from Chad Smith. He’s been the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers for as long as the band has been around. Chad Smith is known to be a loud and aggressive funk rock drummer, and this cowbell is a good representation of that style.
It has a fairly deep tone that is incredibly loud. However, the ride on the surface controls the overtones and prevents the cowbell from getting dented. This gives you a loud cowbell that will sound very powerful when you’re playing in a band.
It’s arguably the best cowbell for rock drummers to use, but you could use it in Latin drumming as well if you wanted to.
The clamp that you use to attach the cowbell has a memory lock. Not many cowbells have that, so it’s a great touch that gives this bell a bit of an edge over the others.
- Loud and deep tone
- Mounting clamp has a memory lock
- Great for rock music
- Most expensive cowbell on this list
This LP Black Beauty is slightly smaller than most drum set cowbells, coming in at 5”. You can get larger ones with deeper tones, but I’ve put this one on the list to have a bit of variety from all the 8-inch cowbells.
It has a rounded surface that makes playing it feel very comfortable to play on. It also stops your sticks from getting chipped quickly when you play on the shoulder.
The tone of the cowbell is a lot higher than most drum set cowbells, giving you a bit of variation if you’re looking for a higher-pitched sound. Since the sound is higher, it cuts easier through mixes of loud instruments. You don’t need to play it as hard to have it easily heard.
Since the cowbell is smaller, it’s also easier to mount without getting in the way of your drums.
- Easy to mount comfortably
- Doesn’t chew up your drum sticks quickly
- Great for drummers wanting a high-pitched tone
- Some drummers may not like the high tone
The Primero Rock cowbell is another popular option from Pearl. It’s not quite as popular as the Chad Smith bell, but it’s a lot more affordable. You also get a PPS30 mount with it, saving you from buying a cowbell mount separately.
The cowbell is 10”, making it the largest option on this list. It’s great for when you want a deeper sound that has a larger presence than the smaller cowbells. Even though it’s big, it still has a relatively high-pitched sound when you play near the back of it.
As you can see in the name, it’s mainly intended to be used in rock music. The aggressive nature of it is perfect for high-energy drumming. It’s also extremely durable, so you can hit it hard and fast without worrying about damaging it.
- Great for high-energy playing
Meinl’s Headliner Series Cowbell is a highly sought-after line of percussion instruments. You’re not going to find a high-quality cowbell that is cheaper than this 8” Headliner, so it’s the budget option on this list.
It’s an 8” cowbell that has enough body to power through live gigs, yet also has enough tonal character to work well in studio settings. The sound is surprisingly good for the low price you pay for it.
The mounting bracket isn’t as high-quality as the other Meinl cowbells. It tends to loosen quite often after busy playing. That’s the most obvious reason for the price being lower.
- Very affordable
- Good for live gigs and studio sessions
- High value-for-money
- Mounting bracket isn’t that well designed
Cowbells for Drum Sets Buying Guide
How to Mount a Cowbell
All drum set cowbells, including the Meinl Percussion Mike Johnston Groove Bell, the LP Black Beauty, and the Pearl Primero Rock come with a built-in mounting bracket. You need to attach the cowbell to a piece of hardware using that bracket and that hardware piece needs to be a rod that comfortably fits through the clamp.
Most cowbells don’t come with mounting hardware, so you need to purchase it separately. You can typically place the mount anywhere on the kit. Some drummers like to place it on the bass drum hoop while others prefer to have it on one of the other drum hoops.
If you don’t have a rod to mount the cowbell onto, you could put it on the rod of your hi-hat stand. This is just an easy fix to have while you wait to get a proper mounting rod as it’s not the most comfortable place to have a cowbell.
What Look For When Buying a Cowbell
The biggest thing to consider is size. That will be the biggest determining factor of how a cowbell sounds. The bigger it is, the deeper the tone will be. While deep tones are often great, the sound will get lost through a mix if it’s too deep. So, it’s recommended to find a good balance.
Another thing to consider is the price of a cowbell and how much you’re going to use it. If you’re just getting a cowbell to have an extra voice to play every now and then, you should get a cheaper one like the Meinl Percussion Headliner Series 8-inch. If you play cowbells all the time, you’ll most probably prefer the higher-quality and more expensive ones such as the LP Chad Smith Signature Ridge Rider.
If you want more than one sound, you could get different cowbells and set them up around your kit. However, that could be stepping on the percussionist of a band’s feet, so be careful!
Why Are Cowbells So Popular?
Cowbells have always been utilized in percussion and drum set setups. A solid cowbell can drive a song forward when being played loudly and confidently.
However, their popularity was boosted by a certain Saturday Night Live skit back in the 2000s where Will Ferrel and Christopher Walken highlighted the importance of the cowbell in a studio session. That’s where the phrase “needs more cowbell” originated.
Styles of Music That Benefit from Cowbells
The biggest styles that have drummers playing cowbells are rock, funk, and Latin. Rock and funk drummers will typically use the cowbell as a driving force. It’s a stronger sound than a hi-hat, so it’s often used in powerful verses and choruses.
Latin drumming makes more use of cowbells and other percussion instruments. They’re heavily integrated within popular Latin grooves like the Samba and the Mambo. A Latin drummer is typically recreating multiple percussion sounds on one drum set, so the cowbell is a vital aspect of it.
Having a cowbell on your drum set unlocks a whole new world of drumming concepts to play. You need to have one if you ever plan on playing Latin music, and every drummer can benefit from learning a few Latin grooves.
Thankfully, cowbells aren’t too expensive. Even the higher-priced ones aren’t going to break your bank. Just remember that you need to buy a mounting rod to be able to clamp the cowbell onto your drum set. That’s often something that people miss when buying cowbells for drums.