What is a Drum Set Shell pack? Complete Beginner’s Guide

drum set shell pack

If you’re learning to play the drums, you’ve probably encountered the term “shell pack” from other drummers talking on YouTube or social media, and you want to learn more about the topic. Well, this article is just for you!

In this article, I’ll explain what a drum set shell pack is, what advantages they offer for drummers, and how much they cost. Lastly, I’ll also share some tips and buying advice to consider when buying a drum shell pack.

What is a Drum Set Shell pack?

A drum shell pack is a set of drums without the cymbals, hardware, pedals or throne included. It’s called a shell pack because it consists exclusively of the drum “shells” themselves.

A typical 5-piece drum set shell pack includes a kick drum, a snare drum, a floor tom, and two rack toms.

Drum shell packs are a convenient way to purchase a new set of drums without having to pay for the hardware, cymbals, or even stands you won’t need. This is often the case for intermediate-level drummers who already have existing stands and hardware. 

When you buy a drum set shell pack, you receive only the drums that also come outfitted with shell hardware.

This is not to be confused with regular drum hardware (such as cymbal stands and drum thrones). You will also likely receive floor tom legs and tom arms.

What is a Drum Shell Constructed From?

Drum shells themselves are constructed from a range of different wood types, such as Birch, Maple, Mahogany, Oak, Cherry, and Walnut.

Drum shells are typically constructed with plies of wood that are heated and formed into a cylindrical, rounded shell. 

Drums can also be constructed from acrylic, and more expensive drum sets can sometimes be constructed from single blocks of solid wood, and these are known as solid-stave drum sets

Shell hardware is simply all of the metal parts that are fixed onto a drum: including lugs, drum hoops, and tension rods. The metal hardware is essential for tuning the drums to the desired tension, thus improving the sound of the drum. 

drum shell

Why Do Manufacturers Sell Shell packs?

Drum set shell packs are a convenient way to purchase a set of drums without having to pay for the hardware, cymbals, or even stands you won’t need.

If you ever want to replace your drum set, you can just buy the shell pack shell and equip it with new or old cymbals, hardware, and pedals.

Drum hardware has no influence on how a drum set sounds, so advanced drummers typically only have one set of hardware, but can have several different drum set shell packs that are each better suited for different musical applications.

For example, a pro drummer might have a portable jazz drum set with an 18-inch bass drum for smaller club gigs, but regularly play a full-size professional drum set for pop and R&B music. 

Are Drum Set Shell Packs Expensive?

Drum set shell packs range in price from anywhere between $500 and $10,000. But expect to pay approximately $1500 for a professional level 4-piece shell pack that consists of a kick drum, a floor tom, and two rack toms.

Drum shell packs vary greatly in price, depending on what level of drum set you are looking to buy. Generally speaking though, they are marketed towards more experienced drummers (intermediate and advanced level players).

Beginner drum sets rarely come as shell packs. Entry-level drum sets are beginner-friendly and are complete ‘all-in-one’ packages that include everything you need to begin playing drums. 

There are several main factors that contribute to the price of a drum shell pack:

  • The quality of the materials and components: i.e grade of wood and shell hardware.
  • The level of craftsmanship: a drum set that was built by hand by a craftsman over the course of several months will cost more than an off-the-shelf drum set mass-produced in the far east.
  • The size of the drum set shell pack: an enormous 12-piece drum set with multiple bass drums and snares will cost far more than a basic 5-piece drum set.
  • The quality and type of finish: a 12-stage lacquer finish is more labor-intensive and costs more to produce than a simple wrap that is glued onto the wood shell, for example.

What Drums Feature in Shell Packs?

The sizes of shell packs vary, but they can include any number of drums from 3-piece sets all the way through to a 10-piece drum set or more. But the most common drum set shell pack is a 5-piece drum kit configuration.

Here are all the drums you’ll find in a 5-piece kit.

  • Bass Drum: The largest drum in the set and provides the low-end punch. It is played with a bass drum pedal.

  • Snare Drum: The drum that plays the backbeat with its distinctive crack and snappy sound. It has a shallow depth and is equipped with a set of snare wires on the bottom head.

  • Rack Toms: The rack toms are smaller drums that come in different sizes and are typically mounted on the bass drum or on separate stands.

  • Floor Tom: The floor tom is the largest tom that commonly sits on legs or can be mounted. It produces deeper tones and adds depth to drum fills.

How Do I Choose the Ideal Drum Set Shell pack?

When choosing the perfect shell pack you should take into account what type of music you play (i.e., jazz vs heavy metal) as well as individual preferences like what size drums, and which finish you like. Most importantly, you’ll need to consider how much you can afford to spend on a shell pack.

You’ll also need to consider your ability and level of commitment. If you’re a beginner drummer, you’re not going to want to fork out thousands on a top-of-the-range shell pack to not want to play it within a year’s time. 

If you’re looking to upgrade from your old, basic drum set to something more advanced with modern sizing, then I would take a look at a Maple ply 5-piece drum set such as the Yamaha Stage Custom Birch drum set.

This is one of my favorite drum sets for the price, and I’ve written a full review you can read here.

There are several other drum sets in this category such as the PDP Concept Maple drum set and the Gretsch Catalina Maple, that offer excellent tones and have a remarkably high build quality considering their affordable prices.

Of course, if money is no object, then feel free to take a look at my list of some of the most expensive drum sets on the market that carry some exceedingly hefty price tags!

Final Thoughts

Drum set shell packs are convenient and practical- making the buying process easier for drummers. Just remember that if you are buying a drum set shell pack, you’ll need to already own cymbals and hardware, or buy it separately. 

If you already own hardware and cymbals, it makes it easy to upgrade or swap out your existing drum set to a new shell pack! 

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