Drums are a complicated thing to sell. For one thing, they’re loud. In order for serious buyers to make a decision on a kit, they need to be allowed some volume. I, the MI Spy, love volume. So, I told M (my boss of course) that I wanted to search for a drum set this month. She agreed, considering this is a drum issue and all. I awaited her call on my Spy Phone, otherwise known as an iPhone 6. The phone rang, and she asked me if I heard that Daniel Craig would be returning to the James Bond franchise.
“Who?” I responded.
“I can’t believe you don’t know. Anyway, Spy, I want you to head to Minneapolis. It’s an underrated city and you don’t need to worry about losing your precious tan. It’s great there in the summer.”
“That can work.”
Twin Town Guitars
3400 Lyndale Ave. S.,
Minneapolis, MN 55408
A quick Google search confirmed what I already knew: Twin Town Guitars has a cool location, it sells all the best brands and has lots of vintage gear, But what’s the store like in person? And what’s its drum department like?
Walking into the store, I was greeted with a couple well-organized walls of guitars and a handful of interesting amps. The store was small, but was organized in a pretty efficient way that made it easy to navigate. The front room was where it kept the Fenders and the Gibsons. There was a second room to the left that was much larger. This was the room where it kept most of the amps, some of the lesser-known electric guitar brands, and the acoustic and classical guitars. From this room, you could get to a small waiting room where a few moms sat on their phones, waiting for their children to finish their guitar lessons. Through the waiting room, you could enter Twin Town Drums.
The first thing I noticed about the drum section of Twin Town was that it was a bit small. The second was that there wasn’t much on the floor. There was a small forest of cymbal stands and high-hats set up on one side of the room. One wall housed a handful of synthesizers. Another wall had a few small kits tucked into it — most of them just stacked, not set up. There was a single employee sitting on the computer at the register doing some kind of inventory. He didn’t greet me.
Most of the drums were stacked high up on the shelves lining the walls. They were marked with a price and not much else. That said, I saw many of the big brands there: DW, Pearl, Ludwig. And they had some high-end stuff. I saw one kit going for $8,000 and quite a few others in the $2,000 to $3,000 range.
The store had a pretty good balance between new and used gear, but ultimately, there wasn’t enough to look at. And after that, I just kept waiting around, hoping the employee at the register would ask if I needed help. But after a handful of minutes, I realized that I would need to make the first move.
Upon approaching the salesman, I was greeted with the typical “what do you need” face. I explained to him that I needed a drum kit. I told him that I wanted a high-end drum kit that could be used for live performances in a variety of styles of music. I also told him that I was not myself a drummer and that I did not know exactly what I was looking for. And in all fairness, once he started talking about drums, he did lighten up a bit. A quick note about the staff — and this employee in particular — many of them play in very popular and talented bands around the city and are extremely knowledgeable about both music and the equipment used to make it.
I was recommended a kit by Gretsch — a five piece that even included a snare — that was marked down to around $850. He did not offer to let me play it — probably because there’d be no room in the store to do such a thing. I asked if there were any other kits I’d want to look at, and he said that out of what they had, this would be my best bet. From there, he told me I’d need cymbals and hardware. He told me the store offered a basic hardware kit for around $250, and I asked about the benefits of more expensive hardware. Durability and weight were mostly discussed. He told me where the cymbals were but neglected to show me any or talk much about them.
I asked if there was anything else I should know or consider, and he said no. I asked for his card, and he said that there were cards for the store at the front desk. And, so, I left. I was a little bit grateful that he wasn’t trying to hard sell me on something, but I left not knowing much more than when I came in.
Guitar Center Edina
3650 Hazelton Rd.,
Edina, MN 55435
The next stop on my itinerary was Guitar Center. Around Minnesota (yes, I’ve been here before), the Edina Guitar Center has typically been known for having higher-quality equipment than the other stores. It’s also been around longer than most of the other Guitar Centers in the area, so the store has more of a barebones layout. Unlike the Maple Grove location, there aren’t any fancy signs on the acoustic room or the drum room — just equipment lining the walls.
Right off the bat, Guitar Center’s drum department earned a leg up over most of the competition with one simple luxury: There were drums that I could play. There were several sets — ranging from entry level to high end — set up and ready to play. There were even drumsticks laid out at each kit.
I did a quick lap around the store: There was a very nice, well-organized little room full of cymbals to check out and a rack of snare drums ready to test. Most of the equipment they were selling was new — though there were a few used items here and there. Most of the items were also on the floor, ready to be inspected and, in some cases, even played. This contrasted greatly with other stores I visited, where most of the percussion stuff was kept on shelves, out of reach.
By the time I finished my lap, a sales associate was already asking if I needed any assistance. I explained to him my situation and my price range, and he recommended a kit by Yamaha. The kit was around $750. He told me that, with cymbals and hardware, the kit would end up falling right into my $1,500 price range.
On that note, this salesperson was the first and only to offer me any insight into what I should be spending on drums versus cymbals. His take was that you should try to spend just about as much on cymbals as you do on the kit. He then took me into the cymbal room and showed me a pack that would work well with the kit and my price range. From there, he walked me through the hardware I would need and then gave me his card.
Despite his extensive knowledge and desire to answer my questions, I never felt like he was trying to make a hard sell, and he didn’t press me when I said I’d think about it. Guitar Center turned out to be a fantastic experience that definitely exceeded my expectations.
Music Go Round Minnetonka
11319 Highway 7,
Minnetonka, MN 55305
Music Go Round is a chain of stores that deals primarily in used equipment and has a handful of locations — there were about three within a short drive from my base of operations. I chose the Minnetonka one because it, for some reason, was open one hour later on Sundays than the others.
Walking in, the first thing I noticed was that the store was pretty small. There was a main room with a guitar wall and a few amps, and a drum wall on the other side. In the center of the main room was a big square of registers where the employees sat and greeted me. Up a half-stairway, there was a slightly bigger area with more amps, some acoustic guitars, one or two of the more expensive guitars, some mandolins and banjos, and some basses.
The drum kits here were by far the most poorly presented of any of the stores I’d been to. They were tucked onto a rack in a way that made it very difficult to see and interact with them. Playing one of these kits would have been completely out of the question. It would’ve been quite difficult to even get to, or pick up and inspect, some of the shells — and since this was all used gear, that’s something I would’ve definitely wanted to do.
I didn’t see much more percussion on the floor. There didn’t seem to be a place for cymbals or hardware. I’m sure there must’ve been a display of drumsticks, but I can’t seem to recall seeing one.
After my short lap through the store, I found an employee and talked drums. I told him what I wanted, and he didn’t hesitate to point me to a kit by Pork Pie. It was a four-piece kit for about $825. He pointed in the general direction of it and didn’t tell me much about it. He didn’t know the dimensions of the drums off the top of his head. He also mentioned that he himself was not a drummer, and since he didn’t offer to get a sales associate who was, I can only assume that did not have a “drum expert” onsite that day.
211 Lowry Ave. NE,
Minneapolis, MN 55418
The final location I visited was a small locally owned drum specialty store in Northeast Minneapolis called Klash Drums. From the outside, it didn’t look very big, but walking in, I was surprised to find that there was quite a bit to look at. On the main floor, there were four or five kits set up and ready to play — with drumsticks at the ready. And many of the kits that were displayed on shelves were also set up — as opposed to just sitting in a pile. It also had a small wall of guitars, but this was clearly a drum specialty shop.
I didn’t finish a lap around the store before a sales associate politely asked me if I needed any help. I told her I was looking for a higher-end kit, and she pointed me to a used Tama four-piece that fit right into my budget. We then discussed hardware options; unlike the other stores, the hardware it had in store did not come in packages. I was told that they deal mostly in used gear, but are authorized retailers of a handful of brands and, as such, can order new things, if I wanted — this applied to drums and cymbals, too.
My overall impression of my interaction with the sales staff was very pleasant. The store assessed and quickly understood my needs, and didn’t try to up or down sell me. They were very knowledgeable of their inventory and seemed happy to have me in the store.
After discussing the available shell kits, the sales associate told me that I should check out the basement for cymbals, so I did. I was happy to get to browse on my own — it definitely wasn’t trying to make a hard sell, which was respectful, since I told them I was mostly doing research. I was also encouraged to pick up some sticks and try out some of the equipment.
The basement was lined with a variety of new and used cymbals and some world percussion gear. There was a lot of room to walk around, and there were plenty of things set up to try out. There were drumsticks everywhere, too.
Upstairs, it had even more drum kits that were ready to play. But, despite there being four kits set up and ready to go, the room didn’t feel very crowded. Everything in the store was laid out in a very smart way.
I left Klash Drums feeling happy that I’d decided to check it out, and I would recommend it to anyone looking to buy a kit. There’s plenty of stuff to try out, meaning it’s a fun experience to go to the store. The staff is happy to be there and happy to have you there. The inventory is unique and interesting and diverse. Outside of the “regular” brands, it also had quite a lot of vintage gear. Most of all, though, it’s a cool place to be in. The store looks nice and feels good to walk around in. The drums are presented in a way that suggests pride and makes them feel as valuable as the price tags on them suggest.
It was extremely close, but my first choice, by an eyelash, was Klash Drums. But it should be noted that it specializes in drums, perhaps providing an advantage. I think for a drummer looking to upgrade to a serious kit, this is hands down the place to go. And since it deals in used stuff, I’m sure it’d be really easy to trade up. It might be a little intimidating for a beginner to buy a whole new kit here, though, because it doesn’t sell pre-curated hardware packs like Guitar Center or Twin Town. That said, there’s no doubt in my mind that the sales staff here would be able to get any person set up with a truly awesome kit to take home.
My second choice would have to be Guitar Center. The store was well organized, there were plenty of drum kits to play, and none of the other stores I visited could even come close to the inventory of new equipment it had on display. If you’re looking to buy new, Guitar Center is probably the place to go.
My third choice would be Twin Town Guitars, followed by Music Go Round Minnetonka.