This section is my highly opinionated answer to the ubiquitous question:  Where can I buy a reasonably priced drum? These recommendations are mine only. Please bear in mind that the market is constantly changing; the days of finding a friendly neighborhood music store that would carry everything that might be wanted by their customers in the neighborhood are over (although you may be lucky and have one near you). I have personally visited the stores on this local list; since I do not live on the peninsula any more, there may be others that I do not know about. Google searches have yielded little NEW information about music stores. There is a drum store in San Jose that received stellar reviews up until a change in ownership 2-3 years ago, and a small chain in the Redwood City-San Mateo area that advertises all kinds of drums and percussion, but stocks drum sets almost exclusively. Please let me know (see the Contacts page for my email address) if your explorations have yielded better results, and I will be happy to list them here.  

Announcement, July 2012:  Remo Warriors In Pink Drums (shown below, left to right, Djembe, Buffalo Drum, and Skyndeep Drumheads) are now available! Donations of $20, $5, and $10, respectively, will be made to the Susan G. Komen Foundation by the Ford Motor Company with the purchase of each of these drums. These are available at X8 Drums and West Music, which are listed in the online section below (they may also be available elsewhere--test your shopping skills).



Local (South Bay and Peninsula) Stores

Guitar Center:  Click the link on the store title to go to their website, where you can find the location nearest you. Despite the name, the local stores have an amazing selection of drums, both online and in the store. Each store will have its own character, arrangements with local makers, and individual used drums taken in trade. The Concord store even has arrangements with a local djembe maker, who will custom-make a drum for you, or help you select one. I have been to the San Jose/Santa Clara store, which had a good selection of all kinds of hand drums, and the Concord one, which is wonderful. There is a store in Emeryville, but I haven't been there yet. On July 12, a store opened in San Mateo! They had an excellent selection of Remo, Meinl, and Toca djembes, as well as LP and other congas and bongos.

Starving Musician:  I have been to both the Santa Clara and the Santa Cruz stores, both of which have lots of hand drums (there is also a store in Berkeley). The Santa Cruz store is much friendlier, and will even order any manufactured drum for you, and sell it to you for the price charged online by Amazon marketplace sellers, including Guitar Center.

The Wooden Horse:  This is really a high-end toy store in Los Gatos, but they have the best selection of musical instruments for children that I've seen in a brick-and mortar store--lots of sturdy drums, percussion instruments, and kits containing several different instruments. PLUS, they have lots of other neat toys, and the whole ambience of the store is cheerfully whimsical.

B Street Music:  This is a really nice music store in downtown San Mateo (245 S. Railroad Ave.). Their recent remodel has left them with a whole room on the "mezzanine" devoted to percussion. They have a fairly decent selection of brand-name (Toca, LP, Meinl, Remo) hand percussion instruments, and will order things from their catalog if it's not in stock. In addition, they are an excellent source of acoustic guitars and ukuleles!

Pan Africa City Alive!:  This is a wonderful store in downtown Sunnyvale (108 S. Sunnyvale Ave., at Evelyn) that used to sell all things African, including some wonderful djembes, other African drums, and occasionally other instruments. There was a slight local panic at the end of 2012, when they announced that they would be closing the brick-and-mortar store, but about a month later, they announced that that would not be necessary, and that the weekly drum circles in front of the store would continue. Store hours will be limited to Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and more merchandise will be available through the online store (still under construction). Drums should be back in stock by mid-March, 2013.

Union Grove Music:  This is a trek to get to, but it's in downtown Santa Cruz, and so is close to lots of good restaurants, Logo's Books, and other stores that might capture your fancy. They carry a reasonable selection of hand drums, and have quite a few used drums  on hand in the store. Their stock is listed on the website, but I couldn't figure out whether you can actually complete a purchase online. 

Drumskull Drums:  This is an excellent business you can visit in Santa Cruz, where they make their own drums, import others and other instruments, and also sell drum accessories and educational materials. Their website states: "DrumSkull Drums is the world's leading percussion shop rooted in the music of West Africa. For over a decade we have offered professional instruments of uncompromised quality. We remain true to our goals and we continue to expand on our focus of quality and community. Our inspiration is a culmination of over thirty years of West African & Congolese drum and dance education felt strong in the Bay Area of California." 

Online Stores

X8 Drums:  This is my favorite online store. They specialize in drums, and their website contains lots of interesting educational videos, demonstrations, and historical information about drums. Many of the instruments in my kit came from this store; their prices are extremely competitive, and if you keep an eye on the "seconds" section, you can find some exceptional bargains. They will set up the drum for you before shipping it, and their phone support is excellent. They used to be in New Jersey; Exit 8 on the Turnpike, but now have moved to the Austin, Texas area.

West Music:  This store (my second favorite) specializes in musical instruments used by teachers and music therapists. Their website shows a wide variety of drums and percussion instruments, and their store in the Amazon Marketplace regularly yields the lowest prices on items I have searched for there. They even have music therapists and music teachers serving as staff consultants to help you find the exact right instrument or set of instruments for you. They are in Iowa, and have a few brick-and-mortar stores in that area. 

Mother Rhythm Drums and Imports: This is a business based in Bemidji, Minnesota. They have an extremely informative website, and also offer wonderful phone support before you buy. They will set up and tune the rope-tuned drums for you before they ship them, and guarantee your satisfaction. They also sell on the Amazon Marketplace at competitive prices. Before you purchase anything, be sure to check out their Discount Djembes outlet, accessible from the menus at their main website. Several times when I have been in a buying mood and found the exact product I want on their site, the dreaded "SOLD OUT!" notice appeared on the product page, so be patient, and keep trying.

NumuUSA: This seems to be an excellent source of reasonably priced, hand-made, traditional djembes. They hand-make everything, and have a large range of sizes, with even the largest sizes priced well below $300.00 [the models they consider "professional" are all 26 inches (65 cm) high or more]. This website disappeared for a time in 2011, and then reappeared. I THINK they are the USA subsidiary of an Australian company, as the pictures of the products look similar, and the prices are comparable.  The products on the Australian site get excellent reviews, but I can't tell whether the Americans set up and tune the drums before they are shipped (I haven't yet bought from them).