When it comes to home practice, a percussionist needs two main pieces of equipment: a xylophone or bells set, and a snare drum. I’m going to list a number of practical options that range from inexpensive to extravagant. Any of these options will work, especially for the first 2 years or so. The main difference is tone quality vs. the size of your percussion budget.
The Pearl PK900 Percussion kit has everything you need for a very affordable price. Similar starter kits can vary greatly with price, but if you buy this from a reputable dealer it will ring up for under $200. It comes with a set of concert bells with a range of 2 octaves plus a fifth- which is more than enough to get a student through middle school and beyond. It comes with a practice pad instead of a full size snare drum. You can buy this kit for $164.99 at www.steveweissmusic.com.
The main drawback to kits like this is that the bells simply don’t sound very good. If you’d prefer something slightly more melodic, and still at a reasonable price, the next step up is a tabletop xylophone. Xylophones use wood bars instead of bell sets that use metal. The tabletop xylophone I recommend is the Korogi EK032 Desktop xylophone. There are also similar models made by Yamaha, Musser, Wang, and Kori among others. They don’t come with a drum pad or snare drum, so you’ll also have to purchase that separately. Korogi xylophones are currently selling for $315 at http://www.percussionsource.com.
If you don’t want a student instrument and you’d like to get something a little more professional, the Musser M47 Xylophone is an excellent choice. There are many other models to choose from, but the M47 includes a fantastic 3 ½ octave range, aluminum resonators, adjustable height, and the reputation of one of the oldest and most reliable brands in the industry. This particular model is selling for $1399 at several web sites including interstatemusic.com.
The next step up in quality and price is a marimba. Marimbas can range in price from $2000 to $15,000 and are the primary solo instrument of the percussion family.
When it comes to drum pads and snare drums, you don’t want to invest too much initially. This is because if you decide to buy a drum set later, it will come with a snare drum anyway. For now, just get a drum pad or inexpensive snare drum that comes with a stand. There are multiple models for sale on the internet for $40-$70 plus shipping. You can usually find pads and snare drums for half price on Craigslist if you are comfortable buying from strangers.