Don't Let Your Space Stop You
Living in an apartment may seem like an immovable road block preventing you from playing the drums, but I'm here to tell you that it's not! Playing the drums in an apartment is absolutely possible. I've done it myself. Let's get right into how this done.
There are some great options out there for making any standard drum kit much quieter. Some companies sell mesh drum heads, which greatly reduce the volume of any drum. For example, check out Remo Silentstroke heads. I've used them many times myself and I absolutely love the freedom they give me to practice in places that would normally not allow drumming due to noise concerns. There are other companies making similar heads out there, so you've got options. Once you've picked up some mesh heads, we still need to address the cymbals. Here's another wonderful advancement in drumming technology: low volume cymbals! I've personally used and recommend the Zildjian L80 low volume cymbals. These are way quieter than traditional cymbals, and when coupled with low volume heads, should make it possible for you to practice on any standard acoustic kit in any setting, regardless of noise ordinances. There are other low volume cymbal options available, so I encourage you to check out all your choices before making a purchase. It is important to note that you may still want to dampen the sound of your kit a bit further, especially if you have neighbors who're bothered by noise. You can do this by adding some tape to the bottom (resonant) heads of your snare drum and toms. You can also pick up some dampening gels from most music stores and throw those on the edges of your top (batter) heads. For the bass drum, I suggest adding some muffling inside, such as some towels or even a pillow. If you live in an apartment, you may have to use quite a bit of muffling in the bass drum.
Another option we have is to pick up an electronic drum kit. This is a great alternative to outfitting an acoustic kit with the low volume heads and cymbals previously mentioned. There are affordable electronic kits out there that have good response, feel, and will get the job done. With most music gear, I always recommend checking out used items. Most of the time, you'll be able to find quality used equipment that is in good shape and sounds better than a cheaper new piece of gear. Just be sure to really inspect any used gear before you buy, to ensure there's no damage or issues.
If you need to get a drum setup on the cheap, there is always the practice pad kit. These can be purchased typically for $150 to $200 or so.
With the electronic as well as practice pad kits, you'll need a kick pedal and potentially a hi hat stand and hi hat cymbals. These things can be purchased used at affordable prices. If you end up going with standard hi hat cymbals, and not the low volume ones, you can always tape a hand towel or any other cloth to them, as well as add some tape directly to the cymbals themselves.
If you live on the 2nd floor or higher, with neighbors living below you, the loudest thing to them will be your foot hitting the kick pedal, thumping on their ceiling. There are ways around this! You can try setting a few layers of towels, blankets, rugs, you name it, down underneath your kit to dampen the kick pedal noise. A better option still, is to construct a drum riser. For this, I recommend doing an internet search on how to build one. The main things you'll need for this are a wooden pallet and some tennis balls. I'm sure there are other ways of doing this, but this is just the method I'm familiar with.
One more important thing to do: meet your neighbors! It is important to introduce yourself to the folks who will hear you practice. Be friendly and upfront about when you plan on practicing and give them your direct phone line so they can reach out to you if your drumming bothers them at any point. It is much better for them to reach out to you than to reach out to the property management. Most times, there complaints can be fixed by adding additional muffling to the kit or by adjusting the time of day that you play. Be considerate when planning your practice time. For example, maybe only practice after 11:00AM and don't practice past 8:00PM. Typically you can play a little later on weekends.
Here's a bonus idea for anyone wanting to start drumming in an apartment with $0. Bust out those pots and pans! You'll most likely want to throw some shirts or other form of cloth dampening over them.
Now more than ever, it's absolutely possible to practice the drums in an apartment. Don't let your space stop you!