Electronic Drum Sets – History and Information

Philip Electronic Drums 2 Comments

The drums most people know are made of wood shells and plastic heads; when you hit them with a stick, they produce a thud that sounds just like a drum hit with a stick. (What else would you expect?) In today’s high-tech world, however, pretty much anything you can do acoustically can also be done electronically, using digital recording and playback techniques. The merger of digital electronics with acoustic drums is the electronic drum – something both a little more and a little less than a traditional drum set.

Drum Set History

Electronic drum sets have been here since the late 1970s. Those early electronic kits include arm-damaging hard rubber pads and produced synthesized bloops and bleeps that sounded more like the movie Star Trek than anything ever produced by an acoustic drum. The novelty of synthesized sounds soon wore off, to be supplanted by digitally recorded sounds – so called samples of traditional acoustic sounds. Today’s electronic drum sets utilize digital samples of big-sounding acoustic drums insert into a memory chip and triggered by the striking of an external pad. When you beat the drum, the sound of the cymbal or sampled drum is created, just as if you were performing the original acoustic kit.

That’s in theory, of course. In reality, samples sounds never sound completely the same to their acoustic counterpart, and playing on a rubber pad isn’t quite the same as playing on a real drum. Still, electronic drum sets provide a wider variety of sounds than you can produce with a single acoustic kit, and they let you play loud through an amplifier or soft through a set of headphones. They are also a lot more solid than acoustic drums, making them perfect for the gigging musician who hates to lug around a bunch of heavy wood drums.

Should you replace your acoustic drums with an electronic kit – or supplement it with electronic drum sets? On the plus side, electronic drums can reproduce any sound imaginable (including non-drum sounds) and enable you to quickly and easily change the sound of your kit to suit a particular song. They are also easy to haul around, set up, and tear down, which might appeal to some working drummers.

On the minus side, no matter how good they are, electronic drums never sound or feel quite like a good set of acoustic drums. The good ones are also a little more expensive than a comparable acoustic kit – and they require some amount of technical competency to work.

So, should you go electronic? My advice for beginning drummers is not to worry about electronic drums – and certainly don’t replace your acoustic set with an electronic kit. As you move into the semi-pro and professional ranges, then you might want to consider augmenting your traditional drums with some electronics. Even then, however, it isn’t truly necessary; most pro drummers get by just fine with their all-acoustic kit.

Electronic drum sets are played in the same manner as a traditional drum set with the musician hitting the pads to produce a solid rhythmic beat. For more information, please visit: Drum sets for kids

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How To Build Your Own Electronic Drum Set

Philip DIY, Electronic Drums Leave a Comment

How to Build an Electronic Drum Set

For decades drummers with a do-it-yourself attitude have been designing and building their own electronic drums. For those of you who are not familiar with this unique hobby, it is actually very simple to build a basic electronic drum, and the advantages are many. For many drummers there are two main obstacles to owning a drum set. One is that they live in a residential area where an acoustic drum set would be much too loud, and the other is the high cost of electronic drum sets. Building your own electronic drum set solves both of these problems, and can be very rewarding and satisfying. In fact, when properly designed, a high quality drum set can be built for around $200, including the module. Compare this to a similar kit which would cost over $1000 new, and the value in building your own becomes evident. For many drummers this is the only way to afford a kit, and for others the fun in building it is their main motivation. Furthermore, building an electronic drum set allows you to customize it to your needs, or even build a very large kit that would be very expensive when purchased new.

Midi Module for Electronic Drums

The first step in constructing electronic drums is to purchase a MIDI module. The module is the brain of the electronic drums, and being such, is the one piece that would be difficult to construct yourself (although not impossible if you have electronic know-how). In keeping with the thrifty attitude most do-it-yourselfers posses, used modules are a great alternative to higher cost now models. For countless drummers the Alesis D4 has been the standby for electronic drumming. Because so many of them are in existence, and because of their high quality design, it is very easy to find a used model for sale on Craigslist or eBay. Expect to pay around $100, although with enough searching units can be found for less.

Drum Triggers

The next step is to construct the drums. Aside from the module, the other key component of electronic drums is the trigger, which is merely a piezo transducer. A piezo converts vibrations into electrical signals, providing a velocity-sensitive response. In other words, a piezo converts the drum hits into electric signals that get sent to the module, where they are converted into an output sound wave that can either be played on an amplifier or through headphones. Piezo traducers are very low cost and easy to find. The most common piezo among hobbyists is Radio Shack model 273-073, mainly because Radio Shack is the most common store to purchase electronics, and the part only costs a few dollars. This model is encased in a plastic case that must be removed. A better option than Radioshack is an online supplier of piezo traducers that are not encased. The online electronics vendors will always be cheaper than Radio Shack, and save you the trouble of cracking open the electronic case, which can be tricky to do without damaging the piezo.

Once the piezos are purchased, the next step is to construct drums. This is where you can be very creative. There no limitations to your design, you merely need to mount the piezo under some soft of surface that represents a real drum head. The most common heads on electronic drums are rubber or mesh, although anything that can be struck and transfers the vibrations to the piezo will work. In fact it would be possible to build an entire drum set played with only the fingers tapping directly on the piezo. Rubber heads are very common in do-it-yourself designs because they are very simple to make. Mesh heads offer the advantage of a quieter and more realistic feel, however. With more patience and a good design, high quality mesh head electronic drums can be constructed out of common materials and at a very low cost. For many people the most satisfying part of such building projects is using everyday materials.

Electronic Cymbals

Cymbals can also be constructed in using the same principals as the drums. Once again, there are many ways to build an electronic cymbal, ranging from simple to complex dual zone triggers. The key with the cymbal is finding something that feels as hard as a cymbal but offers some dampening properties to avoid loud noise response.

Electronic Drum Rack

The final element of the homemade electronic drum set is the rack. There are many ways to construct a rack to support the drums and cymbals, and this is where your personal customization will really show, as every drummer has their own preferred setup. Common materials for building a rack include pipes (PVC, steel, copper) or wood. When constructing the rack it is critical that it is rigid enough to dampen the vibrations from the drums, as false triggering may occur when one drum senses the vibrations of another.

Great electronic drum sets can be built from scratch rivaling their commercial counterparts in quality, and costing fractions of the price. If you are a drummer, like to build things, or have never built anything but are intrigued by the idea, why not give it a try? It is very rewarding, and once your kit is done you will be even more motivated to practice because you have the satisfaction that you built it. This satisfaction, along with the cost savings, is the motivation do-it-yourselfers know and love. So don’t wait any longer! Good luck building!

Joshua Lohr is a drummer, engineer, inventor, and writer who loves do-it-yourself projects. He has been building electronic drum sets for 15 years and has written a 100 page book detailing the instructions of his mesh head electronic drum set design.

See his website at: DIY Workshop

Copyright 2008 Joshua G Lohr

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Electronic Drum Sets Are Awesome

Philip Electronic Drums, Roland Leave a Comment

Roland, Yamaha, Samson, and Alesis are among the top manufactures of electronic drums. They each have their own pro’s and con’s, however in most peoples opinions, Roland remains in the top seat for several reasons.

I’ve had the pleasure of playing several different types, brands, and styles of electronic drums in the past, and I couldn’t agree more that Roland has the edge. In their newer models, they feature drum shells, which make it appear as if the person playing them is playing on an acoustic set. The kick drum is bigger than the other included drums, making it extremely easy to play with a double bass pedal. The drum heads provided on the top Roland sets are not only mesh, but they’re extremely durable for even the hardest of players, making them good for nearly any style of music, including rock and metal. They feature fully customizable, rubber rims, making it even better than acoustic sets, in the fact that every rim shot can make different sounds, such as a click, cowbell, or even a second drum! The cymbals (which is where most other companies lack) are made of a strong plastic/rubber feeling material, and will pick up as many beats as you can dish out per minute, without the lag of most others. They even have 3 different sounds per cymbal, which include the crash (on the edge of the cymbal), the ride (hitting with the tip of the stick), and even the bell has it’s own sound! But don’t stop there, the cymbals included with the top Roland sets can even be choked!

The control module (also referred to as the “brain”, or “computer”) consists of multiple inputs and outputs to assist with recording, or running to a live soundboard. This is evident with most electronic drum companies. Electronic drums are only as good as the computer processing the sound, using “triggering” beneath the heads, and with most brands, their “top of the line” sets can keep up with average playing. The control modules feature a wide array of fully customizable sounds, and are completely customizable. Often times the tuning of the drums can be adjusted, as well as the percussion sound itself. Meaning you can make your floor tom sound like a kick drum, a snare, cymbal, and so on. The same is true with the other remaining pads that make up the electronic drum set.

Acoustic sets can also be turned into an electric set (otherwise known as a “hybrid” drum set). To do this, you need drum triggers, a control module, and lots of wiring. In cases of using this setup for volume purposes, they even make mesh drum heads to reduce the volume to nearly nothing, while not sacrificing the feel of the stick coming off the head, or “stick bounce”. A company named “Ddrum” is one of the leaders in acoustic drum triggers, and while other companies produce them too, a majority of the drummers who’ve tried them, will recommend Ddrum. This is my personal favorite kind of electronic drums, because at one show, you can keep the volume down as low as the sound guy wants it, allowing for more present, yet not ear-piercing vocals, and at the next show, with very little work changing the heads, you can play a fully mic’d, outdoor concert. Win-win situation!

Whatever the case may be, there are budget-friendly electronic drum sets available as well as higher priced kits (Ranging anywhere from $600 all the way up to $7000) to fit your needs as a drummer. Personally, go to your local Guitar Center, or a local drum shop that has electronic sets on display to play with, and just mess around with the kits in your budged. You may decide that the cheaper sets fit your needs just fine, or if you dare, shop around on the internet, get a control module, some triggers, and cables, and get the best of both worlds.

Either way you go, I think you’ll appreciate the electronic drums, and what they’re doing to the music industry. Allowing drummers to have every sound effect and drum they would want, without the massive setups, and no longer sounding and looking like electronic drums.

Tony Riot has been a drummer for over 2 decades, and is providing his experience, knowledge, and know how to every drummer, beginner and experienced. For more information from Riot on drums, visit his site at http://playingdrum.com

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Five Tips When Transitioning From an Acoustic to an Electric Drum Set

Philip Acoustic Drums, Electronic Drums Leave a Comment

Transitioning from acoustic to an electric drum set brings with it a particular learning curve. Fortunately, electric drum technology has improved dramatically since their earliest predecessors. Not only do quality instruments, such as Roland electric drums, sound as good as acoustic drums, they have been designed to feel just like them too.

Perhaps you are making a permanent switch from acoustic to electric drums. Maybe you simply want to expand your options and be able to work with both. Either way, it’s a lot of money to spend only to discover within weeks or months that your new set isn’t what you hoped it would be.

Instead, you can smooth the transition from acoustic and choose an electric drum set that sounds and feels amazing with these five tips:

  • Choose the right heads. The right kind of drum heads can make all of the difference when it comes to playing electric versus acoustic drums. Some feel more like acoustic heads than others.
  • Choose the right pedals. The same goes for pedals. Pedals that are softer or harder than what you’re used to can be problematic. Choose an electric drum set with good pedals. Alternatively, if you are drawn to a particular set but don’t like the pedals it comes with, find out if you can switch them with an after-market pedal.
  • Decide what kind of sound is most important to you before you begin shopping. It’s easy to get dazzled by the sheer number of sound kits that are available with electric drums. Many Roland electric drums, for example, come with hundreds of different sounds and effects options, with the capability to add more sound components if desired.

    Sometimes the price can increase dramatically from one kit to another one that is similar in style and quality simply due to the sound kit. In the store, the effects probably sound stunning, and you can probably imagine yourself having fun experimenting with different ones.

    However, you may not really need several hundred sound effects, depending on what your instrument is mainly going to be used for. For instance, an electric drum set that will be used mainly for practice or personal pleasure doesn’t necessarily need several hundred sound options. This is especially true if those extra sounds come at a significant extra cost.

    A great alternative would be to purchase an electric drum set that is capable of taking on after-market expansions. Many models, including Roland drum sets, have add-on kits available. This way, you can start out with a more basic kit. As you grow in skill and experience, or your playing needs change, you can add new sound kits later on, when you really need them.

  • Ask for reviews and recommendations. Research is important, and you can do this by surfing the Internet or reading industry publications like music magazines.

    However, you’ll probably get the most constructive and reliable information from other drummers. Players who have had firsthand experience with a particular set or sets will have intimate familiarity with that product. He or she will probably be full of pointers and wise advice, much of which you may not be able to find in a book or on the Web.

  • Try before you buy. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it. The same principle should apply to an electric drum set.

Spend a significant amount of time playing each model you are considering buying. Many music stores have practice rooms available for this very reason. Try out several kits, and spend a good 15 to 30 minutes at a time playing each one.

Don’t plan to buy on your first day out, either. Try several different sets on a Saturday afternoon. Then, spend the next week reliving your jam sessions in your mind, determining what you liked and didn’t like about each one. Then go back for at least one more afternoon “jam session” before you make a final decision.

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The History of the Electronic Drum Set – Vintage Electronic Drum Set

Philip Electronic Drums 1 Comment

How they workWhen an electronic drum pad is struck, a change is triggered in the embedded transducer (piezo). The resulting signals are transmitted to o the drum module and are translated into digital waveforms, which produce the desired percussion sound assigned to a particular pad. As a drummer that’s all you need to know really. However over the past few years technology has turned electronic drums into serious instruments that impress even the most discerning of drummers.

The Early DaysEarly electronic drums gave only an approximation of the sound of acoustic drums, as there were often technical issues with triggering, as well as musical issues such as poor dynamics and tonal subtlety. Consequently, the early electronic drum sets such as Simmons and Syn drums, were often used for effects largely in disco genres in which the drums were usually expected to play rigid patterns and were little more than early drum machines. Simmons however, addressed these problems and produced usable kits that became popular with many of the days top drummers and still has a sizable fan base today.


Today’s State of the ArtThere are inexpensive low-end drums and modules currently in production whose quality is just marginally better than their pioneering counterparts. For the most part, these are targeted towards children and hobbyists

Most of today’s kits have modules with trigger inputs for the following:

  • Kick Drum
  • Snare drum + rim
  • Hi hat controller
  • Toms
  • Cymbals(bow+bell ) 0r (bow+bell+ edge)
  • Hi-hat cymbal

The ability to assign different sounds to any given pad makes for enormous flexibility giving the electronic drummer unlimited potential for configuring different kits. Today most acoustic kits can be replicated and are practically indistinguishable from the “real McCoy” Additionally, electronic drummers can sample other drums or non-percussive sounds and use them creatively, no more is the drummer to be regarded as just the tub thumper at the back. Many see this as a great advantage over acoustic drums, as one can have a jazz, funk, rock, reggae, orchestral drum set by merely changing the kit selector switch on the module. Kits by Roland, Ddrum and Yamaha have addressed many of the downfalls of early electronic drums. While each of these manufacturers have entry-level units, the professional kits are geared toward creating a sound and playing experience which is nearly indistinguishable from a quality acoustic kit. Mesh heads are replacing the irritating rubber pads on most top kits and metal cymbals are also available from companies like Smartrigger. Examples include the Yamaha DTXtreme IIS, the DDrum4SE and Roland’s TD-12 and TD-20 Vdrums. Typically, these high-end kits are equipped with:high quality digital samples offering 24 bit samples of actual percussion sounds with hundreds of samples from which to choose.Positional sensing and dynamic impact detection – detects which area of the drum head is hit providing a sample representing the strike on an acoustic head. Additionally, the volume and tone of the strike is dependent on where and how hard you hit it.

Multiple triggers– Snares and Toms have impact zones for both the head and the rim, allowing for rim and cross stick Cymbals also have multiple zones for edge, bow and bell strikes.

Realistic Hi-Hats The latest hi-hat controllers produce open and closed sounds with some models offering variations in-between giving the drummer very realistic playing options. An electronic module within the foot controller detects the movement and provides variations of open, partially open, and closed samples as played with different sounds also assigned to a foot close, and a quick close-open.

Multiple audio outputs– For each percussion group (ie. Toms, Cymbals, etc) allowing independent mixing (like the multiple miking of an acoustic kit). Additionally, these groups have independent faders.

Expansion slots/Midi for upgrading samples and software. Midi for linking up to your computer sequencer or to drive one of the brilliant drum software packages such as BFD or Toontracks

All this comes at a price. To get the same tonal quality as a good acoustic kit you are likely to pay double the acoustic kits cost but hey look at the fun and possibilities you can have not to mention the fact that you won’t have a fall out with your neighbors either.

Allan is a drummer and author of more than 30 years experience and runs the website below dedicated to electronic drums. http://www.electrodrum.com

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Roland TD9SX V-Tour Electronic Drum Kit Review

Philip Electronic Drums, Review, Roland, TD-9K2 Leave a Comment

When this electronic drum set was introduced at the NAMM show in 2008, it was one of the top of the line electronic drum sets on the market. It can still holds its own against most electronic drum sets, but since this was created, there are many other kits on the market that blow this one out of the water.

Features Of The Roland TD9SX V-Tour Electronic Drum Set

  • Comes with it’s own drum module with many realistic drum sounds so no further software is required.
  • Compatible with drum programs such as Superior Drummer 2.0, EZDrummer, and BFD2.
  • Compatible with Rock Band. Makes playing the drums on this video game much more realistic.
  • A very realistic sound can be achieved by talented drummers who know how to use the above mentioned drum programs. Listeners will not be able to tell that the recordings are not of a real drum set.
  • Avoids the many technical difficulties of recording a real acoustic drum set such as bad room acoustics and trying to set of the mics properly.
  • Works as a touring drum set.
  • Using this kit in conjunction with a computer gives a drummer unlimited possibilities as far as drum sounds including techno style beats.
  • Three way triggering for the ride cymbal. This means that if you play the ride cymbal on different parts of the drum, the sound responds in a realistic fashion.
  • Rim triggering included. This means you can play the rim of a drum and it will be sensed properly.

Roland_TD9SX_VTour_Electronic_Drum_Set

Check out this video demo of the Roland TD9SX V-Tour electronic kit that he did at the NAMM show in 2008 when this was released.

Suited For Those Serious About Recording Drums

This kit costs more than $2000, so it is really not suited for “entry level” drummers (unless of course you have plenty of cash to burn.)┬áIt’s meant for those who are serious about recording professional quality drums and/or are touring in a professional manner and what a kit that they can really depend on.

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