8 Best Electronic Drum Sets | December 2016
- built-in mp3 recorder
- intuitive interface
- cables often need replacing
|Rating||3.8 / 5.0|
- dual zone snare pad
- 215 programmed voices
- low-quality foot pedal
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
- 30 preset kit sounds
- lightweight design
- initial setup is confusing
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
- digital recording and playback
- quick and easy set-up
- plastic parts reduce mobility
|Rating||4.3 / 5.0|
- dynamic articulation technology
- sleek chrome-plated finish
- kick pedal not included
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
- nuanced hi-hat controller
- user-friendly trigger module
- large 10-inch cymbals
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
- studio quality sound
- natural-feeling kick pad
- complimentary cable set
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
- 3-zone ride and crash
- high-performance drum triggers
- works with a double bass pedal
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
Fingers On The Trigger
Electronic drums operate on the principal of what are commonly called triggers. There's no violence implied here. It's more like hitting a big red button than firing a gun.
When you hit a drum trigger, or pad, the intensity of the hit–and sometimes even its exact position on the pad–is relayed to a module of available sounds and translated through any number of presets you select.
The thing about most electronic drums is that you can assign that trigger to make any sound under the sun so long as it's programmed into your module.
Most people will give the pad in the snare position a snare sound, the tom positions tom sounds, the ride cymbal a ride cymbal sound, etc., until they essentially have a recreation of a standard drum kit in front of them.
That's fine and all, but you can really customize these sounds to anything and everything. If you want your snare to sound like a kick drum and your kick drum to sound like a space ship launching or a geisha fanning herself, there's nothing but your budget to stop you.
Zen And The Art Of Electronic Drumming
Most drummers will tell you, especially if they're rock or jazz drummers, that there is no substitute for a real acoustic kit. It's not just the sound they're talking about, either.
They're liable to go off on a long pseudo-spiritual rant about the life force in a "real" drum set.
There's a great Robert Pirsig quote about this mentality in his spiritual road epic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which he's undoubtedly paraphrasing a Zen parable he heard along the way.
He says, "The only zen you find on tops of mountains is the zen you bring up there."
What it means for us is that there's nothing inherently more spiritual about an acoustic drum than a electronic drum, it's just that we find it easier to connect them to things we view as living, namely trees. But steel and plastics are just as spiritually and practically alive as any redwood. It's what you bring to the experience that matters.
With the spiritual stuff out of the way, we can admit that there are significant sonic differences between acoustic and electric drums.
In the case of acoustics, the sound of the drum is largely determined by its environment: the size of the room, the moisture in the air, etc. But you are in complete control of the sonic output of your electronic drums.
You can fine tune an electric kit to sound like an old GMS kit in a 1000 sq. ft. barn on the driest day of the summer if you want to spend enough on the tech side of it.
In that sense, electronic drum sets are all about customization. The more custom you want the sound and feel, the nicer a kit you're going to want.
If it's really just a matter of getting your hands on something that'll let you rock out without disturbing the peace, you'll be happy with something less expensive.
Rhythm From A Box
In the early 1960s musicians and artists began to experiment increasingly with devices called rhythm boxes. They were essentially early drum machines made by companies like Maestro and Ace Tone.
One such drummer, a man named Felix Visser, modified an Ace Tone drum machine to respond whenever he touched any one of a dozen circuits he wired into a board.
There was no pressure sensitivity, and the sound quality was immensely mechanical, but it was the dawn of electronic drumming as we know it.
It wasn't until 1971, however, that a drum trigger pad, designed to be hit with a drum stick, came into being. A Sussex University professor named Brian Groves combined his technical knowledge with the ambition and imagination of the drummer from The Moody Blues, Graeme Edge.
Since then, the pads have become more sensitive and more elaborate, the sounds have been more fine tuned to sound like human productions and not the effort of machines, and the feel of the drums themselves has gotten closer and closer to the feel of actual acoustic drum sets.