As a long time drummer, I’ve had a deep love for drums since I was a child. When I began playing, there was no such thing as an electronic drum, and the VCR hadn’t even been invented yet. I began gigging in the early 70’s; mostly playing what was on the radio, what would later become “Classic Rock”. As my skills developed, I started playing jazz, blues, some symphonic work, playing gigs in almost every style. As we got into the late 70’s and early 80’s, electronic drums appeared on the scene. The early instruments were very limited in the sounds that were available, and the pads were hard as a table top. A lot of drummers like me had no interest in electronic drums due to their limited sounds and uncomfortable feel.
Fast forward to the early 90’s, where I began working in musical instrument retail. Electronic drums had improved quite a bit, and the demand was growing. More out of financial interest that anything else I began to take a closer look at electronics. I figured that if drummers were going to buy them, it may as well be from me. This began my turnaround in my attitude toward electronic drums.
Now we are well into the 21st Century, and electronic drums have never been this good and they keep getting better. With the advances in sampling technology, new pad materials, and more user friendly modules, electronic drums have become in some cases, a more sensible choice than an acoustic drum set. In this article I will discuss several reasons why you should consider an electronic drum set as either an addition to, or an alternative to an acoustic drum set.
Probably the most common reason people choose an electronic drum set for their home is the sound level. Acoustic drums, especially in the hands of an inexperienced student are loud. You can play an electronic kit and listen to it through headphones, allowing other members of the family to enjoy a good book, watch TV, or carry on a conversation without yelling at each other. Today’s electronic drum sets have pads that are made of materials that are not only quiet, but are also very comfortable to play, and in the case of the Yamaha DTX-PADs, feeling much like an acoustic drum. There was a time when learning on an electronic kit would create a false sense of accomplishment because the tracking was such that imperfections in your playing would be hidden. The created a lot of frustration when you moved to an acoustic drum set. The sensitivity and tracking are so good on DTX drums that if you start learning on a DTX and later move to an acoustic kit, the transition will be very smooth and natural for you.
As a learning aid, an electronic drum set has many tools built in that help students of all levels develop the skills necessary to be a good drummer. The drummer’s most important job is to keep the tempo steady and under control. All Yamaha DTX modules have a great selection of learning tools that are easy and fun to use. The programmable metronome gives you a steady pulse to practice to, whether you are playing snare drum exercises to develop your technique, or playing along with the internal songs. The groove check and rhythm gate help you to develop your natural internal clock, so that you can play in time with a relaxed and natural feel. The internal songs allow you to learn different musical styles so that you can become a well-rounded player and develop a style of your own. There are also a variety of coaching tools that challenge you and score your progress. You can also take the module from your DTX kit, and by attaching triggers to your acoustic drums, use all of the training functions while playing on your acoustic drums when volume is not an issue.
We’re starting to see more drummers use full electronic kits on stage in live performance. As a musical instrument, an electronic kit gives you access to drum and special effect sounds that you can’t get from an acoustic drum set, from natural percussion sounds to the “produced” drum sounds on many of today’s hit records. In fact, if there are sounds on a record that are an important part of a song, you can load those samples into the DTX 502 and DTX900 modules. The ability to stack or velocity layer sounds adds a whole new dimension to your live performance, and being able to trigger loops, vocals, and special effects makes you a much more involved part of the show. Having access to a wide variety of melodic instruments that you can trigger from the pads is another aspect of electronic drums that gives you an outlet for your creativity.
If a full electronic kit doesn’t fit your performance needs, a hybrid kit with a blend of acoustic and electronic drums may be your solution. You retain the look and feel of playing your acoustic drums, but add the versatility of being able to trigger other sounds either with pads mixed in with your drums, or by attaching triggers right to your acoustic drums. This gives your acoustic kit more flexibility, and adds a visual aspect to the performance as well by triggering sounds the audience isn’t expecting to hear from your drums.
If home studio recording is your passion, electronic drums are ideal. You don’t need to create a special acoustically treated room, master the art (or expense) of micing drums, and the mystery of drum tuning for the studio is a thing of the past. By hooking your electronic drums to your home computer, and using one of the many recording software programs available you can make your own studio quality recordings in the corner of your den. With and endless number of sounds available via sampling, you can record simple songs or fully orchestrated movie sound tracks.
We can’t forget that the most important thing about playing drums is that it’s fun! Playing drums can be exhilarating, relieve stress, and give you an outlet for your creativity. A DTX kit has so many great sounding kits, with the ability to create custom user kits that it keeps it fun and interesting. Playing along with the internal songs, or loading in MIDI songs gives you an endless library of music to play along to. You also have the option of plugging in your MP3 player or phone and playing along with your personal collection of music. Play through headphones for late night enjoyment, or crank it up through a live sound system and feel the rumble while playing along to all your favorites, or write your own music to play.
Jim Haler, Yamaha Drums Product Manager