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A Beginner's Guide to Electronic Drum Kits

Electronic drum sets have advanced hugely in the last few years, with many listeners not being able to recognize them from an acoustic kit. Some players even prefer the feel of an electronic kit over an acoustic kit. Whatever your budget, you will be able to find an electronic drum kit that can excite and interest you, be it with its design, feel or sound.

Advantages of an electronic drum kit

The modern electronic drum kit has several advantages over the conventional acoustic kit:

Electronic drums and cymbals can produce as much or as little noise as you would like them to. With the addition of headphones, no one will be able to hear you practice. This makes these kits people that live in close proximity to others, or for professionals looking to have the accurate monitoring headphones can provide.

  • The full sets take up less space than a conventional kit and can be packed down if necessary. This is perfect for people concerned about space at home, or the gigging musician.

  • The majority of electronic drum kits have built in play along songs and metronomes, meaning you have a head start when it comes to practicing.

  • You have control over what your drum kit sounds like, making it easy to play in a variety of styles with just one kit. Some electronic sets even let you edit the sounds or upload your own!

  • Some electronic sets have very realistic acoustic drum sounds. This does depend on your budget however, as more expensive kits tend to have more realistic sounds.

Components of an electronic drum set

Electronic drum sets have two main components: the actual kit itself, including the pads and the rack, and then a drum module - this unit produces sounds in response to the triggers sent when the pads are struck.

Drum Module

The module is the main control hub of the drum set. The only limitations on sounds the kit can produce are the drum module, or "brain". By using MIDI connections it is possible to expand the range of sounds an electronic drum kit can play by connecting it to an external sound module or keyboard. The module also lets you output sound directly to a mixing desk for recording, or through effects such as reverb, without having to use a single microphone.


One of the key differences between electronic drum sets is the kind of pads that the kit has. The modern kit has a much improved feel and response than on the earlier sets, using either rubberised pads or mesh heads.

Rubber Pads

  • These pads are the more economical choice of the two, with kits starting from £175.00 for the Ion IED01 from

  • If space is an issue rubber pads are the better option, with sizes starting from just 7".

  • Pads are generally considered more consistent across a kit than heads. Some people find that this regularity suits their playing style, something that beginners may want to bear in mind.

  • Modern pads have a much more natural bounce than previous models, and hence more of a realistic feel. Yamaha and Roland kits are particularly noted for this.

  • Pads will be either single trigger or dual trigger. Single trigger pads produce one sound, whereas dual heads produce two sounds. Most commonly there is one sound in the centre of the pad, and one on the rim. This is useful for achieving similar nuances to playing an acoustic kit.

Mesh Heads:

  • Mesh Heads are the most realistic option for those wanting to emulate a real drum setup. Their feel, "give" and rebound is closer to the real experience than a pad.

  • When used with an appropriate module, mesh heads offer a wide range of sounds based on the location you strike. Getting a rim shot will not be a problem on a mesh head kit, such as the Roland TD-9K. Even realistic brush sweeps will work on some kits.

  • It is possible to adjust the tension of the head to give a response that suits your playing style.

Other things to consider when buying an electronic kit

Before buying your kit check whether it includes the essentials of any drum set: drum sticks, a drummer's stool and a kick pedal to use on the foot trigger.

To be able to play your electronic kit straight out of the box, you will need either an amplifier or a set of headphones. At Gear4music we offer a drum monitor, the DR-30, at just £95.00. Alternatively we stock a wide range of headphones starting from £9.95.

Electronic Drum Kits currently on the market


The Digital Drums 502-J Electronic Kit by Gear4Music is a 5 piece kit, containing 215 sounds sampled from a range of real drums. It includes 20 preset kits, as well as 10 editable kits. The 502-J features built in backing tracks, as well as a line in, meaning players can learn by jamming along. The kit also includes both Kick and Hi-Hat control pedals.

The 502-J is available as both an individual kit, and a complete starter package.


The DM5 is a fully self-contained 4-piece electronic drum set that ships with the DM5 sound module, five responsive playing pads, two natural motion cymbal pads, a kick pedal, tubular support rack, and all essential interconnection cables.

The DM5 Pro takes the DM5 a step further - it is a 5-piece electronic drum set snare, kick, 3 toms, with ride, crash and hi-hat cymbal pads. In addition, the DM5 Pro Kit includes a heavy duty hi-hat foot pedal along with an updated, rack-mounted, programmable DM5 sound module with a stunning 540 percussion sounds and 21 pre-programmed drum/percussion sets.


The DTXPlorer Electronic Drum Kit is Yamaha's lowest priced professional kit. It features 214 drum voices, 32 preset kits. The rubber pads have been designed to give a natural feel and rebound. With 22 built in songs and an external input jamming is made easy. The foldaway design means storage is not a problem.

The DTXpress IV takes electronic drumming a step further, with highly responsive pads and newly-sampled kits from some of Yamaha's classic acoustic models such as the Oak Custom and Recording Custom. The set includes 3-zone snare and hi-hat pads and 3-zone round cymbal pads. You get full-size cymbals, plus new learning tools in the 427 drum and percussion sound-housing brain. The new V2 cymbal pads have changed to PCY135 3-zone pads.

The most advanced Yamaha drum kit, the DTXtreme III, features a full WAV/AIFF sampling capacity, as well as USB MIDI support. Audio routing can get advanced thanks to 6 individual outputs, as well as a digital quality S-PDIF output. The 4-leg HexRack system guarantees that this kit will be as stable as possible.


The HD-1 is a low priced introduction to Roland?s V-Drums. Components are mounted on a single stand for easy setup and use. Like many higher level kits, there is an external input to allowing jamming to songs. There is a choice of 10 drum kits, which can be played across the 3 dual zone cymbal pads, one mesh head, 3 rubber pads and two pedals.

The Roland TD-4K V-Drum is the newest addition to the V-Drum line. New features include a centre mounted TD-4 sound module with new sounds and more accurate sensing. The pads have improved touch, with velocity sensitive toms and cymbals with choke capability. The newly designed drum stand is compact, light and stable.

The Roland TD-9KX V-Drum is the high end electronic kit in the Roland range. The new TD-9 sound module is loaded with fresh sounds, and offers a deeper level of expression. Comfortable mesh-head tom and snare pads with rim triggering allow for a realistic playing feel, especially with the addition of a 3-way triggering for the ride cymbal. USB functionality means .wav files can be used in playback.

Posted on 27 Apr 2009 13:24 to category : Tips and advice

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