Spicing up Your Drum Set with Electronic Elements
By Team HC |
by Mike O'C
There is nothing quite like the feeling and presence of a full acoustic drum set. The timbre of the sounds and sonic variety of cymbals are very difficult to reproduce using electronic means. They have been the staple of bands for decades. However, many modern music genres now often require a wider variety of sounds. This is where hybrid drums or acoustic-electronic sets come in.
Hybrids drum contain a combination of both acoustic and electronic components. Drummers simply upgrade their current set by adding elements such as triggers, sample pads, and drum pads. These can all be connected to an external drum brain or trigger module, which produces the sounds.
Tackling the Drawbacks of Electronic Drums
Electronic drum sets have been around for decades. They have some great advantages, but they’re still looked down upon by many drummers. This is for some very valid reasons.
The convenience, quietness, and range of sounds that can be utilized on electronic drum kits can be extremely interesting. However, they often do not match up to the presence and range of complex sounds that can be gathered from a real-life drum set.
Many modern genres as characterized by electronic drum samples. Therefore, some may decide to replace their drummers entirely and opt for an electronic drum machine or backing track.
However, you can retain the dynamic aspect of live drums while also blending electronic sounds into the mix.
Blending Electronic and Acoustic Sounds
There are now some very interesting ways to blend both acoustic and electronic drum sets together. For example:
Drum triggers: You can attach electronic drum triggers to regular drum heads. These will pick up a signal every time the drum is hit. Hooking up the trigger to an external drum module can electrify your drum set while keeping all the benefits of your regular drum set intact.
Dual triggers recognize the rims of your drums as a separate trigger surface. This is great for additional samples and effects sounds.
The triggered sounds can be blended to the tone and pitch of your drum head, using a good drum trigger module. This can really beef up your sound for live performances.
Sample pads and percussion pads: One of the easiest ways to mix acoustic and electronic drum sets is through the use of electronic drum pads. You can place these beside your drum set and use it for interesting electronic effects like claps, loops, and synthesizer sounds.
Electronic drum pads are definitely not all created equal. Some allow for custom sampling, whereas others rely solely on built-in sounds. It is a matter of preference based on how much you want to customize your sounds.
Sample pads are generally all-in-one options. They produce the sounds internally and contain audio outputs that can be connected to an amplifier or sound system. Therefore, these are great options for simple and compact kits.
Kick pads: Another really interesting idea is to have a separate kick pedal that triggers electronic sounds. This can be useful for pop and electronic music during breakdowns.
You can connect the pad to either a sample pad or an external drum brain or trigger module.
Trigger bars: These are rubber pads that can attach to the rim of a drum. It adds an extra playable surface to your kit while staying compact and discreet in your setup.
MIDI controllers: MIDI is a standard interface that allows you to connect music gear to each other. There are a wide variety of drum controllers, such as the Korg Nanopad or Akai MPD 218, which can allow you to trigger samples and other effects from other gear or music software. This would be more suitable for drummers that have an interest in music production.
External automation: Some drummers are starting to hook up music production effects into their playing also. For example, drummers can automate the sound and effects of a drum pad based on the part of the song. This might sound like a lot of work, but many modern music groups use digital audio workstation software while performing. Therefore they just extend their current setup to tie in with the electronic elements of their drum set.
What are the benefits of adding electronic sounds to a drum set?
Much bigger sound for live situations: Blending drum samples along with your acoustic set can really beef up your live sound. This is particularly useful for kick drums, which can often lack power and low-end for small gigs. Some drummers opt to not set up microphones altogether for their kick, as the natural volume of their drum supplemented with the drum sample can be enough. This can help to reduce your setup time.
Add new sounds to your repertoire: Electronic samples can offer an almost unlimited potential of sound variety. This enables drummers to adapt to different musical situations with ease, while also keeping their set-up familiar and simple.
Encourages personalized setups: Hybrid drums are rarely sold as an all-in-one package. The electronic components are often bought separately, or scavenged from your electronic drum set. This really helps to get the drummer to question their setup choices.
The future of electronic drum sets
The production of electronic drums is swinging in two directions. Budget electronic drum sets will continue to get more accessible to the public in both price and size. However, top-end sets are pushing the boundaries to something much closer to acoustic drum sets.
The top electronic drum manufacturers are really innovating in drum heads, trigger surfaces, and drum modules. The most difficult element to tackle will always by simulating of the complexity of real-life cymbals, but the current results are already quite decent.
Electronic drum sets have drawbacks. However, they are still a great option where a full drum set is not a viable option, such as in small houses or intimate gig situations.
Technology is constantly advancing in the modern world. It’s not surprising that this is also influencing innovation in music gear and instruments.
However, if used correctly, music technology can be used to augment instruments with new sounds and abilities, while still preserving what’s great about the original instruments.
Drummers can sometimes struggle to reproduce studio-quality productions on stage. They can tap into these sounds without changing their setup significantly using electronic drumming elements. -HC-
Mike O’C is the creator of Electronic Drum Advisor, a website dedicated to the world of electronic drums. He writes informative how-to guides, lessons and gear reviews related to drumming. Mike has been playing drums for 16 years and also has a passion for music production.