Electronic drum sets used to be relatively niche and were often not that great as actual instruments.
Things have changed.
The last few years have seen professional electronic drum sets take several steps up in quality, and budget sets for learners and amateurs have followed the upward trend.
Elements like mesh heads becoming standard and the arrival of better drum modules has driven the development of new levels of sound and playability – though you still have to tread carefully to find the best sets.
We’ve taken a look at the best sets out there, and if you’re going to get the best there is, we’d recommend the Roland TD27-KV as the cream of the crop.
Why the TD27-KV? You can never go wrong with the build quality on a Roland, and the TD27-KV has a cymbal pad that gives you unsurpassed snare and ride. Added to that, the module on the TD27-KV will make you smile on a cloudy day.
If you’re looking for a great electronic drum set, but you don’t have Roland money to burn, we’d say try the Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit.
It’s the best electronic drum set we’ve found for a more affordable price. As the name suggests, you get mesh heads all the way with the Alesis, and a module that leaves you feeling safe.
Take a look through our brief guide to the best electronic drum sets available for both newcomers and seasoned drummers, and see which most appeals to you.
2021’s Best Electronic Drum Sets
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That doesn’t affect our recommendations though – we love what we love, and we’re confident you will too, so our recommendations are genuine.
OUR TOP PICK
Roland build quality, a crisp, responsive module, and snare and ride to spare.
The Roland TD-27KV beats all-comers in our list for several reasons.
Let’s talk build quality. Roland is famous as a drum-maker to some of the most prestigious musical acts in the world. The TD-27KV has a sturdiness that carries the legend forward and feels built to take everything you can give it and more.
Another thing that sets the TD-27KV apart is the quality of its snare and ride pads.
This is often where you can tell the quality of the set, and it’s an area where the TD-27KV shines, giving you a snare pad with a crisp sound and a ride cymbal pad that rings out and gives you the shiver up the spine associated with the original.
When you hit rim shots, ghost notes, and even do some side-sticking, the modeling of the sound is extraordinarily true to tympanic reality, rather than the slightly ‘off’ version you may associate with older or less well-built sets.
We’d go so far as to call the Roland’s sound modeling on these two pads the best on the market right now, which is a big reason why the TD-27KV stands head and shoulders above the crowd.
The hi-hat pads are built so that they can be used with an ordinary hi-hat stand, mimicking the action of acoustic hi-hats. That said, no hi-hat stand comes with the set, so you need to buy them separately.
The thing about this set is that it packs a lot of substance, but is a little lacking in style. On stage, it can look gawky and minimalist, and be initially overlooked. But just play it and you’ll get people’s attention – and you’ll have a terrific time into the bargain.
Being a Roland set, the module is extendable, so you can build your own super kit by adding additional drum pads and cymbal pads.
If you don’t have the freedom to practice on acoustic drums because of noise constraints, the TD-27KV is probably the best friend you could wish for.
- The modeling on the snare and ride pads is the best currently available
- The drum module overall is excellent, giving a realistic sound
- The build quality is exceptional
- Using the set as a MIDI controller for VST plugins works well
- The set struggles for much stage presence
- You need to buy a separate hi-hat stand and snare pad stand to complete the set
The Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit is not the entry-level electronic drum kit you expect it to be. It’s so much better than that.
Naturally, when a set is entry-level, you revise your expectations down, but the Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit encourages you to revise them right back up again. The drum module here is very playable.
Give it its head and the module will surprise and please you with its modeling and responsiveness.
Added to that, you probably revised your expectations away from all-mesh, despite the name of the set. Back you come – all-mesh, all day, right here with the Alesis Nitro. It’s also very feature-rich for a set at its price-point, which appeals to everyone.
If you’re looking for the best entry-level electronic drum set, the Alesis Nitro, with itsall-mesh heads on the snare and tom pads, is probably the set you’re looking for.
The Alesis Nitro is set up like an acoustic drum kit, so drummers can train and practice on it as if on an acoustic and get directly transferable skills.
While many entry-level kits use bass pedals without a beater, that doesn’t deliver the realistic sensation of playing the bass drum. Using a real kick pedal and pad on the Alesis Nitro, drummers develop the habit of playing an acoustic bass drum.
The Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit is the product of a continuing evolution at Alesis, which began with its DM-6 kit and became the Alesis Nitro Kit. This Alesis evolution stood out as being a cut above most e-drums at the time.
The Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit continues this evolution by the use of all-mesh pads on its snare and tom pads, and the addition of a real kick pedal, moving the playing experience closer to the acoustic version.
The module helps underscore that move towards the acoustic experience too, and is surprisingly advanced for a set in this price range.
The Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit has 40 different kits and 385 different drum sounds programmed into it, and a ‘learning mode,’ which helps drummers develop their skills.
The module also features tracks so you can play along, a metronome, recording and sequencing functions, and MIDI over USB. It’s more or less a self-contained drum school.
So – the perfect electronic drum set, then? Not quite. Higher priced sets will give you better responsiveness, as you’d expect.
But for bringing everything you get with the Alessi Nitro Mesh Kit down to the price point at which it sells, it gets our vote for top budget set.
- All-mesh pads on the snare and tom pads, giving you better performance than you’d expect at this price point
- The module brings decent modeling to play
- A highly affordable set, this is a great option for beginners
- It uses a convenient MIDI-over-USB connection
- The Alesis Nitro uses a real kick pad for a more authentic playing experience
- The mesh heads are on the small side
- The module lacks some depth of sound
The best mid-level kit we’ve found – the module delivers great sound and value. A comprehensive set that’s still great value for money.
The Alesis Strike Pro Special Edition offers a lot of features at a competitive price point, with a drum module that’s in the major leagues. That’s all the more amazing when you remember the difficulties the standard edition faced when it launched.
The Alesis Strike Pro Special Edition is a set that takes the fight to some of the industry’s more expensive models. It’s richly featured but sells for a much lower price than those flagship sets.
Striking a blow for the electronic option, it brings real wooden drums to the electronic age, giving it the look – and with the 20-inch kick drum, also the feel – of an acoustic set.
But it blends that traditional feel with 136 kits, 45,000 samples, a range of impressive effects, faders, mixers, and custom sampling. Trad meets techno in the Alesis Strike Pro Special Edition. Everybody wins.
The addition of all-mesh pads takes it the next step forward towards authenticity.
While the initial Alesis Strike Pro e-drum had a bunch of build quality issues, the Special Edition has done away with almost all of them, while taking the evolution of Alesis electronic drum sets on another generation.
We’d put the sounds you can get out of the Alesis Strike Pro drum module up with the likes of Roland or Yamaha.
The Alesis Strike Pro Special Edition is a large, well-featured electronic drum set at a bargain price that will appeal to a lot of drummers. But obviously, it’s not all sunshine and roses.
There are still a few niggling build quality issues with the Special Edition. When you compare it with manufacturers like Roland and Yamaha, those remaining issues become more noticeable.
And there’s no escaping the fact that neither the snare, the ride, nor the hi-hats on the Special Edition stand up to a set like the Roland TD-27KV.
But there are certainly more pieces to take account of in the Special Edition than there are in the TD-27KV. All told then, any drum-off between the two comes down to a matter of personal preference.
Hmm. A drum-off…
The Alesis Strike Pro SE vs the Roland TD27-KV
If it comes to a straight up and down contest between these two kits, we’re going to come down on the side of the Roland.
It’s the build quality that has made Roland famous around the world, for one thing, and it’s the peerless quality of those snare, ride, and hat sounds for another. They’re almost eerily right when you play them, and ultimately, the sound has to be the deciding factor.
Unless you’re playing a big gig, and need a big stage presence, in which case, the Alesis wins.
Heads or tails? Tea or coffee? The Roland or the Alesis – ultimately, the choice comes down to the individual drummer and what they’re most likely to need their electronic drums for
- A superbly-featured drum module that supports custom sampling
- A huge number of stored sounds (136 kits and 45,000 samples)
- Impressive mesh heads give you a responsive reaction
- The set has impressive stature for performances
- It’s sold at a good price point for such a highly featured set
- When compared to some Roland sets, the triggering of snares, hats, and rides is weak
This entry-level kit from Roland has the accessibility you need, without feeling limited.
If you want a quick tour around the best of the best, these four sets will get you there. Their combinations of build quality, sound, additional features, and value-for-money put them at the top of our pyramid of electronic drums.
While the Roland TD-1DMK is the best entry-level kit, it’s worth noting that the price-point makes it a serious investment, and even then, only if you have the cash to spare.
The Alesis Nitro Mesh kit – also our best budget set – is a worthy runner-up to the Roland for those with more rhythm than cash.
If you already know your way around a drum set, the Alesis Strike Pro Special Edition is a worthy runner-up to the Roland TD-27KV. Stunningly good value for your money, it delivers one of the best modules we’ve heard in the price range.
Remember – the Special Edition was released after customers complained about the build quality of the original Alesis Strike Pro. The Special Edition resolved most of the issues, and now stands as great value for money set.
If you’re going to buy the Alesis Strike Pro, make sure it’s the Special Edition you get, or you could face unnecessary heartbreak.
One of the best things about electronic drum sets is that you can connect the audio output to either a drum amplifier, from which the sound will go out into the world, or to a set of headphones, which can be heard by anyone wearing them, but not by anyone in the outside world.
That mitigates one of any drum set’s most notable issues – they can be an anti-social instrument to practice on.
So which set is the quietest during practice? Is there a particular style of drum head that’s best at any given level of expertise? Which – if any – can be objectively thought of as the best brand of electronic drum sets?
We’ll tell you all that – and we’ll do it in plain English.
The Roland TD-1DMK is an entry-level set you could use for your practice sessions long after you’ve stopped using other entry-level sets. It’s a compact set with all-mesh heads, and above all, it’s a Roland.
What are we looking at with the TD-1DMK?
Let’s start with 4 tuneable Roland mesh pads. That gives you a great basis on which you can learn to play the drums. If you need them – or heck, even if you just want them, you can add some double bass pedals and really start to stretch the kit.
The TD-1DMK is a mark of changing times at Roland. All-mesh pads only used to be available on its mid-level and flagship kits, but now, beginners can get an early feel for what all-mesh pads are like.
If you get a Ferrari, you don’t necessarily let your newly qualified nephew take it for a spin. That’s worth remembering when you consider the drum module in the TD-1DMK.
It’s by no means able to compete with more mid-or-high-end drum-brains. It’s not meant to. It’s meant to be a good introductory module for beginners, and in that capacity, it works very well.
Roland V-Drums technology is one of those treats you allow yourself when you’ve been very good. If you can afford it, it’s worth splashing the cash to add in the V-Drums technology to the TD-1DMK.
Oh, and remember – if you want to get your kick pedal on, it’s going to be sold separately. Want a double bass pedal? Try the Tama Iron Cobra 200 double pedal with this kit and prepare for some next-level drumming fun.
- All-mesh heads feel more like a traditional drum kit
- Roland build quality is evident everywhere in this set
- As a practice set, the TD-1DMK will give you years of service
- The price is steep for an entry-level kit
- The module feels strangely limited
If you want to go above and beyond the entry-level, the Alesis Command Mesh Kit might well have your name on it.
When you put quality mesh heads, an impressive module and a large kick drum together, you have a set-up that will make people take notice.
The Alesis Command Mesh Electronic Drum Set takes you significantly on from entry-level, with a lot of well-considered features offering good value at its price point.
It’s very well designed and put together, with everything fitting into the drum rack, with the exception of the kick pad and the hi-hat pedal.
The result is that all the drums, including the snare, are comfortably placed for your playing pleasure, and the cymbals are where your muscle memory expects them to be.
Like regular acoustic heads, you can tune the drum heads on the Alesis Command Mesh. That gives you a realistic acoustic sensation when playing. The dual-zone snare and tom pads just add to the realism.
The drum module here is rich with features. You can control the type of sound you want, control the sensitivity of your playing, even customize your drum kit. There are 70 pre-set kits in the set, along with a sequencer and a MIDI connector.
Given the price point of this set, it delivers a lot of bang, crash, and even kapow for your buck. If you’re a producer, an engineer or anything up to an intermediate drummer, you’ll be able to get lots out of the Alesis Command Mesh.
- High quality mesh heads give a great drumming sensation
- The module is impressive, taking you on from entry-level into a more complex drumming environment
- Solid hardware, speaking of quality construction
- Considering everything that comes in the set, this is very affordable
- The large kick drum pad is great for use with double bass drum pedals
- While most other things fit in, the hi-hat has a standalone pedal
The entry-level Yamaha set.
Yamaha hadn’t released a new entry-level electronic drum set for quite some time when in 2020, it launched the DTX-6 series. The most budget-friendly entry in that series is the DTX6K-X.
What do you get for your money? A good quality set, including a standard kit configuration and a snare pad covered in TCS – the best, or only, viable alternative to mesh heads currently on the market.
What are TCS heads?
You’re looking at a Textured Cellular Silicone out of which Yamaha designs drum pad heads.
Why go with TCS? If you’re aiming for the feel of an acoustic drum without the bounce of mesh heads, TCS is the way to go. You’ll also get a quieter sound response from TSC than mesh.
That said, the Yamaha DTX6K-X only has a TCS head on the snare pad, with the rest covered in rubber.
That’s a little mystifying, and you’d probably be better off buying a kit with all-mesh pads than one with mostly rubber and one TCS. Still, if you want a set with a really kicking snare pad, Yamaha has your number.
The module on the DTX-6 series has some neat features, like allowing you to control effects. 3-zone snare and ride cymbal pads feel like you’re getting a good deal for your money, though again, there’s a lack of consistency, because the tom pads are only single-zoned.
The DTX6K-X comes with the KP65 kick drum pedal – a reliable pedal, compatible with most double bass drum pedals, but nothing that’s new to this entry-level set.
- The TCS head on the snare drum is a huge plus
- The module is enjoyable, with good, rich sounds
- The build quality is from Yamaha
- The tom pads are rubber in this set, which makes it expensive for what you get
- The bass drum pad is quite small
- There’s a disjointed feel to the mounted hi-hat and the standalone pedal
Roland delivers quality at mid-level.
There’s a sense in the TD-17KV that Roland decided to deliver everything with above-average quality, without losing its head.
All-mesh heads, a large snare pad, and a feature-rich module, including the ability to import samples, all make you nod your head, especially given it’s a combination which would have cost twice as much just a handful of heartbeats ago.
Again, Roland’s V-Drums technology takes this set to another level, making it feel like playing acoustics.
The TD-17KV’s snare pad is on point, detecting all the nuances you care to give your playing, and with quality mesh on the tom pads, it feels like a set made of sweet spots.
The module’s had a major upgrade and now has a range of connectivity options, including Bluetooth audio streaming. If you want to expand the module, it lets you do that, too.
The kick drum pad was designed with two beaters in mind, so you can get your double-bass groove on with the TD-17KV.
If you have more money to spend, you could do worse than upgrade to the TD-17KVX, because the hi-hat pads there can be used with an acoustic hi-hat stand, and you get a better class of cymbal, which takes you up to performance level for intermediate drummers.
But if you can only afford the TD-17KV, you’re not going to lose any sleep over the cymbal-refinements of higher-end options.
- Who doesn’t love a large snare pad?
- The module has clarity, and a feeling of delivering above its price point
- You can import samples easily in this module
- All-mesh heads deliver consistency of sensation
- The mounted hi-hat with a standalone pedal feels disconnected
Best quiet set available. Rather than the single-TCS option, this set has four TCS pads for a very quiet, minimal-bounce drumming experience.
This set gives you as quiet an electronic drum set as you could currently find, with four TCS pads (one 3-zone snare pad and three 1-zone tom pads).
It also comes with three 3-zone cymbal pads – two crash cymbals, one ride. And it uses a standalone hi-hat pedal. The bass drum pad gives you a 7.5-inch rubber head – a good and comfortable option here.
Essentially, this is the DTX6K-X set, but with much more TCS and a standalone hi-hat. That gives you a much better playing experience, and the TCS delivers a much quieter, less bouncy feel.
If you want to damp the noise even more, put some cushioning under your kick drum tower to stop its vibration. This is a very solid set, with the added bonus of more TCS than any other set so far, for the quietest performance and the truest drum-feel.
- Four TCS pads give you consistency, quietness and minimal bounce
- Comes with a 7.5-inch kick pad
- The module here is very good
- The pads feel small for a set at this price point
God-Tier electronic drum set
All the rest can go home now. The king of electronic drum sets has arrived. Trigger technology beyond the dreams of percussionists, large pads, and a superb drum module make Roland’s flagship V-drum kit the high point of the industry’s offerings to date.
If you’re looking for the closest thing to an acoustic drum kit, but packed with the benefits of electronic drum sets, you can stop searching now. Whether for practice or performance, the TD-50KVX has you covered.
The TD-50KVX drum module is top-drawer, giving you access to multi-track recording and letting you use your own custom samples. If you’re a pro drummer, this has your dreams in its heart.
The toms and some of the cymbals have had a size upgrade on the TD-50KV, compared to the standard TD-50K. The KV version also has a sturdier rack.
So is there nothing left to aspire to? Of course there is - the TD-50KV-RM has a full-size 22-inch kick drum, for equally full-size authenticity of feel.
Sure, this is a pricy electronic drum set. It’s right up there at the God-tier, so you knew it was going to come with a price tag to match. If you can afford it though, you have to go for it.
- The sound modeling and dynamics are cross-your-eyes beautiful
- The stage presence here will awe everyone
- SD card-based custom sampling gives you a world of options
- Industry-leading build quality means the set is a keeper
- The price may make you want to curl up into a ball
The best-looking set on the block.
Roland’s V-Drums Acoustic Design range has the stage presence of an acoustic set, while still delivering all the flexibility of the electronic.
How does a set of full-size wooden shells, with 1 snare, 3 toms, 3 cymbals, a hi-hat, a full-sized kick drum, and an impressive module sound to you? Good? Welcome to the VAD506.
Looking like a million bucks, it costs…at least a little less than that, and people could well be fooled into thinking it’s a full acoustic set.
The module is exactly the same TD-27 one that features in our top pick, the TD-27KV, so you have great quality options there – though it’s surprising not to find the TD-50 module here.
The Roland VAD506 adjusts like a regular acoustic drum set too, so the connection to that feeling is maintained.
Yes, if you’re going to go high-end, we’d advise going for something in the TD-50 range, because that module makes our heart go pit-a-pat. But if you want something with the looks of an acoustic kit, and the smarts of an electric, the VAD506 is the way to go.
- A stunning visual presence makes this set stand out
- The bass drum is better than you might expect
- Roland quality pads and cymbals
- Annoyingly, this doesn’t include the TD-50 module, as you’d expect it to
- This is an expensive set
What Are the Best Electronic Drum Set Brands?
This is a tough question, because the best-known brands each tend to be ‘best’ at Something, while other brands are best at Something Else. As a general rule of thumb, though:
Roland – Best for hardware, triggering and innovation.
Roland sets tend to be extremely inventive and pleasurable to play.
Yamaha – Padmasters, and creators of TCS.
Going high-end with Yamaha unlocks extra pleasures. Will always be a favorite for the quieter, less bouncy vibe of its TCS pads.
Alesis – Best for affordable sets that perform beyond their price.
Known first and foremost for delivering a lot of competent features on an attractive budget, Alesis is starting to make a name for itself across the price and quality spectrum with sets like the Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit, Command Mesh Kit, and the Alesis Strike Pro Special Edition.
Other noteworthy brands include the likes of Percussion, Pearl, Simmons and ATV.
Electronic Drum Head Types
If you’re looking for the best electronic drum heads, it’s a straight up knock-down drag-out between Roland’s mesh heads, and the Yamaha TCS pads. Again, ‘best’ is subjective – if you want quieter pads with less bounce, go Yamaha all day.
If you like the bounce and embrace the noise, Roland is your go-to. Ideally, consistency is worth paying for – get the same type of head on your snare and your toms, so you’re not confused by the mix-and-match while playing.
Rubber pads are the main type of electronic drum heads that have been used for decades. The upside is that they’re relatively cheap.
The downside is that compared to mesh or TCS, they play like…well, like you’re hitting a mound of rubber. Boing!
The introduction of mesh heads brought electronic drum sets on from almost being toys to being really worth buying. Designed very much like acoustic drums, synthetic material is stretched over the sensitive pad, for a much more drum-like feel.
The trigger in mesh heads is very sensitive, meaning you can use them to practice, and even learn your basics without lacking the responsiveness of acoustic drums.
Quieter than rubber or mylar, they’re among the first upgrades any electronic drum learner goes for, when their budget allows. Naturally, there’s an internal market, too – the higher-end your mesh heads, the better result you’ll get from them.
If you have budget to burn, some of the higher-end kick towers now come with mesh heads too. If you don’t have budget to burn, though, they’re not a necessity.
Yamaha TCS Pads
TCS (Textured Cellular Silicone) pads are a Yamaha speciality, and so you’ll usually find them on Yamaha drum sets.
Quieter and less bouncy even than mesh heads, they suit drummers trying to get closer to the feel of acoustic drums.
Speaking of getting closer to the acoustic experience, mylar heads use the same type of material used on acoustic drums. They’ll get you closer than rubber pads, certainly.
Sadly, mylar heads were still much louder than most other types of e-drum head, and so have largely bitten the dust in the last few years.
Quiet Practice with Electronic Drums
The sonic equations are simple. Want the quietest practice with electronic drums?
Go Yamaha TCS heads. True, Yamaha has been relatively quiet in terms of delivering new sets in recent years, so the latest modules and builds have come from other manufacturers – but for the quietest practice, TCS is the way to go.
If you can’t get TCS heads, mesh heads are your next best option. Try and get them on all your pads for consistency of feel and performance – as well as consistency of quietness.
If you want to minimize the noise of your kick pad without blowing your budget on a mesh head kick pad, substitute an electronic trigger pedal during practice.
How loud are electronic drum sets?
Somewhere between the teeth-rattling thunder-god racket of acoustic drums and hitting cushions with drumsticks.
Importantly, they are not silent, so apartment-swellers, it’s time to break out some rugs if you want to keep your place. You could hit the electronic drums more softly, but what sort of drummer does that?
Put it this way – in moving from acoustic to electronic, you’re already being a good neighbor. Additional soundproofing would undoubtedly buff your drum-angel halo, but shouldn’t be absolutely necessary in most cases. Put your headphones on and rock electronically out.
Ideally, TCS heads will be your friends – and your neighbors’ friends too.
If not TCS, go mesh. Never – and we can’t stress this highly enough – never go mylar if you want anything approaching a quiet practice at home. Your neighbors will think you’re being shot and call the cops on you.
How Electronic Drum Sets Work
Electronic drum sets are made up of a brain (known as a module) and a set of nerves – the drum pads. You can program the brain to react in unusual ways when you hit the drum pads, and the way you hit them will change what happens to the sound you make.
The drum and cymbal pads are all connected to the drum module. You can then use the module to:
Choose your sounds: More or less like acoustic tuning, except the world is your percussive oyster. You can add your own sounds and samples, so if you hit a snare it makes that sound, rather than a traditional snare sound, for instance.
A drum module opens up the floodgates of your potential creativity.
Control the volume: This is a harder concept – usually to produce a softer sound, you’d hit a drum more softly.
If you like though, you can more or less graphically equalize the profile of your drum kit from the start. Louder cymbals, softer snares, barely-audible kick drum? It’s all in how you program your module.
Alter the sensitivity and layers: Again, this is a level of sophistication that highlights the power of electronic drums. Maybe you want a snare to make certain sounds on cue, but mostly standard snare sounds most of the time.
Tweak your sensitivities and layers, and you can snare along right nice until you need a different sound. Then hit the snare harder to produce that sound.
This is the point at which it’s helpful to stop thinking of your electronic drum set as just an instrument and recognize it as an instrument and studio combined.
Audio connections: Speaking of which, you can connect your electronic drum set to a computer, or to some other instruments. To do that, make sure you have the appropriate connections.
An audio out signal lets you connect to an amplifier or audio interface for performance or recording. So far, so standard. But if you get a set with MIDI or USB connections, you can send your music note data to audio software.
And once it’s in the software, the world is your sound producing oyster.
Once it’s changed from the authentic recording of an action – you hitting the pad – into the data representing the action of you hitting the pad, you can manipulate that data 62,000 ways from Sunday, however your little creative heart desires.
Patterns and practice modes: Practice modes and preset patterns of drum beats, stored in your module, can help you with your learning and practice.
Custom sampling: Some modules let you load your own samples in, so you can play different sounds, or add them to your recordings.
Audio over USB: This is one for the mid-to-high-end drum modules, but it lets you translate the drum data to your PC, for easy recording without an external interface.
AUX Input: Many modules come with an AUX input option. With that, you can play backing tracks and drum along – a great and easy tool to learn the drum parts of songs on your own.
Most decent drum modules – certainly, most drum modules on our list - will include all of these features. Check the specs of your drum set when you buy, to make sure the set you buy has all the connections you want.
How are electronic drum sets powered?
Good honest wall socket power. If you’re powering your electronic drums by battery, what you have is most likely a toy, rather than a real electronic drum set.
Electronic Drum Accessories
All electronic drum sets are not the same. There will frequently be additional elements that need to be bought separately – though which elements those are might well change from set to set.
Check whether you can get a ‘bundle’ of extras with the set you buy – and whether that bundle contains everything you need to get started.
Drum Set Amplifiers or Drum Monitors
If you’re going to play with other musicians, or even if you want to play through your headphones, you’re going to need an amplifier. Unless you have an entry-level set with a built-in amp, you need to connect your module to an amp with a cable.
We swear we’re not making this up, but if you miss the grunt of vibration when you hit your drums, you can even add something called a Buttkicker to your set-up.
That will send the correct vibrations from the bass drum up through your stool, so you get the real bass drum tingle. A gimmick? Yes, but a useful one to plenty of drummers who rely on the feedback to keep time or ensure they’re in the groove.
Connecting your electronic drum set to amplifiers/speakers
You can plug an electronic drum set into an amp with a standard audio jack. Easy, no?
Headphones for Electronic Drumming
Usually, a set of headphones will be included in your electronic drum set. If not, you’ll need to buy some.
Go for headphones with good noise isolation – that way you don’t need a separate set to protect your hearing every time you get your hands on an acoustic drum set.
Drumsticks for Electronic Drumming
Unlike most other elements, standard drumsticks, as used on acoustic drums, should be fine for electronic drums too. No clue where to start? Try a 5A with a nylon tip, which is a good ‘everydrummer’ stick and should get you drumming pretty easily.
For preference, try Vic Firth 5A American Classics. Popular, well-weighted and of a good length, they’ll give you good drumming even when you start working at faster speeds and higher power.
Drumming is not a passive business, and without the right stool or throne, you can run into severe lower back problems. Ergonomics is the key to avoiding this fate – just as it is in office chairs or gaming chairs.
Try something like a Roc-N-Soc Lunar Throne, which has all the ergonomics you could want, and takes the pressure off your lower lumbar region.
Sure, it’s more expensive than what you might have been using, but you can’t put a price on back health. Well, you can, and surgeons gleefully will if you don’t look after yourself.
Prevention is always better – and in the long run, a lot cheaper – than cure. Buy yourself a good ergonomic stool or throne.
Some electronic drum kits come without a kick pedal. If yours is one of them, try something like the Tama Iron Cobra – it’s got the right amount of kick to it and will give you an acoustic pressure feel.
Recording Electronic Drums
Many electronic drum sets let you record and playback your drumming. If you want to record to your PC, that’s possible too. When you hit a pad, it tells the module to produce a sound. If you have audio-over-USB in your module, you can send that sound straight to the PC.
Alternatively, plug in an external jack and connect your module to an audio interface. Then you can record the sound into your computer.
You can also send your MIDI notes directly to your digital audio workshop (something like GarageBand), where you can change, edit, and make music with the notes and sounds.
Getting the Best Sound from Your Electronic Drums
You can try other approaches, but MIDI triggering is still probably the best way to get optimum sound quality out of your electronic drums.
Certainly, head to head, the best drum VSTs still beat the best electronic drum sets from Roland, Yamaha, or Alesis.
If you get a good mid-range set, and make sure your triggering is top-notch, then connect it via MIDI to a drum VST, you’ll get some of the best-sounding drum tracks.
Adding Custom Samples To Your Kit
Whether you can do this depends on the module you get, and whether it’s an option – some certainly allow WAV file imports.
A workaround if your module doesn’t allow it directly is to connect via MIDI and trigger sounds stored on your computer. It is a workaround, and sometimes it might well sound like one, but it’s an option.
Learning to Play Drums on an Electronic Drum Set
Any instrument becomes a torture to the non-learner in the vicinity when a learner is starting out. Acoustic drums are a particular nightmare to friends, relatives and neighbors. Electronic drum sets are a much friendlier option in terms of volume.
More than that though, they often have electronic extra features specifically to help learners, like metronomes, pre-set patterns, practice modes and the like.
Practice sessions can be done at any time, and with the right electronic set, they can be noiseless enough not to give anyone a headache except the learner.
Also, as a learning tool, you can record your electronic drum practice to hear how you’re developing and help you iron out any glitches or bad habits along the way.
Learning To Play the Drums
The internet is your friend. It’s bursting at the seams with video drumming tutorials. Don’t be proud. Sometimes you can learn more in three minutes of video than a week’s worth of trial and error on your own.
Once you know which end of a stick is which, try getting a local tutor. You might think you’re all that and more, but a second pair of experienced ears can hone your performance and your skills faster than you know how to do.
If you go it alone, that’s your call, but be aware of the things you don’t know that you don’t know. A good tutor will be able to leapfrog you over the limits of your own knowledge.
Using an Electronic Drum Set for Live Shows
It’s no surprise that acoustic drums are still the expectation for live shows – both among drummers and drum-fans. That’s only natural – it’s what people have grown up being used to.
But times are changing, and electronic drum sets are changing to meet the times. They’re certainly more convenient to transport and set up, and usually only take a simple hook-up to the PA system to be ready to go – see ya, hours of sound checks!
It’s also true that the higher-end electronic drum sets are sometimes taking the place of acoustics – without most people hearing the difference We’ve come a long way since electronic drums were a toy or a novelty.
The Achilles heel in this bright new future tends to be electronic cymbals. It’s very difficult to replicate that metallic, shimmering sound on an electronic set, and for the most part, we’re not quite there yet.
Triggering technology is improving year on year though, and it probably won’t be long before the e-cymbal is right up there with the acoustic version.
Even today, detection and modeling is getting extremely sensitive – to the point where electronic cymbals can detect when a drummer wants to choke it off – to stop it from ringing.
Electronic drumming is innovating rapidly – as is the case with most new electronic technologies when they’re introduced.
So it’s not likely to be long before the benefits of an electronic drum set – including that relative ease of set-up and breakdown compared to the noisy nightmare of acoustic sets – are matched with a performance that matches the acoustic version all the way down the line.
And then of course, there are the things electronic drums can do that acoustic sets can’t.
Different Sound Options and Samples
With an electronic drum set, you can experiment with a huge variety of different drum and percussion sounds – without a huge number of pieces of drum kit. You can even sample your own sounds in for an individual vibe.
You can’t do that with an acoustic drum set.
Suddenly feel like getting your 80s power ballad drum style on? Press a few buttons and drum it out, right there on your regular electronic toms. There’s no limit to what you can do with a good electronic drum set, except your imagination.
That’s going to catch on fast when acoustic drummers realize they’re not bound by the action of the moment, the sound of stick hitting cymbal.
Protect Your Hearing
Pure acoustic drummers must use ear protectors – always.
Hearing degradation, Tinnitus, and hearing loss are stunningly common among old-school drummers, and it’s not really a surprise – doing a full drum set is like spending hours in a washing machine full of boulders. Ear protectors are the acoustic drummer’s friend.
How does this translate to electronic drumming?
Firstly, you’re not always going to have the externalized sound to deal with, so that’s a bonus for electronics.
And secondly, the joy of having complete control is that you can simply…turn down the sound to a harmless dB level on your headphones or your amplifier. Problem solved, by electronic drum sets.
Are Electronic Drum Components Compatible with Each Other?
The answer is for the most part, yes – many pads and pedals will play well with modules from other manufacturers.
But there will be outliers, so it’s always wise to check the specific equipment you want to pair will play together ahead of purchase, because life is full of awkward surprises for those who don’t check in advance.
Recommended budget set:
Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit
The Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit blew our minds on what to expect of an entry-level electronic set, combining a flexible and friendly module with all-mesh pads.
It delivers a lot at a price that’s affordable for most drummers at every level of expertise. It gives you plenty of punch, but doesn’t skimp on sophistication either, and is easy to learn your way around.
Recommended pro set:
Roland brings its signature build-quality to a pro set that comes as close to acoustic drum sound as you’re likely to get right now.
With a sophisticated and feature-rich module, it opens up a world of drumming fun and creativity. Once you have this, you’re going to find almost infinite things to do with it.
The TD-50 range has a good few models in it, though – make sure to choose the one that suits you (and your bank account) best.
Electronic drum sets are a diverse, learner- – and neighbor- - friendly alternative to traditional acoustic drums.
They can do more than traditional acoustics, are much easier to set up and break down, and open up the world of drumming to lots more potential drummers. All that stands in your way now is your imagination.