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In the 1970s, Graeme Edge - drummer for The Moody Blues - teamed up with a Sussex University professor, Brian Groves, to create the first modern electronic drums. Early models like the "Syndrum" were crude - indeed, critics noted how some even "sounded like trash can lids." Since then, electronic drums have seen leaps in quality, variety, and prominence; players from Bill Bruford to Neil Peart have made history with these instruments.
Electronic drum kits function much like the human nervous system; each drum surface is rigged with "triggers" which act like nerve endings. These triggers pick up stick hits, and then transmit an electrical signal back to the kit's module - effectively the "brain" of an e-drum setup. (Higher-end drum kits have more complex systems of triggers - for superior sensitivity and articulation). The module then converts these signals into whatever sound is assigned to each drum surface.
Modules can store hundreds of virtual drum kits, sounds, and even other instruments. So while a drummer can select a standard rock kit, or Latin kit, he or she can also program the snare to play a timpani sound, or the crash cymbal to play a glockenspiel sound. Roland's TD-30KV, for example, boasts 100 onboard drum kits, and more than 1,300 instruments; Ambience effects and overhead-mic simulation give even greater flexibility. In this way, e-drum kits can also double as samplers, drum machines, or percussion pads. The possibilities are endless.
Electronic drum kits are portable, compact, and above all - acoustically quiet. Many e-drum heads are made from mesh material, and electronic cymbals are made of rubber; so the act of striking them makes very little noise. Plug headphones into the module, and you've got a practice setup that won't disturb neighbors, or even people in the next room. For live performance, modules can plug right into the PA system, for sound that can fill up a stadium. That also means you can forget the hassle of miking drums for live shows. And because e-drums connect through line outputs and MIDI, drummers can record straight into an audio interface - bypassing the need for painstaking (and expensive) microphone setups. Most e-drum kits weigh far less than acoustic kits: the Yamaha DTX450K is an especially portable example.
Acoustic drums also require frequent tuning, new heads, and maintenance, while electronic drums never go out of tune. Furthermore, electronic drum modules come with a series of useful rehearsal features like metronomes, pre-recorded loops and tracks, built-in sequencers, etc. Or plug an iPod directly into the console, and you can play along to any song you like.
Sweetwater carries a huge variety of electronic drum kits for any price range. Aside from full kits, we also sell separate e-drum modules - like the super-affordable Yamaha DTX502. We also carry "Acoustic Triggered" - or "Fusion" - sets, like the Pearl E-Pro model. Fusion models look and feel like acoustic kits, but their drumheads and cymbals actually have triggers leading back to a module. With the E-Pro, you can swap out these triggered e-drumheads for acoustic heads, giving you a fully-functional acoustic kit. Call one of our Sales Engineers for advice on your next e-drum purchase. Whether you're a touring professional, or just starting out, we're here to help. Learn More
Questions about Electronic Drum Sets?
Sweetwater's Sales Engineers are regarded as the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the music industry, with extensive music backgrounds and intense training on the latest products and technologies. They are available to offer you personalized product advice any time you need it.