Starting to play drums in San Diego? Are electronic or acoustic drums better for student drummers? This is a question that I get asked time and time again. Thanks for checking in to my first drum blog post of 2012 – regarding the benefits of electronic drum kits, and their more traditional counterpart; the acoustic drum set.
Whether you go for an electronic or acoustic drum set depends very much upon your circumstances. The overriding factor for most students (especially parents!) is noise. Of course, we all want to stay on good terms with room mates, family and neighbors, and there is no doubt about it; drums are loud! Naturally, one of the huge benefits of an electronic drum set is that you can control the volume. However, did you know that there are various noise reduction options available for acoustic drums? Companies such as Vic Firth and Sound Percussion manufacture drum dampening pads. They reduce the response of the drums significantly, and there are options available for cymbals too. It’s not as much fun as playing without the pads – but at least it gives you the opportunity to practice without disturbing anyone else. If you want to play an acoustic set but are concerned about your neighbors – go and discuss it with them. In most cases I have experienced; neighbors are generally open to it if there are agreed times – generally not too early in the morning, and not after 8pm at night. Of course, this depends greatly on whether you live in a house, apartment or condo -so if you feel that noise, even reduced, will not be an option; then electronic drums may be the way to go.
Electronic drums are great, in fact I use a Roland TD20K in my drum studio. However, in the interest of being objective, I will say this. No matter how good your electronic drum set is – they do not feel the same, or have the same response as an acoustic drum or cymbal set. Close, but not the same. In fact, with luxuries such as mesh drum heads, and touch sensitive sensors – we can get away with a lot on an electronic drum set that just wouldn’t work on an acoustic set. That’s worth bearing in mind when making your decision. When working on technique in my studio, I always have practice pads and acoustic drums available so that we don’t hide the gaps in our technique behind those electronic safety nets!
Space is also a major consideration when choosing between electronic and acoustic drums. Some of the more compact electronic drums like the Roland TD4K and TD9K take up considerably less space then an acoustic set, but again, that comes with compromises. The pads are smaller then acoustic drums, which means that in some cases, you have to adjust your body positioning to suit what you are working with- not the ideal approach when learning correct posture and technique. (But not the end of the world, either). Since the larger electronic drum sets like the Roland TD12K and TD20K take up nearly the same floor area as an acoustic set, space becomes less of a decision factor at this point, and playing position is more realistic.
With regards to brands and models for electronic drums; I typically recommend Roland products. Not just because I play them, but because I have had considerable experience in demonstrating and selling all of the major products from my years in the drum retail business. Roland always seem to be one step ahead of the competition, and have a range to suit all budgets and levels of playing. Check out the Roland V-Drums website for more details on the range. Be sure to compare against other popular manufacturers such as Yamaha; who also make great electronic drums.
Budget, especially in these hard economic times, is naturally a consideration. Roland Electronic drum sets vary in price from $600 to $6000 plus. Be careful of cheap imitations! The $200 electronic drum sets that you can pick up from popular electronic stores are $200 for a reason! You are much better off going to your local music store, or shopping on-line with a reputable music store. As with all musical instruments – you get what you pay for! Better equipment – acoustic or electronic – will inspire you to practice more, and will be more fun to play. You can get a reasonable starter acoustic drum set from around $300-$400. This typically includes 5 drums, hardware (that’s the stands that hold everything) and a basic cymbal set. Be warned though. The cymbals that are included with starter drum sets at this price point are never the most musical (that’s a polite way of saying they can, in many cases, sound really nasty!). It is always a good idea to consider upgrading the basic cymbal pack included with starter drum sets.
So we have already established that electronic drums don’t feel the same as acoustic drums. That said; they certainly have a lot of fun features that their acoustic counterparts can’t touch! For example, most have a variety of different drum kit sounds, play-along songs, and built-in metronomes. One of the coolest features on most models is that you can run your iPod directly through the module (that’s the sound source – “brain”, if you like) and play along to your favorite tunes – all while balancing the sound and controlling the volume – a BIG plus, in my opinion.
In conclusion, the electronic vs acoustic question depends very much on your personal circumstances. Neighbors, space, budget – all play a big part in the decision making process. Nowadays, you can generally get either with a nominal budget. If space and noise is an issue, then electronic drums could be a better option for you. If you feel this is less of a consideration, then nothing satisfies like the feel of hitting an acoustic drum, and feeling the power and depth of that kick drum! Whichever you go for, both are great options, and most importantly, will get you playing the drums and having fun!
For more information on noise reduction for drums (which is generally one of the main decision factors), click here to see my YouTube video from a couple of years ago. The information is still very much up to date, and you may find it useful. If you would like to talk to me about the various options available on the market (Roland or any other)- send me an email, or feel free to call me. Thanks for checking in!