Electronic drums

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Electronic drums
engl. : electronic drum , Italian : batteria elettronica
classification Electrophone
percussion instrument
Template: Infobox musical instrument / maintenance / parameter range missing
Template: Infobox musical instrument / maintenance / sound sample parameters missing Related instruments

List of percussion

List of drummers and drummers
Category: Drummers

The electronic drums ( e-drums for short ) are the electronic / digital versions of the drums . It is played in exactly the same way with sticks and a pedal, but the tones are generated digitally and can be output via loudspeakers or headphones . For this purpose, all playable components (such as drums and cymbals ) are equipped with microphones or piezo pickups. The actual signal generation takes place in the drum module, with which all pads of the e-drums are connected.


In contrast to other musicians such as guitarists or pianists , who were able to work with electronic guitars and pianos from an early age, for a long time there was no possibility for drummers to create music in electronic form and thus no alternative to acoustic drums.

The band Kraftwerk made their first attempts at digitally generating percussive sounds . The technology developed for this consisted of a circuit that was closed at one stroke and then opened again, whereby a slight rustling cracking or hissing could be heard. However, this technology had little in common with later electronic drums and their sound generation. A similar sound was also used for some early game consoles such as the NES , in which a noise generator with short pulses of white noise produced the rhythmic accompaniment in addition to sound effects in music.

The real history of electronic drums began in the early 1980s, when some manufacturers followed the synthesizer boom at the time and also wanted to synthesize the drums. Until now, the individual acoustic drum elements such as cymbals , toms, snare drums and hi- hats had to be picked up with microphones, with background noises or the acoustic characteristics of the room also being recorded and amplified. The manufacturers experimented with triggers that were no longer supposed to pick up the sound itself, but only a time signal in order to forward this to a control module, where it was converted into an acoustic, analog signal. At that time, the focus of development was on producing noises that acoustic drums cannot produce, such as space sounds or toms with very long reverberation. Today the aim is to imitate an acoustic instrument as precisely as possible.

The pioneer for electronic drum sets was the Simmons company in the early 1980s with the eye-catching hexagonal drum pads. The SDS 5 was the legendary revolution towards electronic drums. The Simmons SDS 7 is the most commonly used electric drum kit on productions. For example, Phil Collins ( Genesis ), Steve Negus ( Saga ), Bill Bruford ( Yes ), Herwig Mitteregger ( Spliff , Nina Hagen Band) use this on many productions and live.

From around the mid-1980s, electric drums were increasingly part of the normal scene in music. From this time on, e-drums are also used in dance music and hit music .

In rock / pop music, electric drums were either played as a full replacement for the previous acoustic drums or as a supplement to it. For example, Saga played with a Simmons e-drum set and acoustic drums. One of the first known electronic drum solos should be a brief case from Saga, in which the drummer Steve Negus and the singer Michael Sadler , also equipped with electronic drums, showed themselves in an impressive interplay.

Many drummers also integrated electric drums or parts of them into their conventional sets as a supplement. The drum sounds, which could be changed at the push of a button, represented a previously unknown attraction that also changed the overall sound of the productions and pieces and offered completely new possibilities. Some drummers specialized in electric drums. The best-known of them is Bill Bruford, who for years has been articulating mainly on the acoustic drum set.

For dance musicians in particular, the new electric drums were interesting for practical reasons alone, as they were simply much easier to transport, didn't take up the space, were lighter, and weren't so bulky and easy to stow away.

E-drums have also become increasingly popular for the practice area in the home. They offered the advantage of avoiding noise nuisance to neighbors, because you could either play entirely through headphones or regulate the volume. However, you could still hear the stick hits on the rubber surfaces, but absolutely comparable to the pure - otherwise soundless - exercise sets, for example from Remo, which were designed similarly in terms of the pure playing surface.

However, electric drums were useless for the classic swing and jazz area, since a lot of jazz brooms are used here.

The Simmons SDS 7 offered a large number of sound options, but it was also very expensive, roughly on par with a very professional acoustic drum kit. This is why simpler versions such as the SDS 8 followed at significantly lower prices. In this lower-priced league, other providers emerged, such as Dynacord (pentagonal drum pads).

The sound of clapping hands ("clap") was very modern at the time. This was also a typical sound of drum machines. That is why the BOSS company invented a simple pad that appeared on the market in 1983 and was able to produce this sound (HC-2, which stands for "hand clapper"). Other pads with a similar design were the HCK-100 and the percussion synthesizer PC-2 (also called PCK-100) from Amtek. The pads enjoyed great popularity, and so in 1985 the first electronic drum kit from Roland followed , consisting of the bass drum pad PD-10, the snare / tom pad PD-20 and the trigger interface DDR-30. However, it did not yet have a pool. The DDR-30 was the first drum module.

In 1985 Roland's first Octapad (Pad-8) came onto the market. An Octapad is a drum module on which eight pads are attached, which, like electronic drums, can be assigned different tones. In 1987 a more flexible drum kit followed, which imitated the acoustic drums relatively well in terms of sound. In the years that followed, a lot of work was done to make these tones more authentic.

The big breakthrough was still denied to the electronic drums, which was partly due to the fact that they sounded like a plastic bucket due to their construction from a plastic frame and a softer plastic part as a head replacement with triggers behind. Furthermore, the instruments of the time had almost no rebound behavior, so that the musicians could not implement the techniques they had learned from acoustic drums, such as pegs .

The authenticity of the feel was only improved in 1993 with the introduction of rubber pads, which feel much more like real drum heads when playing. In addition, there was now a hi-hat control pedal in the form of a small pedal on the floor that could mimic the sound of two cymbals clashing.

There was a resurgence of electronic drums in the 1990s when manufacturers such as Roland and Yamaha came up with drum pads that also had a plastic frame and a rubberized metal playing surface with a very natural rebound behavior and without any noteworthy sound. In addition, control signals have been converted into clean, very natural-sounding tones with almost no latency . A little later, skins made of plastic (so-called meshheads ) came onto the market, which can be played on like real skins and yet develop almost no tone of their own. The first cymbal pads did not come onto the market until 2001, so that only from this point on can we speak of truly complete electronic drums.

Today an electronic drum kit is a high-tech computer that can store thousands of sounds and assign them to the individual pads. The electronic drum kit can sound almost like an acoustic drum kit, depending on your preference. In addition, the sound module of a modern e-drum can also generate synthetic sounds or play back samples played back to the touch, which greatly expands the range of applications. The resulting sound can be made dependent on both the velocity and the hit point on the head. Some sound modules also have so-called coaching functions that support learning and practice, as well as a metronome function for practicing precise timing.

Sound generation

The first e-drums (e.g. Simmons, TAMA) used noise generators made from operational amplifiers, which could be influenced by several potentiometers. So it was possible to change the basic frequency of the noise, volume, decay time and filter. Settings could not be saved. Old original devices often suffer from "continuous noise" due to the aging of the operational amplifiers used.

With the advent of digital electronics in music, noise generators were replaced by simple samples. When a pad was struck, the drum module played a fixed sound from a memory, in which only the amplitude (volume) was adjusted in relation to the force of the strike. Well-known devices here were, for example, the Alesis D4 and its successor, the DM5, both in 19 "rack units.

Due to the advancing computing power, a better articulation is now possible with fast attacks, the well-known "machine gun vortices" are almost no longer generated through the use of several similar samples, higher internal resolution of the velocity and the time.

Roland broke new ground with the TD-10 (V-Drums) drum module. This module generates the sounds in real time through calculations based on physical-acoustic models (COSM modeling). For the first time it was possible to influence sounds by changing virtual kettles, skins, rooms and microphones and to play on pads with brooms using a wiping technique.


The first pads consisted of a sheet of plywood to which a rubber mat was glued on top and a piezo pickup or microphone attached underneath . For a better look and an attachment, the plate was built in a simple plastic housing. A mono jack socket was used to connect to the drum module .

Over time, the rubber pad became thicker and the wooden board was replaced by a metal plate. In addition to the main trigger , another one was now attached in the edge, so it was possible to trigger two different sounds with just one pad. A stereo jack socket was used for the connection.

With the mesh heads you came very close to the natural feel of an acoustic set. These consist of a plastic fabric that resembles a fly screen and are glued into an aluminum ring like a normal drum head. The skins are pulled onto special bowls with a tension ring in which the customers sit. The tension of the head can be influenced by the drummer by tightening the tension ring more or less. Due to the rough surface and the sensitive pickups, it is even possible to play with a broom.

Pelvic pads are constructed similarly to rubber pads, but often have, in addition to the piezo pickups in the "dome" and the "shoulder" of the pelvis, another at the edge of the pelvis, with which the pelvis can be stopped.

Bass drum pads are available as rubber and mesh pads, but their mechanical structure is more robust and designed for attaching a foot machine.

Special forms

With the TRIGGER I / O, Alesis offers a pure drum-to- MIDI converter that does not use any of its own stored sounds, but converts the hits of the connected pads into MIDI signals and outputs them to an appropriate interface. The MIDI signal can then be recorded with a PC or converted directly into sounds with drum software.

Roland and Korg offer pads for percussionists that contain special samples from the field of ethnic drums. These pads can be played with by hand or with sticks. Yamaha offers compact designs with integrated sound generation.

There are trigger modules for mounting on acoustic drums, with which a drum module can be addressed via a normal tom.

Web links

Commons : Electronic drum kit  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Simmons Drum Synth. Retrieved April 1, 2013 .
  2. ^ Simmons Electronic Drums - The Virtual Museum. Retrieved April 1, 2013 .
  3. Electronic drum kit folds up for under arm portability. November 5, 2012, accessed April 1, 2013 .
  4. a b c e-drum guide. Retrieved April 1, 2013 .
  5. All Boss products, in chronological order. Retrieved April 1, 2013 .
  6. a b All 'Roland' products, in chronological order. Retrieved April 1, 2013 .
  7. Roland_TD-10: Specifications. Accessed December 31, 2015 .
  8. Roland Corporation: Percussion Sound Module TD-10 Instruction Manual. P. 12
  9. CY-15R . Retrieved August 30, 2012 ..
  10. Trigger i | O | alesis.de. Retrieved July 12, 2020 .
  11. Trigger OK Trigger-to-MIDI / USB interface. Retrieved April 1, 2013 .
  12. Review: Yamaha DD-75, all-in-one compact drum. In: AMAZONA.de. August 20, 2017, accessed on July 12, 2020 (German).