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Just like guitars, drums have also left the purely acoustic realm. Electronic drums are growing ever more capable and popular all the time; and more and more drummers are adding them to their instrumental repertoire of percussion instruments.

Under the Drum Head

Electronic drum sets play very much like traditional acoustic drums, but under the heads they are very different. Instead of skins, they have transducers; instead of creating sound directly, they feed signals to a trigger module. It's the module that makes the magic happen; producing sounds in response to the transducer signals. Modern transducers are more than just binary switches; they respond to how hard and fast you strike the head. Many pads also have multiple transducers so you can recreate the different sounds of acoustic drums based on how and where you hit the pads.

Back to the Beginning

The first electronic drums are credited to Moody Blues drummer Graeme Edge on the album "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor" back in 1971. When it worked, it worked brilliantly; when it didn't, it didn't. The first commercially available set was the Syndrum, released a few years later. The Simmons company quickly moved into the electronic drum space, and was soon followed by Roland and Yamaha.

Picking Heads and Modules

There are a few things to consider when picking your own electronic drum set. Most sets have either rubber pads or mesh heads. Rubber pads feel just like practice pads; a great improvement over the earliest ones which were more like hitting a kitchen table. Mesh heads feel more like skins, but they have better rebound making them easier to play. With modules, you want a wide variety of sounds and presets. Some even have prerecorded patterns that can be a great help for students.

Electronic Advantages

Electronic drum kits have a number of advantages over acoustic sets. They are smaller, lighter and much more portable; you can carry one and set it up by yourself. They can also be quieter. Get a good set of monitor headphones and you can practice by yourself without blasting everyone out of the house. You can't do that with acoustic drums.

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