A Guide to Electronic Drum Kits

The electronic drum kit has revolutionised how drummers practise, perform, and perfect their craft. These kits offer a versatile and volume-controlled environment for drummers, making them ideal for urban living spaces where the noise of a traditional acoustic kit would be an issue.

Moreover, electronic drums have found their niche not only among beginners looking for an accessible entry point into drumming but also among seasoned professionals who appreciate the ability to integrate modern sounds and effects into their performances.

This guide provides an insight into what potential buyers should look for, the benefits over traditional acoustic sets, and how these innovative digital instruments work.



When considering the purchase of an electronic drum kit, several key features should be evaluated to ensure the kit meets your musical needs and preferences.

Firstly, consider the module (or brain) of the kit, which is the central hub where all sounds are processed and manipulated. A high-quality module will offer a wide range of sounds and customisation options, from different drum kits to unique effects, while remaining easy to operate with settings that can be changed at the push of a button rather than a complex menu system.

Pad responsiveness is crucial, as it affects how naturally the kit feels when played. For beginner electronic drum kits look for velocity-sensitive pads that mimic the dynamics of hitting an acoustic drum—the harder you hit, the louder the sound. If your budget is a bit higher, a kit with mesh heads will provide a more realistic stick rebound and dynamic response, along with reduced noise on contact.

Connectivity options are another important consideration. Ensure the module includes USB for connection to a computer for recording, or that is has MIDI outputs to connect with DAW software and other MIDI devices for recording or using virtual instruments. Also, look for auxiliary inputs for playing along with your favourite tracks, and line outputs for connection to an amplifier or active speaker.

Expandability is a handy feature on some electronic drum sets that provides the extra connections for you to add more pads or cymbals, giving you room to grow as your skills advance. This is particularly good for beginners who may start with a lower-cost kit and wish to expand it as budget allows.

Lastly, consider the physical footprint and portability of the kit. If space is limited, or if you plan to transport the kit frequently, look for a compact design that is easy to set up and take down. While all electronic drum kits are designed to be portable, some can be folded away complete, while others require a full dismantling before transport or storage.

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Electronic drum kits offer several advantages over their acoustic counterparts, making them a compelling choice for many drummers. One of the primary benefits is volume control. Electronic drums can be played with headphones, allowing for near-silent practice without disturbing neighbours or family members. This feature alone is invaluable for practice sessions as an acoustic drum kit is incredibly loud, so without a soundproofed room you will definitely be upsetting someone.

The variety of sounds is another significant advantage. With the push of a button, drummers can switch between different drum kit sounds from a huge selection of classic rock setups to electronic beats or percussion instruments, providing immense versatility for different music styles. This allows for a level of creative exploration and experimentation that is not possible with an acoustic kit.

Recording convenience is also enhanced with electronic drums. These kits can be directly connected to a computer or sound system, facilitating easy recording without the need for additional microphones, mixers, or interfaces. This plug-and-play setup simplifies the recording process, making it more accessible for beginners.

Furthermore, electronic drums are far more portable than acoustic drums, with most models designed to be lightweight and collapsible, with the obvious difference in physical size being a major factor as acoustic drums require a large vehicle to transport. This makes digital drum sets ideal for musicians who travel often or perform at multiple venues.

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The feel of an electronic drum kit can vary significantly based on the quality and design of the pads and triggers used. Lower-end models might not replicate the exact feel of an acoustic drum, as they tend to have hard rubber pads that provide less realistic stick rebound. However, mid-level to higher-end models with silicone or mesh heads offer a much closer approximation to the feel of hitting an acoustic drum skin, with mesh units providing surface tension tuning identical to that of an acoustic set.

Advancements in technology have led to improved dynamic sensitivity, which allows mesh head electronic drums to respond to varied playing intensities, much like an acoustic kit. This means the force with which a drummer hits a pad influences not only the volume but also the tone of the sound produced.

Some electronic kits also incorporate realistic hi-hat triggers and cymbal pads that can detect different strike zones and respond accordingly, further enhancing the natural playing experience. Despite these advancements, there can still be subtle differences in feel, particularly in how the vibrations and resonance behave compared to acoustic drums. Thus, while high-quality electronic kits can come close to mimicking the feel of acoustic drums, subtle differences do exist.

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One of the appealing features of electronic drum kits is their ease of setup. Electronic kits are typically far more straightforward than acoustic drums, which require tuning and can be cumbersome to mic properly for live performance or recording. Most electronic kits can be assembled quickly and will connect easily to an amplifier or PA system through a single output cable.

Additionally, electronic drum kits often come with pre-configured settings, allowing drummers to start playing immediately after setup without the need for extensive adjustments. The compact nature of many electronic kits also makes them ideal for smaller spaces, as they can be set up and taken down with minimal effort, making them perfect for gigging musicians who need to transport their equipment frequently.

The pads or heads utilise a simple clamp fitment which attaches to the electronic kits tubular folding frame. The frames are usually adjustable for height, and their lightweight design allows the entire kit to be moved with ease once set up. The drum module to drum pad connections are made with jack plugs for simplicity, and these systems are built to be highly durable.

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Electronic drums operate through sensors or triggers embedded in the pads, which detect hits and transmit the information to the drum module. The module, essentially the brain of the kit, processes this input to produce the corresponding drum sound. The quality and sophistication of both the pad technology and the drum module play a significant role in how realistic the drum sounds and feels.

  • Pads: Each pad contains a sensor that responds to strikes with a change in voltage. This signal is then converted into a digital signal by the drum module, which triggers a sample or a synthesised sound assigned to that particular pad. Advanced modules allow for extensive customisation of these sounds, including adjustments to pitch, decay, and other dynamic elements.

    Furthermore, many modern electronic drums are capable of multi-zone triggering, meaning different areas of the pad can produce different sounds. For example, hitting the edge of a snare drum pad might produce a rim shot, while striking the centre produces a standard snare drum sound.

    The drum kits pads will either be silicone rubber or the more advanced models will be mesh heads, which as the name suggests, use a taught fabric mesh which gives them a surface tension and rebound that is as near to an acoustic kit feel as possible.

    Foot Controls: Foot controls for the kick drum and hi-hat cymbal will be digital switch pedals on lower-end models which connect directly to the drum module, while more sophisticated kits will have traditional chain-driven pedals to enhance the feel.

  • Outputs: Given their main purpose being silent practice, a headphone connection is standard on all digital drum modules, with many including a pair to allow for teacher and student to both listen.

    Audio inputs and outputs will usually be via 6.35mm jack, which allows you to easily connect the module to a mixer, amplifier, or active speaker should you wish. Some units also include the smaller 3.5mm Aux input for easy connection of a phone or tablet for jamming along to songs.

    MIDI connections allow you to connect your drum set to DAW software or other MIDI devices, opening up a huge world of possibilities for sound playback and control using the pads of the kit. Though an older technology, MIDI has remained the most popular digital control method for musical instruments, and it ensures compatibility with both new and vintage equipment.

    USB offers a direct connection to PCs that is ideal for recording and again for DAW software. Depending on the module specifications the USB may also be able to carry MIDI data. Pretty much all drum machine modules will include a USB port as it’s also used for firmware updates.


    Electronic drums do not produce any audible sound and are primarily designed for use with headphones for silent practice. External amplification is necessary for live performances or when playing with other musicians.

    For home practice, a small drum monitor is ideal, with their design giving a good kick drum response while remaining at a controllable volume level. Drum monitors are generally active (amplified), and will usually be a wedge design for easy floor placement. They often feature their own EQ controls and balanced line output for connection to a larger PA, which then allows them to be used as a foldback monitor.

    For live performances, a more powerful drum monitor that can handle low frequencies and provide clear sound reproduction at higher volume is advisable, though most drummers will opt to connect their electronic drum kit directly to a PA system via a mixer to ensure the sound is projected effectively across the space.

    The main consideration for amplifying any drum kit is the kick drum output, as reproducing the precise and powerful bass notes is a test of any speaker, so ideally you should be looking at a subwoofer if planning to use your electronic drum set in a regular live setting as it will not only give you the best results, but will also take the strain away from the main PA speakers which are dealing with other instruments and vocals.


    Beyond the standard components, electronic drum kits can include several additional features that enhance their functionality and performance. Some kits come with built-in learning tools, such as metronomes, play-along tracks, and coaching functions, which are invaluable for beginners.

    Customisation options are also abundant in many electronic kits, allowing users to create their custom drum sounds and settings. This can include layering different sounds, adjusting the pitch, and even importing samples to create a truly unique drumming experience. Most drum machines will feature empty storage slots for user-created presets, and some will include effects such as reverb for enhancing depth.

    Moreover, some electronic drum kits are equipped with advanced connectivity features, such as Bluetooth for wireless audio streaming or MIDI for integration with other digital music devices. These features make electronic drums a powerful tool for modern music production.


    Electronic drum kits offer a flexible, versatile alternative to traditional acoustic drums, making them a valuable option for drummers of all skill levels. Whether you are a beginner needing a practice-friendly option or a professional seeking a tour-friendly kit, electronic drums provide a range of features to suit various needs.

    By understanding the key aspects—from the quality of the drum module and pad responsiveness to connectivity and expansion options—you can choose a kit that best fits your intended usage. As technology continues to evolve, the gap between electronic and acoustic drums narrows, providing an ever-more appealing choice for today's drummer.