Tech Tip:Electro-Drumming: The New Tools, Part 2

Part 1

Part 2


by Tony Verderosa


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Electronic Drum Systems for Beginners

Compact electronic drum systems have become extremely popular in the past five or six years as prices have dropped and the systems offer multiple functions at good value. This type of system is a good first step for anyone interested in practicing at home with headphones, recording drum parts for CD's and also for playing live. These systems are also beneficial as they come complete with MIDI sequencing. They are the equivalent of buying an entire music production/performance system in one easy to use machine. Here is a list of some of the key functions these systems provide.


  • Sample Library:
    A sampler is much like a digital tape recorder. Yamaha's DTXpress, for example, does much of the work that a standalone digital sampler would provide. The only major difference is that you can't actually record your own sounds into these modules. Each company supplies you with these sounds already mapped out on the ROM chip inside the machine.

These modules act as a sample library, holding 100s of CD quality recordings of drum sounds and loops, special effects, ethnic percussion, voice samples, bass, guitar, horns and more. To build a similar collection of sounds, you would have to own an entire digital audio production facility including computer, digital editing software, digital effect processing, mastering software, samplers and a recording studio with microphones.


  • Onboard Sequencer
    These drum systems come standard with a computer-based sequencer. You can record and edit your own sequencer patterns and songs right on the need for a standalone computer. Remember that a sequencer simply records all of the information about a pattern or groove except for the actual sounds themselves. The actual sounds always remain inside the sound module or sampler to be "triggered" by a sequencer in a specific order that you determine when you record a sequenced pattern.

  • Synthesizer
    The synthesizer is the sound engine of any module. Yamaha's DTX series has a synth engine for traditional KB sounds and a separate sound engine for drum and percussion sounds. These units come with an onboard midi synthesizer. There is no need to buy an external synth to trigger bass lines, piano chords or organ sounds. The onboard sequencer also allows you to access these sounds to create songs and practice along with different patterns and musical phrases.

  • Trigger Interface
    A trigger interface allows you to translate the signals coming from drum pads into midi data that can access digital sounds. Years ago, it was common to buy a separate trigger interface to communicate with external synths and samplers. Now it is all in one unit. These interface settings will also allow you to trigger from acoustic drums.

  • Digital Effects
    It was also highly uncommon a few years back to find built in digital effects processing such as reverb and delay in drum machines and modules. This new breed has it all.

Suggested Complete E-Drum Systems


1. Yamaha DS9XP DTXpress Electronic Drum Set

Great sounds, loops, songs, phrases, onboard sequencer. Features Yamaha's DTXpress module and a price tag significantly lower than its predecessor.

Approximately $1295.00, $999.99 used


2. Alesis DM Pro Kit Electronic Drum Set

A massive library of over 1,000 drum and percussion sounds plus advanced new triggers.

Approximately $2599.00, $1999.99 used


3. Yamaha DS11 Electronic Drum Set (DTX 2.0 Module)

880 percussion voices take you beyond modern drumming! Open the door to a whole new world of playing and recording.

Approximately $2575.00, $1899.99 used


4. DDrum (sic) Electronic Drum System One

A highly advanced system, now more affordably priced. Its compact design, real drum feel, and versatility make it a winner.

Approximately $3595.00, $2599.99 used


5. Roland V-Custom Electronic Drum Set

Includes 1 PD-80R V-Pad 8" mesh-head dual-trigger pad for both snare drum and rim shot sounds.

Approximately $3295.00, $2699.99 used


Audio Gear:



  1. Headphones: Sony MDR-7506


  2. Mixer: Any small line mixer by Midiman will be sufficient for sub-mixing your sound (not needed for practicing...only live performing situations)

  3. Speakers: For playing live gigs use the club's house sound system or use a 15" cabinet with a horn as a personal monitor system. Self powered 15" speakers by KMD or Roland work well.


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