While electronic drum sets do not offer a considerable financial savings when compared to conventional “traps,” electronic options do offer the budding percussionist space-saving possibilities.
In apartments, small studios and the like, electronic sets afford the musician decent sound in a compact package. They are versatile instruments. Electronic kits feature digital enhancements that allow the musician to tweak the volume and pitch generated by the drum heads.
Some brand models produce several hundred unique sounds that add funk and improvisation capabilities to the solo or ensemble setting.
What follows is a tidy list of the best beginner options available in the electronic market. While this list is not exhaustive, it provides the novice with some good starting points in his/her search for an ideal electronic set.
Consultation with professional percussionists is always advised. Percussionists removed from the sales side of the industry may offer the novice good insight into brands and models without feeling the obligation to promote a particular brand.
Roland is a name recognized in the digital instrument community for consistent quality and playability. In the electronic drums portion of the Roland family, two instruments standout as fantastic options for the novice percussionist.
The Roland HD-1 is an extremely compact instrument providing rich sound, good digital enhancements and a reasonable price.
A sublime practice instrument, the HD-1 is ideal for the home studio or school rehearsal room.
With a sturdy build and a good track record of durability, the HD-1 can manage the rigors of a heavy-handed beginner and live to play again.
Another bonus? The HD-1 is extremely quiet. Featuring cushioned tom heads and a masterfully designed kick beater, the HD-1 will not shake the ground and rouse the neighbors during rehearsal time.
That said, HD-1s are in limited supply as Roland has recently ceased manufacture of the instrument.
The Roland TD-4K and its sibling the TD-4KX are widely consider topline beginner instruments. Appreciated for robust build and earthy sound, the “4s” are well-suited for the beginner who desires to purchase and use an early intermediate instrument.
When wired to an amp, the TD-4KX can hold its own in the rock band setting. On the downside, the Roland 4 does not feature the same type of compact design offered by the HD models.
The next generation of 4s, the P models (portability), will be collapsible allowing the musician to stow or transport the instrument based on his or her needs.
Like Roland, Yamaha is known for quality and consistency within the percussion market. Because of Yamaha’s extensive experience with all instruments in the symphonic family, Yamaha tends to craft electronic kits best for paring with the brass and woodwind sections of musical groups.
In the Yamaha grouping, the DTX seems to be a favorite among percussionists. DTXs features over 200 unique sounds and a smaller library of “effects.”
Using rubberized heads as the contact points between sensors and the drummer’s sticks, the DTXs sometimes produce a muffled sound when compared to what Roland offers.
However, the price points of the DTX instruments make them financially attractive to the discerning individual seeking good sound at a price that will not break the budget.
For the money, DTX instruments offer a good combination of quality construction and fine sound production.
As the percussionist’s skills grow, the DTX can be updated with additional heads, cymbals and digital sound effects. The Yamaha label also means remarkable craftsmanship.
A DTX owner can play the instrument rigorously trusting that it will not break down. If there is a problem with a DTX, Yamaha is very responsive to consumer needs and concerns.
Alesis is well known in the industry for its deft research and testing process. An innovator in the electric market, Alesis loves to pair digital drumheads with conventional symbols and bells.
Alesis’ most noteworthy kit series is the Alesis DM-10 series. From beginner models all the way up to pro numbers, the DM-10s feature cutting edge design and versatility.
For the beginning percussionist, the DM-10 studio model is a noteworthy option. The six piece model travels well and features rugged Kevlar heads.
With ample room on its snare racks for add-ons, the DM-10 can be easily unfitted with a host of conventional embellishments.
The DM-10’s “Dynamic Articulation” feature allows the percussionist to tweak the timbre of each drum head. A dynamo in small performance spaces, the DM-10 can be configured for performance in tight nooks and crannies.
The Alesis DM-10 mesh kit offers the improving performer acoustic feel and response. Alesis’ mesh heads are designed to provide the sensation of playing acoustic snares and toms.
The mesh models also offer an adjustment knob feature that allows the performer to tweak the tension of the drum strike surface to create a realistic feel when the percussionist strikes the head of the drum.
While many professional percussionists scoff at Gear4Music’s offerings, the company provides great beginner instruments at great prices. The Gear4Music DD-502 is the Cadillac of Gear’s beginner model.
Featuring a robust H-shaped rack, the 502 can withstand a beating from a novice while also offering the percussionist numerous options for expansion.
502 players can also fit their desired acoustic heads on the instrument enhancing the “real feel” playability of the 502. Another interesting feature of this Gear4Music model is its lighting guide function.
When enabled, the lighting guide function creates a pulse of light on each drum head when the head is struck by the performer.
This feature is extremely helpful for the greenest instrumentalists, as they are able to track the accuracy of their stick work as they move through ensemble music or a didactic piece.
Coupled with a playing track from the 502’s processor, the lighting guide can show the percussionist where he or she should strike the set during the progression of the music.
Electronic kits are fantastic options for novices. While these kits will never match the feel and sound of acoustic offerings, they certainly come close.
Given their portability and volume control features, 502s seem ideal for the home studio or tight rehearsal space. These versatile instruments also benefit from parings with acoustic embellishments.
As with all instruments, test drive several electronic offerings before making a purchase. Ask good questions and always seek the counsel of professional musicians. Happy playing!