When it comes to the decision – Acoustic vs. electronic drums – each has its advantages and disadvantages. But if you’re just starting out with drums and don’t know which way to go? Let’s take a closer look.
Which aspects matter most to you?
There used to be a time when electronic drums had a much more niche existence. But we’ve come a long way since then. There are still spaces where complete electronic drum kits are rare, like on stage, but in terms of sound and versatility, they are very much worth a look.
The four biggest aspects when deciding between acoustic and electronic drums are feel, sound, space, and volume. We will look at each aspect in detail to make it easier for you to decide. In the end, nothing beats playing both in you local music shop. But with these pointers, you’ll have a much better perspective on the decision of acoustic vs electronic drums.
Feel – Iron rims and wooden shells vs mesh heads and rubber cymbals
Hitting an acoustic drum or cymbal feels drastically different than hitting a mesh head on an electronic drum kit or a rubber cymbal. Neither is better or worse – but when it comes to choosing your side, this can make all the difference.
And the feel goes beyond when you hit a drum or a cymbal. As this instrument is among the loudest you can play (we’ll get back to that), you will literally feel its soundwaves and resonances once you hit a drum. That is almost impossible to recreate with electronic drums. There are specialized drum amps that help with this, however.
Sound – acoustic versatility vs. electronic sampling universe
You can get myriad variations from a single drum or cymbal, let alone a whole kit. Playing ghost notes, flams, and rolls each create a very different sound variation. But it’s still wood sticks hitting metal and plastic, so you can’t drastically change the sound of your bass drum or hihat and replace it with, say, a synth or a vocal.
Some electronic drum kits now come equipped with incredibly sensitive sensors and extremely detailed sampling. That will often create realistic-sounding beats and grooves, with funky ghost notes, thundering flams and gradually opening hihats.
But then you can also play whatever sound is in your head on an electronic drum kit. From legendary hip-hop sounds like the TR-808 to samples from old records to your neighbor’s cat.
Space – rehearsal room or bedroom
A drum kit is one of the biggest instruments in most band contexts. Outside of gigantic cabs or amps (which, in the age of amp modeling are slowly disappearing), having four to five wooden shells, plenty of hardware to surround it and a set of cymbals can take up a lot of space – both in a rehearsal room and on the road.
Most electronic drum kits take up much less space. You still need around 2-3 square meters to set it up in most cases. But that is much less than what most acoustic kits require.
Volume – thunderstorm vs. happy neighbors
Few instruments are as unusable in apartments with thin walls and sensitive neighbors as acoustic drums. Plus, even if you’re the smoothest jazz drummer, the kit’s resonances will permeate any wall next to an angry neighbor. You either need a basement, a well-isolated garage, or a dedicated rehearsal room.
This is one of the biggest advantages of electronic drum kits. You can easily set up a kit at home! Depending on your playing style and the genre you prefer, there will still be audible bumps from your double-bass playing. But it’s far for the sonic madness that acoustic drums create.
Conclusion: Acoustic vs Electric Drums – Natural Feeling vs. endless sounds
Again, neither choice is “better” or “more musical” than the other. For many, there are practical decisions to be made where using an electronic drum kit is just the only way drumming is even possible. For others, the endless sonic possibility of sampling drums is what draws them to e-drums like Roland’s V-drums.
For others, the feel and sonic impact of acoustic drums is just too central to the experience. Some solutions include setting up dedicated e-drum amps to experience at least part of this sonic impact. But acoustic drums are still unmatched in most scenarios, especially when it comes to bass drums and cymbals, both in terms of feel and sound.
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- MPS-750X - A hybrid solution for Acoustic vs. Electronic drums: Millenium
- An electronic hihat from Roland: Roland
- Roland V-Drums acoustic: Roland
- Spacious Drumkit from Yamaha: Yamaha