What are the pros and cons of electronic vs. acoustic drums?

Author: Simon DasGupta.
August 12, 2022

In this article

As a beginner drummer, you'll want to evaluate whether electronic or acoustic drums are the best option for you. Understanding the key advantages and disadvantages will help your choose the right drums to start this fantastic journey!

  • What are electronic drums, and how much do they cost?
  • What are the key differences between electric and acoustic drum kits?
  • Do they feel the same to play?

Asking the right questions.

The points above are good to know, but there are other essential questions. What are the pros and cons of electronic drums? Which brands are the best for beginner drummers? Are electric drums really noise-free? What is included with the drum set, and what is extra? Fear not! We are here to help you choose the best option for your own personal situation.

What are electronic drums?

You are likely familiar with acoustic drum sets. These are what you would consider traditional drums, with wood shells (or often metal when it comes to snare drums) and metal cymbals.

Electronic drums are pads with rubber, plastic, or mesh drumheads, and the sound is produced from a small box called a sound module. We then hear the sound through a headset or a speaker. It's important to note that unless you are buying a bundle deal, headsets and speakers are not included.

We first saw mass-market consumer-level electronic drums in the late 1990s, with brands like Yamaha and Roland leading the way. Back then, the production and development costs were high, and the average price of an electric drum kit was beyond the reach of most beginner drummers.

In the early 2000s, these two leading brands finally started to release models that came in at under $1000 US dollars for the first time. Since then, drumming as a hobby and the arrival of solid brands like Alesis have kept the market innovative and competitive, which is great news for beginner drummers.

Your surroundings should help guide your decision.

Our surroundings mostly influence whether to go for electronic or acoustic drums. Drums are loud, and in this Covid-19 era, we must be even more mindful of people working from home.

The sheer volume of acoustic drums can often rule them out of apartment buildings unless you have tolerant neighbors or use the sound dampening options available. Even in houses, the sound can permeate outside and into your neighborhood. So if you are reading this and thinking that sound levels could be an issue, electronic drums may be a great option. You can play using headphones or at lower volumes through a speaker.

If sound control is your primary concern, keep in mind that there are many modern solutions to acoustic drum noise. These include low-cost products such as dampening pads and surface gels.

Also, it is inaccurate to assume that electronic drums make no sound when connected to headphones. While mesh head drums have helped address this issue, the sound of the sticks hitting the pads, plastic cymbals, and especially the bass drum beater hitting the bass pad can annoy non-drummers in the household.

Do electronic drums take up less space?

While some smaller-sized electronic drum sets take up less space, it is marginal at best. You need a floor space of 6-7 feet square to accommodate a drum set and the drummer comfortably. Yes, that's right - don't forget the drummer!

There’s nothing more annoying than being confined or forced to sit too close to your drums due to space restrictions. This can also affect your technique and posture and should be considered when determining where your drums will live.

While some electronic drum sets have racks that can be folded, it will soon become cumbersome to set up and pack down your set every time you want to play.

Do electronic drums feel the same?

Something to consider with electronic drum sets is that unless you look at the top-end models, the drum pads are often undersized, with an average diameter of 8 inches. As these pads are mounted on a rack system provided with the set, the net result is that the drums are compacted together.

While this may have some advantages with saving a small amount of space, the downside is that the playing position becomes cramped, affecting your posture and how you approach the drums. Some manufacturers like Pearl and Roland are now producing electronic drum sets that use full-sized drum shells, and this is a move in the right direction, but beware, these can be pricy options.

One of the main differences is the overall difference in feel. Pads made from rubber, plastic, or mesh do not feel the same as hitting a real drum head. They are closer than ever before, but the pads that come with electronic sets can let you get away with certain things that acoustic drums will not.

If work is needed on your technique, acoustic drums will reveal those opportunities, whereas mesh heads can let you cover up all sorts of drumming sins. You could use the analogy of running on a treadmill versus running on the road. The treadmill is great - it’s comfortable, controllable, and smooth. The road is testing, which makes you work a little bit harder, but achieves better results.

Is it easy to transition from an electronic drum set to an acoustic one?

Drummers who regularly play and practice on electronic drums can often have difficulty transitioning to acoustic drums. The articulation of the cymbals, the drums' response, and the different dynamic approaches to playing the set can take some getting used to.

With that said, there is nothing of note that can't be overcome with time, practice, and repetition. Whether you opt for an acoustic or electronic drum set, you are still developing the all-important foundations of rhythm, which is the most important factor when beginning drums. The nuances of dynamics, musicality, and articulation will be honed along the way, regardless of which drum set type you initially prefer.

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