Article by David Sellick (Drum store manager, Lynbrook)
So you are about to buy someone (maybe yourself or a child), a first drum kit and you are asking yourself the same question as the thousands that have gone before you.
Acoustic or Electronic Drum Kit.. Which is the best fit for me?
The truth is that there is no one answer for all, as everybody’s personal situation and living circumstances will vary. Drumming is essentially combinations of hand and feet patterns that we practice until they become muscle memory. These skills can be learned on either type of drum kit and the basic concept of playing drums remains the same on either option.
So to help you decide which is the best fit for you, here are a few key points to consider.
Acoustic vs Electronic
Acoustic – Although hard to put into words, there is simply nothing that compares to the feel of playing an acoustic drum kit (the way the stick bounces off the drum)
Electronic – Most entry level electronic kits will have a rubber pad surface which is hard (rigid) in comparison to an acoustic drum, however it is it worth noting that most beginners start the drumming journey practicing hand exercises on a rubber type practice pad, which will generally have a similar feel.
Acoustic – Simply put, acoustic drums are loud! Yes there are a number of ways to quieten down an acoustic drumkit, products such as drum mutes and mesh drum heads, however whilst these will reduce the volume to varying degrees, most will also dramatically change the playing feel. Note, these product are generally an additional purchase
Electronic – The mass appeal of an electronic kit revolves around volume control. An electronic kit requires a speaker to produce sound. This can be either in the form of headphones for silent, solo practice, ideal for shared living etc, or a larger speaker for a performance-based setting.
Before we move past volume, here is something to consider. How long will you, your housemates or family and neighbours tolerate acoustic drums? I used to have an hour a day between school and dinner to practice. In hindsight, I could have played an electronic kit anytime I wanted and for as long as I wanted. And let’s face it, the more we practice the better we get.
Available space where you want to set up your drum kit is also worth considering. Of a general rule, electronic kits tend to be more compact with space saving fold away options also available. Footprints will vary and should be used as a guide only and please note that both require player access space to be left behind them Another tip is to always set up a kit on carpet or a mat to stop slipping.
Acoustic – 1.5m wide x 1.3m deep (avg. size, standard set-up)
Electronic – 1.2m wide, 1m deep (avg. size, standard set-up)
Electronic kits have an increased level of interaction for the player with most models providing the following features:
Varying drum sounds (IE. change the sound from a drum kit to African drums and others with the push of a button);
Play along – Inbuilt musical tracks across a range of genres for you to play along with. You are also able to plug any music storage device, such as your phone directly into the sound module, allowing you to play along with your favourite songs.
Training – Many models will have an inbuilt training program to assist the beginner’s development
It is always recommended that you make your purchase through a recognised musical instrument retailer, whereby all new purchases are covered by a warranty period, (normally 12 months) and lets face it, this is a product you are going to hit continuously, and whilst there are some great value packages around, sometimes things break! A warranty gives you peace of mind.
Last but not least, if buying the drum kit for somebody else (maybe a child), always at least consider what they truly want. (In a lot of cases this will be driven by their drum teacher, or somebody in a similar position that they look up to). Be mindful that you don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm they are showing towards learning a musical instrument. It is such a healthy pastime for both body and mind. However If you can’t come to an agreement then I would highly recommend a visit to your local Musical Instrument Retailer to try a few different kits out.