A big question we get at Music Lab – East Sacramento from new drum students who have not purchased a drum set yet is: Should I buy acoustic drums or electric drums? The answer was quite simple ten years ago: Buy acoustic drums because electronic drums are too expensive. Now, electronic drums are priced competitively with standard acoustic drums and a choice can be harder to make. We are going to take a quick dive into this topic and offer a few things to consider when deciding which option would work best.
Surprisingly, there are genuinely nice electronic drum set for UNDER $500! At the time of this blog, major retailers are selling full electronic drum sets for as low as $299.99. The reason why electronic drums win this category is because they INCLUDE all the hardware and cymbals. When purchasing acoustic drums, all items are sold separately. First, the drum shells need to be picked out, we commonly refer to this as a “shell pack.” Next, hardware needs to be purchased. Hardware includes: a drum throne, a bass drum pedal, a hi-hat pedal, cymbal stands, etc. Finally, cymbals need to be purchased. Some drummers may prefer the acoustic option because it does offer more customizable features such as a specific drum sound, or cymbal sound. There are more options of where the acoustic drums and cymbals can be placed, rather than the relatively limited placements of the pads offered with electronic drums. If budget is a big factor, electronic drums are the better choice.
Volume, Sound & Space
This may be the biggest factor for new drummers when deciding about whether acoustic drums or electronic drums are better for their situation. Without a doubt, electronic drums win this category. Electronic drums are MUCH quieter than acoustic drums. There are several dampening products for acoustic drum sets, but at the sacrifice of all the feel of the acoustic drums. Electronic drums allow the drummer to plug in headphones for early morning, or late night drumming without too much of disruption in overall volume if the other members of the family, or the neighbors next door (we all know the ones…) are not music aficionados. Electronic drums can also be connected to speakers if the new drummer is looking for that louder volume that acoustic drums have. One of the biggest selling points to electronic drums is they offer a wide variety of different kit sounds. It is easy to switch from a big rock drum set, to a Middle Eastern table and percussion kit with one click. Acoustic drums simply do not have the flexibility to create completely different sounds as electronic drums do. The overall “footprint” or space, that the electronic drums take up in a room or stage is generally much smaller than that of a traditional drum set. Electronic drums are smaller, as the pads or playing surfaces are usually 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Electronic drums do not have the depth that acoustic drums have so they are able to take up much smaller space. For those that live in an apartment or multi-unit living situation, will almost certainly want to go with the electronic drum option. If there is enough space to permit a larger footprint, or ideally a rehearsal room, acoustic drums may be the better option.
UNDENIABLY acoustic drums win this category. There is just something about when drumsticks strike real acoustic drums. It is a feeling that electronic drums have been trying to replicate for years. While electronic drums have made some advancements over the last 10 years with mesh heads, it still does not come close to the feel of real drumheads. Acoustic cymbals also have a special feel to them that simply cannot be replicated by rubber cymbals used in electronic drums. Acoustic drums and cymbals are also larger than electronic drums, so there is more overall space to work with. However, the “feel” of electronic drums is much more “forgiving” than acoustic drums. Most drummers will agree that they are able to play faster, cleaner fills on electronic drums than on acoustic drums because electronic drums are “triggering” a sound or sample of a drum/cymbal that is struck perfectly, with the velocity of the stroke playing a much smaller role than on acoustic drums. This allows drummers to pull off fills that are much harder to replicate on acoustic drums. Acoustic drums still feel a lot better than electronic drums for most drummers.
Gigs & Transporting
The goal for a lot of drummers is to eventually display their talent in public at a concert, recital, open mic night, party, or as our music instructors call it, GIGS! Acoustic drums also win this category. While electronic drums may not take up as much space in the car when transporting to the gig, there is a much larger margin for error in forgetting pieces or cords that make the electronic drums work. Setup and tear down time also take much longer with electronic drums, as the drummer will need to assemble the rack which the pads and cymbal pads are mounted to, route all the correct cords from the drum/cymbal pad to the corresponding input on the back of the drum module/”brain”, while also making sure all the cords are functioning properly. With traditional acoustic drums, setup and teardown takes much less time, with no cords involved. Cosmetically/aesthetically, acoustic drums are more fitting for a stage. Electronic drums are great for live events if volume is of major concern. It is easier to control the overall volume of the electronic drums and will give a more “produced” sound than having to EQ acoustic drums. The drummer will need to consider what types of music, and venues they will be performing at. In general, acoustic drums are the better option here.
There are several factors to consider when deciding purchasing electronic drums or acoustic drums. A strong recommendation would be to go to a drum shop or music store and “test drive” both options out. Which one feels better? Which one accommodates more? Each drummer has a unique situation and will deal with certain factors carrying more weight than others. For more information, feel free to reach out to any of our drum instructors at Music Lab – East Sacramento to see what option would be best!