Electronic Drums vs. Acoustic Drums For Practice

Drummers of the past lived tough lives. Electronic drum kits were awful to play and were limited in sounds. A hefty acoustic was the only way to go.

We’re lucky they’ve come a long way over the past decade and there’s more choice now than ever before.  

Cian Hodge

Cian Hodge

Here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of both electronic drum kits and their acoustic brethren, so you know exactly what to look out for.

Here are the main differences:

  • Electronic drum kits are made of plastic and rubber pads and sensors.
  • A digital module controls the type of sound produced when hit.
  • Can be used in practice and live settings.
  • Acoustic drum kits are larger and made of wood, metal and synthetic drumheads.
  • Used by almost all rock, jazz and metal musicians.

Both acoustic and electronic variants are completely viable practice kits. There’s no real exclusive wrong or right answer, but current electronic kits are giving acoustics and excellent run for their money.

Electronic Drum Kit

Pros

These kits are excellent for practice, be it at home or in a rehearsal space. You can plug headphones in for an almost silent session or hook them up to a PA system if you do eventually play with other musicians or at a gig.

As a beginner, you can experiment with absolutely any type of sound. Be it a maple acoustic kit emulation, unique percussion like gongs or just basic synth beats, the electronic kit can recreate whatever inspires you.

Almost all variants include the likes of a metronome with multiple voicings, looping features, play-along songs and mp3 compatibility. Everything you need as a drummer to make life easy.

It’s not just for those new to the instrument either. Cover band drummers can nail the sound of the original artist thanks to the supreme versatility. They’re just as easy to record with too, as all you need to do is plug them in via USB or MIDI.

They’re extremely portable as well. You’ll have no problem packing it into the back of a car.

TourTech Mesh Head Electronic Drum Kit - Andertons Music Co.

Cons

There are some downsides. Not everyone likes the sound of an electronic kit when reproducing that of an acoustic. And to be fair, there isn’t anyone who would say it sounds better than the original. Great for electronic stuff, not quite perfected for rock, metal and jazz.

An electronic kit might cost more than the equivalent acoustic kit, especially as you look further up the price range. Beginner models offer great bang for your buck, but some creep into acoustic territory.

Seasoned drummers after a kit specifically for a synthetic sound won’t mind too much, but an electronic kit isn’t really what you stick with as you progress in your career as a drummer. You might not want to make that jump just as you start getting comfortable with the feel of electric pads at an early stage.

Acoustic Drum Kit

Pros

The daddy of percussion instruments. The acoustic drum kit has been around as long as contemporary music itself.

Acoustics are great for practising because you’ll feel prepared when you play one in a live situation. Making the jump from electronic to acoustic in this setting isn’t ideal, but if you practice on an acoustic at home, you’ll feel at home on stage too.

Nothing beats the sound of an acoustic kit, especially as a rock musician. It powerful, punchy tone is great for a number of styles and there’s plenty of room to customise as you add to your setup.

The drums themselves react dynamically when hit. The immediate impact is responsive – they bring out a primal feeling when you’re playing.

Even better is the availability of mesh heads, which lets you create a hybrid kit. Place these over the top of the drums to kill the volume and connect with a digital module to alter the sound.

Acoustic Drum Kit - Andertons Music Co.

Cons

Where the electronic drums prevail, the acoustic kit faulters. They’re loud, heavy, cumbersome and take up a lot of space. Not ideal when limited to a small area or if you move them around regularly. And not great for the neighbours either, unless you have a dedicated rehearsal venue.

They don’t have much of a flexible sound, as far as electronic tone goes. There’s less experimentation, and if you do want to expand, they take up even more space and cost a lot more to boot.

Recording is just as difficult. You’ll need multiple microphones and an audio interface, which isn’t a problem with the electronic kit.

Conclusion

If you’re a true purist, the acoustic drum kit is the best way forward. It prepares you for a live setting and if you don’t mind the noise, size and cost of expansion you’ll be extremely happy.

Electronic drums are perfect as a secondary kit for experienced musicians or a first for beginners. They offer all the extras you can’t get on an acoustic with a slight trade-off in sound quality.

If you enjoyed this read, check out more of our Learn articles!

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Cian Hodge
Cian Hodge
Cian is a copywriter for the Andertons web team. He shares his birthday with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy and believes he will one day reach the same level of stardom. Cian is a big prog/modern metal fan so naturally loves Bare Knuckle pickups and headless or pointy guitars.

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