1. Upgrade your drum module
The most obvious way to upgrade an electronic kit isn’t necessarily to change the hardware or the pads as those are simply the medium to create the sounds. Instead, you should look to upgrade the ‘brain’ or the actual source of those sounds which is called the Module.
Modules always come with an electronic drum kit but these will be of varying quality depending on their price point, functionality and usability. It’s a no-brainer (excuse the pun) to upgrade your module to automatically get better sounds out of your electronic drum kit. As long as the pads on your kit are fairly responsive and feel good to play, the module can literally be the difference between a kit that sounds dated with old samples and a kit that is studio or stage ready.
This can be a costly process but is more than worth it if you’re happy with how your kit feels already.
2. Upgrade your kick pedal
A good kick pedal is like a good pair of shoes – you love the fit and something just feels right. Often, electronic kits will come with kick pedals that can be upgraded to take the kit to another level. Or you might just want the same feel from your acoustic kit to your electronic kit and often drummers will have a kick pedal that they know and love in their arsenal.
A good kick will improve feel, speed, accuracy and be able to take a beating on the road depending on its moving parts. We all need reliable gear right?
3. Add more electronic drum pads or cymbals to your kit.
Most drum kit modules feature additional inputs which allow you to make your drumkit bigger according to taste and playing style. You can always add more triggers at a later date and it gives you the flexibility to do so.
It goes without saying that more drum pads or cymbals will give you more sounds at your fingertips and can work in a number of different ways. You could set up a crash cymbal pad to trigger massive booming sub drops if you wanted! Sometimes having the flexibility of an auxiliary pad is just what you need.
It also gives you more pads to fill out the feel of your electronic kit – by adding an additional tom you might be matching your favoured acoustic set up and so on.
4. Use a sampling pad (Like the Roland SPD SX) alongside your kit for additional sounds.
Adding a sampling pad alongside your electronic kit will open up your sound options. You can use the sampling pad to trigger loops to play along to or if you just want it for unique sounds that wouldn’t necessarily work in your full kit set up.
It can trigger midi for backing tracks in a full band set up or you can use it as your ‘clock’ to play to a click live or in the studio. Most pro drummers won’t be seen without a sampling pad to work with and the industry standard is the Roland SPD-SX with a fairly new competitor in the Alesis Strike.
5. Upgrade the snare to a Mesh Head snare for that acoustic kit feel.
According to most experienced musicians, the problem with going digital is losing the feel of the acoustic equivalent of their instrument. This is where Mesh heads come in. They’ve been designed to match the feel of real drum heads on an acoustic kit and have the same bounce back and attack that an acoustic drum would give you.
This is super important with fast rolls, flams and ghost notes where you really need the response of the kit to replicate that of an acoustic kit. Good Mesh head electronic pads do just that. They’re far better than your standard rubber heads in terms of feel. Mesh heads may improve the feel but won’t necessarily affect the sound – remember it’s the module that does that.
6. Use triggered drum software via MIDI and an interface
If an electronic kit has a USB connection and a MIDI connection (as most, if not all do!) then you can connect it up to an audio interface and use that to trigger sounds via software.
Simply put, you connect your kit to an audio interface via MIDI cables. The interface is connected to your computer and you use software to create the sounds. These can go directly into a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) where the notes are determined by the electronic pads you hit but the sounds are determined by the drum software that you use.
Some of the best software out there, like Steven Slate drums on the Pearl Mimic is actually recorded drum sounds where a real drummer has been recorded playing by a master sound engineer in a world-class studio.
As you can imagine, this gives you massive flexibility when recording because you can control your exact sounds and you’re getting brilliantly mixed drum sounds directly into your workflow. Not to mention you can easily edit the MIDI notes and correct any rushed drum fills or apply quantization to put your drumming perfectly in time.
7. Add a real Kick Drum to your kit with a trigger.
For some players, the look is the biggest problem when it comes to electronic drums. In fact, as drummers, we’re often not used to being so exposed on stage without a big bass drum to hide behind!
We’ve got you covered here too. Some professionals add an acoustic kick drum to their electronic rig with a trigger on the batter head to connect it to the module. This can also help give you the feel you’re used to on your acoustic kit.