How to Convert Acoustic Drums to Electronic (The Ultimate Guide)
You can convert your acoustic drums to electronic by adding drum triggers, mesh heads, and trigger pads to your set and connecting them to a drum module. This allows you to trigger electronic drum sounds from your acoustic kit. You can also build a hybrid electronic set by incorporating items such as a sample pad into your existing setup.
Here are some of the tips that I’ll delve into further in this article, guiding you through the process of converting your acoustic drums into electronic ones:
- Decide what type of hybrid kit you want to build (drum triggers, drum module, mesh drumheads (optional), electronic cymbals, necessary cables, and mounting hardware).
- Choose the right drum triggers best suited for you.
- Consider using a sample pad
- Pick a drum module based on your needs.
- Prepare your acoustic drums for conversion (removing drumheads and hardware, cleaning and inspecting shells).
- Configure the drum module settings for optimal performance.
- Test and fine-tune your electronic drum setup.
- 1. Use Mesh Heads If You Want Low Volume
- 2. Choose the right drum triggers
- 3. Consider adding Sample Pads or Trigger Pads
- 4. Select a drum module
- 5. Prepare your acoustic drums for conversion
- 6. Install the drum triggers
- 7. Add electronic cymbals
- 8. Set up the drum module
- 9. Test and fine-tune your electronic drum setup
- 10. Tips for getting the most out of your converted electronic drums
1. Use Mesh Heads If You Want Low Volume
There are many reasons why you might want to convert your acoustic kit to an electronic one and maybe one of those reasons is volume level. If you want to significantly lessen the volume output of your kit then consider using mesh heads for your drums.
They still closely simulate the feel of a proper drum head while keeping the volume low. They also work great with drum triggers making them a great choice when converting your kit.
My top pick for a great mesh head is the Remo Silenstroke Mesh Heads. If that doesn’t suit you then check out our article on quiet drum heads for more options.
2. Choose the right drum triggers
Drum triggers are essential components for converting acoustic drums to electronic ones, as they detect your drum hits and send signals to the drum module. If you want to go in-depth on how drum triggers work, check out our how drum triggers work article to learn more.
My top pick for a great drum trigger is the Roland Dual Trigger RT-30HR. If that trigger doesn’t suit your needs then visit our drum triggers article for more details on different models.
Factors to consider when choosing triggers
When selecting drum triggers, consider factors such as drum size and type, playing style, and budget. There are two main types of drum triggers: piezo triggers and magnetic triggers. Piezo triggers are more versatile and can be used on various drum types, while magnetic triggers are typically used for metal-shell drums.
Additionally, determine how you want to mount your trigger before shopping for triggers as there are 3 ways to mount your trigger; Clipped, internal side-mounted, and internal center-mounted. To learn more about the differences between them check out the previously mentioned article how drum triggers work to learn more.
3. Consider adding Sample Pads or Trigger Pads
A great addition to any kit is a sample pad. They’re an easy plug-and-play solution (since the module is built-in) that you can easily set up to the side of your kit. You can incorporate different sounds into your kit without doing much to your existing setup. A great sample pad that I recommend is the Roland SPD-SX, but if that isn’t to your liking then visit our article on the best drum pads for more options.
On the other hand, trigger pads are also great additions to any kit since you can map and trigger different sounds from them, but you will need to connect them to a drum module. A great trigger Pad that I recommend is the Roland V-Pad PDX-100.
4. Select a drum module
Note, a sample pad can act as your drum module if you only want to have a few electronic items in your setup as you can use the external inputs on the sample pad. However, if you want more inputs and more control of the sounds then keep reading…
The drum module is the “brain” of your electronic drum setup, responsible for processing trigger signals and generating drum sounds. When choosing a drum module, consider features such as the number of inputs, sound quality, and variety, compatibility with triggers, and recording and connectivity options. My top recommendation for a drum module that basically has everything you need is the Pearl MIMP24B Mimic Pro.
For more information on drum modules, check out our article on electronic drum modules to learn more and find the right model for you.
5. Prepare your acoustic drums for conversion
Before installing drum triggers, remove the drumheads and hardware from your acoustic drums, clean and inspect the shells, and consider replacing the drumheads with mesh drumheads for silent practice. Mesh drumheads provide a quieter playing experience and a more realistic feel compared to traditional drumheads. For more information on mesh drumheads, check out our article on quiet drum heads.
6. Install the drum triggers
The placement varies depending on the trigger. In many cases, you’ll be placing them on the rim so they touch the batter head. In other cases, you will place them inside the shell. Just make sure to follow the directions for the trigger you’re using.
Securing triggers to drums
To secure your drum triggers to your drums use adhesive or mounting brackets to secure the triggers, ensuring they are stable and responsive. Connect the triggers to the drum module using the appropriate cables.
7. Add electronic cymbals
Acoustic cymbals really shine above electronic ones (but physically and sound-wise!), but if you’re thinking of adding electronic cymbals, then keep in mind that they come in various types, such as single-zone, dual-zone, and triple-zone cymbals, offering different levels of responsiveness and playability.
Mount the electronic cymbals to your existing cymbal stands and connect them to the drum module.
I suggest going for the Roland CY-14C V-Cymbal if you want a great crash cymbal, the Roland CY-15R V-Cymbal for the ride, and the Roland VH-11 V-HI-Hat for a great hi-hat cymbal. To expand your knowledge about electronic cymbals, check out our article on the best electronic Cymbals.
8. Set up the drum module
Configure the trigger settings in the drum module for optimal performance, adjusting sensitivity and threshold settings as needed (particularly if you’re getting any crosstalk or accidental triggering between the different pads). Select and customize drum sounds to what you want and save custom drum kits for easy access.
9. Test and fine-tune your electronic drum setup
Play your converted electronic drums and adjust the trigger response and volume levels between drums and cymbals. Troubleshoot common issues such as double triggering and inconsistent trigger response by adjusting the module settings or repositioning the triggers.
10. Tips for getting the most out of your converted electronic drums
- Use headphones or amplifiers for monitoring your drumming.
- Record your drum performances using the drum module’s recording features or by connecting your setup to a computer or audio interface.
For more information on recording electronic drums, visit our record electronic drums article.
- Expand your setup with additional triggers and modules to create a more versatile and personalized electronic drum experience.
Converting your acoustic drums to electronic ones can provide numerous benefits and open up new possibilities for your drumming. By following this guide and experimenting with different components and settings, you can create a unique and customized electronic drum setup that meets your needs and preferences. So, go ahead and give it a try – you might just discover a whole new world of drumming possibilities!
Featured image (left) by Sascha Jäggiuploaded on Flickr by: Dave Kobrehel from CH / CC BY