Getting Electronic Sounds from Acoustic Drums

Getting Electronic Sounds from Acoustic Drums

Acoustic drum sounds, electronic drum sounds, hybrid drum sounds. Nowadays, drumming sounds are no longer clearly distinguishable from each other, rather they are interchangeable, mixed, transitioned seamlessly and, above all, no longer genre specific. For drummers, this opens up a whole range of possibilities, from small mechanical modifications to the complete electrification of the drum kit. Here we’ll discuss some steps you can take to give your acoustic drums a more electronic touch. 


Electronic Drum Sound Basics

First of all, what actually distinguishes an “electronic drum sound? One answer could be that such sounds were either generated by a computer or that their repetition, always exactly the same, creates a machine-like flow that gives the music a certain feeling.

Another explanation is that electronic sounds often take up their own acoustic space, which no longer resembles a drum set in a natural environment, but sounds artificial and delimited. And that’s exactly where you as a drummer can start very effectively:

Step 1: Muting Acoustic Drums

An openly ringing snare drum has its own charm and will assert itself well in the acoustic context. But if an electronic sound is to be imitated, these overtones create a very natural, spatial feeling, which is usually contrary to our intention. So we need damping. A variety of measures are suitable for this, e.g. the wallet technique (see photo below) can provide a short, fat sound, which immediately gives the the session that hip hop flavour.

Man drumming on a snare

However, it’s more reliable with products developed for this purpose. The Snareweight leather mufflers  are available in a wide range of damping levels that can be easily adapted to the desired sound. Big Fat Snaredrum‘s special collar-less skins deliver the fat drum machine sound of the ’70s.

Step 2: Soup up the acoustic drums with Jingles

Many electronic snare sounds are characterized by a part of a sampled tambourine. Especially soul music from the ’60s has this characteristic. Such sounds can be heard in Hip Hop, Neo Soul or Drum’n’Bass. Either used alone or in combination with damping, this results in very authentic, funky sounds that are great in the context of electronic bass lines or in recording in general. Here are a few suggestions:

Step 3: Add Electronic Pads to Acoustic kits

A popular way to give the acoustic drum kit an electronic flare is to add electronic components to it. The range of products in this department is quite large, so you should ask yourself exactly what you want before you buy a device. Should it be a well-known electronic clap sound or the sometimes triggered boomy bass drum? Do you want to hear a pre-made sound on your album or do you want control over the variables?

Roland’s SPD-One series, for example, allow a very simple operation, but at the same time provide different groups of classical electronic or percussive sounds. The different models offers the possibility of playing your own sounds triggered by drum stick. Full control is provided by the Roland SPD-SX, which impresses with 9 striking surfaces, extensive editing and storage options. This device is also unique because it can be used with services such as Splice where you can browse all kinds of sounds and upload them to the device via Ableton Live Lite and Wave Manager softwares. Also you can record your own sounds with a mic and add them to the device for a fully-customised experience. Also, check out the Millenium NonaPad for a more-affordable alternative!

The Swedish manufacturer Clavia takes a slightly different approach with its Nord Drum 3P. Instead of samples, this device offers a built-in synthesizer with which you can create your own high-quality electronic drum sounds.

Step 4: Triggering and mixing acoustic & electronic drum sounds

More and more drummers are using a mix of natural drum sounds and electronic elements both live and in the studio. The most common way to do this is a combination of a drum kit and a trigger. The trigger is attached to the rim and the drum’s surround sound as well as the mixed signal from the drum module plays when the sensor is triggered. If you want to record this combination, you will need one or more microphones, an interface and a recording device such as a computer.

Theoretically, you can use any drum module for this, it’s up to you how much of the mix you want both signal sources to have. Do you want to deliver more kick and sub bass live? Then you simply search the module for an appropriate sound and send it to the live mixer from your module.

Or is it about giving the acoustic snare drum sound a bit of electronic flare in the form of white noise or additional attack? Roland‘s RT-30HR snare trigger module might be perfect for this, or the more advanced RT-MicS, an all-in-one device with trigger, microphone and sample sounds.

If more drums are to be electrified, the TM6-Pro is the perfect choice, offering extensive sound and editing options as well as interface functionality. The Yamaha EAD10 module offers a lot of fun and a relatively new approach to drum set electrification. It triggers only the bass drum, but two small microphones pick up the entire kit and add a series of processed sounds that sound incredible and definitely unlike acoustic drums.

We hope you enjoyed our article on how to soup up your acoustic drum kit with electronic sounds using triggers and modules. Happy experimenting! And don’t forget to subscribe to our our Thomann’s Drum Bash YouTube channel

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Joe has been singing since he can remember and started playing guitar when he was 10. He's been using it as a songwriting tool ever since. He is passionate about melody and harmony and admires musicians who create these in unique ways. Check out his alternative / indie projects Best of Feelings and Zef Raček.


    this is a very Roland heavy overview…what about mentioning 2BOX modules and triggers, also ddrum’ s classic pro triggers and pro-level ddrum3 module ? You also missed out Simmons the originators of the electronic kit whose analogue electronic sounds remain popular classics…??? and Pearl’s Mimic pro module…possibly the most popular, professional level drum module right now ?

    Hi Bruce! Oh wow, you are right we should have mentioned a more diverse range of brands! Thanks for the heads up! We will in the next article on this topic. Have a good one!

    Why the hell would anyone want to make an acoustic drum sound like an electronic one? The electronic drum is, at best, only a second rate substitute for the real thing.

    Hi Barry, to each their own! Some compositions require a certain “electronic” aesthetic/texture, and for reproducing it live… I think it’s more fun to hit things with sticks rather than with the index finger. That’s how I see it, at least.

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