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Do you think it might be (honestly) to build one's own electronic drum kit, from quasi-scratch?

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  • Do you think it might be (honestly) to build one's own electronic drum kit, from quasi-scratch?

    I use Logic Pro X for all my home recording. Way back in the day, back when Logic was still owned by eMagic, I used to use a midi-keyboard controller to literally tap out all my drum parts... track by track. I'd bring up Midi-Track 1, and that would be my "Hi-Hats" track, and I'd perform the whole song, just tapping on the black keys, doing scoops, and foot stomps and all. Then I'd come back, and Midi-Track 2 would be "Snare"... and so on and so on. It was tedious AF... but I was young, and it was amazing to me. Well... I'm older now, and while I have a bit more money than back then... I still don't have the kind of money to buy a full on electronic drum set.

    There's no chance I can afford nice drums. Even bottom line, entry level plastic pad kits cost a ton considering they are just a midi keyboard controller broken up into a clunky format. I'm sure they are well worth the money if that's your thing, but I genuinely only use home recording as a song writing tool. I do not have ambitions of creating Emmy award winning drum takes. I just want to be able to "lay down some drums" in midi format, but without having to do it, track by tack, on a keyboard. I also don't want to just use built in loops or digital drummers. Those are really awesome, but sometimes I really just want to play the exact beat I have in my head and not poke around for 3 days clicking through loops or trying to coax the digital drummer to do what I want.

    Does anyone on here have any experience with using drum triggers to build their own electronic drums? I am a very experienced woodworker and have made my own stave drums many times before. I could easily build some drums that are only 2-3" deep, no bottom heads, and attach drum triggers to them. But since I have ZERO experience with drum triggers, I don't know if that would be a big waste of time that would just not work, or if I'm on to something. Anybody know of any resources where someone has already tried something like this?

    Thanks guys!

  • #2
    The basics are easy: piezo elements are inexpensive, and you can affix them to plywood or other rigid surfaces and whack away. If you amplify the result, you can get a decent kick drum sound--that's the basis of those wooden foot pedal "kick" drums. Next, you get an Arduino or other Áprocessor and convert the signal to digital, process as MIDI, etc.

    But that's the end of the "easy" part. Next you'll find that materials science bites you in the butt, because getting a good feel and response from the "drum head" takes a LOT of experimentation, revision, rebuilds, etc.

    It's not impossible, but it's a long road. And if you're intent on building a real, physical "kit" with multiple triggers and a kick trigger, I'm sure materials will cost you more than a Benjamin or two.

    I build and repair guitar amps


    • #3
      I have done this. It is not hard. I did it because my acoustic kit was too loud to use in my living situation. You take an acoustic drum set and mount piezos under the drum heads on crossmembers. Replace the regular drum heads with mesh heads and remove lower heads if you want it silent. I did this in a way that used the existing holes for the lug mounts and didn't have to drill any new holes (I later converted it back to acoustic very easily). A bit of foam goes between the trigger and the head. I have had pro drummers play my e-kit and they loved how it felt just like regular drums. If you want the drums to be a bit smaller than an acoustic kit look for a really cheap used kit, maybe even a kid's size kit, and you can cut the drums in half so only the mount and top rim remain. You can also scavange random size toms or what not to cut down to make drums and mount them on tripod stands and things. Lots of options.


      • #4
        Consider a plain old drum machine. They play patterns, but you can also drum out individual hits on the buttons. I certainly have done that many times on an old Yamaha RX15 or RX11.
        Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.


        • #5
          It's a buyer's market out there at this time in the pandemic. Plus, enough years have past since the first generation of decent electronic drum kits emerged. When I still had a band together, reformed from what we had back in the late 60's for around 7 years, restarted in 2005, I turned my living room in my 2-bedroom apt (within a group of duplex apt's) into a music room, and bought a used Roland V-Sessions TD-10 kit for $3400. Kits like those are showing up affordable. Mine are tucked away in storage, and all I'm using of the kit these days is the controller for shop work. I'd scour the countryside and look to see what can be found for what you can afford. May be parts of an older decent kit that can be acquired to cobble an inexpensive set together. The Roland TD-20 was the first decent hi-hat recreation instead of the 'simulation' that is in the TD-10 controller and the kit's pedal. I was able to borrow the hi hat and controller from CenterStaging where my shop is set of the nice perks I had available when the band was still together.
          Logic is an organized way of going wrong with confidence


          • #6
            I had some 80's analog synth drum heads that triggered really well and had a decent feel. I took one apart and it consisted of a piece of birch ply maybe 8mm thick, a regular piezo transducer glued in the middle and a covering of tough rubber about 2mm thick. The ply had been formed into a very slight dome - barely anything - and sanded flat where the piezo transducer was fitted. This assembly was mounted in a glass-fibre shallow shell with a chrome retaining ring. The electronics were fairly simple but the piezo signal had an amplifier and some simple filtering to condition the pulse. It doesn't seem very sophisticated, but you could set up a snare sound and do rim shots.

            You'd need to connect to a trigger-to-midi interface. Take a look at Roland's TM-1 which will take a very simple trigger as an input (though you can't do rim or edge shots with this unless that's the drum sound selected). It does midi conversion but I can;t say if it meets your needs.