5 Questions to Ask Before Buying an Electronic Drum Set

8183713552_043ea38776_kFinding the best electronic drum set for you may take some research and savvy shopping. Here are some helpful tips from Rosedale, MD teacher Theresa D...


Are you a beginning drummer, a drummer that is looking for something different, or a composer looking to add some beats tracks to a song? Well, buying an electronic drum set may be the answer that you are looking for — but there are many different drums to choose from. Here are some tips for buying the best electronic drum set for you.

What are you going to use the drum set for?

It is important to know what connections you are going to need. If you are planning to connect the drums to a computer, you are going to need a USB connection and/or an interface. Keep in mind that there are many different interfaces with multiple inputs, including microphones, ¼-inch connections, and USB. If you are using it for quiet practice time at home, you are going to need a ¼-inch adaptor for your headphones. You should always include a speaker or monitor for external sound. Most drum sets do not include a speaker or any sort.

There are full sets for the performer or you can get the smaller, more portable beat machines if you’re going to use it for composition or have very little space in your home. These can be a great tool for writing music or composing on the computer, as there are with loops and prerecorded beat patterns built into the memory of the machine. Most beat machines include a USB connection but many still need an external speaker for sound.

What features do you want?

Looking at the module or brains of the drum set can offer you insight as to if it is the best electronic drum set for you. Keep in mind that you can upgrade your module in the future for some models.

  • Sounds – All electronic drums include different sounds, but what kinds of sounds are you looking for? Some sets include classic drum sounds while others offer a variety of sound effects. Some drums allow you to input your own sounds and assign them to each piece of the set. Know what kinds of sounds you would like to use now and possible sounds you may need in the future. After all, you want to grow into your instrument and not out of it. In some models, you can even change the pitch of each drum and truly customize your sound.
  • Add-on possibilities – Not all sets have the capabilities of adding pieces like an addition tom or an extra cymbal. Find out which sets offer extra pieces (usually sold as a special order). Usually the lower-end drum sets do not offer that feature and you may need to upgrade to a mid-priced set or even higher. If you are not sure if the set you are looking at has the capability to add additional drums or cymbals, check to see if there any additional imports that are not plugged in or if it has extra cables with a ¼-inch plug at the end that is not plugged into a drum head or cymbal.
  • Programmed beats or songs – Many drum sets have beat patterns and songs programmed into the module. You can use these patterns for learning different styles of playing or just to spice up your drum practice. Some modules also have a built-in metronome, which is great for practicing and keeping a steady tempo. After all, you are the heartbeat of the music — too fast or too slow can cause major issues for you and others that you are playing with.

What comes with the drum set?

Does it come with a stool, pedals, headphones, cables, cable ties, adaptors, and a speaker? Nothing is worse than getting a new toy for your birthday and not having the batteries to make it work. Check to make sure you have everything that you need to make it work right out of the box.

Almost as important as the drums is the sound. There are many speakers available that the drum set will work with, but I recommend finding one specifically for drums. You can also use a general speaker or PA. Guitar amps will have effects built in, as well as a clean sound, but even that will not give you the quality of sound you may be looking for in the lower or higher ranges of the drums.

When should you buy an electronic drum set?

There are always sales, and music instruments are no exception. The best times to buy are holidays or right before the holidays. Shop around and compare prices. Many stores match prices with other stores and online prices (if from an online store). Keep in mind that the cost of shipping may be added to a price match in an actual store.

Which electronic drum set is right for you?

Always remember to play it before you buy it! Every set feels different when you play it. There are different materials that the heads are made of. If you want a more acoustic head feel, go for the mesh heads. If you want to play with a more heavy hand, then try the solid rubber head. It will allow you to play harder without worrying about breaking the actual head. Be careful about construction if you are a heavy hitter. Most brackets that hold the arms of the armature are made of a plastic. Too much stress on the arm or supports can result in damage to your set.

Also, try out the cymbals. Many cymbals don’t have the same reaction that traditional cymbals do (they are not as loose or flexible). Another thing to look for is the ability to choke a cymbal. Some cymbals allow a player to choke the cymbal while others do not. Most of the lower-priced sets do not have that ability but can be upgraded. I do know that there are some manufactures that produce a brass cymbal set with pickups built into them and can replace the cymbals that originally came with a set.

Not every drum set is created equal. But you don’t need every drum set to get what you want, just the right one for the job that you want to use it for. Keep in mind that you can change, upgrade, or add to your drum set or drum machine to customize your sound and playing experience.


Theresa D. teaches piano, guitar, percussion, and more in Rosedale, MD. She has been teaching for the past 18 years. Learn more about Theresa here!




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3 replies
  1. Dennis Drastic
    Dennis Drastic says:

    Those are excellent questions to keep in mind when you’re out searching for an electronic drum kit. You certainly don’t want to overpay but you want to spend enough to receive quality in exchange for the cash you’re giving up. You don’t want to be disappointed in the quality either so be sure to test the set out first before you pull the trigger. Really good questions.


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