Electronic drums, the greatest technological advance in drumming in the last 50 years?
Electronic drums are said to have originated in the early 1970s, first being used on the track Procession” from the 1971 album “Every Good Boy Deserves Favor” by The Moody Blues. Graeme Edge, the drummer for the band in question collaborated with Sussex University professor Brian Groves to come up with the initial model. However he himself acknowledged its flaws stating; “When it worked it was superb, but it was before its day, because it was so sensitive…”
It was not until 1997 that Roland released the now immensely famous TD-10 model. This brought two significant innovations; the first, and most controversial being its method of providing a sound for the drums/pads themselves to trigger, instead of generating its sound through samples of an instrument. In effect, mathematical models were used to generate the sounds produced by the kit. This caused a divide, between musicians who believed that the shift away from trying to emulate a pure acoustic sound negated the other advances and those who regarded electronic drums as a platform for technological advancement and therefore did not consider the replication of an acoustic drum to the the main goal. The second advance arrived in the form of mesh pads. In collaboration with drum-head manufacturer Remo, Roland created a two-ply mesh head, which created the look and feel of a smaller acoustic drum. Combining these, Roland coined the brand name ‘V-Drums’ which has gone on to have exponential commercial success.
Before drawing any type of conclusion, assessing advantages and disadvantages is an important step;
- Quiet, drummers can use headphones for a near silent practice.
- Versatile, a good drum module can emulate an almost infinite number of kits.
- Can be used with samplers, as a MIDI control with a DAW.
- Price, electronic drums are generally more costly than acoustic kits.
- Do not perfectly reproduce the sound of acoustic kits (this could be viewed as an advantage depending on what the musician is looking to achieve)
- The quality of an electric kit is directly influenced by the speakers, monitors or headphones being used.
To conclude, I feel that electronic drums are a very important innovation, but as with all music, its usability and importance is greatly subjective.