This quick blog is intended for people who are already sold on the Edrum idea and just haven’t quite purchased their kit yet. It’s really only applicable for mesh head style drums, but whatever.
I have a Pintech Edrum kit mated with an Alesis Trigger IO I purchased used a few years back. For certain projects it’s quite useful when utilizing modern samples like Superior Drummer 2.0, Steven Slate Drum Samples, or more techno-type pursuits.
I’ve found it difficult to tame drummers I’ve groomed for years to beat the living shit out of their real drum kit as if it were a [insert sexist comment here] woman to suddenly treat my plastic gadget as a UPS employee is SUPPOSED to treat his deliveries. In short, they blow through the triggers pretty quickly.
The Bad News
At first I thought I was just screwed. Luckily, replacement triggers are available for about $20 a pop from the Pintech guys. With drummers who have issues with the estrogen gender and plastic, I’ve found it doesn’t take too many sessions to render these triggers useless. On the worst cases, that can get about as expensive as buying drum heads for a real kit. Yuck!
Even worse, nothing evokes that crapped-your-pants feeling in a drummer like when they hit something and it doesn’t make any noise. It’s a violation of their instincts. So the last thing you want is missed hits due to bad triggers.
The Good News
It turns out that these edrum gadgets are WAY simpler than anyone may lead on. In fact, there is almost NOTHING to them. They use a piezo, which is basically that buzzer/beeper thing you hear when a computer starts up. It’s essentially the worst speaker on earth (a buzzer thingy that looks like a thin coin from the old west and two wires). Since it’s a speaker, it’s also a microphone. Let me explain.
As you may be familiar with the Yamaha Subkick or equivalent, microphones and speakers are more or less the same thing except for one is optimized for sending sound out and one is ideal for bring sound in.
So you’ve got Doc Holiday’s soda money, some foam dampening the shock between the mesh head and the piezo, and that’s about it. It’s much more primitive than I had realized.
Saving Big Bucks
That $20 piezo from Pintech can be found at Radio Shack (piezo transducer part #273-073 http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2062402) for a whopping $2. I’m re-using the foam that game with the edrums when possible, but when those break, I simply use some foam I found around the house. So instead of trigger swapping for the entire kit being a $100 enterprise, it’s now $10. (AKA WELL worth my time!)
The only downside with the Radio Shack version is it comes with a plastic shell you have to pop the piezo out of and it won’t come with the little wired lead. Once you figure it out, it takes about 45 seconds. You’ll have to splice the two wires in. So it does take a few extra seconds and a little electrical tape.
I have this little hypothesis that cutting the foam in half and taping a quarter in between them so the shock of the stick hitting the head, the foam, then the quarter, the foam, and then the piezo may add significant life to the head. It may screw with response a bit. I’m not sure about that. The principal is the same as adding various, isolated layers when sound proofing a room. We’ll see. If anyone has tried it, let me know.
On the drums I’ve used dramatically larger foam to cover the trigger, I’ve not noticed any downsides. So far, it appears that placing just a little foam underneath the piezo helps to reduce vibrations from the kit, which have been problematic for me in the past. I expect my setup to last longer. We’ll see.
BS Theory Time
You could probably do the same exact thing using cheapo dynamic mics. Yeah, I’m serious. Some $20 dynamic mics with foam on them to protect them and running that into a module might even work. It’s the same thing in concept. (I’m not sure about the levels going into the module.) When the foam-covered mic is struck, a signal will flow out of the mic, into the module to be converted to MIDI, and into your computer rig. The results would be similar if the module could handle it.
The Fancy Rimshot Mechanism
A big selling point of the Pintech drums is they offer the rimshot possibility. If you hit the rimof the drum, you can use that signal to trigger an actual rimshot sample. This seems like a cool feature (and is most of the time). However, I didn’t realize that all they had done was clipped a piezo to the “shell” of the drum. Of course, this “shell” is metal. So when you hit the rim, it vibrates and this piezo picks it up. This tells me that if a person really wanted to, they could just attach these piezos to metal pots and pans and have a functional edrum kit (the feel of the drum may not be up to par, but I’ve not had anyone comment on the EXCEPTIONAL feel of my Pintech mesh kit either). I suspect there is some way to use sheet metal, cover it in something dampening to get the feel closer, and a person would never need to replace their piezos again. Of course, it would look like something from Mad Max…..(Yes, that IS a good thing.)
So Why Not Build Your Own Edrum Kit?
Now that I know how simple this edrum stuff is, I now know that I can swap out the triggers myself in a short amount of time. Even better, I know that I’m not dependant entirely on what the kit came with. When stuff breaks, I don’t feel the extreme need to order factory replacements. For example, when the remaining cymbals of mine break, I have big plans of buying plastic plates that belong in a kitchen, attaching the piezo and seeing what happens. I expect it to work just fine with a little monkeying.
Note: The whole purpose of this blog is to pass on just how simple of a technology this whole edrum trigger business is. I’m not exactly attempting to sway you away from buying a kit. I just wish I would have known that the edrums were THIS simple. It may have affected decisions in the past.
The truth is it is going to be time consuming to develop your own edrum setup that is fully adjustable from scratch and feel good to you…..unless you already have a cheap old drum kit you don’t mind tearing up (HINT HINT).
The hihat functionality probably wouldn’t be too hard to figure out, but I’d rather just buy a ready made solution.
There is something to starting with the solid foundation, already soldiered jacks, etc of a good edrum kit.
Building Your Own Edrums
Use the ol’ Google machine for this one. When I first set out on my edrum quest, I didn’t realize just how comprehensive the world of DIY edrum construction was. There are tutorials out the wazoo and tons and tons of people who’ve put together incredible setups for dramatically lower price than the fancy, high end kits out there.
I just assumed that these things would be clunky or wouldn’t have the feel of something on the high end like Roland or Pintech. I can tell you that a trigger gadget is a trigger gadget at least when it comes to mesh.
The article kinda went all over the place. Basically, I have a few points.
EDrum triggers are $2 to replace
Edrum technology is not nearly as complicated as everyone says it is.
Building your own edrums is not nearly as complicated as you may think.
There are numerous tutorials and instructions for building your own edrum kit.