Before You Buy Edrums

Brandon Drury —  September 30, 2010

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 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.

Party On!


Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.

10 responses to Before You Buy Edrums

  1. You could also ask the drummers to exercise some professionalism and play correctly. I’ve had Pintechs going on 10 years and only had to replace one trigger…and that was mainly to update it from their old design. If a drummer is worth having on a session, he should be able to play at a medium level of intensity. I’m not saying he has to play softly (that’s absolutely no fun and can suck the life out of the performance) but a drummer needs to know how to play beyond banging.

    Another way around it (more expensive though) is to put mesh heads on an acoustic set and use the triggers that clip on. Because they’re attached to the rim and you’re not hitting them directly, a “basher” won’t be beating them up. It’s a higher initial investment but you won’t be spending time or money replacing anything. Plus you can convert back to acoustic if you want. Also it sometimes help the drummer feel more comfortable if he’s behind a traditional kit.

  2. Nice, informative article. I would add this, though – Roland drums are a lot more rugged that Pintech (in my experience). In the many years I have been active at the forum, I don’t recall anyone mentioning problems with trigger failure due to heavy hitting *alone*. When it does occur, it almost always is due to the heads being too loose, particularly the kick. This likely owes to the double-ply heads Roland uses – they don’t deflect as much. I would recommend to anyone wishing to learn more about edrums, Roland or otherwise. DIY, other brands, VSTs, acoustics, and a wide range of drum-related (and just plain silly) topics are covered there.

    Finally, I know recording buffs are big into VSTs, but Yamaha’s higher end modules, and Rolands modules – when tweaked with patches from – render very good results without all the headaches that come along with triggering samples (especially in regards to hihat settings).

    Great article though. I’m sure as a recorder you are digging the whole edrum thing. Soooo much simpler and flexible in the long run!

  3. Great article Brandon! Another thing I’d like to add about those piezo’s you’re talking about. If someone decided to just buy a practice pad kit, they could mount the piezo’s using fish tank adhesive. The cool thing about silicon is it actually promotes vibrations and softens the blow when the pads are hit.

    This was a very cool thing that Simmons originally came up with. Remember those first generation, stop sign looking Simmons pads? I have a set to this day that I have literaly beat the hell out of since…..hmm…when dinosaurs walked the earth!

    What made them last so long in my opinion? The adhesive on the triggers themselves. Think about the shock that goes on when these things vibrate and receive a pulse to turn into a midi note. Now magnify that by 1000 when some 250lb drummer with a bald head cracks it with a tree stump stick.

    I’ve had Roland pads go on me in 2 months. Simply opening them up, re-seating the trigger and putting some silicon adhesive on it made it last forever. I’ve been able to repair all my pads in this manner over the years. I’ve since switched to a bit better Roland pad which is a bit bigger…but all my old ones are perfect for back-ups if I have a problem as well as kit expansion pieces, extra toms, percussion etc. :)

  4. fish tank adhesive

    Interesting! I’ll definitely give that a try. I would have never thought of that in a million years. Thanks for the tip.

  5. You could also ask the drummers to exercise some professionalism and play correctly

    Well the “correctly” part is a bit tricky. On hard rock/metal side of the fence, you’ve got to kill the drums to get the necessary attack. (It also applies to a lot of country stuff as well). R&B, jazz, old time rock allow for much more dynamics.

    I think we are creatures off habit. I think when a a loud drummer gets into drummer mode, they automatically play they way they are used to. Drummers have always been a different animal ( to sum up 99% of them). I don’t understand 75% of the things they do in life and beating on edrums is just another one on the list.

  6. One other thing…I echo Bruce on his great comments on the Roland pads vs the Pintech. I also wanted to clarify that the pads I was mentioning when I spoke about Roland were pads, not mesh heads. The Roland Pads like the pd 8′s and 7′s are a bit different. Sometimes the plastic housing will crack on them which alters the vibration to the triggering mechanism.

    Re-seating that trigger as well as gluing the crack in the plastic fixes this problem every time..and 95% of my repairs have been permanent. The same with the Roland lower end cymbal pads like the CY 8. The plastic and rubber can separate and sometimes crack. Repairing the crack with epoxy or good crazy glue, re-seating the trigger and using a little silicon fishtank adhesive will fix this every time.

    A little about the Roland expansion packs and vexpressionsltd type stuff. Though they work incredibly well and totally hot-rod your current V Drums brain, they are a far cry away from using Superior 2 or BFD 2 in my humble opinion. One of the greatest features in BFD 2 is how it has so many samples per drum. Nothing comes close to it in that are. You’re actually capable of opening it up to 296 samples per drum if I’m not mistaken. This means, like a real drum, you are never going to get the same exact hit and get “robo-triggering” when you do insane fills, rolls, or crazy double bass work.

    Another thing to keep in mind also, these newer programs have been pre-designed to integrate right into any V Drums kit. The second you fire them up they have auto-templates that will allow you instant mapping to your current V Drums configuration based on the brain you use. This is an incredible time saver for most users. For those that need a more intricate set-ups, it is very easy to edit and configure your own custom kits and mappings. The newer programs also have “light” modes to where if you have a slower pc, have no fear, you won’t be bogged down with cpu and ram usage.

    BFD 2.1 will run an 18 piece kit or more at under 100mb using “On Demand” mode. That’s pretty impressive. I’ve gotten huge Superior kit loads at 384mb that work flawlessly. So don’t ever worry about having VSTi issues…they have since become a thing of the past and these drums can literally be used in real time live on stage using the bare minimum system which would intail just a lap top, ASIO4ALL drivers using 64 buffers, a stock onboard soundcard and a midi connection. :)

  7. Brandon,
    You got me thinking about making a real life version of the ezdrummer twisted kit now.

  8. Brandon Those musical greeting cards they sell in All at one dollar stores, have the same piezo speakers. And they donĀ“t have any plastic casing on them.
    A good deal for one dollar.

  9. Excellent points. DIY is as easy as pie(zo) and I have a buddy who swears by his completely homemade ekit made from old acoustic drums with piezos mounted on the shell and garage sale cymbals with multi zone piezos riveted! I wish I had that kind of time…

    Unfortunately, all piezos have a shelf life as essentially as Brandon pointed out, they are tiny mics that will eventually have vibrated themselves to death. Sure their MTBF can be measured in the millions of vibrations, but if you think about it, that could be a few short years for a really busy studio.

    In lieu of raising your prices to pay for sloppy neanderthal drummers, you might also consider boosting their headphone mix or artificially pumping the highs on the cymbal track as they might be bashing to compensate for their lack of perceived “dynamics”. By dynamics I mean hit shit loud. Unga bunga..

  10. Ap1325, that’s brilliant!!!!! I would have never thought of that! Hahahahahaha! You rule!