Over the past decade, we’ve seen a rise in popularity of vintage instruments: the keytar, electronic drums, double-neck guitars, just to name a few. Electronic drum pads are becoming more and more common in drummers’ setups, specifically the Roland SPD-SX. A drum pad can offer a drummer a range of sounds that cannot be normally achieved with just a standard acoustic drum set.
In a rush? We love the Roland SPD-SX.
Many drum companies are creating higher and higher quality drum sampling pads each and every year. Prices for these instruments range from inexpensive to very costly. We hope this list helps you decide on the perfect one for your setup.
Best Electronic Drum Pad 2018 – A Quick Glance
When it comes to buying an electronic sample pad, the experience is bit different than purchasing electronic drum kits. An electronic percussion pad is essentially a tiny electronic drum set arranged in a portable fashion.
Most electronic sample pads consist of small rubber surfaces that can be programmed to play different sounds and triggers. Look at our comparison table below. I will provide you with more information that will help you in our Buyer’s Guide later.
What is an electronic drum pad?
An electronic drum or sample pad is a percussion instrument that triggers samples or synthesizes sounds. Originally called tabletop electronic drums, these instruments are either one of two variants: the kind you strike with a stick (percussion pads), or the kind you tap with your fingers (MIDI pad controllers). We will be touching on both types of instruments.
Electronic percussion pads serve many purposes when using them in a live setting: firing off one-shot samples, synthesizing drum sounds, playing looped phrases, and full playback for backing tracks. Upon hitting or striking a pad, a trigger signal is sent to an envelope generator (ADSR), with the appropriate attack, decay, sustain, and release.
Most drum pads these days can sense velocity input and will play different volumes or samples accordingly. You can be much more dynamic and musical when you play. Modern drum pads generally use what’s known as a MIDI interface to play sounds. The trigger function sends a note on message and plays back the sample.
If all of that makes zero sense to you, do not worry, as this information isn’t too important to know as a beginner. Let’s check out the two different variants.
Percussion drum pads – For use with sticks
Not to be confused with a practice pad, this variant of drum pad generally has multiple numbers of strike-able pads and can have different preset kits that offer different sounds. Percussion pads are very popular with touring drummers who still play an acoustic drum set. Adding one of these to their setup allows players to have additional samples and sounds in a live performance. Drummers who use sampling technology in their setups include Josh Dun, Neil Peart, and Tim Alexander.
MIDI pad controllers – For use with fingers and hands
These types of drum pads are extremely common in recording studios and production setups. While many players do use them live, they are typically used in hip-hop and pop production. MPC pads connect via USB to a computer, giving the producer a simple way to get MIDI information (in the form of beats and grooves) into their digital audio workstation of choice.
What is the purpose of using an electronic drum pad?
Most drummers and percussionists we see use drum pads for a few reasons.
- Using a drum pad is cheaper and much simpler than buying and setting up an electronic drum set every night
- Drum pads allow drummers to still play a majority acoustic drum set with an added few electronic samples
- Drum pads are cheaper than hiring an extra percussionist to play additional parts and instruments
- Depending on the setup, sample pads can provide backing tracks and click tracks for playback of a show (backing tracks)
- Allows drummers the freedom in the studio to experiment with electronic sounds and samples, without having to worry about the ability to recreate it live
What kind of electronic drum pads should you avoid?
Just like every product on the market, there’s going to be some cheap entry-level ones you should not waste time with. While the lower price-point might seem more attractive, these types of drum pads are essentially toys and are not utilized by any serious drummers.
There are many electric drum pads available that have this exact design. Don’t waste your time or money on these. They generally have poor strike detection, small pads, and terrible sounds. I would only suggest one of these as a gift for a small child.
Let’s check out the first variant on our list: percussion pads.
The Percussion Drum Pad Reviews
Alesis Samplepad Pro – Our budget pick
- Expandable multi-pad percussion instrument for studio and live performance
- 8 isolated and responsive rubber pads with blue LED illumination
- Two pad inputs, kick and hi hat pedal inputs to integrate with existing acoustic or electronic setup
- USB MIDI to computer, five-pin MIDI input/output, 1/8" audio input
- 10 kits with 200 sounds included, expandable by up to 32GB SD card
Alesis is a company most known for designing electronic musical instruments, MIDI controllers, digital audio processors, audio mixers, digital audio interfaces, recording equipment, drum machines, professional audio and electronic percussion products. They offer the best value on all of their products. The Alesis Samplepad Pro is no different.
We are looking at one of their more recent products: the Alesis Samplepad Pro. We have picked it as the Editor’s Choice for electronic drum pads. This electronic drum pad competes with the Roland SPD-SX for features and usability, at half more than half the cost.
Overview of the pads and I/O – Alesis SamplePad Pro
The Alesis SamplePad Pro features 8 isolated and responsive rubber pads with blue LED illumination, two pad inputs, kick and hi hat pedal inputs, USB/MIDI to computer, five-pin MIDI input/output, and an 1/8″ audio input.
This drum pad is also equipped to support a kick drum and hi-hat pedal. Both inputs can be set for either switch or variable operation. Adding extra pads, a kick trigger, and a hi-hat controller can turn your SamplePad Pro into a small electronic drum set.
What do you get out of the box?
This electronic drum pad comes stocked with 10 kits with 200 sounds included, expandable by up to 32GB SD card. Alesis has made it easy to bring your own samples to the party. By utilizing the Alesis SampleConverter Utility, you’ll be able to import any sound you wish to bring with you to your shows.
How is it that this is the only drum sample pad that supports sample playback from an SD card?! This is a killer feature!
Only need to play a few samples? Check out the Alesis SamplePad 4
Some drummers don’t need access to thousands of samples and lots of pads for playing electronic samples live. You might only need a small drum pad to start playback from your backing tracks rig.
Similar to the Alesis SamplePad Pro, Alesis also makes a product that’s half the size and has half the pads. The Alesis SamplePad 4 Compact is perfect if you only need a few pads for your style of music.
- 4 pads for percussive and sampling triggering
- Built-in library of 25 most commonly requested percussion and electronic drum sounds
- 10 preset kits, or add any sound sample or loop to your drum or percussion setup via SD card
- USB-MIDI output for use with virtual instrument and recording software
- Accepts SD/SDHC cards up to 32GB, storing 89 user kits and 512 samples per card
There’s some issues with the SamplePad Pro
Like I had mentioned earlier, this electric drum pad has some problems. Some users are claiming that single pads on the unit are going dead after just weeks of use.
Others complain that the headphone output is not functional and the power switch doesn’t work.
In all of these cases, I can only hope that Alesis did their best to appease their consumer base.
My conclusion: best entry-level product! It’s a fantastic price point, but it seems like this product might be a bit faulty.
Nord Drum 3P – The electronic drum synthesizer
Note: This is not a drum sampling pad. It is a drum synthesizer. We decided to include it in our post because it commonly is mistaken to be a product like the SPD-SX or Sample Pad Pro. There are no internal sound samples and you definitely are not able to load your own in.
Nord Keyboards is a Swedish instrument manufacturer. The company began in 1983 when founder Hans Nordelius created the Digital Percussion Plate 1. Since then, Nord has made tons of great products used by many musicians all over the world.
Nord’s version of the electric drum pad is a little disappointing in our view. Like other Nord products, this electronic drum pad has a clunky knob interface (just our opinion), with an old-school digital display that gives minimal information to the user.
The Nord Drum 3P is not a drum sampler – It’s a synthesizer
Maybe this product doesn’t totally fit this post, but I wanted to include it since Nord is such a well-known brand.
The big thing to remember on this electronic drum pad is that it is a percussion synthesizer. The unit is not a sampler. Therefore, all the sounds from the unit are made inside the unit using synthesis.
Is this a good or bad thing? It’s really up to you.
Modes of synthesis with the Drum 3P
There are four modes of synthesis: resonant synthesis, subtractive wave types, FM synthesis, and ring modulation synthesis. The Nord Drum 3P only has six pad channels, so you will be a little more limited on places to hit.
Analog is better, man – not really
If you want to join the know-it-alls at gearslutz.com debating analog vs. digital synthesis, I promise I won’t stop you. What I will say is that this machine can make some pretty cool sounds. In the end, that’s all that matters. Not a bunch of technical circuitry.
Overview of the I/O – Nord Drum 3P
There’s a headphone output, main left/right output, a kick trigger in, MIDI in/out, and a 12V power input. It’s a little disappointing that there’s only one extra pad input for a kick trigger.
The Nord Drum 3P does not have USB capability
I know this isn’t a total deal breaker, but the Nord Drum 3P has no USB output. Yes, there is a MIDI input and output, but in order to use this product with a digital audio workstation (like Ableton), you’re going to need to buy a USB to MIDI adapter.
My conclusion: it’s not for me personally, but it rocks! Drum synthesis is really cool, and you can make some great sounds using this drum synth.
Roland Octapad SPD-30 – Worst electronic drum pad
- The latest pad-sensing technology developed for V-Drums provides even and accurate pad triggering with excellent isolation between pads
- Four dual-trigger inputs, plus hi-hat controller for adding pads to create a mini kit, or for connecting triggers from acoustic drums
- Phrase Loop function inspires your creativity; record your playing in real time and overdub up to three layers
- USB connectivity for MIDI and memory storage
Roland is a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments. They are arguably the best and most notable when it comes to electronic musical instruments. Whether it’s a MIDI keyboard, drum machines, or percussion samplers, Roland is bound to have a great product. That being said, sometimes even the best in the industry can make mistakes.
The SPD-30 is an outdated ancient relic, revived from the past
The Roland SPD-30 is exactly that. A mistake in my eyes. This electronic drum pad was originally released in 1985 and it was revolutionary.
It has since been “reinvented” while still missing many in-demand features. By today’s standards, it just doesn’t hold up.
The SPD-30 has eight trigger pads and comes packed with hundreds sounds50 drum kits. There are tons of percussion sound effects from all of the world, as well.
Overview of the I/O – The “monster” of pad inputs
The SPD-30 offers a ton of external inputs: kick, snare, hi-hat, ride, and does feature hi-hat control. That’s a plus in our book. You can make the smallest “big” electronic drum set out of this sample pad.
The biggest negative of the Roland SPD-30 is that lack of the ability to import custom sounds. Why spend upwards of $700 on a product, when you can get way more features from the SPD-SX or the Alesis SamplePad Pro?
Is there a way to still use custom sounds with the Octapad?
Yes! But, in order to achieve this, you will need a couple of things:
- Roland SPD-30 Octapad
- USB Cable / MIDI Cable
- Macbook or PC Laptop
- Digital Audio Workstation (Ableton, Cubase, Logic)
- Sample Libraries (EZ Drummer, Addictive Drums 2)
- Audio Interface
While it is possible, and this is what I do with my Roland SPD-SX and Alternate Mode malletKat, it’s much more of a headache if you want to just plug in and play. I have to plug all of that in at every gig I play.
My conclusion: this product should be discontinued. The next version of the SPD-SX should include all the I/O that the Octapad does.
Roland SPD-SX – Our favorite pick
- Unique sampling-pad concept the only instrument of its kind in the world 2GB internal memory, enabling approximately 360 minutes of sampling (mono) without requiring external memory Nine velocity-sensitive rubber pads, two external dual-trigger inputs Easy capturing and assignment of audio data through Multi-Pad Sampling Three units of multi-effects onboard, with two real-time control knobs and four dedicated effect buttons Individual Pad Dynamics indicators show pad status and audio-level activ
At number four, again we have Roland. At this point, the company doesn’t need another introduction. Roland keyboards are both powerful and widely used, so it’s no wonder why they also dabble in electronic percussion. The SPD-SX is the newest electronic drum pad in the SPD family. I have owned both the SPD-S and the SPD-SX and I can tell you that this is my favorite electronic sample pad on the entire list.
A sample pad that boasts the best features
The Roland SPD-SX features nine customizable sample pads with LED indicators. It’s the only instrument of its kind with a whopping 2GB of internal sample space, enabling approximately 360 minutes of mono samples.
The electronic sample pad offers two external dual-trigger inputs for additional pads. The SPD-SX also comes with over 900 drum and percussion sounds. This electronic drum pad has an amazing feel. The velocity sensitive rubber pads have excellent rebound and durability.
On the back, we have two USB ports: one for importing samples and one for connecting to your computer. You can use your computer to import samples to the electronic drum pad.
How does it compare to its predecessor, The SPD-S?
The SPD-S was notorious for extremely slow sample loading times. Upon importing files from the flash card on the previous model, users would sometimes wait hours for their samples to load on to the SPD-S. I can assure you, the sample load times on the SPD-SX are way better. Almost instantaneous!
Overview of the I/O – No hi hat control
The Roland pad has DC In, MIDI In/Out, Audio In (so you can jam your favorite tunes with your SPD-SX!), Sub out, Foot SW input, Trig In 1/2 3/4, a master output, and a headphone input.
It’s very unfortunate that this sample pad doesn’t have hi hat control! This is my biggest issue, as some trigger pedals do not work with it.
This electric drum pad is well worth your investment. I have had mine for three years and it is still in perfect working condition. I use mine in conjunction with my Alternate Mode malletKAT.
I currently am under-utilizing my SPD-SX. Since I use it with a computer, I do not use any of the included sounds, sampling features, or effects. Is it a waste to do this? Potentially, but Alesis did not offer the Sample Pad Pro when I bought mine. If they did, it was an earlier version of the product that didn’t have everything I needed.
I use Ableton live to run backing tracks. Two pads on my SPD-SX control stop and start of playback. Two shoulder buttons on the top switch which song we currently are on. While this does render my SPD-SX unplayable (If I assign sounds to it, I could potentially hit the stop playback trigger in the middle of a song), I do have two trigger pads that I use to play additional sounds on. Maybe my setup is overkill, but I have found it to be the most reliable, and that is key.
The SPD-SX is the go to choice of touring drummers
Why do so many drummers use the SPD-SX? Availability.
Many touring and backline companies offer this drum pad for fly dates, so you don’t always have to check your sample pad when paying for baggage.
If you’re unfamiliar, a backline company either rents you or supplies your band their gear for a certain show. This is handy when you don’t have time to drive to a gig and must fly out.
Roland makes it easy, as you can use a USB stick to save all your samples and load them onto another SPD-SX. If you use a laptop with something like Ableton, it’s as simple as plugging in a USB cable to your freshly rented drum pad.
My conclusion: best for touring professionals and serious players! There’s a reason why you see this thing on so many kits!
Yamaha DTX Multi Pad – Not the greatest option
- 1,061 Drum/Percussion/Effects sounds
- 216 Keyboard sounds
- Mute/Layer function
- Sequencer and Preset Loops
- 64MB Flash-ROM for user samples
Yamaha is easily the biggest company on this list. They make everything from grand pianos, guitars, basses, acoustic drum sets, and even motorcycles.
Yamaha’s pad comes pre-loaded with tons of samples
The Yamaha DTX Multi Pad makes a case for competing with the SPD-SX and the Alesis SamplePad Pro. It comes pre-loaded with 1,061 drum/percussion samples and 216 keyboard samples. This electronic drum pad also has a sequencer and preset loops.
The DTX offers the smallest sample storage space
If you want to add your own custom samples, you have 64MB of internal memory. This is where the Yamaha electronic drum pad needs improvement. The Alesis and the Roland SPD-SX both can handle way more internal samples.
Overview of the I/O – 5 trigger inputs for more fun
On the back of the unit, we have a standard 12V input, MIDI in/out, a Foot SW input and high hat control, 5 extra pad inputs, a mono aux in, master out, and a headphone input. A bummer that the aux in isn’t stereo.
My conclusion: extra triggers doesn’t make up for the 64MB of storage. Yamaha, update this thing!
The MIDI Pad Controller Reviews
Native Instruments Maschine MK3
- Integrated hardware/software system includes sampler, arranger, mixer, FX, and more
- Includes 25 GB KOMPLETE 11 SELECT library featuring 25 pro-quality studio and creative FX
- Pro-grade, 96 kHz / 24-bit audio interface with 2 x 1/4" TRS line outputs, 2 x 1/4" TRS line inputs, 1/4" dynamic mic input, stereo headphone output, 1 x MIDI In, 1 x MIDI out; 1 x Footswitch
- Touch sensitive knobs for parameter tweaking. System requirements: Mac OS X 10.11 or macOS 10.12 (latest update), Intel Core i5, 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended),Windows 7, 8, or 10 (latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit), Intel Core i5 or equivalent CPU, 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
- Smart Strip for strumming notes, pitch bending sounds, performing with FX, and more
The Maschine MK3 is a beat machine, groove box, and sampling pad all in one. It essentially is a hardware controller that works in conjunction with software on a Mac or PC computer. You can both create music in the studio and perform it live using the same piece of gear.
Native Instruments has been in the game for quite some time, creating awesome software and hardware instruments, most notably, their flagship sample pack Komplete. As the name implies, the MK3 is the third generation of Maschine and offers the most improvements over previous products.
New Features of the MK3
Here’s some of the quick highlights. We’ll go into more details below.
- 2 LED Color Screens; high resolution
- Addition of an audio interface
- Bus powered
- Better pads
- Touch sensitive knobs
- “Snapshot” Locks
The biggest and most notable improvement of the MK3 is the addition of two, big color LED screens. They are on par with the Maschine Studio and were not nearly as useful in the previous generation. The functionality of these two screens is daunting, due to their high resolution.
Maschine’s goal is clear: to get your eyes off the computer screen and make the magic happen on the instrument itself. You rarely need to touch your computer while using the MK3. Clip position, metering, sample browsing, and much more are available to see right on your drum pad. Using the controls is very intuitive and won’t take you long to get familiar with the panels.
The second major improvement of the MK3 is that it is an audio interface. This could be your all-in-one solution for recording and production. You get two line inputs, a mic input, a L R line out, and a headphone jack with its own volume control. If you’re curious about MIDI, Native Instruments has it covered there, as well, with a MIDI in and out on the back.
One other amazing feature I’ll mention is the “snapshot” lock functionality. Say you’re working on a track and want to keep the current parameters set while experimenting with new filters, EQs and other effects. Pressing the lock button allows you to turn knobs like mad, experimenting with sounds while saving the settings you had before you pressed lock. Upon pressing lock again, your settings will revert to how you had them prior.
My conclusion: Native Instruments makes incredible products. Definitely a win!
Akai Professional MPC X Standalone
- Standalone MPC - no computer required
- 7" high-resolution multi-touch display.There is full 64-bit support in all versions: standalone, VST, AAX and AU
- Internal, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, (2) USB-A 3.0 slots for thumb drives or MIDI controllers
- Phono, instrument, mic and line inputs, (2) pairs of MIDI Inputs and Outputs.16GB of on-board storage (over 10 gigs of sound content included), 2GB of RAM, and full-size SD card slot
- Weight:5.95 lbs
Akai’s Professional MPC X is a standalone MPC drum pad boasting a 10.1″ multi-touch display. It’s really your choice weather or not to use a computer when being creative in the studio. 2 USB-A 3.0 slots are available for additional MIDI controllers or thumb drives.
Features of the MPC X Standalone
- 10.1″ Multi-touch display
- Standalone drum pad and production center
- Audio interface with lots of I/O
- 16GB on-board storage
- User-expandable storage via 2.5″ SATA drive connector
- Pre-installed with 10GB of samples
Just as with the Native Instruments pad, the MPC X also includes an audio interface with more ins and outs. For starters, you get two mic inputs, that double as instrument inputs, and two line ins. You also get eight separate line outputs for sending signals to different places. In addition to the two USB 3.0 inputs, you can connect two more MIDI controllers via 5-pin MIDI.
The standalone music production center has a very sleek design. Boasting 16GB on-board storage and a user expandable drive connector (SSD or HDD), you have the peace of mind knowing you’ll never run out of recording space (or at least shouldn’t).
The Akai MPC X comes preinstalled with 10GB of awesome samples from the get-go. Notable sound design companies such as Capsun Audio, MVP Loops, and CR2 Records are included in the library pack known as The Vault 2.0.
Electronic Drum Pads – Buyer’s Guide
If you’re interested in purchasing electronic drum pads, you must take a look at your specific needs as a player. Some electronic drum pads offer more features at a more expensive price point.
Think of your needs as a drummer
Some players might have a need for just one sample during a live show, while others may want to play an entire show with just the electronic drum pad. These benefits will help you in understanding which drum sample pad is right for you.
For the occasional sample user, consider purchasing a smaller electronic drum pad like the Alesis SamplePad 4 or the Roland SPD-One. These electric sample pads offer the same functionality of a larger drum pad without the high price and larger size footprint.
These products can be used along-side various products in their family, so upgrading from this is never a problem. If this is your first electric sample pad, you can always add more to your setup without fear of wasting your hard-earned money.
A few of the products listed here do not have the functionality of custom user samples. If you have a need to bring your own samples from the studio, you will need to pick either the SPD-SX, the SamplePad Pro, or the DTX Multi Pad. It’s unfortunate that the SPD-30 still cannot load custom samples after all these years.
If you love synthesizers and synthesis, the Nord Drum 3P is the electric drum pad for you. It features so many cool sounds that can be completely manipulated inside the unit. While it might not be my favorite electronic drum pad, it may very well be yours.
How do you mount a sample pad?
If you have an electronic drum pad, you need to mount it. Hardware stands do not come with the product.
I still to this day do not actually own a “legit” electronic drum pad stand. I made my own out of things I already had. You find an old hardware stand laying around and rig it up to your drum pad with a multi-clamp.
Another way to mount your electric drum pad is to put it in an old snare stand. While this might not look the coolest, it will get the job done.
If you want to get really creative with it, you could mount your drum pad over your bass drum as WorshipDrummer.com instructs on their website.
If you don’t have anything laying around, this is the stand we recommend you buy for your drum pad.
- New angle-adjustment clamp that offers 200 degrees of tilt
- Double-braced tripod, height-adjustble 2-section pipe that for standing or sitting play
- It's the successor to the PDS-15, and features a newly improved angle clamp that provides 200 degrees of tilt
- The stand works with Roland's HPD- and SPD-series instruments, which include the HandSonic 10, HandSonic 15, SPD-20, and SPD-S
- Available along with the Roland HandSonic 10 is a double-braced support stand: the PDS-10
Add-ons for your sample pad
Having all your sounds and samples located in one location on your drum pad is great, but what if you want to have a trigger on the other side of your kit? Adding extra trigger pads is relatively easy and only requires an instrument cable.
Depending on which product you own, you may need to get an additional adapter to add more pads. Roland’s SPD-SX, for example, has both the trigger inputs essentially in stereo. They are labeled trigger in 1/2 and 3/4. In order to run more than two pads, I have to get a splitter cable.
- Compact and reliable single-trigger pad
- Curved shape for mounting on a V-Pad or acoustic drum
- Quick and easy mounting through a drum tension rod; attachment parts for standard rod-type mounts included
- Internal design eliminates false triggering while playing surrounding drums and/or pads
- Use with a V-Drums module or SPD-series percussion pad to trigger sounds and control functions such as start/stop of backing songs and phrase loops, effects on/off, kit selection, tap tempo, and
The Roland BT1ROLAND Bar Trigger Pad connects to your one of your trigger inputs located on the back of your instrument. It connects with an instrument cable and can be mounted wherever you like on your kit.
The playing surface is a little different from a traditional pad and these types of bar pads don’t really provide much dynamic sensitivity. The advantage is that you can stick this thing wherever you like on the kit and it can fit into some tight spots, where a regular pad won’t.
In theory, Roland’s product should work with any of the products we have listed here. Buyer beware.
- 8" diameter
- This improved V-Pad for the snare drum features an expanded 10-inch rim for more comfortable and quiet rim-shots, as well as separate head and rim-triggering for authentic performance
If you’d opt more for a traditional style drum pad, the PDX-8 is a solid choice. I use two of these live, one on my left under my hi hat and one to the right of my floor tom. I find that, while these pads are larger, I still can get them into places that work. The sound engineer can get mad from time to time, but it’s his or her job to work around it, right?
Should you use a computer and DAW?
More and more drummers these days are forgetting the internals of drum pads and using them only as MIDI controllers with computers and digital audio workstations. Why do you ask? Using a drum pad with a program like Ableton Live is far more powerful for effects, control, and automation.
Here are some of the benefits of using a computer with your drum pad:
- Automated patch changes
- More customization with effects like pitch, reverb, delay, and compression
- Backing track control + sampling
- Ability to use backline drum pads at festivals and fly dates
- Routing different samples to different buses
Using a computer will require a digital audio workstation and potentially an audio interface
You’ll have to pick whichever digital audio workstation you like: Ableton Live, Mainstage, Cubase, Logic, etc… We recently wrote an article detailing each DAW, which you can read here. In this scenario, your drum pad will still act as the audio interface, with the outputs still functioning as normal.
If you’re looking to include backing tracks alongside your drum samples, you’ll need to get an audio interface, as you will most likely need more outputs for backing tracks and a click. The MOTU 828 MK3 is a favorite of mine, due to its reliable nature, but any audio interface will work just fine.
Ableton Live is my go-to DAW for live performances
One of the reasons I use my SPD-SX with Ableton Live is for backing track control and automated patch changes. I use two pads on my Roland pad to start and stop playback. In addition to this drum pad, I have two Roland PDX-8 pads to my right and left, and a malletKat from Alternate Mode. All of these pads talk to each other via MIDI. All the MIDI data is then sent out of the SPD-SX and to Ableton Live.
Because Ableton is running backing tracks, I am able to automate my patch changes in the middle of a track. For example, on one song, the pre-chorus patch automatically switches from a bass drum sample to a vibraphone sample for my malletKat. Ableton makes everything easier and the technology is so powerful.
This method may not apply to you, but for me, I am doing a lot while I play and having one less thing to do during a song always helps out.
Resources for additional samples for your drum pad
If you’re not satisfied with the sounds that come with your pad, depending on which one you buy, you can add additional sounds to your drum pad. Here are some great resources I have used to find new samples.
Splice – Marketplace for sounds made by a community of over one million musicians. Subscriptions to Splice are $7.99 per month.
1,000 Free Drum Samples – MusicRadar has a download of 1,000 free drum samples on their website that originally appeared on Computer Magazine’s cover DVD.
99Sounds Free Sample Pack – 99Sounds has a free pack of drum samples that were meticulously engineered with internal and external audio hardware. There are drum machine and acoustic samples that were ran through a tape machine, adding more grit and dirt to the sounds.
Cymatics 100k Pack – After reaching 100k followers on SoundCloud, Cymatics released a sample pack that has tons of synth presets, and 75 samples, loops, and MIDI files.
Disadvantages of electronic drum pads and e drums in general
Just as is with anything, electronic drum pads do come with many side effects. Nothing in the world of music is perfect, nor will it ever be.
- The feel of the pads – This one should be obvious. The feel and rebound you’re going to get from the pads is not at all realistic and, in some ways, can actually mess with your playing. Getting used to playing on practice pads, for example, will give you a false sense of rebound. Upon returning to real drums, you’ll find it almost is harder to play than it was on the pad.
- Cable nightmares – Using drum pads can lead to a big mess of cables that can be infuriating. Be sure to be neat, else you’ll have a big tangled mess when you want to pack up.
- The requirement of a PA at live shows – Depending on how big of shows you play, you’ll absolutely need an amp or PA to use any of the equipment on the list. You want the audience to hear you play, right?
- Some technical knowledge may be needed – If you want to use custom samples, you might need a little bit of expertise when it comes to creating samples, chopping them, and ultimately importing them into your drum pad. Understanding how MIDI works can also be daunting.
A brief history of the electronic drum
In 1964 at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), a Japanese company named AceTone introduced the first fully-transistorized, non-automatic electronic drum instrument. There were no preset patterns, but each button on the instrument, when pressed, played a different percussion hit. The product was called the R-1 and its inventor, Ikutaru Kakehasi, would eventually go on to found Roland Corporation.
The product was completely useless at the time, since organists wanted some sort of accompaniment when playing, but paved the way for many products to come including the FR-1, TR-77, Rhythm 330, Dr. Rhythm, and the TR-808 we all know and love.
The electronic drum pad that stood out to us was the Roland SPD-SX. Thanks to the incredible ability to import custom samples, excellent durability, external trigger inputs, a stereo auxiliary input, and overall great feel, choosing the Roland SPD-SX as our favorite wasn’t a difficult decision. In case you feel like we left out an electronic drum pad you love using, feel free to leave a comment down below.