May 21

Acoustic vs Electric Drums – In-depth Comparison Guide

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Acoustic drums, what was once only available to a niche market of people who could afford them, now electric drum kits become extremely affordable for every drummer in the world

Have they come far enough to actually compete with acoustic drums though?

Can electronic drums be a suitable replacement for the real thing?

The answer is no. But electric and acoustic drums definitely each have strengths and weaknesses. 

Are Electronic drums THAT much different from Acoustic

In this article, we will discuss the differences between acoustic and electric drums, benefits and limitations, playability and practicality, recording, and pricing. 

Acoustic Drums 

Benefits 

  • Firstly, acoustic drums are responsive: They stay constant in how they sound depending on how you hit them. So you as a drummer will learn to play them in a certain way to get the sound you want. This will develop your technique. You will need a good technique to get the best sound out of the drums. 
  • Acoustic drums are loud: They are good for high energy playing. When playing live gigs, your band members are going to want to feel it when you kick the bass drum.
  • Easy to set up and take down: All acoustic drum set are generally structured the same way. So if you end up playing on a kit that isn’t your own, you will still know how to rearrange it to fit your preferences. 

Limitations

  • Volume can be an issue when it comes to acoustic drums. They’re good for gigs but they’re not good if you live in an apartment or a quiet neighborhood. To be able to practice in those spaces, you will have to somehow soften the drums, which in turn won’t give you the authentic feel of them when playing. 
  • Regular drums tend to take up space. Even the smallest acoustic drum set will need a decent area of space to put the bass drum and then fit cymbal stands all around. 
  • Regular drum set need to be tuned. The tuning process can take years to master and if the drums aren’t tuned well, they won’t sound great. 

Electric Drums

Benefits 

  • Electronic drums have volume control. This makes them ideal for low volume practicing. So if you’re living in an apartment or a quiet neighborhood, they are perfect for that. 
  • They also don’t take up much space. The drum pads on electronic drums are small. The bass drum pad included. Meaning an electric drum kit will fit into any tight corner. 
  • Electronic drums don’t need to be tuned. They have a multitude of drum kits programmed into them which sound studio quality. You are able to tweak those sounds on most electric kits. 
  • A big factor to electric kits is that you will get sounds that are electronically made like handclaps and the 808 kick drum sound. This is good for electronic music and production. 

Limitations 

  • Players who exclusively play on electric kits tend to develop bad habits. The bad technique doesn’t reflect on an electric kit. The pads produce a good sound no matter how you hit them. You can manually control the volume, so there is no penalty for playing too loud or too soft. 
  • Electric kits have a large learning curve. It seems straightforward to set it up and play on the first kit available. But you can do so much more with the kit and it will take time to learn how it works. 
  • Technology advances so quickly that your electric kit will devalue significantly in a few years. 

Comparison of Acoustic vs Electric


Playability vs practicality 

Acoustic drums can be set up anywhere and played. Whereas electronic drums need a power source. Most electric kits don’t have built-in speakers so you will need to use headphones or plug the kit into an amp. 

You will be able to get a better sound for cheaper out of an electric kit since it doesn’t have to be tuned. However, an acoustic drum kit will have a more authentic sound which is largely preferred. 

With regards to home practicing purposes, it depends on the space you’re living in. It would be more practical to play on an electric kit if noise will be an issue. If noise is not an issue, it will be more beneficial to play on an acoustic kit in order to keep up good habits and techniques. 

Home Recording 

There are going to be situations where you will need to record yourself playing drums from home. It could be for posting videos to social media, watching yourself for practice perspective, or tracking drums for a song. All of this is possible with both electric and acoustic drums. However, it will be a lot easier to do it with an electric drum kit. 

Most electric kits come with a MIDI output option, which means you can plug it into a computer and record straight into a DAW(Digital Audio Workstation). It is easy to learn to do this and you can use a free DAW such as GarageBand. 

Acoustic drums, on the other hand, require a microphone. One microphone will work, but usually, you will need several in order to get the full range of sound. The microphones then need to be plugged in through an audio interface. You will need to know how to EQ and master the sound as well in order to get the best recording possible. 

Microphones and audio interfaces are extra expenses that come into play when deciding to do a home recording with an acoustic kit. 

Gigging and performing live

Since acoustic kits are loud, some gigs won’t even require you to mic them up. Making it easier when playing intimate gigs in coffee shops, restaurants, and pubs. 

An Acoustic drum kit produces a solid sound on stage. Everyone will feel the bass drum when you kick it, which in turn makes it easier for the band to sit in the groove. 

However, it will be easier for the sound engineer at a gig to get a good mix with an electric kit, since he is not dealing with microphones for each drum. He will be able to easily control volume if the electronic drummer is playing too loud. 

Acoustic kits will look more aesthetic on a stage. The only reason I can think of for using an electric kit over an acoustic drum kit is if you need certain electronic sounds that only an electronic drum kit can give you. 

Price Difference

Electric drum kits have come a long way in terms of quality and pricing. Nowadays, it will be pretty easy to find a decent electric drum kit that is affordable – anywhere from $1000-$2000 However, the electric kits that are closest to sounding like an authentic acoustic kit are still pretty expensive. They will cost from $2000 all the way up to $5000. 

You can get a decent sound from the cheapest acoustic drum set by just replacing the heads and giving it a good tune. You can’t improve the sound of a cheap electronic kit.

Mid-tier priced electronic drum kits are what you need to aim for. They will give you good sound and many features while still remaining affordable. 

Acoustic drum kits range in price from $400 for a cheap kit all the way up to $3000 for an expensive high-tier kit. However, no matter what kit you get, you will always end up buying new cymbals eventually. So you may end up spending more money that way. 

Are acoustic or electric drums better? Conclusion 

Starting with an electronic set actually kinda gives you the advantages on testing different drums and styles that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise.

When you use both acoustic and electronic drums together, it’s called hybrid-drumming. Many modern drummers have gone this route, using electronics within their acoustic setup to play modern styles of music and to recreate sounds from albums. 

I suggest that all drummers own an acoustic as well as the electric drum kit. It’s important to realize that one is not a replacement for the other.

Sometimes you are going to want to practice at three in the morning. An electronic drum kit allows for that. Sometimes you are going to want to get your frustrations out and make a huge noise. An acoustic kit allows for that.

There are benefits and limitations to both, so it’s a good investment to have both and use them to cater to your needs. 

About the author 

Danny Mekonnen

I am Danny, an Ethiopian-American saxophonist. This Band is led by me and fronted by charismatic vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. Now we decide to share our real-life experience of using these products.

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