If you want to learn to play the drums without starting a family feud and infuriating your neighbors, an electronic drum set is a way to go. Sure, it isn't quite the same experience as playing an acoustic kit, but quality electric drum kits come close.
The following guide contains all the basic information you need to select an electronic drum set, plus we've included some recommendations. Our top choice is the Roland Electronic Drum Set. This electronic kit is a pleasure to play with and easy to use. It also features an extensive sound library and responsive mesh heads.
You'll find two main types of electronic drum kits: desktop and freestanding. Desktop models are often referred to as drum pads. They consist of a single unit with five to seven smaller pads built-in, each corresponding to a drum or cymbal. Some more advanced models also have separate kick pedals. These are fine for learning the basics but don’t feel similar to playing an acoustic kit.
Freestanding electronic drum sets have several separate electric drum heads and cymbals set up on a rack to mimic the feel of an acoustic kit. This is the closest you'll get to playing an acoustic kit without annoying the neighbors. They're great for learning how to play and for recording straight onto a computer.
The majority of electronic drum sets have four heads to mimic the snare, floor tom, and two rack toms, plus three cymbals: crash, ride, and hi-hat. They also include one or two kick pedals to trigger the bass drum. This is the standard setup for most drummers, but you can find electronic kits with more or fewer pieces, as desired.
The drum heads can be made from several different materials. Mesh heads give perhaps the most similar feel to an acoustic kit and don't create much noise when you hit them (which is ideal when playing with headphones on). Closed-cell foam is also quiet but doesn’t have the same feel as mesh. Rubber-coated pads don't feel great and may be too loud.
You can find some basic desktop electronic drum sets for less than $100, whereas high-end electric kits cost up to $2,000. Expect to pay between $300-$600 for a decent, mid-range option.
A. A delay between hitting your drum head and hearing the corresponding sound is called latency. There's always a split second of latency, but it shouldn't be noticeable. It's a fairly common problem in cheaper electronic drum sets, but it’s not unavoidable. Latency can really impact the experience of playing an electric kit, so if it's a problem with your chosen model, we'd recommend sending it back.
A. Many electronic drum kits feature instruction modes for beginners or pre-recorded tracks that you can play along to. There are also many instructional videos available for free on YouTube and similar platforms. You can't beat engaging the services of a professional drum teacher, however.
Our take: Looking for a natural drumming experience from an electronic kit? This is the one to choose, though it is expensive.
What we like: Excellent sound engine for an expressive and natural sound.
What we dislike: The sensitivity of the hi-hat could be improved.
Where to by: Sold by Amazon
Our take: This compact desktop model is reasonably priced and great for beginners or recording demos, but it doesn't offer a particularly realistic experience.
What we like: Includes seven pads and two electronic kick pedals. The module allows you to choose from 100 sounds. Training option for beginners.
What we dislike: Kick pedals are too loud compared to other drum sounds and don't offer dynamic responses.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Our take: An excellent kit for beginners or for occasional use. Quality components and natural feel despite the affordable price.
What we like: Quiet and responsive mesh drum heads. Play along to 60 tracks, plus make use of the metronome and sequencer. Easy-to-use sound module.
What we dislike: Can be tricky to assemble, especially if you’re left-handed.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.