Acoustic Drums

In this series of article, we will be touching on some of the toughest decisions students need to make in regards to their equipments when they first start playing the drums. With the rapid development of technology in drum equipments, the decision to make a choice for the proper equipment seems like a daunting task. It definitely doesn’t help that drumming equipments can sometimes cost a fortune! With the proper information presented, we hope to able to help you make a choice between the different products to suit your current needs.

The first question that most students ask when deciding to buy a set of drums is whether to go for an acoustic or electronic drums? This is especially so in Singapore’s environment as most of us live in high rise buildings and have limited space at home. There is always the concern over noise and space constraint. Other limiting factors that we would discuss includes the feel, the response and the sound of the drums.

Let’s get to it

Acoustic Drums

Acoustic drums are the drum sets that you would normally see. They come in different range of sizes and have different tonal qualities based on the wood, thickness and construction quality of the drums.

Drum Size

Standard Drum Sizes

Image 1

Without getting too much into technical details, most acoustic drums would feature the standard size of 12”, 13”, 14”, 16”, 20/22” (Refer to image 1). However, some drums that you see on the market might consist of different sizes (or diameters). When most drummers choose the size of the drums, they are largely choosing it based on the pitch of the drums that they want to have. This is negligible for beginners as choosing a specific sound is not a priority for most. The major factor that most beginners would concern themselves with in regards to sizes will be their ability to accurately hit the drums (easier to hit with bigger drums), if their kids are big enough to use standard drums, or if the drums itself is going to take up too much space in their house.

To answer those questions:

  • Ability to hit with accuracy: This SHOULD NOT even be a question in the first place. Any instructor would tell you the same, develop your techniques right! Even for kids! Having a smaller drum improves your accuracy if anything, not the other way round! Some drums featuring tom sizes of 10” 12” 14” are fine as well!
  • Are my kids big enough for standard sized drums: For kids that are 5 and above, most of them should not have any problems playing on a standard set. With the proper drum thrones (stools) and the correct adjustments, kids should not have any problems playing on it. Although you might want to consider kids size sticks if you find that your child is having problems hitting the centre of the drums. Important thing to note is that different thrones have different height limitations. You might want to scout around for thrones that can go low enough for your kid.
  • How much space would the drums take up: The standard acoustic drums will take up a minimum of 140cm x 150cm space, however its best for you to prepare up to a 180cm x 150cm space for better adjustments.

That being said, acoustic drums will definitely develop your techniques more accurately not only in terms of the size of the drums itself, but also the reach between the drums. If you are looking to play the drums seriously (or serious enough to eventually perform for someone), the size would definitely be a plus point.

TLDR; Yes, acoustic drums are bigger but they are more accurate in reflecting and training on your techniques. If you want to perform in any setting in the future, this is definitely an advantage rather than disadvantage.

Volume

The biggest concern of any acoustic drums would be the noise. One thing for sure is that acoustic drums are noisy as hell in any household of any size. However, there are different ways that you can control the volume efficiently, with some solutions reducing up to 80% of the volume.

The 2 main types of volume control in regards to acoustic drums are – room acoustics control and drums volume control. We recommend a combination of both to effectively control the volume of the drums.

  • Room acoustics control: This involves acoustically treating the room in the sole purpose of reducing noise leakage. Common methods to treat the room would include drum shields, acoustic panels, acoustic foams, raised platform with acoustic absorbents, acoustically sealed windows and doors, drywall with sound insulation or in a more extreme situation – room in a room setting. These solutions can cost from $300SGD all the way up to $30,000SGD and above. We will be discussing this more in our other articles, stay tuned for it!
  • Drums volume control: There are a couple of products on the market that can reduce the volume of the drums itself. The question when choosing these products will always be a compensation between the feel of the drums vs effectiveness of the products vs cost. Some of the products include rubber mats to put on the drums and cymbals itself, sound control rings, mesh heads, low volume cymbals etc. The effectiveness of choosing the right products can go up to 80% volume reduction. The cost of these would set you back between $100SGD to $800SGD or more.

With an application of these 2 areas of volume control combined, the volume of the acoustic drums can be dramatically reduced. Do not, however, assume that there will be no noise/audible sound from the drums at all. These measures seldom eliminate the sound of the drums in its entirety. It can, however make the drums sound much more tolerable and maybe even allow your family to watch the television while you are practicing in the room.

TLDR; Acoustic drums are noisy as hell, however with the right amount of noise reduction measures, the noise can be definitely tolerable to your family and your neighbours. The concern would then be the cost vs effectiveness vs retaining the feel of an acoustic drum.

Cost

With the development of lower end drumsets from major manufacturers, the cost of owning an acoustic drum is significantly reduced compared to 10 years ago. This benefits mainly the beginners who need a drumset without much commitment yet still having it sound great and being standardised enough to fit in after-market accessories. Acoustic drums can now be as cheap as $600 on sale. However, there are some things to take note when buying a drum:

  • If the drums were sold as a shell pack, it means that the hardware used to hold the cymbals are not included (cymbals not included too). You will need an additional hardware set and cymbal set to be able to practise with the drums. Please check with the shop if there are any hardware included if not please include the cost of pairing a cheap hardware set and cymbal set together with the drums you are looking at. You would minimally need: 2 cymbal stands (for ride and crash), 1 hi hat stand and 1 snare stand. Standard hardware sets would cost you about $359SGD and above.
  • Kick pedals are sometimes not included in the set. Similar to the hardware set, you will not be able to practise without it. If the pedal is not included, it will set you off another $65SGD or so.
  • Drum thrones (or stools) are most often not included in the set. The major difference for having a proper drum throne vs a random chair lying in your house is the ability to adjust the height to a suitable position and the comfort of being able to practice in it for long. Most drum thrones will set you back about $120SGD and above.
  • Cymbals are sometimes not included in the set as well. You might want to make sure that there are cymbals included as the standard cymbal set will set you off an additional $229SGD and above. Unless you are looking for low volume cymbals to add on, then the original cymbals that come with the set will not matter since it won’t be used either way. Low volume cymbals costs from $399SGD and above.
  • Carpets are an essential piece when buying the drums. They serve 2 purpose generally – to reduce the contact noise (direct sound of the pedal hitting the drum) to your neighbour downstairs, and to prevent the drums from slipping. Carpet size should be at least 150cm long and 120cm wide (its ok for the throne to not be in the carpet although its best to be in it to prevent the throne from moving backwards). It can cost as cheap as $79SGD from IKEA.

Then there’s the question of buying 2nd hand drums/hardware/equipment. There is no harm in purchasing 2nd hand equipments at all as there are no electronic components to the acoustic drums. However, you want to make sure that you look for the respectable brands on the market. This will ensure that any additional maintenance work that is required for the drums can use after-market accessories like lugs, tom legs, holder, screws etc. Getting a 2nd hand set could cut you cost down by at least $300SGD

 

Drumset Price Singapore

All in all, a ballpark figure for an acoustic setup with certain noise control measures on the drums (low volume cymbals/ mesh heads for the drums e.g.) would be something like this:

Drumset – $800SGD (non-sale price)

Low Volume Cymbal Set – $399SGD

Mesh Heads – $130SGD

Additional Cymbal Stand (if there’s only 1 in the set) – $75SGD

Carpet – $79SGD

Total – $1,404SGD

TLDR; Acoustic drums are getting cheaper comparing to 10 years ago. A basic set would only cost you about $800SGD. With additional mesh heads and low volume cymbals, you will just need about $1,400SGD to get a full set with controlled sound. That being said, do explore 2nd hand options from respectable brands as well if budget is an issue. It can bring your cost down at least by $300SGD.

Bonus Point

Another important thing about using acoustic drums instead of electronic drums is the ability to learn to navigate through the hardware. These includes learning to tune the drums, matching different drum heads, working through failing hardware and much more. These are the experiences that will make you a much more efficient drummer and allow you to understand the drums so much better that when faced with similar problems in a show in the future, you will have no problem solving it on the spot. This itself is a knowledge that no money can buy.

Electronic Drums

Electronic drums are drums made to mimic the acoustic drums in a practice environment or sometimes even in a performing/recording environment. The main concern that most people have when buying electronic drums would be the difference between the feel and response comparing to acoustic drums. Fact is, across the years, the gap between the feel and response of an electronic and acoustic drum are much closer (although there is definitely still room for improvement). Electronic drums are also very often more expensive than acoustic drums. That being said, they are definitely a very strong contender to being your designated home practice equipment with a few distinct features so strong that it might just win you over.

Electronic Drumset

 

Drum Size

Electronic drums don’t have drum shells (most of them) and are much smaller in size than acoustic drums. This could be a plus point for some given the limited space in high rise flats. The size of the pads also correlates to the distance between the pads. This could be an issue if the student migrates or plays on an acoustic drum in the future – they might not get used to it.

That being said, with proper ways to compensate for the distance and with a bit more experience on the drums, the work done on electronic drums can definitely be translated over to the acoustic.

Kids should not have any problems playing the electronic drums as it is significantly smaller than the acoustic ones.

Electronic drums typically take up a space of 100cm x 120cm. However, this varies between different products. There are some products on the market that can take up even lesser space than that.

TLDR; Electronic drums are much smaller than acoustic drums and it takes up lesser space in your house. However, that also correlates to lesser distance between the pads and it might be an issue if you migrate over to acoustic drums in the future (although it can be compensated with the correct techniques).

Volume

The saving grace of all drummers, the volume of the electronic drums are so low (especially when plugged into headphones) that some drummers can even practice at night with it. Do not be mistaken though, there will still be sound coming from your electronic drums through contact noise (stick hitting the pads, pedal hitting the pads). The noise will definitely be way softer than playing on acoustic drums. Problem is, will your neighbour be more annoyed hearing you hitting pads all day and unable to make sense of what you are doing??!

On the flip side of the issue, beginners who practice solely on electronic drums might face a potential problem of not being able to relate to the volume of the acoustic drums when they play. This is often the case as the volume and dynamics of their playing can be adjusted with a simple turn of a knob. This however, is something that can be rectified with proper techniques and understanding of the issue.

TLDR; The volume is so low on electronic drums that they have saved countless drummers from literal headaches (when their neighbours come knocking on the doors.. or heads). However, you need to expect your neighbours or family to hear the sound of stick hitting the pads even though you are on your headphones while practicing. Also, practising without proper techniques and compensation on electronic drums might also translate to an inability to relate to the volume and dynamics of an acoustic drums when you are required to play on it.

Cost

To understand the cost of the electronic drums, it is important to understand the different parts and its cost weightage. Electronic drums are generally priced for 2 items – the pads and the module (the brain).

Having a good pad allows for a better rebound (or feel) when playing. More expensive pads also tend to have more zones. Zones are different parts of the pad triggering different sounds when you hit them – hitting the rim for a cross-stick sound, snare part for snare sound etc). This is to simulate a closer experience to the acoustic drums. All pads can range from single zone to 3 zones.

A good module on the other hand, allows for a better response (more responsive to minute dynamic changes) and a better sound library (drums will sound better). Other items like metronome, individual pad control, custom drum kit, backing tracks should be a given for most range of electronic drums and would not make a significant difference (unless some sort of additional design/technology is involved) in its costing.

DTX700 drum module

Similar to acoustic drums, the prices of electronic drums have been becoming more affordable in recent years. However, the newer technology (proprietary pads from Yamaha, Roland etc) that allows a closer feel to acoustic drums is still at mid-high price point. Lower end electronic drums (even for the big brands) tend to have standard drum pads (either lower quality mesh or normal rubber pads) with some offering a more decent module than others.

When choosing electronic drums, a key point to take note is that lower end electronic drums often have triggering issues in the hi hat pedals. The problem with hi-hats are that they will always be required to either play it closed (depressed), opened (released) or anywhere in between (sometimes even constant opening and closing to create a “chick” sound). This results in the overuse of the hi -hat pedal and after a while it might start having difficulties registering the correct movement especially after much abuse from playing. Some companies have developed technologies to overcome this issue, and they are pretty close to eradicating it completely (Yamaha RHH135, Roland VH-11 or similar line from some other brands). This unfortunately is still a persisting issue for many low end electronic drums.

That being said, if you are a total beginner and looking to have a set of drums to tide out this period before you decide if you want to invest further, most electronic drums will do the job just fine.

The drums can go to as cheap as $550SGD. For more serious drummers we would recommend ranges from $1,700SGD and above.

Remember to include a carpet into your costing as well!

TLDR; Electronic drums have a wide range of prices due to the technology applied. Lower end drums tend to have certain issues over the long run. However, if it is for a beginner or for someone to tide out this period before they decide if they want to invest further, most electronic drums will work just fine.

In conclusion, 3 factors come into play when you decide:

  • Noise tolerance of your family and neighbours
  • Budget
  • Are you ok with upgrading your drums again in the near future?

Answer these 3 questions and with the information you have obtained with this article, you should be in pretty good hands during your hunt for your perfect drumset. Good luck!

Looking to learn with the proper techniques regardless of which equipments you choose? 

Let us guide you with our tested and proven syllabus through our 1 to 1 drum lessons.