How to Get Away With Drumming at Home

As staying at home continues to be important for the sake of public health, we at Reverb have been working to bring you our best tips and tricks for making (and recording) music at home.

For certain instrumentalists, however, the act of playing at home might be a bit more complicated than, say, picking up that guitar sitting in the corner of your bedroom. Acoustic drummers, for example, face unique challenges with how much space their assembled drum set requires, and, of course, how loud it is.

If you're a city apartment-dweller, you may not even have an acoustic kit set up at home, opting instead to keep your drums at a practice space—or, like me, disassembled in your closet. Whatever the category it is that you fall into, it's not difficult to get together a great drumming setup suitable for jamming at home, regardless of your circumstances.

Below, we're going to lay out our product recommendations for several home drumming setups, from full electronic sets to hybrid solutions and MIDI controllers.

Option 1: Practice Pads and Acoustic Drum Set Conversions

If playing a full kit isn't as important to you as keeping up with your rudiments and technical skills, the easiest, most space-saving, and economical option would be to pick up a practice pad, like the eight-inch Remo Silentstroke or the Sabian 14-inch mesh-headed Quiet Tone practice pad.

These pads can be played on your lap, a table, or set up on a drum stand to give you a more organic practice experience. While you're not going to be recording your newly written drum parts this way, practice pads are a great and affordable way to flesh out ideas and work on keeping your skills sharp.

If you already have room to set up a full acoustic drum set but volume is your main concern, there are various pieces of gear you can use to "convert" your acoustic drums to more volume-friendly levels. The easiest option would be get a series of drum mutes matching the size of your kit to place on top of your drum heads and help dampen the noise.

While mutes can be an easy and cost-effective choice (the Evans series of drum and cymbal mutes above are quite affordable), it's not necessarily the best you can do when it comes to acoustic drum conversions. If you're comfortable changing your drum heads, we recommend swapping your regular heads with mesh alternatives, like something from the Remo Silentstroke series. (If you've never changed your drum heads before, check out our video walkthrough.)

The Remo Silentstroke heads are constructed of a single-ply mesh material, providing a soft and springy bounce while keeping your volume levels ultra-low.

These heads can also be paired with a set of ultra-quiet cymbals, like those from the Sabian Quiet Tone cymbal pack, which give players the feel and response of traditional belled cymbals without the volume. If cymbal-feel isn't as concerning as volume, you can also swap out your acoustic cymbals with pad alternatives—like the Roland V-Cymbal Crash.

If mesh drum heads and ultra-quiet cymbals sound like the right option for you, you can keep it simple with an all-in-one bundled set of Zildjian Quiet Pack L80 low-volume cymbals and Remo Silentstroke drum heads. And for added layer of quiet, we recommend outfitting your sticks with a pair of Tama silent drum stick tips.

Option 2: Electronic Drum Sets

If you can't assemble an acoustic drum set at home because of space constraints or volume issues, picking up an electronic drum set is the next best alternative that'll still give you that full kit experience.

Electronic drums come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, as well as different build materials—which will significantly impact how the drums respond to your playing. If you're a drummer who wants to maintain as much of the feel of an acoustic kit as possible, you'll want to consider an electronic drum set with mesh drum heads.

Mesh drum heads have a lot of upsides against their rubber rivals. They tend to provide a bit more give than rubber heads, which is easier on your wrists and more closely mirrors the feel of an acoustic head with a similar bounce. And because they're softer, they're also quite a bit quieter than rubber heads.

A lot of anecdotal evidence also suggests that many players with experience playing both all-rubber electronic drum kits and mesh-headed drum kits tend to have of a problem with mesh-headed kits mis-triggering, as they tend to be more sensitive. So they may not be to everyone's liking.

One other potential downside to mesh-headed electronic kits is that they're usually more expensive than all-rubber drum sets. But we'd argue that it's worth it, especially for serious players who want to get as close as possible to a regular acoustic drum set-playing experience.

Beyond build material, different electronic kits come with different feature sets, so it's important to pay attention to these specifics. Some electronic drums are single-sensor, which means that no matter where you hit on the drum head, it can only produce a single sound.

Other kits feature multi-sensor drums and cymbals that allow for both head and rim or bell shots and sometimes cymbal-choking, in an attempt to give players a more acoustic-like playing experience and greater sonic variety.

Option 3: Multipads and Triggers

Say you prefer certain parts of your acoustic kit, but maybe you prefer the flexibility of sounds e-drums provide or the quiet hit of a kick pad as opposed to a full-size bass drum? Players can hybridize acoustic kits by integrating triggers, modules, and/or multipads into their setups.

This is a particularly attractive long-term investment—beyond just the pandemic—for gigging and recording drummers, as triggers and percussion pads are great tools to take on the road and especially into studio settings.

If you've never worked with them before, a drum trigger is an electronic transducer that you attach to your drums or cymbals to "trigger" an electronic drum sound when it vibrates from a hit. If you're feeling that your newly muted acoustic kit is sounding too dull, picking up and mapping out a few drum triggers is a way to brighten things back up.

Another nice thing about triggers it that you choose how many you'd like to use. Some players opt for a single snare trigger, but they're also sold in trigger packs and/or bundled with a module that you use to program your sounds.

How to Create a Hybrid Acoustic-Electric Drum Kit with the Roland SPD-SX

Percussion pads take triggering further, offering a grid of playable sample pads in addition to supporting extra triggers. With something like the Roland SPD-SX, players can choose native sounds or load in their own samples that can be programmed to any pad or triggered drum.

This isn't only useful in keeping things quieter, but also allows for much more dynamic accompaniment that can fill in more instrumental gaps than just standard drum sounds. In the video above, Jordan West demonstrates how she acts as an artist's entire backing band using her hybridized acoustic/electronic drum set and an SPD-SX. (In a separate video, you can hear Aaron Spears of Ariana Grande's band talk about the necessity of using a hybrid kit in modern pop drumming.)

Option 4: MIDI Pad Controllers and Drum Machines

Finally, we get to MIDI controllers and drum machines. This category is specifically for those of you who don't think playing a conventional drum kit is a requirement at all.

Maybe you're primarily a guitar player and are trying to write and record a drum part at home, sans drummer, or maybe you don't have the space for an acoustic or even electronic drumming setup. Whatever the case, a MIDI pad controller or drum machine can be a worthy substitute for making music within constraints.

Like everything else, drum machines come in all shapes, sizes, and feature sets. And here on Reverb, we have them all. If you're on a tight budget, a MIDI pad controller like the Akai LPD8 or Korg Nanopad 2 is a great choice for a wallet-friendly price and ultra-compact design that doesn't sacrifice functionality.

If you already know that you'd rather have something more robust from the drum machine family, you can still snag a great deal on something like the ever-popular Korg Volca series, or maybe even the Pocket Operator series from Teenage Engineering.

Buying Your First Drum Machine (Drum Machine Basics)

If you're more comfortable with a grid-based setup, something like the Novation Circuit might suit you if you want to stay within the realm of drum machines, though you'll need to use this in conjunction with a DAW or other music software to trigger the actual sounds. If you're not quite sure what would suit you, check out the video above and our Drum Machine Buying Guide here.

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