Guide To Electronic Drum Pads

Rubber-surfaced pads:

Electronic Drum Sets most commonly offer rubber-surfaced pads as snare drum and tom pads, usually 6” to 8” in diameter. This type will be found on the lower-priced drum sets but will also be used for the tom pads on drum sets costing up to about $1300.00. Rubber drum pads have several advantages:

  • They keep the price of electronic drum sets lower than those with more advanced pads.
  • They have proven to be very durable and can take a beating for a long time before wearing out.
  • If they do stop working properly, they are not very expensive to replace.
  • They feel pretty good to play! Most drummers practice on a practice pad and are already accustomed to playing on a pad made of thick rubber over a harder material. Similarly, electronic drum set rubber pads are quite adequate to play on, have good bounce and are not any harder on a drummer’s hands and wrists than acoustic drums.
All but the cheapest electronic drum sets will have a dual zone pad for the snare drum. Also called two zone or dual trigger, this type of pad has a raised edge that will play, or trigger a different sound than the center area of the pad. Dual zone pads can be set to trigger any combination of sounds (such as a snare and a tambourine sound, a conga sound with a conga slap sound, or any combination at all!) but their primary purpose is to replicate a snare drum. The pad’s edge, or rim, will trigger an acoustic snare drum’s hoop sound so that the drummer can play realistic rim shots and cross stick sounds.

Better electronic drum sets will have a dual zone rubber pad at each tom position and they can all play rim shots or two sounds. You can have a snare pad and three toms programmed to play eight sounds, if you’d like! The tom pads can play consecutive tom sounds as normal but the rims can be programmed to play timbale sounds. Or cowbells, shakers, sound effects and whatever!

Cymbal pads can be dual zone pads as well. The pad designated as the ride cymbal will play the cymbal bow (the wide playing area of the ride cymbal) and the bell (the raised center area) and in the more advanced kits, the ride cymbal pad can have the edge playing another sound, usually a crash sound, just as you can do with a real cymbal.

Higher End Electronic Drum Pads

The best Electronic Drum Sets include another kind of pad or pads that will more closely resemble the feel and performance of acoustic drums. We drummers especially want the more sophisticated pads for the snare drum, which along with the kick drum, is where we do most our playing!

Each of the major manufacturers has its own approach to replicating the feel and responsiveness of an acoustic drum in an electronic pad. Each of them have achieved excellent results. The technologies used to create these more realistically-performing pads add significant cost to the drum sets that incorporate them but the results are well worth the extra investment.

What do the realistic-style pads give you?
  • A wider dynamic range, to better reproduce the subtleties in your playing in between the hardest and the softest strokes.
  • Greater sensitivity to ghost notes, flams, finesse and how well fast and complex patterns are reproduced.
  • A playing surface that feels like a real drumhead with similar response, bounce and overall feel.
  • If you are also actively playing an acoustic drum set, the better pads make it more natural and comfortable to go back and forth between the electronic set and the acoustic set.
  • The realistic-style drum pads come in a range of sizes, from 7” up to 14” but generally will be larger than rubber drum pads and come closer to the sizes and positioning of a typical acoustic drum set. This gives you bigger targets, less need for more precise aiming of your strokes so that you can play more openly and go crazy when you feel like it!
As we discussed, the major manufacturers of electronic drum sets take different approaches to building the better drum pad. Let’s hear it straight from the Big Three!

ROLAND V-Pads (Mesh Heads)

Roland’s patented “mesh heads” provide low noise, high durability and unsurpassed comfort. Head tension can be adjusted via drum key, just like an acoustic drum, for the perfect stick response. The head is also replaceable, like an acoustic drum. Roland V-Drum mesh-head triggers resemble acoustic drums in both appearance and feel. The striking surface is a two-layer taut woven mesh of fibers fitted with several electronic sensors. This allows the mesh-head trigger to respond to the play of a drumstick in a manner that feels more like real drums than their earlier rubber predecessors.

Roland V-Pad Drum Kits include:
V-Pad Kits with Snare Drum V-Pad only: HD-1 V-Drum Lite, TD-4K2-S V-Compact
V-Pad Kits with multiple V-Pads: TD-4KX V-Compact, TD-9K2-S V-Tour, TD-9KX2-S V-Tour, TD-12KX V-Stage, TD-20SX V-Pro

YAMAHA DTX-PADs

Yamaha has developed the DTX-PAD in several sizes, creating electronic snare and tom drum pads with a realistic feel. The drum head is made of TCS (textured cellular silicone). When Yamaha was developing the DTX pads, they were evaluated repeatedly by some of the world's top drummers. The detailed sense of perfection of these drummers is reflected in the DTX-PADs. As a result, this drum pad performs superbly. At the same time, it is fantastically quiet. Its excellent feel and quietness make it ideal for home use.

Yamaha Kits with DTX (Textured Cellular Silicone) Pads:
DTX Pad Kits Snare Drum Only: DTX520K, DTX530K
DTX Pad Kits with multiple DTX Pads: DTX560K, DTX700K, DTX750K, DTX790K,DTX900K,DTX950K

ALESIS Real Head

This velocity-sensitive drum pad features a real mylar drumhead and a triple-flanged hoop for the most natural, acoustic-feeling electronic drumming experience. Its dual-zone sensing enables you to trigger different sounds from the head and and rim. You can adjust the drumhead tension with a standard drum key, and the head is replaceable with any standard drumhead. It works with virtually all e-percussion devices and modules.

Alesis Kits with RealHead Pads:
RealHead Kits Snare Drum Pad Only: DM7 USB,DM8 USB
RealHead Kits with multiple RealHead Pads: DM8 Pro Kit, DM10 Studio Kit, DM10 Pro Kit

Electronic Kick Pads or Bass Drum Pads:

Similar to cymbal pads, there is not much variation among bass drum pads because the basic design works very well. They will have a heavy and durable rubber surface over a padded housing that recreates a typical acoustic bass drum head’s tension and will be built into an upright frame with supporting legs and spurs that hold the pad steady and prevent it from slipping away. The kick pads have a plate that the bass drum pedal is tightened onto. With proper centering, these kick pads will trigger accurately if you’re using a double bass drum pedal. These kick pads will get progressively heavier, steadier and more durable as you climb the price ladder.

Alesis includes a “RealHead” kick pad (using a real, tunable drumhead) with their sets DM8 Pro Kit, DM10 Studio Kit, DM10 Pro Kit starting at about $700.00 but the other majors include a significant kick pad upgrade (Yamaha’s DTX “TSC”–type pad or Roland’s V-Kick) in the $3500.00 and up price range: Roland TD-12KX V-Stage, Roland TD-20SX V-Pro, Yamaha DTX790K, Yamaha DTX900K, Yamaha DTX950K].

Many Electronic Drum Sets don’t include the bass drum pedal in the kit on the assumption that you’ll want to use your favorite pedal. If you don’t already own one or if you want a bass drum pedal to stay with your electronic drum set, you will need to purchase one separately. Every drum set listed on Sam Ash Direct will specify that the drum set does or does not include the bass drum pedal and if not, we will suggest one for you in the list “Things You’ll Need” that accompanies each item. Please note this issue carefully! We don’t want you to order an electronic drum set, set it up and then not have a pedal to play the kick pad!

Please note that Roland and Sam Ash Direct are featuring for a limited time, drum sets that INCLUDE essential hardware by Drum Workshop! These kits are prominently featured on our site and will include a DW bass drum pedal, a DW drum throne and where appropriate, a DW hi-hat stand! But there are kits by Yamaha and Alesis that also include a bass drum pedal. The Roland HD-1 V-Drums Lite set is unique in that the bass drum and hi-hat pedals are built in the rack.

The Reality Of Bass Drum Pedals

The general assumption about electronic drum sets and much of the hype about them is that you can practice quietly anywhere and anytime you want without being heard or disturbing others”. While this is generally true, a few drummers who use electronic drum sets in their homes, in their college dorm rooms or particularly in apartment buildings, will find that while the drum and cymbal pads are not heard by the neighbors, the bass drum pad can be a problem!

The stomping, kicking action of playing the bass drum pad sitting on the floor will sometimes be heard and felt through floors and walls, especially if you play heavy and hard. Some buildings aren’t built with floors and walls thick enough or insulated enough to prevent this from happening and you may find that the neighbors are irritated enough by your playing to impel you to stop or to limit the times you play. What can you do if this happens?
  • Use a rug or carpet! You should assume that an electronic drum set with a rug or carpet under it will generally be preferable to a bare floor, not only for the vibration-absorption but also to prevent slippage of the kick pedal and pad. Sam Ash Direct features several recommended drum rugs if your set-up area is a bare floor and you don’t have a rug handy.
  • Or a platform: If a rug or carpet isn’t enough to solve the problem, a remedy used by many is to put the drum set on some kind of platform. A simple one is to get a sheet of plywood large enough to set up the drum set on (4’ by 6’ is usually sufficient) then apply carpeting to both sides of it. Not too thick on either side or the drum set might become a bit unstable. This will tame most of the kick pedal and pad’s aggressive vibration! A few drummers who are really having a problem will build a platform that raises the drum set completely off the floor and puts a few inches of empty space under the platform’s surface that can be filled with acoustic insulating material.
  • Seriously, don’t play so hard! You can always try backing off on how hard you’re playing and turn up the volume in your headphones or amp to compensate.
So! If you’re having the kick drum problem where you live or keep your electronic drum set, try our suggestions! In all but the most extreme cases, they will work for you!
Electronic Drum Pad