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The Award For Most Improved-The Electronic Drum

Sep 15, 2008
There are lots of different associations that can be made with the word "drum." Depending on your age, where in the world you are from and what kind of music you listen to, you may picture anything from a Caribbean steel drum to a Chinese "fou" drum when you hear that word. Yes, there are a great many faces to the instrument commonly known as "drum." But I must admit would be curious to know how many people, when asked what they associate with this word, would come up with the electronic drum.

Whereas a traditional drum of any vintage uses acoustic vibration to produce sound, an electronic drum uses an electronic waveform or sampler. Instead of being an instrument with a shell and a drumhead, these instruments have electronic drum pads. These pads contain either piezoelectric transducers (transducers that use crystals to generate electric potential in response to applied mechanical stress) or force sensitive resistors (two-terminal electronic components that can oppose electric current by producing a voltage drop). While this is perhaps more than most people want to know, the upshot is that when one of these pads is struck, a voltage change is triggered in one of these components. This produces signals that are then transmitted to an electronic drum module, or "drum brain." The brain translates the signals into waveforms, which in turn produce the percussion sound that corresponds to the pad that was struck. So leaving aside all the technical jargon, electronic drums are used exactly like regular drums, except that you have to plug them in first.

Electronic drums have been around since the very early 1970s. Graeme Edge, drummer and songwriter for the band The Moody Blues, and Professor Brian Groves of Sussex University pioneered the first electronic drum kit for the band's 1971 album. This kit and its early kin had a number of flaws, among them the fact that the sound produced was only a very approximate replica of the sound of an actual acoustic drum. There were also complaints of the restricted range of dynamic and tonal subtlety. As a result, the first electronic drum's first decades were spent in the genres of rock, disco and techno, where they could be used to create a specific beat without having to worry about timbre.

However, recent advances have greatly improved the quality of acoustic drum kits. Pollard Syndrum, Simmons and Yamaha all now produce professional kits reputed to be nearly indistinguishable in sound from acoustic kits. Other manufacturers include Boom Theory, Drum Tech, Alternate Mode and a host of others. Improvements have included items like more realistic hi-hats, higher quality digital samples and dynamic impact detection.

As the electronic drum has improved, the ranks of its devotees have also swelled. Today, the list of professional musicians who use or have used electronic drums is a respectable one and includes: Phil Collins, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Roger Taylor of Queen, Stuart Elliot of The Alan Parsons Project, Bill Rieflin of R.E.M, Alex Van Halen and more.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio. You can find the best marketplace at these sites for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tabs, and home theater audio.
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