Electronic drum

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Basic electronic drum set made by Pintech. Visulite.jpg
Basic electronic drum set made by Pintech.

An electronic drum, also known as electric drums, digital drums, or electronic percussion, is a modern electronic musical instrument, a special type of synthesizer or sampler, primarily designed to serve as an alternative to an acoustic drum kit or other percussion instruments. An electronic drum consists of an electronic or digital sound module which produces the synthesized or sampled percussion sounds and one or more electric sensors to trigger the sounds. Like regular drums, the sensors are struck by drum sticks or by the hands (depending on the type of drum pad) and they are played in a similar manner to an acoustic drum kit.

Electronic musical instrument musical instrument that produces its sounds using electronics

An electronic musical instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound using electronic circuitry. Such an instrument sounds by outputting an electrical, electronic or digital audio signal that ultimately is plugged into a power amplifier which drives a loudspeaker, creating the sound heard by the performer and listener.

Synthesizer Electronic instrument capable of producing a wide range of sounds

A synthesizer or synthesiser is an electronic musical instrument that generates audio signals that may be converted to sound. Synthesizers may imitate traditional musical instruments such as piano, flute, vocals, or natural sounds such as ocean waves; or generate novel electronic timbres. They are often played with a musical keyboard, but they can be controlled via a variety of other devices, including music sequencers, instrument controllers, fingerboards, guitar synthesizers, wind controllers, and electronic drums. Synthesizers without built-in controllers are often called sound modules, and are controlled via USB, MIDI or CV/gate using a controller device, often a MIDI keyboard or other controller.

Sampler (musical instrument) musical instrument

A sampler is an electronic or digital musical instrument which uses sound recordings of real instrument sounds, excerpts from recorded songs or found sounds. The samples are loaded or recorded by the user or by a manufacturer. These sounds are then played back by means of the sampler program itself, a MIDI keyboard, sequencer or another triggering device to perform or compose music. Because these samples are usually stored in digital memory, the information can be quickly accessed. A single sample may often be pitch-shifted to different pitches to produce musical scales and chords.

Contents

Strictly speaking, sequencers playing pre-programmed electronic drum tracks and electronic or digital drum machines are not electronic drums, because a drummer or other musician is not triggering the sounds. [1]

A music sequencer is a device or application software that can record, edit, or play back music, by handling note and performance information in several forms, typically CV/Gate, MIDI, or Open Sound Control (OSC), and possibly audio and automation data for DAWs and plug-ins.

A drum machine is an electronic musical instrument that creates percussion. Drum machines may imitate drum kits or other percussion instruments, or produce unique sounds. Most modern drum machines allow users to program their own rhythms. Drum machines may create sounds using analog synthesis or play prerecorded samples.

The electronic drum (pad/triggering device) is usually sold as part of an electronic drum kit, consisting of a set of drum pads mounted on a stand or rack in a configuration similar to that of an acoustic drum kit layout, with rubberized (Roland, Yamaha, Alesis, for example) or specialized acoustic/electronic cymbals (e.g. Zildjian's "Gen 16"). The drum pads themselves are either discs or shallow drum shells made of various materials, often with a rubber/silicone or cloth-like coated playing surface. Each pad has a sensor that generates an electric signal when struck.

Yamaha Corporation Japanese multinational corporation and conglomerate

Yamaha Corporation is a Japanese multinational corporation and conglomerate with a very wide range of products and services. It is one of the constituents of Nikkei 225 and is the world's largest piano manufacturing company. The former motorcycle division was established in 1955 as Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., which started as an affiliated company but later became independent, although Yamaha Corporation is still a major shareholder.

Alesis designs and markets electronic musical instruments, digital audio processors, audio mixers, digital audio interfaces, recording equipment, drum machines, professional audio and electronic percussion products. Based in Cumberland, Rhode Island, Alesis is an inMusic Brands company. Alesis products are designed in the United States and manufactured in China.

Avedis Zildjian Company Drum company

The Avedis Zildjian Company, simply known as Zildjian, is an American cymbal manufacturer. The company was founded in Constantinople by Avedis Zildjian in the 17th century, and is now based in Norwell, Massachusetts. Being nearly 400 years old, Zildjian is one of the oldest companies in the world. Zildjian also sells drum-related accessories, such as drum sticks and cymbal carriers. It is the largest cymbal manufacturer in the world.

The electric signal is transmitted through cables into an electronic or digital drum module ("brain" as it is sometimes called), synthesizer or other device, which then produces a sound associated with, and triggered by, the struck pad. The sound signal from the drum module can be plugged into a keyboard amp or PA system for use in a live band performance or listened to with headphones for silent practice. Since digital drums have become more popular, companies have started selling digital electronic drum files, referred to as drum kits. While electronic drum kits are typically used to trigger drum and percussion sounds, a MIDI-equipped electronic drum kit can be used to trigger any types of MIDI sounds, such as synthesized or sampled piano, guitar, or any other instrument.

Headphones pair of small speakers held close to a users ears

Headphones traditionally refer to a pair of small loudspeaker drivers worn on or around the head over a user's ears. They are electroacoustic transducers, which convert an electrical signal to a corresponding sound. Headphones let a single user listen to an audio source privately, in contrast to a loudspeaker, which emits sound into the open air for anyone nearby to hear. Headphones are also known as earspeakers, earphones or, colloquially, cans. Circumaural and supra-aural headphones use a band over the top of the head to hold the speakers in place. Another type, known as earbuds or earpieces consist of individual units that plug into the user's ear canal. A third type are bone conduction headphones, which typically wrap around the back of the head and rest in front of the ear canal, leaving the ear canal open.

MIDI electronic musical instrument industry specification

MIDI is a technical standard that describes a communications protocol, digital interface, and electrical connectors that connect a wide variety of electronic musical instruments, computers, and related audio devices for playing, editing and recording music. A single MIDI link through a MIDI cable can carry up to sixteen channels of information, each of which can be routed to a separate device or instrument. This could be sixteen different digital instruments, for example.

History

Early Simmons SDS 5 Electronic Drums, ca. 1983. Simmons SDS5 Electric Drum.jpg
Early Simmons SDS 5 Electronic Drums, ca. 1983.

In 1967, Felix Visser, a drummer playing with the Dutch pop band the VIPs, modified one of the pre-Roland-era Acetone electronic rhythm boxes, which was intended to play simple pre-programmed rhythms, so that it could be played as a live instrument. The Acetone rhythm box was designed by Ikutaro Kakehashi, who later founded Roland Corporation Japan. As with all rhythm boxes and later drum computers, before a "human feel" was developed by introducing subtle variation and "swing", the Acetone rhythm boxes had a metronomic, machine-like sound.

Ikutaro Kakehashi, also known by the nickname Taro, was a Japanese engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. He founded the musical instrument manufacturers Ace Tone, Roland Corporation, and Boss Corporation, and the audiovisual electronics company ATV Corporation.

Roland Corporation is a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, electronic equipment and software. It was founded by Ikutaro Kakehashi in Osaka on April 18, 1972. In 2005, Roland's headquarters relocated to Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture. It has factories in Taiwan, Japan, and the USA. As of March 31, 2010, it employed 2,699 employees. In 2014, Roland was subject to a management buyout by Roland's CEO Junichi Miki, supported by Taiyo Pacific Partners.

In music, the term swing has two main uses. Colloquially, it is used to describe the quality or impression or effect ("feel") of a changing pattern in a propulsive rhythm created by the musical interaction between the performers, especially when the music prompts a visceral response such as foot-tapping or head-nodding, which sense is called "groove". The term, and swung note(s) and swung rhythm, is also used more specifically, to refer to a technique that involves alternately lengthening and shortening the pulse-divisions in a rhythm.

In Visser's modification, the Acetone box was extended with a large flat board holding 12 printed circuit boards of approximately 4 × 4 inches, with the copper traces intertwining like forks. The copper traces formed the touch surfaces for the sounds generated by the Acetone box. Each touch pad was sensed by an electronic circuit driving high-speed Siemens computer relays he found in surplus shops. These were connected to the drum and percussion sounds of the rhythm box. Although it was a crude way of playing electronic drum sounds by hand (like a percussionist playing bongos and congas), it worked and added a "human feel". Visser's approach enabled drummers to have a new type of virtuosity (e.g., rolls on electronic bass drums could be played with sticks). The unit was used in Frans Peters' studio in radio city Hilversum, Netherlands.

Bongo drum Type of drum

Bongos are an Afro-Cuban percussion instrument consisting of a pair of small open bottomed drums of different sizes. In Spanish the larger drum is called the hembra (female) and the smaller the macho (male). Together with the conga or tumbadora, and to a lesser extent the batá drum, bongos are the most widespread Cuban hand drums, being commonly played in genres such as son cubano, salsa and Afro-Cuban jazz. A bongo drummer is known as a bongosero.

Conga Cuban drum

The conga, also known as tumbadora, is a tall, narrow, single-headed drum from Cuba. Congas are staved like barrels and classified into three types: quinto, tres dos or tres golpes (middle), and tumba or salidor (lowest). Congas were originally used in Afro-Cuban music genres such as conga and rumba, where each drummer would play a single drum. Following numerous innovations in conga drumming and construction during the mid-20th century, as well as its internationalization, it became increasingly common for drummers to play two or three drums. Congas have become a popular instrument in many forms of Latin music such as son, descarga, Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, songo, merengue and Latin rock.

The system was over-sensitive to humidity:

"The circuits would be triggered by the touch pads, merely by damp. Just breathing over them would do the job. So in the end a 40 Watt light bulb was built inside the box holding the pads, electronic circuitry and relays, to heat up the unit when the instrument had been sitting in a car and then put on a stage in a relatively warm, damp environment. After all we'd just left the dark ages of electronic music... "

The first electronic drum was created in the early 1970s by Graeme Edge, drummer of The Moody Blues, in collaboration with Sussex University Professor Brian Groves. The device was used in the song "Procession" from the 1971 album Every Good Boy Deserves Favour . [2]

Question - "One of the strangest pieces was 'Procession' (Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, 1971), which featured the pioneering work of Graeme Edge's electronic drum kit. How did that come about?"

Graeme - "I'd got in touch with the professor of electronics at Sussex University, Brian Groves. We worked up an electronic drum kit, a marvellous idea. I had the control panel in front of me, it's old hat now but we were the first to do it. There were pieces of rubber with silver paper on the back with a silver coil that moved up and down inside a magnet that produced a signal, so it was touch sensitive. I had 5 snares across the top and then ten tom-toms and then a whole octave of bass drums underneath my feet and then four lots of 16 sequencers, two on each side. There was a gap — to play a space — a tambourine, ebony stick, snare and three tom-toms. This was pre-chip days, back then you did it all with transistors. So it had something like 500 transistors. The electronic drums inside looked something like spaghetti. When it worked it was superb, but it was before its day, because it was so sensitive..."

The first commercial electronic drum was the Pollard Syndrum, released by Pollard Industries in 1976. It consisted of an electric sound generator and one or more drum pads. It quickly caught the attention of numerous high-profile drummers/percussionists at the time, such as Carmine Appice and Terry Bozzio. However, the Syndrum was a financial failure and the company failed in the following years. [2]

In 1978, the Simmons company was created to produce commercial electronic drums sets. Its most notable product was the SDS-5, released in 1981. With its characteristic hexagon-shaped pads, the SDS-5 was first used by Richard James Burgess on From the Tea-rooms of Mars .... , "Chant No. 1" by Spandau Ballet, and "Angel Face" by Shock. After its debut on the top musical chart shows and parades, this electronic instrument garnered significant attention from established and influential rock/pop musicians. The sound of the SDS-5 is often described retrospectively with phrases such as "awful" or "sounded like trash can lids" by those who employed them at the time. Despite the critics, the distinctive Simmons sound was extensively used during the 1980s by pop/rock & synth-pop groups such as Duran Duran and progressive rock bands such as Rush, among others. Simmons drums are often viewed somewhat nostalgically by those who began to experiment with these early forays into electronic drums and percussion.


In the following years, other companies started selling their own versions of electronic drums, notably Roland and Yamaha. At that time, electronic drums were similar to 2016-era starter or entry-level kits. They consisted of rubber-coated sensor pads mounted on stands. The pads were created to be velocity-sensitive and the sound was generated through single or multiple-layered sampling or synthesized sound.

In 1997, Roland introduced its TD-10 model, which had two major musical/electronic innovations. The first and more controversial innovation was its method of providing noises for the drums/pads to trigger, instead of generating its sound by using samples of an acoustic drum or cymbal. The TD-10 used mathematical models to generate tones using synthesizers. While some drummers lamented the fact that the produced sound was not a "pure" sample of an acoustic instrument, others argued that simple replication of an acoustic drum was not desirable. Secondly, instead of rubber-coated pads, Roland featured a new mesh-like pad, produced in collaboration with acoustic drum skin manufacturer Remo.

The mesh-head pads look and feel approximately like a smaller-sized acoustic drum. The Remo/Roland mesh surface is made from a double layer of taut woven mesh fibers, fitted with several electronic sensors or triggers. The playing feel is close to that of striking an acoustic drum, but with more bounce than an acoustic skin. Roland termed its innovative commercial drum set "V-Drums", which later became the marketed brand name of its electronic drum line. Together, the mathematical/computational modeling, mesh-head pad surface, and improved trigger sensor technology greatly increased the quality of sounds, the "realistic" feel of electronic drums, and the volume levels in practice and live show settings. [3]

Recent innovations

Roland V-Stage Series TD-12S V-Drum Kit Roland V-Drum TD-12S V-Stage set + expansion.jpg
Roland V-Stage Series TD-12S V-Drum Kit

Newer drum kits from major manufacturers have therefore addressed many of the shortcomings of early electronic drum pads and modules. While each of the significant market brands have entry-level units, the professionally marketed kits are geared toward creating sounds and playing experiences that are nearly indistinguishable from playing a quality acoustic kit or world/orchestral percussion instruments. Examples of these high-end professional kits include the Yamaha DTX 950k and Roland V-Drums TD-30KV. Typically, these professional-level and studio kits are equipped with:

Comparison to acoustic drum set

Advantages

Disadvantages

Variations

Table-top electronic drum

Alesis PerformancePad electronic drum kit Alesis PerformancePad.jpg
Alesis PerformancePad electronic drum kit

A table-top electronic drum (or portable electronic drum) is an electronic drum that has all of its pads (except foot pedals) and the electronic sound module combined in a single table-top unit. It usually has a small amplifier and small loudspeakers incorporated. The sound generation is generally simpler (single-layered samples) when compared to more expensive, full-size electronic kits. Also, the feel when playing a table-top drum/pad is very different from using a full-size electronic kit or an acoustic kit. The advantages of table-top drums are their portability and the relatively lower price.

Some acoustic drummers use a table-top electronic drum as their first foray into electronic drumming, since purchasing a single table-top unit and setting it up alongside an acoustic drum kit is much cheaper and simpler than fitting an entire acoustic kit with sensors and connecting them to a "drum brain".

Acoustic triggered drum kit

An acoustic triggered drum kit is a regular acoustic drum kit coupled with drum trigger/s (sensors) on the drums and cymbals. The triggers can be "built inside" or permanently fixed on to cymbals–so that they are necessarily either: fixed triggers (electronic kit essentially), removable (can be either acoustic or electronic by default of purpose at the time), or simply an acoustic kit that is now actually a "Hybrid" kit–using external triggers that attach to the rim and skin (or batter head) so as to trigger other sounds on top of the natural acoustic sound produced or simply to boost it for performance.

The triggers detect hits/ vibrations on the batter head and/or hoop rim and generate an electric signal. The signal is then sent to an electronic module/sampler or via cables and an Audio Interface to MIDI-DAW/drum software on a PC/laptop/Mac–to trigger the selected sounds. Usually, the "acoustic triggered kit" has either commercially available mesh head "skins" (silent), or the drummer keeps her natural skins (using acoustic skins for a Hybrid kit are standard practice) and other muting accessories to reduce the acoustic sounds generated when played. This way, an acoustic (electro/acoustic) or Hybrid triggered drum kit has the feel and sizes of the standard acoustic kit but with the added benefits of an electronic kit's onstage silence, controllable volume (an important factor in small venues) or the added sound library available in 2016-era high-end kits, which includes sounds for large gongs and other instruments that are expensive and hard to transport in their original acoustic form. [5] A recent innovation is DrumsAnywhere software, [6] which uses only a single piezoelectric microphone to trigger eight different drum pads on any flat or irregular surface.

Users

Notes

  1. [For the definition employed here cf: -'The Case for Vintage Electronic Drums' by Michael Render, page 1 (originally published in the Not So Modern Drumming Magazine) & sourced from "The Electronic Drum Experts" web site]
  2. 1 2 Render, Michael. The Case for Vintage Electronic Drums. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-02-08. Retrieved 2011-06-21.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), accessed June 21, 2011
  3. Greg Rule & Steve Fisher. V-Drums History. , accessed June 21, 2011
  4. UK Musicians Union (April 2014), "Powered Performance", Drummer Magazine, p. 46
  5. See Craig Blundell on: "Hybrid Kits" & Roland V Drums, "Triggers" & Trigger bar on YouTube; See 682Drums for materials on conversions and DD Drums, Hart Dynamics Drum-tech or Pintech for Custom Acoustic/Electronic Kit sizes, that function dualistically or primarily as electronic kits but in various acoustic sizes).
  6. MusicRadar Article: https://www.musicradar.com/news/drums/drumsanywhere-turns-any-surface-into-a-drum-kit-603584

Related Research Articles

Drum kit collection of drums and other percussion instruments

A drum kit — also called a drum set, trap set, or simply drums — is a collection of drums and other percussion instruments, typically cymbals, which are set up on stands to be played by a single player, with drumsticks held in both hands, and the feet operating pedals that control the hi-hat cymbal and the beater for the bass drum. A drum kit consists of a mix of drums and idiophones – most significantly cymbals, but can also include the woodblock and cowbell. In the 2000s, some kits also include electronic instruments. Also, both hybrid and entirely electronic kits are used.

Roland Octapad

Roland Octapad is a range of MIDI electronic drum percussion controllers produced by the Roland Corporation.

Music technology (electronic and digital) Music technology

Electronic and digital music technology is the use of electronic or digital instruments, computers, electronic effects units, software or digital audio equipment by a musician, composer, sound engineer, DJ or record producer to make, perform or record music. The term usually refers to the use of electronic devices, electronic and digital instruments, computer hardware and computer software that is used in the performance, playback, recording, composition, sound recording and reproduction, mixing, analysis and editing of music.

General MIDI is a standardized specification for electronic musical instruments that respond to MIDI messages. GM was developed by the American MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) and the Japan MIDI Standards Committee (JMSC) and first published in 1991. The official specification is available in English from the MMA, bound together with the MIDI 1.0 specification, and in Japanese from the Association of Musical Electronic Industry (AMEI).

Electronic keyboard electronic keyboard instrument

An electronic keyboard or digital keyboard is an electronic musical instrument, an electronic or digital derivative of keyboard instruments. Broadly speaking, the term electronic keyboard or just a keyboard can refer to any type of digital or electronic keyboard instrument. These include synthesizers, digital pianos, stage pianos, electronic organs and digital audio workstations. However, an electronic keyboard is more specifically a synthesizer with a built-in low-wattage power amplifier and small loudspeakers.

MIDI controller MIDI-capable hardware or software

A MIDI controller is any hardware or software that generates and transmits Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) data to MIDI-enabled devices, typically to trigger sounds and control parameters of an electronic music performance.

Sound module electronic musical instrument without a human-playable interface, operated using an externally connected device, e.g. a MIDI controller

A sound module is an electronic musical instrument without a human-playable interface such as a piano-style musical keyboard. Sound modules have to be operated using an externally connected device, which is often a MIDI controller, of which the most common type is the musical keyboard. Controllers are devices that provide the human-playable interface and which may or may not produce sounds of its own. Another common way of controlling a sound module is through a sequencer, which is computer hardware or software designed to record and play back control information for sound-generating hardware. Connections between sound modules, controllers, and sequencers are generally made with MIDI, which is a standardized protocol designed for this purpose, which includes special ports (jacks) and cables.

DTX is the line of electronic MIDI drum kit and percussion sets manufactured by Yamaha Corporation. The DTX Trigger System is a custom drum module which can be used to trigger sounds with acoustic drums. A modified version of the DTX kit can be found in two drumming games: MTV Drumscape and Drummania.

Roland V-Drums

V-Drums is a variety of electronic drums, drum brain modules, and related electronic percussion product manufactured and trademarked by Roland Corporation.

Zendrum

A Zendrum is a hand-crafted MIDI controller that is used as a percussion instrument. The Zendrum was influenced by the "Drumitar," invented by Future Man. There are several Zendrum models that are well-suited for live performances: the Z1, ZX, EXP, ZAP series, LT and the Mallet Pro series and Melodic Finger. The Zendrum ZX and Z1 can be worn like a guitar and consists of a triangular hardwood body with 24 touch-sensitive round MIDI triggers. The EXP has 29 triggers and additional controls. The Zendrum LT can also be worn with a guitar strap, and has 25 MIDI triggers in a symmetrical layout, which provides an ambidextrous playing surface. The ZAP series is designed more for table top use or on a drum stand, with the ZAP1 having 19 triggers, and the ZAP2 having 25 triggers. The triggers are played by tapping or slapping with the fingers or hands. As a controller, the Zendrum does not make any sound by itself. It uses an electronic interface called MIDI to control synthesizers, samplers, drum machines, sound modules, computers or other electronic drum devices that generates the musical and percussive sounds. The Mallet Pro Series is laid out and played like a traditional mallet instrument, like a marimba. The Mallet Pro series has naturally resonating solid walnut bars as triggers.

Wind controller electronic wind instrument

A wind controller, sometimes referred to as a "wind synth", or "wind synthesizer", is a wind instrument capable of controlling one or more music synthesizers or other devices. Wind controllers are most commonly played and fingered like a woodwind instrument, usually the saxophone, with the next most common being brass fingering, particularly the trumpet. Models have been produced that play and finger like other acoustic instruments such as the recorder or the tin whistle. One form of wind controller, the hardware-based variety, uses electronic sensors to convert fingering, breath pressure, bite pressure, finger pressure, and other gesture information into control signals. Another form of wind controller uses software to convert the acoustic sound of an unmodified wind instrument directly into MIDI messages. In either case, the control signals or MIDI messages generated by the wind controller are used to control internal or external devices such as analog synthesizers or MIDI-compatible synthesizers, softsynths, sequencers, or even lighting systems.

Roland TR-505

The Roland TR-505 is a drum machine and MIDI sequencer from the same family as the Roland TR-909, TR-808, TR-707, and TR-626. Released in 1986, the unit can be used to sequence short, punchy, 12-bit samples. The drum kit includes basic rock drum sounds similar to those of the 707, plus a complement of Latin-style drum sounds similar to those of the TR-727, which was similar to the TR-707, but it had Latin instruments instead of rock drums.

Simmons (electronic drum company) electronic drum brand

Simmons is an electronic drum brand, which originally was a pioneering British manufacturer of electronic drums. Founded in 1978 by Dave Simmons, it supplied electronic kits from 1980 to 1994. The drums' distinctive, electronic sound can be found on countless albums from the 1980s. The company closed in 1999 and the Simmons name is currently owned by Guitar Center.

Simmons SDS-V

The Simmons SDS 5, SDSV, or Simmons Drum Synthesizer was the first viable electronic replacement for acoustic drums. It was developed by Richard James Burgess and Dave Simmons, manufactured initially by Musicaid in Hatfield, UK, and commercially released in 1981. After Musicaid went bankrupt, Simmons set up a new manufacturing company under his name, Simmons.

Trigger pad

A trigger pad is an electronic sensor on a drum that produces a certain sound assigned from a sound module once the head has been struck. This device allows drummers to play at a constant dynamic regardless of the physical force used.

Guitar synthesizer

A guitar synthesizer is any one of a number of musical instrument systems that allow a guitarist to access synthesizer capabilities.

Electronic drum module

An electronic drum module is an electronic or digital music device in an electronic drum kit that serves as the central processing unit and sound module. The drum module creates or produces the drum kit sounds or other sounds selected by the drummer. By itself, a drum module cannot play or sound drum beats. It only produces drum sounds when a performer strikes electronic drum pads or acoustic drum kit instruments that have electronic "triggers" attached to them. When the electronic drum pads or trigger-equipped instruments are struck, this sends a signal to the drum module, which produces the corresponding electronic drum sound. Even when drum pads and/or triggers are connected to a drum module, the drum module by itself does not make any audible sound. Like other electronic instruments such as the synthesizer, the drum module only outputs an electronic signal. The performer can hear this signal by connecting headphones to the drum module or by plugging the drum module into a amplifier and loudspeaker or PA system for audible practice or live performances. The drum module's output signal can also be patched into an audio console for concerts or sound recording. The nomenclature varies. For example, electronic drum modules are called "percussion sound modules" in the case of Roland Corporation, or sometimes simply modules. A common colloquial term for this device is drum brain..

The Boss DR-220 Dr. Rhythm is a series of two budget-priced digital drum machines developed and manufactured by Boss Corporation beginning in 1985.

The DrumIt Five is an electronic drum line produced by 2box, a Swedish company started by former employees of ddrum. The kit is based on tunable mesh drum heads, similar to Roland's V-Drum line. The focus of its design is to produce more natural sounds than are characteristic of most electronic drum kits on the market.