Drums form the basis of any great song, and if you’re in the market for a new kit you probably have no idea just how much selection there is out there.
One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make in your journey for a new set is whether you go the electronic vs acoustic drums route.
So, which one is best: acoustic drums or electronic drums?
The truth is, there is no clear winner, as it all comes down to the musician, their skill level, where they play, and the type of music they hope to produce. Electronic drums are ideal for those who need to practice quietly and acoustic works best for drummers just learning the instrument, but there are many more pros and cons to consider to find the perfect fit.
Buying a new set of drums usually doesn’t come cheap, so you’ll want to weigh up all of the options to get the right one.
We’ve created a lengthy comparison to highlight the best and worst of each of these options and which one is best in various categories, like volume, price, and technique, so you don’t have to second guess your decision.
Electronic Drums vs Acoustic Drums
There was a time when drummers were only presented with one option when buying drums; the acoustic drumkit.
Although this is still a popular choice among many, electronic drums emerged on the scene with a few advantages that acoustic kits could never offer, as well as some limitations, too.
The electronic drum is a setup featuring sample pads that are organized to resemble an acoustic drumkit, so it might not feel as authentic.
When hit with a wooden stick, the rubber pads produce a similar sound to an acoustic set but do so digitally.
This means you’re able to adjust the sound and can even plug in a pair of headphones if you want a lot of volume without annoying anyone.
Acoustic drum configurations are popular with traditional drummers who want the real deal, but their noise and size have always left people with a few disadvantages to consider.
These drum kits usually feature a set configuration which includes a snare drum, bass drum, hi-hat cymbals, ride cymbal, crash cymbal and a set of tom-toms.
You use a wooden stick to hit them and produce the sound in real time, so controlling the volume is not an option.
While each of these options creates the same sound effectively, they are worlds apart.
Some prefer the traditional feel and sound of an acoustic kit and others want a more digital approach to playing drummers.
As a drummer, you’ll usually favor one over the other, but if you’re brand new to this instrument, you probably have no idea where to begin.
The Pros and Cons of Electronic and Acoustic Drums
The simplest way to determine which drums are right for you is to look at the advantages and disadvantages that each offer.
Check out our list of pros and cons of electronic vs acoustic drums to see which one would suit your playing style best.
A setup of rubber pads configured in the style of an acoustic drumkit, with sensors underneath each of them.
These sensors relay the sound when hit, sometimes having the capacity to make more than just one sound and with an adjustable volume.
- Ideal for low volume practice, and can be used with headphones for zero noise emissions.
- When size is an issue, electric drums take up just a fraction of size compared to acoustic drums.
- No need for tuning or ongoing maintenance.
- Works well for musicians who play with MIDI samples as it can be programmed to suit.
- You’ll be at a disadvantage if you only know how to play electric drums, as you won’t be able to use an acoustic set based on your current knowledge.
- With technology continually updating, you may find your drum kit only lasts a few years before it needs to be replaced, and will not have a good resale value.
- Many beginner drums come with limited functions that can not be configured, so you may need to spend more than you realize.
An acoustic drum kit or drum set is a large setup of various instruments and drums including cymbals.
The drums produce a sound when struck with a drumstick or a foot pedal, and they’re the traditional way to play this instrument.
- Works well with most types of music including rock, blues, pop, and jazz.
- It is a highly responsive instrument so you can get a better understanding of how your touch and force produces sound.
- Learning on acoustic drums means you’ll be able to play anyone else’s kit and also maintain and tune it to your liking.
- It provides a high energy style of playing and loud, authentic sound that can only be achieved with an acoustic set.
- Requires more practice to get a good sound when you’re just learning how to play.
- A complete drum kit can take up quite a bit of space, so you’ll need to have it spare.
- There are no options for reducing the sound output and you won’t be able to plug in headphones for silent practice, so you’ll only be able to play at times when it’s not a disturbance.
- These drums required constant tuning and may need additional maintenance now and then.
Which Type of Drum is Best?
With all of these pros and cons to consider, you might have a better idea already of which path to take.
The electronic drum kit has already come a long way and continues to improve its features, but for many drummers, nothing will ever top the feel and sound of making music with an acoustic set.
Consider these other factors if you’re still unsure about which type of drum kit would be best for you.
Best for Volume: Electronic Drums
Volume is key when it comes to playing drums, and you’ll need to hear what you’re playing at the loudest possible capacity to make sure it’s right.
Traditionally, people had to play their drums in a soundproof room or only during daylight hours, at the risk of bothering others, but that’s not a problem with electronic drums.
You can play these drums as loud as you want with the help of headphones so that nobody can hear you.
If you want more sound, you can plug them into an amp and turn up the volume whenever it’s allowed.
Although there is some sound when the stick hits the rubber pad, it’s minute compared to an acoustic set.
For that reason, the electronic drums are our top pick when volume is concerned.
Best for Technique: Acoustic Drums
There’s no denying that every drummer should know how to play on a set of acoustic drums.
The force of the stick, the vibration and feel they give, as well as the physical configuration of where every piece sits, are all things that you’ll never be able to learn when you only know how to play digital drums.
With the knowledge of how these drums work and the impact your sticks have, you’ll be able to play any other drum kit in the world.
This is something that just can’t be achieved with a set of electronic drums, which means your technique won’t be as good if this is the only type of instrument you use.
Best for Price: Electronic Drums
While there are acoustic drum sets out there that only cost a couple of hundred dollars, they’re usually not worth purchasing.
However, with just a couple hundred dollars you’re able to get a good quality set of basic electronic drums that would be perfect for a beginner.
The only downside when it comes to price is the resale value.
Electronic drums usually go down in price as the years go on and new technology and upgrades come out.
However, investing in a set of acoustic drums is an investment as you’ll be able to resell them for close to what you originally paid, provided they’ve been cared for.
Best for Sound: Acoustic Drums
Sound is a subjective matter, but overall the acoustic drum set gives off the best.
Provided you are playing in a room with good acoustics and there is ample space, acoustic drums are louder and more vibrant, therefore ideal for live performances or practice.
Some live bands feature electronic drums, but the sound of an acoustic set can’t be beaten.
If you’re someone who plays electronic music, you might find that electronic drums are going to be better suited.
You’re able to upload different samples and make adjustments to the sounds each pad produces, so it suits digital types of music better.
Best Choice for Beginners: Acoustic Drums
Although it can take longer to learn how to produce a good sound with acoustic drums, it should be the first point of practice for any emerging drummer.
Basic knowledge of acoustic drums will help you play an electronic set better and equip you with the skills to play almost any type of drum kit you come across.
If you only plan on learning for yourself and playing at home, you probably could learn just on an electronic set, but you won’t know how to transfer those skills to acoustic.
However, most serious drummers are skilled at playing an acoustic set first and foremost, with the electronic type learned later.
Best Choice for Musicians Who Record: Electronic Drums
The acoustic drum set is usually a preferred choice for live performances, but electronic drums are by far the winner when it comes to recording.
Getting a high-quality recorded drum sound can be hard with acoustic drums, especially with an amateur setup at home.
This is due to the acoustics of the room you’re playing in, so unless you have a studio complete with mixers and microphones, then you’ll want digital.
The drum samples have already been professionally recorded and produced so when you play them, they’ll sound as if they were done in a studio.
A drum set is a major purchase, even if you decide to choose one of the more budget-friendly options.
When weighing up whether acoustic or electronic drums are best for you, you probably have many more questions.
We’ve got the answers to some commonly asked questions about this popular instrument to shine some more light on how they differ.
Which Amp Is Best for Electronic Drums?
You’ll need to buy an amplifier to get the most out of your electronic drums unless you plan on only listening to the sounds through your headphones.
You’ll need to consider the wattage, type of speaker, channels, and size to determine which one is going to suit your style of playing.
When Were Electronic Drums Invented?
The very first set of electronic drums was invented in the 1970s by the drummer of The Moody Blues, Graeme Edge, and a professor from Sussex University.
The first commercial electronic drum was released in 1976, but it wasn’t until the early 80s that electronic drums gained popularity.
Which Drums Are Best for Jazz Music?
Acoustic drum sets can generally be played among all genres of music, but if you’re a jazz musician specifically you may want to make some adjustments.
A jazz drum set features a smaller bass drum and pair of tom-toms, but it’s not a hard and fast rule.