Electronic drums offer a lot of things that acoustic drums don’t. Whether it be synth sounds, music loops, or click track capabilities, there are a lot of things that would work well along with acoustic drum kits. So, electronic drum pads have become the hybrid solution. You can place them in your acoustic setup to allow you access to all their electronic capabilities.
There are several electronic sample pads out there on the market. Each one has great sounds and qualities. You may be wondering which one will be best for you. We’re going to look through each one to help you decide what will suit you best. Let’s get straight to it.
Starting off strong, the Roland SPD-SX is undoubtedly the most popular pad in the world. It’s the industry-standard tool in hybrid drumming, having a wide range of sounds and useful features. If you watch some famous drum kit players playing on huge stages with artists like Rihanna, Adele, and Justin Bieber, you’ll notice that most of them are using the Roland SPD-SX in their setup.
The pads on this machine are velocity-sensitive, meaning they’ll sound different depending on how hard you hit them. They’re incredibly responsive as well. Although this device has some internal sounds, it’s mainly intended for the use of external sounds. It’s built for custom samples to be imported via MIDI USB.
You can use your own sounds to make loops and run backing tracks. The possibilities are endless with this interface. There are some onboard settings that allow you to control reverb and other sound effects. These will add an extra dimension of sounds for your external samples.
It has some audio inputs that allow you to attach extra trigger devices. Most players will add a foot pedal to mimic a bass drum. If you do that, you could use this pad and no other drums at a coffee shop or bar gig. It will do really well in those situations.
In terms of build quality, the Roland SPD-SX has a solid structure that will last you many years of frequent use. Roland is at the top of their game with this product. It will benefit any person who gets it.
Yamaha DTX-Multi 12
The Yamaha DTX-Multi 12 is very similar to the Roland SPD-SX. However, it puts more focus on the onboard sounds than it does on the sampling capabilities. There are thousands of individual sounds to choose from ranging from percussion sounds to world music instrument tones. All the samples are fantastically recorded, giving you an instrument of very high quality.
The best thing about the DTX-Multi 12 is the fact that it has 12 pads. That’s more pads than most other sampling pads. This allows you to have a wide variety of notes to play. The external outputs allow you to add foot pedals and hi-hat pedals, giving you even more playing options.
You can import your own custom sounds. However, the isn’t as much space to do that as there is on the Roland SPD-SX. There are 42 built-in effects options that allow you to get different qualities from all your notes.
With the 1277 voices, MIDI capabilities, and sampling potential, the Yamaha DTX-Multi 12 is a great choice for any drummer. If you’re looking to add unique voices to your drum setup, this is the pad for you. It will boost your creativity. You can even play the pads with your hands instead of drum sticks.
Roland Octapad SPD-30
The Roland SPD-30 was made very popular thanks to the Guitar Center Drum Off competitions. It became an integral part of many drum solos for several years, showing viewers just how well it could be utilized within a drum kit setup. This pad is primarily a sound source as well as a loop station. You can’t import your own samples.
Every note on the Roland Octapad can have its pitch altered, meaning you can create almost any tunes with the variety of sounds it provides. You can see this in those Drum Off solos where the players recreate famous melody lines. You can have a lot of fun using this tool to create extra tones when playing the drums.
Its best feature is the loop function. You can play a pattern once and loop it, allowing you to play drums to the pattern you just created. It allows you to do this a few times in one session, giving you many playing options to toy around with.
This pad doesn’t run backing tracks or anything, meaning it’s not intended to be used to control the music in a live band setting. However, it will give you a lot of different playing options if you do use it in your setup. If you’re looking for a pad that purely adds sounds as well as a loop function, the Roland SPD-30 Octapad is a worthy product to check out.
Alesis Strike MultiPad
Alesis is a big name in the electronic instrument world that we haven’t mentioned yet. The company has a reputation for producing products that compete with Roland and Yamaha. However, they’re usually a bit more affordable. The Alesis Strike MultiPad doesn’t follow this trend as it costs the same as the DTX- Multi 12 and SPD-SX. Similar to those products, this is a sampling machine that has plenty of sounds to play around with.
It has nine velocity-sensitive pads that are all marked with a bright neon light strip. This light strip makes it very easy to see where you’re playing, especially in dark stage environments. The Alesis MultiPad’s main function is the ability to capture samples from different input sources.
You can connect a phone, laptop, or mic into it and record what you want to sample on the device. You can then toy around with the sample using the user interface to get unique tones and loops. The Alesis MultiPad has 6GB of prerecorded samples along with 28GB of free space to import your own.
This product even comes with a license for Ableton Lite, allowing you to do some recording, mixing, and mastering. You can also use it to create some music. If you’re not a fan of the SPD-SX from Roland or the DTX-Multi 12 from Yamaha, the Strike MultiPad from Alesis may just suit your needs.
Alesis SamplePad Pro
Sticking with Alesis, the SamplePad Pro is a more affordable sampling pad that makes sampling and electronic sounds more accessible to a lot of drummers. The notable difference between this and the Strike MultiPad is that the SamplePad Pro has fewer pads to play as well as fewer sounds to work with.
It has 8 single-zone pads to work with. 2 of them are on the shoulders of the device. They’re velocity-sensitive and have great responsiveness along with a wonderful feel. The interface is fairly basic, making it easy to work with right from the get-go.
It has two additional triggers for external inputs. So, it works similar to the previous sampling pads, allowing you to attach a bass drum pedal and hi-hat trigger. With an output for headphones, you can listen to all the samples on the device. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have built-in speakers, so you’ll need to use the headphone output.
Overall, it’s a pad worthy of professional drummers that comes at a slightly more affordable price than the previous products on the list.
If you’re not ready to commit to a full-on large sample pad, the Roland SPD-One is something you should check out. It’s a single pad that allows you to play samples, one-shot sounds, backing tracks, and loops. It’s battery-powered, meaning you don’t have to even use long and obtrusive cabling in your setup.
You can easily import your samples to the Roland SPD-One via MIDI USB. The interface is extremely easy to use, meaning you’ll be importing and playing with samples very quickly.
It has an external mount that allows you to place it comfortably in any rig. It’s not bulky and will sit tightly in its place. You can play it with your hands, drum sticks, or even mallets, making it a versatile instrument to add to your setup.
Roland has bridged a gap in the market with this product. You should definitely check it out if you want something small to incorporate electronics into your playing.
Nord Drum 3P
You may not have expected to see a Nord product on this list. Nord doesn’t make electronic drum kits, so you wouldn’t expect them to make an electronic drum pad. However, this pad is one of the best pads you’ll find on the market. Similar to Nord’s keyboards, it focuses on the creation and manipulation of its onboard sounds.
It’s designed with live gigging in mind, meaning you can create and manipulate tones very quickly on the fly. The quality of the tones is absolutely immaculate, giving you one of the best sounding drum pads you can get. It has excellent volume controls thanks to the responsive pads.
If you’re looking to play synth percussion, this pad is well worth looking into. It’s great for beginners as well as advanced players. It just has a bit of a learning curve to it. However, once you’ve learned to use it, it has unlimited potential.
The smooth knobs and the desirable features make it a great option on this list. The built-in samples are what you’d expect from Nord and the audio interface is very professional.
Electronic vs Acoustic Drumming
Acoustic drumming will always be the first prize. It’s what we’ve known as musicians for over 100 years and it will continue to be the standard for live gigs and recording studios for years to come. However, music has started to evolve and include more electronic sounds and samples. Even rock and metal bands have started to incorporate synth sounds in many songs.
This is where hybrid setups come in. Having access to electronics will allow you to play these synth sounds while playing acoustic drums at the same time. The question is no longer which one is better for you. It’s now about how you can support your acoustic drumming with electronic devices.
However, every drummer has their limit of how much electronic gear they want to add to their setup. Some drummers will be purists and resist the lure to get sample pads. Other drummers will have sample pads, triggers, and electronic pads placed all over the kit to get as much use as possible out of electronics.
It’s up to you on how you feel about the topic, but the music world is moving more towards electronic integration, especially with drummers.
Do You Need an Electronic Pad?
Continuing on the previous point, the question is now if you actually need to have an electronic sampling pad? The answer to that will depend on what you actually do as a drummer. If you’re just playing drums for fun in your basement, you don’t actually need anything. Getting a sample pad will make playing a lot more fun thanks to all the extra drum sounds and features. Just don’t let it pull your focus away from improving on all your basic skills and techniques.
If you’re a drummer looking to get gigs and make a living, having an electronic drum pad may just help you in many ways. Since music is evolving electronically, a lot of artists actually require the drummers to have pads. They want their live music to sound similar to their albums. You can only do this with a pad since you’ll need things like handclaps and finger snaps.
Pads can also be used to play backing tracks. Many bands do this nowadays as the music requires sounds that can’t be played by the instruments on stage. The drummer can run the tracks right from the comfort of his drum kit.
These are some compelling reasons to get a drum pad. Having one would benefit you more than not having one. However, you don’t absolutely need one as a drummer.
Expensive vs Cheap Pads
Like every product in the world, you get some cheap low-quality pads and then you get a few expensive high-quality ones. Which pad should you get and worthwhile will it be? The answer to that depends on your level of skill as a musician. If you’ve been playing drums for a short time, a low-quality sampling pad will work perfectly fine for beginners. Beginner drummers won’t need any high-tier features and functions.
It will be better for intermediate and advanced players to invest in a high-quality drum pad. There’s a big difference between cheap and expensive pads and experienced drummers will definitely feel it when playing them. That extra bit of money spent will go a very long way.
The difference in price means that there will be a few major differences in the quality. Firstly, higher-priced pads have better sound quality. Their sounds would have been professionally recorded and sampled. They’ll also feel more sturdy. The difference in sturdiness is a huge aspect if you’re planning to play gigs with it.
Which Electronic Drum Brand is the Best?
There are a few popular electronic instrument brands out there. Each of them produces some great drum sample pads. These companies would be Roland, Yamaha, Alesis, and Nord. The first three names there are famous for their electronic drum kits. Nord mainly focuses on keyboards. However, they have one fantastic sample pad that we looked at in the list above.
The question of which brand is best is a highly subjective one. Music is a subjective topic and the same goes for the instruments we use to play it. The best sample pad for you may not be the best sample pad for someone else. It all depends on what it comes with and how you can use it.
One sample pad may have features that you’ll never use, making it a waste of money. Another drummer may use those features every single day of their lives, making it a seriously good investment. There is no concrete answer to this.
However, the four brands mentioned are undoubtedly the most popular ones. They hold the reputation for creating the most valuable products that are loved by many drummers. So, you can decide which brand is best for you through that lens.
Drum Pad Compatibility with DAWs
The word DAW refers to Digital Audio Workstations. These are the things producers use to record music as well as create it. The most popular DAWs are Logic Pro, Ableton, and ProTools. They’ve become extremely accessible to anyone, meaning you can get one on your computer to plug your sample pad into.
Plugging your sample pad into a DAW will allow you to record patterns and beats that you play on the pad. It will also allow you to import custom samples, similar to how you would with a USB.
Most pads will be compatible with DAWs. If you’re going to be using it for recording and making samples, just make sure that it is compatible. The pad will send MIDI signals through to the computer.
Electronic pads are definitely something to check out if you play the drums. Their sampling features and performance capabilities are something that every player can benefit from. If you’re going to be playing mainstream gigs in the pop scene, you need to have one of these pads. If you’re going to be playing any sort of electronic sound, you need one of these pads.
Look through all of them and decide which is best for you. There will be a pad that will do everything you need it to. People were resisting electronics at first, but now they’re bigger than ever in the music industry. So, hop on board and get yourself a drum pad.