Acoustic VS Electric Drums – Which Is Better?

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For many years, there’s a debate between acoustic vs electric drums. Which is better? Which sounds better? Why drummers prefer acoustic drums?

I will share with you my honest opinion about which one I believe is better for mixing and home recording studio purposes.

Recording With Acoustic Drums

To get a great sound with acoustic drums is difficult.

Taking into consideration one of the laws of mixing that the “80% of a great sound comes from the source of the sound” then we can easily say that in order to get a great sound we need:

  • Expensive and High-Quality Drums: Each and every part of the drum kit must be of high quality.
  • Expensive – High Quality Mics, for each and every seperate drum and lots of room mics to capture the room sound and use it in our mix.
  • A Custom Made Room that we must have spent thousands of dollars for proper acoustic treatment and soundproofing. (lots of bands move abroad to record their drums in specific studios just for the sound that their specific ROOM MICS have to offer!)
  • Lots of cables, room to place the drums, room for the console that will support this complex connectivity.
  • And the list goes on and on…

Electronic Drums VS Acoustic Drums

Acoustic VS Electric Drums

The Reasons I Prefer Electronic Drums As a Music Producer

Today’s music technology is superb.

It’s so easy for someone with a home studio to own all of the above, to achieve a $10.000+ drum sound in his mixes and he can even sell that sound – or give it away – as sound samples.

With just 2-3 clicks we can have professional sounding drum sounds and the quality of our mix can easily make the listener think that we recorded the drums in a professional recording studio.

Even the most famous producers that don’t have financial problems, like to use samples, so they can create new sounds, experiment or even save time creating a specific sound from scratch. They just load the sample and they are ready to go!

I think there’s a misunderstanding about the electronic drums and I think this misunderstanding comes from the drum players themselves.

They claim that they prefer acoustic drums cause they love the way the drum hit feels when the drum stick hits the drums, which is something that I cannot disagree with.

While I do agree with the above though, we must not forget that we can find in the market fantastic electronic drum kits that instead of their usual “plastic” feel they have the acoustic kit feel.

As you can imagine, the prices for these kits are beyond cheap… But they really worth it! Especially for production purposes they really really rock.

We help the drummer to play on an electronic drum kit the… “acoustic” way, plus we have the professional sound we’re looking for without the drawbacks I’ve mentioned before (thousands of dollars for cables, drum kit, room, soundproofing etc)

Electronic Drums Are Acoustic Drums Inside A Sample

When people hear the phrase “electronic drums” it comes to their mind a weird, fake, not polished drum sound.

These days are over though. We live in 2015 and we need to realize that the way we record, mix and master evolves too.

What I am doing right now is to let my drummers record on acoustic drums because they are used to them. I also have the opportunity to record with high quality drum kits, but I like to experiment.

I keep 70% of the sound that the acoustic kit provides me with and I can also use some high quality professional sounding samples. The result? Outstanding!

Drum Recording Engineers Think The Exact Opposite

I know I’ll probably be bashed with some “learn how to mic” and “recording drums is becoming a lost art with all these s***ty samples” comments by drum recording engineers.

I will be real. Recording drums IS an art, never doubt it that.

But not every single person in the world needs, wants or even gives a damn about learning that art. Music producers that compose orchestral music with kontakt libraries just want to get the job done, as quickly as possible with the highest audio quality.

Think about it: If you bash someone for not recording his own drums and call him names or “not being experienced enough” because he’s using samples, should we apply the same logic we should all own a damn orchestra in our studio and player-slaves waiting for our inspiration to strike, instead of just using kontant libraries.

If it wasn’t for samples, most people wouldn’t even respect or know the hard work that drum recording engineers put! Samples don’t take your job as a drum recording engineer, on the contrary it kinda enforces you to be better and steps up your game.

If you’re sure that you rock as a drum recording engineer then just create your own samples and show them of to the world. Use some promotion methods to the right audience and if your samples are really worth and sell, then you wouldn’t complain about this “lost art” right?

Step up your game just like CLA and Steven Slate did…

Here’s a video that shows us that electronic drums are in fact acoustic drums inside a sample.

Yeah the sound of the “old era” of the electronic drums was poor and unprofessional. But now we can have a professional sounding acoustic kit… saved in our hard disc drive!

Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork Drummer) performing
Soilwork’s “Leech” on an e-kit.

What are your thoughts about acoustic vs electric drums? Leave a comment below!

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7 Responses

  1. Paschalis

    August 6, 2013 4:28 pm

    Something I forgot to add.

    I am not saying that the acoustic drums suck. I love acoustic drums and no electronic kit can replace them as far as we talk about the playing feel.

    But if we talk about recording in home studios then electronic drums are a life savior for you.

    They both rock, it’s just that the acoustic drums are not a budget-friendly option for home studio owners.

    If you want to get a great sound out of the acoustic drums, you have to spend thousands of dollars and hours recording and experimenting.

    If you are on a tight budget and you want a great sound right out of the box then a drum VSTi like the Steven Slate Drums and Metal Foundry are the ones that you should get and will skyrocket the quality of your mixes.

    Happy recording guys!

    Reply
  2. Patrick Woo

    July 19, 2015 12:57 am

    Hey Paschalis. Nice post!

    I love the fact that you put the topic in context, coming from the perspectives of the many different people that use drums in their recordings. In any genres the drums are heavily processed, in others they play the role of sound designed percussion.

    Being a keyboardist that has played in bands with many talented drummers, I totally agree and admire the authenticity of a great drum recording. However I am also a one-man home composer/arranger that create tracks for a variety of genres, mainly soundtrack/trailer/orchestral. However I’m not doing this full time, and it has not raked in thousands of dollars for me each month.

    Like you mentioned, I have no physical access to high quality drum kits, studios, recording equipment nor drummers. Neither do I have an orchestra at my disposal to execute my twisted musical ideas.

    Thus with the exception of vocals my tracks are almost exclusively samples based. The only reason I am able to do what I do is through the technology of sampling.

    Most of the time my clients do not pick up on the lack of realism of the samples I use, be it sampled drums or orchestral ensembles.

    That being said, when the requirements of the production and budget allows, I definitely hope to engage, collaborate and work with real musicians and mix with real recorded instruments!

    I look forward to more of your posts and sharing!

    Reply
    • Paschalis

      July 19, 2015 9:03 am

      Thank you for your kind words Patrick! I mostly agree with you.

      I literally I don’t understand why so many get offended for no reason when people are using samples,
      by accusing them that they suck on how they place a mic and that’s the only reason they are choosing the “easy way” as they mention.

      But they can’t seem to understand that the No1 reason of using samples is because they never even cared to be pros at recording. They just want to produce music as fast and efficient as possible.

      So the real drum recording engineers are trying to offend someone by saying that they’re not good drum recording engineers, while the 1st person never even care in the first place, so he can’t be offended! 😀

      Reply
  3. Josh

    July 19, 2015 2:04 am

    Hold your horse pal. You make it sound as if u need “thousands of dollars” to record live acoustic kits. Not so. I own a five hundred dollar cheapo Tama Rockstar kit using some ten dollar PDMIC78’s and two $50 akg 120 perceptions. According to my count, thats about $640.00. Drums, mics and all. Some guys just don’t have the means to record an acoustic set. I get that. But in your article, you make sound like you need to be a pro to even think about it. You are discouraging even those who want to from trying. Ask any pro sound engineer and they’ll tell u. Acoustic gives a better sound. Every time. And btw, electric sets are often MORE expensive than acoustic kits. Find me an electric set with reliable triggers and heavy duty hardware for $500. Good luck with that. Acoustic is better. Every time.

    Reply
    • Paschalis

      July 19, 2015 8:56 am

      Aw well, judging by your certainty that acoustic is better, every-time, I guess I should not try to enter the disagreement realm cause you just saw me that you’re not willing to listen. So, allow me to believe in something else and let’s respect our opinions.

      The only thing I would comment is about the Acoustic gives a better sound, Every time phrase. Samples were taken from acoustic sounds just fyi.

      Reply
    • K-Dog

      August 10, 2017 2:03 pm

      Hey Josh, I have an electronic kit (Roland) that has Mesh and rubber pad heads, and guess what, these kits are road worthy and will sound good in any environment they are put in. I never have to tune these drums because they can’t go out of tune. I never have to replace heads or worry about dampening using crap like moon gel.
      I do like both acoustic kits and electric kits. You need to try and pull your head out of your ass and try to see what other people are talking about.
      And by the way, my Roland kit cost all together right at $500. I don’t have to buy expensive ass mics either to capture the sound that is perfect already. Good luck wasting your time with mic placement, tuning, etc, etc….

      Reply
  4. Milton

    July 20, 2015 10:07 am

    Great Post, I used Hydrogen in the past, now I use Addictive Drums and I love it. Real drums are amazing but for home studio I prefer Samples.

    Reply

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