For years I've been looking for the perfect electric drum kit. Electric because I have yet to live in a place where I can bash freely on insanely loud drums without having the cops called on me. I'm sure this is a struggle for a lot of drummers in crowded cities and I was determined to figure out a way to get as much of the acoustic feel and sound to the quieter feel that would be more welcoming to small apartments.
I played on a custom configured Yamaha electric kit for the past 8 or so years and it's done the job well for what it is. My main problem was that every time I sat down at an acoustic kit, I felt like such a noob. My dynamics were horrendous, I wasn't comfortable playing around on "normal" sized drums, and I didn't have a feel of how proper drum heads felt since I'm usually banging on rubber pads. It discouraged me from practicing back at home and as a musician who is always trying to improve, it was definitely a setback.
I was so tempted a few times to dish out the four to five grand for a Roland TD30 but even that wouldn't feel and look right. After much research, I figured out this hybrid drum kit.
I'm going to get right into this. This kit is essentially an acoustic drum kit with triggers and Roland cymbals that all run through a Roland module. It works like a charm. This whole kit cost me about $3,000 to build but it could've been cheaper if I really wanted it to be. I'll explain how later on.
First thing were the shells. My original plan was to just go on Craigslist and buy the cheapest shell pack I could find (around $150-$200). The quality or type of wood didn't matter since I wasn't using it for the true sound of the drums anyway. I decided to go with the Ludwig Breakbeats kit for 2 main reasons. First, was the size. Since I still wanted to keep it compact enough to fit into my bedroom, I needed smaller drums. The second reason was that they weren't that expensive anyway, so now I could have a cool, brand new little travel kit that actually sounded decent for only $400 if I decided to take it out and throw some real heads on it. I also think they look pretty nice and sparkly.
The second step was to get a set of mesh heads. I originally wanted the Roland Powerply heads since I figured they would work best with this setup since everything else I wanted to use was Roland brand anyway. Unfortunately, the Powerply heads were sold out literally everywhere so I went with the Remo Silent Stroke heads instead. Same concept except they're single ply instead of 2 ply like the Roland ones. These things are pretty cool for silent jamming if you haven't tried them already. I tested them out at Guitar Center before buying them and they were pretty cool.
I wanted to keep this kit as silent as possible so I muffled all my drums with shirts and small blankets to keep them even more quiet for the rest of my apartment and my neighbors. You can kind of see them through the transparency of the Silentstroke heads. These heads are a little more bouncy than traditional drum heads but they still work really well and they feel WAY better than rubber pads on most electric drum kits.
The next step was triggering these drums. I decided to not fuck around and go with the Roland RT-30 triggers. They're a bit more expensive than say the Ddrum Redshot triggers or the older Roland Rt-10's but I went with the best Roland because again, it integrated better with the module and cymbals I was using and I wanted the latest technology for the best results. They have 3 models, one more single zone, one for dual zone and one specifically for kick drums. This was another reason I went with the RT-30s since they seemed more specific to each drum and I would most likely get the best sound and dynamics with them. The RT-30H are the dual triggers and I got 3 of them for my snare and 2 toms, since they were only $5 more than the regular single zoned RT-30. They mount to the rim of the drum just like you would do so with a mic.
I ported my bass drum head so I could get a less bouncy feel from my kick pedal and it also somehow made the hit of the drum a little more silent.
Now, since we're replicating an acoustic drum kit, we're going to need real hardware. I could've saved some money by using some of my old hardware or buying used for cheap but I decided to get some fresh gear to go with the brand new Ludwig Breakbeats shells. I decided to go wit PDP 800 series hardware. I feel like this hardware is relatively inexpensive and pretty durable.
Here are the more expensive parts of the drum kit building process....the cymbals and module. I went on eBay and found a used set of Roland cymbals from a TD30 kit which included 2 CY14c's for crashes and 1 cy15r for the ride. I really badly wanted the VH13 hihat from Roland but it wasn't compatible for the module I was going with so I had to get the VH11 instead. It's still a great hihat, much better than the Yamaha one on my previous kit but I would've still liked the VH13. The total for all of these cymbals used on eBay was $920.
The main thing with this kit was obviously the module and since I was doing all Roland parts, I obviously wanted a Roland module. I decided to go with the TD25 module since it had many high-end features from the TD30 but at a much smaller price point. Also, when it came down to it, I just wanted to play the drums, I didn't necessarily need crazy features and all these sounds. This module sounds amazing! I paid around $750 for this module used on eBay and it goes for about $1,000 new. I could've gone with a cheaper TD15 module but I felt like the TD25 was a bit more modern and had a few more options in terms of drum sounds and adjustments with these particular triggers.
The only thing I could think of to make this kit feel more real would be to have used Zildjian Gen16 cymbals instead of the Roland pads. The Zildjen Gen16's look and feel almost identical to real acoustic cymbals but they're still relatively loud compared to rubber pads so that noise was a big issue for me.
Since the Roland TD25 module was obviously meant to be used with a TD25 kit that comes with a rack, I had no way to mount the module itself. I decided to get this Gibralter clamp and mount it to my hihat stand. This works perfectly!
Another unnecessary modification I made was to swap out the snare that came with the Breakbeats kit. I bought this 13" PDP Concept Series maple snare because it was a bit weird having a full sized snare with a small kit and since my drums are smashed up in the corner, I felt like the extra inch I saved helped me breathe a little better behind the kit.
The one thing I don't have pictured here is the Roland BT-1 pad that I attached to my snare like pictured below. I didn't realize until after I was all set up that with the 2 zone RT-30H triggers, you get the head and rim shot sounds but no cross stick. This was the best way for me to get this sound. I only have 1 not 2 like pictured below and it cost me $100 new.
So here is the breakdown of what I paid for everything and also a breakdown for a cheaper route for building a kit like this for yourself.
Ludwig Breakbeats Shell Pack: $400
Remo Silentstroke Heads total: $66
Roland RT-30 triggers: $360
Roland TD25 Module (used): $750
Roland Cymbals (2x)CY14C, CY15R, VH11 (used): $920
PDP 800 Series Hardware: $280
Roland BT-1: $100
Here is the cheaper way of doing this hybrid drum kit:
Used shell pack on Craigslist: $200
Remo Silentstroke Heads (differs on size of drums): $70
Roland RT-10 Triggers (used): $120
Roland TD15 Module (used): $500
Roland cymbals (2x)CY12C, CY13R, VH11 (used): $600
Hardware (Used so this can vary on what you find): $100
Roland BT-1: $100
When compared to the price of brand new electric drum kits out now, these prices aren't bad at all. For around the price I paid for my kit, I could've gotten a brand new Roland TD25KV kit, with almost $400 to spare, but still. I would much rather have a more realistic feeling and looking kit for that price difference. Plus, if you really wanted to build one on a "budget" you can still do so at a MUCH lower price point, especially when compared to a brand new Yamaha or Roland electric kit.
If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask!