Those who know me, will know that I have always been an avid hater of the so called 'electronic drum kits' and have always preferred playing on my old acoustic drums. For those who don't know me, I have been playing drums for nearly 15 years now, so I like to think of myself as an experienced drummer.
Anyway, something strange happened when i moved to university. I brought a Yamaha DTXplorer, which is a pretty popular, standard electronic drum kit. There were a number of reasons behind this choice, mainly there was no way I could get away with a full sized kit in this tiny little university-rented room, but also I think i would have been kicked out before i could even mutter paradiddle.
Yamaha DTXplorer Electronic Drum Kit
So, after a few months use a strange thing has happened. I actually really, really like this kit (note the repetition for emphasis!). I mean, it could never compare to an acoustic kit for live performances but it definitely has some advantages for the purposes of practice. The main one being accuracy, acoustic kits are designed so that the drums sound their best when the skin is hit in the very middle of the drum (some snares are an exemption to this rule). The size of the pads on the electric kits force you to do this, and I have found that just this alone has made me a better drummer when I return to my acoustic kit.
Aside from accuracy, the electronic drum kit is much more neighbour friendly than an acoustic kit. The sound of sticks hitting a rubber pad is infinitely quieter than the sound of a drum resonating or a cymbal being hit! Whilst some drummers hate the tactile feel of the sticks on the rubber pads, i have found that it has a hidden advantage. I have found myself being forced to play double strokes properly, rather than being lazy and dragging the sticks, so while at first glance this may seem a hinderance, in the long term it could be improving your technique!
Sure, as with all things, you get what you pay for. Some electric kits are not even worth bothering with, the Alesis DM5 for example (available at around £350), although this is a nice drum module, the pads and stand are worthless! Some electronic kits, such as the Roland TD-20 (available for around £4,400), do a fantastic job of imitating the classic acoustic kit and sound great at the same time.
As with all electronic kits you get to choose different sound sets for all different styles of music, but you will no doubt return to one or two sound sets that actually sound like drums, and when you do you will be able to truly appreciate the electronic kit for what it is, not only a fantastic practice kit for when noise is a problem but also a tool to help you improve your technique for when you do get the chance to play on an acoustic kit again!