A Brief History of Electronic Drums

It all began in 1977 when Syndrum released the first playable electronic pad, which attracted a number of big names of the time with endorsers including Keith Moon, Jeff Porcaro, Carmine Appice and Terry Bozio.

In the early 80’s the perception of the electronic drum changed as pop and disco music created a demand for electronic sounds. Until this time drummers were very apprehensive of an electronic ‘replacement’ to their beloved acoustic kits. 1981 brought the first real electronic kit – the SDS-5 made by Simmons. 1983 made electronic drums even more attractive with the advent of MIDI. In 1985 Roland took its first serious steps into the electronic market & during this year and 1986 ddrum and Yamaha also arrived on the scene. However during the late 80’s and early 90’s the popularity fell due to difficult user interfaces on the kits.

These drum companies needed a more friendly user interface – each kit sold also came with a video or dvd of how everything worked, which helped the end user greatly understand the intricacies of the electronic drum brain and how it could be altered in many ways to produce various drum and cymbal sounds on the pads. Roland continued to develop e-kits during the 90’s with the release of the TD-7, TD-5 and TD-10 – the first set to feature mesh heads. Yamaha continued their interest with the DTX range. By 1999 Yamaha had made a much more affordable kit with the release of the DTXpress along with Roland’s TD-8 and by this time these 2 companies ruled the electronic drum market.

Further developments came in 2004/05 when Roland introduced the first real electronic hi-hat the VH-12. Over recent years as technology improved, electronic kits became more affordable with instruction books and user friendly with a number of new manufacturers appearing and Roland and Yamaha continue to develop new kits. Only time will tell what the next development will be in electronic kits but one thing is for sure – they are here to stay.

Endorsers like Omar Hakim and Thomas Lang are constantly on tour showing off the electronic drum kits to the huge drummer audiences out there. Electronic drum kits can also be used as add on pads to expand acoustic drum kits so can trigger audio loops to play over in shows. The main electronic drum kit brands out there are Yamaha and Roland but lots of other companies manufacture similar kits.