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Picture of DIY Electronic Drums (Drum Module Req'd)
So last year I needed to keep things quiet for my housemates, and as a drummer that took a bit of restraint. I surfed around on the internet and found some great web sites after reading about a DIY drum set on Hack-a-day, and what do you know, a month later, I had a full electronic set!

This is kind of a general overview, the basic concepts are fairly simple. I looked at a lot of info out there before building my own, and I just kind of planned it as I built, it just takes a little creativity. Sorry to not include any links, just google it, I couldn't find the specific pages I used, but there is a community of people out there who do this stuff.

So an electronic drum set can run you back $600-3000+, sometimes without a module, my main reason for doing this was to save money bigtime. For comparison the cost for me was around $150-200 for all parts, then the module, so a total of at most $370, which as you drummers know is even cheaper than entry level acoustic sets! The most expensive item was the electric drum module or heart of it all which I will get to later. Heres a quick summary of my bill of major materials and costs:

-Drum pads -> 2 used toms 10" and 12" about 20$ each

-Cymbals -> plastic practice cymbals, $30 for a set

-Bass pedal/stands/mounting hardware -> came from existing acoustic set FREE
(note: I had these laying around, I would suggest being a bit creative about your solution if you dont own a drum set. I had first planned on using pvc or steel pipe, it would be much cheaper as a drum stand can run up to about 100$ for a simple studry one, Perl,Tama etc. The bass pedal might be the only thing you need to purchase, check for used hardware etc, or again, this is Instructables, your crafty people :-P).

-1/4" mono Wires (one per pad) & Electronic parts, $30-40

-Wood -> FREE (scavenged)

-Drum Module, $170 (ebay, "Alesis D4")


Basically I'm trying to convey how little money you would actually have to spend to have a working set minus the drum module. This set, after tuning the sensitivity of the pads (function of the drum module), gets about 4-5 levels of "volume" depending on the power of the hit. It's a great set for practice, and I wouldn't hesitate to play it live if I got the cash for a nice amp together...
 
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Step 1: Pads 101

So this is really the most important part of this instructable, and it's really not that complicated at all, which was my motivation to build this set in the first place. I'm going to break this step down into parts and give you the important details below:

Piezos:
These are basically buzzers that can be bought at radio shack for about 2-3$ each. I believe they produce a signal when banged around that can be picked up by a drum module, translating the signal into a MIDI voice with the appropriate volume etc proportional to the impact. These are tiny flat discs when taken out of their casing, and are usually isolated from the impact of the stick by rubber/foam etc. Each disc has 2 wires, that you hook to a female 1/4" mono jack. The simplest pad would be say 2 cd-r's with the piezo glued in between them, covered by some material that your drum stick would be in contact with. Just make sure the piezo is attached to a rigid surface if you go the "sandwich" pad route, the vibrations travel better etc etc. Once you purchase these, you must "shell" them to get the actuall ceramic/metal disc out (see pics).

Connection:
Most drum modules/pads work with 1/4" mono jacks, simple 2 conductor wires are used to link pads to module, the black wire (-) from the piezo goes to the tip of the plug, while the red wire is connected to the outer sheath. The cables I have are male ends, while the drum module and pads have female connectors. These are cheap and widely available at electronics stores as well.

My Implimentation:
I first just made the piezo circuit as a test, hooked it up to an amp, and gradually flicked the piezo while turning up the volume. Once I heard a sharp sound from the amp I knew I was in business (this means that the piezo was sending a signal when it was impacted, bumped etc. My 4 main drum pads are 2 toms that I stripped hardware from, and sliced in half (I built a jig for my tablesaw to rotate the drum while cutting, easier options exist :-P). I went with a "suspended bridge" to go across the center of the drum and hold the peizo, sandwiched in in foam, up against the drum head, (the foam just push the head up in the middle ever-so-slightly for contact). I used mesh heads, like screen door material, as the sound the head will produce is useless as the real sound comes from the drum module, plus this keeps it quiet. I wanted to do it this way to emulate the more expensive pads that allow you to use drum heads, the feel is just like a normal set!

Cymbals are much easier, get a flat disc/rigid surface, and glue/fasten the piezo right to it, hook it to a female jack, and there you go! For my hi-hat I had a practice pad laying around, I took it apart, added a cd-r with a piezo glued to it into the sandwich of foam under the drum head. Mousepad material is great for a surface if you desire to change the feel of your cymbals, or if you make flat pads, and skip the real drum look/feel. You could essentially glue 5 piezos+jacks to a board, cover them with mousepad material, and have a finger drum set, thats how easy this is!

If you look in the picture of the full set you can see inner rings in each drum, these are called RemO's and basically help to muffle vibrations. This keeps the reverberation of the drum head down so as to avoid "double-triggering" (basically 2 hits being registered when you only hit the pad once). Rigid sandwich pads probably won't suffer from this much if at all.

The object in the top of the picture of 4 items is a butane torch with a tip for soldering, which I should mentioned is involved in this project. Nothing really hard, just joining wires to wires and to the mono jacks.

Step 2: Bass Pedal/Hi-hat Trigger

Picture of Bass Pedal/Hi-hat Trigger
These two items were fairly simple and straightforward:

For the pedal, I built a wooden frame that accepted a normal bass pedal, basically an L shape, with reinforcement. The piezo on this was sandwiched between some layers of mousepad and the assembly was placed at the right hieght to be struck by the beater when the pedal was pressed. You cant see in the picture, but the pedal clamps to the rounded bar on a simple door hinge that is in closed position and screwed onto the board on the underside.

The hi-hat trigger was a simple on off sustain footswitch for a keyboard I used to own. Anything that makes/breaks a connection can be used for my set as the module I have only supports an open or close hat, fancier modules can use a potentionmeter I believe for the open-ness of the hat.

Step 3: Drum Module

Picture of Drum Module
So now we have all the "nerves/sensors" for the drum set covered. Now the only non-DIY step, buying the drum module.

I'm sorry if I miseld you to think we would be building a module from scratch, or some other way to make sounds from the pads. I decided to buy a module as 170$ wasn't a huge deal if you look at other electronic sets prices, it was a worthwhile purchase for sure, and the only real big cost.

There are tons of modules out there for sale, most of them as far as I know function pretty much the same. Modules usually accept from 10-16 inputs which can be used for drums/cymbals/bass pedal. They have an assortment of sounds to program to each pad, and even the one I bought (Alesis D4) has very good adjustments for tuning the sensitivities of each pad (you could spend an hour per pad if you wanted). Modules can get pricey, and since I wasnt using professional pads, I just wanted the cheapest module, as many features might not have been available with the pads I built, rimshots etc. Though for a simple rim trigger I had at one point the rim of a frisbee with a piezo glued to it, mounted to the edge of my snare pad using the lugs that hold the metal rim on.

Once you have all that hooked together, the tuning begins. I basically tightened all the drum heads to my liking, and then went through each pad and changed settings on the module to give the pads the most dynamic output possible. This will differ with each drum module you buy so I cant give too much detail here without confusing people. I suggest searching around on google before you buy your drum module so you know what you're getting. There are forums where people have suggested which modules work best etc, this is your homework, do some research :-P

The Alesis D4 is perfect for my needs and also an entry level module, the more you spend, the more/better sounds, better hi hat features, you will get with a module. As far as connections the D4 gives me 2 sets of left and right 1/4" outputs (mono). There are people who have built their own midi triggers, basically a box with 1/4" inputs and midi output to take the signal from the pads and translate it for your computer. This way you set up the sounds on the computer itself, however then you need to haul a MIDI capable computer with you :-/.

Most of the time I use nice big headphones when I play, if you need to be heard, piping all the sound to one channel and into an amp is good, if you need stereo, 2 amps :-P.

Step 4: Final Comments

Picture of Final Comments
dscn3627.jpg
This was meant to be a primer and a way to show what is possible with relatively little effort, I probably spent about 2-3 hours a night, 3 nights a week for a month to get this set up and I can't complain at all!

There is a wealth of information out there regarding projects like this, provided by both pros and other DIYers like ourselves. I couldn't have possibly put up all the info I found in this one instructable, but I believe I gave you enough info to get started and build a basic set.

Here's a video of the finished product, showing the sensitivity of the pads etc. I spent about 5-10 minutes tuning, with about 30 min I could have gotten perfect rolls on each pad instead of just the snare :-P. A good thing to keep in mind is that keeping the heads tighter (only an issue for the suspension method I used in my pads) allows for better piezo response and therefore more defined hit "signals" going to the module = fast drum rolls, good dynamic volume etc.



I'm no pro, in fact I dug this set up just to make the instructable, it was in storage for the summer... hopefully I'll get some more practice in. Being in apartments and dorms really took a blow at my drum skills but this set has only helped fill the niche! You do have to learn to play the set a bit differently, but it's almost a non-issue after the first 15-20 min. Tuning really helps this, gets rid of mis-read hits, etc, it can stop you up if you are playing normally but a pad doesn't trigger just right and you don't hear the sound you expected.

I will answer questions, send longer ones to geekboxjockey@gmail.com, good luck, and I hope some find this instructable worthwhile. Reading about the concepts and the ease of construction was very inspiring for me and I hope this helps others who are curious or stuck in my situation with housemates who enjoy silence ;-)
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EddysV4 months ago

can the peizo and foam go on an adjustable internal muffler? at the side of the head

oksmoke215 months ago
Guys, please help me out on this one

I have everything prepared and ready, all the drums are now attached to piezos and piezos to amp wires/connectors. I am getting heavily confused as to how to connect it to a sound module(which i haven't bought yet) and assign sounds to each piezo. If you guys could tell me in detail how to do it, I'll have my set ready at last!
Also, if you could find a way to do that without a sound module ( like getting amp to 3.5 mm jacks and connecting them to the PC, and then assigning sounds using some software), that would be great!
coolkid1094 years ago
So how do I go about making the hi hat so that I can play it open or closed, I'm not concerned about anything in between for right now
ewillyp coolkid10910 months ago

you know what "might" work is if you had a foot trigger by your "high hat" trigger and you tapped it when you want a open high hat sound, sur3e it means you have to give up a whole trigger for an open sound reducing the size of your kit, but , just an idea.

For the lazy you can use DrumsAnywhere. You can convert any surface (a table) into an electronic drum kit with only one piezo.

See http://www.drumsanywhere.com/

DrumsAnywhere-screenshot.jpg
TreDiggy2 years ago
Great job man, that's what I'm about to do. I found an old analog Simmons module at the swap meet. I was thinking of you using rock band drum heads but I can't get it apart to see if it has piezos or something else that gives the same effect, has anyone read up on this yet?
doggyd69b2 years ago
I tried a couple of years ago a mesh drumset, it worked great but the door screen mesh just wasn't durable enough, then I discovered the pet proof mesh such as Pet-D-Fence,
and just one layer of that mesh will do the job nicely. Better than the Roland or other name brand mesh and a lot cheaper, $ 20 will buy enough mesh for about 3 five piece drumsets (including the bass drum) for an easy method on how to do mesh heads using that type of mesh check out the tuff mesh website . (http://tuffmeshmaterial.weebly.com/how-to-install-tuff-mesh.html)
siddiq43214 years ago
this siddiq , India,
i have a very cheaper and working method :

1)use the software flexi music orchestra - a very user friendly software to play wav. files etc. on the keyboard
2)download yamaha / ronald / alesis drum samples over the net or from torrents ...they are very quality one and ull have no complaint
3)load all these sample to the key u want for EACH drum/cymbal ...which is pretty lengthy and save it ..
4)then comes the hardware ...use and old PC keyboard -ic ...or if u get confused with the ic pins j...just keep it attached to the plastic sheets which are below the keys ...and the pass out a pin ter . rhe conductor holes ..which is again a time taking job ..but cheap and working
5)now on other ends of the wire ..anttach a piezo...which is the cheapest drum trigger ..of if u r keyboard does not get enouhgh gain on tapping ...the attach 2 /3 in series and keep one above another ,,....and place it beneath the mouse pad (to experiment ) ..the strike u r mouse pad to play ....

was it helpfull ?????/////////////////////////
don't forget to tell me how was it .....
Replyflag[delete]
wont work. piezos generate electricity which is measured to determine velocity. keyboard buttons are simple switches that close a circuit when you push them. you'll more likely fry your keyboard then make a working drum set with that method
View my instructable.......
http://www.instructables.com/id/WORLDS-CHEAPEST-VIRTUAL-DRUM-at-10-Rs500-us/

Check it out.....
Actually i did that circuit accedintely after numorous experiment with that ic.......it works fine with my parameters and ic type in my country....:-)

It sounds a pretty good idea!!
Where is the instrutubles of it??? lol
I want to see what IC PINS you are talking about!

Best regards,
Pedro
did u see those pins ?
plz plz mail or chat me at :- siddiq4321@gmail.com
dont know how much times i have to tell u ...and u reply after 1 month ...LOL

any way let me make the instructable my self and let u know how cool it is .....
hey palmeida ( i dont know what u keep such names )
why dont u come on gmail and chat with me at: siddiq4321@gmail.com
this is the keyboard ic i am taking :

http://www.google.co.in/imgres?q=keyboard+ic&hl=en&gbv=2&tbm=isch&tbnid=ai8z7kheSUpZ1M:&imgrefurl=http://www.okokchina.com/p/Software-/PS2-Keyboard-Controller-IC-424899.html&docid=p6K3PsZurkJ5sM&w=378&h=262&ei=OaR5Tr_MBu_SiAL19tG5Dw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=172&vpy=152&dur=342&hovh=187&hovw=270&tx=165&ty=75&page=1&tbnh=109&tbnw=157&start=0&ndsp=21&ved=1t:429,r:0,s:0&biw=1326&bih=578

u can use to wires and older to any combination of right-lift chips and short them to see the key on wordpad ..then attach a .wav file to it ...short the wires again to play sampple .......attach the piezo and strum it to play .....application : put the piezo beneath the drum pad ....
soon to put its instructable ...

my email : siddiq4321@gmail.com
Thanks Siddi!
That will be my next project.

HAve goods construtions,
Brainsold
what do u mean by brainsold ?
any way let me make the instructable my self and let u know how cool it is .....
jkaradzic3 years ago
Or you can use a kick PEDAL trigger, like here: http://triggera.com/krigg/
tiengiay3 years ago
So how do I go about making the hi hat so that I can play it open or closed, I'm not concerned about anything in between for right now y8 y8 games
robsedleski4 years ago
I bought a Roland TD-6 that came with a whole bunch of auxiliary electronic percussion equipment included:

-Alesis D4 module / brain
-11 cymbal boom arms w clamps, foams, and washers
-10 home made drum pads (metal plates w foam and rubber covering; piezoelectric sensors with RCA outputs

I just use the TD-6 on its own, so I'm thinking that these items might be of interest to those in this forum. I live in Vancouver, BC, and my email is rob.sedleski@gmail.com.

If you know of anyone that might be interested, please pass this along.

Thanks!

kmoulton4 years ago
know what i am doing fo rthe next few weeks lol... my only question is.. does your piezo actually touch the mesh or is it just slightly below it?
found cheap 1/4" plugs:

http://www.amazon.com/Rean-NYS230-Stereo-Jack-Non-Switched/dp/B0008IV5EO
you can even get away with these if you just want to use your own cymbals with these attached, you could put the piezo between the mute and the cymbal or on top:

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Zildjian-Cymbal-Mutes-Drum-Set-Pack-444388-i1138005.gc
also found some great practice cymbals:

http://drums-percussion.musiciansfriend.com/product/Pintech-5Piece-Practice-Cymbal-Set?sku=444926
some more things i found:
i was thinking about triggers and think i want to use the radioshack piezo's for the cymbals, however, i might want to mess around with either the ddrum triggers or the pintech triggers for the drums. they would fit real nice on the rims and can be placed right under the mesh with some foam in between them and the mesh head (or you can place them on the outside and have them right on top of the head). they already come with quarter inch plugs and would require no extra work. for the price of 20-30 each it's not a bad deal for someone looking to invest a little more into having a complete wired trigger set.

here are some links:
http://www.guitarcenter.com/ddrum-Red-Shot-5-Piece-Drum-Trigger-Pack-101595478-i1136342.gc

http://www.guitarcenter.com/ddrum-Trigger-Kit-105632657-i1135223.gc

http://www.guitarcenter.com/Pintech-Acoustic-Drum-Trigger-with-Trigger-Trap-101188985-i1138288.gc

if anyone has experience with these triggers and has some advice that would be great! thanks again
awesome tutorial! thanks so much for taking the time to put it together so well!
i am starting to put together all of the supplies i need and came across this, thought it could be of use to anyone trying to make one of these:

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/navigation?q=mesh+drum+head

lots of great options in all price ranges for just drum heads all the way to complete sets of snare and toms with mesh heads and mounts.

thanks again!
rbneville5 years ago
I had an idea being as cheap as i am. The software I use lets you use a keyboard to control my vst instruments. I was wondering instead of using a drum module why not take apart a cheap usb keyboard and wire the piezos to the correct keys. Would that work??
pieso transducers cannot act as switches by themselves. you would need to use some sort of switching circuit with the pieso for your keyboard idea; i don't think that it would have a very good response rate for fast drumming, and it would not be velocity sensitive either. you could definitely use a computer keyboard based pad for some effects, though.
crocboy5 years ago
I have the same bass drum pedal, although I recently upgraded to the DW 7000.
MilotisX6 years ago
I just bought an Alesis D4 and i love it! great tut btw but does anyone here no if its supposed to have a backlight?? Mine is very dark, and it doesnt seem right thanks in advance!
 Yes it should have green "backlight" easy to see in the dark
You can also find them in CD-R containers 2 questions 1)I was wondering how the drum sounds without the midi / wav? 2) Would like to know how the signal would hold up if i don't mount anything underneath drum, and just glue or tape the Piezo on the Skin/RemO thing?
geekboxjockey (author)  howangcturtle7 years ago
The peizo will work better on a rigid surface, I haven't experimented too much with placement though. I guess in your case for question 2 I would make sure it is well secured, most drum "add-ons" always find a way to loosen over time :P
hey what is that triangle shaped thing on top of the piezo??
gnargnar8 years ago
i built one of these awhile ago and it triggers the kick when i hit, and when i bring the pedal off. does that make sense? hit=trigger remove=second annoying trigger

is your piezo in the middle of those 4 layers? like 2 under 2 on top?
i was wondering that too but i think it is the way you say because he said sandwiched
kck172886 years ago
I don't completely understand how the hi-hat pedal is working? could you elaborate on it?
cool drum kit
buy a drum module..men you break my heart.... :-P
I've got a Roland electronic set and was looking for a new cymbal. I came very close to paying €300 until I saw this! Could you maybe go into more detail on cymbal construction?
tailortrik6 years ago
find another howto guide on my site! www.homemade-electronic-drums.tk/
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