DIY eDrums: Part Two

By October 11, 2018DIY Projects, Music

In Part One, I discussed the overall construction of the e-drum pads, common e-drum issues and how this pad design provides a superior alternative for cost, feel and responsiveness over most other e-drum pads.

Part Two will focus on incorporating my pad design into an e-drum kit, which includes building cymbals and hi-hats, a kick drum trigger and snare drum, and choosing a Midi controller.

CYMBALS and HI-HATS

Yes, that’s a frisbee and it’s a tried-and-true method for making e-drum cymbals. I looked at plastic cymbals, practice pads, regular cymbals, acrylic molds, spring-loaded connectors, etc. — before settling on cheap and accessible frisbee discs.

If you care about how the e-drum cymbals look, they can be painted any color before attaching the pads. I chose black spray paint that matches all the other materials. If I were to do the paint again, I’d use Plasti-dip spray paint to get a rubberized texture over the cymbal. This is purely aesthetic, but standard spray paint easily chips when hit with a drumstick. Once the pad is attached and wired to the cymbal, the opportunity for paint has passed.

Drill two holes in the cymbal — one in the dead center for the cymbal mount and another hole (anywhere) on the cymbal for the 1/4-inch output jack.

While Sorbothane dampening is integral on all the other e-drum pads, the cymbals do not require Sorbothane. The flexibility of the frisbee disc provides a nice springiness and swing-y feel of acoustic cymbals, while absorbing the quick and heavy impact of striking a crash cymbal.

Here is the order of material layers in the e-drum cymbals:

Mouse Pad –> FSR –> Yoga Mat –> Frisbee –> Aluminum –> Piezo

The piezo and aluminum sheet is mounted to the back of the cymbal, with the foams and FSR on the top. Internal pad pieces are adhered with permanent double-sided tape and Gaffer’s tape was used to connect to pad the cymbal. The output jack is connected to the cymbal through the second hole drilled at the beginning.

SNARE DRUM

In my setup, I have the snare on a snare stand for a couple reasons — it’s independent, isolated and adjustable from the rest of the kit.

I found it beneficial to have a snare drum that was larger than the other 3-inch by 4-inch pads, so I chose a heavy-duty dog food bowl for the shell of the snare. Drill one hole (anywhere) on the bottom to mount the jack. I suggest not putting the jack on the side of the drum because and errant stick can snap a 1/4-inch connector — so, drill the hole on the bottom.

This is a single-zone snare, so there is no trigger on the rim. There is no FSR required since the snare is stand alone and won’t have cross-talk issues from other pads. For the snare only, I found the liveliness of the piezo without the FSR to be beneficial for certain passages and delicate playing.

Multiple layers of yoga mat were cut to fit the inside of the snare, along with a (single) aluminum sheet cut-to-size with the piezo mounted on the back.

Here is the order of material layers in the snare e-drum:

Mouse Pad –> (2x) Yoga Mat –> Aluminum –> Piezo –> (2x) Yoga Mat –> Plastic Shell

Permanent double-sided tape worked wonders for the internal layers, with a single layer of Gaffer’s tape connecting the foam to the exterior of the plastic shell. The wiring between the piezo and output jack is easily contained within the snare drum shell.

Fine-tuning the snare’s input responsiveness within the midi controller and/or computer eliminates most issues commonly referred to as “machine gun snare”.

KICK DRUM

My kick drum pedal is separate from the other pads, so there is no risk of cross-talk. The greatest problem to solve with the e-drum kick trigger was not getting double hits from the beater striking the pad. I found that the piezo’s sensitivity was causing (false) triggers to occur when the beater was let-off the pad. The pressure of the kick drum strike would (also) compress the foam enough that the energy of the foam rebounding would (also) give a false trigger.

After much trial and error, I settled an a heavy duty “L” bracket combined with a 1-inch by 1/2-inch wood piece, cut to the height of the beater on the kick pedal.

The pad construction is as follows:

(5x) Layers of microfiber cloth –> 1-inch Cork –> Door Stop –> Piezo –> Metal Plate –> Sorbothane

The microfiber cloth is gaffer-taped to the cork and hot-glued to the door stop. The piezo is hot glued to the back of the doorstop, which is then glued to the metal plate. The metal plate goes onto the Sorbothane and is then screwed into the wood, keeping the whole kick drum trigger together. The 1/4-inch output jack is connected anywhere on the wood frame.

MIDI CONTROLLER

This is really the brains of the operation and there are a lot of options out there. I chose a Roland TD-4 because it allows for (8) pads + kick drum and hi-hat. Spending more will get more inputs, but I’ve been incredibly pleased with the flexibility and overall options for Midi and pad responsiveness with the Roland TD-4.