Homemade drum triggers

drum triggers
Ah, back in Nebraska, back to work, and back to regular installments of hacking. For the musicians out there (I know there are quite a few of you) here is a guide to building electronic drum triggers. Full disclosure: they sell the parts on the site. So here is a different link for some free info.

[thanks patrick]

Comments

  1. jfryman says:

    I may be wrong here, and please correct me if I am… but I’m a drummer and a computer guy, and I’ve run into this before… and what stopped me is the inability for these simple piezo triggers to pickup something as simple as 32nd notes and/or drum rolls.

    Is the functionality of the pickup limited by the actual equipment used in the drum (type/quality), or by the actual brain module. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I’ve seen a few ‘professional’ electric drum kits that cannot hold anything more complex than a simple rock ballad… notes just drop out and it sounds … incomplete. I would be interested to talk to hear from someone who has actually done this ‘hack’.

  2. Elwood Blues says:

    jfryman — I’m not a drummer, but I do use contact micrpohones (piezo triggers) inside of Max/MSP to trigger other MIDI enabled software. The bonk~ external for Max is tuned specifically for drum triggering, and it works fantastically. (see http://www.akustische-kunst.org/maxmsp/other.html)

    It might be possible to tune a precision homebrew MIDI drum kit with bonk~ and a decent drum surface.

  3. Bird603568 says:

    It’s just not the same thing as real drums. If i was a drummer (which I’m not but wish I was) I wouldn’t use one. I have a few friends that are drummers and from just watching them it wouldnt be the same.Plus one of them would break the pickup

  4. ator1 says:

    I got a cheap electronic drum pad kit at the thrift store (kiddie type) and made a Lego drum machine with the innards. I made a big flat ‘circle’ with a spinner on the bottom so it spun like a record. Then I set up the bass and snare triggers along side of it with electrical tape attached to the edges, so the spinning legos would hit the tape. The triggers were just slid into a lego wall tightly. Then I just had to place bricks at certain points along the edge of the spinning circle to hit the triggers. It actually worked pretty good. You could change the beats like it was a tracker.

  5. Matt says:

    I am a drummer and have been for years. I’ve used these plans to make pads out of a lot of stuff (practice pads, a toaster, a metal chair, you get the idea) and they work really well. They don’t track as well as a ddrum Cast Precision pad costing several hundred dollars more, but there are very few parts of a rock kit that really need that level of accuracy unless you’re Terry Bozzio. The piezo can be bought at Radio Shack with change you find in your couch, and you can glue it to most anything and get decent results. With a little experimentation with the pads and with the drum brain itself, there is no problem going way beyond simple rock ballads.

    Please.. “I am not a drummer but I have an opinion on what works in real life drumming situations” is kind of ridiculous. What do you think Hart, Visulite, Pintech, DDrum, Yamaha, Roland, and Simmons have been using to build their stuff for years now? This is exactly the same technology. The piezos probably even come from the same factory.

  6. THE MAD MUHZARK says:

    I used to make these triggers using peizos from a broken yamaha dd-6’s that ended up in the trash around the neighborhhod, [for some reason almost everyone on the block had one] its a pretty cool trick.

  7. Bird603568 says:

    Matt im just saying that 4 of my friends are drummers and 3 of them don’t like the electric drums and doesnt have the money to get a set to play on for any length of time. I’m just relaying info. But IMO it is soo much cooler to watch someone paly a real set of drums.

  8. Desco says:

    First, anyone who criticizes electronic drums for the above reasons has not tried any of the modern kits. Some of them are quite amazing–don’t get me wrong, we’ll be hard pressed to ever replace acoustic drums, but they’ve come a LONG way from the octagonal pads of the 80s. If you live in an appartment and can’t play acoustic drums, they’re great. If you gig a lot of small clubs every night, they’re great. If you’re looking to expand the range of sounds of your acoustic kits, they’re a great (but expensive) add-on.

    I’m also into the whole DIY thing. Here’s a few links with a LOT more knowledge than above, including how to make your own mesh head electronic drums:

    http://edrum.for.free.fr/

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DIYedrums/

    http://www.derksens.com/Beatnik_mirror.htm

  9. Jonathan says:

    I converted a Pearl Rhythm Travler kit a few months ago and it works great! I put mesh heads on it so it’s quiet enough to play in my 900 sq. ft. condo. I put it through a Roland TD-3 I got off eBay. The TD-3 has 32 built-in kits that all sound pretty good. I’ve also demoed the “Drumkit from Hell Superior” software synth that sounds FANTASTIC.

    If you’re a professional drummer you’ll miss the dynamic capabilities of a true drum set. If you’re an amateur/hobbyist, it’s a cheap way to get a really great sounding electronic kit.

  10. noouch says:

    Why is it that every time I plan to do some electronics project it pops up four or five hours later?
    I was basically planning to do the same thing, but my design involved only cardboard, tinfoil and a MIDI controller. Yeah, I’m a cheapskate.

  11. Bucky says:

    did anybody else read the title as “homemade drug trimmers”?

  12. phycon says:

    I am a drummer at the allen high school band, (which is marching in this decembers rosebowl parade) anyway, i have tried this and it works but is really inconsistnt. I found that mounting a mousepad over the trigger helps but why even attempt this when you can buy a set of “redhots” on ebay for like 30 $. anyway, theres my 2 cents.

  13. Chris(the cool one) says:

    I wish I had a brain, then id find a way to get the pics of my misc hacks, off my camera, and onto this site..

  14. opg says:

    I didn’t expect this topic to show up! I’ve been looking into homemade drum triggers for months now, but I’m more pissed off about the modules available. Sure, if you wanted your own sounds instead of the preset crap on a module, you could simply get a Trigger-to-MIDI converter and lug your computer everywhere.

    I recently bought a 5-pack of those “Red Hots” or “Pulse” triggers, but I have a friend building a module for me – NO MIDI INVOLVED. I’m really into lo-fi, 8-bit sounds, and I want to be able to quickly load, assign, remove, and reload sounds with small file sizes into a module.

    You can check out what he’s done so far at:

    http://27b-6.lathan.org

    As for ator1’s Lego invention- that is awesome! If you have pictures and sound clips, I’d like to hear them. You could also get your device on MusicThing, too!

  15. chiasticslide says:

    just a quick question…i used to drum for a couple of years, but i got rid of my acoustic set when i went to college. i’m interested in electronic drumming — especially now that i make music on the computer, and would like some ‘real’ input — and i’d like to make this, but i don’t know where i can get a cheap midi controller. to be honest, i don’t even know where to start. anyone know a good place to get me started? i’m looking for cheap/DIY, primarily, and most cheap-end drum modules are in the $350+ range.

  16. opg says:

    chiasticslide:

    Your name is familiar. Are you a member at EM411 or Electro-music.com?

    Whatever electronic drumkit setup you go with, you can always use the Roland TMC6 Trigger-to-MIDI converter (http://www.zzounds.com/item–ROLTMC6). You plug in your triggers and then you send MIDI out to whatever device you want to go to (drum module, computer, sampler, etc). It’s about $250 (too much for ME to spend on just a link in a chain), but there are several sites showing you how to build your own, like the eDrum (http://www.edrum.info/).

    The actual drum module/computer part is the most difficult part, though – where your sounds will be stored and making sure that device has MIDI input. I’ve looked through a bunch of old samplers on eBay and SynthSite, but if you want 16bit, 41000kHz samples, your choices will be rather limited if you don’t fork over the cash for an expensive drumkit module or Boss SP303 phrase sampler.

    There’s just no interest for companies to provide a drum module with no preset sounds and a small storage space for lo-fi sound samples.

  17. chiasticslide says:

    opg:

    na, i don’t use those sites, although my handle is the title of an autechre album, if that helps.

    as it stands, i’m using FLstudio4 (and some of my friends are getting absynth and reason 3 for me), and all i need is something to record the triggers; the samples are already on my computer.

  18. noouch says:

    About my previous comment: I tried building a ghetto trigger and was surprised at how good it worked. The video says a thousand words:

    http://www.putfile.com/media.php?n=drumtrig01

  19. opg says:

    ” and all i need is something to record the triggers; the samples are already on my computer.”

    Yep. Sounds like you just need a trigger-to-midi converter. the roland tmc6 is the only new one i know of right now. your other options are to build one like i mentioned or find an old trigger-to-midi converter on ebay (i actually may do that myself right now). yes, they did exist back in the 80s and 90s. take a look at http://www.synthsite.com and look through all the drum modules/samplers for each company. other companies (besides roland, though roland made older models, i believe) made trigger-to-midi converters, and most of them would still work well today!

    i guess it was the Autechre reference. great album, by the way…

  20. mihran says:

    I came across this site and I think it would be awesome to build an electric kit — i just need to know exactly where to buy piezo pickups, and how to wire them to 1/4″ jack to plug into a module (or trigger to midi transformer most likeley, that i’ll convert to USB and use to record into reason in real time).. could someone take some time to explain how to do this?

  21. opg says:

    piezo pickups are CHEAP. You can buy a Piezo Transducer at Radio Shack, which, when the black casing is taken off, is just a copper disc with two wires. You connect the wires to a 1/4″ jack. The disc gets placed on/underneath the drumpad you want to use and picks up the signal when you hit it. From there, you will need a Trigger-to-MIDI convertor. If you don’t have a MIDI port on your computer but want to use your USB port, you’ll have to get a MIDI/USB interface, like http://www.musiciansfriend.com/srs7/g=rec/search/detail/base_pid/701379/ which are very cheap.

  22. Sam says:

    Hi there, i am looking to trigger my acoustic kick drum live.
    I was going to use a Ddrum Pro Trigger and trigger samples from my laptop.
    Does anyone know if theres a trigger to USB converter?
    Any recomendations for a soft sampler (Mac OSX)?

    Cheers

  23. MATT says:

    I COULD NOT PUT UP WITH THE FEEL OF AN ELECTRIC KIT, SO I BOUGHT A CHEAP VINTAGE DRUMKIT AND i CUT ALL THE DRUMS SO THEY WHERE APPROX 6 inches THICK THEN PUT PIEZOS ON ROUND ALLY PLATES COVERED WITH 1 LAYER OF FOAM ON THE TOP SIDE(directly under the drum skin)THEN STUFFED THE UNDERSIDE BEST I COULD.
    I THEN CUT A CIRCULAR PIECE OF PLYWOOD TO JUST FIT INSIDE MY DRUM AND SQEEZED IT AS CLOSE TO THE TOP SKIN AS POSSIBLE AND PUT A FEW SMALL SCREWS THROUGH THE SIDE OF THE DRUM INTO MY CIRCULAR PIECE OF PLYWOOD.DRILL A HOLE IN THE SIDE OF THE DRUM TO FIT A JACKPLUG SOCKET IN,SOLDER THE PIEZOS AND YOUR AWAY.
    AND WHAT AN EXCELANT DRUMKIT, IT LOOKS FANTASTIC AND SOUNDS SUPERB.
    I USED THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL KIT APART FROM REAL CYMBALS,I HAVE PLASTIC HIHATS WITH THE ORIGINAL PEDAL AND AN ADDITIONAL ON/OFF FOOTSWITCH
    I CAN SUPPLY YOU WITH LOADS OF BEFORE AND AFTER PICS OR INSTRUCTIONS IF YOU LIKE?

  24. max says:

    i triggered my set and it works great, i mounted the transducers inside the shells and used mesh heads to keep them quiet. only thing is that the feel is off from real heads but not by much. i got an alesis d4 and sounds great

  25. Brett says:

    OK, I have two Radio Shack piezo units. I wonder if a Frisbee would work as a playing surface? Maybe for a cymbal?

  26. Jo martin says:

    I want to trigger up my acoustic kit and wondered what I’ll need. I do have an Alesis idMO1 drum machine/ION iETO1 pads and also a Zoom RT-123 drum machine. I wondered if either of these would be suitable modules for triggering?

    Many thanks, Jo

  27. MM says:

    I have played drums professionally and have also played my own DIY electronic drum set for over 10 years. The electronics are every bit as sensitive and responsive as real drums and the sound out front is better. What you lose in real time nuance, you gain by have perfect sound reproduction and hundreds of different sounds at your command. The Alesis D4 is the best trigger interface in my opinion. the cymbal sounds aren’t very good, but the pad sensitivity adjustments and cross talk features are better than Rolands modules. You can get one used for about $125.00 and you can just midi out nto other sounds if you choose.

  28. danny r says:

    How well would a piezo (radio shack) transducer work with a Roland TD-6

  29. Mauricio Quintana says:

    I have been drumming acoustic for some years. I like the versatility that an electronic set can give, although the sound may not be ‘perfect’ (whatever that means…)

    The idea of a piezo unit from Radio Snack sounds great!! I will be trying that very soon. I have a Yamaha DD-50 drum machine which came without pedals and am hoping to be able to use these triggers for that. However, I am wondering, will the little speakers from watches, electronic toys, etc work?

    I Can’t see why not as these are also piezo transducers…

    I may give it a try and let you all know.

    Thanks for the info.

  30. julian says:

    I have an old roland spd-8 and a pd-5. both pads work well put compared to new pads a little on the hard side. do you think it would be possible to glue some extra rubber on top and it still working. and where would i get it?

  31. John says:

    why even bother with triggers just mic your drums (or frisbee or whatever you can beat on) with any old cheap crappy mics. Gate them very tightly and route them to an output from your DAW interface to run directly into your trigger unit( alesis d4, roland etc) record the output of that unit via midi into reason or whatever midi sequencer you use, then you can use any sound you’d like from your sound banks. IF you have multiple outputs you can re-record all the drums at once. If you only have a few just record them a track at a time.

  32. Big Dave says:

    Hello Everyone,

    Does anyone know if it’s possible to assign the same triggers in every drum set to kick, snare toms, etc.
    in the D4? I don;t want to have to change around wires
    every time I change sets! can anyone help me/ manual doesn’t really cover this very well…

    dave

  33. Very informative post. I’ve found your site via Bing and I’m really glad about the information you provide in your articles. Btw your blogs layout is really broken on the Kmelon browser. Would be cool if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the good work!

  34. Rob Sedleski says:

    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!

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