A Simplified Guide to Drum Triggers

The idea of triggering electronics out of acoustic drums has been here for quite some time now, but triggering software and hardware recently received a huge revamp, fueling the spike in popularity. The renewed interest in drum triggers has many of us asking, “What are drum triggers?”

In simplest terms, when you use drum triggers on a set of acoustic drums, the acoustic drum/drum trigger combination replaces the operation of an electronic drum pad. You might be having a ton of questions regarding this right now, and fortunately, you have found the right article.

Josh sorenson
Photo by josh sorenson

Without further ado, let’s start drum triggers 101.

What Are Drum Triggers?

A device called an acoustic drum trigger is clamped onto a drum’s hook, and it reads the vibrations when a drumhead is struck. Thus, it is “triggered,” and transmits impulses to the drum trigger module which can play an extra, electronic sound on command.

We will break down the details as we proceed with this topic, but for now, let’s understand why modern drummers love using drum triggers in contemporary music gigs.

Endless Musical Opportunities 

Drum triggers create a bride between electronic and acoustic drum sets, allowing the drummers of every genre to avail the benefits of electronic samples when playing traditional acoustic drum sets.

Similar to how versatile a guitar is, drum triggers propose a much bigger world for the musicians to test their limits. Combining acoustic drum triggers in a live performance gives the musician an edge as drummers are usually restricted to a set of tones that cymbals and acoustic drums offer.

Ideal for All Music Styles

The power to broaden and expand musical boundaries means drum triggering presents drums to a bunch of new creative possibilities. The best part is that this works for drummers or every style. Regardless of whether you’re a rock, pop, metal, hip-hop, R&B, or dance drummer, you can exploit the interesting concept that is drum triggering to make a niche for yourself.

Triggers are sensitive to velocity, meaning they can determine how hard the drummer plays to resonate that with the beats they’re playing.

Stable Live Sound

A great benefit of drum triggering is that is resembles the clean lines of a studio quality sample, giving the sounds a punchier boost. In live acts, every venue is equipped with a unique PA, and all the rooms feature a naturally different acoustic attitude. This means that it can often be difficult to produce the desired sound solely with microphones.

Drum triggering is an immediate solution and will surely make the drums sound 10 times better no matter how the acoustics are in a particular venue.

Recreate Studio Versions Live

Replicating the authentic drum tones from the original studio version goes a long way in reproducing that version for the fans to hear on live shows. 

Musicians can’t just stick sounding good on records; they have to challenge themselves to sound equally amazing while performing live.

How Drum Triggers Work

Now that we’ve cleared what are drum triggers and why musicians are living for there, why not discuss the working principle so you know exactly what goes on in the scene. Drum triggers decipher vibrations from the rim or drumhead and translates said information before sending it to the drum module, where it comes out as a sound.

This function on “piezo technology,” a unique mechanism capable of detecting vibrations happening on drumheads and create a little amount of voltage as an answer. Then, this voltage is transmitted to the trigger-to-MIDI-converter where the drum module does its magic. The whole process makes the sound source produce sounds.

Apart from a drum trigger device, drummers also need a drum module. Rightfully called “the brain,” drum modules convert trigger pulses into MIDI data. This is the pricey part of drum triggering. In itself, a drum trigger is quite cheap, but the drum module will surely set you back on a few hundreds.

Drum modules are mostly spotted on electronic drum sets. Prior to receiving information from mesh pads and rubber cymbals, it transforms that into MIDI technology and finally, sound. If you already own an electronic drum set, it can be expected that the drum module will work like a trigger interface.

Aside from including a unique velocity-sensitive pads where you can load your samples into, flagship models can accommodate 2 drum triggers for live performance purposes.

Possible Drawbacks to Using Drum Triggers

Within the whole live touring community, drum triggering powered by hybrid drum setups is extremely popular. We mentioned this in our “advantages” segment, especially in the way that they can provide drummers potential to unlock an infinite count of sounds for their performances. But, are there any downsides to using drum triggers? If yes, what are they and how badly can they affect your performance?

For the most part, modern drum triggers are much more resilient to issues drummers would commonly face in the past. For instance, poor latency might have caused samples to play out-of-sync with the artist, and albeit somewhat uncommon, it wouldn’t be abnormal had that happened due to poor cable quality, or almost any former problems with the interface of the drum.

Any drummer who has ever tapped into the drum triggering resource would know about the potential risk surrounding mistriggering, possible from double triggers or note dropouts. Unavoidable at times, these things require us to completely rely on technology. And there’s no saying when it chooses to deny cooperation to you. The chance of mistriggers is higher when playing metal in comparison to pop as there will be many more kick drum hits suitable for being triggers, and mostly in rapid succession.

Final Thoughts

Modern music is no place for drummers who can’t improvise or adapt. Knowing what are drum triggers and how to incorporate them into live performances adds another weapon to the drummer’s bag and enhances their value as a musician.

You can Learn How to Make a Drum Set at Home here.

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