This post is mainly for drummers, but can pertain to any musician looking to expand their sonic abilities with electronics. It also features input from my friend and great drummer Zach Danziger, who uses electronics in his set up almost daily. This should help you sort out if this is something you should pursue and give a little clarity to your options.
The first question to ask yourself is, do you need electronics to accomplish the sound you are going for with the music you are making? For my purposes, I have been playing more pop music and have needed to replicate the sounds on the album that was recorded. I tried to do as much as possible with real instruments before adding electronic sounds, but sometimes you have no choice and need that voice.
Once you decide to make that move to start using electronics with your setup, there are four main avenues to go down. The first, and easiest route is to use of sample pads and percussion pads to blend acoustic and electronic sounds. These pads are basically mini drumsets by themselves and are easily manipulated to any turn any set up into a hybrid drum kit. A sample pad such as the has a bunch of sounds already built in, but you can also sample (record), import, and trigger any sound. A percussion pad usually allows you to trigger the internal sounds within the instrument. Here is a video using those pads (and drum triggers, mentioned below): Percussion Pad/Drum Trigger video
The next way would be additional drum pads around your acoustic drumset. These come in different forms like mesh pads, rubber pads or bar pads which are used in conjunction with your sound source.
Another, would be using drum triggers. Like the pads mentioned above, these triggers also need a sound source. The difference with drum triggers is that the sound is mixed with that of the acoustic drum. This allows you to still feel the real drums, but you can mix in the sounds you desire as much, or as little as you need. Here is another video offering some insight to creating a hybrid drumset: Hybrid Drumset Video
One last thing you can think about using would be a loop pedal. This has come in handy for me when I want to keep something going like a shaker or tambourine, but don’t have enough limbs. I’ve worked with a bunch of guitar players who use these pedals all the time in a small band setting. They commonly loop the chords or a bass line and then solo over that. I’ve even seen some horn players use them to play harmonies with themselves. Here’s another friend Marcelo using a loop pedal with percussion instruments: Percussion Loop Video
PRO-TIP: Just as you would spend time working out the logistics of your setup if you added a new drum or percussion instrument, you should definitely figure out the navigation of your electronic setup, sound banks, and be prepared for everything to crash (prepare with having spare cables, extra hard drives, adapters, power sources, etc.)
I had a conversation with Zach and these were some really good points of information that he had to offer! Now if you don’t know who Zach is, he is an amazing drummer based in the NYC area, currently playing with Mister Barrington, Test Kitchen and Stix Beiderbecke. If that isn’t enough to spark your interest, he has played on an incredible amount of film soundtracks, and recorded on tons of albums (including the popular jazz album “Two Drink Minimum” by Wayne Krantz). Not to mention he is an avid coffee lover. Specifically espresso! Here’s a great vid of Zach doing what he does: Zach’s Performance Spotlight