Want to work on your skills and technique?
Want to add some variety to your drum sound?
There is a huge range of drum pads out there, ranging from super cheap to full-featured beasts. Read on for a comprehensive review of the best drum pad options available.
When it comes to drum pads, there are two main options: Practice drum pads (designed for practicing!), and electronic drum pads, great for both practicing and adding some great variety to your sound. We’ll cover each of these in detail, looking at the best products available and how you can use them.
Practice drum pads
Practice drum pads are the most basic option, but don’t let the word basic put you off. Whether you’re a beginner or a drumming pro, you’ll need a practice pad for rudiments, to build technique, and improve speed. Practice drum pads are usually a flat round rubber pad, with a rebound designed to replicate the feel of a real drum. There are also mesh practice pad options available – these are much lower volume than rubber, and have a more realistic feel. All of these drum pads can be either mounted to a stand, held with a snare drum stand, or played on your lap. Most practice drum pads can also sit on top of your snare drum, acting as a drum mute.
So why get one? You can practice (almost) silently, anywhere, without needing a drum kit! You’ll save your ears, keep your neighbours happy, and you’ll hear each stroke on the pad a lot clearer than on a real kit. They’re also perfect for practicing rudiments – sit in front of the TV and work on your chops for hours. Use a metronome and track your progress to get great results. Click here for a list of great practice drum pad rudiments.
One of the best practice drum pads is the DW Multi-Surface drum pad. This practice pad is extremely versatile, with three different playing surfaces. One side has a white and grey area, replicating the feel of a snare drum and cymbal. Turn the DW practice pad over, and there’s a soft side designed for building endurance.
For a great mesh drum pad, the Sabian Quiet Tone Mesh is an excellent choice. This drum pad is super quiet, and it can be tuned, which means you’ll have full control over the amount of stick rebound. As a bonus, these mesh pads have a really good price and solid build quality.
Tip: Don’t have a practice drum pad? Use a pillow instead: for super silent practicing and strength building. Even if you DO have a practice pad, playing on a pillow is a great workout for your hands.
Practice drum pads: Go electronic
For the ultimate practice drum pad, check out the Roland RMP Rhythm Coach – a mesh electronic practice pad with a huge range of features. These things are a little more expensive, but worth it if you’re serious about your drumming. The mesh drumhead is quiet, tunable, and has a very real stick feel. This electronic practice drum pad has a built in metronome, and a great range of built-in drum sounds. An extremely useful feature is “time check”, which tracks and records your accuracy (even giving a score).
The metronome has a quiet mode where it intermittently mutes, a great test for your sense of timing. For building speed, the metronome can be set to slowly speed up over time. These features are amazing for improving your skills.
As a huge bonus, you can attach a bass drum pad and cymbal pad, to turn this into a miniature electronic drum kit. The added pads make this perfect for small gigs, or an ultra realistic minimal electronic drum practice pad setup.
Roland’s electronic drum practice pads have an enormous range of other features as well. Take a look at Roland’s page, or see the video below for more details.
Check out the electronic drum pad section of this article (below) for more electronic drumming options.
Bass drum pads
To practice your bass drum technique, there are some great bass drum pad options available. For something cheap, try the Gibraltar GBDP bass drum practice pad. This is a basic option with good build quality and a fairly realistic bass drum feel.
For a more advanced bass drum pad, try the Evans RealFeel bass drum pad or DW Steve Smith bass drum pad. Both of these practice pads feel great, fold away, and are built very solid. For tight double-kick technique, practice your rudiments with your feet on one of the above pads.
Combine one of these bass drum pads with a drumstick practice pad to build great arm and leg independence.
Tip: If you’re interested in electronic drums, check the prices of Yamaha and Roland electronic bass drum pads. These are sometimes a similar price to some of the practice bass drum pad options. They’re great to practice with, and can double as an electronic bass drum if needed.
Practice drum pad kits
For a full practice drum pad kit, two of the best options are the DW Go Anywhere Drum Pad Set, and the Remo Modular Practice Pad Set. Both of these practice drum pad kits are very versatile, very adjustable, and have great build quality.
The DW Go Anywhere practice kit is the best option if you need an ultra portable drum pad practice setup, with a very small footprint. The DW practice drum set can be expanded with extra drum pads, to create a more custom drum pad kit that suits your needs. It also partly folds away to take up less space when you’re not using it. This practice pad drum set is easily adjustable, and has an attachment for your bass drum pedal.
Electronic drum pads
For something more advanced than a rubber pad, there are a huge range of electronic options. These can be used both for practicing, and to add some great variety to compliment your acoustic drum set. Many electronic drum pads can be expanded, to create a full electronic drum kit that requires minimal space. Another great feature is the ability to connect these electronic drum pads to a computer. Using software like EZDrummer, BFD, or Battery, you can have an unlimited range of sounds, ranging from ultra-realistic drum kits to twisted electronic samples.
Yamaha and Roland are the two big players in the electronic drum pad world, and both make very high quality equipment. Below are some of the best options for a compact electronic drum pad setup. All of these devices can be expanded with extra electronic pads or pedals, to build a very realistic low volume electronic setup (or an ultra portable gigging set).
Comparing Roland & Yamaha’s Drum Pad Options
Roland’s SPD-SX is one of the most-used professional electronic drum pads in the world. The SPD-SX has nine electronic pads, which can be used to trigger on-board sounds or your own samples. Yamaha’s DTX Multi-12 is similar to Roland’s SPD-SX, but with 12 pads instead of nine. Both of these drum pads have additional inputs, where you can connect a hi hat pedal and other electronic drum pads (including a bass drum pad), to build a full-featured and super realistic feeling electronic drum set. Both of these electronic drum pads also have advanced multi-effects systems, allowing you to add effects and warp the samples you’re triggering.
The key differences between the Yamaha DTX Multi-12 vs. Roland SPD-SX drum pads are:
- The SPD-SX has more storage for samples (2 gigabytes vs. 64 megabytes).
The DTX Multi-12 has more advanced layering options (for example assigning up to 4 samples per pad, cycling through them, combining them, or triggering them depending on velocity).
- The SPD-SX has an easier-to-use menu system.
- The DTX Multi-12 is cheaper than the SPD-SX, even though both are professional-level models.
- The SPD-SX can record samples directly onto the drum pad (both models also have USB input).
So how to choose?
If you plan on triggering lengthy samples (e.g. backing tracks), the Roland SPD-SX is the best option.
If you want more drumming versatility and don’t mind learning the menu system, go with the Yamaha DTX Multi-12… this is more of a drummer’s drum pad.
Roland’s Octapad is the best option if you don’t need to trigger your own sounds. It comes loaded with hundreds of on-board samples, giving you a huge range of drum and percussion instruments at your disposal. The Octapad can also be expanded with extra drum pads and pedals, and it has a great built-in effects system. It is extremely well-made: designed to take a beating and handle constant gigging. Comparing the Roland Octapad vs. SPD-SX or Yamaha DTX Multi-12, the key difference here is the Octapad does not allow you to use your own samples.
Alesis has some good options if you don’t want to spend big money on a Yamaha or Roland drum pad. The Alesis SamplePad 4 has four electronic pads, plus the option to add an extra dual-trigger pad. The Alesis SamplePad Pro has eight drum pads, plus inputs for hi hat, kick, and two other drum pads. These Alesis models are more basic compared with Roland and Yamaha (less effects, no metronome or recording). Importantly though, both of these Alesis models allow you to trigger your own drum samples. If you’re looking for a cheaper option or don’t need a huge range of features, they are definitely worth checking out.
Custom drum pads
Want a unique custom drum pad that stands out from everything else? Take a look at Diamond Electronic Drums – they build custom electronic drum pads in a range of sizes, and with great finishes. Their custom drum pads are very well built, and have excellent trigger response. Everything is hand made, and they can make everything from a single custom drum pad to a whole custom kit.
Another option for custom drum pads are Laurin Electronic Drum Pads. These guys also do quality work, and you can order your custom drum pad in a range of great finishes.
Promark used to make custom drum practice pads, however it seems like they no longer do this. If anyone finds a source for custom drum pads to practice on, get in touch!