Electric Drum Kit Hacks

For a while I had an Alesis Dm5 electric drum kit. I got it really cheap to practice on. It only had two cymbal pads, and the hi-hat pedal tended to either not work or cause multiple triggers. So, I decided to pimp it out a bit.


DIY Electric Drum Kit Hi-Hat Pedal

Firstly, I made a new hi-hat pedal using the kick drum pedal from an acoustic kit. Internally, the original pedal was just a switch, so building a replacement wasn’t too difficult.

The original (faulty) pedal.

Using some bits of wood it was fairly easy to fit a large ‘micro’ switch underneath the kick pedal, and wire on a minijack socket for connection to the drum computer. I had to play around with positioning a little bit to get the switch in the right place, but once I found it, it worked perfectly. A nice new feature brought about by using the kick pedal was that the tension could be adjusted using the spring on the side, and the whole contraption was easily transformed back into an acoustic kick pedal by removing the wood and re-attaching the kick beater.


Below is the new Hi-Hat trigger in context, next to my Pearl double pedal. One problem with the DM5 kit is the noisy pads, and you can also see some foam attached to the kick beater pad to reduce the ambient noise.


Low Budget DIY Electric Drum Kit Cymbal Trigger

The DM5 had loads of spare trigger inputs, so I created an extra cymbal for my kit. For learning and practicing you can get by fine with a ride and a crash, but being interested in metal drumming, I really wanted to introduce a China sound into my playing. There are lots of DIY drum trigger guides online, but most of them use expensive or hard to find materials. I built mine using two IKEA drinks coasters, a Piezo Transducer and an upholstery spring from inside a sofa. The whole thing cost under £5, and worked a treat.


I decided to use drinks coasters from IKEA for the pad surface. Mostly because I had lots of spares around the flat, but also because the material seemed ideal for a trigger. The coasters were made of a tough spongey material which was hard and rigid, yet also shock absorbant, making them quiet when hit with a drum stick.

I picked up a few piezo transducers from ebay for use inside the trigger as sensors. I got the biggest ones I could find, although I’m not sure what difference that makes, if any.

The first construction step was using Araldite (epoxy glue) to sandwich a piezeo transducer between two drinks coasters. I wired it up to a jack and plugged it into the DM5. It worked, but wasn’t terribly sensitive, probably because it was muffled by the two coasters. Instead I tried another transducer glued onto the bottom of the coasters. This proved much more effective. I had to leave the original piezo between the coasters, as by this time they were too tightly glued to separate.

It took a while to work out how I was going to attach it to the drum kit.  I tried hanging the new trigger off various parts of the frame or resting in hear and there on the kit, but nothing was very ergonomic or playable. In the end I noticed the drummer in my band fixing his china cymbal upside down to the top of his crash, and decided this would be the way to go. The obvious issue with this would be double sounding, where hitting one cymbal would trigger the other, so some sort of mechanical isolation would be required.

A spring seemed the obvious choice. Trawling ebay for springs, I came across the upholstery springs used in sofas and arm chairs. I bought the most firm and rigid spring in stock. When it arrived I glued it to the bottom with copious amount of Araldite. Amazingly, the bottom of the spring was also a perfect fit for the bell of the DM5 cymbal, and I was able to attach it to the kit by lashing the trigger lead to the fixing nut of the original cymbal.

There was a little bit of a double sounding issue with the two cymbals, but nothing more than you would expect with a similar arrangement of acoustic cymbals.


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