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A brief history of the electronic drumkit during the 80s

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Published on Mar 15, 2012

The first use of electronic drums is considered to be for the recording of the song "Procession", from the album "Every Good Boy Deserves Favor", by The Moody Blues. The drum module was created by the drummer for The Moody Blues, Graeme Edge, in collaboration with an electronics professor at Sussex University. The module was never marketed as a commercial product, was incredibly difficult to make and broke down constantly. The first commercially-marketed electronic pad was "The Syndrum". Created by Pollard Industries in 1976, it was used by many famous drummers such as Terry Bozzio (Missing Persons, Frank Zappa), and Carmen Appice (Vanilla Fudge). The Syndrum can be heard on the Linda Ronstadt recording recording "Poor Pitiful Me". The Syndrum didn't have patches or a memory; it used sliders and knobs to manipulate its sounds. It was quite popular as it was a new device to be experimented with, but had very unrealistic sounds and was therefore used for percussive effects. In 1978, David Simmons created the Simmons Company, which was based out of the UK. Simmons' goal was to create an electronic drum kit that could actually replicate the sounds of an acoustic drum kit. The Simmons SDS-v (also known as the SDS-5) was considered to be the first fully electronic drum set. The SDS-V had hexagon-shaped pads which were made from polycarbonate, making them rock hard, and often caused injuries to the drummer. The first recording of SDS-V was on Spandau Ballet's "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On).

Another innovative design by Simmons was the Simmons Briefcase, which was a set of electric pads set up side by side in a case, allowing the drummer to stand and play them. The band New Order used them extensively, and they can be seen on their music video for the song "The Perfect Kiss". The main reason why Simmons became the most used electronic drum company was partially due to its marketing tactics. The company sent a British drummer on a tour of all the major music stores in the US and they were an instant hit. The next big move they took was sending the famous Bill Bruford (King Crimson) on a demo tour. These marketing tactics helped start the electronic drum craze of the 80s.

As the Simmons drum craze began to catch on, a large amount of notable drummers joined in, such as: Phil Collins (Genesis), Dave Weckl (The Chick Corea Electric Band), Alex Van Halen (Van Halen), Neil Peart (Rush).

In conclusion, electronic drums are an interesting invention to be explored by musicians. They can be used as a supplement to a standard acoustic drum set, adding new textures to them. However, electronic drums are not, and never will be, a replacement for acoustic drums. They will forever lack the sensitivity, or depth of sound of an acoustic drum or cymbal. No matter how many sensors or sensitivity patches are placed on a rubber pad, they will never come close to replicating the real thing, and therefore should be left to be used as a supplement.

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