How To Play Electronic Drums With Headphones
Electronic drums can be an excellent choice for drummers looking to practice without being a menace to society. They’ll allow you to jam out pretty much anytime while not disturbing anyone, and you can even use them during band rehearsals. Therefore, it is vital to learn how to play your electronic drums with headphones so you can utilize their potential to the maximum.
Here are a few tips for playing electronic drums, both during band rehearsals and alone:
- Pick the right headphones.
- Plug the headphones into the drum set.
- Use the aux input for your headphones.
- Get a mixer to elevate your headphone experience.
- Use an Aviom system to block out ambient sound.
- Get a JamHub device for your headphones.
Headphones can help elevate your playing and get you fast-tracked to make your killer performance. Let’s take a closer look at what you must do to play your electronic drums with the headphones plugged in efficiently. In this guide, you’ll learn exactly how to play your electronic drums with headphones.
1. Pick the Right Headphones
Before you start honing your drumming skills while using headphones, you must choose the right ones for the job. Theoretically, you could take pretty much any headphones and use them, but the sound quality you’ll get would probably be nothing to write home about.
Here are a few things to consider when picking your headphones.
Cheap headphones will usually not do a great job getting all the frequencies to you, at least not without a significant loss of quality. This lack of quality is especially troubling if you want to play electronic drums this way, as they will produce a wide array of different frequencies. There is a vast difference between the kick drum and the high hat; for example, you’ll need to hear both crystal clear for superior performance.
Another thing to pay attention to is isolating yourself from the rest of the world while playing. This isolation won’t directly influence your sound quality but will allow you to hear your drums much better without interference.
Plus, if you feel isolated, you’ll get into the right headspace more easily and focus much better, leaving behind all other matters for the time being. Therefore, getting on-ear headphones with thick padding might be the best option.
The cable’s length will help you be comfortable while playing. If the cable is too short, you might feel glued to the drum set, and it might get in the way. It’s also essential to place it properly so that it won’t bother you. Some good advice is to run it through your shirt, and you can tape it to your body.
1. Pick the Right Headphones
Pretty much every electronic drum set is going to have an input for headphones. Plugging your headphones into the drum set will be enough if you simply wish to hear your drumming. However, you should probably take time to play around with the EQ to get the most out of your drum set’s capabilities and create a perfect mix for the headphones.
Most of the time, this will be enough for some basic drills and practicing your technique. You won’t be able to hear anything apart from the drum set, but if you’re not trying to practice a song but simply to work on a specific skill, it will be enough. You’ll need to get inventive if you want to hear another audio track, for example, a particular song you wish to practice or use a metronome.
2. Plug the Headphones into the Electronic Drum Set
The next step should be pretty self explanatory, but it’s to plug your headphones into your electronic drum set. The only thing you need to keep in mind is what type of input jack your electronic drums use. For most electronic drum sets, it’ll either be a standard 3.5mm headphone jack or a ¼ inch headphone jack. Most headphones will have the standard 3.5mm input jack. Many higher end studio headphones will come with a ¼ inch adapter right in the box, but if not, you can always buy a separate ¼ inch head adapter for under $10 on Amazon.
3. Use the Aux Input for Your Headphones
All modern electronic drum kits have aux inputs. These come in handy because you can use them to plug in a phone, CD player, or any audio device and hear the music you want to practice.
The most straightforward option is to use your phone with a pre-made playlist of tracks you want to play, so you can just let it rip and imagine you’re on stage with a real rock band.
I’d also advise looking for drumless tracks, so you can fill in the gap without the original drum track getting in the way. Tracks without drums are an excellent option if you’re well-versed in playing those songs and know the track by heart, so you don’t need to hear it. If you’ve just started learning a song, it’s probably best to keep the drum track going until you’ve learned it well.
Alternatively, you can visit websites such as Karaoke-version, where you can buy tracks and control the mix. You can mute things, turn down the volume, or simply leave a click track. You’ll need some knowledge of Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) for this, but it’s something you can easily learn. While these tracks are not official tracks, they’re great tools for learning and practicing.
4. Get a Mixer To Elevate Your Headphone Experience
If you wish to elevate your playing experience, you can invest in a cheap mixer with a couple of inputs and use it to simultaneously hear your drums and the track you’re trying to play. You don’t need an expensive mixer for this; almost anything will do. Of course, the more you invest, the better sound you’ll get, but if you’re only playing on your own, you don’t need much.
To use a mixer this way, you’ll need to follow a few steps:
- Plug the drums into one line-in.
- Plug your phone or another audio source into a different line-in.
- Plug your headphones into the line-out.
- Adjust the levels.
- Enjoy your playing.
Incorporating a mixer is an excellent way to practice like a pro, as you’ll get complete control of every single detail, and you’ll get to adjust everything you hear and set it up just the way you like it.
Of course, if you want to play with another musician or a band, you might consider investing in a bigger mixer with more line-ins and line-outs. This system will allow all the band members to hear each other while keeping the noise to a minimum. It might require some trial and error, but once you figure it out, it might be perfect for your rehearsals.
5. Use an Aviom System To Block Out Ambient Sound
The Aviom system is a great way to hook up everybody’s in-ear monitors and create a separate mix for each band member. Doing so will allow everyone to hear what they need while blocking out all the outside noise and interference. It’s like using a mixer but raised to a more professional level.
Manufacturers designed this system for playing live concerts, but you may also use it for rehearsals with excellent results. Sadly, it is not a particularly cheap option, so it is not the wisest idea if your band is just starting or playing as a hobby. If you’re planning to make it big, investing in such a system might be an option.
6. Get a JamHub Device for Your Headphones
JamHub is a device specifically made for noiseless rehearsals. It is similar to the Aviom System but not made for live performances. It is an exquisite tool for bands who rehearse in flats or somebody’s basement, and it can also be a great option for any band that utilizes electronic drums.
JamHub comes in a few different varieties at different prices, and you can connect up to seven musicians to it, allowing them to play simultaneously. Unfortunately, it is not the most affordable piece of equipment, so you should only go for it if you’ve got a lot of extra cash or need to practice for something big.
Can You Use Bluetooth Headphones With Electronic Drums?
You can use Bluetooth headphones with your electronic drums, but it is not advisable. The latency you get with Bluetooth headphones is too high to play drums in sync with what you hear, so it is best to use wired headphones.
I get it; Bluetooth headphones are fantastic for listening to music without those pesky cables getting in the way. This versatility might give you the idea that they might also be great for playing electronic drums since cables getting in the way while playing can be pretty annoying.
Technically speaking, it is possible to use your Bluetooth headphones for this. You can find an adapter, plug it in, and play. Well, you can only sort of play because the latency is likely too high to play comfortably, so you would be better off with wired headphones, even if the cable bothers you so much you’d like to get rid of it.
Let’s see how you can use your Bluetooth headphones with your electronic drums and why it’s not the best idea.
How To Connect Bluetooth Headphones to Electronic Drums
If you wish to try this out for yourself and see if you can do it, you only need to follow a few steps:
- Get a Bluetooth wireless transmitter.
- Use the headphone cable to plug it into your drum module.
- Connect the receiver to your headphones.
- You’ll be able to hear your drums through your wireless headphones.
This process is super simple, as you can see. However, there are several reasons why it shouldn’t be your primary option. Let’s check out why.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Bluetooth Headphones With Electronic Drums
Even though Bluetooth has progressed significantly in the last couple of years, and Bluetooth headphones have become increasingly better, they still can’t compete with wired headphones regarding latency.
Simply speaking, latency is the time between you hitting a drum and hearing the sound. Or, more generally speaking, the time between an action and hearing the sound it produces. Basically, with Bluetooth headphones, you hear the sound much later than you do with wired headphones.
While this is not a noticeable problem when listening to music or watching movies (at least most of the time), it can be problematic when playing electronic drums. Most people who play electronic drums agree that latency starts being noticeable around 10 ms. Some claim they can hear it earlier, while some may hear it later, but this is a rough average.
Bluetooth headphones usually have a latency between 100 and 200 ms, which is significantly more than what you’d need to play your drums comfortably. Even high-end, low-latency Bluetooth headphones don’t have a latency below 19 ms, almost twice as much as the acceptable level.
Therefore, you shouldn’t use your Bluetooth headphones with your electronic drums. Someone out there can probably pull it off well, but it’s challenging and not worth the effort.
Can You Play Electronic Drums Without Headphones?
You can play electronic drums even if you don’t have headphones. Ideally, you’ll need a dedicated amp, but you can also use a keyboard or bass amp. Alternatively, you could use your computer speakers.
While playing with headphones is a convenient way to use your electronic drums, it is not a must. Manufacturers of electronic drums typically make dedicated amps and monitors for electronic drums, so the best option is just to use that. You just plug in and play.
However, there are some other things you can use instead:
- Keyboard or bass amps
- Computer speakers
- An audio interface
- A USB cable
- A PA system.
Let’s take a look at how you can utilize this equipment to jam on your electronic drums.
Keyboard or Bass Amps
You should use a dedicated amp for each instrument to achieve the best performance. Ideally, if you’re playing electronic drums, you should use an amp made for electronic drums. However, if this is not available, you could potentially use a keyboard or bass amp. Using a keyboard amp instead of a bass amp is advisable, as it can usually reach a broader range of frequencies.
On the other hand, using a guitar amp is not advisable. Higher-end guitar amps could potentially handle this well, but users can damage the amps since they can’t handle the frequencies produced by electronic drums. Therefore, this is not an option you should use if you want to preserve your guitar amp.
Most, if not all, electronic drum kits can be connected to computer speakers, provided there is an adequate plug. Even if there isn’t, a converter can quickly solve this problem. This option is safe for your drums and speakers, but you shouldn’t expect much. Computer speakers aren’t designed to amplify electronic drums, so you can’t expect much.
However, if there is no other option, this will do the trick until you find a better solution. It might even work relatively decently if you have high-end computer speakers, so it’s at least worth a try.
If you have an audio interface, you can use it to connect your drum set to your computer and use your speakers indirectly. This interface will enhance the sound quality significantly because it will allow you to change the sound in your DAW. Musicians typically use this type of connection for recording, but you can also use it to jam. Or, you can use it for both, which is a convenient way to track your progress.
If you don’t have an audio interface, but your drum kit has USB connectivity, you can plug it directly into your computer and connect it to your DAW. From there, you can proceed as if you had an audio interface.
Alternatively, if your kit has a MIDI output, you can use a MIDI to USB converter and avoid using the samples on your drum kit’s module. This method is probably the best option, as using your electronic drums as a MIDI controller will allow you to make them sound like almost any drum kit in the world, even if you’re using a cheap, no-name kit.
If you’re not rehearsing but playing live instead, the best thing to do might be to connect your drums to the PA system. This option is excellent if the venue is relatively large and your drum amp can’t get loud enough for everyone to hear it. The PA system will easily solve this problem.
You can do this by plugging your drums directly into the mixing deck, but you can also use a DI box, which acts as an extension for the mixing desk. Alternatively, you could plug your drums into the speakers directly, but this probably wouldn’t get you a first-class sound quality.
So, there you have it. Playing your electronic drums with headphones is relatively easy and is probably the preferable option. It is even possible to pull it off during rehearsals. Using your headphones while playing your electronic drum kit will enable you to practice at any time of day without disturbing your neighbors.
It’s even possible to do this during rehearsals. It allows you to have silent rehearsals while hearing the other band members. This option requires some additional equipment, but it’s worth it if you don’t have understanding neighbors while trying to make it big.