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How to expand your electronic drum kit sounds without a computer

Over the shot of drummer behind electronic drum set
(Image credit: Future)

Electronic drum sets come packed with hundreds of sounds, but if you’ve owned your electronic kit for a while, it might be the case that you’re looking for some new sounds to inspire your playing, or simply something that isn’t contained within your module.

Of course, your first step when you can’t find the exact sound you’re looking for within your module could be to edit an existing sound and see how close you can get. Or you could try importing samples to blend with your kit to create your own custom kit. Finally, you could check out one of the many multi-sampled software solutions and trigger them via your computer.

But there’s a slight problem with all of the above - not everyone enjoys spending hours editing sounds and scrolling through parameters. Likewise, you might not want to be tethering your kit to a computer - particularly if you intend on using the kit live and don’t want to have to take your laptop to the pub.

Close-up of finger pressing a button on electronic drum set module

(Image credit: Future)

There is another solution, however, and it’s one that means you’ll have to do little to no editing of sounds, only involves a computer for transferring a couple of files, and will allow you to keep your electronic drum set entirely self contained. The answer? Buy some expansion packs tailored specifically for your electronic drum set or module!

For the most part, the concept with ‘native’ expansion packs relies on your module being capable of importing additional .wav samples. These samples are then combined with the ones already housed inside your drum module within pre-made custom kits to create dynamic, authentic-sounding patches that you can save into the module and scroll to just as if you’d made it yourself.

The benefit is, all you have to do is purchase the kit presets, download and install them into the module.

The benefit is, all you have to do is purchase the kit presets, download and install them into the module. Everything will be mapped to your pads for you and it’s a hassle-free way to get more variation and possibly even an improvement on the factory sounds that are programmed into your module.

Now, we said ‘for the most part’ but if you’re using a module that doesn’t support imported wav files, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun. There are plenty of brands out there making expansion packs for electronic drum modules without this capability, instead offering straight presets that will still work on your module.

Here, we’re going to take a look at some of our favourites from the more well-known companies.

1. V Expressions

Specifications

Compatible with: Roland (TD-7, TD-11, TD-15, TD-17, TD-20, TD-20X, TD-25, TD-27, TD-30, TD-50, TD-50X), Pearl Mimic Pro

V Expressions have been in the game a long time - since 1998, to be precise, and as the name might indicate its products are largely aimed at Roland users with the exception of its Pearl Mimic Pro expansions.

Due to the company’s pedigree, the catalogue also includes a long list of expansions for current and recent modules, but the legacy section also goes as far back as the Roland TD-8 and TD-6, plus there are 6 kits designed for use with the Yamaha DTXtreme III and DTX900.

When it comes to current Roland modules, the TD-50X, TD-27, TD-17 and TD-07 are all catered for. The TD-50, TD-27 and TD-17 expansions have options for a varied collection (Balance, MAXX and Designer respectively) and there are also more genre-specific expansions available. The TD-07 ‘expansion’ works slightly differently as the module doesn’t actually have any way of loading kits in digitally, so instead V Expression’s Core add-on gives you access to a manual full of settings which you’ll then need to input into your module - possibly tedious, but at least Roland’s popular affordable module hasn’t been excluded, and it could also serve as a great learning tool if you’re yet to really get under the hood of the TD-07.

V Expressions offers a number of purchase options too with prices ranging from around $30 for the TD-17 expansions, and increasing from here. It’s worth noting that the options, pricing and titles are all different depending on which module you’re expanding - these are bespoke for each module rather than being replicated across the range. However, the process of buying and installing the kits - as with the other products here - is easy, and V Expressions provides detailed instructions.

2. E-Drum Workshop

Specifications

Compatible with: Roland (TD-17, TD-27, TD-50 and TD-50X), Pearl Mimic Pro. eLement packs compatible with any module with stereo wav sample import

The E-Drum Workshop was born off the back of founder Luke Hesketh’s YouTube channel by the same name, and has developed into an ever-growing offering of customised kits for Roland (TD-17, TD-27, TD-50 and TD-50X,) and the Pearl MimicPro. E-Drum Workshop kits contain bespoke one-shot samples (recorded by Luke) which are then blended with module sounds to create some incredibly realistic-sounding preset kits. What’s more, these are designed specifically for the module you purchase them for, making use of the module’s additional processing (EQ, compression and effects etc.). There’s a lot of variation on offer from the Famous Vol 1 and 2 packs - featuring kits based on Bonham, Chad Smith, Simon Phillips, Travis Barker, Neil Peart, Danny Carey and more - to contemporary pop punk and metal (Powerful & Punchy), to genre-neutral kits derived from a Yamaha Recording Custom and the Slated Room collection - captured in a slate-clad drum room. Single kits start at just £5, and multi-kit packs are priced between £18 and £24.

As well as the kits, E-Drum Workshop sells its snare and kick eLements packs, which will work with any module that can import and assign a 16-bit, 44.kHZ stereo wav file (including the Alesis Strike). These sounds are designed to augment your module’s existing sounds by adding ‘elements’ that you might be missing such as snare overtones, attack, wire buzz or weight, or in the case of your bass drum, attack, sub frequencies, ambience and beef.

There are comprehensive instructional videos showing you how to download and install the kits and eLement packs into your module, and we love the fact that these are an affordable way to get some truly killer sounds without resorting to hooking your kit up to a computer.

3. Drum-Tec

Specifications

Compatible with: Roland TD-9, TD-11, TD-15, TD-17, TD-20, TD-25, TD-27, TD-30, TD-50, TD-50X, Pearl e/Merge, Mimic Pro, Alesis Strike, Crimson II, Yamaha DTX-Pro

European e-drum retailer, Drum-tec sells just about every brand of electronic drum set you can think of, and if you buy a kit from them, they’ll bundle their Live Sound Edition sound expansion with it. The good news is that if you already own a kit, you can buy Drum-tec’s extensive range of add-on packs and load it into your module.

Drum-tec offers an array of expansion packs for different genres and applications, and the number of options changes depending on your module. It’s great to see some support for out-of-production kits such as Roland’s TD-9, 11, 25 and 30, and alongside this, Drum-tec also caters for the Yamaha DTX-Pro plus the Alesis Crimson II and Strike modules. 

As with the other companies offering e-kit expansions here, there are demos of each allowing you to hear what the kits sound like before you buy. The Live Sound and Real Acoustics collections are a great starting point if you’re just looking for ‘more and different’ to what came in your module, reeling off a menu of classic shells from Ludwig, Pearl, Yamaha, Gretsch, Tama and more.

From here, Drum-Tec offers everything from In Style Of (based on iconic drummers) to genre-based packs ranging from classic rock to metal, and there’s also some electronic/hybrid packs available in the Beyond Acoustics range.

Not every pack is available for every module, but you can filter the search to only show packs that will work with your module and once again there are foolproof instructions on downloading them and getting them into your kit.

Stuart Williams
Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.