Drum Triggers: What Are They?

Drum triggers have revolutionized the way musicians create sound by providing a bridge between acoustic and electronic drumming. By picking up vibrations from the drum head or shell, these devices can send signals to a module or interface that trigger an array of electronic sounds. As the interface translates your strikes into different tones and timbres, possibilities become endless for creating unique sounds and expanding your sonic palette.

In this article, we will dive deep into the world of drum triggers, exploring how they work, their benefits, installation tips, troubleshooting techniques, and more. Whether you’re a pro drummer looking to enhance your performance or a beginner curious about incorporating electronic elements into your kit, this guide will provide all the information you need to make it happen with drum triggers. Let’s get started!

What Are Drum Triggers?

Drum triggers are innovative devices that revolutionize the way drummers can create and manipulate sounds. These triggers, often referred to as “electronic ears,” are a musician’s best friend when it comes to expanding their sonic possibilities.

A drum trigger is essentially a sensor attached to either an acoustic drum or a hardware pad. Its purpose is to detect and convert physical actions, such as striking the drum or tapping on the pad, into electronic signals that can be processed by a sound module.

By using drum triggers, drummers can change the sound of their drums with just about everything they strike. From acoustic snare drums to cymbals, every hit becomes an opportunity for creativity and experimentation.

Moreover, drum triggers offer various options for customizing the sound. By adjusting parameters like velocity and frequency, you can change the characteristics of each hit. This allows you to create different sounds and add layers of complexity to your performance.

One popular example of a drum trigger system is Roland’s SPD-SX Sampling Percussion Pad. With this device, you have access to an extensive range of sounds and effects that can be triggered in real-time while playing your acoustic drums.

In conclusion, drum triggers open up a whole new world of possibilities for drummers. They let us explore different sounds and textures without being limited by the traditional acoustic instrument alone. So if you’re looking to expand your sound palette and take your drumming skills to the next level, it’s time to dive into the exciting world of drum triggers!

How Do Drum Triggers Work?

Drum triggers are innovative devices that bring a whole new level of flexibility to drumming. They allow drummers to integrate electronic sounds into their acoustic drum setups, opening up endless possibilities for creativity and sonic exploration. But how exactly do these drum triggers work?

At its core, a drum trigger is a small electronic sensor that picks up vibrations when struck and converts them into electrical signals. These signals are then sent to a sound module or percussion instrument, which produces the desired electronic sound.

When you hit a drum equipped with a trigger, the vibration caused by the impact is detected by the sensor. The trigger then sends a signal to the sound module, which interprets it as a specific sound. This technology allows you to create a variety of different sounds from your drums using just one instrument.

Drum triggers can be mounted on various parts of the drum kit, including the shell, rim, or even on individual drum heads. They come in different types and models, offering varying levels of sensitivity and customization options.

By adding these triggers to your acoustic drums, you can expand your music gear arsenal and unleash your creativity like never before. Whether you want to add additional electronic sound layers to your songs or experiment with unique hybrid setups, drum triggers provide the tools you need to achieve something truly extraordinary in your music production journey.

Drum Trigger Set Up

Once you have chosen the right drum triggers for your acoustic drum kit, it’s time to set them up. Drum trigger set up involves positioning and connecting the triggers to your drums or cymbals, as well as routing their signals to a sound module. Here are some steps to help you with the process:

  1. Positioning: Place the drum triggers on your drums or cymbals where they can accurately capture the desired sounds. It’s important to position them in a way that minimizes any unwanted vibrations or cross-talk.
  2. Mounting: Attach the drum triggers securely to your drums using adhesive pads, clamps, or other mounting mechanisms provided by the manufacturer. Make sure they are firmly attached and aligned with the instrument’s playing surface.
  3. Connecting: Connect each trigger to its corresponding input on a trigger module using appropriate cables (TRS or TS). The connections should be secure and free from any loose connections.
  4. Sensitivity Adjustment: Every trigger module allows you to adjust sensitivity settings for each individual trigger. By adjusting these settings, you can fine-tune how responsive each trigger is to your playing dynamics.
  5. Threshold Setting: Set the threshold level on your trigger module to determine at what strength of strike it will register a triggered sound.
  6. Crosstalk Elimination: If you experience any false triggering caused by vibrations from adjacent drums or cymbals, use cross talk elimination features available on some trigger modules to minimize this issue.

By following these steps and referring to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific details, you can effectively set up drum triggers on your acoustic drum kit and enhance its versatility in producing electronic sounds while preserving its natural tone and feel.

Setting the Sound Module’s Parameters

To take full advantage of drum triggers, it’s important to understand how to set the sound module’s parameters. This will allow you to customize and fine-tune your drum trigger setup for optimal performance. The sound module is the brain of your electronic drum kit, and it controls the sounds produced when you hit a drum or cymbal pad.

One of the key parameters to consider is velocity sensitivity. Drum triggers are velocity sensitive, meaning they can detect different levels of force applied to them. By adjusting the velocity sensitivity settings on your sound module, you can determine how different levels of strike force produce varying sound responses. This allows for a more dynamic and expressive playing experience.

Another parameter to consider is trigger threshold. This determines the minimum force required for the trigger to register a hit. It helps prevent unintentional triggering from vibrations or other sources.

You can also adjust retrigger time, which controls how quickly the trigger resets after being struck. Longer retrigger times create a more natural response, while shorter retrigger times allow for faster playability.

Additionally, some sound modules offer advanced features like drum trigger customization and sound transmits by vibration adjustments. These options let you fine-tune specific aspects of each drum pad’s response and even emulate acoustic drum sounds by simulating their unique resonances.

By exploring these parameters and making adjustments according to your preferences, you can unleash the full potential of your drum triggers and create a personalized playing experience that suits your style.

Triggering Terminology

The world of drum triggers comes with its own set of terminology that can be a bit confusing at first. Understanding these terms can help you better navigate the world of drum triggers and make informed decisions for your setup.

1. Single-zone vs. Multi-zone: When it comes to drum pads, there are single-zone and multi-zone options available. A single-zone pad typically triggers one sound, while a multi-zone pad allows for different sounds to be produced depending on where you hit the pad. For example, on a multi-zone snare pad, hitting the center might produce a snare sound, while hitting the rim might trigger a rim-shot sound.

2. Cross-stick: Cross-sticking is a drumming technique where instead of striking the drumhead directly with a stick, you hit the rim of the snare drum with the stick’s shaft. Some pads have cross-stick detection capabilities that allow for realistic cross-stick sounds to be triggered.

3. Choke: Choking refers to stopping an ongoing cymbal sound by grabbing it or applying pressure to it. Certain cymbal pads are designed to have choke functionality, allowing you to produce realistic choking sounds on electronic setups.

4. Bell Triggering: On cymbal pads that support bell triggering, hitting the bell area produces distinct bell sounds in addition to regular cymbal sounds when struck elsewhere.

5. Hi-Hat Control Pedals: Electronic hi-hats usually require a hi-hat control pedal alongside the trigger pad itself. These pedals provide various degrees of openness and closedness to emulate playing an acoustic hi-hat.

Understanding these triggering terminologies will help you make informed choices when building your electronic drum kit or upgrading your existing setup.

Dual – and Triple-Zone Drum Pads

Drum triggers are not limited to just triggering a single sound. Dual – and triple-zone drum pads allow for a wider range of expression and sound possibilities. With these pads, you can trigger multiple sounds from a single strike.

A dual-zone drum pad typically has two separate zones that can be struck independently to produce different sounds. For example, hitting the center of the pad might trigger a snare drum sound, while hitting the rim could trigger a cowbell or tambourine sound. This opens up new creative options for drummers looking to add more depth to their performances.

Triple-zone drum pads take it even further by adding an additional zone that can be struck to produce yet another unique sound. This allows for even more versatility in creating complex rhythms and layering different sounds.

By utilizing dual – and triple-zone drum pads, drummers can create more dynamic and nuanced performances. Whether you’re looking to add subtle accents or completely change the sound palette of your drumming, these pads provide an easy way to do so.

Next, let’s explore the world of cymbal switches and how they add another dimension to your drum triggering experience.

Cymbal Switches

When it comes to drum triggers, cymbal switches are an important factor to consider. These switches enable you to produce various sounds and add versatility to your drumming experience. By attaching a switch to a cymbal, you can create different effects and trigger specific sounds with each hit.

Cymbal switches work by detecting the vibrations created when you strike the cymbal. This information is then sent to the drum module or sound source, which produces the corresponding sound based on your settings.

In addition to traditional crash and ride cymbals, there are also hi-hat triggers available that can be attached to your existing acoustic hi-hats or used as electronic replacements. These hi-hat triggers allow for more precise control over open and closed hat sounds.

Using cymbal switches opens up a whole new world of possibilities for drummers. You can experiment with different sounds, create unique rhythms, and expand your creative expression on the drums. So don’t hesitate to explore this option and take your drumming to the next level with cymbal switches!

TRS vs. TS Cables

In the world of drum triggers, understanding the different types of cables is essential. When it comes to connecting your triggers to your sound module, you have two options: TRS (Tip-Ring-Sleeve) and TS (Tip-Sleeve).

TRS cables are commonly used for dual-zone triggers or instruments that require stereo connections. These cables have three connections: the tip, ring, and sleeve. The tip carries the signal for one zone, while the ring carries the signal for another zone or function. The sleeve is used for grounding.

On the other hand, TS cables are used for single-zone triggers or instruments that only require a mono connection. These cables have a simpler design with just two connections: the tip (signal) and the sleeve (ground).

Choosing between TRS and TS cables depends on your trigger setup and module requirements. Some modules may support both types of connections, while others may be limited to either TRS or TS.

To determine which type of cable you need, refer to your sound module’s manual or consult with an expert at a music store. It’s important to ensure that your chosen cable is compatible with both your trigger and sound module to achieve optimal performance.

Remember, using the right cable ensures reliable signal transmission from your drum trigger to the sound module, resulting in accurate triggering and seamless integration into your electronic drum setup.


What are drum triggers?

Drum triggers are electronic devices that are used to convert the physical impact of drumming into MIDI or audio signals. They are typically attached to drumheads or drum shells and are used to trigger sounds from electronic drum modules or software.

How do drum triggers work?

Drum triggers use various sensing mechanisms to detect the impact of drumming. This can include piezo sensors, contact mics, or even pressure-sensitive materials. When the trigger detects an impact, it sends a signal to the connected drum module or software, which then plays the corresponding sound.

How do I set up drum triggers?

To set up drum triggers, you’ll need to attach them to the drumheads or drum shells using adhesive or mounting hardware. Make sure the triggers are positioned correctly to capture the drum hits accurately. Then, connect the triggers to the drum module or software using the appropriate cables. Finally, adjust the sensitivity and other parameters on the drum module to optimize the trigger response.

What are dual- and triple-zone drum pads?

Dual- and triple-zone drum pads have multiple trigger areas that can produce different sounds or articulations depending on where they are struck. For example, a dual-zone drum pad may have separate triggers for the head and rim, allowing for different sounds to be produced depending on where the drumstick hits.

What are cymbal switches?

Cymbal switches are specialized drum triggers designed specifically for cymbals. They are typically mounted on cymbal stands and can detect different areas of the cymbal to trigger different sounds. Cymbal switches often offer more dynamic and realistic cymbal triggering compared to regular drum triggers.

What is the difference between TRS and TS cables?

TRS (Tip-Ring-Sleeve) and TS (Tip-Sleeve) cables are both commonly used to connect drum triggers to drum modules or software. The main difference is that TRS cables have an additional ring conductor, which allows for stereo or balanced audio signals. TS cables, on the other hand, only have two conductors and are typically used for mono or unbalanced signals.


In conclusion, drum triggers have revolutionized the way drummers create and control sound. With advancements in technology, drum triggers offer a wide range of benefits that can greatly enhance your drumming experience. The module can adjust and choose the sound triggered by the drum, giving you endless possibilities to explore. Whether you use an electronic drum pad or acoustic triggers, the result is a controlled and precise drum tone.

By adding many more tones to your kit and allowing for easy sound customization, drum triggers open up a whole new world of creativity. Additionally, they provide accurate triggering and compatibility with various modules and percussion instruments.

So whether you’re a professional drummer looking to expand your sound palette or a beginner wanting to experiment with different sounds, incorporating drum triggers into your setup is definitely worth considering. They are the gateway to unlocking unlimited sonic possibilities in your performances and recordings.