This is part 1 of the Using an electronic drum kit with Rock Band FAQ.
An electronic drum kit has several major advantages over a standard Rock Band drum kit. This shouldn't be surprising…after all, a drum kit made for seriously playing music costs several hundred dollars…on the low end! In this case, you do get what you pay for…and what you get is listed point by point below.
1. Quieter play. The plastic pads of the standard Rock Band drum kit are jarringly loud and somewhat unpleasant to strike. They make exactly the type of sound you would expect to hear from hitting a large piece of plastic. The shock from hitting hard plastic pads also transfers back to your hands through the drum sticks, which can make extended play painful after an hour or so. It literally feels like carpal tunnel syndrome if you have sensitive hands.
See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSu-6rpvKJU and skip to 1:22 for an example of the sound made by the Rock Band drum kit when you hit it.
An electronic drum set will either make a lower rubbery thump sound or a quieter trampoliney type of sound, depending on the type of drum pads you get. Both are vastly superior to the clacking noises produced by the Rock Band drum kit.
2. Authentic and durable kick pedal performance. The kick pedal included with Rock Band is prone to breaking and behaves significantly differently from a real kick pedal.
Real kick pedals are using the pedal to lever a beater over into a bass drum. The Rock Band pedal, on the other hand, just has a spring in it. This means the resistance on the pedal increases significantly as you press it down. Pressing this repeatedly can grow tiring, especially if you use a heel down technique where you keep your foot flat against the pedal.
Second, the Rock Band pedal triggers in mid throw. Obviously, a real bass drum "triggers" when the beater hits the drum and your foot stops as a result. So playing on the Rock Band pedal is basically training you incorrectly in this respect.
Third, real kick pedals are made of metal and simply aren't going to break. The Rock Band 1 pedal is made of plastic and has no support in the toe area of the pedal, meaning that part of the pedal is likely to snap off over time if you give it a good pounding.
See the following video for an example – "Rock Band Kick Pedal Breaks mid song".
3. Greatly superior durability. The Rock Band drum kit is less prone to breaking than the pedal itself, but can and does wear out or break over time if you are hard on the kit. The plastic pads can cave in or the sensors can become unresponsive for a number of reasons. Some of the top players have gone through at least 8 kits via warranty replacement and counting.
An electronic drum kit, on the other hand, is designed to take a pounding. You can give the pads a good beating and not worry about it. They've been designed to take hard hits.
4. Reliable hit detection. The Rock Band drum kit itself simply drops hits. Especially quick hits. A defective hit makes playing songs with rolls impossible because the controller itself may end up dropping a good percentage of your hits and cause you to fail. There are all sorts of creative mods that people have tried to implement to get their drums working properly. Again, if you look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSu-6rpvKJU, a modification involving socks wrapped around the pads helps tighten up the sensitivity of the Rock Band drum kit so that it can be used on expert level songs.
Even a basic electronic drum kit isn't going to miss hits. It's designed for playing real music.
The opposite problem can also occur…cross triggering between pads or erroneous double hits on a single pad are an issue with some Rock Band drum kits. Electronic drums suffer from this problem less, and actually feature settings in the drum brain so that you can adjust the sensitivity of each pad and mask double hits on the same pad.
And…although this doesn't apply to most gamers, if you play Rock Band at a high level, dropped or double hits are a SERIOUS problem. An electronic drum kit could raise the level of your game significantly and ensure that your scores are all about you and not how lucky you got with the cheap Rock Band drum kit that day.
See the following video for an example of missed hits on a Rock Band drum kit – "Faulty Rock Band drums, READ THE INFO PEOPLE"
5. Adjustable layout. A real drum kit is laid out more comfortably than the Rock Band drum kit. It's pretty obvious that the Rock Band drum kit is an accessory for playing a game, not an actual product. You can customize each of the pads on an electronic drum kit to the exact height and tilt that you want, and the stand will naturally surround you as opposed to being this tiny kit that sits in front of you.
Check out this high end setup … it speaks for itself – "Rockband using Roland TD-20 V-Drums".
6. Play real drums. You can play an electronic drum kit outside of Rock Band. It's a real musical instrument. No further explanation necessary!
For the sake of completeness, we should also mention these. =)
1. Electronic drums cost more money. A lot more. Rock Band drums cost about 50 dollars standalone. Expect a good low end electronic drum kit setup to cost around 1000 dollars when all is said and done.
2. Electronic drums aren't Rock Band drums. You may get so used to playing on a nice drum kit that you won't be able to play so well as your friend's house on his standard Rock Band drum kit. Personally speaking, I'm light years beyond where I used to be in terms of raw skill due to enjoying playing on this modification so much. If I go to a friend's house, I just don't worry about the score.
If, for some reason, you need to compete seriously on a standard Rock Band kit, then you might want to keep one around to practice on.
Hey, life could be worse, right?