Brief History of Electronic Drums – Part 1



Timeline Part 1

1930’s – The modern acoustic drum kit takes shape, utilising foot pedals and drumsticks to trigger sounds. The layout developed by Gene Krupa and used by jazz ensembles from the 30’s onwards, has remained the archetype for drummers to this day.

oldskool drums

1949 – The first programmable drum machine is developed at Northwestern University by Clair Omar Musser.

1967 – Dutch drummer Felix Visser modifies an Acetone Rhythm box to have sound samples triggered by hand. The birth of electronic percussion.

1971 – Drummer for the band The Moody Blues, Graeme Edge, is credited with creating the first electronic drumkit, working with a professor from Sussex University, Brian Groves. Their invention is first heard on the track ‘Procession’ from the Moody Blues’ 1971 album ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’. The kit was not marketed due to it being difficult and expensive to build and being prone to mechanical failure.

1976 – American company Pollard Industries releases the Syndrum – the world’s first commercial electronic drum. It was not a commercial success and led to the financial ruin of the company, despite being endorsed by some notable drummers (Terry Bozzio, Keith Moon, among others) and used on some popular recordings (such as the Cars debut album).

pollard syndrum

Pollard Syndrum


1978 – The Simmons Company is formed which would specialise in electronic drums.

1981 – Simmons releases it’s most successful product, the SDS-5. With it’s distinctive hexagonal shaped pads and futuristic sound, it is used by an extensive list of 80’s pop bands and artists such as Duran Duran, Rush, Depeche Mode, Prince and Phil Collins.

Simmons drum pads

Simmons drum pads


Other notable products were brought out by Pearl Drums (starting with the SY1 Syncussion, released 1979).

Pearl SY1 Syncussion

Pearl SY1 Syncussion

Pearl drums have remained competitive in the electronic drum market to this day with their EPRO series of drums, however, during the 90’s and 2000’s there were 2 companies that dominated sales of electronic percussion – Yamaha and Roland.

Pearl EPRO Drums

Pearl EPRO Drums


Continue to Part 2



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