“We’re not trying to replace music teachers- no, no. We want to help students of music enjoy learning their instrument because making music is good for you.”
Joel, representative of Yamaha
For the last couple of months, I’ve had the joy of learning a new instrument. And by “joy”, I mean both frustration and triumph. I am not a spring chicken and it can be intimidating learning something completely new. I didn’t think about this before I agreed to try out Yamaha’s electronic drum kit, the DTX402K. Originally, I thought my child, a real drummer, would be around to check it out and give some feedback. I’d play around with it too, and ba-da-dum! Easy review. Except my child decided to travel and would not be here for the entire period I was loaned the set. I decided I would learn the drums on my own. (I did let some of my piano and guitar students bang on it too.) I’m a professional musician. I can play a complicated melodic instrument while singing. This was drums. Easy, right? Yes and No. The drumset is not an easy instrument. But with the Yamaha DTX, I had such a good time, I didn’t mind the practice required to learn.
At the end of this review is a video compilation of me learning the drums 🙂
(The picture above is the 402 series, but has a kick drum pad, which my model did not.)
My twelve-year-old niece (who also is a piano student) came over to help me set up the kit. There was one big box filled with boxes in boxes. Taking everything out, checking that everything was there, and figuring the setup with the paper instructions took about forty-five minutes. We were very careful, photographing each step because I knew I would be sending the kit back and needed to remember how to package it again. This probably added to my time. Later, I found a video showing how to set it up, which might have cut down the time even further.
Yamaha DTX vs Acoustic
NOTE: This review is specifically for the 402K model since higher-end DTX kits are more acoustic in feel and sound.
I moved the Yamaha DTX to another room after set-up and it was so light, I could carry it myself. This was amazing to me because I spent years helping my drummer child move their acoustic drum kit in and out of the car for gigs. We actually bought a new car with the drumset in mind because we needed more space. Acoustic drums are a cumbersome and tedious instrument to move around.
Once the kit was set up my niece got banging away and had fun sampling the different sounds the kit can make. There are several different “drum kits” that are programmed into the system. There is a console attached that is very simple to figure out. A ten-year-old music student of mine found the songs that come loaded with the system and spent fifteen minutes pressing every single one of them and smashing the drum heads with the sticks as hard as they could. I winced and hoped the kit was “kid-proof”, and yes, it was. The drums are meant to be hit, and the console is built sturdy. Both children were delighted with the sounds and songs that come with the Yamaha DTX, and had to be pulled away.
What was more delightful was that I put earphones on them and didn’t have to listen to their experimentation. Honestly, I didn’t mind listening to my child practice drums years ago, but I’m not sure about the neighbors. Unless you have a sound-proof room, an electronic kit is truly the better choice in a city or close-knit suburban neighborhood.
My elderly mother is hard of hearing, but she wanted to try the drums. I put the earphones on her, cranked up the volume and she gleefully made music that she could hear, but wasn’t too loud for anyone else. It was a wonderful moment.
When I complained to my child that they would be away during my drum loan period, they said, “Call Daryll.” Yes! Daryll is a drummer friend of ours and he happily agreed to visit and give a “real drummer” opinion on the Yamaha DTX. Daryll sat down to play and immediately felt a difference between his acoustic set and the Yamaha DTX: he was impressed right away with the sound quality of the drums- having played other electronic sets before. He felt this one sounded very good. The foot pedals were super sensitive and loose, and he wondered if they could be adjusted. I didn’t know. This particular model, the 402K had just a pedal for the kick, while other models have an actual kick drum pad to hit. Daryll figured that might feel more like an acoustic. The heads on the drum felt like practice pads, not acoustic drum heads, but that wasn’t a negative thing, just different. The kit felt closed up to him and there are limited ways to spread the drum heads out since they are attached to a bar. He felt the cymbals had a very good response.
Although he prefers acoustic for live shows, he wished he had had the Yamaha DTX to learn on. This is because he is self-taught and doesn’t read sheet music. The apps that come with the kit were what really sold him on it.
The Main Yamaha DTX App
The console that comes with the kit has many functions, but the main app that is free and can be used on any device, has even more ways to adjust and use the Yamaha DTX. First, it can be used to change the sound of each drum head. Each drum head has about a dozen different sounds that it can make and then each sound can be altered as well making it extremely versatile. A built-in metronome can be used for simple drills. Then there are multiple learning tools within this main app for any level of drummer. Utilizing the built-in songs, the kit can test and give feedback on your playing.
In the simplest mode, you can play a built-in song and simply test your timing, choosing which drum heads you want the kit to pay attention to, and being able to adjust the tempo to what you are comfortable with. Other modes break down the songs into sections to make learning easier for a beginner, complete with the musical notation. In one mode, you can watch a video of someone playing, which is extremely helpful to learn technique. I also liked that when I would get my “grade” for each level, it was broken down by drumhead so I could see exactly where I needed to improve. For the advanced drummer there are further tools within the app that will challenge and help fine-tune skills. The details can be found on this Yamaha video here. (On the video he changes a tom to a cowbell, which is what I mention in my video wanting to do.)
While learning the drums myself, I only used the built-in songs with the Yamaha DTX. Although Daryll enjoyed those as well, once he saw the next app, he was very excited.
Shortly after I received the kit, I spoke with a Yamaha representative on the phone about the apps and how to use them effectively. Joel was very helpful in explaining the main app, which, as I mentioned, was the one I used most. But he also was hoping I would check out another app called Rec’n’Share. I downloaded it and tested it with Daryll, who decided to download it himself as soon as he got home.
Rec’n’Share is a way to play along accurately to your favorite tunes. This app takes any song on your device and allows you to alter the speed without changing the pitch. In this way, you can slow down a complicated part to learn at your own pace. It also lets you select parts of the song to loop, helping with practice. Further, while plugged into any Yamaha electronic device, you can hear yourself playing along with the song. Then you can record yourself playing the song either just the music, or with video, and then edit it. Finally, it also directly connects to your social media accounts. So within one application, you can listen at your own speed, learn, record, edit, and share with the world.
Price and Support
The Yamaha DTX 402K model I learned on sells for about $500. (Throne and accessories not included.) This may seem like a lot, but in comparison, we bought my child an acoustic drumkit for $350 and it was very, very basic. We spent the next few holidays upgrading it for hundreds of dollars. For the price of this electronic drum kit, you not only get quality drums but the learning tools that come with it. Plus online help and support. Yamaha DTX.com is filled with video tutorials explaining how to get the most out of your kit, plus a community forum for any and all questions and support.
My Drumming Journey
I work best with deadlines, but without a drum instructor, I turned to social media to keep me accountable. Each week I had the Yamaha DTX, I uploaded a video detailing my progress both in basic drum skills and how the Yamaha DTX was helping me learn them. I distinctly remember my child in the basement practicing her beginner drumming skills to a metronome on a single drum pad, and wish we had been able to provide her with this set instead. I had such a good time practicing, learning was not a chore, it was my reward at the end of the day. Even when doing a drill, I could practice at my own pace with one of the built-in songs (of multiple genres) and get immediate feedback on how I was progressing.
At the end of my loan period, I was able to read basic drum notation, keep a beat (98-100% accuracy rate) with all four limbs doing something (ha), and even learned a few “fills.”
I highly recommend the Yamaha DTX 402K. Electronic drums are not a replacement for a music teacher or the special feel and sound of an acoustic instrument. Rather, it is an excellent way to practice for all levels of drummers. I was surprised at how fun it could be to learn a new instrument and I know that is because of the way the Yamaha DTX was designed. It is a powerful tool for any drummer to improve and hone their skills. Having this kit in the house can make drumming accessible and enjoyable for everyone in your family.