Do DJs Use Drum Pads? (Beginners Guide)

In short, a lot of DJs incorporate drum pads into their setups as they can be a great way to spice up your mixes or performances. But what are they, and why should you use them?

Do DJs Use Drum Pads

What Are DJ Drum Pads? 

Drum pad machines are popular DJ music mixers that allow you to create music using just a few button clicks. You can make your own beats, mix loops and record your own melodies using the pads on the soundboard, which makes music production so much easier. 

You can also add various sound effects to each pad that you can incorporate into your performance. 

How Do Drum Pads Work? 

Drum pads have an array of colorful buttons, and each one has a different sound for creating music. Typically, buttons of the same color palette will play similar sounds, which is great if you’re new to using a drum pad.

You can also assign your own unique sounds and effects to your drum pad, which can usually be done through DJ software. Once you start using a drum pad, you’ll soon begin to feel like a pro beats maker.

They’re also great for mixing your own beats. Some of the preset beats and music styles are: 

  • Drum & Bass
  • House 
  • Electro 
  • EDM 
  • Hip-Hop 
  • Future Bass 
  • Dubstep 
  • Trap

Why Should You Use A Drum Pad? 

Whenever you watch professional DJs perform, they have a fantastic ability to manipulate the audience by controlling the room’s atmosphere. Not only are they talented, but they’re also super skilled at creating dynamic sets which keep their audiences engaged. 

Instead of just pressing a button on their laptop to trigger a loop or start a track, the best DJs find ways to interact with a song. One of the ways they achieve this is by using a drum pad. 

Drum pads are very versatile devices and are more than just a pad that can produce drum beats. Modern drum pads are MIDI triggering tools, programmable digital devices that can help you achieve the impossible. 

Some of the things you can achieve through a drum are to be able to perform bass lines, activate 808 beats, access song parameters, and trigger the next song.

Common Drum Pad Setups 

As each DJ is different, every DJ has their preferences for their DJ set up. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common drum pad setups. 

Roland SPD-Style Pads 

For most people, a drum pad is just a drum pad. They like a straightforward, no-nonsense piece of equipment like the Roland SPD pad. However, it does have MIDI trigger mechanisms that have a host of options for those who want to get a bit more technical.

MIDI Fighter-Style Controller 

Some people prefer something like an arcade button controller, a MIDI controller used for performance and utility functions.

It may not have as much of a natural feeling as Roland pads, but it has many advantages – like more triggers and unique lighting options.

MIDI fighter-style controllers tend to be more on the smaller and more eccentric side, which many DJs prefer. 

Push-Style Devices 

You can also use an Ableton Push controller as a drum pad. These are pretty powerful devices that act as fully functional performance hubs. Many professional DJs like to use push controllers as the center of their DJ setup, as it functions as a sort of brain. 

Ways To Use A Drum Pad During A Live Performance

As mentioned previously, the best performing DJs are the ones who can interact with a song while playing it. But when you program a DJ set with live drum pad use, you need to keep in mind that you will be performing.

Many DJs create beautiful tracks, but they’re in a finished state. This means that very little needs to be done live for the track to work. 

Using a drum pad live will bring a central element to your performance. Read on for some creative ways to incorporate drum pads into your performance.

Use A Drum Pad As A Performance Or Instrument Substitution 

A widespread production technique is to use the drum pad as an instrument substitution. Once you’ve completed an entire track, mute the drums and see if you can perform the drum beat live and in time with the track.

You don’t have to do it throughout the entire track, but it can be helpful during the first verse to pull the audience into your performance. 

Show Off Your Skills 

If you really want to impress your audience, go about your normal performance but add in a breakdown! This can be a new bridge that will make it a unique performance moment. 

Play Around With Dynamics

Another great way to keep the set’s foundation the same while adding an interesting dynamic change is to use the drum pad to layer sounds. 

You can layer beats on top of chord changes or melodies or use the drum pad to emphasize the intricacies of a track. This will keep you moving and will further engage the audience. 

Keep Moving 

To keep your audience interested, you need to develop a live performance attitude that should shine through during your set. Try and move around more during your performance, as more often than not, it’ll be worth it.

Think of yourself as a musician, so you’ll want to make the performance as captivating as you can. 

Also, make a habit of recording and looping drums live. Most DJ programs will naturally quantize what you play, so there’s no need to worry about mistakes. 

How To Incorporate A Drum Pad Into Your Set Up 

When setting up your drum pad, think of the “brain” of your performance – for most DJs, this is their software. DJ programs will allow you to assign different sounds and effects to the drum pad and change the digital elements.

If you’re going to use a drum pad as part of a live performance, start by assigning different drum samples to the pad. 

You can record and loop these samples live, or you can simply play them from pre-recorded sounds. If you have a more high-tech drum pad, you can program it to act as a song navigation tool as well.

With just a touch of a button, you can switch to the next song or trigger a tracks’ chorus. 

In Conclusion…

Many professional and performing DJs use a drum pad as part of their setup, as it can add a lot of live aspects that can step up your performances.

Whether or not you want to add a drum pad to your equipment is up to you, but it does really help you find more creative ways to perform. 

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