You might be asking yourself, “What the heck is HellFire™ Electronic Drum Systems”? Well, I am hoping that it will become the number one resource for all things eDrums (DIY of course). I know it’s a tall order, but if I set my goals high, hopefully, I will end up somewhere in the middle. Before I get to my first edrum kit story I will give you a little background of myself.
My name is Phil Boland and as far back as I can remember, I have always liked taking things apart and finding out how they work. I started playing drums in the summer of 1988 (I was 14). In 1991 I started tinkering with electronic drums and made my first complete kit by the summer of 1992. After high school I went to college and received a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. While in college I honed my CAD skills (I started learning cad as a senior in high school). After college (1997) I got a job in an engineering department of a local company. While there, I got much more proficient with AutoCad and learned of a great resource of parts call McMaster Carr. During my seven year tenure with this company I made several edrum kits and started documenting my progress. In 2004 I was let go do to downsizing. It was at this time I considered trying to start a business making edrums and selling them on eBay. I knew of eBay for some time but I didn’t think of selling stuff there until I needed money. So I made the HellFire™ Electronic Drum Systems name and logo. Obviously I didn’t go into that business. Instead I started Prizmatic Media with my long time friend and cousin Chris Boland (He also runs Guitar for Life). Hellfire™ Electronic Drum Systems sat on a shelf for a few years. So why didn’t I go into business making edrums? In 2004 while looking for the latest in electronic drumming I found a forum for homemade edrums. I wasn’t searching for edrum forums it just popped up. I knew there were forums for other things, but it never dawned on me that there might be forums for DIY edrumming. Looking at these forums, I learned that some of my original ideas, but not all of them were not all that original. I did not want people thinking I stole these ideas and called them my own. That brings us to now. I figure, if I can’t sell them, I’ll give my ideas away……
My First eDrum Kit
The first time I saw an electronic drum set (a complete set, not just a few pads) was when Def Leppard started releasing music videos for there Hysteria Album. My first experience with electronic drumming was when I received a Xmas gift from my father in 1988. That gift was the Yamaha DD-5. By 1990 a owned a Yamaha DD-6 as well. Late in 1991 I decided I wanted an electronic drum set for myself. Edrum sets at this time were very expensive, so I decided to make one.
I decided to open up my DD-5 & 6, and find out what made them tick. This is when I learned that the piezo element was the hart of an eDrum trigger. Now all I had to do was remove the pads from the DD-5 & 6 and mount them on some kind of framework, but how to mount the pads. At this time (early 1992) I was working for a local restaurant after school. I found the gravy cans from the gravy we used were the perfect size to mount the pads from the DD-5 & 6 to. After a few days of work I had eight gravy cans that I ran through the restaurants dishwasher. I then visited my local Radio Shack store to buy a few parts (wire, phono connectors, solder, audio cables). The rest of the parts came from the hardware store (3/4″ PVC pipe & connectors, pop rivets, bolts etc.).
So what did this drum set look like? I wish I had a picture, but I don’t. So what did it look like? If I had to some it up in one word, crap!, but is was my first go at it. The pads from the DD-5 & 6 were mounted on the gravy cans, and each can had a RCA phono jack on it. The cans were cut to fit around the 3/4″ pvc pipe and pop riveted to the pipe. The pvc pipe was also use as a drum rack. The rack, more or less, was in a standard 5-piece drum orientation. It did use a standard bass drum pedal. This is also when I learned that 3/4″ pvc pipe was not big enough. Every-time I’d hit that bass drum trigger, the whole kit would rock back and forth pretty good. The mass of audio cables coming off the drum set ran to this big piece of ply wood that had the guts of the DD-5 & 6 screwed down to it so the yamaha units were side by side. I wired the headphone jacks of the two units together, and from there I plugged it in to my Fisher book shelf stereo units auxiliary input. What could I say, it worked!
I recorded with this kit just once, but it was only to test our bands new purchase of a Fostex X-26 4-track recorder! (Ah, those were the days) Yes, I still have the recording, and No, I won’t torture you with it.