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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.

27 Responses

  1. Don

    Hi, Phil. I’m writing to you because I cannot seem to find an answer to my problem throughout the many forums I’ve visited. You seem to have the expertise and actual R&D, coupled with field knowledge pick apart my issue.

    To preface, my setup. I use PD-8, PD-5, PD-7, CY-8 pads along with a Roland RMP-12 pad for the snare. I record my sessions live with (2) Alesis Trgger I/O ;(formerly I used TD-3 and TD-5 modules), Cubase 6.5 and BFD2.

    The problem I have is double, triple, quadruple midi notes from my snare, all within milliseconds of each other, as evidenced via the midi logs in Cubase and BFD2.
    Ive have manipulated all of the settings within the Trigger I/O’s and have no luck. Have tried other a PD-8 with same results. this happens when I do very light hits or a buzz-roll. I cannot seem to get dynamic strokes without this happenning.

    I dont think I have listed all of my troubleshooting, but I am hoping that this may be enough info for you, the Master, to possibly say, Hey, I’ve had that too, this is how I fixed it Don!

  2. Hi Don,

    Is this happening only with your snare input on the Trigger I/O? If so, do you have any other open inputs you can use on your Trigger I/O’s? To me this sounds like a “Retrigger” and “Threshold” issue. That’s assuming your extra notes are very low velocity notes. I would first go back and tweak those again. It seems odd that this only happens on the snare input and not the others as well. Have you tried asking your question over at DMdrummer.com? There are a couple users over there (in the VST/MIDI section) that are very knowledgeable with VST’s like BFD2 and such. I hope that helps.

  3. Baz

    Hi Phil, great site, you clearly have a lot of experience & I wonder if I could pick your brains? I’ve been playing edrums for 30+ years from the analog days of “Ultimate Percussion”, KAT MidiKiti Pro with an Alesis SR16, thru’ ddrumAT to my current TD12. I was asked to find an ekit for my nephew as he is about to start drum lessons at school. I’ve bought a Session Pro DD502 (yeah I know. but the budget was barely more than a pre-owned CY12RC :-) the kit has some bits missing including the HiHat foot pedal. Well, try as I might to get something up & running I can’t get it to happen. The module looks like the HH ctrl socket is 3 pole. I can get open & closed sounds with a changeover switch, but strike force has some effect too. I saw your project converting an old pedal (flames on the foot plate – possibly the one I need?) to piezo & I’m wondering about the capacitor & possibly some resistors in there…? Can I make something with a basic foot switch or do I have to get the right one please? (Session Pro AKA Millenium, Medeli, Rockburn etc etc.) Thanks, Baz

  4. I really don’t know what the inside of the DD502 hi-hat pedal looks like. The pedal I had with the flames on it was made for the Alesis DM5 which was just a two pole input (basic on/off switch). You should be able to use any Medeli DD502 hi-hat pedal. I know in the USA you can get a Simmons SD5K or SD7K hi-hat pedal from Guitar Center that would work. I’m not sure where in the UK you can get the equivalent (which is just a standard Medeli dd502 hi-hat pedal). Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

  5. Mike Gosha

    Hi Phil,

    I came across many of your threads throughout the e drum forums. You are the person to ask. Phil, I recently purchased the ALESIS DM10X kit and after two days of playing, the kick pad simply dropped out. It stopped working. I inserted the kick pad cable into the snare and tested it. The bass drum sounded. I returned the kick and was given a brand new, boxed one. After three days of playing, I noticed that it started to drop notes. Then it also stopped. My son-in-law opened it and discovered that the Piezo was cracked and one wire disconnected. Phil, I have been playing A kits since 1974 and do not bash my kits. My son-in-law felt that there was not enough protection for the trigger on the kick pad. Otherwise, the kit sounds great. Is there a specific conversion, or upgrade for the kick pad ? I like the kit but am at a loss. I also use a medium felt beater. The vendor offered to swap out a Roland TD11KV (?), but I like the Alesis set up.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  6. That a shame Alesis couldn’t get you a bass trigger the worked correctly. Unfortunately the bass trigger design by Alesis is not very good. If you are really wanting to keep it, you should consider a mesh head upgrade. Over at DMdrummer.com (another one of my sites) there is a topic on how to upgrade the standard Alesis pads to mesh: Alesis DM10 Mesh head Pad Upgrade Video!
    If you decide that it isn’t worth keeping, I’d take the offer for the Roland TD11KV by the vendor. I hope that helps.

  7. Simon

    Hi Phil – great site. I am interested in an Alesis Trigger IO (for triggers coming from my modular synth), but it seems that it is unavailable, and lots of retailers’ websites have statements indicating that it might be discontinued. Any idea if that is true? Or if there might be an update coming?



  8. No it isn’t bing discontinued. It just so happens the Ddrum is going to be sell the Trigger I/O under there brand name. Its called the Ddrum DDTi. Here’s where that info came from: http://www.dmdrummer.com/index.php?topic=4873.0
    I’m not sure if Alesis will still be selling it under their own name, but keep an eye out for the Ddrum DDTi.

  9. Maura

    Hi! I love your story and your knowledge and enthusiasm for all things e-drum related! I’m a drummer/singer/aspiring bass guitar or electric guitar player/artist/ proofreader (whew!) and was wondering if you would allow me to proofread your website for grammatical errors. Spelling doesn’t seem to be your strong point (and that’s not a criticism, by the way. Many really smart people can’t spell). I would like to help you make this website the best it can be. I’m not working at the moment (bad back problems) and so I have an abundance of free time. If you let me proofread your site for FREE, I will have gained some more real world experience which will help me keep my editing/proofreading skills sharp and look good on my resume. So, what do you say?

  10. Your more than welcome to. I can’t guaranty that all your corrections will be used. Some of the writing to suppose to be written as a conversation and not necessarily a text book. BTW, it was a criticism. It was “constructive criticism” which I don’t have issues with. :) I welcome all constructive criticism.



  11. Maura

    Phil, sorry about that! I should have said “constructive criticism”. Conversational writing still needs to “read well”. For instance, in your reply you have a few errors. If I re-wrote it it would look like this:

    You’re more than welcome to. I can’t guarantee that all your corrections will be used. Some of the writing is supposed to be written as a conversation and not necessarily a text book. BTW, it was a criticism. It was “constructive criticism” which I don’t have issues with.

    Anyway…onward… 😉

  12. Aurelie Sarcher

    Hi Phil !

    Sorry in advance, English is not my first language…(from Montreal)
    I am writing to you because I saw your video “Inside the Alesis DM10 Trigger Pads” on Youtube, and I found it very interesting. I have actually the same problem as Mike Gosha (above), I have the Alesis DM10 Studio Kit and my kick pad stopped working after 2 years. The music shop is telling me the piezo and the foam need to be changed. However, they contacted Alesis a month ago and Alesis told them they don’t make these pads anymore so they don’t have the components…they are looking around to see if they can send something equivalent but I have little hope… It seems they want me to buy a new one… Would you happen to know if there is an online shop where I could buy these components ?

    Thanks a lot,


  13. I can think of a few online shops, but I’m not sure they ship to Canada. For the piezo you can try a local electronics/hobby store (in the State we have Radio Shack, but I don’t know what you have in Montreal) or you can try http://www.mouser.com. Make sure you order a piezo element with two wire leads.

    As for the foam, I’m assuming you mean the thin black foam sheet just on top of the metal plate. That foam sheet is made of EVA foam (or craft foam) I highly recommend that you do not put EVA foam back in your kick trigger. EVA does not last very long. I would try to find some 1/4 inch thick neoprene foam rubber to replace that pad. Sometime mouse pads are made of neoprene foam rubber and can be cut down to fit as a replacement pad. You can also try to purchase 1/4 inch thick neoprene foam rubber from Amazon.com. I hope that works for you.


  14. Aurelie Sarcher

    Thank you very much for your effectiveness ! I finally chose this piezo: http://www.robotshop.com/ca/en/sfe-piezo-element.html and I’m going to use a mouse pad for the foam.

    Thanks again for your help,

  15. That piezo looks like it should work just fine. Good luck with your repair.

  16. Todd

    Any advice with the Pro X Hi Hats as of yet? Mine sound pretty crappy.



  17. Just got the spring that was missing with my Pro X hi-Hat. I haven’t had a chance to spend any quality time with it. Hoping to get around to it next week.

  18. Bernard

    Hi there. Stumbled onto this while researching. Thank you for creating this site. It is immensely helpful. Thank you sir. Putting together my own e-kit here in the Philippines. Ddrum ddti should be here after the new year from california and I’ve converted my 5-pad practice kit with piezos. Feeling a little “Frankenstein-ish” cuz it’s like I’ve put the body together and now I’m just waiting for the brain and a right arm (hehe) I decided to go with a branded hi-hat (the right arm) so I also ordered the Alesis Pro-X. So my question is: Is the Pro-X compatible with just the ddti going to my computer with ezdrummer? Was also hoping you’ve gotten around to testing YOUR Pro-X. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Thank you in advance sir.

  19. Thanks for the comments. Sorry, I haven’t tested my Pro-X with the Trigger I/O (same as the DDTi) yet. Hopefully I get around to it in the next couple weeks.

  20. Bernard

    Alright. Thank you. Guess I’ll go with the safe choice it seems. Pintech w/ the hi-hat controller or the entire trigger cymbal set. Though i heard they don’t last very long. Any truth to that? Again, thank you in advance.

  21. Ray Maas

    Phil, do you know if there’s any way to play a midi sequence, such as an accompaniment, through the midi in – in the Simmons SDMP1? It seems the only midi notes I can get to trigger are the ones I have assigned to the pads and the external pad inputs. There is a General midi voice list in the SDMP1 manual – I just assumed it had a full midi synth inside and a way to access it, but I can’t figure out how.

    Ray Maas

  22. Ray Maas

    And if I could figure out that (my last message), then I could probably also figure out how to use my Alesis trigger IO to use the sounds in the SDMP1. I have had limited success with this – as I said, I can get it to trigger the sounds that I have assigned to the pads, but I would really like to get it to trigger different sounds, so that I could use the Alesis drums for a standard set and the SDMP1 for those “different” sounds.

    Any help will be appreciated.

    Thanks again,
    Ray Maas

  23. yanorox

    Hi Phil,
    I’m hoping you can help me out with my problem. I’ve been searching for some time now for a solution. About 8 years ago I purchased a Yamaha dtextreme iis. At the time it appeared to be one of the top edrum sets on the market. I didn’t really have a lot of time to spend with it so it kind of sat around for several years and I only used it about 10 time or so. I finally got around to setting it up and using it about two years ago and after about 5 sessions with it, the drum module just quit on me. I sent it back to the dealer I bought it from and they said that Yamaha had found that the chip was defective which caused it to overheat and basically fry the chip. So they discontinued the product. They did not offer me a solution or discounted path to a replacement module. What I’m left with is about a $1000 POS. Do you know of any way I can get this thing to work or if there is anyway I can reasonably salvage my drum kit without having to lay out another $1000 plus? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  24. That’s a tough one. Your best bet is to look on ebay for a used IIs module. Unfortunately, I’ve never heard of an easy fix for burned out chips. Before you do anything, I would double check to make sure you don’t just have a bad power supply. See if you can find a properly rated supply and see if that fixes the issue. According to Yamaha’s website it should be a DC 12V Adaptor. Good luck!

  25. yanorox

    Thanks for the response. I have seen modules on ebay. However, I’m reluctant to purchase one as I have been told that the chip problem is inherent in this model and I would rather not be playing a live gig or even rehearsal and have the module go out on me again. Would there be a way to use my device as a way to connect my pads to a PC and use some PC software for the voices? All the connections are there just the chip is bad. Any thoughts?

  26. Dan

    Hi Phil,

    I’m looking to buy a beginners edrum kit for my son(and me!), what would you recommend? The Alesis DM6 gets good reviews but the Pro Session DD505 seems popular too. Is there much difference? Thanks

  27. ronyd

    Hi Phil,
    I was reading your post on a DIY rim switch: http://www.vdrums.com/forum/advanced/diy/39850-pondering-an-upgrade

    Is there any false triggering of the head when the rim switch is hit?

    I built something like the Yamaha groove and cascara wedge. Unfortunately, attaching to the tension rods yields triggering of the head also.

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