Do you have an electronic drum kit and no drum amp? Want to use your bass amp so you can jam?
In short, the answer is yes, you can safely use a bass amp to amplify an electronic drum kit, as long as you control the volume. While it’s not the ideal piece of equipment to amplify your drums, it does work just fine, and can actually sound quite good.
There are however a couple of ‘buts’ and things you need to be careful about. For that reason I would read the rest of this article, to learn more about the compatibility of this equipment and precautions to take.
A bass amp will work for electronic drums
Not everyone has the need or means to get a drum amp. So the good news is all amplifiers share many of the same components and functions, and if you’re a multi-instrument musician, a lot of your production and recording equipment will have a lot of cross-compatibility.
Bass amps and electronic drums both produce lower octave pitches than most instruments, and share quite a few similarities, which is why the bass amp is ultimately compatible with either.
They produce a lower range of frequencies than most instruments, so the ideal amplifier for either one needs to respond well to low-range pitches.
Also, they’re both underrated members of the band, never quite getting the credit they deserve for laying the groundwork for a great song (big thanks to all the drum players out there).
A bass amp can produce a good tone for the electronic drums
Some kits might sound better with certain bass amps, so you’ll want to experiment with your amp settings until you find some synergy, as well as with the overall sound of any other players you’re jamming with.
If you have someone else who can help. Try playing along and get them to adjust the settings until it sounds good. It can be tempting to crank the ‘bass’ nob right up to make the kick sound beefy, but this may compromise the sound of the other drums with higher frequencies such as the cymbals. Try to get a good balance.
Overall, a good bass amp can give a full, rich, and deep tone to your drum set.
This does come with a couple of caveats though, make sure you follow these few rules below.
Safe volume and preamp settings
Keeping the volume down to reasonable level is always a good practice for both eardrum and equipment safety, but especially important when using a bass amp for electronic drums
It’s worth noting that anything above 85 decibels is generally considered to increase your risk of hearing loss over time, and that threshold is easy to cross with even for a lower watt amp, much less a half or full stack.
A bass amp is designed to amplify a certain range of frequencies for a bass guitar. An electronic drum kit can produce both higher and lower frequency pitches than the bass guitar, so the threshold for maximum volume and bass will be lower than using it to amp a bass guitar.
How to know the amp is being strained
Keep an eye on the speaker cone.
If the cone is vibrating or moving excessively, or the tone becomes distorted (the bad kind of distortion), you’re going to want to turn down the volume/base settings on the amp. Any ambient noise like buzzing or humming should be addressed.
As a rule of thumb, you can slowly turn it up until it seems close to its limit, then keep it a notch or two lower than that.
If it’s your kid doing the jamming, you might want to supervise and set some strict guidelines. Sometimes the temptation to turn it up to 11 can be too great to resist.
A standard guitar amp is not recommended for electronic drums
Personally I would stay clear from using a guitar amp for drums.
At best, it won’t be anywhere to close to capable of responding to the low range frequencies and sound bad.
At worst, you could ruin the amp by demanding it to do something well outside its range of expertise.
Tube amps vs. solid state
Tube amps require greater precautions than solid states. Tubes can be delicate and expensive, so you don’t want to overtax your tube amps.
A small, solid-state amp is less likely to encounter issues, and you’ll likely be able to push this one a little bit harder without any ill-effects.
Both will generally work fine, so don’t be afraid to use your tube amp, as long as you’re using safe levels of volume and effects. But perhaps ask yourself if you want to risk using an expensive tube amp for your electronic drums.
Using pedals is okay, but play it safe
Pedals can put further strain on an amp at higher volumes, so make sure you follow the safety guidelines above if you plan on running any.
This applies mostly with drive, boost, distortion, fuzz, and pedals of that nature, while a loop pedal and others don’t require the same considerations.
Some bass amps will have room for multiple inputs, so you could use it for the electronic drums as well as the bass guitar. If playing solo, you can loop a rhythm, then plug in your bass guitar and lay down a bass line and the amp will be able to cover both.
Other amp options for electronic drums
As always, the best tool to do a job is the one made specifically for that job. Although a bass amp can work well, it just doesn’t stack up to a professional drum amp. The clarity in the high ranges is one of the most striking differences.
If you have a quality bass amp, and aren’t a professional, you might find it works well enough to fill the niche, and a drum amp would be overkill.
If you want to keep the volume down whilst you practice, have reservations about using your bass amp, or don’t like the tone you’re getting from a bass amp, then headphones are the way to go.
A good pair of headphones will respond to the full range of frequencies an electronic drum kit can produce. Many electronic drum sets will have an aux jack available for you to plug in your headphones for night practices or when your neighbor gets tired of listening to an hour-long drum solo.
A PA system
A PA (public address) system, is common in live gig venues and many other places to amplify all sorts of things so the audience can hear.
A PA system will not only amplify your drums, but the entire band can also plug in and jam. If you’re going to have multiple inputs into your PA, then you’re going to need a mixer who knows what they’re doing so your sound doesn’t get muddied or lost in the mix.
PA systems can be a substantial investment, but are invaluable if you plan on doing any shows, and comes in handy at any sort of gathering or community event.
Finally, Keyboard amps are another good choice if you don’t have a drum amp. They tend to be less expensive than drum amps, and some players opt to use them instead of a drum amp.
They’re well suited to wide range of frequencies, so if you happen to have one or know a keyboard player, ask them to give their amp a try.
Now that you know everything you need to know about using a bass amp with electronic drums, have a good time jamming!
So in conclusion, there is nothing wrong with using a bass amp for electronic drums. In fact it may actually have some benefits due to the fact it is designed to play lower frequencies.
Therefore, if you have one lying around already and you just want to get plauing, why not give it a go and see if you like the sound.
As with anything in the music world, getting a tool designed specifically for the task will usually yield the best results. So if you can buy a drum amplifier, that is still the optimum choice for electronic drums.