In the early 1980's the programmable drum machine was introduced to popular music, and it changed everything!
Iconic drum machines like Roland's TR-808 would spawn new sounds and genres, including the birth of both sample based new musical forms, setting the stage for Electronic music and
Hip-Hop to explode in just a few short years. The sounds created by these new instruments would become synonymous with some of the most iconic artist of the 80's and 90's, and are still used today by some of the top producers and artists in the industry.
With the advent of samples many producers began to layer these triggered sounds with live performed drums to create some pretty massive sounds, but the trend would taper off in heavier music toward the early and mid 90's with advent of grunge and alternative rock. Interestingly some of the largest band to emerge in the industrial and shock scene used drum machine both live and on recorded albums, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson are both examples of heavy artists that kept drum machines, at least for awhile.
Of course I'm not saying that drum machines are irrelevant, in fact it is quite the opposite, with samplers and drum machine being commonplace in nearly all studios commercial or otherwise, and there are so many great options available now that you can incorporate a drum machine/sampler into nearly any set-up.
Which brings us to one of the many interesting integrations for these cool robot pals!
The components of a simple hybrid drum set up are fairly simple
Acoustic Drum Kit
It is truly staggering just how many option are out there for acoustic drum kits these days, and I encourage you to do your research and test a few out for yourself before you purchase one. I Highly recommend Mapex Drums (I am endorsed by Mapex) but decide what works best for you. Looking at what some of your favorite drummers are playing, and how they shape their tones are good starting places too.
Having a fairly scaled back acoustic drum set (3-4 pieces) will be easier to work with then a larger double bass kit, though it can be done if you decide to go that route, just remember with a hybrid set up there will be many many more sounds available to you.
There are number of ways to go about hybridizing your drum set up.
Drum sample software - can be used to create sounds in a hybrid set-up, though it does require a laptop and some kind of audio interface in order to function, and depending on the desired result may also require the use of triggers. Also consider the processing power of the laptop you use, as you may run into latency issues. There are thousands of sample libraries out there. I personally like GGD's libraries like The Invasion Kit. A few other awesome choices are Native Instruments and Toontracks Superior Drummer 3.
Sample Pads - have multiple strike surfaces, and in nearly all cases come with vast factory installed libraries, which can also be expanded by purchasing sound packs as well as being able to load samples from an external drive provided they are the correct file type. Some of the can even be used to cut and splice your own samples for on the fly arranging like the Maschine MK 3
Electronic Drum Modules - although usually found on completely electronic drum kits you can still incorporate these into your hybrid set up though it can be tricky, and it does still require the use of pads or triggers, all which may have compatibility issues, so I highly recommend doing your research before making any big purchases. The Roland TD50 flagship module is my first choice if you go this route but there are others out there.
Triggers - These are a must have for hybrid drumming set ups. The allow the hit on a drum to be picked up by the software or sound source "Triggering" the sound to play. Again I would highly recommend doing your research and if possible renting some triggers to play around with, especially if you are not familiar with them.
Hybrid Drum Studio Use
Because nearly every interface and trigger module has a midi out you can record your drum performances and also print them down to midi for later, should you decide you like a sampled sound better in the post production or for quickly and efficiently with out having to draw in hits and manually try to match the players natural groove, which arguably can't be done. Also being able to connect your whole drum kit up like a midi controller in your DAW can help you to create templates, meaning that you could have a essentially a plug and play set up for getting your ideas down quickly.
I Hope that you enjoyed this quick run down of Hybrid Drum Kits, feel free to contract me with any questions and don't forget to Follow me for more updates!