Virtual percussion usually refers to an interface that simulates playing acoustic drums, but this term can also be used to refer to digital percussion, which is essentially computer-generated drum audio. Virtual audio interfaces can be software or hardware. They can be made for professional audio recording and music performance, or they can be just for fun. Professional virtual drums can be used both in live performance and in the recording studio to enhance rhythm and timing in music.
Generally, computer-generated drum audio is programmed into software using an interface that does not look anything like the instruments that might be playing the sound. When a musician is working through a virtual percussion interface, he is often interacting with computer instruments designed to reasonably simulate the look and feel of playing that instrument for real. Virtual percussion is usually either software or a physical drum kit that triggers electronic drum sounds. Many software virtual percussion interfaces are free to play online.
Most virtual percussion suites are designed not for recording, but for fun. Most of these are online games that allow the user to play and record the instruments in the program. Usually, the sound from these games is not of the quality needed to produce a decent recording. Some professional songwriters use virtual percussion instruments as tools to design a suite to be played on an acoustic percussion instrument or professional digital percussion software.
The virtual drums used by professional recording artists differ greatly from the free versions that are available online. Professional virtual percussion is usually the percussion sound suite in an audio- or music-composition program. While most of these programs come with a basic selection of virtual percussion sounds, many percussion software programs can be upgraded using percussion sound packs. This software may or may not employ a virtual interface when the sound engineer is programming a drum beat.
Another type of virtual drum set is an electronic drum set. This type of drum set has physical drums that the drummer plays to make a beat, but rather than making an acoustic drum sound, they play a pre-recorded digital sound when a part of the electronic drum set is struck. A drummer can play this type of drum set much like a regular acoustic drum set. Sounds on an electronic virtual drum set can mimic the acoustic sounds of a real drum, or they can be made to sound like futuristic digital drums.