Tech Tip:Electro-Drumming: The New Tools, Part 1


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by Tony Verderosa

 

As a recording artist, performer, producer, author and clinician, I have been deeply involved with electronic percussion since 1987-88. I make my living behind a set of electronic drums, whether I am playing my solo techno/drum and bass show (VFX) in a club setting, composing a film score, playing in the studio or giving a drum clinic. I have also been fortunate to contribute to the design of many electronic drum systems over the past ten years.

 

 

In the '70s and '80s, electronic percussion often produced negative vibes among many drummers. The sounds were not very convincing and the pads often felt very stiff and unnatural, and that's not to mention the problems with false triggering and non-user friendly operating systems. Thankfully, much of this has changed in the past decade.

 

Recent developments in electronic drum technology have made the current series of instruments more powerful, easier to use and much more affordable. There has been an explosion in the number of compact electronic drum kits sold worldwide. The electronic drum kit has finally gained mass acceptance among drummers.

 

 

Unfortunately, the rise in popularity of electronic drums has not been accompanied by a rise in literature and educational materials focused on teaching drummers how to get the most out of these new instruments. This is the first in a series of drumming articles aimed at addressing this problem. We encourage your feedback about specific topics you would like to see covered. We will also have a resource center where electronic drummers can post questions and receive answers directly from product specialists representing electronic drum manufacturers.

 

 

This series will be constantly updated as new technologies are developed and brought to market. Whenever possible, multimedia content will provide a more dynamic and interactive experience. (i.e. hyperlinks to MP3s and streaming audio/video content).

 

 

What Electronic Drums Have To Offer
Let's take a look at the new possibilities that electronic drums have to offer. Without question, the single most important reason drummers purchase electronic kits is to practice at home or in an apartment setting without disturbing their neighbors or family members. The volume produced by acoustic drums has always been a source of trouble for any drummer looking to practice on a daily basis.

 

 

There is also a new market today comprised of people who have never played drums before and drummers who quit playing years ago to focus on new careers and family but want to get back into the music scene. Compact electronic kits offer these drummers a fresh alternative for expression that is also affordable and virtually noise free. Practicing on an electronic kit while using a pair of headphones provides a natural acoustic drum sound and feel. Many of today's modules also come with a built in sequencer packed with great bass lines, groove patterns and fully orchestrated MIDI song files to practice along with. This is far more exciting then practicing to a static metronome sound. You can mute the drummer in a sequence and jam along with the guitar, bass and keyboard grooves or you can mute everything but the bass player and get focused on locking in with the bass lines. Some modules even have a groove checker function (such as the DTxpress/DTxPro) that will challenge you to play more accurately and grade you on your performance, offering instant feedback on your progress!

 

 

Plugging a CD player directly into the audio input of electronic drum modules seems to be a new standard in the industry as well. It gives drummers the ability to jam along with their favorite CDs as well as Music Minus One packages. I have personally enjoyed the experience of a silent band, jamming entirely in a headphone system with a midi guitarist, midi bass player, MIDI keyboard player and silent brass players (brass players use a special mute inside their trumpet or trombone that makes them silent and able to fit in the mix electronically).

 

 

Playing Live Gigs With Electronic Drums
Another approach that has become very popular is playing live gigs without acoustic drums. Since you can reproduce the exact drum sounds heard on popular recordings with great accuracy, gigging with electronic drums has some big advantages over acoustic drums. You can premix your balances between different kits, produce powerful sounds at low volumes, re-create piercing piccolo snares or deep, bottom heavy classic rock snares and add hundreds of Latin percussion instruments to your live shows, all from one compact electronic drum kit. These kits offer the ultimate experience in variety and flexibility.

 

 

This also solves a lot of stage sound level problems associated with playing in small- to medium-sized club venues. Electronic kits also ensure that you will occupy balanced sound levels in the main speaker house mix, along with your other bandmates (guitar players, keyboard players, bass players etc.). In short, it makes it possible to achieve a consistent, beautifully miked, processed, virtual acoustic drum set sound every night with far less time and effort. You can also achieve excellent results in a recording studio and save yourself lots of time and money producing your next CD.

 

 

When you boil it down to the essentials, as electronic drummers we are still striking drums to produce sound. When we put aside our fear of technology, we are open to a new world of exciting possibilities without sacrificing any of the skills and techniques that we have accumulated as acoustic drummers and percussionists.

 

 

E-mail Tony Verderosa directly at Vman727@aol.com

 

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