Making the Change to an Electronic Drum Set - Stay Silent but Deadly
I used to have a nice, soundproofed practice room that I built in my garage. It wasnt the best unit in the world, but I was very proud of it. (Check out Soundproofing Your Garage A Rough Guide for Absolute Beginners). Then I moved house.
I was presented with a problem. The family was growing and there was nowhere in the house that I could play the drums without driving the family and the new neighbours up the wall. Soundproofing a room was out of the question because we simply couldnt afford to sacrifice an entire room. Space was at a premium.
So what should I do? Give up playing? Although I wasnt playing in a band at the time, the idea of being unable to play whenever I wanted was not an appealing thought. I've been playing the drums for about 20 years I havent persevered at anything else for half as long. I always knew that the day might come when I would no longer be able to play an acoustic drum set at home. And this is why I decided in advance that I would have to look into the possibility of an electronic drum set.
From an Acoustic to an Electronic Drum Set | top of page |
I wasnt too happy about doing this. My enduring memories of electronic drum sets were of New Romantic bands in the eighties bopping around white hexagonal drum pads which made sounds more akin to a doorbell than to a drum. However, I didnt have too many options, so I decided Id have to put my faith in the technological progress that I hoped had been made in electronic drum sounds.
When I finally reached decision day, I loaded up my old faithful (if a little battered) Pearl Export drum set; shells, stands, Zildjian cymbals and all; and drove it all down to the nearest drum store. The salesmen wilted slightly when they saw what I was unloading. The travel cases had seen a lot of action and they didnt make a pretty sight. I told them what my intentions were, and they agreed to do a part exchange deal for me, providing I promised to take my cases home with me
The store had two main electronic drum sets on display. Both were Roland. One was a Roland V Stage Electronic Drum Set and the other (for half the price) was a Roland V Club Electronic Drum Set. We started with the Roland V Stage. It looked great. Supported by a metal frame, the pads, instead of being rubber, were covered by a mesh skin which, when hit, felt just the same as a real drum skin. The pads had a few inches of depth and the attached computer looked very cool. The cymbals were black rubber on rigid plastic. I must admit that I was slightly relieved to see the cymbals and hi-hat were also electronic pads of some sort. For some reason I had the idea that I’d have to use real cymbals with the kit.
The salesman saw that he had made a good first impression, and he smiled slightly as he sat down to play. I was absolutely blown away by the sound. The guy was a great drummer, and the kit sounded absolutely fantastic. I just stood behind him, grinning like an idiot, as my pre-set budget turned to vapour in my head. The sound itself came out of a Roland PM3 Personal Drum Monitor System, consisting of two satellite speakers and a separate double-drive woofer system. He had obviously played with the onboard computer for hours, and he eagerly showed me just a few of the hundreds of its pre-programmed drum set sounds, features and effects by expertly tapping buttons and spinning selection dials. When the rims were hit just right a rim shot sound could be heard. The cymbals made different sounds depending on where they were hit, and could be choked by hand, just like the real thing. All the sounds were real samples and sounded absolutely convincing. I looked away while he was playing and realised that I could easily have been listening to miked-up acoustic drums rather than black rubber electronic drums.
Convinced by the Electronic Drum Set Sound | top of page |
He saw I was convinced and was ready to pack the thing up. Hang on. I said. What about this one over here?. I motioned towards the Roland V Club Kit.
The price tag was exactly half the figure of the V Stage Kit price tag. It showed. The kit was housed within a black and blue plastic frame. All the pads looked more like the kind of thing I had been expecting. The cymbals were the same as those on the V Stage Set. The pads were black rubber on white plastic. The bass drum was just a small rubber block, instead of the mesh-covered drum of the V Stage. The onboard computer looked cheaper and simpler. The salesman reluctantly moved over to the drum set he clearly wanted to sell me the higher priced set. When he started to play the V Club Set I realised why he was so reluctant to demonstrate it. It sounded as good as the first kit. OK, so it looked like its poorer cousin, but it sounded just great. The sound was fed through the same sound unit, and was equally convincing. I had a go, slightly self-conscious after the full repertoire of the demonstrator. I was impressed with the action of the pads. I had thought that they would be too hard to play on, but there was enough give for them to be a pleasure to play.
The computer contained 99 pre-programmed kits, varying from highly original synthesised sounds to convincing traditional jazz, rock and latin sound sets. The effects enable you to play in a dome, a theatre, cave or pretty much wherever you liked depending on the reverb setting. You could alter any of the kits to suit you, changing sound, pitch, sensitivity and instrument assignment. You could play the bass drum on a cymbal if you felt the need. You could plug in headphones and play silently. You could plug in an external sound source such as a CD or minidisk unit and play along to any track of you like. Alternatively, you could plug it into your computer or midi device using the general midi functionality.
I had a budget. I had an idea of what my kit was worth in part exchange, and I was determined to stick to my guns. I made him an offer, and stood looking slightly awkward while he had a good laugh. He knew he had made a sale and he could pretty much name the lowest price he wanted for my old kit. He did. I felt that although I was getting a third of the price I had wanted for my Pearl kit, I would be getting a lot more than I had thought possible for the price; so cursed him silently, agreed to his counter-offer and vowed not to regret it! Subsequently I found I could have bought it for much less online
Was it Worth the Money? | top of electronic drum set page |
The Roland V Club Electronic Drum Set has proved to be just what I needed. I subsequently joined another band and have been playing it live! It gets some strange looks initially, but when the crowd hears the sound, they love it. (Apart from the drumming purists, bless ‘em). I can now play at home whenever I like and it’s easy to move the kit around. Here’s a photo showing where I keep it!
Finally, I must tell you the best thing (apart from the sound) about my new kit. When playing live, whats the thing you HATE most of all? For me it was packing the entire kit into the car, driving to the venue, unpacking it, carrying the whole thing in and setting it up. Then afterwards: packing it up, carrying the whole unwieldy thing out to the car, driving it home, unpacking it and carrying it into the house. OK, so you all have road crew because youre successful drummers. Great. I dont. Now, with the new electronic drums, I carry out the cage and pads already assembled, carry out a big red bag and THATS IT! I even get my guitarist to pick me up because the kit takes up so little space! I dont even have to drive!
If you are wavering about getting an electronic drum set, don’t. I can highly recommend it whether you want to use it at home as a practice kit or, like me, use it as a practice drum set, recording, gigging cage of fun! In fact, if I were to choose just ONE word to describe the experience of using a Roland V Club electronic drum set it would be FUN. During band practices we spend more time just playing around with all the different sampled kits than we do jamming.
© Max B