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Edition 11


The global electronic drumming e-zine

Danny marks digital move

Mark Drum for Gottlieb

TD-30KV test

New DIY kit SSD4.0 review


FOR THE WAY YOU PLAY ©2012 Avedis Zildjian Company

Zildjian has created a revolution in edrums. Gen16, the world’s first acoustic electric cymbal. Play the hi-hat like a hi-hat. Choke cymbals. Roll with mallets. Stack cymbals. Experience all the dynamics without the latency or audio compression associated with digital sounds. Control audio levels and shape cymbal sounds with up to 99 presets per cymbal. Choose from an array of cymbal sizes and types made at the Zildjian factory. Visit for more information and check out the “Young Guns” series of performance videos.

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is published by


ABN: 61 833 620 984 30 Oldfield Place

Brookfield Q 4069 AUSTRALIA Editor & Publisher Allan Leibowitz Sub-Editor

Solana da Silva Contributors Carl Albrecht Simon Ayton

Gerçek Dorman John Emrich Scott Holder

Cover Photo

Danny Gottlieb

Courtesy Drum Craft Design and layout ‘talking business’

Support digitalDrummer If you like what you’re reading, please make a donation.

Copyright: All content is the property of digitalDrummer and should not be reproduced without the prior consent of the publisher. In this age of electronic publishing, it’s obviously tempting to “borrow” other people’s work, and we are happy to share our information — but ask that you work with us if you need anything from this edition. Any reproduction must be fully acknowledged and include a link back to our website. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

There are two approaches to new product launches. There are some manufacturers who flag their enhancements before they’re ready to take them to market; and there are those who beaver away in secret and then suddenly pull back the cover to reveal something new. Both approaches have their advantages and their drawbacks. Think back a couple of years and you’ll recall two product announcements that attracted a huge amount of interest. First, Zildjian’s foray into electronic percussion with its Gen16 acoustic/electronic range. At the same time, Aquarian unveiled an acoustic head with built-in triggering capability. It took many months after the first glimpse before the Gen16s started hitting shelves and as we went to press, the inHead had still not made it into full production. Of course, the product does exist and is actually featured in this month’s Monster Kit – but those are not production models just yet. Since those products were announced, Roland has completely revamped its line-up, from entry level to flagship – without a hint that anything was in the pipeline. Of course, potential buyers get frustrated when their interest is aroused but they can’t find the new offerings in the stores. So there’s a significant downside to premature announcements. But on the other hand, as the stakes rise and gear becomes more expensive, it’s understandable that manufacturers will want to tempt buyers and keep them “in the market”. There’s also a downside to “shock and awe”. It doesn’t help to take buyers by surprise. Nor do you win friends by bringing out a new model just after someone has invested in what was marketleading last week but is outdated today. To its credit, Roland did start running out its last generation before hitting the market with new offerings. The reason I raise this is that three products which we were hoping to review in this issue haven’t yet reached us – despite ongoing hype. At the same time, I am aware of half a dozen other products which are being readied for market as we speak. Their makers have told us from the outset that they don’t want any publicity until the products are ready to roll. And while we will be provided review samples ahead of the launch, we are sworn to secrecy. Personally, I think this is the way to go and look forward to more launches of this type. And I hope you enjoy the current magazine which includes a review of the new Roland flagship. The review was slated for the May issue, but the courier saw fit to send my review kit to a city 1,000 km away – and then to take some time getting it to the right place, missing our deadline. 3

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The global electronic drumming e-zine Edition 11

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15 20 23 24 30 4

August 2012


Who’s buying?

As the appeal of e-drums spreads, digitalDrummer asked the experts to explain who is buying e-drum products.

30 out of 20

Roland’s new flagship kit is being delivered worldwide after strong pre-orders and Allan Leibowitz spent some time behind the kit to see if it lives up to the hype.

Sampling the sampler

Roland’s recent upgrade of its multipad sampler brought some significant improvements, but it mysteriously left out some of its predecessor’s popular features.

Head2Head - Take Four

In our quest to leave no mesh untested, digitalDrummer broke out the test rig once again to compare three more offerings from Europe.


digitalDrummer looks at a couple of products designed to make life easier for drummers.


Danny makes his mark

Classically trained Danny Gottlieb has appeared on over 300 CDs, four of them Grammy winners. The original drummer in the Pat Metheny Group, Gottlieb recently aligned himself with new Italian e-drum maker Mark Drum.


Big names go with big names

It’s one of the ironies of the market: those people who can EHst afford and use top-end gear most generally get it for free in a bid to sell more of it to those who can afford it less and may not need it at all. It’s all part of the endorsement game.

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34 36 37 40 42 44 46


How I use e-drums

We’ve heard from Western drummers who have incorporated e-drums into their arsenals, and this month we discover a Turkish drummer, Gerçek Dorman, who is plugged in and switched on.

Big kit or little kit

Size doesn’t matter when it comes to drumming performance, according to Carl Albrecht. That wisdom certainly applies to ekits, where the choice of instruments is wider than acoustics.


Product review: SSD 4.0 Platinum

The new Steven Slate Drums moves away from the Kontakt host of its predecessor with the development of a new player, SSD Player. And that’s not the only improvement.


E-drum guru John Emrich is back to answer more questions on topics from programme selection to third-party samples.


Stand up and be mounted

Just because your kit comes with a rack doesn’t mean you’re forced to use it all the time. Simon Ayton looks at some of the alternatives.


Kit won’t go r-ong

Last year, we reviewed half a dozen conversion kits to transform an acoustic shell into an e-drum. Allan Leibowitz tests another addition with the arrival of a new offering.


My Monster Kit

This month’s beauty was put together by Californian Mark Moralez and is based on a Gretsch kit and inHead triggers.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012


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Who’s buying?



As the appeal of e-drums spreads, digitalDrummer asked industry experts to explain who is buying electronic percussion products. Here are some of the responses:

Alesis doesn’t necessarily see a singular “typical” electronic drummer. Rather, we see a range of musician profiles: the bedroom drummer, the quiet practiser, the electroacoustic enhancer, and the full-blown electronic player are among the key profiles. We believe it is crucial to understand the genuine needs of each type of drummer, so that every Alesis product delivers on the mission of making technology accessible and affordable for musicians. Dan Radin, Alesis I do have a varied customer base, but a more common buyer may be the 40-plus age group. Having outgrown their wild acoustic drumming days and settled into a sensible family life, they get the drum bug urge once more and, most importantly, the permission from the wife as long as three important things are not damaged: the bank balance, the family’s hearing and the neighbours’ friendship. Dave Chetwynd, Diamond Electronic Drums 6

These days, the buyer is as diverse as the models available. No longer the solitary domain of the drummer looking for practical practice options, they are a serious live alternative. E-drums are now sought by professional recording studios; musicians owning home studios; guitarists wanting to lay down their own drum tracks on demos; schools and teachers, mums and dads as the new beginner kit; and even serious gamers for a truer tracking experience than the toys that come with Rock Band! Mark Trask, Musiclink

The typical drum-tec customer is a very demanding customer who is prepared to spend a lot of money on his dream e-drum set. He is mostly well informed and already owns one or more drum kits. And now he wants to buy his individual e-drum kit. Many of our customers are higher earners, often self-employed and have a requirement for quality and service. Most of them want nothing else but the very best! Konrad Müller-Bremeyer, drum-tec

30 out of 20

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Roland’s new flagship kit is being delivered worldwide after strong pre-orders and Allan Leibowitz spent some time behind the kit to see if it lives up to the hype.

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WE’LL SKIP PAST the “what’s in the box” stuff (see page 10) and go straight to the burning question: Is it any good? After a re-acquaintance with the TD-30KV flagship since my initial exposure at NAMM in January, the short answer is ‘yes’.

The kit was reasonably easy to assemble, taking about an hour and a quarter from the first boxcutter snip to the final trigger connection. Admittedly, I’ve had a bit more practice than most at kit set-up, but anyone should be playing in under two hours.

The shiny chrome MDS-25 rack is easy to erect, thanks to its rock-solid chrome connectors. And while the rack looks low, the flexible tom and cymbal mounts enable you to find just the right height for every component. Connecting it all to the module is

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

a cinch, due to the well-labelled heavy-duty wiring loom threaded through the rack.

The pad configuration is excellent. A decent-sized snare and floor toms (the new 12” PD-128SBC/128-BC pads) and two more-than-adequate 10” PD-108-BC hanging toms give the average drummer targets that are very easy to hit. (BC stands for black chrome, Roland’s term for the gunmetal-coloured wrap.) The 14” KD-140-BC, rewrapped from its TD-20SX/KX incarnation, is a solid, imposing bass drum with plenty of realism for the feet. It looks great in the new colour.

The cymbal line-up is certainly enough to get any serious drummer started. The ride is a CY-15R-MG, again a recoloured version of the TD-20 pie, and it’s accompanied by two CY-14C-MG crashes. Sure, the rubber-covered triggers don’t quite have the feel


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Anatomy of a flagship

All-new TD-30 module with SuperNATURAL sound engine, USB connectivity and new Ambiance fader among the eight individual faders. There are 15 input jacks, t wo Master Outs and eight Direct Outs.

Th i n t e dr u e rc m h a w ra ng e a ps a ble re .

VH-13 hi-hat has a new motion sensor for smoother, more accurate transitions.

There are 100 kits, 1,110 drum instruments and 262 backing instruments. The module is now available separately as well.

No hi-hat stands, snare stand or kick pedals are supplied with the kit.


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The t wo PD-108-BC pads also have new rim sensors.

The CY-15R-MG Ride is finished in metallic-g ray rubber. Its bell response seems to have improved from its predecesso r.

There are t wo CY-14C-MG crashes - both with bow and edge triggering and chokes.

The ball joint makes it easy to position the toms.

The new PD-128 has a new rim sensor. The pad comes in t wo formats, the rack-mount PD-128-BC and the standmount PD-128S-BC.

KD-140, which made a debu t in the TD-20 kit, gets a new wrap.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

The chrome MDS-25 rack has heavy-duty hardware, integrated cymbal stands and swivel-ball tom mounts.

Click here to see a comprehensive video tour by digitalDrummer columnist Simon Ayton. 11

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under the stick of metal cymbals, but they are quiet and, as I’ll explain in a bit, super-realistic in performance. And yes, some might have wanted a bigger ride. Others might yearn for a china-shaped cymbal or a smaller crash – but those are trivial issues and the overall trigger offering is spot-on.

performance to reduce latency, and while the TD-20 certainly didn’t seem to present any lag, there is an immediacy about the TD-30 which is hard to miss.

Terrific triggering

The hi-hat might look deceptively like a recoloured VH-12, but the VH-13-MG is like an e-hat on steroids, thanks to an improved motion sensor.

At the first strike of your stick, you’ll notice the accuracy of the triggering across the whole kit. From the lightest of strokes on the snare to energetic rolls on the edge of a crash, the response is immediate and exact.

Start your engines

Rim triggering is superb, with the module producing cross-stick, shallow and deep rim shots – all with a natural feel and sound.

And then, of course, there’s Mission Control: a serious black box with the potential to convince even the most sceptical acoustic drummer. The TD30 module takes what was previously a benchmark module (I know some rivals will stop reading at this point!) and transforms a Bentley Continental into a Bugatti Veyron. But, unfortunately, Roland has filled the tank with regular instead of premium. Hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself… The TD-30 module interface is very similar to that of the model it replaces. It’s logical, user-friendly and generally allows you to make changes with a single button or slider, rather than complicated menu trees. So it gets a tick for ease of use. I won’t run through trigger tweaking because it’s all straight-forward, but I should point out that because of the module’s added capabilities, some parameter changes will be needed for most drummers. Some triggers will need a bit more sensitivity, others a bit less – depending on your playing style. But certainly don’t just use the defaults unquestioningly. You’ve probably read a bit about the “SuperNATURAL sounds with Behavior Modeling”. Without getting too technical, it’s as if Roland has added nuance layers to its “samples” and augmented that with improved triggers and an enhanced ability to determine where on the head or cymbal you’ve hit and how hard. Add those two together and you get far more realistic performances with subtly different sounds as you move around the head or rim. Also under the hood, Roland claims to have enhanced engine 12

On the new PD-128 snare, for example, there’s a terrific transition as you move from the rim to the centre, and as you strike harder or softer. Under the hood, there’s clearly some serious processing happening in the Behavior Modeling circuit because there’s absolutely no machine-gunning – each strike sounds unique as if there’s a “round robin” effect.

There’s been a lot of speculation about the improved rim triggering of the new PD-128 pads and for comparison purposes, I swapped the pad for a brand new PD-125X and found very little difference when the pad was properly dialled in. So the good news is that you get improved rim response even with older pads. The toms’ responsiveness has also been enhanced, with subtle changes in tone from head to rim and an impressive dynamic range. Roland has beefed up the tom sounds which now have more body and oomph, especially the low toms on some of the rock kits. When you attack the ride, one of the first improvements that jumps out is the massively improved bell triggering. No longer requiring huge wrist movements, the bell action is now smooth and natural. Like the drum pads, the ride has positional sensing, with subtle changes of tone depending on where on the bow you hit. The sensitivity is really evident in those light, delicate notes, especially when they’re paired with the new ultra-realistic sounds. And of course, there’s a very

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responsive edge with choke. The choke is still just an on-off switch, and you can’t, for example, partially mute the ride the way you can with Yamaha’s DTX kits.

The new hi-hat triggering is another breath of fresh air. The VH-13 is very sensitive, with subtle transitions from edge to bow. Again, there’s a lot of hype around the responsiveness of the motion detector, but in head-to-head testing, I found only a subtle improvement on a well-dialled VH-12. Either way, the module certainly delivers convincing transitions from open to closed and even when the hats are closed, the pedal tightness continues to change the sound, just like “real” closed hats under pressure. And not that anyone would really need it, but the hat also has a choke, so it too can be silenced with a squeeze of the fingers. (The pitch bend, by the way, works on all the triggers, like it did in the TD-20, so you can alter the pitch of the toms, for example, with the hi-hat pedal.) The crashes especially benefit from intelligent interval control which takes cymbal rolls into a new level of realism.

The KD-14 feels realistic, with just the right amount of bounce. It was a snug fit for my Demon Drive pedal and I suspect some ultra-wide pedals may require some modification.


The TD-30KV is competing in a niche market, but it’s not alone there. Buyers would probably also consider some of the following:

Yamaha DTX950K

Five drum pads, a bass drum, three cymbals and a hi-hat on the new hex track. Drummers either love or hate the new Textured Cellular Silicone (TCS) heads. The module is pretty impressive, with 1,115 drum and percussion sounds and 211 GM melody voices. Best of all, if you add a DIMM digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

Sounds like…

Before we get into the sounds themselves, one of the biggest enhancements from a performance point of view is the new ambiance control. The TD-30 builds on the parameters of the TD-20 and adds a convenient slider control. With one click of the Ambiance button, you can choose the balance between overhead and room mics and the amount of reverb – and you then refine that on a global ambiance slider. The TD-30 even allows you to control the virtual mic positions and the spacing between stereo overheads (with a mono option as well). The extensive selection of preset ambiance models (from a studio to an arena) is also carried over from theTD-20, and I should point out that the ambiance settings are breath-takingly realistic. So, you’ve got VST-like ambiance control, more sounds (1,362 - as opposed to 1,282 on the expanded TD-20X), “better” sounds, faster processing and more positional sensitivity – all the ingredients for a supreme instrument.

The TD-20 snare sounds were excellent and the 30’s are even better. There’s another huge leap in the cymbal sounds which are far more realistic. The hi-hat, as indicated earlier, has also stepped up a notch. And the tom and bass sounds have also benefited from the makeover, with more ballsy lows

card, you can use the module as a sampler – something you can’t do with the TD-30. Price tag: $5,500 Drumit Five 2Box Gaining popularity, this quirkylooking orange kit is winning respect for its VST-quality sounds and open system which allows for the addition of custom sounds. While it may not have Roland’s nuanced triggering, it has plenty of onboard memory, terrific stock sounds and free access to a growing sample

and loop library. The standard kit has five mesh pads, two cymbals and a hi-hat on a quality rack. Price tag: $2,800

Pearl e-Pro Live

The hybrid kit has full-sized drums, two brass cymbals and a 12” hi-hat. The Tru-Trac heads are as polarising as Yamaha’s silicone offering: some swear by them, some swear at them. The triggering is not quite at the level of the big two and the rebadged Alesis module is also outclassed at the top end. Price tag: $3,200 13

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And, overall... and ringing highs. In short, the SuperNATURAL sounds may not be “real samples”, but they’re very, very close and, with COSM editing, are also extremely customisable. But I’m reminded of the famous conductor who turned to his principal cellist and said: “Madam, you have between your legs an instrument that could give pleasure to thousands and all you can do is scratch it!”.

Scratching it, in this case, refers to the stock kits. Firstly, there are ‘only’ 80 stock kits – and 20 empty ones (although I suspect Roland will fill these sooner rather than later). Of the 80 kits, around two dozen are lifted from the TD-20X kit bank – although they admittedly sound much better on the 30 – fuller, brighter and more detailed. But there was no reason to repeat the kits as the entire TD-20X kit collection is already loaded onto the brain (together with the TD-20 bank) and can be accessed by hitting two buttons. Now, some of the new kits are excellent and I can see gigging bands being able to find enough variety to cover almost any genre, from delicate jazz brushes with astonishingly realistic cymbals to big fat rock kits with thunderous toms and a cannon bass. There are country kits, oldies kits, revamped Latin kits and some impressive acoustic knock-offs. A few of the new kits certainly rival some VST offerings. But as usual, there’s the collection of wacky and weird kits that only Michael Schack can play with any credibility.

I got a glimpse of the module’s potential by loading some TD-20X VExpansion kits and even though they are not optimised for the TD-30, they instantly took the module to a new level, bringing the kit to life with cracking snares, ringing toms, shimmering cymbals and a bass you could almost feel. That kind of tweaking can bring pleasure to thousands! I suspect (or, at least, hope) we’ll see some modelled kit offerings from Roland – either as free updates or paid add-ons, and no doubt, there will also soon be tailored VEX offerings for the more demanding drummers.

The bottom line

This is, beyond doubt, the best Roland kit ever. Great triggering from the last generation has been tweaked with intelligent responsiveness, new fresh sounds make this kit more realistic-sounding and its interface is highly intuitive. What’s more, Roland has managed to bring a superior kit to market at the 14

Some nifty stuff:

✔ At last the CF card has gone to meet its maker and you can use a USB stick to back up kits and move stuff to and from the module. ✔ Tweaked TD-20 and TD-20X kits can be loaded onto the module via USB. The stock TD-20/X kits are already in the memory and accessible with a couple of button pushes. And they sound better than they did on the 20. ✔ You can now play .wav and MP3 files via USB. Roland has supplied a CD of drumless practice tracks which are very cool.

✔ The interchangeable shell wraps from the TD-20 range can be used on the new pads.

✔ The TD-30 module is available for purchase separately and performs well with “previous generation” pads, cymbals and hi-hats.

And the disappointments:

✘ Those naff sound-effects kits that only Michael Schack will use. ✘ The empty kits (although I sense Roland will fill those).

same kind of price level as its predecessor. Sure, the street price of around $7,500 is not ‘modest”, but it does buy a lot of kit that’s pretty much plug and play. If you’re looking for a new kit at the top of the range, this offering certainly warrants a test drive.

If you’re a current TD-20 owner looking for even better performance, you should seriously consider upgrading at least the module – and possibly the hihat and snare (in that order), although I’m convinced a brain transplant will produce 95% of the improvement on its own. The TD-30 is a significant step up, but it hasn’t quite reached its full potential. The power of the brain has presented huge opportunities to further polish the stock kits – and if Roland doesn’t provide expansions to exploit the huge capabilities, someone else certainly will take the TD-30 to the level it deserves.

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Sampling the sampler


Roland’s recent upgrade of its multipad sampler brought some significant improvements, but Scott Holder notes that it mysteriously left out some of its predecessor’s popular features.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012


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ON SALE SINCE last year at US$799, the SPD-SX is the replacement for the venerable SPD-S sampling pad. It combines a preset library of sounds with nine trigger pads and a generous amount of sample storage space with a modest set of external trigger inputs.

The Hardware

The pad arrangement is a single-level, six-pad, three-bar (nine “pads” total) layout measuring 365mm x 330mm. That puts it on par with the Yamaha DTX Multi 12 (reviewed in January 2010) but smaller than both the SPD-30 Octapad or the Alesis Performance Pad/Pro. The main pads measure 3.75” square (950mm) and the bar pads are like the Multi 12 in that they’re raised above the level of the bigger pads, making them easy to hit with the shank of a stick.

The pads are not hard rubber, but then they’re not super-soft. They fall somewhere between the rather unique softish feel of the Multi 12 and the hardness of most solid rubber pads, ranging from the old Roland PD-7 to Alesis’ various multipads. The result is a pad that’s reasonably bouncy, while attempting to minimise the relative pounding one’s hands would get from extended use that way. Nonetheless, hand and finger play for long sessions on the SX will definitely be fatiguing, again falling somewhere between the Multi 12 and hard rubber pads. Getting fast rolls and responsive cymbal swells if transitioning back and forth to mesh or dedicated ecymbals won’t be jarring. Any equivalent “positional sensing” characteristics (to the ear) weren’t evident on the stock sounds, although the responsiveness of the flat pads over the entire playing area was good. Pad noise isn’t too bad. The sound has a lighter tone, thus the overall effect is less intrusive than most other multipads - except the Yamaha DTX Multi 12 and Alesis Performance Pad.

Pad setting adjustments are extensive and will be familiar to anyone used to working with a Roland module. You can adjust things like sensitivity, velocity curve, etc. Pad settings are global.


Thus, if you find something too soft on one kit and too hot on another and they’re both assigned to the same pad, you can’t differentiate their pad settings. That’s normal for all Roland e-drum modules and is a different approach than Yamaha’s which allows you to set those technical settings per pad on a kitby-kit basis. The volume and control knobs are conveniently located on the front of the unit. Some might feel uneasy about an errant stick hit that could crush a control, but having those within reach is an ergonomic advantage over most of the other pads. This is very important for the SX because it has separate control knobs that, if one of the effects is selected, gives the user the ability to change the entire characteristic of that effect on-the-fly.

The Brain

The SX has 210 drum, percussion and effects sounds; most are what you would expect in terms of percussive sounds, although the range is very limited and “standard” drum sounds are scant. Around 60 of the sounds are short “riffs”, not patterns in the classic sense, but little one- to eightmeasure riffs of bass or piano. The pad sounds are not grouped. Instead, they’re accessed via a list and the pre-loaded 16 kits are not listed in the owner’s manual, nor are the individual pads for each kit.

The SX also processes signals from external triggers or foot switches, having a single foot switch input and two stereo trigger inputs. The latter can be increased to four mono inputs by using a splitter. There is no HH controller input. Like the Multi 12, the three external trigger connections are universal: I plugged in Roland, Yamaha, Kit Toys, Hart, Concept 1 and Alesis pads and all worked without a hitch. Storage capacity is massive and far, far beyond what’s found on any other multipad which loads samples. That speaks to the main purpose of the SX: an easy-to-use sampler with significant onboard sampling capabilities. The 2GB of storage holds up to 10,000 16bit/44.1kHz mono sample files.

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The SPD-SX features a single-level, six-pad, three-bar layout.


The SX is the only multipad sampler on the market. Yes, units like the Alesis SamplePad and Yamaha DTX Multi 12 have the ability to import and play back samples, but no ability to sample real time or edit them on the unit. This on-the-fly sampling (aka “Multi-Pad Sampling”) is a slick feature. Start recording with a simple thwack of your stick on a pad, then start playing the sample and the latter will load onto the SX as a .wav file. It’s that easy. Roland makes a lot out of the SX’s edit functions and while they’re not that extensive, you can edit start and end points on the unit itself. For those without decent software to produce their own samples, you can do a credible job on the SX.

You can assign up to two samples per pad and they can be set to play simultaneously. However, each sample’s output can only be routed to either the Main output or the Sub output. The accompanying Wave Manager software allows for easy sample transfer and assignment to each pad. It’s a huge improvement over what came with the SPD-S but still does not allow for complete kit editing functionality. You can’t assign digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

loop/phrase/single shot parameters of the sample using the software; you have to do it on the SX unit.

As a MIDI controller, you can control every MIDI note for every pattern. Our usual test of plugging the unit into a computer and running Toontrack’s EZDrummer wasn’t completely plug and play. Instead, you have to dial the MIDI note number for any given pad, but that took about a minute. Pad responsiveness as a MIDI controller was excellent. When hooked up to our TD-12, again the same thing - almost plug and play, but very easy to either change the MIDI note number on the SX side or simply change the instrument for the kit being used on the TD-12 side.

Good Things

The menu is easy to navigate and the live controls are an improvement over the SPD-S. A dedicated LED with each pad illuminates with varying intensity, depending on the waveform. The Wave Manager software is very easy to use. The onboard .wav editing, while basic, is very easy and very handy. The ability to quickly import/record samples and have them automatically stored in the onboard library is great.


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The amount of onboard memory means you could theoretically load an entire drum kit and still have room to spare for a vast variety of samples needed for any live performance. Significant onboard effects and real-time performance application of those effects is another live performance feature of the SX. The ease with which you can start and stop a loop, merely by tapping the pad, is incredibly friendly to live performances. Also, you can assign a loop to play for a specific number of measures, then stop.

Not So Good Things

The pad settings are global, not kit-by-kit. For Roland users, this is a given and might not be a big deal. However, some will find that different samples or stock sounds react differently when a pad is struck; in one case, it might be too “hot”, in another, too “cold”. It’s a real Goldilocks dilemma when you can’t fine-tune each pad to account for those differences. The Sub Output can’t be used along with the Main output for velocity-based multi-samples. For example, you can assign a .wav to the “Sub” in order for a pad to play two sounds simultaneously. However, that combined sound can only go out through the Master outputs or the Sub outputs, not both simultaneously. It’s a small thing, but might be a deal-breaker for some.

Ergonomics for hand usage isn’t ideal. The pads are not tiered and even if the SX is angled to the percussionist, it’s hard to get a good slap on the pads with anything but your fingertips, and whacking the bar pads with your hands is doubly hard because… The bar pads (1-3) have poor sensitivity. Each took a decidedly hard thwack with the stick shank to get a response. Even after cranking the sensitivity and lowering the threshold to nothing, stick hits on the bar pads needed a strong hit. That depended in part on the sample selected but with hand play, this got old really fast. There is no variable HH support – a step back from the SPD-S. On really long samples, if synced with the internal click, a “creep” issue results where the two move away from each other.

The Bottom Line

The SX is not designed as a mini-drum kit, although with its storage capacity, you could sample an entire kit from any number of VST packages. Its usefulness for a performance lies in the ability to have a slew of customised samples, or even the onboard percussion instruments, available in a small 18


Pad Section: 9 built-in pads, 1 foot switch Max Polyphony: 20 voices (aka “notes”) Sounds (voices/instruments): 650

Drum kits: 16 preset; 84 user-defined

Effects variation: 20 presets that include delay, reverb, chorus, flanger, etc; 4-band EQ Flash memory: Mono/.Wav or AIFF

Flash memory file capacity: 10,000 files .Wav file sample rate: 16bit/44.1kHz Sequencer Capacity: N/A Note resolution: N/A

Recording method: Real-time overdubbing Patterns: None

Interfaces: MIDI; USB Wave memory: 2 GB

Click tempo range: 20-260 BPM Inputs: L and R ¼” mono

Outputs: 2 L and R ¼”; ¼” headphone

package to either the acoustic or e-drummer. The added ability to tweak those samples on the fly might also appeal to live performers or DJs because it is very easy to do. Short loops work flawlessly. Longer samples that depend on staying synced to the internal click remain a problem. Finally, the Kit Chain feature means you can take a 100-song library and quickly set up a set list. The sampling feature seems to be aimed more at the non-professional musician or up-and-coming songwriter who’s not using a computer to generate and edit samples. However, the ease with which a sample can be recorded, then exported to a USB drive and then edited on a computer is also appealing in that you don’t need to drag a computer somewhere to record samples; simply do it on the SX, then transfer it over to the PC. The onboard sampling edit features are simple and easy to learn, whereas editing audio and creating samples on a computer can be daunting to those just starting out.

If you own an SPD-S, chances are you won’t find the SX enough of an improvement to warrant an upgrade. However, if you’re looking for a sampler with decent onboard sounds, easy edit functions and far better software/computer interface, the SX could be in your future.

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Head2Head 4 e ak T

In our quest to leave no mesh untested, digitalDrummer broke out the test rig once again to compare three more offerings from Europe. Allan Leibowitz has the results.

TO DATE, WE have compared 15 production mesh heads and one DIY version. This time, we add two new offerings from makers we have previously featured and one which was missed in our past efforts. Testing was done on the same rig used in the original test – a heavyweight drumstick pivoting on a nail on a vertical rod. Noise measurement was done via the same Realistic Sound Level Meter, with a brand new Hart mesh head used to calibrate the measurements against those obtained last time. The rebound measurement was done, again, by connecting the snare to a Roland TD-20 module and taking a line recording from the module. The recordings were loaded into Audacity and the waves measured until they fell below a minimum value. The duration to that zero point is noted in the table. Again, there were two noise level measurements: one from a controlled drop, and the second in free play at maximum velocity. The results were as follows:


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The Dutch e-drum supplier has reacted to the demand for white heads with a new range of dual-ply heads to accompany the trademark black ones. These are similar in design, with two layers of medium-guage mesh producing a reasonably opaque appearance. The heads are quite generous and fit easily on a 12” shell. The head has a good feel under the stick – not too bouncy, but just lively enough. Triggering response is even across the head and it can take a good amount of tension with no signs of strain.

The white mesh is clearly different to the black stuff used in the other model as it was slightly louder under controlled hits, but slightly softer under heavy battery. The head also has a deep distinctive tone and quite a pronounced buzz.

Overall, it’s a well-made head which performs well – at a reasonable price.


The Swiss T-drum company has taken up where ddrum left off in Europe, and its mesh offering takes the form of black singleply heads. At around €18 for a single-ply, these are not the cheapest heads. The heads are generously sized with a bit of give in the mesh, so it takes quite a bit of tightening to get them tensioned. Triggering is good across the entire surface and these heads are about average for noisiness. They are average for controlled hits, but on the softer side for full-bore strikes, which is good news for heavy-hitters. They produce a high-pitched sound – almost identical to the Z-ed single ply. The heads feel lively and, especially under vigorous play, are more bouncy than their rebound score suggests.

One thing that may put off some picky drummers is the extremely large white logo (all 9cm x 4.5cm of it), which looks okay on a 12” head, but is overpowering on the smaller sizes. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012


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Z-ed Triple

Britain’s Z-ed has gone to the next level with three layers of mesh. Unlike the Billy Blast triple, the three layers here appear to be the same material used in the two-ply (Blast has a different texture to its middle layer).

Britain’s Z-ed has gonehead to the next levelwith three layers of mesh. Unlike the Billy The third skin significantly reduces noise Blast triple, the eliminate three layers here appear to be the same material used in the two-ply from the two-ply, but didn’t the buzz. In fact, the(Blast buzz on these heads istexture among to theits middle layer). has a different most pronounced weskin havesignificantly heard. The third reduceds head noise from the two-ply, but didn’t eliminate buzz. In fact, on these heads is among the most pronounced we have The headsthe have a good solid the feelbuzz with some heard. beefy bounce. These had the strongest rebound The headsinhave a good solidalso feelatwith some beefy bounce. These had the strongest of the three samples this test and were of theleader three board. samples in this test and were also at the top end on the overall the top endrebound on the overall leader board. Triggering Triggering performance was flawless. performance was flawless. Like the dual-ply, these heads have generous hoops after testing. and again remove proved challenging to remove after testing. Some were disappointed at the of transparency of the previous Z-ed lines and Some users wereusers disappointed at the transparency the while these add another layer, they are still not completely translucent. previous Z-ed lines and while these add another layer, they are still not completely opaque.

Like the dual-ply, these heads have generous hoops and again proved challenging to

Head 682Drum 682Drum (white) Arbiter Ballistech Ballistech II ddt Drum-tec Design Hart Magnum Hart Maxxum Pearl Muffle Head Pintech SilenTech RMV Roland by Remo Triggerhead Tuff Mesh^^ Z-Ed Z-Ed Twin Z-Ed Triple XM

Price !12 !12 £9 $12 $25 !22 !22 $40 $40 $10 $37 $30 $40 !18 $13 £7 £9 £10 $10

Ply 2 2 1 1 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 3 1

Noise level 72-86dB 74.5-84dB 81-95dB 78-93dB 78-91dB 78-89dB 79-91dB 75.5-89dB 77-92dB 75-94dB 76-89dB 75-87dB 77-88dB 75.5-82.5dB 79-85dB 78-86dB 76-88dB 72.5-85dB 75-90dB

Rebound+ 2.155 2.055 2.109 1.619 1.952 2.322 2.147 2.017 2.030 2.175 2.273 2.043 2.251 2.051 1.602 1.949 2.218 2.285 1.983

Heads in black feature for the first time. +Rebound measured in seconds. ^^ DIY head. 22

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Accessories --gear--

digitalDrummer looks at some add-ons that make life easier…

Dixson Bass Drum Lift

With more full-size bass drums finding their way into ekits, there’s often a need to raise the drum. Especially if you’ve converted a 16” or 18” tom into a kick drum, you might need an extra inch or two to get the beater to hit accurately. Enter the Dixson Lift. While this is not its intended use, the riser effectively lifts the drum for more accurate beater contact. It also eliminates the need to attach the bass drum pedal to the drum hoop – which can prove difficult if you’re using a DIY bass drum.

The lifter is a one-piece plastic bridge on which the drum sits. Its base extends about three inches, providing somewhere to attach the pedal.

Unlike complicated adaptor systems which require mounting to the shell, the Drum Lift is easy to use since the drum just sits on top of it, held in place by the rim. It also allows drummers to easily change the angle of the drum head – ensuring even triggering. It’s elegant in its simplicity, light and compact and sells for about $40.


When Paul Simon sang “Slip Sliding Away”, he might well have been describing drummers playing “chase the pedal”, the frustrating battle against slipping foot devices when you can’t use spikes to anchor your bass drum or hi-hat to the floor. There have been a number of homebrew solutions, many of which involve cutting up bits of carpet.

Well, you can now throw away those unattractive offcuts and break out a simple and elegant solution developed by the StageWorks Gear Company in the UK.

The StageWorksMat is a non-slip three-layer pedal mat designed to fit under a pedal and keep it in place. The mat is conveniently sized for the average bass or hi-hat pedal set-up, measuring 20cm x 46cm.


It’s lightweight and produced in nondescript black and with a logo on only one side, so it’s easily hidden.

The mat ships in a two-pack (£14.99), so you can even give one to your guitarist who will thank you when his effects pedals stop sliding away ... digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012


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Danny makes his Mark Classically trained Danny Gottlieb has appeared on over 300 CDs, four of them Grammy winners. The original drummer in the Pat Metheny Group, Gottlieb has worked with a “who’s who” of contemporary music. Gottlieb has recently aligned himself with new Italian e-drum maker Mark Drum and shares his perspective with digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz. 16 24

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PHOTO: MARK DRUM digitalDrummer: Tell us how you got into drumming. When did you start and what got you going?

Gottlieb: I grew up in Union, New Jersey, and started playing cello in the fourth grade. My mom was a violin player, and the cello seemed close enough, and I played it for eight years. But it was really not my instrument, and with the help of a best friend, Dave Uhrig, the drummer in the high school jazz band, and the instructor, Mr. Geist (whom we still call Mr. Geist some 40 years later), I took a summer music school programme and started drum lessons. That was in 1967, and I was hooked from the minute I started, and it just has not stopped!

digitalDrummer: Let’s talk about the legendary Joe Morello. How did your association with him start?

Gottlieb: As it turned out, Joe was teaching in a music store, Dorn and Kirshner, about a five-minute walk from my house in Union. I used to go there when I first started playing to buy drum heads, keys, etc. One day, the gentleman who ran the drum digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

department pointed out a large man who was walking up the stairs to the teaching studio and said: “That’s the great Joe Morello. He teaches here”. I asked who he was, and although I didn’t know much about Dave Brubeck, Joe explained who he was, and pointed out that he was on the cover of the Ludwig drum catalogue. I figured if he was on the cover, he MUST be good! I asked if he thought I could take a lesson, and he said “just go ask him!” I nervously went to his studio, and knocked on the door, and Joe was as nice as could be. I asked about taking lessons, and he agreed to schedule an evaluation lesson. I returned the next week, and it changed my life. For the evaluation, Joe asked me to play some rudiments. When we played paradiddles, he said “Ok, let’s work it up to speed”. I played as fast as I could and then he started to play much faster. But when I looked at his hands, he was playing much faster, but with only one hand! I was astounded, and totally turned around. I had no idea technique like that existed!


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He explained that it was a method using “Natural Body Movement�, developed by his teacher, George Lawrence Stone, author of Stick Control, and was also influenced by his other teachers, Joe Sefcick, and Billy Gladstone. And he told me he could help me with it, if I was interested. And I said “absolutely!� That started a series of weekly lessons through high school, and lessons after that while I would be home from college, or off the road. It also started a friendship that lasted more than 40 years. He would give me three or four things, and request that I practise each item an hour a day. At first they were exercises and variations from Stick Control, and later from his great books Master Studies 1 and 2. Between Stick Control, and Joe’s books, I have enough to practise for the next 20 years. For those interested in the basics of his techniques, take a look at his two instructional videos, and three that we did together for the Mel Bay Company (Natural Drumming). digitalDrummer: What are some of the enduring insights you acquired from learning from Joe?

Gottlieb: To me, this technique is a gold mine, and the most logical, no-tension method to which I have ever been exposed. It affects your touch, endurance, sound control – really, every facet of playing.

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From a musical standpoint, his ability to improvise like a horn player, and create drum solos like a master composer are two of his main influential components which I would also call insights into playing.

Also his brush playing, ability to play polyrhythms and improvise in odd times on the highest level were other insights (and his ability to illustrate and discuss them during lessons). As far as conceptual insights, there shine through some of his famous sayings: “you can’t please everyone”; “they are your drums, play them how YOU want to play them”; “you yourself have to know how you are playing, and not to base your judgment solely on outside sources (the leader says you are rushing… YOU have to know if you are rushing); “I can back up my bullshit” (He would never give anyone an exercise that he himself could not play on the highest level). digitalDrummer: Your recording/performing career is really diverse - from Pat Metheny to Booker T. What are some of the highlights and people you enjoyed working with most?

Gottlieb: There have been so many great performing situations and great musicians with whom I have had the pleasure to play or record. Here are some: Metheny; Gary Burton (my first gig, with Pat in the band, who GOT me the gig) and my

first recording date “Passengers” on ECM, in 1976; recording “Say it with Silence”, 1977 with flautist Hubert Laws at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio; forming the group “Elements” with former Metheny bassist, Mark Egan (we recorded nine CDs); playing with Gil Evans and his big band for four years (CHANGED my life), and recording the Grammy Album “Bud and Bird”. Others include playing with Sting and Gil in Italy (videos still on YouTube); my first two albums on Atlantic, ”Aquamarine” and “Whirlwind” (late ‘80’s); playing with John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra (1984-86) - a video from Montreux from those years was recently released and my current experience, playing with actor Gary Sinise and the Lt Dan band (, doing fundraisers all around the world. My wife Beth plays percussion and we have the greatest time. I have to say, getting to play with Beth (and having the amazing good luck to have married her) has to rank as a big highlight! We play about 50 concerts a year now with Gary. Also, teaching at the university of North Florida has to rank as a highlight. I love it and it was something I never thought I would do. digitalDrummer: There’s a lot of variety in that list. To what do you attribute your versatility? Gottlieb: It’s really growing up in the late ‘60s, hearing Miles Davis, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Basie, Hendrix, Bitches Brew, Led Zeppelin, all at the same time. I loved it (and still love it) all! I just





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Danny on YouTube courtesy of Alternate Mode and with an acoustic kit. wanted to play, and play the best I could, no matter the style.

digitalDrummer: Technically, do you think there are some basic elements of drumming that apply to all genres and which underpin your versatility? Gottilieb: The Morello technique, for sure, and the ability to play good time, edit your playing and to bring adventure to each performance situation. I try to never play a gig where I am looking at the watch (it does happen sometimes!), and always remember to play at the highest level at all times, as you never know who is listening! digitalDrummer: Let’s talk about electronics. For many years, electronic percussion was seen as a niche on the fringe - not something taken seriously by professional drummers (besides the Simmons phase in the ‘80s). What was your view on e-drums in your early professional years?

Gottlieb: A big influence in the early years, and especially when I had to follow him in the Mahavishnu Orchestra reunion band, was Billy Cobham. He has such power and sound! When I first heard the Simmons drums, I could simulate Billy with very little effort. And with the Morello technique as a guide, when I played those early pads, I could FLY on them. Crank ‘em up… sounded like BILLY! That’s an over-simplification, of course, but I really did feel that way! I then started doing some studio work in NY, and ended up using the Simmons drums on sessions. Later, in the Mahavishnu Orchestra, John started playing a guitar synth through the monitor on stage, not using amps. He wanted to try an electric concept, and I used a set of Simmons pads and an SD9 for my kit on a tour. We eventually


went back to just acoustic drumset and some trigger pads, but we did try it. I was also endorsing the Dynacord Electronic drums (from Germany). They were very interesting and I used them on sessions, but limited in the fact that it was only one sound per pad, based on a sound module. The SD9s, although kind of artificial as far as sample sounds are concerned, were more fun, as you could mould the sounds around the music.

digitalDrummer: What electronic percussion have you tried and what do you currently own and use?

Gottlieb: Again, I used the Simmons SD9, and the Dynacord Electronic percussion in the ‘80s. Then in the ‘90s, the drumKAT, then later the trapKAT (many videos on YouTube, even from 15 years ago!), and now the Mark Drum. Because of my friendship with Alternate Mode owner/percussionist/designer Mario DeCiutiis, I have been able to do a lot of experimentation with the Kat products.

It’s all a work in progress, but in the early ‘90s, I was performing a multi-media percussion show, where I triggered not only sounds from the drumKAT, but video graphics as well. I met a graphic designer friend in San Jose, Gary Burnet, through Kat rep Mike Brucker, and I was an artist in residence at Humbolt State College, in Eureka, California, working with them on designing a stage show for the workshop. It blew my mind - just how many things you could do with the drumKAT. We had graphics of dancers, rockets blasting off, etc, all triggered by the drumKAT as I played. I worked on that concept with Gary for another three years, playing some pretty wild gigs, until computer graphics of a high level were just too expensive for me to develop on my

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own. The possibilities still remain, though, to do that type of project again!

In the next issue

digitalDrummer: And you’ve also done samples for Sonic Reality. How did the recording process compare with your usual recording routines?

Gottlieb: I have a giant cymbal collection, and Sonic Reality owner Dave Kerzner asked me to do a sample library. I dragged 250 cymbals to his studio in South Florida. I only did one sample session for him, and he had another drummer do the rest. When I actually played some loops and beats, and texture sounds, it was fun. When I had to hit one cymbal at four dynamics in four different spots, I hated it. I actually got so tired, that I fell asleep standing up while trying to hit the cymbal 16 times in one spot. But I love the cymbal samples. digitalDrummer: And what did you think of the final result? Have you heard your grooves used by other artists? Gottlieb: The samples are very good, but I just use single hits from a specific instrument (hi-hat, etc). And I have not heard anyone using my sound, but I hope they are! digitalDrummer: How did your tie-up with Mark Drum come about?

Gottlieb: The great bassist Jeff Berlin has been a dear friend for 40 years. I love him and he’s one of the greatest improvisers in the history of jazz (just wanted to give him a plug). Jeff endorses Mark bass amps, and has raved about them for years. The Mark company just started making this new electronic drum set, and I heard it this past year at the NAMM show in California. I fell in love with it (it just sounds great), and shortly after, I was invited to be an endorser. digitalDrummer: What do you like most about the Mark Drum product?

Gottlieb: I LOVE the sounds, especially when you add reverb. It makes you feel like you are really in a recording studio! I also love the pads, which are great. They are very easy for me to play.

digitalDrummer: And what advice have you offered the company for future enhancements? Gottlieb: I would like a jazz kit in the sample library, and we are discussing using my Drum Craft kit for that sample session. Also, I would like to sample some new cymbals I have from Zildjian, which are great, and add them to the Mark Drum cymbal library. digitalDrummer: Danny, thanks for your time and sharing your thoughts.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

Profile: Peter Eeskine Few people embody the term ‘a ll-rounder’ like Peter Erskine. An accomplished jazz performer, he has also recorded with Kate Bush, Linda Rondstadt and Queen Latifah. Erskine’s acoustic kit was recently captured in a Platinum Samples VST pack, and Erskine himself endorses Roland V-drums. Erskine shares his views on drumming and electronic percussion. Multipads go head to head There is now more choice than ever before in multipads, and we’ll put the range up against each other, looking at triggering, on-board sounds, sampling, looping and ease of use. Dr D-drums Electronic drums are the centre of a PhD by Australian drummer Adam Manning, who is attempting to understand what sonic possibilities and performance opportunities are available when using the instruments. Drumasonic 2 A test drive of the new Drumasonic 2 VST pack, with four times as many samples as the original programme. This sample newcomer focuses on quality rather than quantity, with a small collection of highly detailed instruments played with sticks, rods or brushes.

All that and more in November ...

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Big names go with big names


It’s one of the ironies of the market: those people who can most afford and use top-end gear most generally get it for free in a bid to sell more of it to those who can afford it less and may not need it at all. Allan Leibowitz looks at the endorsement game.

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ROLAND HAS THOMAS Lang, Yamaha has Kenny Aronoff and Pearl has Tommy Lee. Big names have long been associated with big brands in the music industry, and the battle for high-profile endorsers seems to have reached new heights as the manufacturers vie for marketshare in what is becoming one of the most lucrative segments of the music industry. It’s all about credibility. Mike Farriss, artist relations manager at Pearl Corporation, says endorsements are aimed at “branding, visibility, recognition and legitimacy”.

“We can tell consumers how great our products are but consumers are aware that we are trying to sell to them. Many people today are (suspicious) of marketing efforts and need validation of a product’s legitimate value.” He believes that putting products in the hands of professionals allows “the consumer to feel confident that Pearl can provide them with the same highquality drums that the pros use”. Yamaha artist relations manager Bob Terry describes endorsements as a two-way street. “It is advantageous for us to have the best drummers in the world performing on recordings, videos and live on stage with our products. This provides a number of ‘impressions’ of our brand and products to the public,” he notes.

David Levine of Full Circle Management, who was the original marketing manager of Simmons Drums in the US, recounts the industry adage that whichever drum company Buddy Rich was endorsing would see its sales increase almost immediately wherever the legendary drummer played. But he notes that “nowadays, with so many endorsers, companies, tours and media options, it’s harder to directly connect artists to sales”.

Paid to play

According to the vendors, no-one is paid to endorse their gear. Yamaha’s Terry is emphatic that money doesn’t change hands: “We do not pay anyone to use our products – ever”. The same goes for Zildjian, where John Roderick, VP new business and product development at Avedis Zildjian and head of the Gen16 programme, says artists “are never paid”.

Pearl’s Farriss has a similar approach: “Artists are not paid to endorse our products. We want artists to play our products because they believe in the quality and dependability of our drums and hardware.” But while artists may not be remunerated for simply playing particular products, Levine explains that some “upper-echelon endorsers may also be worthy

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

of signature product (accompanied by royalty payments) and clinic commitments (with guaranteed annual fees)”.

LA drummer and digitalDrummer contributor Buddy Gibbons also shoots down “pay for play” as a myth. “Most companies don’t have the budget to give out free gear, let alone pay someone to play their stuff,” he says. Commonly, endorsers receive free or discounted gear.

“We provide our artists access to what we believe are the best tools in the music business,” says Farriss. “We also help them maintain these tools. We are here for them should they run into a problem, no matter where in the world they may find themselves.” At Zildjian, “Some (artists) have been given free gear, but 90% purchase it”, according to Roderick.

There’s a strong expectation of entitlement among top-level players, and this makes it tough for smaller manufacturers. Alternate Mode’s customers include Neil Peart, Danny Gottleib, John Mahon and Tommy Lee, and owner Mario DeCiutiis concedes that “it is really hard to compete with the big boys because we can’t give away product”. He notes that some artists do expect free stuff. “But we find that when they do purchase product, then they really use it and are not forced to use something because they got it for free.”

Gen16/Yamaha endorser Russ Miller is on record as saying that “for me, it has never really been about getting free gear”. “By the time I was getting gear, I could afford to buy it!” Miller notes that endorsements have “always really been about support for me and the effects that I could have on design”. Besides equipment, endorsement deals commonly include extensive product support such as repairs, loan gear and technical support. For international artists and global brands, that support is generally available around the world, which is very useful when you’re on the road.

Giving something back

Full Circle’s Levine notes that there has to be some benefit to the drum company in the endorsement arrangement.

“The greater the visibility, popularity and influence a drummer has, the greater his or her value as an endorser. These factors are not always determined by a mathematical formula but these days, it’s pretty easy to get a sense of that value.” Levine explains


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that companies these days also look at social networks to see an artist’s reach and impact.

Alternate Mode’s DeCiutiis points out that it’s “really very important for us to have artist endorsements because we really need the exposure. When endusers see our product in the hands of their favourite artist - instead of just seeing it in a magazine (present company excluded!) - they are more apt to purchase.”

XP pad. “Our artists spent many hours with the product development team to get the feel of the pad just right. The result is that we have been very successful with the sales of our DTX kits that feature the new DTX pads,” Terry adds. Besides new product suggestions and on-going enhancements, Pearl has a stong interest in the hands-on experience of its endorsers, says Farriss.

For many manufacturers, it’s not just about putting big names behind their gear, it’s also about using the pros’ experience to enhance the product.

“The pros are working with the products every day. The gear … is set up and torn down hundreds of times a year - far more than normal consumer use,” he notes.

Miller is also a poster boy for Yamaha’s DTX range, and Bob Terry says Yamaha artists are regularly assembled to “discuss how the products are working for them and how they can be improved”.

According to Roland US marketing communications manager Rebecca Eaddy, artists tend to put Roland gear through the most creative and vigorous kind of use. “Roland’s artist relations team greatly admires and appreciates the artist’s perspective and really gets to know their story. Often, an artist’s unique experiences are passed onto Roland’s engineering and R&D teams (with the artist’s permission of course),” she notes.

Zildjian’s Gen16 range is a case in point. Roderick says some of the endorsers are involved in the R&D. “A good example is Sam Wiley with The Big Apple Circus. He plays the AE system hard, under very tough circumstances (heat and dust) and hits them a lot, some 10 shows a week for months on end. Others like Paul Kodish and Andy Gangadeen are using the product in ways we’ve never planned. These guys are cutting-edge musicians, so they push us and we tweak along the way. This has included software and hardware mods. A few others like Russ Miller are actively engaged with our core R&D team, helping to develop the next round of products from Gen16,” he explains.

“There are many times when we work one-on-one with artists as well (and) we also invite artists to Japan to work with the product development team there,” he says.

One significant example was when Yamaha was working on the new textured cellular silicone DTX-


“This gives these professionals many opportunities to determine what works and what doesn’t work and also what can be improved upon. It is part of my job as director of artist relations to note this important information and share it at meetings where new product ideas are discussed,” he says, adding that many of the product improvements in the last decade came about because of conversations with artists or their techs.

The Japanese music giant not only benefits from feedback from the likes of Thomas Lang, Tony Royster Jr., John “JR” Robinson, Omar Hakim, Greg Bissonette and Chad John Wackermann, it also has a bunch of high-profile demonstrators who have left a personal stamp on the product line.

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The next generation

Of course, many gigging readers will have more than an academic interest in the subject of endorsements, hoping to secure the backing of one or more suppliers.

Russ Miller says he is often asked by hopefuls about endorsements. “If you are not already ‘visible’, ‘famous’ or ‘influential’, there is no reason to give you an endorsement deal in the first place. If you are at all wondering about if you are in a position to have an endorsement, in all honesty, you are probably not!” he says. Session drummer Gibbons agrees: “Some guys even think that they can build a career by getting endorsements: well, it doesn’t work that way. Not at all. When you’re starting out, it seems that the endorsement deal is the ‘brass ring’ of a career. What I found out was that it’s really just the beginning.”

Levine has had his fair share of unreasonable endorsement requests: “Way too often drummers will seek ‘full endorsements’ or ‘sponsorships’ (also known as free product) before their playing and their careers can possibly justify them. This is also a big turn-off.”

New York pro drummer and educator Chris Howard stresses the need to build relationships if musicians want support from the drum companies. “I would recommend that (drummers) be prepared for a prolonged courtship over time. Speaking from my own experience, a company’s decision to invest their time in an artist is not made overnight. By simply keeping in touch periodically with artist relations representatives with details of their musical developments or perhaps an invitation to a special higher-profile performance, it could ultimately lay the necessary groundwork for securing their very own endorsement deal and a long-lasting and meaningful professional relationship.” These sentiments are echoed by Levine. “If you are a young drummer just starting out, go slow. Play what you like and don’t expect free product and magazine ads right off the bat. And definitely don’t sell your endorsement to the lowest bidder. It may be tempting and an ego-stroke, but, in the long run,

it’s better to wait for the right endorsement deal than take the first deal that’s offered to you. The offers will improve as your drumming and career improve,” he advises. Gibbons, who recently shot some videos for Tama as part of his endorsement, points out that “if you're seeking a deal with a company, remember that you're establishing a relationship. You're asking them to do something for you and, in turn, they'll be asking for something from you.”

He also advocates patience and persistence: “If you don't get the response you're looking for immediately, don't give up. Keep in touch, get more credits, build a relationship. You'll reach your goal if you work hard enough.” Most in the industry stress that endorsements have to benefit the drum companies as well as the drummers.

Pearl, for example, expects its endorsers to allow themselves to be used for marketing campaigns and advertisements. “We also ask our artists to share their experience with Pearl's products and people with their fans,” says Farriss. Eaddy says Roland is about to announce more endorsers as it “embraces artists that inspire creativity, are enthusiastic to play Roland instruments, and strive to help promote Roland to the ever-growing world of music makers out there”.

She explains that through individually tailored Roland Artist Agreements, “Roland works closely with artists to determine the type of exposure the artist can provide for Roland gear, as well as their level of commitment to interviews, photo shoots, and other activities.” In return, “Roland works to promote the pursuits of the artists as well”. Endorsement chasers should also realise that arrangements vary from company to company, and from artist to artist. Generally, there are two categories of support. Lesser-known B-grade artists seldom get free gear, but there will also be fewer expectations of them. But the big-league A-listers, who are able to not only leverage free gear but can even generate revenues from signature products and from clinics, are also under a lot more pressure to deliver.

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How I use e-drums

We’ve heard from Western drummers who have incorporated e-drums into their arsenals, and this month we discover a Turkish drummer who is plugged in and switched on. This is Gerçek Dorman’s story... 34

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I HAVE BEEN teaching drums and percussion at a private educational institution called Ozdem Muzik for over five years. I am currently working with 40 students at Ozdem Muzik and also give online drumset, darbuka, udu drum, frame drum, conga and cajon lessons.

In addition, I am part of a world electronic music duo, BLF, and also play with Simminor Band, which plays European, Turkish and jazz music. And then, there are also gigs with a Latin band and a traditional Greek band.

I have played on several albums in Turkey and also produce loops and samples for the industry. I play a hybrid kit with e-drums, e-percussion pads and several acoustics. My favourite instruments, both of which are indispensable, are my Roland HPD-15 and a Korg Wavedrum Oriental. In addition to these, I use a Roland TD-3 module, Roland kick trigger, Roland crash cymbals and an SPD-S sampler for different sounds, samples, loops and one-shots.

This combination gives me a vast range of sounds and I feel connected to the whole world while playing them. How else could one switch from tabla rhythm from India straight to African udu rhythm? And it’s not just the sounds, but the playing techniques with these electronic instruments are close to the originals, so I don’t have to learn new techniques to get the sounds I want. And since I have recorded so many authentic sounds, I often use my pads to trigger samples through my MacBook. Through the computer, I can modulate and resample sounds and add effects. This is very useful for all genres I play.

I produce percussion and drum samples and loops (traditional African, Indian, Latin, Turkish and Egyptian rhythms and grooves) using e-drums, acoustic percussion and drums. I either use the original sounds or I produce loops through my MacBook. I share some of these samples and loops for free in my blogs, but increasingly, DJs and producers are ordering loops from me. I am planning a CD release, but in the meanwhile use Audiojungle as a shopfront.

My e-drum path began when I typed “electronic darbuka” in a search engine and found the Roland HPD-15 in 2001. Within a month, I had bought one. I then bought a TD-3 kit and started to give drum lessons with it. In 2007, I added the Wavedrum which is my primary instrument now.

I was a traditional drummer and percussionist, but edrums have given me new vision, new feelings and a modern approach. They have opened up possibilities I hadn’t previously imagined and enabled me to take my performances to new levels. digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

Equipment list:

Roland TD-3 module, KD-7 kick trigger and Roland v-cymbals Roland HPD-15 Handsonic

Roland SPD-S sampler pad Korg Wavedrum Oriental Schlagwerk cajon

Remo 10” snare drum

İstanbul traditional crash, hi-hat, splash LP compact conga and quinto Remo darbuka LP chimes

LP cowbells

See Gerçek Dorman in action on YouTube.


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Big kit

or little kit Size doesn’t matter when it comes to drumming performance, according to Carl Albrecht. Although he’s writing about acoustic kits, the same wisdom applies to e-kit, where the choice of instruments is even wider.

I REALLY ENJOY changing my drum set-up around. Sometimes, it’s a small kit – a four-piece (kick, snare, rack tom, floor tom), hi-hat, ride and two crashes. Often, I add one more tom and an aux snare to the left of my hat. My standard recording kit right now has 10″, 12″ and 16″ toms, a 22″ kick, a 14″x7″ and a 13″x3″ snare. I change the cymbal setup according to the music, but normally start with a 20″ ride, 18″ and 19″ crashes and a 12″ splash. I have several kits and tons of stuff to add to my drum set-ups. Every now and then, I go crazy and set up everything I can get into my drum area. I like to stir up the creative juices by hearing all the different sounds that a large kit can deliver.

This happens on the road, too. I make it a point to try and play whatever they have available. Big kit or small kit, I like to apply the instrument to the music I’m playing. I’m always mindful of honouring the artist I work with and what their music really needs. One of my regular artists prefers smaller kits – two


toms, maybe three at the most and a few cymbals. No splashes or chinas! Every now and then, a big kit is at a venue and he’ll ask me to scale it down a bit. And I do whatever I can to make him comfortable with his music. Other artists are OK with a big set-up, as long as I don’t go crazy and hit everything on each song. One likes the added colour and expression a big kit delivers. He even likes me to add more emotion and musical drama to his music when it feels appropriate. And that is the operative word - when it’s the “appropriate” thing for the music. It’s not about the drums, or me; it’s about the music. When playing a big kit, it is essential to be mature enough not to hit everything. Just because a keyboard has 88 keys doesn’t mean they play them all on each song, right? Apply that principle to your playing and you’ll think more musically. Be a great musician, whether it’s the big kit or little kit. Play every note with “heart”!

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Product review: SSD 4.0 THE OLD STEVEN Slate Drums had a cult following, despite the fact that it needed Native Instruments’ Kontakt as a host. The latest incarnation, Steven Slate Drums 4.0 Platinum, has moved away from the NI host with the development of a new player, SSD Player. However, it still requires a DAW or host programme, and I tested it with Reaper and the free VSTHost offering.

What’s in the box

Firstly, for me, there was no box. Instead there was a 9GB download (thankfully broken into multiple packages) and a fairly painless install and registration process. My download was one of the first after the project had been finalised and, to the company’s credit, there were reassurances that there would be updates and new content. True to their word, the updates have been timely and effective in ironing out bugs and improving the performance and playing experience. This review is based on the v1.093 build.

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

Layout and configuration

The basic kit has 12 pieces: a kick, a snare, four toms, hi-hat, ride, two crashes, a china and splash cymbal. Not all the kits use all the pieces, but one can add sounds to the unused drums or cymbals as required. The SSD4 screen layout is different to the mainstream competitors, with the kit list in an upper pane and the kit image in the bottom pane.

The listing is logically arranged in rough genres – like rock, vintage, jazz, etc. One strange deviation is the inclusion of revamped versions of older Slate kits under the “SSD Classic” classification – a topic we’ll revisit a little later. The kit selections occur in the Construct Kit tab.

Next, there’s an Edit Instrument tab which reveals a range of instrument tweaking options from attack and sustain to volume, tuning and panning. You can audition the individual kit pieces and their articulations at a click of the mouse. 37

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The Mix tab reveals the usual slider controls for the volume on each kit piece together with mic settings for the room and overhead pick-ups. There are also drop-downs for routing the outputs. It’s all very simple and user-friendly.

The Grooves tab contains a collection of MIDI grooves, arranged by library, category, parts and groove name and although there weren’t many supplied initially, already additional grooves have been posted for downloading – and, no doubt, there will be more to come. There are some other tabs for MIDI mapping and data paths, and already a few custom maps have been posted on the SSD website customised for the Roland TD-20, a few Yamaha DTX models, as well as some rival VSTs like BFD and SD, Abbey Road and Addictive Drums. And again, no doubt, more to come.


As mentioned, there is now custom mapping (there wasn’t when SSD4 was launched) which becomes the default once selected – and the mapping is spoton. There’s excellent hi-hat response, with a large range of articulations from open to shut. The ride separation is realistic and even the bell triggering seems better through a TD-20X module than the TD-20’s own response. Similarly, the crashes produce excellent swells and the chokes work well. One omission is rim sounds on the toms – but then again, many drummers don’t play the tom rims. Latency, of course, is determined as much by the host and the interface as the VST, but in SSD4, it was no more pronounced than the other offerings triggered through VSTHost and my Presonus Audiobox USB, especially with the sampling rate fine-tuned.

The sounds

Obviously, a VST pack lives or dies by its sounds, and here the Slate team has most of the bases covered. There are 100 kits – as many as the TD20X or the 2box, for example. While many of the kits are brand new, half are remastered versions of previous Slate kits modelled on famous artists or albums. There are the unmistakable sounds of Steely Dan, AC/DC, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Motley Crue and Led Zeppelin, for example. They sound convincing and are clearly identified. Similarly, the 15 “vintage” kits are well labelled. But I don’t quite understand why there was no attempt to “personalise” the 20 rock kits identified only as Slate Rock 1 to 20 – a naming pattern repeated for the


metal arsenal, the indie array, the funk kits and the country collection.

Overall, the sounds are very pleasing, and Slate has done an amazing job of making a few recordings go a long way. The actual sample pool is surprisingly small for the large kit collection, and the producers have obviously done a lot of tweaking to make their raw recordings more versatile.

I was most impressed with a bunch of the snares, some beefy kicks and the really impressive Soultone cymbals which are among the best sample offerings I’ve played in a while. I was particularly taken with some of the crashes which were smooth and resonant. I am an unabashed brushes freak and was suitably impressed with the Slate Jazz Brushes kit, which had some of the best tom sounds around. You can actually hear the separate strands on the heads.

Although there’s a very frugal offering of layers (four samples per velocity and four velocities per instrument), the SSD Player does an excellent job of preventing machine-gunning and providing a sense of rich sounds.

The verdict

SSD4 is an excellent collection of kits covering a huge range of genres with some fantastic sounding instruments. (There are some omissions like Latin and percussion, but this is more of a rock/pop/indie/country collection.) There are even some dance sounds, but nothing too electronic. The Platinum edition sells for a modest $249, but there is a pared-back EX version with just 25 kits for $99. That does, however, include the full SSD Player. Personally, I’d go for the premium package – especially since most e-drummers can never have enough sound choices. This offering ticks most of the boxes – easy installation, decent MIDI maps to match most triggering options, generous-sized kits, an excellent selection of kit sounds and an interface that’s not over-complicated. Of course, there are some compromises and it doesn’t have quite the depth of sonic shaping of some of the big guys – but not all of us want to spend hours in front of a virtual mixing desk. There are limited FX and, as far as I could see, no mixing presets – although those will probably follow.

Some of the kit naming smacks of a rush job, but the sounds behind them are quite the opposite – well recorded, well engineered and smartly modified to make a little go a long way. This one, as they say, is a keeper.

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New products Pop! EZX by Toontrack

Toontrack’s EZX offerings continue to roll out, with the latest eclectic collection bringing together a decade’s worth of sampling. The sounds were recorded in legendary studios like New York’s Hit Factory, London’s 2Khz Studio and Nashville’s Blackbird Studios.The Pop! EZX consists of 10 ‘mixed and matched drum kits delicately intertwined with custom percussion pieces’. The sounds cover rock, pop and dance. There are 10 kicks, 10 snares, five sets each of hats, cymbals and toms, together with a collection of percussion sounds including shakers, tambourine, cabasa, maracas, handclaps, snaps, cowbell, claves and bells. There’s also an extensive MIDI groove library included. Like many other recent Toontrack offerings, this collection has been formatted as an EZX, with a smaller footprint than the full-blown SDX expansions. Price: €69 Information:

Seventies EJ Kit by Sonic Reality

From EpiK DrumS - A Ken Scott Collection, the 70s EJ Kit is a single-head vintage concert tom kit recorded in the style of classic Elton John records, many of which Ken Scott recorded and produced. A kit similar in sound to the one Nigel Olsen played with Elton in the ‘70s was recorded with the same microphones and recording techniques Ken used on the original albums. This expansion pack for BFD2 promises “a beautiful retro sound with a punchy large-sized kit with unique tone due to the single-head tom sound”. The pack’s release coincides with another EpiK expansion for BFD: the 60s Downbeat kit. The pack samples the teatowel muffled drum kit Ringo Starr used in The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” and “The White Album”. Price: $79 Information:

Real Country by Platinum Samples

Platinum Samples has teamed up with digitalDrummer columnist John Emrich (see next page) to release the Real Country Multi-Format MIDI Groove Library. The collection includes over 1,000 grooves in a wide variety of C&W styles including two beats, waltzes, shuffles, train beats, ballads, bluegrass, country swing, country rock and “Wailin” styles and in a wide variety of tempos, all formatted for BFD2, BFD Eco, EZDrummer, EZplayer, Superior Drummer 2.0, Addictive Drums, SSD4, Cakewalk Session Drummer, as well as General MIDI which can be used with any GM-compatible drum software or hardware. Real Country was produced and performed by John Emrich on a Yamaha DTX900 electronic drum set. Obviously, digitalDrummer readers are not interested in drummer-replacement products, but these grooves can be a useful learning tool. Price: $29 Information: digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012



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E-drum guru John Emrich is back to answer more VST questions from readers, this time looking at choking and updating.

Question: Why is it that some third-party providers produce samples for only one format (BFD or SD), yet others make packs for both? Answer: I don’t think that most consumers understand exactly how much goes into producing a sample collection. There is a lot of money and time invested in putting together a top-notch collection. In many cases, there is just no return on investment when you crosspopulate the sample libraries. That would involve a second complete pass for editing the data. Remember that all of the multi-mic VST instruments use different formats. Most of my friends in this business will target one platform and do it right. It is quite possible to take the data and make it “fit” a different platform, but that does not mean it will sound the same.

Question: I’m looking for a broad range of kits. Should I stick with one format and buy all the extensions, or buy say BFD and SD and select a few add-on packs for each? Answer: I understand the trend to buy a lot of different products, but I recommend keeping it down to just a couple. There are a lot of customers who don’t fully realise the potential or power of a programme because they are constantly moving around to different platforms without fully understanding what can be done with each programme. This usually ends in a lot of frustration. The top VST programmes offer a huge range of expansion capabilities. I would only go in a different direction if you just can’t find it in your system. Remember that it is usually less expensive to purchase an add-on than it is to purchase another programme. This approach will also generate better musical results because you will be optimising your programmes and getting the most out of them. 40

Question: I am running my VST through a host programme, triggered via an Alesis Trigger I/O. Is it possible to switch kits using only the Trigger I/O, the way you do with a Module? Answer: In theory, yes. Everyone using a module to trigger a VST can check to see if a) the module sends programme change and b) the VST will allow you to assign that programme change to a preset. That is the nuts and bolts of it, but it isn't always that simple. VST drum data is large and needs to be loaded. Scanning through a few kits to get to the one you want can make it difficult for the programme to keep up. Do you really need to change the entire programme? In a live situation, you may not need to. When I play live, I have two very different bass drums that I use: one is a small 18" jazz drum and the other is a commercial sounding 22". I also use three versions of my snare: snares on, off and brushes. I often change some of my percussion instruments, but they are smaller in size. In my case, BFD2 allows for up to 32 kit pieces. I load them all. I stack the drums on the same notes and use mute functions to play the one I want to hear. This removes the loading times. You could also keep them all on and change the few MIDI notes in the module with slightly different trigger presets. Both options are quick because it does not require loading new drums into the VST. Look at your needs. Does the high quality of VST drums mean you need to change them for every tune? Add to that the quality of your sound system and decide if you really need to change all of your drums. Will the audience really hear the difference? ○ Send your VST questions to

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Missed a review?

Using the search function and the archive option, you can search the past three back issues* for any content, including our reviews and head-to-head comparisons.

Here is a summary of our reviews to date:

January 2010

Reviews: Yamaha DTX M-12 Korg Wavedrum Roland TD-8 Comparatives: Amps and Powered Speakers

April 2010

Reviews: Diamond Electronic Drums 12� snare Crappy Triggers external triggers Jman cymbal conversion kit Comparatives: Mesh heads Headphones

July 2010

Comparatives: External Triggers Racks

October 2010

Reviews: Roland HPD-10 JamHub 682Drums e-conversion kit Comparatives: Double pedals Notation software

February 2011

Comparatives: Drumsticks E-cymbals (stick noise) Cymbal VSTs

May 2011

Review: DrumIt Five 2box kit Tu Mesh Comparatives: Auxiliary triggers E-cymbals (crashes)

August 2011

Reviews: Gen 16 AE cymbals Native Instruments Abbey Road IV The Classic Addictive Drums Virtually Erskine Comparatives: Drop-in trigger kits Mesh heads In-ear monitors

November 2011

Reviews: Pork Pie thrones Studio Drummer Comparatives: E-snares

February 2012

Reviews: Midi Knights Pro Extreme Drum Triggers kit Comparatives: E-rides Mesh heads

May 2012

Reviews: ddrum Hybrid kit Korg Wavedrum Mini BFD Eco 1.5 Platinum Studios Rock Legends Quick Pack Comparatives: Drumsticks

*For reviews prior to Nov 2011, click here.

Your definitive guide to e-drum gear

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Stand up and be


Just because your kit comes with a rack doesn’t mean you’re forced to use it all the time. Simon Ayton looks at some of the alternatives.

THE CYMBAL BOOM arms on many electronic kits are often standard -sized and you may find that mounting them directly into normal cymbal stand bottoms is straight forward and can give you a completely new look and way of playing. As we well know, one of the many great things about drums is that you can set them up any way you like to express yourself, and electronic drums are no different. In fact, due to their generally smaller proportions, they are even easier to position and arrange than their noisy equivalents. If, for example, you’re doing a gig where normally you’d use a ‘one tom up, one tom down’-style set-up, why not do the same with your electronic kit?

The other advantage with a minimalist set-up is that you won’t be tempted to overplay, which may suit the musical context better and get you more work. After all, smaller kit + fewer notes = fast setup + less hard work = more fun + $$$.

Most electronic kits on the market use standard TRS (Tip, Ring, Sleeve) stereo jack leads, so extending


or re-routing them is no big issue.

Kits that have the leads through the rack can normally be unthreaded and attached externally - or just leave them there and use additional leads.

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ng kit -standi

e ck’s fre

a ael Sch


A sta

What you need

You’ll want to look for TRS stereo leads with Lshaped connectors at least on one end to allow them to be easily connected to the cymbal and tom jacks.

Check the module mount on your kit. You may find it’s the same diameter as many widely available name brand cymbal stands and, in that case, it’ll just insert straight into the stand. You’ve probably already got some stands from your acoustic kit set-up and you can easily repurpose them without any modifications.

You could also look at mounting your module on a snare stand. If you need to extend any leads, you can use headphone extenders that are easy to find.

Getting fancy

If you don’t like the look of leads running down from your triggers, you could even drill some entry holes at the top of the cymbal and tom stands where the hollow cymbal pole starts. Make them just big enough to run a single guitar jack through and use rubber grommets to protect the leads from damage.


digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012



ed b


p kit

Run the leads through the stands and out the bottom. The stands will work just like before, but will look slicker.

You can then simply gather the leads exiting the bottoms of the stands together and run them under your drum mat or even make another small hole or slit in the mat to feed the leads through and conceal them for an even more convincingly unwired-looking kit.

Lefty friendly

Not all of us are right-biased, you know. Setting up a kit in mirror image, left-hand mode can be as simple as rotating the poles or simply just moving the module, hi-hat and floor tom and switching the cymbal connectors. Or if they are physically different, you can switch the cymbal pads. The hihat pedal changes sides but the kick stays where it is, of course. Any school or multi-kit situation should always have at least one kit set-up for left-handers. It’s much easier to do with stand-mounted triggers than with a rack.

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Kit won’t go r-ong Last year, we reviewed half a dozen conversion kits to transform an acoustic shell into an e-drum. Allan Leibowitz tests another addition with the arrival of a new offering from

This kiT is available only from its German maker via eBay and roughly resembles the other German ‘spider basket’ assembly reviewed last year. however, this kit is far more bespoke, with the manufacturer requesting a bunch of measurements before shipping.

The RTs 1406 kit ships fully assembled, wrapped like swarovski Crystal with airbags and additional

cardboard protecting its sensitive components.

The system consists of two platforms attached to some chunky arms. The sensors are already positioned and the cabling neatly threaded.

There are detailed instructions, together with large illustrations of the components and their names – and a list of required tools.

Everything is exceptionally well made and sturdy and i’m sure the trigger kit will be around for much longer than the shell in which it’s mounted. There’s terrific attention to detail, down to the routing of the wiring.

The kit is very easy to put together if you familiarise yourself with the part names and follow the directions to the word – and the actual assembly took about an hour from removal of the first head. (it took some extra time to solder on the jack, although one could use a crimp connector.) While everything fitted perfectly, some minor adjustment to the cone height was required to achieve the recommended overhang, and that was easily achieved with a few turns of the screws on the base.

How we tested


As in our previous tests, the trigger was installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions into a 14” acoustic shell. This size was chosen in the wake of our external trigger review because it sorts the men from the boys. The converted drum was tested as a snare, using a Roland TD-20 module with the TDW-20 expansion card and the latest firmware, an older TD-6, a 2box module and a Yamaha DTX700. Our digitalDrummer scorecard measures a number of criteria and in each case, the top score is five and the worst is awarded one point. For ease of construction, five points means easily done without tools or craft skills; four indicates that some tools are required; three implies the need for removal and or replacement of some drum parts (other than heads); two indicates the need for drilling or soldering and one connotes the need for drilling/part replacement and soldering. The performance score is an average across the four modules on which the trigger was tested.

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The only potential challenge is that the system is not fully wired in its stock form, and customers have to attach the well-labelled wires to their own jack. A prefab terminal connection is available on request. When it was all wired up, the snare needed almost no module tweaking from the 125X setting on the TD-20. Responsiveness was excellent across the head – even at the hard-to-trigger extremities, and positional detection was perfect. Tracking and dynamic response were excellent, and rim sensitivity was uniformly good without any adjustment.

Performance on the TD-6 module was equally excellent, except for the slightest hint of underperformance on rim triggering, which required additional tweaking. On the 2box, triggering was also spot-on, with only minor tweaks needed in pad12 mode.

surprisingly, the snare achieved good triggering on the Yamaha module, although only single-zone detection was possible. No rim or cross-stick triggering was possible – which is fairly consistent with almost all third-party pads.

so overall, this well-built (some might say overengineered) kit performed extremely well on most modules. it’s clearly a robust product and looks like it’s made to last, justifying its position toward the upper end of the triggers price list. But if you have decent drums that you want to protect and from which you expect great triggering, it’s probably a good investment.

The score:

Price: €127 Ease of construction: 2* Non-invasiveness: 5 Performance: 4.7

*soldering is required on the stock kit, but a pre-fab connector is available on request.

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The Kit

When you’re building a monster kit, it certainly helps if you work for the company which makes Gretsch drums and Gibraltar hardware. Californian Mark Moralez also benefits from his working relationship with Alternate Mode.

Drums: Gretsch Renown Series Silver Slate Lacquer Sparkle shells Heads: 3 x 10” inHeads w/ inBOX 3 x 12” inHeads w/ inBOX 1 x 14” Hart Magnum Mesh Head Cymbals: Roland and Kit-Toys Rack: Gibraltar Hardware Custom three-sided chrome rack Electronic Gear: DITI (Drum Intelligent Trigger Interface) M-Audio Profire 610 Firewire audio interface HP i7 Laptop Seagate 2TB External Hard Drive 46

Software: Toontrack Superior Drummer XLN Addictive Drums Native Instruments Studio Drummer NI Abbey Road Drums, 60s, 70s, 80s, Modern Pro Tools M-Powered 8 Ableton Live 8

Mark’s story

Mark has a degree in music and has been drumming for nearly 40 years. He’s played in several bands, mostly local, and in just about every style out there including big band, jazz combos, reggae bands, Latin and country. Mark’s electronics background is mostly selftaught.

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For their own safety, digitalDrummer advises impulse purchase-prone readers to avoid this feature.

Mark (above) with his Gretsch kit modified by Heuer’s Drum Lab in Burbank, CA and his DITI controller (right).

digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012

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gear Guide BUY & SELL


Each one a masterpiece

Got gear to sell?

We’ll buy your used e-drum gear for a great price with no messing around. Why waste time and money listing on eBay or your local classifieds when we can seal the deal with one call? Whole kits, single triggers, modules, hardware we buy it all. Sell to someone who knows the market and guarantees a fair price and prompt payment. Email us at

And if you’re looking to buy, go to our eBay store, jjdrumz. MESH HEADS

The finest components and hardware, hand-crafted with painstaking attention to every detail. Fitted with top-of-the-line electronics and optimised for your module. Quality you can see, feel and hear.



Taking mesh heads to the next level The new three-ply

Ballistech II Mesh Heads are quieter, more respo nsive an d to ugher. Made to fit all acoustic drums in a

wide range of sizes - from 8” to 22”

Unlike any hea ds yo u’ve trie d before, the Ballistech II Mesh Hea ds play an d feel like tra ditio nal dru m hea ds.

Perfect for silent practice or e-drumming

Billy Blast Drums Available only from 48

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gear Guide DIY KITS

The leading DIY acoustic-to-electronic cymbal conversion kit is now available in 2box versions. Stealth Drums’ popular kits can now be used for crashes and splashes and for the most responsive three-zone ride on the market. The kit contains all the parts you’ll need plus easy-to-follow instructions.


The best heads for electronic drumming, made by Aquarian Drumheads, are now available in Australia. Featuring Hart’s proprietary heavy-duty mesh, providing virtually silent operation. It’s a noticeable difference that you can feel.

To order in Australia, click here

Simply the best DIY just got easier thanks to the new Quartz Percussions harness-mounted trigger system. The dual-zone model includes a 35mm trigger mounted on an adjustable harness and a 35mm piezo connected to a ¼” female stereo jack. Mono versions and column -type shape triggers are also available for the easiest conversion of toms and bass drums. The harness system builds on the success of the reliable and popular Quartz cone triggers, precision-made for perfect triggering. See us on YouTube or find out more and place your orders at



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digitalDRUMMER, AUGUST 2012


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Give it up for the band ...

digitalDrummer is a combined effort, bringing together the expertise and experience of electronic drummers, industry professionals and skilled writers. Here are some of the people who made this edition happen ...


Carl Albrecht has been a professional drummer and percussionist for over 30 years, working on a range of Christian, pop, country, jazz and commercial projects. He currently lives in Nashville doing recording sessions, producing and writing, as well as continuing to do various tours and seminar events. His arsenal includes Yamaha electronic drumming gear.


Simon Ayton is the V-drums and percussion specialist for Roland Australia. He began drumming in 1983 and trained as an audio engineer. Simon’s drumming can be heard on more than two dozen albums and film soundtracks, ranging from metal to electronic and folk, and he is currently working on two new solo albums. He shares his intimate knowledge of module-tweaking and amplification.


Turkish percussionist Gerçek Dorman teaches at the Ozdem Muzik academy and gives online drumset, darbuka, udu drum, frame drum, conga and cajon lessons. He is part of a world electronic music duo, BLF, and also plays with Simminor Band, which plays European, Turkish and jazz music. And if that’s not enough, he can also be found on stage with a Latin band and a traditional Greek band.


John Emrich specialises in live and studio drumming, music production services, drum programming, original scores and arrangements, sound design and jingles, remote recording and event support, digital editing and mixing, and product development. He has been responsible for many award-winning sample libraries for the BFD2 platform as well as sound development for drum modules.


Scott Holder is a former intelligence officer who now works in IT for the US Department of Transportation. Nine years of organ lessons and two of cello in childhood didn’t prepare him for the world of electronic drumming 30 years later. Scott has performed on and helped produce an art rock CD and is part of an Alan Parsons Project tribute band, where he plays e-drums.



Allan started digitalDrummer in 2010, applying his publishing experience and skills to his musical hobby. An award-winning reviewer, he enjoys putting all types of gear through its paces, not only in the studio, but also in his role as a drummer in covers band City Limits and as a percussionist for an originals band. He’s also indebted to all the contributors who make the magazine what it is.

digitalDrummer August 2012 preview