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Edition 9


The global electronic drumming e-zine

New at

NAMM Latest gear on show

GEA E R C N A M R R O n i de o n PERF percussio g n i Add

LE PROFI ford ru Bill B

Š2012 Avedis Zildjian Company Photo By: Tina K

play by your rules

Paul Kodish; Apollo 440, Jean Michel Jarre, Maximum Roach, Pendulum, Bad Company, with his touring rig for The FRESH:LIVE Project.

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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 John Emrich

Buddy Gibbons Scott Holder

Norm Weinberg Cover Photo

Allan Leibowitz

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, FEBRUARY 2012

The annual National Association of Music Merchants convention in Anaheim, California is certainly an eye-opener for even the most seasoned of delegates, so it was doubly so for me on my first visit this year. Over four days, the 2012 event attracted more than 95,000 people — a mix of manufacturers and distributors, dealers, artists, media and a few punters who managed to slip through the registration process. It was a noisy gathering, especially the infamous Hall D, the drum showcase. And even the posse of Sound Control agents, armed with sound meters and serious expressions, couldn’t keep a lid on the decibels. It was a cacophony of snares, bass drums, toms and cymbals, with the odd scream of electric guitar slicing through the percussion. NAMM is not an ideal forum to test music gear — even electronic percussion. The sound levels make it impossible to hear all the nuances and finer points. And that’s why our report on the new equipment on show this year does not include reviews. All we could do was look at what’s there, speak to the folks behind it, try it out superficially and document our findings. We will, of course, follow up with more detailed reviews and product evaluations throughout the year. Besides checking out the equipment, NAMM was also a great place to speak to manufacturers about their own equipment – and that of their rivals — as well as getting dealer insights into some of the current business trends and practices: the kind of stuff you can only get face to face. The show was also an excellent reunion opportunity, and I got a chance to catch up with many of the contributors and featured artists included in our first two years of publications. Everyone who is anyone in the industry turns up for NAMM, either to demonstrate for one of the manufacturers or to meet and greet on behalf of their endorsers. One regular attendee missing this year was Tom Roady, who passed away late last year. Tom was our first profiled artist and his name came up in several conversations during the convention. Those who knew Tom point out that he was certainly ‘old school’ when it came to the skill and craft of percussion, but Tom was not afraid to embrace new technology. He had tried pretty much everything out there at one time or another and will be fondly remembered by the Zendrum community for his defining role with that instrument. Even though we never spoke face to face, Tom certainly touched me, not least with his enthusiasm for life, his love of music and his unshakeable faith, and it’s to him that we dedicate our ninth issue. 3

The global electronic drumming e-zine Edition 9


12 17 23 28 32 36 4

February 2012


Putting the ‘e’ in ensemble

It’s been just over a decade since the world’s first electronic percussion ensemble made its performance debut, so we reflect on the roots and progress of CrossTalk.

New at NAMM

A number of new products made their debut at NAMM in Anaheim, California. digitalDrummer went along to look, listen and catch up on the latest news from key industry figures.

Ride on

To date, digitalDrummer has examined stick noise and rebound in e-cymbals as well as the characteristics of crash, splash and china pads. Now we look at e-rides.

Head2Head - Take 3

After two extensive mesh head comparisons, we discovered a few more samples. So we dusted off the test rig and tried them.

Lighten up

For those drummers who need to be seen as well as heard, there’s a new solution which is sure to make audiences sit up and take notice: MIDI-controlled LED lights. We review the Midi Knights Pro system.


Bill Bruford unplugged

Bill Bruford was once the poster boy of e-drums, so it would surprise most enthusiasts to hear that he has not played an electronic kit since unplugging his last SDX.

Roady’s final gig

Tom ‘The Mayor’ Roady, digitalDrummer’s first profiled artist, passed away in late November, doing what he loved most.

38 40 43 44 45 46 50


How I use e-drums

Los Angeles-based session drummer Buddy Gibbons is finding new uses for e-drums. He explains how they’re presenting new opportunities.

Adding percussion

With percussion sounds now well represented in electronic kits and devices, Carl Albrecht explains that four hands are not always better than two.


Product review: SD Explained

Groove3’s online training package for Superior Drummer 2 includes 47 tutorials, running for four-and-a-half hours.


E-drum guru John Emrich is back to answer more VST questions on topics from installation to mixing and matching.

New products

A wrap-up of new VST offerings from around the world. Products include SSD 4.0 from Steven Slate, the new TRX Digital Cymbal Studio and Rock Legends by Platinum Samples.


Before you play

Choosing the right e-kit is important, but looking after it is also vital. Simon Ayton runs through some often-overlooked maintenance tasks.


Extremely easy

We review the Extreme Drums Triggers e-conversion kits in the wake of our recent snare conversion head to head.



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Putting the ‘e’



in ensemble

It’s been just over a decade since the world’s first electronic percussion ensemble made its performance debut. Founder Norm Weinberg reflects on the roots and progress of CrossTalk. 6

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MY ADVENTURE IN electronic percussion started in 1983 when my family bought me an IBM PC Junior to help me work on my dissertation at Indiana University. In early 1984, my house was robbed and the thieves took my new machine. I went to the computer store to look for a replacement and the computer salesperson said: “We just got this in; you should take a look at it.” It happened to be the Macintosh 128k computer and installed on the machine was a piece of software called Professional Composer. Up t This was the first music notation o nin e pla programme I had ever seen. On yers and the top staff, I entered quarter notes; on tech nicia the second staff, I entered eighth notes; on the ns p lay i third staff, I entered triplets and on the fourth, I already n Cr th ossT entered 16 notes. Then I turned the machine on had a drumKAT, alk. and was thrilled to learn that the notes lined up and the studio already properly. I immediately decided this was the owned an older first-version computer for me. malletKAT. We ordered two more drumKATs and I got involved in electronic percussion in the summer another malletKAT and we were on our way. of 1984, soon after buying that early Mac, but my approach to electronic percussion was always as a pedagogical tool. I was one of the pioneers in using electronic percussion instruments in applied lessons on a daily basis. I also taught courses on electronic percussion to interested students at Del Mar College. However, I was interested in using new technology for performance, in addition to teaching, but I never had the opportunity nor the necessary gear. When I was interviewed at the University of Arizona, I made the formation of a new electronic performing group one of my central research concepts. The administration was very supportive of this idea and the formation of the group became a part of my hire package at the university. I originally asked for something in the order of $25,000 to get the group up and running and we finally compromised at $7,000 per year for the first three years of my employment. During the first year, 1997, I contacted E-mu Systems and arranged a partnership whereby the University of Arizona would buy two E-6400 samplers and the company would donate another two to the school. This was a win-win situation: we were able to acquire four machines and E-mu was able to take a tax deduction for the donation. I


The group started out by playing a few arrangements and trying to convince some composers to write for us. From the very beginning, the main concept was to try to create a new musical experience for the students and our audiences. We’ve never been interested in trying to play traditional percussion ensemble music or music that was created for acoustic percussion instruments in an electronic manner. We were trying to do something different — to prove that percussionists can sound like anything in the world. We can play pop music, jazz, club music, classical music, experimental music and alternative music.

The event that really set CrossTalk in motion was an invitation to perform at PASIC (the Percussive Arts Society International Convention) in 1999. The group had only been active for two years, and we really had to step up our game in order to find an hour of music and present it in a truly first-class way. Our previous concerts had been in conjunction with other percussion ensemble groups in the studio. For example, CrossTalk had performed as a guest ensemble in a steel band concert or the percussion ensemble concert and played two or three compositions. Going into PASIC was a big step. Once we made that leap, we were able to keep the momentum going and host our own concerts.


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A bunch of Zendrums (above) and some of CrossTalk’s other gear.


In general, students learn to play traditional instruments by getting an instrument and playing in their middle school or high school band: “Here’s your trumpet, this is how you play it, you’re in the band and we have a Christmas concert in 12 weeks.” In a way, CrossTalk is similar: “Here are the controllers, here are the computers, here’s how they work together, here’s your music, we start rehearsing this piece on Thursday.” Students are much faster and smarter than you might expect. More often than not (almost always), if you set them up like that, they’ll come into the first rehearsal ready to play. They’re interested in learning how to programme the controllers, how to create sounds that have their own signature and, of course, playing their parts really, really well. We also have a great culture in the studio where more seasoned students will help the newest students with programming and sound design. There’s a lot of sharing between members of the group, and it seems to work out well.

From the very beginning, the dynamic of the group has been very much like a band, rather than a university ensemble. I encourage student comments, suggestions, corrections, ideas, etc. You wouldn’t normally look at the conductor of an orchestra and suggest that the tempo needs to be a little brighter, but in CrossTalk, student suggestions happen all the time. As the group has matured, students have taken more and more of a leadership role. We’ve also been able to partner with other areas of the university for some truly amazing productions.


A few years ago, we collaborated with the stage technology programme in the School of Theatre and the School of Electrical Computing and Engineering (ECE) to create a production based around the idea of astrobiology called “New Genesis”. The main theme of this production was using light as an essential element in the music, the stage blocking and the storyline. The ECE and theatre students built some fantastic instruments that were played by either breaking light beams or shining lights onto sensors. It was an amazing experience. Last year, we added the School of Dance to the collaborative mix and won a $30,000 grant to produce a show we called “SPEED”. We commissioned Eric Bikales, an old friend and a great composer, to write a score for the group and partnered again with Alternate Mode, Zendrum, Native Instruments, Ableton and Fisher Technical Services. All in all, the project incorporated the skills and talents of about 10 faculty and nearly 30 students from all the different disciplines. It was awesome! I learned so much!


Over the years, the biggest development has been the total transformation away from hardware synths to software synths. At one point, the group was using 15 different sound modules in live gigs. There was an element of terror in each one of our performances. It seemed that there were always issues in getting the MIDI switchers to respond correctly, getting the controllers to call up the right programmes and getting the proper samples loaded into all the machines. There were certainly a couple of nightmare situations.

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Setting up is an involved task, with so many connections and triggers. I remember one gig where I was pacing back and forth backstage before the performance. One of my students came up and asked me why I was so nervous since the group had all the music down cold and we were playing our butts off. I told him that I wasn’t nervous about the group, I was nervous about the gear working properly. It was at that point when I decided that we weren’t going to continue down that path. The very next semester, we sold all of our sound modules and bought two custom-built PCs to run a programme called GigaStudio. The sounds were amazing, but the software was buggy. You really had to handle the machines and the software with kid gloves, and sometimes the machines would freeze or the software would crash for no apparent

reason. And, when a computer goes down in CrossTalk, it’s “game over”.

We made the switch to Reason a few years ago and it’s been great. I love the fact that we can work with samplers, a number of different synths and effects, all inside the machine. The students like working with the programme and can get it up and running in a basic way in a very short time. What I like the most about Reason is that it simply does not crash! We’ve been using it for several years now – from version 2.5 — and it’s never gone down. Never.

In terms of controllers, we rely heavily on Alternate Mode’s drumKAT, malletKAT and trapKAT machines. It’s easy for Alternate Mode products to be upgraded, and Mario DeCiutiis, the owner of the company, has been very supportive of what we do

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One of the creations for “New Genesis”. and has helped keep our machines up to date with the most current operating systems. Many of the controllers we use today were purchased back in 1997, when the group first started. They’ve stood up well.

Future plans

The group is currently on a break because I am on sabbatical, but we’ll be back in action in the northern spring when we have some pretty exciting things planned. My sabbatical project was investigating something called “telematic performance”. I spent two weeks with Scott Deal and other faculty at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis who have a great deal of experience with telematics. I picked their brains as much as I could, and I’d love to add the telematic element to CrossTalk’s live performances. The idea behind telematics is that performers can be in different locations and collaborate in a musical or dramatic performance in real time. In order to make this more viable, we’re working with Internet 2. Internet 2 is many times faster and more stable than commercial Internet, making the potential for telematics more promising. In addition to the telematic work, we’re also going to be performing an arrangement of Frank Zappa’s composition Peaches in Regalia, and I’m currently working on a new composition heavily influenced by the group Sigur Ros. We’ll also add a few new compositions to our repertoire and perhaps pull out a few works that we’ve played in the past. We’ve got a killer arrangement of Discipline by King Crimson (which is heavily influenced by Bill Bruford, this month’s profiled artist), and a couple of very cool compositions by Eric Bikales. Currently, the budgets at Arizona, like the budgets in just about every state university, have been slashed to the bone. It’s difficult to find funding to keep the group state-of-the-art in terms of both hardware and software. We would love to find a “sugar daddy” that would support the group in a permanent way. We’ve been very good at making whatever funding we have stretch as far as possible. But, we do need a little updating. Two of our computers are getting a little long in the tooth, and I’d love to be able to replace them with more robust machines. We need to make the transition to Reason 6, and there are a number of new sound libraries that I would like to add to our palette. And I’d love to hold another composition competition. We’ve been able to expand our literature and push the group to new frontiers. We like to say that we’re on the “bleeding edge” of technology. 10

Current Crosstalk Gear

Controllers (4) Alternate Mode: DrumKAT Turbo (2) Alternate Mode: MalletKAT Pro (4 octave) (2) Alternate Mode: TrapKAT (2) Zendrum: Zendrum ZX (2) Zendrum: Zendrum LT (1) Korg: PadKontrol (2) M-Audio: Trigger Finger (1) Akai: APC40 (1) Roland: HandSonic (1) Korg: Wavedrum Sound Modules For live performance (In addition to the Wavedrum and the HandSonic) (2) Custom PC computers running Reason 4.0, 2GB RAM (2) MacBook Pro 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7 Over 4TB of hard drive space. In addition to Reason, CrossTalk uses Native Instruments’ Kontakt and Ableton Live. The group has access to an impressive and extensive sound library for all three software platforms. For Sound Design (1) E-mu: e6400 sampler (1) E-mu: Extreme Lead (1) Roland: JP8080 synthesizer Native Instruments: Absynth, Battery, Reaktor, FM7 Arturia: Moog Modular V, CV-80S MIDI Control (2) Mark of the Unicorn: MIDI Time Piece (4) MIDIJet Pro Wireless MIDI Systems (for wireless performance with Zendrums)

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New at NAMM

Last year, new e-drum offerings were few and far between at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) winter showcase in Anaheim. This year, as Allan Leibowitz reports from Los Angeles, there were some significant developments. 12

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THE MUCH-ANTICIPATED Roland TD-30 module, the brain many had expected three years ago when the TD-20 got its hardware upgrade, made its debut in an action-packed media event which also saw enhancements to all of Roland’s instrument lines and an industry-first collaboration with guitar giant Fender.

The new module fills many of the gaps in the model it replaces, especially sonically, with the addition of the SuperNATURAL sound technology first seen in recent Roland keyboard products. There are 1,100 rich sounds and many of the 100 kits have been lifted from the TD-20. There’s also USB connectivity, replacing the ageing CF card technology of the TD20, and a larger screen.

Superficial testing uncovered vastly improved toms and bass drum sounds and excellent cymbal sounds and responses – even the dreaded ride bell. Roland has not replaced the TD-12 module, instead placing the TD-30 module into two kit packs – the TD-30KV and TD-30K. The top-of-the-line kit, expected to retail for “around the same as the TD-20SX/KX prior to run-out”,

features reworks of all the triggers. The PD-125X snare and tom pads are replaced with three PD-128s and two 10-inch PD-108s. There’s a new hi-hat, VH-13, together with new CY-14C and CY-15R cymbals, all finished in a new metallic gray wrap. The KD-140BC V-Kick, a black chrome version of the silver kick in the old TD-20 kit, is included, together with the MDS-25 rack. The lower-end TD-30K kit has a PD-125X snare, three PDX-100s as toms, a smaller kick (KD-120), and a lower-end hi-hat, the one-piece VH-11. This kit includes the new MDS-12V rack. A full review of the kits will be included in the May issue of digitalDrummer.

Roland also rolled out its entry-level replacement, the HD-3, to replace the HD-1 kit. The new model features cloth tom pads.

The Italian Mark Drum system, flagged in a previous digitalDrummer, made its debut at NAMM ahead of a global launch this month. Mark has an extensive international distribution channel thanks to its guitar, bass amp and pedal products, and the 50 distributors are all expected to stock the drum kit. Like 2box, there’s only one kit configuration – module, rack, four drum pads, kick pad, hi-hat and two cymbals. And because of a proprietary trigger system and phone cable


Craig Blundell introduces the Roland TD-30 (above, left); Peace’s hybrid kit (above, right); and two of Behringer’s budget offerings (bottom).


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wiring loom, there is no option to mix and match with other pads or cymbals.

At the heart of the YES module are 10,000 real samples for the 24 kits. There’s 8 GB of memory onboard, and more sounds and kits will be available for download and installation via a memory card. The kit will sell for around $2,000.

Sweden’s 2box was back at NAMM courtesy of Canadian distributor Efcee, with Britain’s Hand in Hand also on the stand to show off a couple of new developments. One of the display kits was equipped with 2box’s new rubber heads — actually mesh heads with rubber pads underneath. These will be available in the summer as an optional head on new kits. Following a little later will be the maker’s first external triggers. 2box recently updated its operating system, and founder Bengt Lilja says the company is committed to ongoing improvement and to providing new samples on a regular basis. Taiwanese drum maker Peace had its new JPE (jazz, practice and electronic) hybrid kit on show, along with two sub$1,000 entry-level e-kits. Priced at $2,699, the Peace e-kit consists of fullsize drums: an 18”x14” bass; 14”x5.5” snare; 10”x6.5”, 12”x7” and 14”x8” toms. It was displayed with solid brass cymbals at the show, but generally ships without pies. The kit is clad in regular mylar heads and fitted with internal triggers that can be disengaged from the outside of the shells using a drum key to turn the kit into an acoustic instrument.

At the show, it was paired with a “vintage” Roland module and it appears that all the triggers are single zone.


The pads seemed quite responsive, but obviously they weren’t as quiet as rubber or mesh.

The biggest development at NAMM was the proliferation of iPad music applications, with everything from amplification to training packages tailored to the tablet device. The big news from Alesis was the launch of the DM Dock, dubbed the “drum module for iPad”. The DM Dock — compatible with Alesis’ and most other brands’ dual-zone drum and cymbal pads, triple-zone ride cymbals, continuous-control hi-hats, multiplechoke cymbals, and acoustic drum triggers - is a virtual module that works with a variety of apps including GarageBand. It is backed by an Alesis sample library and comes equipped with 13 6.5mm TRS trigger inputs, a headphone jack, mix input for connecting external audio sources, and balanced stereo outputs.

The product should ship in May or June.

Zildjian’s Gen16 division attracted plenty of attention with its AE cymbals which were available for playing this year after being kept behind closed doors last year. They were also repeatedly demonstrated by Russell Miller, the drummer who demos them on YouTube.

Pintech’s Landry (top); Porter & Davies’ Paul Barretta (middle); John Emrich at the Yamaha keyboard stand (bottom).

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1 2

2 1 3



1. Team 2box 2. Nord Drum 3. Alesis DM Dock 4. Mark Drum 5. Mario and Chris at Aquarian 6. Russ Miller at Gen16





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Coinciding with NAMM, Gen16 released a firmware update for the AE cymbal ‘brain’, together with a new system manager that allows users to customise and save personal, internal settings. More importantly, Gen16 has also added a new Audio Manager which allows users to further customise the sound shapes in the processor. Besides the enhancements to the AE processor, Gen16 will also be adding more MIDI grooves to its online offering in its online Groove Tracks range. Already, there are thousands of grooves and fills available from a number of Zildjian artists, recorded by John Emrich, and there are plans to record more in Europe and other parts of the globe. The downloadable groove packages contain two formats: General MIDI (GM) files and Groove Palettes optimised for use with FXpansion’s BFD2, BFD Eco, and Gen16’s BFD Eco DV. The palettes can also run on Gen16’s new GroovePlayer iPhone/iPad App.

Sweden’s Clavia, the company behind the original ddrum, started building the hype weeks before NAMM, flagging a new drum product. It turned out to be the Nord Drum, a retro-style four-channel drum analogue synthesizer. While it’s hard to see e-drummers flocking to embrace this device with its limited sound palette, the Nord Drum display was very well attended, with demos drawing large crowds. Pintech was on hand to show its various pads and cymbal offerings, but manager Lorrie Landry was very excited about the Carmichael Throne Company’s CT-200 throne, a strange stool with a void in its centre.

The design is said to “provide relief from back pain, coccyx pain, hemorrhoids, inflamed prostate and anal pain”. I’m not sure it’s a miracle cure, but it was comfortable – if a bit strange–feeling, and it’s distributed by Pintech. However, Landry was most proud of some clear acrylic Pintech Dingbats and Nimrods fitted to Brian Frasier-Moore’s over-the-top DrumCraft kit that will appear at the Super Bowl.

Drumhead maker Aquarian expects to start shipping the inHEAD hybrid acoustic/electronic head products in the next few months. Available in sixinch to 16-inch versions, the mylar-feel heads have triggers built in and connect to a companion inbox link to the module.


This year, Aquarian also revealed a quieter version of its FSR-triggered head, the onHEAD. This pad is placed on top of existing heads to convert an acoustic kit into an e-kit. British tactile generator maker Porter & Davies had its BC Gigster selected as one of the 20 hot products of the show.

The BC Gigster is a silent bass drum monitoring system which uses the drummer’s skeleton as a sonic sounding board, creating a bass you can feel.

The compact BC Gigster is a scaled-back version of the larger BC2 and is designed to be portable. Its throne top is compatible with most stool bases and the unit will be available in an international version soon, priced at £599.

Drummer and educator Thomas Lang was at NAMM to promote his new venture, the ArtistWorks Drum Academy. The interactive online mentoring programme features Lang, together with Billy Cobham and Luis Conte, providing video tuition and feedback to drummers of all levels. Lang tells digitalDrummer that he is currently working on a series of special lessons for e-drummers, covering not only style, but advice on getting the most from the expanded capabilities of e-drums and multipads.

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Ride on


To date, digitalDrummer has examined stick noise and rebound in e-cymbals as well as more subjective characteristics of crash, splash and china pads. Now, Scott Holder looks at rides and their unique features (with some long-distance help from Allan Leibowitz).



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WHILE E-RIDES SHARE similar characteristics (movement, choking, hotness) with their crash counterparts, the number of zones, size and “layout” of the bell area are features one should keep in mind when buying a ride. Three-zone cymbals differentiate between the bell, bow and edge and usually require two cables running from the cymbal to their respective inputs on the module. If you don’t need that edge sound, then a dual-zone ride will work fine. Or you can use an accent cymbal or pad for a separate edge sound.

The bell area (from the edge of the washer down to the beginning of the bow area) is a far more subtle factor. The nut and felt washer attaching the cymbal to the arm often acts like a bullseye target for errant bell hits, and if the bell area is too small, or not sufficiently raised above the rest of the cymbal, you can hit the nut more often than not. When deciding what to get, the following snapshots of various models plus our earlier review of crashes will give you a good overview.

The cymbal: 2box 14” cymbal (£145)

Material and size: 14” all-rubber; bell area: 40mm. Zone: Triple with choke capability.

Performance: Designed for three-zone triggering with the DrumIt Five module, this cymbal triggers well on a range of trigger settings on Roland modules – but there is a zone mismatch: the bell sound is triggered on the edge and the edge sound on the bell. The cymbal has very even triggering and a 360-degree sweet spot, and the bell is very sensitive — certainly a far cry from Roland’s necessity for a solid shank strike. The choke is effective and covers the entire circumference of the cymbal. While this cymbal will probably not be a first choice as a ride on a non-2box set-up because of the zone anomaly, it is extremely responsive and would certainly make a great Roland-compatible crash. What we liked: Generous size, large sweet spot and good sensitivity, especially the bell. What we didn’t like: Triggering zones are not fully Roland-compatible and thick rubber covering gives a slight mushy feel. (Allan Leibowitz) The cymbal: Alesis Surge ($259)

Material and size: 16” metal; bell area: 40mm. Zone: Dual with choke capability.

Performance: The bell area was very responsive without being too “hot”. The bell area was equally responsive to tip and shank hits. This helps immensely since the bell area “bump” is not terribly pronounced. Like Surge crashes, the bow area’s responsiveness falls off rapidly as you move away from the trigger housing; 20% of this area is the “sweet spot”. Cymbal movement was about average for ecymbals, but had a nice lateral movement when striking the bell area. What we liked: Choke capability and the responsive bell area.

What we didn’t like: “Hotness” of bow area and limited area of responsiveness. Spins easily. 18

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The cymbal: Alesis DMPAD ($99)

Material and size: 14” rubber/plastic; bell area: 40mm. Zone: Triple with choke capability.

Performance: The DMPAD is a new offering by Alesis and, as such, wasn’t reviewed earlier for stick noise and responsiveness. Rubber covers about two-thirds of the surface area in a broad “U” shape. Think of it as an enlarged Roland CY-8. It has an anti-rotational V-shaped plug that’s virtually identical to Roland’s approach, but it also limits lateral movement. The rubber area was soft without being too spongy and the edge softness was on par with the Roland CY-15. The bell area was average in size, with a pronounced bump making it easier to hit despite the usual protruding nut and felt washer; it was also the bounciest of any bell area. The bell responded best to shank hits, not unlike the Hart and Roland cymbals. Almost the entire bow area was a sweet spot. When used on an Alesis DM-10 module, it does everything advertised: responsive edge hits, seamless transitions between zones and chokes easily. When used on a Roland module with three-zone ride capability, make sure the module has the latest operating system upgrade installed. If not, you’re not likely to get the cymbal working correctly, and don’t expect it to work flawlessly with older Roland modules. However, with updated, newer modules, edge-to-bow swells and transitions are very nice - every bit as good as any Roland or Yamaha. The bell area is a little more particular in where it’s struck for a reliable response and needed the Rim Gain maxed in order to get a reliable response. Triggering edge hits require you to strike higher on the edge, with the stick at a lower angle from perpendicular than any other ride – regardless of what module it was played with. It’s like the Pintech PC series in that regard; not a problem, you just need to know about the edge’s “sweet zone”. What we liked: Choke capability and the responsive bow area. Seamless edge-bow transition. Responsiveness and positional sensing over entire strike area. What we didn’t like: Nothing not to like when used with an Alesis DM-10. Picky strike area on bell when using a Roland module. The cymbal: Hart Dynamics Ecymbal II ($299)

Material and size: 16” metal with hard rubber strike area; bell area: 55mm. Zone: Dual non-choking.

Performance: The massive bell area sits well above the bow and is by far the easiest to hit. Like Roland and the DMPAD, it responds best to shank strikes, but is a bit less picky about where you hit it than the DMPAD and not as forgiving as a CY-12/15. The bow area has a broad sweet spot. Although Hart includes an Aquarian spring, you get a very wobbly response when using it. Mounting the Hart ride “traditionally” provides nice lateral movement when striking the bell and bow. Module settings digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2012



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typically need to be raised from what Hart recommends. On older modules, you will need to use the included inline stereo-mono adaptor but then can only use “X” ride sounds. Alternatively, you can purchase a “Y” adaptor which then uses both the Ride and Aux inputs on the module (the bell and bow/ride act as two separate triggers). This isn’t an issue on newer modules where only a single input is needed to trigger bell and bow/ride. What we liked: That massive bell area. The swing, when mounted traditionally. The response over the strike area.

What we didn’t like: Difficult getting it “dialed in” to a Roland module. Workarounds needed for use on older modules. Spins easily if not on an Aquarian spring. The cymbal: Pintech PC-14B ($106)

Material and size: 14” plastic with soft rubber strike area; bell area: 38mm Zone: Dual with choke capability. (Also available in 16” and 18” sizes.)

Performance: The bell area is the smallest of any ride with the most pronounced bump; it has almost too much of a physical bump slope. Surprisingly nice swing for a light plastic cymbal when mounted on the provided Aquarian spring. The soft foam rubber strike pad was responsive over the entire bow area. Sensitivity levels needed to be a bit lower than what was recommended; otherwise the cymbal was too hot. Still, Rim Gain was maxed out to get a decent response on the bell. What we liked: Bow response and the lack of spin. What we didn’t like: Small bell area.

The cymbal: Pintech Visulite 1800RB ($293)

Material and size: 18” acrylic with soft rubber strike area; bell area: 45mm. Zone: Dual with choke capability. (Also available in three zones.)

Performance: Second-largest bell area of any tested and was responsive to tip and shank strikes. Edge hits were “hot”. The strike area sweet spot was not as broad as the PC-14B, it’s larger than the Surges but a bit smaller than the rest. Edge hits are similar to the Visulite crash in feel and positioning. It mounts on an Aquarian spring, and when striking the edge or bow area, it swings just like an acoustic. However, when striking the bell area, it had the least lateral movement of any cymbal, including “plug-mounted” Rolands and the DMPAD. What we liked: Swing. Bow area size.

What we didn’t like: Getting an acceptable sensitivity/threshold balance for bow/edge hits.


ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:07 PM Page 21

The cymbal: Roland CY-12R/C ($259)

Material and size: 12” all-rubber; bell area: 40mm. Zone: Triple with choke capability.

Performance: Bell area bump is not as pronounced and responds reliably only to shank strikes. Unique feature of Roland cymbals is an inset wing nut which lessens its footprint on the bell area and minimises the possibility of errant hits. That said, cymbals with larger bell areas are still easier to reliably strike with little thought. Little lateral movement unless wing nut is loosely fastened. The bow area sweet spot covers about a third of the cymbal, similar to the Yamaha and slightly less than the DMPAD and PC-14B. What we liked: Seamless edge-to-bow transition. No spin.

What we didn’t like: Swing. Hardest cymbal to choke. Very hard edge for an all-rubber cymbal. Small diameter might not feel “ridelike” to many users. The cymbal: Roland CY-13R ($239)

Material and size: 13” all-rubber; bell area: 40mm. Zone: Triple with choke capability.

Performance: This new offering was introduced as a budget alternative to the CY-15 ride. It requires two module inputs – one for the edge, the other for the bell and bow. Like the other CY models, this cymbal has an inset wing nut which lessens its footprint on the bell area. The Roland mounting hardware also means limited lateral movement when the cymbal is struck. The bow sweet spot covers almost the whole surface, but the bell is quite picky, requiring fairly accurate shank strikes. Edge triggering is excellent and the choke works well. Note that Roland has sacrificed position sensing to reduce the cost of this cymbal.

What we liked: Bigger surface than the CY-12, large sweet spot and good sensitivity.

What we didn’t like: Bell response was a little subdued and required a good, firm shank strike. No positional sensing. (Allan Leibowitz) The cymbal: Roland CY-15 ($349)

Material and size: 15” all-rubber; bell area: 45mm.

Zone: Triple with choke capability.

Performance: Bell area bump and response are identical to the CY-12 and it shares the inset wing nut feature although the bell area size is slightly larger; that is a good thing. It has more lateral movement than the CY-12, mostly because of its size and, again, only if you loosely attach the wing nut. The bow area sweet spot is identical to the CY-12 in that it covered at least a third of the surface with little drop-off until outside of that. The edge is softer than any allrubber cymbal. The CY-15 is a bit bouncier than the CY-12 digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2012



ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:07 PM Page 22

but slightly less than the CY-14 crash, making it good at intricate ride patterns (module permitting).

What we liked: Seamless edge-to-bow transition. Larger size “feels” more like a ride. No spin.

What we didn’t like: Harder to choke than other cymbals (except the CY-12) despite a very soft edge. The cymbal: Yamaha PCY-155 ($160)

Material and size: 15” all-rubber; bell area: 40mm.

Zone: Triple with choke capability on Yamaha module; dual with choke on Roland.

Performance: The bell area bump was pronounced without being too steep. It was responsive to both tip and shank strikes. The bow area sweet spot covered a third of the cymbal. Edge triggering was very nice and the best of any cymbal tested. The choke is soft but if you choke the cymbal while simultaneously hitting the bow, you get, in effect, a fourth “zone” sound. When paired with the DTX950 module, you get the broadest range of sounds. Lateral movement was better than the Rolands and the PC-14B, but a smidge less than the Hart. The DIY modification for getting the third zone to work on a Roland module is amply documented and fairly easy to do. If not, it works fine out of the box as a two-zone bow/bell ride. What we liked: Seamless edge-to-bow transition. Wide variety of ride sounds and responses. No spin. Easy to choke.

What we didn’t like: On a Yamaha module, there’s nothing not to like. Can be hard to get dialed in on a Roland module. The cymbal: XM XCRP13 ($130)

Material and size: 13” all-rubber; bell area: 50mm.

Zone: Triple with choke capability on XM module; dual with choke on Roland.

Performance: Like other cymbals designed for proprietary modules, the zones don’t translate perfectly onto a Roland module. In most trigger settings, one gets bell triggering on both the bell and the edge. I did manage to get an edge sound in one setting, but that was at the expense of the choke function. Besides the zone anomaly, triggering was even across the cymbal. Responsiveness was excellent and bell triggering was easier than most Roland rides (helped also by its presence in two zones). The cymbal comes with a proprietary swing mount that sits on regular hardware and provides for excellent forward-backward motion. While not perfect as a ride for Roland modules, these will certainly work if you don’t mind losing a zone and make excellent value-for-money crashes. What we liked: Good sensitivity, 360-degree triggering sweet spot, sensitive bell area, easy choke action along the entire circumference, fantastic pricing.

What we didn’t like: Zone incompatibility on a Roland module. (Allan Leibowitz) 22

ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:07 PM Page 23

Head2Head 3 e ak T

digitalDrummer has done two mesh head reviews, and still the samples keep arriving, so Allan Leibowitz dusted off the test rig to try three more.

TO DATE, WE have compared 13 mesh heads, and this month we add two more production models and one DIY option already reviewed in digitalDrummer.

I should point out that there are still some products we haven’t tested: we haven’t managed to get samples from at least two makers and two others already featured had new variants in final testing when this review was undertaken. So, as they say, watch this space for part four.

Testing was done on the same rig used in the original test — a heavyweight drumstick pivoting 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: digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2012



ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:07 PM Page 24


This budget Taiwanese maker originally launched a head with a built-in sensor. Since then, it has added a full range of singleply mesh heads, with the 12” priced at an enticing $10. The 12” test sample was taken from the snare reviewed in November and was a tough, substantial off-white head that fitted snugly on the test snare. The weave is quite tight and the mesh material fairly substantial, making the head almost totally translucent. The head was slightly spongy under the stick, with not as much rebound as some of its rivals. However, triggering was excellent and positional sensing, not possible on the XM snare, was easily achieved.

The head was relatively quiet under the controlled hit and around mid-range on free play. It was, however, characterised by a low thud sound. In summary, it’s a lot of head for $10.

Z-ed Twin

The British Z-ed brand was previously only represented at the budget end of the mesh scale, but it has upped the ante with a pretty impressive dual-ply.

The heads, at £9 each, are much whiter than Roland’s, but also have a looser weave and are therefore more transparent. The two layers have more slack between them than other dual-ply heads, which translates into a slightly more pronounced acoustic buzz. Another difference is that the 12” was very generously sized — so much so, in fact, that it needed to be prized with a screwdriver from the hoop.

Performance on the drum was excellent. The head had a great feel when tightened to the max, with good response and sensitivity, and excellent positional sensing.

Sonically, the Z-ed was among the quietest for controlled hits and not much louder for full whacks. And it had a pleasant tone — despite the buzz. 24



ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:07 PM Page 25 prepare the head.

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

Price !15 £9 $12 $25 !22 !22 $40 $40 $10 $37 $30 $40 $13 £7 £9 $10

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

Noise level 72-86dB 81-95dB 78-93dB 78-91dB 78-89dB 79-91dB 75.5-89dB 77-92dB 75-94dB 76-89dB 75-87dB 77-88dB

79-85dB 78-86dB 76-88dB 75-90dB

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

Pos Sens Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Poor Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Heads in bold are reviewed for the first time. +Rebound measured in seconds. ^^This is a DIY head.

Tuff Mesh

This DIY material was covered in an earlier issue, but we have been asked frequently about its performance, so here goes … Mounted on a 12” ‘hoop’, the Tuff Mesh is at the louder end of the spectrum for controlled hits, but softer for full-bore banging. That’s probably because the material is dense and absorbs the impacts.

Performance-wise, Tuff Mesh is responsive and has reasonable dynamics, but it does have to be cranked up really tight — and that can be challenging if you haven’t fitted it correctly to the hoop. Admittedly, the test head had little play and sat very high against the hoop, so there was a limit to how much it could be tightened.

As we said in the DIY article, it’s excellent, durable material, but installation is a bit tricky and while it may get easier with practice, not many drummers will make enough of them to become proficient. And besides the purchase price, you’ll also need a donor hoop of some description — and at least 45 minutes to an hour to prepare the head.


HART PROFESSIONAL SERIES Hart Pro 6.4 Hart kits are handcrafted providing

r e m m

u r D l a digit

! T N COU de

DISnter Coupo9n1C0o” E

Get the BEST DEALS on Hart Dynamics gear at

or Call Erik

877-222-7457 Toll-Free

the highest quality. Available in Hart’s distinguished all Hand Hammered chrome or classic Piano Black lacquer shells with HH chrome snare. Features TE3.2 dual triggering, Pro Ecymbal II’s, Epedal II hi-hat stand, and heavy-duty Hartware rack system. The perfect kit to perform at church, on the road, or in the studio. Low acoustic volume for stage or at home, without disturbing your neighbors.............................. MAP Price*: $3,849


Other models available:

The most versatile accessory trigger pad available. Give your kit a little something extra that performs in a big way. You can’t build an electronic drum set without a Hammer.

Hart Pro 5.3...................MAP Price*: $3,359

MAP Price*: $79



STUDIO MASTER SERIES Studio Master 6.4 Key features that set this drum

MAGNUM & MAXXUM Kontrol Screen “Mesh” Drumheads Magnum and Maxxum

Other models available:

Magnum KS Drumhead ��������������������������������������� click here for sizes & prices Maxxum KS Drumhead ��������������������������������������� click here for sizes & prices

Kontrol Screen drumheads are Hart’s 5th generation of silent mesh drumhead technology. These heads are simply the quietest, most durable, best feeling, nonacoustic drumheads available. Play the new Maxxum on your snare and bass, Magnums on your toms and replicate the feel of playing a variation of double and single ply mylar. Attention to this kind of detail is how Hart continues to raise the bar for the electronic drumming experience.

kit apart are four TE3.2 dual trigger 10” mesh Acupad drums for toms and new super solid 10” Acupad kick. 13” Hart Pro TE3.2 dual trigger snare with stand, top-of-the-line bronze Pro Ecymbal II’s, and the one of a kind Epedal II upright hi-hat stand. Pair with the module of your choice (sold separately) for a compact kit that delivers high-end performance MAP Price*: $2,449 Studio Master 5.3......................... MAP Price*: $2,139 Studio Master............................... MAP Price*: $1,789

HART PROFESSIONAL 13” Snare If you’re a digital

drummer, you’ve probably already replaced your drumheads with Hart’s Kontrol Screen mesh. Now it’s time to upgrade your kit with the Snare Drum that represents the superior performance of Hart’s, TE3.2, state-of-the-art trigger system with KS drumheads. Built like a tank, this 13” Hand Hammered chrome snare is a full positional sensing, dual trigger drum that will stand the test of time and take your drumming to the next level........ MAP Price*: $390


Replace your electronic drum “pads” with drums that provide an electronic drumming experience no other brand can match. RMC is now offering Hart Professional shell packs for those who are looking to improve the performance, playability, and look of an existing kit. You no longer have to commit to a complete kit and a Hart Pro drum shell pack is more cost effective than purchasing drums individually. Shell packs are available in Hand Hammered Chrome or Classic Black Lacquer. Hart Pro Shell Pack (5 pc) : MAP Price*: $1,679

EPEDAL II Hi-Hat Stand

The Epedal II hi-hat stand is one more example of what sets Hart Dynamics apart from the rest. This is a fully variable pedal with up/down and open/close action, plus a super sturdy, double braced, 3 leg rotating base for use with all double kick pedals..............MAP Price*: $299 with Hi-Hat Ecymbal II....................... $449

Hart Pro Shell Pack (6 pc) : MAP Price*: $1,999

HART PROFESSIONAL SERIES Hart Pro 6.4 Hart kits are handcrafted providing

r e m m

u r D l a digit

! T N COU de

DISnter Coupo9n1C0o” E

Get the BEST DEALS on Hart Dynamics gear at

or Call Erik

877-222-7457 Toll-Free

the highest quality. Available in Hart’s distinguished all Hand Hammered chrome or classic Piano Black lacquer shells with HH chrome snare. Features TE3.2 dual triggering, Pro Ecymbal II’s, Epedal II hi-hat stand, and heavy-duty Hartware rack system. The perfect kit to perform at church, on the road, or in the studio. Low acoustic volume for stage or at home, without disturbing your neighbors.............................. MAP Price*: $3,849


Other models available:

The most versatile accessory trigger pad available. Give your kit a little something extra that performs in a big way. You can’t build an electronic drum set without a Hammer.

Hart Pro 5.3...................MAP Price*: $3,359

MAP Price*: $79



STUDIO MASTER SERIES Studio Master 6.4 Key features that set this drum

MAGNUM & MAXXUM Kontrol Screen “Mesh” Drumheads Magnum and Maxxum

Other models available:

Magnum KS Drumhead ��������������������������������������� click here for sizes & prices Maxxum KS Drumhead ��������������������������������������� click here for sizes & prices

Kontrol Screen drumheads are Hart’s 5th generation of silent mesh drumhead technology. These heads are simply the quietest, most durable, best feeling, nonacoustic drumheads available. Play the new Maxxum on your snare and bass, Magnums on your toms and replicate the feel of playing a variation of double and single ply mylar. Attention to this kind of detail is how Hart continues to raise the bar for the electronic drumming experience.

kit apart are four TE3.2 dual trigger 10” mesh Acupad drums for toms and new super solid 10” Acupad kick. 13” Hart Pro TE3.2 dual trigger snare with stand, top-of-the-line bronze Pro Ecymbal II’s, and the one of a kind Epedal II upright hi-hat stand. Pair with the module of your choice (sold separately) for a compact kit that delivers high-end performance MAP Price*: $2,449 Studio Master 5.3......................... MAP Price*: $2,139 Studio Master............................... MAP Price*: $1,789

HART PROFESSIONAL 13” Snare If you’re a digital

drummer, you’ve probably already replaced your drumheads with Hart’s Kontrol Screen mesh. Now it’s time to upgrade your kit with the Snare Drum that represents the superior performance of Hart’s, TE3.2, state-of-the-art trigger system with KS drumheads. Built like a tank, this 13” Hand Hammered chrome snare is a full positional sensing, dual trigger drum that will stand the test of time and take your drumming to the next level........ MAP Price*: $390


Replace your electronic drum “pads” with drums that provide an electronic drumming experience no other brand can match. RMC is now offering Hart Professional shell packs for those who are looking to improve the performance, playability, and look of an existing kit. You no longer have to commit to a complete kit and a Hart Pro drum shell pack is more cost effective than purchasing drums individually. Shell packs are available in Hand Hammered Chrome or Classic Black Lacquer. Hart Pro Shell Pack (5 pc) : MAP Price*: $1,679

EPEDAL II Hi-Hat Stand

The Epedal II hi-hat stand is one more example of what sets Hart Dynamics apart from the rest. This is a fully variable pedal with up/down and open/close action, plus a super sturdy, double braced, 3 leg rotating base for use with all double kick pedals..............MAP Price*: $299 with Hi-Hat Ecymbal II....................... $449

Hart Pro Shell Pack (6 pc) : MAP Price*: $1,999


Lighten up

ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:07 PM Page 28

For those drummers who need to be seen as well as heard, there’s a new solution which is sure to make audiences sit up and take notice – MIDI-controlled LED lights. Allan Leibowitz fired up the drums, turned out the lights and checked out the Midi Knights Pro system.

MIDI KNIGHTS IS a collaboration between two musicians who thought it would be cool if people could see what they were playing. Given that electronic music is built around MIDI, it made sense to use the MIDI signals to switch lights on and off, the same way they select the appropriate synthesised notes.

The result, after a few prototypes, is the recently released Midi Knights Pro system designed for edrums, but finding much broader application — even spanning electric guitars. There are a couple of variations that are about to be launched, one for acoustic drum kits and a budget single-trigger system for simple applications. digitalDrummer tested the Pro system with a variety of Midi Knights LED products.

What’s in the box

Midi Knights consists of a controller, a customised power supply, some detailed instructions (available as a PDF download) and a free software application (currently only for Windows). You’ll also need MIDI cable (not supplied) and, of course, a bunch of LED light strands. Midi Knights supplies two versions for e-drummers: the QuickFlex Drum LED Mounting System which consists of a strand of LEDs on a clear acrylic hoop with velcro on the ends for quick mounting and removal; and the “standard” system of ribbon-mounted LEDs on


an adhesive backing intended for more permanent mounting. Both are easy to install and come in various lengths. The standard ribbons range from $29.99 for the 18” to $44.99 for a 36” strand. There’s also an Extended Mounted System designed for internal installation inside acoustic drums. Each LED ribbon comes with a 3.6 metre extension cable.

Setting up

The controller unit is clearly labelled, so it’s easy to work out what plugs in where. Essentially, there are MIDI In and Through connections, a jack for a foot controller, 13 outputs for the LEDs and an input for electric guitar (but we won’t worry about that!).

Once everything is plugged in, there are two ways of setting it up – either using the Windows-based application or directly on the controller, using the two-line LCD display and the up/down/left/right/OK buttons on the face. The menu is quite complicated because the controller is very powerful, so it’s important to follow the step-by-step instructions provided.

I started with a fairly simple set-up, using a single “channel” and when I thought I’d done something horribly wrong because I couldn’t get anything to light up, I rechecked the rear connections and found that I’d plugged into B instead of A (remember that the letters start at the bottom, not the top!).

ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:07 PM Page 29

A Midi Knights system helps Ami O create the mood. Once I got the strands connected to the right ports, it was relatively easy to allocate specific colours to the bass drum, snare, hi-hat, ride, etc. Not only can you choose the colour, you can also dial up its intensity and the duration of each flash. In addition, you can choose to make the light velocity-sensitive, so that louder sounds are accompanied by brighter lights. Very cool!

In action

What can I say? You hit a drum, the light goes on. And it goes on every time you do so – if you have set it up right. The accuracy, like the sounds, depends on the signals from your trigger and drum brain.

There’s lots of scope to tweak the lights, and the red/green/blue elements combine for almost infinite colour mixing — or a choice of 39 single-colour outputs.

Just as e-drummers spend ages tweaking the sounds of their kits, you could devote plenty of time perfecting the colour hues to match the mood of your songs — and the system comes with 10 memory banks which are similar to the kit patches on an e-drum. These allow you to switch settings on the fly without having to go back to the individual setups for each channel. And that’s also where the foot pedal controller comes in. You can use this device to switch banks while playing. digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2012


The verdict


The Midi Knights Pro kit is a well-built, well-designed system that certainly doesn’t look or feel like something built by two blokes in a shed. It is easy to set up and operate, and in less than half an hour, it will have you shining bright. Even someone who has never seen an LED ribbon and has only a basic understanding of MIDI notes will be able to get the Midi Knights Pro working effectively, thanks to a straight-forward system design and very clear instructions. And I sense that the array of settings and options could certainly get the creativity flowing for those motivated to get the most out of their investment.

Speaking of money, the controller sells for $399.99, with very reasonable shipping charges, even to the other end of the world ($24.99 to Australia, for example). Of course, the LED strands can quickly push up the total price, especially if you’re going to use all 13 channels – but then again, those can always be purchased piecemeal, as you grow more adventurous. There’s also a starter pack featuring the controller and six LEDs for $599. Midi Knights Pro is a great idea, well executed and we’re sure this start-up business won’t be left in the shadows.


ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:07 PM Page 30

Book gives unique view on drummers --pERFORMANCE--

DRUMMERS ARE TOO often heard but not seen. The gear usually forms a barrier which hides some of the showmanship behind the skins. But a new book by drummer and photographer David Phillips (pictured below) not only shows some of the top contemporary drummers in action, it also reveals the views from behind the kit. A Drummer’s Perspective is a coffee table (do people still have coffee tables?) book with over 200 images of more than 100 drummers in action at gigs large and small.

Some of the biggest names in the business are represented in the images, and, of course, there are all the well-known edrummers.

The pictures are all impressive, reflecting not only Phillips’ access to stars at work, but also his understanding of drumming and the drummer’s unique vantage point.

The book is only available direct from the author ( at £29.99, with postage adding another £5-10, depending on location.


ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:08 PM Page 31

g reats m u r d E) te page (opposi nd Rabb a t h is Lang; ( om page f r rco top) Ma ann, Minnem akim, Omar H hite. Steve W



ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:08 PM Page 32



Bill Bruford 32

ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:08 PM Page 33

The most expensive drum kit ever staged (circa 1989).

Bill Bruford was once the poster boy of e-drums. He was cited by the godfather of digital drumming, Dave Simmons, as the drummer who took his inventions further than anyone, “using the instruments to expand the palette of tones and textures available to him as drummer, percussionist and band leader”. So it would surprise most enthusiasts to hear that Bruford has not played an electronic drum since unplugging his last SDX. But then again, those who have followed the progressive rock pioneer’s career are probably not surprised by anything to do with Bruford. He played for some of the biggest names of the ‘70s and ‘80s — Yes, Genesis and King Crimson — then turned his back on fame and fortune to concentrate on jazz before withdrawing from the limelight totally in 2009, about the same time he chronicled his disillusionment in his autobiography. Bruford spoke to digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz on the eve of the re-release of the book in a limited edition.



ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:08 PM Page 34


The new edition of Burford’s autobiography features cover art by Andy Vella. digitalDrummer: Why did you feel the need to put pen to paper with the original version of the autobiography a couple of years ago?

Bruford: Well, I’d been a drummer for 41 years and retired fairly abruptly and in part I wanted to explain to myself what had happened in a very frantic 41 years. You move at a hugely fast pace and there’s never time to stop and think. There’s always another album and there’s always another tour. And I wanted to explain that to myself and also to other people because, in my opinion, there’s a massive misunderstanding about what we all want rock musicians to do and be — and what they actually are. I know many more people like me than like, for example, Keith Richards (of the Rolling Stones). I’m just kind of a regular bloke doing a job and I don’t really swallow the rock star thing very much. So the book was put from my point of view. digitalDrummer: Is there a particular anecdote in the book which will resonate with electronic percussionists?

Bruford: There’s one about probably the most expensive electronic drum kit in the world failing me at Madison Square Garden. There we are playing Madison Square Garden with two Simmons SDXes fired up and ready to go and the first half of the show is perfect. There was nothing wrong at all — except the faintest of buzzes in my monitor which I pointed out to my drum tech just as I was leaving the stage. There was a 20-minute break and we come back into this massive arena with spotlights and all that sort of thing and half of the drummers on 34

the East Coast of the US had rocked up to hear what you can get out of two Simmons SDXes. And as I walk up onto the drum riser, the drum tech says: “You can’t play. They won’t work!” He decided to power them down and unfortunately, triggered a malfunction and they wouldn’t boot up again. The next thing was a five-minute drum duet with Alan White, the other Yes drummer, facing me about 20 yards away across the stage and he had this massive Ludwig rock drum set going 19 to the dozen and I had a hi-hat and a snare drum. So I played whatever I could, but it was probably the longest five minutes of my life.

digitalDrummer: On that note, when we spoke to Dave Simmons, he was effusive in his admiration for what you could do with his gear, saying no-one could do more … Bruford: Except Dave Simmons himself. He was brilliant at handling it — no-one came close.

digitalDrummer: But he credits you with pushing the boundaries …

Bruford: Well, I couldn’t understand why anyone thought electronics was going to replace your drum kit because to me they sounded as much like an acoustic set as a Hohner electric piano does like a grand piano. There’s no connection. And once you got past the idea that they were never going to sound like drums, you could make them sound like pitched marimbas or strange things trailing MIDI chords behind them. And being half a piano player myself, I thought it would be great to have a hybrid piano/drum electronic instrument here. And after a


ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:08 PM Page 35

while, sure enough, you could play chords, pitches and samples all at the same time and I had formed a whole band around that idea called Earthworks. And when I got it to work, and when it did work, and when it wasn’t broken or too expensive to ship or in baggage claim in Frankfurt, it was great.

digitalDrummer: So was this just a phase, because looking over your equipment line-ups over the years, it seems to have swung from totally acoustic to totally electronic and then back to acoustic? Bruford: I suppose I was actively onboard with Simmons for about 15 years and during the course of that, I gave rise to about 30 compositions that were explicitly a function of having a Simmons drum kit. In other words, if you didn’t have that kit, you couldn’t play that stuff. That’s what I liked about it; that’s what gave it its colour. But it was hell doing those two (compositions) a year in those early days of MIDI and pads and trying to get your Yamaha to talk to your Simmons to talk to a controller of some sort – it was a nightmare, a complete nightmare. But I got really into it and got as much out of it as I digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2012

possibly could, and eventually I moved to jazz and I had no problem with the idea of using electronic drums in jazz, but there was no money to take staff and have endless sound checks. You can only do that stuff with a full-blown rock infrastructure. So when I abandoned that, I abandoned it wholesale. I haven’t really kept up with the technology. And I know it sounds weird, telling you that I was totally onboard with Simmons and got really deep into it, but funnily enough, it was a very blinkered existence and I didn’t know the other things, the other gizmos, that were available.

digitalDrummer: So when was the last time you actually tried an electronic kit?

Bruford: The last time I tried one was my own in about 1995.

digitalDrummer: So no curiosity about what’s out there now?

Bruford: I understand that the world has moved on, but I suspect that it hasn’t got past my main problem — acoustic headroom. I suspect it may be an 35

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amplification problem or it might be a MIDI issue. When you strike the drum, there’s no acoustic difference. It’s a little bit quieter, then it’s a little bit louder. In comparison, an acoustic drum has enormous dynamic range. In other words, I was immediately too loud for anything, or too quiet. And the performer’s ability to vary that was really minimal.

digitalDrummer: I suspect if you sat down behind a top-end kit today, you would be impressed with things like positional sensing and dynamics … Bruford: That’s lovely and I’ll bet it works, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to dynamic level. digitalDrummer: Okay, it’s never going to be an acoustic kit, but it emulates it closely…

Bruford: It does … and of course, I understand the popularity in apartments and small buildings. However, I also think it’s very easy to be very sloppy on them because they make you sound very good very easily. 36

digitalDrummer: Right. I was going to ask about technology replacing talent. I bet you’d have some thoughts on that?

Bruford: I do, but I also have an issue with authorship: how do you make yourself sound like Bill Bruford, for example. Given similar electronic headroom and dynamic range and expression, it’s possible to end up sounding rather anonymous. digitalDrummer: So, for example, with young people starting out, what would be your recommendations about finding their own sound rather than using the technology to emulate someone else?

Bruford: Well, I think found objects are wonderful things to start listening to, and combinations of sounds are interesting. I think people buy a drum kit – a couple of toms, snare drum, bass drum, couple of cymbals, etc – as if it’s been designed like that by the government and that’s the only thing you’re allowed to play – as if it’s wisdom from God – that’s what it is. They then no longer pay any attention to the sounds coming out of it. I remember an

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improvisational musician I had lessons with as a kid. When I went for a lesson expecting a kit, he just spread out a bunch of pots and pans and glass and chains and I would play with wooden pot-stirrers, and the combinations of sounds we came up with just there were really interesting. It was an education in sound and in listening and in combinations of sounds. Why does a long membranophone sound good, for example? That kind of thing is lovely to start with, and only then should they get interested in electronics. So I’d start with acoustic first, training your ear. digitalDrummer: Of course, sometimes there’s no alternative because of the need for volume control.

Bruford: Sure, but there should be a health warning. And the warning is that as the kid puts on the headphones, puts on his favourite (Red Hot) Chili Peppers track and plays along with his electronic drum set, makes some mistakes – but it doesn’t matter because the Peppers still sound good in the headphones — he has to realise that he is not driving the Chili Peppers. And I think at a basic level, it’s very seductive and it’s best not to start that way.

digitalDrummer: Let’s turn back to you. What’s life like after Genesis, Yes and all of that?

Bruford: Well, I stopped two or three years ago and have sort of re-invented myself as an author, a lecturer. I sort of dispense wisdom at colleges and universities and drum retailers in the UK and US. And I’ve just started post-graduate research in creativity and drum set at Surrey University. digitalDrummer: And any plans to get back behind an electronic kit, perhaps dragging Dave Simmons back into the fold? Bruford: No, funnily enough, I don’t — and my Simmons gear is a bit dusty. I have no intention of getting behind a drum kit except for my own amusement. I stopped cold turkey at the beginning of 2009 and I’d rather contribute by interviews like this and a bit of light lecturing.

digitalDrummer: I think many readers will find it unbelievable that someone so successful and so involved in the music industry could just walk away. Is it just “been there, done that”?

Bruford: There’s an element of that and also an element of “burned out”. After 41 years at that pace, I really could not hear what to do next or how I could fit in.


digitalDrummer: But surely you miss the music and working with fellow musicians?

Bruford: You’re perfectly right, I do miss that, but the circumstances under which I can reconstruct that are too painful for words. There’s an element of drumming having taken over my life and I gave everything I could to it, but I just ran out of petrol. Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’d far rather do that than kind of slog around playing Nights in White Satin. I don’t understand that endless stadium repetition. digitalDrummer: So you’re probably horrified by all of the recycled talent touring around now and making more money than they did in their heyday? Bruford: There’s a lot to be said for that. Some people will point a finger at the Rolling Stones and say “look, if you guys would stop, then it would mean all the other bands of that ilk would stop, and the younger guys would have a better go at it”. Because every time Yes or the Moody Blues or the Stones go through town, they suck up so much money that there’s nothing left. And a bit of me resents that and that’s a bit unfair.

digitalDrummer: Bill, thanks for your time and your insights, many more of which are contained in the book To find out more about Bill Bruford: The Autobiography, visit


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How I use e-drums Los Angeles-based session drummer Buddy Gibbons is finding new uses for e-drums. He explains how they’re presenting new opportunities.

THE YEAR WAS 1996. There it sat: a little black

box with many mysterious buttons. It said “Alesis SR-16” in bold block letters. Somehow, this thing was supposed to help me make music. What it actually did was intimidate me. Its buttons and lights and unwavering feel were a very difficult proposition. I was supposed to programme this little computer? After all, I am a drummer, not a computer programmer. How was I supposed to make this little box do … anything? It wasn’t until the arrival of Roland’s V-drums in the early 2000s that I seriously became interested in what electronics could do in my setup. The V-drums allowed me to create music by sitting down and playing music on actual drums. No more “black box programming” was necessary. I could simply create a groove using the internal sounds and record my ideas in real time. I was finally able to use electronics in a truly musical way. 38

So how do these past experiences relate to my use of electronics today? Well, my current drumkit is a full-on hybrid. It’s quite common for me to use a complete acoustic kit and augment it with two or three Yamaha DTX pads and a DTX kick drum. The new Yamaha DTX900 module is simply one of the best I’ve heard. Yamaha used its Motif library to create an infinitely usable sound library. It includes everything from realistic birch, maple and oak kits, to more esoteric sounds that can be used to create truly interesting pieces of music.

One of my favourite things to do with electronics is sampling. I’m a sampling freak. (There, I said it.) If it makes a noise, if it can be banged on, if it can have a sound coaxed from it, chances are I’m going to try to record it! The DTX900’s built-in sampler makes that very easy to do. I will often use sampled sounds assigned to a pad just to add some interest to a “typical” groove. It’s amazing what a little “saw blade with a screwdriver” sound can do.

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While electronics certainly make demoing songs easier, I also use them for tracking from time to time. One producer has called me to track his films simply because of my knowledge of electronics. As recently as yesterday, I received a call for my electronic setup for another drummer!

As I sit here writing this article on my Macbook Pro, listening to music on my iPod, and checking Facebook on my iPhone, I cannot help but be reminded that, not so long ago, an electric typewriter was the height of technology. Now, of course, we’re totally reliant on electronics in our day-to-day lives. It only makes sense that we, as drummers, embrace and incorporate the advances and advantages of technology. I hope that my journey from fear of an SR-16 to complete integration with multiple pieces of ‘electronica’ will encourage you to do just that. digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2012


Equipment list:


Since moving to Los Angeles, my drumming path has taken a surprising, yet welcome, turn. I’ve had the opportunity to become a fulltime session player. The vast majority of the work I do is for television, sporting events and film. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had thousands of songs placed in TV shows, the bulk of which have been recorded in home studios. My own studio is equipped with two Macs, a Digidesign 002 desktop controller, Pro Tools 8 HD, Logic Pro 9, a Samson 16-channel mixer and a Mackie eight-channel mixer. This set-up allows me to demo songs very quickly. In fact, using the DTX to lay down ideas in Pro Tools or Logic is now the most common way I write songs. The files can then be easily emailed or transferred to my songwriting partners. We’ve even done sessions via Skype.


My hybrid set-up recently expanded to include Zildjian’s new Gen16 Acoustic/Electric pies. They’ve been a welcome addition, particularly for live gigs. The Gen16s are unique in that they are true acoustic cymbals that utilise a compact condenser mic and digital sound processing. Since Gen16s are not triggers, the actual cymbal creates the sound. In the past, I often found myself having to compromise between a dark set of auxiliary hats and a bright pair — a dark K on my left, or a bright A Custom. With the Gen16s, I no longer have to make that choice. I can set up a pair of Gen16 hats to my right, a Gen16 crash to my left, and have the ability to dial up different sounds to suit the song that I’m playing. They’re not a replacement for a real K Custom, but rather an alternative sound source that gives drummers many options.

Zildjian cymbals (standard setup includes 13” K Custom Hybrid hats, 17” K Custom dark crash, 6” A Custom splash, 10” A Custom splash, 21” K Custom Hybrid Ride, 19” K Custom crash, 15” K hi-hats, 19” K China) Vic Firth sticks (HD-9)

Evans heads (G-Plus coated on toms and snares, Gmad on kick with EQ-Pad for muffling) Future Sonics Atrio in-ear monitors


Yamaha DTX900 kit Zildjian Gen16 AE cymbals (13” Mastersound hats, 16” crash, 18” crash, 20” ride and 18” china) Macbook Pro Digidesign 002 Desk Mackie eight-channel mixer Samson 16-channel mixer Pro Tools 8 HD Logic Pro 9


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Adding percussion With percussion sounds now well represented in electronic kits and devices, it’s easier than ever to expand the rhythm section. But as Carl Albrecht explains, four hands are not always better than two and it’s important for drums and percussion to work together. 40

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I’VE BEEN VERY fortunate to work with some amazing musicians. Drummers, percussionists and other players have made the job of creating music a sheer delight. On the other hand, there have been moments of extreme frustration when a musician was not grooving or connecting with the band. It could be a technical problem, like a player not keeping good time, playing too loudly, or not playing the proper part or style. Sometimes it’s an emotional thing, like someone thinking too highly of themselves (arrogance) or just not caring about what they are doing (boredom). Either way, it makes for a bad day for the band. For a drummer and percussionist to work together well, every aspect has to be in place. Both players must really be “locked in” to the tempo. Dynamically, they need to sound like one unit. Their parts must be carefully arranged to work well with each other, and to complement the rest of the group. And it helps if they have at least a good working relationship, if not a real friendship.

As a drummer, I look for the percussionist to “weave” their playing into mine. The drummer is still “driving the bus”, so to speak. The percussionist should never try to push or pull the tempo around. They should always try to line up their time and feel to what the drummer is doing. I want their part to complement what I am playing and in general make the music sound great. When I’m playing percussion, I always remind myself that the drummer is the Christmas tree and I’m the ornaments. In this case, we need to see more green than silver, if you catch my drift. I’ve heard percussionists say that their drummer doesn’t play well and that they HAVE to overpower them to make the music work. That could be true, but my recommendation is to work it out first. Get with your drummer and start practising with a metronome, or drum loops. Communicate with each other. Build a relationship where you think as a team, and learn to help each other. Music never digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2012

seems to feel really good when there is a musical or personal battle on stage.

I can always tell when the percussionist is NOT listening to what the drummer or the rest of the band is doing. The part they play might conflict with the hihat or ride cymbal part. Maybe they are playing too busily. Filling every space with some sound effect or percussion run is like having too much salt in your soup. In a case like this, I will actually have a little chat with my drum/percussion partner. I always try to be an encourager. It never helps to yell at someone or project negative emotions into the environment. There is a spiritual lesson here, but for the sake of time, let’s just focus on the technical stuff.

I will actually discuss with the percussionist about how we arrange our parts for the music we’re playing. I might ask them to NOT play for a section. Maybe they should just colour the first verse and chorus with sound effects, and not do any “groove” parts until the second verse. It all depends on THE MUSIC! What does the music really require? If there is a recording, both players should be copying what was already “composed.” Yes, I think of recorded music as a composition. Unless the leader asks for some other interpretation, play the part that already exists for the song. This is always my “default setting” for playing music. If we are creating a part for a song, I listen very carefully to what the rest of the band is doing to try to find the drum part. Then the percussion concepts should fit into that. Yes, there are times we might build from a percussion idea first. Percussion grooves are everywhere in contemporary music. Even more so now with the use of drum machines, drum loops and sequencing. So, it is a great time to be a drummer and percussionist, but ALL of the musicians must be serving the song. If what we play does not make the song work well, it’s just noise! ● More practical tips next time.


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Roady’s final gig

TOM ‘THE MAYOR’ Roady, digitalDrummer’s first profiled artist, passed away in late November, doing what he loved most – on tour with Ricky Skaggs and his family. The percussionist died in his sleep on the Skaggs Family Christmas tour bus at Clemson University in South Carolina.

Skaggs was among the first to express his “deepest sympathy to the family at the passing of (a) dear friend and fellow musician”.

Roady was 62 and had been diagnosed with cancer a few weeks earlier, but refused to withdraw from the Skaggs tour.

He told his Facebook friends at the time: “I will be out on tour with (Ricky Skaggs) and the family including the Whites .... I know the power that this family has and they will take care of me out there as well as pray for me every day and night. ..”

Roady rejected traditional treatment for his cancer in favour of “a different course of treatment: one that has God first in the front of everything ... with prayer, scripture, meditation, etc.”. He probably wrote his own eulogy on Facebook with the profound message: “The quality of the rest of my life trumps the length of my life”. Friends say it was fitting that Roady ended his life doing what he loved most, with people who shared his passion for music. Roady was a multi-award-winning artist whose performances grace over 1,000 records and CDs.

He recorded for country acts such as Vince Gill, Brooks & Dunn, Trisha Yearwood, Kenny Rogers, Martina McBride and Randy Travis; R&B singers like Mavis Staples, Wilson Pickett, Millie Jackson, James Brown and Etta James; pop acts like Art Garfunkel, Andy Gibb, Michael McDonald and Donovan and rock acts like Bob Seger and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Roady toured with James Taylor, John Denver, Paul Anka and Ricky Skaggs and spent the last few years recording in his home studio and the studios in Nashville.


Our first cover — and Tom’s last.

A master of all things percussive, Roady also eagerly embraced electronic instruments, and was one of the early adopters of the Zendrum.

He is fondly remembered by Zendrum creator David Haney as “a personal friend, a wise sage and a great musician”. “I called him ‘The Mayor’ because he was a people person and knew everyone in the music business,” says Haney, who credits Roady with introducing many hand percussionists and drummers to the Zendrum. “He was the first person to ever create an entire CD of Zendrum music back in the mid-‘90s,” Haney adds, stressing that Roady was “a determined innovator, never afraid to reach for something different”. — Allan Leibowitz

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--vst-Product review: SD Explained FOR THE AVERAGE e-drummer who is really only interested in plugging in the drums and accessing realistic sounds, VST solutions like Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 2 can be a steep learning curve.

Of course, you can simply choose the appropriate presets and start playing, but it won’t be long before you encounter something baffling. That’s not a poor reflection on the software or its design, rather a result of the awesome power of contemporary VST programmes.

So how do you master the application? You can use trial and error, which is frustrating and timeconsuming. You can use the online resources of the VST provider – but that assumes someone else has not only had the same problem, but also described it in the same way you would. Or, you could fork out around $20 and subscribe to one of Groove3’s tailored online training programmes. I tested the SD2 resources, 47 tutorials running for over four-and-a-half hours (you don’t have to watch them all!), covering everything from installation to advanced MIDI-tweaking.

The training is provided as a streaming video which takes a few minutes to buffer and then streams smoothly in your browser.

The SD2 package is presented by Scott Griggs, described by Groove3 as a “DAW mad scientist”. You don’t actually get to see Scott, rather you get to follow his screen as he opens folders and tells you what to click and what to look for. Scott’s delivery is not what you’d call “neutral”: he has a pronounced drawl which some people might find distracting or even confusing, but personally, I was happy to listen to him telling me to “go ahead and hit ‘continue’”. While you could follow all the videos step-by-step, the beauty of the training package is that you can skip ahead at any point, or even start out at any point.

Scott usually starts by explaining the screen layout and the available options and then digs deeper into each menu or option.

There’s also a search option which allows you to look for keywords. So, for example, when I searched for “bounce”, I got two options: “Superior Drummer Explained: Bounce Window Part 1 and Part 2”. Selecting the first, I was told: “Does your computer choke whenever you’re running Superior 2? Do you have performance



problems whenever you’re running one of those monstrous, freak-like kits, because you’re so big? Offline bouncing is handy whenever your computer can’t handle everything that Superior 2 might throw at it. OK?” … and so on for four minutes.

The narrative is chatty without being overly technical – or patronising. It’s just step-by-step explanation, using active screen footage to show what to click. If I had time, I would sit through all the videos to ensure that I have a full understanding of the complexities of SD2, but, in reality, I have only used a select few videos, each of which has helped me solve a particular challenge or overcome some specific confusion.

The Groove3 products are slickly produced, easy to navigate and are easy to view.

Besides the SD2 training, the company has packages for a vast range of applications including the main drumming VSTs – BFD, Slate Digital and Native Instruments. There are also solutions for the major music production apps like Sonor, Cubase, Reaper, Reason and Protools. And if you own multiple products, as most of us do, you can buy an all-access pass from around $30 for a month or $99 for a year, providing 24/7 access to the training resources for any product.

The Bottom line

Groove3 provides comprehensive, easy-to-access training and information resources on the major DAW and VST products at very reasonable prices. In fact, there’s usually some sort of promotion or special offer, so make sure you sign up for alerts if you visit the website. For around $20 (at the time of review), the SD2 training package is a no-brainer for anyone who has forked out for the VST and wants to make the most of that investment. 43


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E-drum guru John Emrich is back to answer more VST questions from readers.

Question: When installing my VSTs, I get a choice between various “levels” — minimum, medium, maximum and full. What’s the difference, and why wouldn’t I just select full automatically?

Answer: I always recommend installing and using the full version. Hard drives are not that expensive and you will be using the data the way the producer designed it. Question: Some people install their samples onto an external drive. What are the pros and cons of doing this?

Answer: I see nothing but pros. Putting the data on a drive that is on a different bus to your operating system is the key. External storage just makes it a lot easier to move those big files around. In my case, I have a number of machines that I work with. I like being able to keep the data on a drive that I just plug in. Just make sure to have an identical back-up.

Question: There seem to be a few VST ‘formats’ — RTAS, VST, VSTi and others. What is the difference between the formats and which one is “best”? Answer: The difference has more to do with the platform that the VST is working on. RTAS stands


for Real Tie Audio Suite and was designed for Digidesign. VST and VSTi are basically the same type of platform with the letter ‘i’ meaning instrument. It stands for Virtual Studio Technology and was developed by Steinberg. Most programmes will install all of the versions to work with these platforms. You just need to look at your host DAW and make sure that your drum programme is covered. Question: Can I mix and match drum sounds from different products such as Addictive, BFD and Superior?

Answer: Yes. (I love those one-word answers.) MIDI can trigger any programme or programmes as long as your DAW is configured correctly. You might need to copy the MIDI track and point it at another program. I recommend only using one programme to record, but then you can do whatever you want. The one thing that you can’t do is take a sound from one family of products and add it to another; that is to say that BFD2/Eco format sounds cannot be played in Superior or Addictive. Each format is unique.

○ Send your VST questions to

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New products Steven Slate Drums 4.0 by Steven Slate Drums

Steven Slate Drums 4 Platinum contains 100 preset drum kits, including the new Deluxe Series kits which Steven recorded with the most extreme precision and detail resulting in amazing playability. SSD4 includes the new SSD Player and contains kits in metal, reggae, funk, vintage, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, rock, country, electro, dance, urban genres as well as jazz and brushes. There are even kits that model famous drum sounds from artists such as Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Metallica and Dream Theater, while cymbals are all sampled from Soultone custom Turkish cymbals. Roland Vdrums, Yamaha DTX and Pearl e-Pro Live e-drums are all supported. The internal groove player makes it easy to get real pro drum sounds in your mixes without ever having to hit a MIDI note. Price: $299 Information:

TRX Digital Cymbal Studio by Ample Libraries

The TRX Cymbal Co. has entered the VST market with the TRX Digital Cymbal Studio (DCS), a new collection of studio-quality samples of dozens of hand-crafted TRX cymbals. Produced by Ample Libraries using state-of-the-art recording equipment, cutting-edge conversion software and proprietary production techniques, DCS is an expansion pack for NI’s Kontakt 4 and 5. The download-only pack includes a collection of nearly 100 cymbal sounds from TRX’s popular Original and ICON series. The samples cover multiple playing areas (bell, face, edge, etc.) and span various genres, including, metal, hardcore, progressive, pop, urban and vintage, with specialty cymbals such as T-bells and stacks as well as an assortment of cymbals. There are rides, hi-hats, crashes, chinas and slashes, many played with brushes and mallets. Price: $299 Information:

Rock Legends by Platinum Samples

Inspired by features and style from Gretsch’s most prolific rock drummers, the Rock Legends 125th Anniversary drum set is a tribute to rock music’s legendary players. The Rock Legends set features classic six-ply USA Custom drums, vintage rock sizes, mounted tom, Gretsch Round Badge and Millennium Maple finish. This BFD2 and BFD Eco expansion kit was recorded and produced by Rail Jon Rogut using a classic Neve 80 series console, Sontec Equalizers and a Fairchild 670. Microphones used included Telefunken ELA M 251s on the overheads and the floor toms, AKG C12As on the rack toms and Neumann M49s on the stereo room. The samples are formatted for both BFD2 and BFD Eco and are available at 44.1kHz/24 bit with as many as 141 velocity levels in BFD2 . Price: $59.99 Information: digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2012


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Before you play


Choosing the right e-kit is important, but looking after it is also vital. Tweak-meister Simon Ayton runs through some oftenoverlooked maintenance tasks.

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COMPACT, MESH, RUBBER, just for practice, live, mega-expanded — any way you go, being comfortable at your electronic kit is the most important basis for any player as only then can you really get lost in the flow and reach drumming Nirvana.

Here, we’ll cover aspects of kit maintenance you may have let slip but that can really help you get the most enjoyment out of your electronic drumming experience.

Time to meet the maker

Sometimes, all the tweaking in the world can’t resurrect a badly set-up kit and that’s when it’s time to hand it over to the pros! No need to pack it and ship it off; simply performing a ‘Factory Reset’ will get the kit back to its default settings and hopefully result in a playable kit once more.

some ridiculously intricate rudiment in a seemingly impossible time signature.

Seating: Adjusted so that I can play flat-footed on the pedals with my legs almost parallel to the floor, with a slight slope of the legs down to the knees. Once you’ve found the ideal height, use the memory lock on the seat pole to stop your bum sinking to the floor! Cymbal and pad reach: For optimum playing without wasting energy, you don’t want to position anything too far past your power stroke, so try adjusting cymbals and toms so that you still have a bend in your arms no matter what you reach for. Sometimes, you may have to sacrifice playability for aesthetics, but anything too far away to hit will just make your gig that much more difficult.

This is also the first step if ever you experience false triggering or other issues. You will want to save any custom kits you may have created before doing this, so see your manual for the backup process. Some modules allow you to reset certain parts of the kit like only ‘System’ or ‘Pad’ settings, leaving your custom kits intact for use after the reset so check your manual.

Playing ergonomics

You’ve got to be comfortable to play well, so here are some of the important things to consider when you sit down at the kit.

This is my own checklist and everyone has their personal preference or quirk when it comes to playing but these are the main points that I look for before playing so that I can get around the kit quickly and with minimum interference.

These ideas I have observed and collected over the years from drummers like Dave Weckl, Steve Gadd, Peter Erskine and my teacher Joe Morello (rest his soul), who was so comfortable behind the kit, he looked as if he could nod off — if he wasn’t playing


Rubber head drummers, skip this as this won’t apply to you but maybe it’s time you considered integrating at least a mesh snare trigger pad into your kit as it can do wonders for the playing experience and value of your stick control practice.

First things first. Just as you don’t (I’m hoping!) sit down at an acoustic kit without tuning the heads, so too with mesh head kits. Often people relate the tension of the heads directly to the sound, but of course we know the tension of the mesh head has no bearing on the actual sound coming from the drum brain as that can be adjusted independently by

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editing the pitch or tuning the sound itself. This is a great thing as finally it’s possible to have that loose snare feel with the sound of a two-and-a-half-inch piccolo, for example.

When tuning, use the ‘diagonals technique’ as you would with a car wheel, where you tighten lugs opposite each other to ensure the head is tensioned evenly over the rim.

snare connector and re-plug the ‘TOM1’ connector into the snare trigger input of the module. All the leads on the kit are, for all intents and purposes, interchangeable, although some may be mono or stereo, so check first if you are not getting both head and rim triggering.

Then start by tensioning the toms so that the first tom is the highest tension, and progress through the toms, tensioning each one slightly less than the previous to better simulate the feel of ever larger toms. The floor tom should have the loosest head on the kit, except for the kick which often feels best tightened just to the point of no more wrinkles. The snare can now be adjusted to suit the sorts of sounds you are triggering, with tighter tension for piccolo sounds where the drum is only a few inches deep, through to medium to loose tension for deeper snares of 5-8” depth. This is a matter of personal taste, so do what feels right for you.


Leads and connectors

Pads and cymbals on modern kits generally use TRS (tip, ring, sleeve) connectors. These three connections are visible on the jack itself, separated by two black plastic insulation rings which allow separate signals to be connected, hence they are used for stereo audio, too.

If you are experiencing problems with misstriggering around your kit, an easy way to rule out lead problems is to simply substitute a known good lead with the suspect one.

The fast way to do this, especially if you have a kit with the leads threaded through the rack, is to pull out the suspect lead from the pad end and temporarily connect another lead there and re-patch it at the module end. For example, if the suspect lead is the snare lead, try using the ‘TOM1’ lead plugged into the snare pad, and at the module end, unplug the existing


As you’ll no doubt be aware, a well-adjusted pedal is crucial for playing comfortably — slow and fast and IN TIME. Check your settings every time you play and take note of any special settings by either marking them with a permanent marker or, even better, small grooves or marks cut directly adjacent the adjusters that won’t rub off. Spraying the spring, chain and bearings with some WD40 or the like and wiping off the excess will help stop rusting and keep everything smooth. The November 2011 issue had a detailed article on pedal set-up. For e-drums, make sure that the beater hits the trigger dead centre and if you are using double pedals, both beaters should be equal distances from the centre. Depending on the type of trigger and beater material you’re using, it’s worth adjusting the trigger sensitivity of the trigger up a bit when using two beaters as they will no longer be in the trigger sweet spot and can lose a bit of their intensity. The second kick trigger pedal should fit next to the hi-hat pedal without making any metallic contact with the hi-hat stand itself as this will transmit vibration through the stand and set-off the hi-hat trigger, which can be very annoying, especially when recording, as all those little extra triggers will show up in the recording software and can potentially drive the engineer nuts. ► Next time: Hi-hats and other adjustments.

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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

May 2011

April 2010

August 2011

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

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

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

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

*For reviews prior to May 2011, click here.

Your definitive guide to e-drum gear

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Extremely easy digitalDrummer recently examined snare conversion kits, but missed some offerings. This month, we rectify that with a look at Extreme Drums Triggers, a range of kits for snares, toms and kick drums.

EXTREME DRUMS TRIGGERS are sold exclusively online and ship in clearly labelled packets, with clear instructions and comprehensive documentation covering everything from trigger settings for a range of modules to tips on making your own rim silencers and muffling the reso heads. Certainly, of all the kits out there, this one takes the prize for information provision.

What’s in the box

Besides the four-page installation instructions and 16-page set-up guide, the X-2 dual-trigger kit consists of a head trigger unit attached to a rim sensor, a separate jack unit, a bag of replacement screws and washers in case the existing lug screws are too short to accommodate the kit and a special 3.5mm to 6.5mm cable.

How it’s done

Installation is very easy. Simply remove both heads, loosen a lug screw and slide in the trigger bracket. For the test 14” Pearl shell, only the top screw needed to be removed. 50

Then, loosen the bottom screw on another lug and slide in the rim sensor. Next, you’ll have to replace the batter head and position the sensor by loosening the screw and sliding it up until the top layer of foam is compressed.

The kit is designed for minimal impact on the shell, so the wiring is done via existing air holes, and minijacks are used to ensure easy access. There’s even a nifty clip that attaches to one of the tension screws to hold the jack in place. This is a neat solution, especially as the kit ships with a custom cable to connect the mini-jacks to the standard 6.5mm jacks found on all brains. The final step is to refit the bottom head.

In action

digitalDrummer tested the kit on a 14” shell – the same test set-up used in our August 2011 comparative review. This size was chosen because it is probably the most difficult to trigger effectively.

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Easily installed - the head sensor (left) and rim trigger (right) fit onto the lug screws. The kit was tested with a Hart Magnum mesh head; co-incidentally, the heads recommended for heavy hitters in the instructions. The manual suggests Pearl or Percussion Plus heads “for greater sensitivity and economy”. As mentioned, there are very detailed set-up instructions for most modules. On a Roland TD-20, for example, a slight sensitivity boost is needed as well as an adjustment to the mask time.

Once set up according to the recommended settings, triggering was excellent from the outside of the head to the centre. There was good dynamic range and responsiveness.

One drawback of the outside placement of the head sensor is a slight loss of positional sensing on the TD-20. While there is some tonal change as you strike closer to the sensor, you won’t get the subtle changes as you move from the edge to the centre, as you would with a centre-mounted sensor. Also, the head sensor acts as a bit of a hot spot, but since it’s a fairly large target at 3cm by 4cm, it is relatively easy to avoid. On the more accommodating TD-6 module, the drum worked extremely well in stock PD120 setting. Response was even across the head, dynamic range was good and rim response was excellent. On a DrumIt Five module, the trigger works surprisingly well in stock pad 12 setting, with the usual caveat for non-2box pads of poor rim

response. With this module, a good dynamic range was easily achieved.

On the latest-generation Yamaha DTX700 module, with its limited trigger tweaking, the X-2 trigger worked on most settings, although the rim response was almost non-existent.

The verdict

The EDT kit is among the quickest and easiest of all the DIY kits to install. It is totally reversible, with no damage to the shell. It triggers very well on most modules, but lacks true positional sensing on a Roland TD-20. With lesser Roland modules, it ticks all the boxes, including excellent rim response in stock settings.

Compatibility with DrumIt Five and Yamaha modules is par for the course with non-dedicated triggers.

At $80, it is on the high end of the price scale (models in our last review ranged from $25 to $225 for the ddt Truss), but the Extreme kit comes with a full 30-day money-back satisfaction guarantee and a five-year “unconditional guarantee” (“If anything whatsoever happens to one of your triggers, we will replace it FREE of charge”). The warranty is classleading, surpassing the ddt’s three-year cover. In summary, the system provides an easy, affordable and effective conversion of acoustic drums into electronic triggers.

If you have a DIY question or suggestion, send it

to for a chance to win some Jman stealth components.



ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:09 PM Page 52


MyMONSTERkit If size matters, this month’s monster outdoes anything featured here before. The kit has been assembled by Daniel Reid of Courtland, Kansas, in the USA.

Daniel is a self-confessed A2E (acoustic to electronic) DIY obsessive, and the Monster is built around custom-wrapped smokey chrome Pearl Forum and Ludwig Accent shells. The triggers consist of baking pans and Quartz Percussion trigger cones and DIY mesh heads. Toms: 8”x4” (2); 8”x7”; 8”x8”; 10”x4”; 10”x5”; 10”x8” (2); 12”x5” (2); 12”x9” (2) 13”x5.5” (2) 13”x10” (2); 14”x11” and 16”x12” Snare: 14”x5” Kick: 22”x9” Cymbals: Most of the cymbals are conversions using Stealth Drums kits. Crashes: 16” Paiste PST; 16” Sabian B8 and 18” Sabian B8 Ride: 18” Sabian B8 Splash: 10” DIY Meinl Chinas: 12” and14” Meinl There are also some name brand cymbals from Alesis, Traps, Roland and Yamaha. Hardware: ► Drumagination Twin Steele Kick wrapped in chrome vinyl 52

► Sleishman twin pedal ► DW9502LB Remote w/14” Sabian HiHats w/3z Stealth Drums AtoEZ cymbal trigger kit and FD-7 conversion ► DW9502LB Remote w/Roland VH-12 HiHats Gibraltar rack and accessories w/extra DW clamps and Pearl I.S.S. mounts and tom arms ► Custom modified DrumFrame throne and pedal platform Modules: Three Roland TDW-20 Expanded modules with custom plexi stick guard

Daniel’s story

A praise/worship drummer, Daniel started playing in around 2009. His favourite drummers include “almost anyone in the secular/Christian progressive metal genres with some “Old School” ‘60s & ‘70s rock mixed in along with a few of today's known drummers”. A vocalist long before he picked up sticks, Daniel leans more toward “the music as a whole and how the drums complement the composition rather than just the drumming”.

If you have a monster, email

ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:09 PM Page 53

Daniel with his kit (left). Three TD-20 (expanded) modules (above), the Twin Steele kick (right) and the driver’s view (below). WARNING

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



ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:09 PM Page 54

gear Guide MESH HEADS


Silence and protect your rim and sticks

Made of 70 durometer EPDM Rubber in the USA & spliced by hand in several stock diameters. Fits all drum rim (hoops) brands – “no-glue” elasticity fit – Guaranteed! Linear lengths cut to order at $3.25/foot. Ready-made for single drums or multi-packs. Order now through



We dream build it ... it!


◊ Custom kits and drums ◊ Wraps or veneers ◊ Designer hardware ◊ All built to the highest quality standards.




ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:09 PM Page 55

gear Guide MESH HEADS


To order in Australia, click here

DIY KITS Acoustic elegance Stealth electronics




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for less than $200 CLICK HERE 55

ddfeb2012_Layout 1 25/01/12 4:09 PM Page 56


Let’s hear it 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.


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.


Buddy Gibbons is a Los Angeles-based musician who started off as a snare drum instructor at The University of Alabama. One of the hardest-working session drummers in LA, Gibbons’ music has been featured on various TV networks, including Fox, CBS and NBC. He has played with Idol finalists Phil Stacey and Kristen McNamara, The Mile High Orchestra and many other artists.


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.



Norman Weinberg is a Professor of Music and the Director of Percussion Studies at The University of Arizona in Tucson. He is also a performer, author and composer. He has performed as the principal timpanist/principal percussionist with various orchestras. His books include “The Electronic Drummer” published by Modern Drummer and distributed by Hal Leonard.

digitalDrummer February 2012 part 1  

Feb 2012 issue of digitalDrummer

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