Special Launch Edition
The global electronic drumming e-zine
Tom Roady Zen master
PRODUCTS Pearl goes digital
REVIEW Yamaha DTX-M12
PROJECTS Easy Piezos
TALKING POINT: Is this the decade of digital drums?
The global electronic drumming e-zine Edition 1
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DTX-M12 was worth the wait Yamaha’s belated entry into the multi-pad market with its versatile DTX-Multi 12 is surely a vindication of a more considered approach.
Pearl goes electronic Pearl has entered the electronic drum market with its E-Pro Live kit, a full-sized drum kit with a sample-based brain.
10 years on, TD-8 still rocks Roland’s TD-8 module remains an extremely popular secondhand buy – as a starter set-up, an upgrade from newer entrylevel brains or as a back-up.
Loud and proud If you practise with a band, gig or simply want to hear how the kit sounds acoustically in your room, you need to amplify.
PROFILE Tom Roady: Zen master Tom Roady must be the most accomplished percussionist the average music lover has never heard of. But all the performers know and respect this electronic drumming pioneer.
Getting your band to accept e-drums “I like them, but they aren’t as good as real drums.” We’ve all heard that about electronic drums.
Long-distance drumming Australian Simon Ayton describes his new-age drum collaboration on a track produced in the UK.
Who is Keith Raper? Mention “the Keith Raper circuit”, and DIYers around the world instantly recognise this as the little box to split a dual input into two singles.
Just for fun - seriously It looks like a game and sounds like a game. But, Roland’s new DT-HD1 is actually a serious music teaching tool.
digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
--contributors-Meet the band
digitalDrummer is a combined effort, bringing together the expertise and experience of electronic drummers, industry professionals and experienced writers. Here are some of the people who made this edition happen ...
ALLAN LEIBOWITZ Allan Leibowitz is the founder and editor of digitalDrummer. A business and technology journalist and seasoned reviewer, Allan started drumming at 13 and discovered electronic drums a few years ago. His digital percussion reviews have appeared in publications in Australia and the USA as well as on forums around the world. He performs regularly with other middle-aged has-beens, and often plays with U2, Billy Joel, Michael Buble and many other CDs in his collection.
SIMON AYTON 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 long-distance collaboration experience in this edition.
GRANT COLLINS Grant Collins has developed powerful and modern drum set solo performances which have captivated audiences around the world. His instrument is as unique as his creative musical attributes. His one-of-a-kind custom acoustic kit is valued at over $75,000 and takes his team two hours to assemble. When he’s not playing with this giant kit, Collins uses a Roland TD-9 kit. Collins is our in-house trainer, and his lessons kick off in this edition.
PHILIPPE DECUYPER Philippe Decuyper, a.k.a. PFozz, is the founder of the Edrum For Free website. He has consulted to Toontrack since 2005, specialising in electronic drums, and is also the founder of eaReckon, a small independent audio software company which launched in 2009. PFozz will answer readers’ DIY questions in each edition. Contact him through digitalDrummer with your questions.
SCOTT HOLDER 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. In the past four years, Scott has performed on and helped produce an art rock CD, several Nightwish and Porcupine Tree covers and is currently working on a previously unfinished (and unheard) song by the Alan Parsons Project.
JOHNNY RABB Johnny Rabb is an active live and studio drummer and composer, currently part of the innovative group BioDiesel. Best known among electronic drummers for his clinics for Roland, Johnny has worked with Roland’s US and Japan drum and percussion divisions, programming drum kits for the Roland TD-12 drumset and the TDW-20 expansion board. Johnny continues to design and develop new sounds and innovations for his unique concepts on the drums. 4
--from-the-editor-Welcome to the first edition of digitalDrummer, the global online magazine by electronic drummers and for electronic drummers. is published by DigitalDrummer ABN: 61 833 620 984 P O Box 389 Kenmore Q 4069 AUSTRALIA Tel: 61 411 238 456 email@example.com www.digitaldrummermag.com Editor & Publisher Allan Leibowitz Sub-Editor Solana da Silva Contributors Simon Ayton Grant Collins Philippe Decuyper Scott Holder Johnny Rabb Consulting photographer Bizpics Design and layout ‘talking business’ Administrative support Gabriella Leibowitz Saskia Leibowitz Digital distribution
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 online dissemination should include a link back to our website. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the editor and contributors. digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Electronic drums have come a long way since the 1970s and are now seen alongside their acoustic siblings on stages around the world. They also draw crowds at music trade shows and attract strong interest on the floors of music shops. We have launched this publication to create a communication channel dedicated to this vibrant market and the musicians who are so enthused by the digital opportunities. digitalDrummer provides balanced editorial coverage of the latest technologies, new products, the companies behind them and the people using them. This edition includes the first coverage of Pearl’s new E-Pro Live kit, and looks at Yamaha’s entry into the multi-pad market, with the first full review of the DTX-M12. We also examine the new Korg Wavedrum . But it’s not just new gear that gets the spotlight. digitalDrummer understands the vast market for used equipment, and in this edition, we review the workhorse Roland TD-8 module. As you’ll see from the cover, we profile Tom Roady, one of the luminaries of electronic percussion and while many amateur players might not have heard of Tom, anyone who is anyone in the music industry certainly has. This edition is a mix of gear, technique, accessories, training and DIY pretty much the formula that will be adopted in future issues. I would like to thank the contributors who gave of their time and their expertise to share their passion for electronic percussion. I would also salute the handful of pioneering advertisers who had the courage and the foresight to support a new venture. These vendors also share the passion for electronic drumming and we thank them for helping to make digitalDrummer a reality. Without subscription revenue, we are dependant on advertisers to fund this publication, and the suppliers who supported the first edition did so without hesitation, without strings attached and with no expectation of editorial favouritism. For that reason, we’d urge you to support them wherever possible. Finally, thanks to my team who have supported this project from its inception and who have worked tirelessly - in many cases, inventing the wheel because much of what we’re doing is so new. And thanks to you for taking the time to read digitalDrummer. I hope we meet your expectations and look forward to your feedback. So, without further ado: let’s take it away. One, two, three, four ...
Allan Leibowitz firstname.lastname@example.org 5
Is this the DECADE of DIGITAL? Electronic drums have come a long way since the 1970s. But have they become mainstream? digitalDrummer asked some industry personalities whether 2010 will see the start of the decade of digital .... 2010 marks the start of the decade of digital drumming - when the booing stops, when the technology goes mainstream, when a drummerâ€™s module is as important as a guitaristâ€™s amp. Digital drums are no longer a novelty, but a fully articulate instrument ready for the music world and destined to be a big part.
2010 marks the start of the decade of digital drumming because advances in technology are enabling electronic kit performance that is nearly indistinguishable from standard analogue kits. Piggybacking with these advances is a new generation of digital drumming products that achieve extreme customisation of sound sets and greater articulation. More drummers are embracing Michael Render, organiser, FutureDrum these advances, and that makes the decade 2010 marks some of the most sweeping and ahead a very promising one. radical movements in the diversification and Kurt Heiden, marketing communications development of e-drums in a long time. manager, Alesis Andreas Sundgern, CEO, Toontrack 6
In 2010, I think we’re going to see more products that bridge the gap between the hardware and software world for the digital drummer. Whether it is drum software designed to interact more with all the various e-drum kit brands and models or the hardware kits themselves having the ability to add user samples and sporting USB connections to be used as controllers for drum software, the realm of possibilities for drummers is expanding at an incredible speed. Dave Kerzner, CEO, Sonic Reality The advancement of module and trigger pad technology across the board, providing realistic looks, sounds and feel to electronic drums, means that people who used to drum many years ago and have found acoustic drum volume levels unacceptable can now have an affordable package and reignite their drumming passion at home, without damaging their own hearing or disturbing family and neighbours. Dave Chetwynd, founder, Diamond Electronic Drums 2010 will mark the start of the decade of digital drumming because we are making digital drum kits more affordable and approachable – which in turn will help grow the digital drumming community. Martin Glasdam, marketing manager, Ashton With the current products available in the digital drum market, drummers have access to a wide range of sounds and looks that allow them the ability to incorporate and blend various music styles, making the range of possibilities mind-boggling. What some drummers are doing with the various triggers available now is setting the stage digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
for other drummers to push the boundaries for performance and style that may very well alter the face of music in the future. All of this is leading to more and more drummers incorporating electronic/digital components into their rigs to achieve a sound and style that simply can’t be achieved with traditional acoustic percussion alone. Lorrie Landry, sales/service manager, Pintech 2010 will mark the start of the decade of digital drumming because... video games such as RockBand will continue to create mass market exposure for electronic drums. Exposure to the masses will finally drive market growth beyond its current niche market size. The expanding market will attract investment from more companies as they will try to compete for these new consumers that are all inflicted with Gear Acquisition Syndrome for REAL instruments that are still video gamefriendly. Ken Orlando, programmer, VdrumLib 2010 marks the start of the decade of digital drumming because it has brought drummers into the 21st century. I know of no other way to record and get a real drum performance and quality drum sounds in a short amount of time and so cost-effectively than by using a Roland TDW-20 kit. I exclusively use two Roland TDW-20 kits in my recording studio, GreenSoundMusic, in Sydney, Australia. Mal Green, drummer, Split Enz • What do you think? Is this the start of the decade of digital? Email your thoughts. 7
DTX-M12 was worth the wait
While there’s some benefit in being first-to-market, there’s a lot to be said for biding one’s time and watching the competition. Allan Leibowitz notes that Yamaha’s belated entry into the multi-pad market with its DTX-Multi 12 is surely a vindication of the more considered approach.
ON SALE FROM late last year at around US$700, the Multi 12 combines some of the functionality of the DTXTREME III module, sounds from Yamaha’s Motif XS synthesizer and 12 trigger pads into a selfcontained drum solution or an add-on to any kit. The hardware Unlike its rivals, the Multi 12 is a frameless unit, with a split-level three-up, three-down arrangement of pads – each one featuring a ridged “rim”. So, for starters, the Multi12 has a numerical advantage over the others, with four pads more than Roland’s SPD-20 and the Alesis Performance Pad, and three more than the SPD-S. The main pads measure 11cm by 10.5cm – fractionally bigger than the SPD-20 pads and far more generous than those on the SPD-S or the Alesis pads. The “rim” ridges are 3cm wide and raised above the bigger pads. The frameless design gives the Multi 12 a slim footprint of just 32cm by 34cm – far more compact than the SPD20’s 70x45cm dimensions and only marginally bigger than the Alesis pad.
ed. t and unbias e independen ar s od ew pr vi re of er’s experience digitalDrumm review d on hands-on se We ba . e es ar as s le All review of media re . than rewrites distributors ucts, rather cturers and fa nu ma e th om fr y an ls d de loan mo ar to avoi reew our own ge s. We don’t We don’t revi hase decision rc pu we r – ou es ng ifyi prototyp risk of just n-commercial be!) rsions or no at soon will th r (o view beta ve e bl la ai not av do ts d uc an od for reviews review the pr are not paid ort pp We su . es to or g st in at the ke advertis r suppliers ta e aware of ou insist that rly, they ar ea adcl , th gh wi ou alth to support us our reviews s. If are welcome he d nc an pu ts r es ou qu review re y not to pull not nally, we tr k that it’s vertising. Fi ll first chec wi we g, rt the on po wr re y is nl g ai in someth d will cert r sample, an unique to ou . od go bad with the
The Multi 12 has full 64-note polyphony. Besides the onboard pads, it also processes signals from external triggers and has three inputs – two stereo and one mono (for Yamaha, this adds up to five inputs), so it can power an external hi-hat, snare and bass drum, for example. There are also hi-hat control and foot pedal jacks.
The external inputs are quite versatile and players can use almost any triggers – even Roland or DIY pads and cymbals. The hi-hat control is a bit more choosy, and you need a Yamaha or at least a compatible control pedal.
The Multi 12’s electronic brain is based on the DTXTREME III module and is equipped with 1,249 drum, percussion and effects sounds. The sounds are different to those on the flagship module and include many created for Yamaha’s Motif synthesizer range.
There’s an in-built sequencer which stores up to 152,000 notes, up to quarter notes at 480 bpm. It comes with three demo patterns and is capable of up to 50 userdefined patterns over and above the 128 pre-loaded phrases.
Like any module, the Multi 12 pad sounds are grouped into kits, and the device comes pre-loaded with 50 kits (like the DTX III), but it also allows for the creation of 200 “user kits” – a bit more generous than its module counterpart’s 50 onboard user kits (although that module can provide up to 1,584 external kits accessed via USB).
This is perhaps one of the first shortcomings of the Multi 12. With the increasing miniaturisation and everdecreasing cost of memory, it’s a mystery why Yamaha skimped on digital storage. There’s only 64 MB of flash memory, so wave samples are limited to 4 MB for stereo samples and 2 MB for mono samples. And while the
But of course, size isn’t everything…
Connections to external triggers - one mono and two stereo
MIDI in and out connects the M12 to other MIDI devices
digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Hi-hat controller and foot switch connections
Stereo and mono output and the headphone to which the click track can be isolated 9
The M12 connects to both flash drives and USB hard drives (above left). The complex control panel (above) and some of the control options (below). controller has a USB port and the ability to load external WAV files and MIDI data, this information has to be saved onto the brain, where the memory limitations are evident, especially if you try to save a big sample. Capabilities The Multi 12 will have a number of applications. It can be used as a stand-alone percussion instrument. Its self-contained pads and terrific onboard sounds, along with easy-to-use sensitivity settings for hands, fingers or sticks, make it easy to use, straight out of the box. The next step up would be using it as a module and adding a couple of drums for an ultra-portable, versatile kit. I used it this way for a practice session and although the triggering was responsive and dynamic, in reality it is very hard to rely on the inbuilt pads for full-blown drumming – especially when you’re used to 12” pads and large cymbals. As a kit add-on, the Multi 12 can be used simply as a MIDI triggering device and connected to the MIDI in of another module – and this, of course, is not limited to Yamaha modules as MIDI is a universal platform. This application, however, would be totally under-utilising the processing and performance capabilities of the onboard brain. Alternatively, and I guess this is how most Multi 12s will end up, it can be used as an auxiliary percussion set-up, using its inbuilt sound palette, and fed through the “mix in” of the main module. Not only does this application add 12 inputs to the kit, more importantly, it adds a range of extra sounds and the ability to trigger samples. That may not be much of an advantage to DTX III owners, but will certainly appeal to lower-end Yamaha owners as well as users of other kits. 10
Nifty features While the Multi 12 doesn’t have the onboard sampling capabilities of the DTX III module or rivals like Roland’s SPD-S, it does have very intuitive and user-friendly sample-loading capabilities, and Yamaha has bundled the hardware with a trimmeddown version of Steinberg’s Cubase software. This allows users to record samples on their computer and transfer them to the Multi 12. The easy beater selection – stick, hand or finger – is very convenient, especially when switching modes. Of course, there are extensive manual trigger sensitivity settings for further refinement. The functionality of the pads is also impressive. For example, pads are mutable. Press down on the pad after striking and it is silenced. Press down while striking and you can alter the sound – simulating the technique of bongos, for example. Pads can also be configured to generate different sounds based on how hard they are struck. The Multi 12 allows for up to four sounds to be allocated to each pad – and these can be stacked (triggered simultaneously) or set to alternate or play in sequence, allowing for instrumental chords or sequential notes – very handy if you’re using some of the chromatic sounds. Yamaha also gets a big tick for USB connectivity – and especially for allowing the Multi 12 to connect not only to flash drives, but also to external USB hard drives. Another great inclusion is the ability to direct the click track to the headphones only. This allows the drummer to use the timing crutch without sharing it with the rest of the band. www.digitaldrummermag.com
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1/4/10 10:54:13 AM
And what’s not so great…
As previously mentioned, the puny 64 MB of flash memory is an oversight, especially since samples need to be loaded onto the brain.
Pad section: 12 built-in pads, 5 external inputs Maximum polyphony: 64 notes Wave ROM: 100 MB Voices: 1,061 drum and percussion; 216 keyboard Drum kits: 50 preset; 200 user-defined Effects Variation: 42 types - 6 chorus types; 6 reverb types; 5-band master equalizer Flash memory: 64 MB; maximum size - mono sample: 2 MB; stereo sample: 4 MB Sample formats: Proprietary, WAV, and AIFF Sequencer: Sequence capacity 152,000 notes Note resolution: Quarter note / 480 bpm Recording method: Real-time overdubbing Patterns: Preset patterns: 128 phrases; userdefined patterns: 50 phrases Interfaces: USB, MIDI RRP: US$900 Street Price: US$700
The menu system is also a bit challenging. But that’s a result of the compromises which obviously need to be made to keep the unit compact, but at the same time equip it with all the functionality you’d expect from a drum module. That said, the display is clear and the buttons and dials are well proportioned – even down to the oversize “+” and “-“ buttons that can be pressed with a drumstick. The verdict The Multi 12 is a powerful and versatile percussion instrument with relatively large and well-positioned pads in a compact package. It has sensitive and smart triggering that is easy to set up and deploy. At around the cost of an entry-level electronic kit, the Multi 12 is not a bargain buy, but it does pack a lot of punch on a very small footprint. Some have already described the Multi 12 as a combination of the best of the rival products – but without sampling capability. Sure, it’s not a full-blown sampler, but then not everyone will need that capability and the software supplied with the pad unit will compensate for that deficiency.
A unique three-up,three-down arrangement with raised “edge” sensors gives the M12 a dozen different trigger surfaces. PHOTOS: Yamaha Corporation and GEARPIX 12
Pearl goes electronic ENDING MONTHS OF speculation and hype, acoustic drum giant Pearl has entered the electronic drum market with its much-anticipated E-Pro Live kit, a full-sized drum kit with a sample-based brain. Details of the kit, released at the NAMM North American music industry trade show, are still sketchy, but Pearl has confirmed that the E-Pro features a 14” snare, 10”, 12” and 14” toms and a 20” bass drum. The Pearl acoustic shells come in a new Artisan II finish, available in a Quilted Maple fade or a black wrap. The drums (except the bass) are all two-zone and come with new Tru-Trac Electronic Heads which appear to be plastic-based rather than mesh. Roland holds the patent for dual-layer mesh heads. Initial information from Pearl did not detail the triggering hardware. There are two cymbal choices – real brass E-Classic digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Kit features include 12 dual-trigger inputs, optional brass cymbals and Pearl acoustic shells.
Sound Generator: PCM Drum Modeling Polyphony: 64 voices Wave: 16 Bit Linear Voice Preset: 1,000 HD sounds Drum Kits: 100 preset kits Effects: 22 reverbs, 17 insert effects, 14 EQ/COMP Trigger inputs: 12 dual triggers. Sequencer: Note Capacity: 1,000,000 events Note Resolution: 96 PPQ Song Recording Type: Realtime Song Track: 2 tracks - Drum and accompaniment Songs: 100 Click Tempo: 30-300 BPM Beat Adjustments: 1-24 / 2-16 Click Voices: adjustable / selectable voices per beat and measure Controllers: Sliders Display: 128 x 64 pixel graphic LCD
electronic cymbals or rubber EPC2 cymbals. Both sets feature a chokeable three-zone ride, a chokeable crash, and a set of fixed hi-hats. Most interest, of course, will surround the Pearl brain, the r.e.d.box drum module (Real Electronic Drums). To cater for the growing demand for sample-based controllers, Pearl has incorporated 128MB of RAM which holds 1,000 sounds, 100 stock kits and up to 100 user-created kits. The 12 dual-trigger inputs allow for additional cymbals and drum upgrades. Drummers will also welcome the decision to supply USB inputs as well as MIDI in and out connections. Pearl is offering the ability to flash the memory and substitute sample sounds which have been supplied by the leading VST companies Toontrack, Sonic Reality, Ocean Way, Steven Slate Drums, Virtual Drumline and BFD. The sample-based kits and drumless backing tracks will be available online at www.redboxsoundshop.com, but that site was not operational when digitalDrummer attempted to find out about the range of kits and the costs. Like the compact Rhythm Traveler, the E-Pro is two kits in one, with the ability to replace the heads and cymbals and use the kit as an acoustic set. Pearl has confirmed that the E-Pro will be available in the US from May, but pricing details are not yet available.
New pads in Yamaha update Yamaha has launched two new kits in the DTX range, emphasising what it describes as “brand new pad technology”. The new top-of-the-line DTX950K and the DTX900K both feature the Textured Cellular Silicone head which was developed with input from Yamaha's “legendary stable of drum artists”. The company claims to have used a proprietary manufacturing process that “introduces tiny air bubbles into foamed silicone”, adding that this process provides playability and a feel unlike any other pad currently on the market. “The goal with these pads is to simulate accurately an acoustic drum feel,” says a Yamaha statement, with the snare and toms having different stick rebound characteristics. The new flagship, with a sticker price of 14
Connectors: • MAIN OUT to amplifier or speaker system • AUX OUT to monitor system or recording device • AUX IN from external sound source • USB to Mac or PC • MIDI IN/OUT connect to external MIDI device • Trigger input jacks • Headphones SOURCE: PEARL CORP
US$8,699.99, deploys the DTX900 module based on the DTX III brain. It has a 12" XP120S snare pad, two XP120T 12" tom pads and two XP100T 10" tom pads. The cymbals are the current generation PCY135, PCY155 and RHH135. The kit includes an updated kick pad with reinforced head and comes with the HS740A Hi Hat stand and a snare stand. For around $1,500 less, the DTX900K is a five-piece kit with the same XP120S snare pad, three XP100T toms and the same bass trigger. It has the same module which, like the DTX-Multi 12 reviewed in this edition, is equipped with sounds from the Motif XS keyboards. There are 1,115 drum and percussion sounds, expandable through sampling. The kits should ship soon, and retailers in the US are already taking orders. www.digitaldrummermag.com
Is it a flying saucer? No, it’s not a UFO, it’s the new Korg WD-X.
Ko r g ’s n e x t w a v e ( d r u m ) KORG’S NEW WAVEDRUM WD-X is attracting a lot of interest after going on sale at the end of last year.
A neat touch is the notches on the outer rim which can be used for scratching-type triggering.
The second-generation percussion instrument, on sale for around US$600, is aimed at hand-drummers, with new-found sensitivity and versatility. Korg, for example, claims that traditional hand-drum techniques, such as adding pitch and tonal changes to a strike by pressing the head, which were not possible on the original instrument, have been implemented in this model.
The instrument also has 200 programmes – 100 pre-sets and 100 user programmes, while in Live Mode, users can store up to 12 favourite programmes (from the preset or user programmes) for instantaneous switches during performance.
In his review of the WD-X, New York electronic drummer and early adopter Adam Mazza describes the unit as very well built and points out that “unlike other electronic drums, the head is an actual drum head (not mesh or rubber). Because it’s a drum head, this drum is noisy”. Some observers say the new Wavedrum does what the original didn’t – and should have. It’s basically a two-zone (head and rim) pad, loaded with 200 sound samples (100 for the head and 100 for the rim) with velocity-switching capabilities. The sound palette is like a United Nations gathering, with everything from cajons and congas to tablas and gongs and exotic sounds from places which probably don’t even have electricity, let alone electronics. While it’s clearly a hand instrument, Korg claims it works equally well with sticks, mallets and brushes (or, in the case of one promo video, chopsticks). In fact, different beaters can even be played together for interesting textures. digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
For practising, the WD-X has an AUX input, where players can mix in signals from any audio source. There are separate left and right quarter-inch output jacks and a stereo mini-jack. Describing the Wavedrum as a very interesting product, musician Mazza notes on his blog that “it has excellent sounds, and provides a level of dynamics not seen in other electronic percussion products”. Mazza, however, laments the lack of a path for expandability. “Since the Wavedrum lacks any kind of MIDI or USB connectivity, you cannot use it as a MIDI controller or trigger its internal sounds from a controller. This also makes it impossible to back up your configuration, or for Korg to provide future firmware upgrades. “I don’t think the Wavedrum will be a replacement for a full percussion setup, but I do think it would be great for any percussionist looking to expand into electronics.”
• Stay tuned for a full review. 15
The Toys may return They were never advertised, hard to find and still very much in demand even though they haven’t been produced in almost two years, but the future of Kit Toys cymbals remains uncertain. Allan Leibowitz reports on a home industry product that has captivated electronic drummers around the world. MIKE TIMMS BEGAN making electronic cymbals in 2003 to augment his home-made electronic kit. After converting some roto-toms, he added triggers to plastic practice cymbals for his own use. A friend tried them and wanted some too, so small-scale production began. “I sold a few of these cheap cymbals on eBay. But the plastic quality was inconsistent and they took 28 days to arrive, so I had to come up with a way to make my own,” he recalls. The first challenge was finding the right material for the cymbals and trial and error led to a process involving ABS plastic with rubber tops. The development in Newcastle, Northern England, took about a year, and saw Kit Toys evolve from basic cymbals with foam tops which Timms describes as “good triggers and quick to build”. “But I wanted to improve the way they moved and looked, so I added the extras as I went along.” He stresses that even though the cymbals are plastic, they are made in much the same way their metal counterparts are formed. “They start off as disks pressed into a cymbal shape and the bell shape is added after,” he explains. “The cymbal is then cut to size on a machine that looks like a record player from hell. After that, it’s spun on a vertical lathe to smooth the edges and grooves are added to the back.” The trigger box unit is also pressed ABS. Timms’ unique anti-spin bars are all hand-turned on a lathe, then drilled and tapped. The initial bars were made of steel. Besides lots of labour, Kit Toys also require high-end equipment. The rubber tops, for example, are CNC computer-cut with a high-speed router and even the antispin straps are cut by computer. The name attracts as much interest as the cymbals, and, according to Timms, it came about because he initially was only going to build small splash sizes as fun add-ons
or “kit toys”. However, he developed a full range of cymbals, from a 6.5” splash to 15” crashes and chinas – and there are a few larger rides around as well, although these were not formally part of the range and were still in development when Timms halted production in late 2007. Timms attributes the halt – at the time intended to be permanent – to a combination of health and commercial factors. Back problems made the hard labour of production
Mike Timms with his last design (left) and his innovative anti-spin bar (above). impossible, but Timms was also dealt a commercial blow when some of the companies he was dealing with “ripped-off parts of the designs and mass-produced them”. He dismisses this as sheer greed, noting that “there were many times I could have copied ideas as an easy way out, but didn’t. I found my own way with new ideas.” These include the anti-spin device, a self-powered, touch-sensitive choke switch and a dual-velocity switch for mono cymbals. Almost two years after he produced his last cymbal, interest in the products has not cooled. There are several Kit Toys threads on the main drum forums, with members
regularly asking when production will be resumed. Timms receives so many email requests, he had to switch email addresses and post a special message on his website: “I’m now considering whether or not to start building a few cymbals again. They were very nice things that had a lot of design work put into them and it would be a shame for all that to come to nothing,” says the heart-felt online communiqué. The drumming craftsman says while he had been prepared to pull the plug, he’s been reconsidering for some months and may resume production in 2010. “I still have the equipment to return to cymbal manufacture,” he says.
Every drum built from scratch ...just for you
And they trigger as good as they look
digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Killer Tomato’s drumming is powered by a TD-8
10 years on, TD-8 still rocks Roland’s TD-8 module remains an extremely popular secondhand buy – as a starter set-up, an upgrade from newer entrylevel brains or as a back-up for gigging e-drummers. What’s the appeal? Allan Leibowitz found that it’s bang for the buck that drives the demand. THE FIRST TD-8 modules hit stores in August 1999, with a street price of around US$800. Roland is tight-lipped about how many were produced by the time production stopped in 2005, but the TD-8 is still sought-after today. eBay retailer Ken Casper of Drumz’R’us finds it easy to sell used TD-8s – usually for around US$450 – but hard to source them. “When I can get them, they always sell quickly,” he says. Many see the module as offering the biggest bang for the buck. It boasts 64 built-in kits, 1,024 drum and percussion sounds and 262 backing instruments, 700 preset patterns, sequencer capability and handy COSM-based editing that allows users to tune and shape drum size and depth, head type and tuning, muffling, and snare strainer adjustment. As Vexpressions’ primary TD-8 programmer, Floridabased Chris Blood has probably spent more time exploring the editing capabilities than anyone else. He estimates that over 1,000 hours of programming and tweaking have gone into his company’s expansion packs for the module. “I bought my first TD-8 new back in early 1999, and loved jamming to the onboard songs and patterns,” he recalls. “It was a fantastic departure from the TD-10 (which) was not as user-friendly, nor did it have the vast array of sounds.” He describes the stock sounds as “excellent”. 18
Building on that base, Vexpressions has developed six expansion packs for the module, most of them released after the TD-8 was discontinued – and Blood is currently working on two new packs to be released later this year. He sees the Master 50 pack as a personal triumph. “Building Master 50 on its own platform was an amazing achievement for me. I did not think the module had the capabilities to create this pack. I designed this pack from scratch after the TD-10EXP version, which was perfect in my book. Not having one-tenth the COSM features and editing capabilities that the TD-10EXP offered was very challenging to overcome. Finding the right balance between the Ambience and Master EQ settings per kit was the key to this pack’s success.” For Blood, the TD-8 is not just a programming tool, it is also a gigging workhorse. “I use this module as my spare in all live situations. This backs up my TD-20X. I perform well over 200 gigs per year with my V-drums, and would never hesitate to use the TD-8 live.” Its strengths are the ease of setup, the ability to customcreate a kit on-the-fly to suit any situation or room and the additional two direct outputs which its replacement, the TD-9, does not have, Blood notes. Limitations are few, he says, and include relatively limited cymbal sounds and lack of compression and EQ settings per instrument. Amateur drummer Terry N. Traweek uses a TD-8 module in his gigs with Killer Tomato in Sicily, Italy. www.digitaldrummermag.com
He added a TD-8 module to his TD-6SW kit last year and has already maxed out his inputs with a PD-85 snare, a KD-85 kick, a PD-85 aux snare/percussion pad, four PD8 tom pads, two CY-8 crash cymbals, a CY-8 ride cymbal, a CY-5 hi-hat, and a CY-5 splash/crash/aux pad. He also uses an SPD-S sampler. Traweek says he has every Vex pack and has used VDrumLib to convert some of his TD-6 packs for the 8. (VDrumLib is a kit library application used for backing up and modifying kit settings on Roland modules via MIDI connections.) “I’ve done a little tweaking myself, but Vex kits are so much easier and better sounding,” he notes. And he uses everything the module can muster. “Why not make full use of the available technology? I have 35 different drum kits on stage at a gig - a different sounding kit for each song. It’s really cool to have that capability.” For a gigging drummer, Traweek sees many of the TD-8’s strengths including the sliders for controlling individual instrument volumes quickly on the fly and being able to route the click to the headphones only. “Obviously, the COSM and ambience features allow me to get some great sounding drum kits for playing live.”
He’s not too thrilled with the editing menus. “With only three ‘F’ keys, it can be a challenge to navigate to the function you need. After a while, though, you get used to it.” Across the Atlantic, in Surry, New Hampshire, Jeff Costello has been using the TD-8 for 10 years as part of a six-piece Pintech kit. Unlike Traweek, Costello keeps it simple. “For my current gig, I have a chain set up with eight kits and use most of them, but I rotate between five for most songs,” he says, explaining that he mostly uses a heavy processed kit, a few rock kits and some Piccolo snares. “You don’t want to be switching all night. I try to keep it smooth.” While Costello has a TD-20 in his studio, he loves gigging with the TD-8 because of its large buttons and ease of use. “It’s not too fancy to get all caught up on”. Other pluses include the “great sounds and flexible modelling tools”. The bottom line for the busy drummer who has been playing for 35 years and currently wields the sticks for five bands is that “the TD- 8 has been excellent overall, and never let me down”. On the programming side, the TD-8 requires a library application to edit kits outside the module. Data is transferred via a USB-MIDI cable to a computer where it can be tweaked. There are at least four library applications that work with the TD-8 – TD-M8, TD Drum Studio and JVdrums are free applications, while VDrumLib is available for a free trial before the $20 purchase is required. While all four handle the basic functions required to organise and load refinements like Vex kits, the three free applications are no longer supported. VDrumLib continues to be enhanced, and includes functionality such as the ability to convert kits from TD-6 format to TD-8. Reliability is one of the strengths of the TD-8, and there
digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
are few horror stories involving this module. And although they’re now out of production, the modules continue to enjoy service support. Roland spokesman Tomo Odagaki says the company’s service agents can still support the modules. “Basically, we keep such service parts for six years after the discontinuation,” he says, meaning the TD-8 should enjoy another two years of parts availability. He does, however, concede that on rare occasions, parts manufacturers may stop supplying before the six-year limit. Online vendor Casper says there’s only good news on the durability of the TD-8. “I’ve probably bought and resold 15 to 20 over the life of Drumz’R’us, and never have I received even one that needed even a minor repair,” he says. The end of production means that only second-hand units are now available and Casper advocates common sense when buying one. ”Make sure the seller stands behind his product and offers some sort of warranty or return policy. Seven days from date of receipt should normally be plenty to uncover any hidden issues, but the longer the warranty, the better,” he advises. “Beware of eBay listings which have only stock photos, as actual pictures speak volumes about the real cosmetic condition of the module.” Casper also points out that cosmetic dings should not put off would-be buyers. “Top covers are easy and cheap replacements, available from Roland parts. As long as the seller warrants a module to be in excellent working condition, cosmetic issues can be overlooked or easily and inexpensively remedied,” he says.
Specifications Maximum Polyphony: 64 Voices Instruments: Drum Instruments=1,024, Backing Instruments=262 Drum Kits: 64 Drum Kit Chains: 16 chains (32 steps per chain) Instrument Parameters: V-EDIT (Shell Depth, Head Type, Head Tuning, Muffling, Strainer Adjustment); EDIT (Pitch, Decay) Studio Parameters: Studio Type, Room Size, Wall Type Mixer Parameters: Level, Pan, Master Volume Effect Types: Ambience, 2 Band-Master Equalizer Sequencer: Patterns=700 (Preset), 100 (User), User Songs=50, Parts=6 Play; Functions=Oneshot, Loop; Tap Resolution=192 TPQN; Recording Method: Real-time Metronome Parameters: Time signature, Interval, Volume, Output select (Master and Phones/Phones only); Click Instruments=20 (Voice counting, Click, Cowbell, etc.) Tempo: 20 to 260 Display: 32 x 136 dots (backlit graphic LCD) , 7 segments 2 characters (LED) Sliders: 4 (switchable; Kick, Snare, Hi-hat, Toms/Cymbals, Percussion part, Backing, Click) Connectors: Trigger Input (dual) x 10, Output x 4 (2 stereo pairs), Headphones, Mix in (stereo), Hi-hat Control, Footswitch (dual), MIDI (in, out/thru) SOURCE: ROLAND CORP
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TD-20SX snap-shot Roland’s ‘new’ flagship TD-20SX kit has already been out for a few months, and, on reflection, it is a bit like a new bride. It has ...
TD-20X module is the old TD-20 module bundled with the recent TDW-20 expansion pack. The module has, however, been tweaked with a new operating system. The cymbals and pads feature the same internal trigger set-ups although there are facelifts to the exteriors, including a stylish silver finish on the cymbals.
The KD-140 14” mesh kick drum is brand new and very impressive. The MDS-25 chrome rack replaces the old MDS-20 rack and takes the kit into a new class. It is sturdy, all chrome and features quality hardware. The kit’s price is around US$1,000 up from the previous street price, and a less welcome addition!
Something borrowed ... The design of the telescoping cymbal arms that collapse into the uprights and the new balljoint mounts for the toms are inherited from the MDS-9 rack.
digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Something blue ... The new drum pads come with a standard silver wrap, but blue is one of the optional colours.
L UD and PR UD By Scott Holder ANYONE NEW TO the world of electronic drumming falls in love with the sound of a kit when listening and playing through the headphones. Getting that sound effectively translated to an audience is an entirely different process. If you practise with a band, gig or simply want to hear how the kit sounds acoustically in your room, you quickly run into one of the most often asked questions in electronic drumming: how do I amplify this thing? That’s never a problem with an acoustic kit. In fact, much of the time, bands are constantly trying to figure out how to keep the drums from overwhelming the overall sound, particularly in small venues. There’s a reason many churches that do “praise and worship” have electronic drum kits: they don’t deafen the congregation, the choir or anybody who happens to be up on stage in a building that might be the size of a club. Electronic drums are difficult to amplify. You need huge volume for the low bass drum but also a clear high-end for the snare and cymbals. Sound accuracy is crucial in the mid- and high-end ranges since the clarity of the cymbals and snare really makes the kit come alive. While almost any amp can do a good job on the mids - namely, your toms - at the low end, you’re looking for a big, loud boom. Trying to get all of this into one cabinet is difficult, which is why many electronic drummers look for the broadest 22
overall frequency response in any given speaker as a quick yardstick by which to judge any given speaker. The subject can be daunting. When faced with tons of models, brands and specifications from manufacturers selling equipment directed at the live sound/PA market, it’s hard to select a model which is well suited for electronic drums. There’s always a fear of your kit sounding hollow or not having enough sonic presence at a gig since most people are used to the plain loudness of cymbal crashes or deep thumps of a kick drum. Having adequate front-of-house (FoH) sound is crucial to any electronic drumming setup. It’s no different to the guitar or bass player with a dedicated amp stack. This article will walk you through the basics of what components provide the required sound, the types of equipment currently on the market specifically targeted for electronic drum amplification and what to buy to fit your performing needs.
General Considerations First, make a distinction between a powered and passive speaker. We’ll focus on powered speakers because they are easier to set up and transport. But, keep in mind that many powered PA speakers also have a passive brother. They cost less but also require a separate amplifier to power. This means another link in the audio chain, another pair (at least) of cables - and one more thing that can go wrong. www.digitaldrummermag.com
For example, if you have two passive PA speakers powered by a separate amp, what happens if the amp blows? Your bandmates play the gig unplugged while you hit the bar. However, if you have a pair of powered PA speakers and one happens to fail, typically you can plug an output into the remaining speaker and use it solo. Not ideal, but if you have a good pair, it won’t completely sabotage the performance. Second, any model of PA speaker needs to reproduce the highs, lows and other qualities of electronic drums. You’re creating quite a dynamic range with the kit and any PA speaker model needs to reproduce that range. This means most powered speakers you or your bandmates might be familiar with won’t work well. These choices come down to: • Specifically designed electronic drum powered speaker; • Keyboard amp (powered speaker); • PA powered speaker; • Bass amp (powered speaker); • Guitar amp (powered speaker). Often, you’ll see terms like a guitar amp (think of a Marshall “amp” for example) but they are, for this article, actually a powered speaker. The same terminology confusion exists for keyboard and bass “amps” as well, which, again, are powered speakers. Bass and guitar amps do not have the dynamic range needed to differentiate between the high frequencies of electronic cymbals nor the low end needed to give an electronic kick the “oomph” it needs. So, don’t waste your time with them. Right now we could cut to the chase and tell you that there is one, only one, dedicated electronic drum “amp” made: the Roland TDA-700. It does for any electronic drum kit what its guitar/bass/keyboard equivalent does for those respective instruments. Let’s use it as a starting point in terms of what any powered speaker needs to be an effective amplifier for electronic drums. The TDA-700 has a 15” speaker and a horn tweeter. Its overall rated power output is 300 watts. That 15” speaker is key. Anything smaller and electronic drums lose low end, necessitating the use of a sub-woofer. Thus, if you look to using a PA-powered speaker or a keyboard amp, you need to factor in the main speaker size. Wattage is important but don’t think you need to go overboard on this. Most systems built around a 15” speaker are typically rated 300 watts or more and that’s more than enough power for any gig in which you’re bringing your own PA gear. Don’t feel you need maximum wattage when it’s the frequency response on the speaker that is more important. If you’re concerned about low end, digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Roland PM-30 look for the lowest frequency response number you can find; the same for the high end. However, different manufacturers do different things inside each cabinet, so keep in mind that this is not always the greatest predictor of how a speaker will sound. With this general information, you can now look at powered PA speakers or keyboard amps as your electronic amp source. Each has its compromises. Keyboard amps excel at reproducing the mids and highs of your kit. They suffer from having smaller main speakers, typically a 10” speaker, although some like the Peavey KB4 have a 15” speaker. All keyboard amps, regardless of woofer size, typically suffer from not reproducing low ends to the degree needed - mainly because of their low power ratings. In this way, they aren’t unlike some of the PA speakers we’ll get to later. Powered PA speakers typically come in similar models based around either a 12” or 15” main speaker with a tweeter horn much like the Roland TDA-700. Because of that and their dedicated purpose, being a PA system, their low-end reproduction is usually just what you want. However, their mid- to high-end ranges sometimes suffer, not meeting some of what you might hear in a good keyboard amp. Third, think about usage and portability. If the only thing you do is play at home and you want to hear yourself in the space as opposed to just through headphones, then weight isn’t a concern. The same thing applies if you’re just jamming with friends and everybody’s bringing their own amp. If either is true, then something like the TDA700 would be more than enough and you never have to worry about the fact it weighs 114 pounds (51.7 Kg). However, if you’re regularly gigging and expected to provide your own PA, you already have enough e-drum gear to haul and set up. Trying to manhandle something big like a TDA-700 or two 60-pound-plus (27 Kg) PA speakers is no fun. Also, consider your likely performance spaces. How big will the stage be, or the venue itself? That too will drive what you should purchase, particularly if you want one or two PA speakers. Another question is to sub(woofer) or not to sub(woofer). For home use or jamming, a sub-woofer is overkill. For 23
gigging, much depends on the rest of your PA speaker setup and the size of the venue. One PA speaker often doesn’t add enough low end, in which case a sub-woofer is almost a requirement. However, getting a second PA speaker often solves this problem and you end up with a decent front-of-house PA system. Exacting electronic drummers who want a killer kick drum sound and stereo end up with two powered PA speakers and a subwoofer. As mentioned earlier, another approach is to combine a keyboard amp (like a Peavey KB4/5 or Roland KC-550/880) with a sub-woofer. The sonic advantage with this approach is that you get the best of both the low- and high-end worlds: the sub provides all the bass you’ll need while the keyboard amp will excel at mids and highs. Fourth, don’t overlook reliability. There are plenty of off-brands that might be fine, but always look at the warranty and return policy. There is at least one name brand that has a very spotty reliability record. You’ll recognise the brand since powered components in its line always cost much less than any of its competitors. In this case, it often turns out to be a case of you get what you pay for: while the brand will show high specs on paper, it uses lousy components. The end result is an amp setup that is muddy sounding and unreliable. Therefore, if you plan on gigging, even just occasionally, save yourself endless frustration and probably some money in the long
run and stick to known brands like JBL, Mackie, Peavey, Roland or Yamaha. Fifth, everything has a cost. Many of the models we’ll look at will cost you at least US$400 to US$500 a pop and there’s a tendency among electronic drummers to want to have two speakers so as to take advantage of the stereo sound of the kit. For many, if all you want to do is hear yourself at home outside of the headphones, spending a grand on what is basically a monitoring solution is overkill. That’s where you should look at the Peavey KB4 lower-powered speakers in a particular brand’s line. Or go with a personal monitoring system like Roland’s PM-30 or Yamaha’s MS100DR.
Buyers’ Tip g betes for listenin Nothing substitu a main problem in fore buying. The elecle to hook up an ab g in be is e or st n’t If the store does tronic drum kit. , kit for demo play ic on tr ec el an have n modbring in your ow it’s possible to ing a try with someth ule and give it , the aring. That said he to ed us re u’ yo pages on the next few specific models the track record in en ov pr a ve ha all ng world. electronic drummi
Can the cans... The next edition of digitalDrummer will look at headphones. Manufacturers and vendors are welcome to submit information on their products by emailing email@example.com. And the feature will provide a well-informed environment for appropriate advertisers. For a media pack, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
PA Speakers Brand/Model
Crossover Frequency Dimensions Weight Response (WxHxD) (pounds) Inches Yamaha MSR 400 1.6 kHz 50 Hz – 16x25x13 50 20 kHz
Price (RRP new)
Peavey PR 15D
47 Hz – 20 kHz
55 Hz – 18 kHz
JBL EON 15 G2
42 Hz – 17 kHz
* Used price. Will vary. ** Used price. Will vary. Successor EON 515 is $800.
JBL EON 15 G2. One of the most-used PA speakers for electronic drumming that just recently was discontinued and replaced by the EON 515; you can still find used ones easily on craigslist and eBay. It and all of the models mentioned here have a high and low frequency adjustment so you can tune them to your liking or to the room. Based around a 15” woofer, a pair of these will give you a good, all-around sound in many gigging environments. The newer EON 515 adds 50 watts to the power for the woofer, cuts the weight by an astonishing 14 pounds (6.4 Kg) while adding 1kHZ to the top-end frequency response.
Mackie SRM450v2. Along with the JBL G2, it’s probably the most-used system for electronic drumming. Generally considered cleaner sounding than the JBLs, it only has a 12” woofer and thus, low-end presence suffers somewhat unless combined with a sub-woofer. However, a single Mackie is an excellent jamming PA. digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Peavey PR 15D. The rough equivalent of the older JBL, the PR 15D is also built around a 15” woofer. Another clear and clean-sounding speaker, of this bunch, it’s probably the one that can’t be pushed as much - mostly because the woofer’s rated at only 150 watts, whereas the others are at least 200 watts. Peavey PA speakers are probably the most reliable around.
Roland TDA-700. One caveat: it’s no longer produced. However, you can still find them used online through sites like eBay or craigslist. Roland “replaced” this with the PM30, but it’s simply not the same beast. The PM-30 is a personal monitor system, not a dedicated e-drum amp and, as such, is unsuitable for projecting sound into an audience. The TDA-700 is a great overall sounding electronic drum amplifier with deep lows, clean highs and deceptively louder than many systems with higher wattage. If you want to compete with the guitarist’s Marshall stack, this is a great start. The thing is a tank, weighing 114 pounds (51.7 Kg), although it is mounted on casters so you can roll it around, but if you ever have to haul it from gig to gig…
Yamaha MSR 400. The rough equivalent of the Mackie in that it’s built around a 12” woofer. Also like the Mackie, it reproduces mid and high-end ranges very well but doesn’t have the “oomph” of the JBL or Roland.
Keyboard Amps Brand/Model
Crossover Frequency Dimensions Weight Response (WxHxD) (pounds)
20 Hz – 20 kHz
20 Hz – 20 kHz
Not Not available available
Roland KC-550 Roland KC-880
Not Not available available
Price (RRP new)
Peavey KB4/5. The KB4 is based around a 15” woofer and although it’s rated at just 75 watts, if combined with a second KB4 and a sub-woofer, it would make a good setup. The KB5 is based around two 10” woofers which provide it with a much better low-end than the KB4. At 150 watts, it has enough power for most usages. Roland KC-550/KC-880. Similar to the Peavey pair in that the 550 is built around a single woofer (15”) while the 880 is built around two 12” woofers. Most e-drummers who’ve used the 550 also feel it needs a sub-woofer (Roland makes the KCW-1 powered sub, but any powered sub will do), whereas the 880 would be an ideal standalone solution similar to the TDA-700.
Conclusions Remember that it really comes down to personal preference. Don’t get caught up in “spec wars” because one box that handles a ton of watts is not necessarily better than one that handles less. The same can apply to frequency response. For example, the Yamaha and Mackie models are very similar, but might have very different characteristics given the internal components, drivers and even the users or the room. Now you should have enough information to hit your local brick and mortar store and begin “demoing” some PA speakers. Still not sure what to get? Start small and get just a single PA speaker. Or perhaps look at the specs and see if there’s another brand that might fit better with your budget or performance. Play with that single speaker for a while and see if it works. If you find you need more, getting another one, or perhaps a sub-woofer, will round out your sound while also providing enough sonic presence in many venues to make sure you don’t get lost up there!
digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Acute GAS GAS: Noun. acronym for Gear Acquisition Syndrome, a debilitating drumming affliction leading to incessant equipment purchasing. No known cure.
It all started innocently enough:
In the beginning
“I picked up the ION Drum Rocker to play RockBand 2, which was my first introduction to electronic drums.” So begins the sorry saga of 34-year-old Romar Armas of Toronto, Canada...
But I wasn’t quite satisfied, so I immediately purchased a Pintech TC-14 as a third cymbal to use as a hi-hat and a proper throne. Soon after, I replaced the stock ION cymbals with Pintech TC-14s and picked up two TC-10s for hi-hat open and closed. I then replaced the stock pedal with a Roland KD-8 with a Pearl P900 pedal.
I replaced the ION brain with an Alesis DM5. I was now able to use the pads as a true electronic drum set. I no longer needed to use it with the game and could play drums with the speakers attached to the DM5. However, the DM5 was lacking in features. I soon replaced it with a Roland TD-9 and then picked up the FD-8 for a hi-hat. This was really good for playing RockBand 2. 28
That was actually how it stayed for several months. Then The Beatles: RockBand was released. After playing through the game, I got GAS once more.
I replaced the stock ION rack with an MDS-9 and picked up a PDX-8. But within a week of this upgrade, I ventured to the classifieds section in the vdrums.com forum and got majorly tempted...
THANKS TO ROMAR ARMAS FOR SHARING...
I ended up getting a PD-105 for snare and three PD-85s for toms. The PDX-8 became a fourth tom.
When last we heard from the GAS-afflicted Canadian, he had replaced the Pintech TC10 hi-hat with a Roland CY-12H and the three Pintech TC14s with Roland CY12R/Cs. Is that the end? We suspect not ...
digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Tom Roady Zen master
TOM ROADY MUST be the most accomplished percussionist the average music lover has never heard of. But that wouldn’t be a problem for the Nashville-based Zendrum guru who has enough professional fans, having played with Paul Anka, James Taylor, John Denver, Ricky Skaggs, The Fifth Dimension and Aretha Franklin. Google him, and you’ll find him listed on the credits of Andy Gibb’s “After Dark” album, but he’s also recorded with Simon and Garfunkel (separately), Michael McDonald, Roy Orbison, Bob Seger and Tom Jones. He’s a favourite with R&B artists and has worked with just about everyone in country music from Randy Travis and Kenny Rogers to The Dixie Chicks. While he is known for his extensive collection of World Music instruments, Roady shared his enthusiasm for anything electronic with digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz.
digitalDrummer: You were already an established session drummer when you discovered electronic drums. How were you introduced to electronics and why did they appeal to you? Tom Roady I started playing on recording sessions as a percussionist in 1973 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The Linn Drum came out in the early ‘80s and I started seeing them used in studios, but they were real primitive. I actually purchased my first drum machines in 1985. I got the Roland TR-707 and TR-727, along with the first Roland Octapad. That was when I really got interested in electronic percussion. You could actually hit a pad and play the sounds instead of pressing buttons and that was a big thing for me. I’m a player. Programming has never really been a joy for me. Discovering the Zendrum is when it all seemed to click for me. I had recorded a few instrumental things on my own with drum pads, with keyboards and samples and sound sources on an old Atari with MasterTracks Pro back in the early ‘90s, but with Zendrum, it was an entirely different thing. The ZX is laid out like a two-octave keyboard in a way. I was really one of the first guys to get the melodic aspect of the instrument.
Roady with a Zendrum and backing Aretha Franklin.
dD: What electronic gear have you tried over the years? TR: I’ve pretty much tried them all at one point or another. As I mentioned, the first were Roland machines with the Octapad. Then, I guess I got my first DrumKAT to replace the Octapad. I used it for several years and then also got the MalletKAT when it debuted at the summer NAMM show in Chicago. I chose to get a three-octave, and while I’ve never been a great mallet player, it was nice being able to access samples with it. I used it first with an E-Mu Emax sampler and then got several E-Mu modules which I still own actually. I also bought the Dynacord Add-One full pad kit (which had) wild shaped pads and a rack to put them on. It was a great sampler, although it was 8-bit sampling. I still have it, but it doesn’t work anymore. I used the pads later on drumkit sessions with the Alesis D4, which is a great box itself. I never bought the DM5 or DM Pro, though; I was more into the E-Mu sounds. In 1994, at a summer NAMM in Nashville, I discovered the Zendrum. Walfredo Reyes Jr. had seen them at a Steve Winwood rehearsal here in Nashville and called me and told me I had to see it. I saw it at the trade show and they called me a few months later to see if I wanted to demonstrate one at the Thoroughbred Music Drumfest in Tampa and I’ve been playing them ever since. It has been a really important tool in my arsenal of instruments. I have used them on sessions and to do my solo album from 1996, “Zendrum: One Tribe”. I also have been playing the Roland HPD-15 (HandSonic) since it first came out. I use it almost daily in studios here and do solo looping gigs with it and Zendrums. I even do jazz gigs with it instead of a kit. digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
For looping, I have used many different tools through the years. Around 1997, I got hooked up with Lexicon at a Musik Messe show in Frankfurt. They gave me a JamMan and some processors. The JamMan was very cool. It allowed me to easily use samples and sounds with my Zendrum and accompany myself for the first time. Right now, I use an Echoplex Digital Pro and Boss RC50 Loopstation for live looping and have an Alesis ControlPad in my home recording studio, Big Bang Theory, for quickly playing things in with sticks. I owned a Korg WaveDrum for a few years also. I found it to be a very creative instrument, but not useful for adding percussion to rock, pop or country music tracks. Every time I brought it out, the producers would say: “Cool, what else ya got?”. It just wasn’t practical for triggering real percussion sounds as it didn’t have MIDI on it. But I hear that the new Korg WaveDrum will have MIDI in and out and will be below US$600, so I can hardly wait to get my hands on one of those. I have just got a Mandala Drum in the last couple of years. It’s an entirely different instrument that is pretty cool. The only thing I haven’t bought or used much is the Roland V-drums. I’ve played them many times and like them. In fact, I’ve been thinking about getting a used set to trigger VST samples for making MIDI files. 31
Tom Roady - Zen master dD: One doesn’t associate Nashville with electronic percussion. So how much use do you have for electronics in your session work there and what do the artists make of your instruments? TR: I don’t use electronics very much in the studios these days, mostly just in my own studio. I have used them a lot through past years and the artists always were amazed at both the Zendrums and HandSonic, but never really asked for them specifically. Bottom line: these instruments and sounds are just tools to do what I do, different to congas or djembes and mark trees, but tools nonetheless. dD: You mentioned “One Tribe” earlier. Most readers will be envious that you’re not just the timekeeper in the background, but you’ve actually recorded your own percussion-based solo album. Tell us about that and how it came about? TR: In 1995, Zendrum went to our first NAMM show in Anaheim, California. The Winter NAMM is the largest music instrument trade show in North America, like the world-famous Musik Messe in Frankfurt, the toy shop of toy shops for musicians. We had a major presence for our first show at NAMM and a great location, and we had people constantly around our booth for all four days of the show. We were the “big buzz” of the drum exhibitors. Prior to the show, I had worked up three different pieces of music to play solo with my Zendrum and different samplers and modules like the Alesis D4 and Emax sampler. These three pieces became the first songs for
my CD, Zendrum: One Tribe. The song that always made people’s head spin around was Thumbs Upon The Zen. How I created it was with my Emax. I put a kick and snare, bass and sustained guitar sounds in various places on the Zendrum and played kick, snare, bass and guitar at the same time, with various chord changes to make the song form. With the other two songs, I worked them out and set them up in my Zendrum layout MIDI map. After the NAMM, I started to record them at a studio of a friend, everything played in with the Zendrum in real time. Then, I asked a few friends to be guest musicians on it a fretless bass player on Galactic Galileo and also David Haney from Zendrum on it, a horn section on Thumbs Upon The Zen, a soprano sax player on Better Days Ahead, a flugelhorn player on Thinkin’ Bout Al, etc. It just filled things out musically for me this way. It’s pretty much in the World/Ambient genre. I’m very proud of how it sounds and feels. dD: Clearly you get a buzz talking about One Tribe. Besides your own CD, what musical contributions are you proudest of? TR: There are so many recordings that I’m very proud to have been a part of. I had the opportunity to work with the late producers Jerry Wexler and Barry Becket on many projects, from The Sanford Townsend Band “Smoke From A Distant Fire” to two different Etta James albums. On my friend Will McFarlane’s CD, “For The Peoples”, he and I cut the basic tracks in three days with just the two of us playing and then he added other musicians later. The Handsonic is all over it. The Dixie Chicks’ first two CDs I’m on, an Art Garfunkel album of all Jimmy Webb tunes, “Watermark”, that we recorded in Muscle Shoals with my “brutha from anutha mutha”, Roger Hawkins, on drums. I’m very proud of it. I have always felt I went to the Roger Hawkins school of recording. He taught me so very much about what to play and what not to play - and how to use my ears to listen, really listen, to the song.... I’ve been very blessed to have played on a lot of gold and platinum records through the years, and that was a goal of mine for a long time when I first started out recording. On a live note, I’m very honoured to have done a short tour with James Taylor in 1989 with an allNashville band and, in 1997, I got to do some of the last shows with John Denver before he died. Both of these allowed me to play drums and percussion on the tours. But one of the most enjoyable and proudest gigs was playing percussion with Don Randi and Quest at the Baked Potato in 1982 before moving to Nashville from L.A. Don owned the Baked Potato and we were the house band. It was the premiere jazz gig to have in Los Angeles back then and Don invited me to join
the band after sitting in a few times. I really owe him a big “thank you” for letting me play with him and the great band we had then. dD: You haven’t had much to say about electronic drum kits, so do you still prefer acoustics? TR: I like to mix electronics and acoustic percussion and the same with drum kits, but there is nothing like sitting down to a great sounding drumset. The primal thing of hitting a drum, either with sticks or your hands, is just so fulfilling to my soul and probably to most drummers’ souls. It’s hard to really define it other than that: it’s part of what makes us drummers. dD: Many people shy away from VSTs because they seem to require computer skills as well as drumming ability. How do you use samples like Toontrack and how difficult has it been to master the computer side? TR: I’ve been computer-literate since the early ‘90s, starting with an Atari 1040ST computer with MasterTracks Pro. But all of my computers since have been Macs. I’m a Mac guy for sure. We have three in our house now. I’m not a real sequencer/programmer person, though. I very rarely will quantise anything, I’ll just play it in again. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve got no problem cutting and pasting in Pro Tools and looping audio in it, but usually it is just for saving time. It still has to feel good. With Toontracks, I sometimes will drag various MIDI loops in from it or GarageBand and “build” a rough drum track. Then I’ll add real cymbals - all Paiste, thank you very much - and then add real shakers, tambourines and percussion. But I also like to play digital percussion and drums in with my Zendrums or Alesis ControlPad. I have different setups on both of them for different EZdrummer kits. My “go to” EZdrummer kit is the Nashville EZ pack. It was recorded here by friends of mine and really has a great sound, fantastic brush kits and loops, and now Futureman from the Flecktones has a Jazz EZdrummer pack that really captures vintage jazz sounds. And in EZdrummer I can use the mixer to bring in room mics and overheads and individually adjust levels and tweak the individual drum and percussion sounds. I am now using Toontracks Superior 2.0 as well because it allows me to grab individual drums and cymbals and percussion instruments in from all my EZdrummer packs and build my own custom setups, then tune each of the drums individually. Superior and EZdrummer work fantastic together. In my Pro Tools studio, I also have VST plug-ins like Stormdrum, Mach5 and other software libraries, but EZdrummer is my favourite for playing with Zendrums. I use it live also as a plug-in for GarageBand on my MacBook or with the SOLO programme from Toontrack. It’s a stand-alone application that I use with my Zendrums. digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Roady colour-coded with his favoured instrument. PHOTO: Melanie Johnson dD: You’ve obviously seen a huge advancement in electronic percussion technology over almost four decades. Are there things you would still like to see implemented? TR: Wow, what a question, Allan! Number one would be sounds on board the Zendrum. We have done our own sample sessions through the years and have come close to teaming up with other unnamed companies to get it accomplished. Creating these great instruments has not come cheaply. Research and development has been almost all in-house, and it is a very difficult and costly process. But finally it seems to be approaching a reality: one day soon there will be a way to have great sounding drums and percussion on board the Zendrum and then be totally MIDI wireless (already available now) and really be self-contained. This would be a huge accomplishment to me. Other things I’d like include a USB port for an 8 to 16GB zip drive that you could load your own choice of sounds into the Zendrum with, maybe an onboard looping device of some kind and also the use of FSRs (forcesensitive resistors) - to be able to have aftertouch and sustain without a sustain pedal, like a keyboard. It’s not that important for drum sounds, but really great for melodic instruments and I think it is entirely possible in the not too distant future. 33
Getting your band to accept e-drums “I like them, but they aren’t as good as real drums.” We’ve all heard that about electronic drums. Even Johnny Rabb hears that. And he certainly doesn’t agree.
IN THE AGE of technology, electronic drums have become extremely advanced and are now an integral part of the drumming industry. The toughest part is to get them onto the stage and have them accepted by our band mates or front-of-house engineers. Even though most electronic drums sound amazing and are pleasing to the eye, there are still many people who refuse to allow them on stage or in a band. I believe there are many reasons for this. Since they have been introduced, electronic drums have been thought of as sounding just like drum machines or very “space age”. Now, we have the ability to sound identical to - if not better than - an acoustic drum set with top-of-the-line microphones in the best studio. So how do we get our electronic drums accepted in the band? Here are some tips to get acoustic drum purists to welcome our electronic friends: 34
Amplification When playing in a live situation, it is important to ensure your electronic set sounds the best it can. The first step is to make sure you have a good PA with adequate subs, able to pick up all the nuances from the module. Since there is not much acoustic sound coming from the edrums themselves, it is necessary to have an appropriate sound system for amplification. There are many powered PA systems that are affordable for bands to use for practice. Your band members must be able to feel the power of your e-drums coming through the mains. It is equally important to have proper monitoring for yourself and your band mates. I remember hearing a singer complaining to me that he hated e-drums. When I asked why, he stated that they did not have the power of acoustic drums and felt weak. After talking with him a bit more, I realised that he did not have www.digitaldrummermag.com
any e-drums in his monitor. To add a larger sound nightmare to the mix, the drummer did not have the drums in his monitor either. So they had a band with guitar and bass amps cranked and drums only being heard through the mains. The drum sound was impossible to feel or hear since it was being projected in front of the stage only. To solve this problem, it would be best to make sure all band members get some level of e-drums in their wedge – similar to what they’d get from an acoustic drum set. The next thing the drummer needs to do is use an e-drum amplifier to push sound from behind the drum set. This way, the members hear and feel the sound coming virtually from the instrument. Without these key things, it is totally understandable that the edrums are going to seem weak in comparison to an acoustic kit. For both rehearsal and live performance, it is absolutely essential to have monitors for the e-drums. Just like asking your guitarist, bassist or keyboard player to turn up or down their amps, you are in charge of the output of your instrument when playing e-drums. In larger venues such as theatres, casinos or arenas, it is just as important to get the e-drums in the monitor mix. If the band is using moulded in-ear monitors, they need to ask for the e-drums in the monitor mix. Convincing engineers I have noticed that most heavy-weight live sound engineers do not have much experience with electronic drums. Most of the time, the idea of an e-drum kit is shot down before it is even tried. Some reasons that I have heard include the way they look, they don’t project, etc. The one thing that is for sure is that e-drums will make it easier for an engineer to get clean and punchy sounds. They can save time since there is no microphone setup, no plexi-glass sound screen needed for controlling bleed, no tuning to sound great, and many other time-saving benefits. The drummer can give the engineer two cables to make a great-sounding stereo drum set. The ability to send the engineer separate outputs for individual drums and cymbals is also available. Electronic drums’ sound level can be controlled to allow the engineer to mix the band like a record. There is no issue with stage volume or bleed from other instruments. With e-drums, a band and engineer can have a virtually noise-free stage volume. These days electronic drum sets look more and more like acoustic kits. Some have a multitude of shell finishes which make it almost impossible for the public to realise that they are electronic. Sonically, e-drums allow drummers to simulate endless acoustic drum sounds, percussion, drum machines, samples, etc. Whether you are in a covers band or backing an artist, the e-drums allow us to edit, tune, EQ digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
and simulate a produced drum sound for a live concert setting. For some reason, it has been the stock answer for most people to say they don’t like e-drums when compared to acoustic. The fact of the matter is that if there were an acoustic drummer “air-drumming” on stage with an edrummer playing off stage and out of sight, no-one would know it’s not an acoustic drum set. Plug in and be heard Most electronic drum companies offer great sounding drum sets at an affordable price. But like all instruments, they are not all equal and drummers need to think about their performance needs. If you’re in a bar band, a covers band or a major tour playing larger venues, you’ll need different equipment. Remember that top-of-the-line edrum models are going to offer you the most cutting-edge technology and sound quality. If you have not yet purchased a kit, definitely play and research your options. If you are a proud owner of an electronic drum set, perhaps you do face a challenge in getting it accepted by your band members and the sound guys. In some situations, you might be fighting a losing battle. This would be an extreme case of an artist refusing them or the front-of-house engineer having the power to veto them on stage. In those cases, you can politely state your case, but it is never worth causing friction and losing your job over. Acoustic drums are not better than electronic drums - or vice versa. I believe that e-drums are still relatively new to the music scene and will be better accepted once eyes are closed and ears are open. It seems to me that someday we will see more and more e-drums sharing the stage with bands all over the world. Be patient and confident about the power of electronic drums. 35
Long-distance drumming Simon Ayton was recently asked to contribute percussion to the song ‘Emotional Vertigo’ by UK artist Geoffrey Williams for his new project, ‘Fishtail Parker’. So what? Well, as he explains, the drummer is based in Australia and this new-age collaboration would probably not have been possible without digital drums.
I MET WILLIAMS, born in the UK but now residing in Melbourne, through his partner in crime, ‘Lime’, with whom I’ve produced several albums in the past. This introduction led to gigs and then a recording offer which could only be done remotely as we are both busy, in different places, and with only phone and email communication to bridge the gap. I’d worked with Lime via correspondence while I was living in Berlin between 2001 and 2008 and he was in Melbourne. I had drummed on his projects and mixed and mastered songs and whole albums for him, initially using discs sent via post, and later via email as bandwidth got cheaper and faster. Having already done several long-distance music projects for ads and films between Germany and the USA without ever meeting the directors or producers, I knew we could make this work and have some fun. Williams and Lime asked for “earthy and raw-sounding drums” and a performance to suit the dry, laid-back style of the song which consisted of vocals, guitar, bass and some guide percussion. As a compromise between ease of recording and sound options, I used a Roland TD-4 VDrums kit as the MIDI input device and Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 2.0 for the drum sounds. Projects like this begin with an MP3 file which is used as a guide backing track whose instrumentation and mix will be polished later. The basic requirements are consistent timing and balance, so that it’s easy to hear each instrument and none is too distracting. The next stage is to produce an MP3 of my drums and also a version with the backing track so he can hear what I have in mind and try the drums with his track before 36
suggesting changes and hopefully giving the all-clear. When everyone’s happy, I send a hi-res version, usually in the form of a stereo WAV or AIFF file at the appropriate sampling rate and bit depth (24bit @ 44.1KHZ is the most popular, although occasionally I get requests for 96KHZ and even 32bit @ 192KHZ). Along with the audio, sometimes I send the MIDI track of the drum take so that it can be deconstructed, edited or remixed at the other end, should they need to substitute sounds or tweak the volume balance of the kit. Before providing MIDIs, beware that your labours will end up in the hands of someone else, and depending on the mixer’s skills, this process can end in tears – usually the drummer’s. Clear communication is vital to make sure that they don’t badly edit or over-quantise your playing or choose sound combinations you’d never use and, thereby, effectively remove your personality from the track. MIDI vs audio recording Even though the ‘Musical Instrument Digital Interface’ (MIDI – and not M1D1, as I’ve seen before!) has been around for more than a quarter of a century, many people are still confused by it. MIDI does not transmit sound, but rather musical note numbers together with their length and velocity. Therefore, recording via MIDI allows the individual notes of the performance to be moved, changed/transposed, lengthened and even the individual note strengths to be altered at any time. This means creative decisions about how the drums should sound best for the track can be made at any stage in the recording and mixing process, without the need for any tricky audio editing or re-miking www.digitaldrummermag.com
of the drums to re-record a new part. Automatic correction of note positions through the use of ‘quantising’ can also be easily performed with MIDI, although I always try to get a good performance which I don’t need to correct so that I keep a human-sounding performance and personal style. On the rare occasions I do quantise, I rarely apply the full 100%, preferring values of under 80%. Now, on to the Emotional Vertigo recording. Here’s how we did it: 1. I created a stereo audio track in Sonar and dragged and dropped the MP3 backing song in at bar 1 beat 1. 2. I connected the MIDI out of the TD-4 kit to the MIDI in of the audio interface; in this case, a Roland UA-25EX USB audio/MIDI interface. 3. I set the song tempo to match the beats per minute of the MP3 I’d been sent (ask for this!). If they’ve correctly bounced their track down from a bar, it should line up perfectly and remain in sync the whole song. If not, use the visual waveform of the backing track as a guide to whether it lines up with the bar lines and listen to the track with the click to confirm they are in time. Most professional sequencing programmes now also let you create a ‘tempo map’ or flexible click to suit any piece of music if the original was not done to a set BPM. 4. I then created a MIDI track below the audio track and set its MIDI in port to match the TD-4’s connection; in this case, UA25EX port 1. I set the MIDI ‘channel’ to the standard drum channel of 10. Into this track, I also inserted the Superior Drummer 2.0 plug-in which I would
Creating a song: Superior Drummer screen and audio and MIDI files (opposite) and various takes (above). use as my drum sounds for the song. 5. I connected the audio outputs left and right of the TD-4 into two separate inputs of the UA-25EX for stereo sound so I could monitor while playing in real time, without any delay or ‘latency’. Most modern recording interfaces allow this ‘direct’ via a switch on the front panel. 6. Monitoring through headphones or an external amplifier, I played back the song from the start and adjusted the volume so that the backing track and my drums were balanced. This is a good time to turn the click on and set its level to help guide me (see box). 7. Once I had an initial take, I listened to a few similarly styled/sounding reference songs in iTunes for some sound and playing ideas, then listened back to my take, adjusted drum sounds and levels, saved my kit settings and made mental notes of what worked and what didn’t. I
Long-distance collaboration set to increase Advances in software are enhancing opportunites for long-distance collaboration between drummers and other musicians, according to Andreas Sundgren, chief executive of Toontrack Music. “When we started developing virtual instruments in 2003, they were almost exclusively the domain of professional or semi-pro producers with heavy computer rigs. The plug-ins were used to replace the presence of a drummer in the studio.
accomplished professionals. He cites Harry Stinson, a drummer who has worked with artists like Dolly Parton, Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle, and who recorded the samples and MIDI for the Nashville EZX for EZdrummer.
“Now, six years later, the revolution in computer standards and the strong development of electronic playing pads has opened up to an entirely different picture,” he says.
“After having finished the Nashville EZX, he started using that in conjunction with a Hart Dynamics kit to deliver MIDI files for sessions in LA. The producer would send him backing tracks, Harry would record MIDI using EZdrummer and the Nashville EZX and the producer would then use the same combination of software and expansion pack to re-create the drumtrack in the studio,” he explains.
Sundgren explains that the software and sample library are now the “sound source for the player rather than a replacement”. Furthermore, the tools enjoy multiple use from beginner level to the most
Sundgren predicts a continuing growth of this way of working in the future – “both as a solution for pros, but also as a fun and creative way of interacting between musicians on all levels”.
digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
I try to listen to myself playing along as if the drums are already recorded and I am merely accompanying a perfect recorded performance, with everything in the right place and musical context.
Simon Ayton on a Roland TD-4 then did further takes, aiming for the single, complete take with all the elements I liked within it. 8. I managed a complete take I was mostly happy with and cut in some of the better bits like a really inspired fill from other takes. I try to avoid fixing, quantising or moving parts that are poor, preferring to use “whole good sections” from another take. As master drummer Manu Katche put it, “an edited bad performance is still at heart a bad performance”. 9. Once editing was complete, I neatened up and named all my takes and trimmed the ends of the audio and MIDI regions so they began exactly on the first beat of the bar and saved my project. This is the point where I usually decide whether or not I’ll send individual audio tracks for each instrument of the drum track. In this instance, the stereo drums seemed to work well with the track and I decided I’d send this and wait for confirmation before sending individual tracks. 10. I knew they would be using Logic Pro on a Macintosh at the other end rather than Sonar, so I used the bounce function in Sonar to export several versions of my drums from bar 1 of the song: • Drums and music MP3 version for their reference and appraisal to send first; • Drums-only mix in 24bit 44.1KHZ WAV format, which they could import directly into Logic at their end; • Five separate audio drum tracks individually bounced from bar 1 which they could edit and remix (eg: kick, snare, hi-hat, all cymbals left and right, all toms left and right); • MIDI track data of the drum performance which they could also use to edit, move parts or substitute sounds. This was done as a MIDI file format ‘0’. Getting into the recording zone Obviously, playing by yourself is not the same as being in a studio with other musicians, so we sometimes need tricks to get into “the zone”. 38
Objective listening and the ability to really analyse what I’m playing from a distance allows me to make improvements on the fly and although it’s a lifelong challenge, this is what I believe makes for the best music and separates true musicians from mere players. I try to play musically and really listen to the whole piece of music and the impact I am having on it. Think musical thoughts… Just as artists learn to stretch their own canvases, mix their paints and choose their brushes to master their craft, through taking control of our own sound, learning some fundamentals and diving into recording ourselves, we’ll all be better musicians and artists for it!
To click or not to click? I reckon a lot of drummers struggle with clicks because they are simply playing outside their comfort zone. I always recommend the artist let me set the tempo of the song to achieve the most comfortable-sounding performance possible. I set the level of the click so my playing masks the sound of the click. This way, if I’m playing right on, I don’t hear the click. The trick is to play consistently with a comfortable feel. Let the click pull you along. If I’m working on a song that was not done to a click, then I play very carefully along to the main rhythm elements in the song to try to keep everything tight and feeling good: try to think musical thoughts, play respectfully of the song and imagine I’m playing with the artist in the same room. www.digitaldrummermag.com
--DIY-It’s not common for a bunch of diodes and resistors to become a common name, but mention “the Keith Raper circuit”, and DIYers around the world instantly recognise this as the little box they’ve built to split a dual input into two singles. So who is Keith Raper and how did his bag of tricks make it into the electronic drumming mainstream? digitalDrummer found the 51-year-old electronics designer near Scarborough in North Yorkshire in England.
Who is Keith Raper ? digitalDrummer: Where does the interest in drumming come from and how long have you been at it? Keith Raper: I have only been drumming around six years. I have always liked music and once bought a Casio keyboard to try to learn to play, but never took to it for whatever reason. For a while, I wanted to try the drums, so around six years ago, I bought a Yamaha DD55 with the intention of buying something better if I took to it and selling it if I didn’t. I took to it straight away, so a few months later, I bought a DTXpress III, sold the DD55 and got a drum teacher, Bob Scott, a local drummer who was very inspirational. He is the same age as me and has been drumming longer than I have been playing with electronics. I got into a couple of bands for a digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
while but things got too serious. I don’t want a hobby to become a commitment, at least not at the moment, so I am ‘between bands’ now. I feel drums must be my instrument because I seem to know the drumming of songs from my childhood, even if I cannot play them that well yet. I bought an acoustic drum kit a couple of years ago but always preferred the DTXpress, so I sold the acoustic kit and am now learning the guitar. It is too early to say if I have any aptitude for the guitar, but current progress would suggest not. dD: Tell us about the circuit which now bears your name: how did it come about and what was the original intention? 39
other people, not because I wanted or needed one. dD: How did the circuit get to be so well-known? KR: Probably due to PFozz on the DIY-Edrums Yahoo group who also has the “Edrum for Free” website. He spotted it on the DTXpress group and thought it would be useful for DIY edrummers. I agreed it could go on his site. From there, it has been picked up by the Vdrums.com DIY forum and probably a number of other places. dD: What started out as something to add inputs to a Yamaha module has taken off exponentially. Can you run through some of the ways it’s now used - the applications and adaptations? Raper’s much-copied circuit (above) and the man himself (right) KR: I joined the Yahoo DTXpress group even before I bought the DTXpress. One regular discussion there was “why can’t you put two mono pads into one stereo input to expand the number of pads?”. While quite a few people knew why it wouldn’t work and discussed the need for a “magic box” to convert the signals, no-one had actually done it. After I got the DTXpress, it was obvious that such an electronic circuit could be made, so I made one. Initially, I got carried away with a sophisticated circuit which delayed the signal with a lumped transmission line so I could switch the rim signal before the piezo signal hit the input connector. It was only with later experimenting that I found that level of complexity wasn’t really necessary. It also had a peak detect with gain and a threshold adjustment, and some gain in the rim piezo signal to counteract the DTXpress’s lack of rim sensitivity. I built a couple of prototypes with eight inputs and four outputs in a nice box about the same size as the DTXpress module (so it could sit on top). It worked well. With the help of Rob and Ed from the Yamaha DTXpress group, I sent one to (now-defunct US retailer) Drumbalaya to have a look, and there was some interest from Pintech. In the end, I decided it was never going to be an economical proposition. Sales would be small, so the unit would be hand-built and end up costing nearly as much as an extra module. So, I decided that people really needed something really simple with no power supply so it could easily be used anywhere in the world. So, a bit of thought and I came up with the “DTXpander cheap”. At the time, I became very busy with work, so I decided to make the circuit available to anyone who wanted to build it for personal use while still retaining my rights for commercial exploitation (not that I thought it was really likely to be a money-spinner). It may surprise people to know I don’t actually use my circuit. I don’t need one. I have more than enough pads without it. I designed the circuit “because I could”, for 40
KR: Originally, it was for allowing you to put two mono pads into a stereo input on the DTXpress. The DTXpress stereo pads use a single piezo and a rim switch. To put two mono pads into one input, you need to combine the piezo signals into one and provide a switch closure to simulate the rim switch. The same principle works for some of the Roland pads/modules, but the Roland modules have become more sophisticated and the more expensive ones allow two piezos to be put into one input anyway. I don’t know all the uses because I only get to hear about people having problems or asking advice. It gets used quite a bit for DIY e-drums, I think, because it is tricky to make rim switches so most people use two piezos to get a dual-zone pad. To avoid using up two inputs, the DTXpander is handy. I think it has also been used to flash lights when you hit a pad and also as just a switch closure where the piezo signal itself is not required. dD: What’s your day job and how have you combined the two? KR: I design electronics for a living - my own one-man business which has been going for over 20 years. I mostly design analogue electronics and ICs. This can range from simple stuff like throw-away radios for sports events to ICs in aircraft or blood analysers. The fact I have a well equipped lab gives me more than enough tools to sort out any problems with something as simple as an electronic drum kit. For example, I have a twochannel arbitrary waveform generator which is a great tool to determine what the module does with various piezo and rim switch combinations. Any work on the drums has to take second place to earning money, so progress tends to come in bursts when work is quiet. I have no burning desire to develop new circuits for the drums, but if someone asks a question, I often sketch a circuit idea for them to try. I don’t try to dream up product ideas myself. If I ever think of a product, it is often just me who wants one. I stick to providing solutions to other people’s problems. That is really how the DTXpander started. www.digitaldrummermag.com
dD: What’s in it for you? You don’t seem overly active in selling your circuits, so why have you put in so much effort? KR: I just do it for the satisfaction of helping other people. It may get people interested in electronics, which I think would be a good thing. I have sold a few dozen circuits but I doubt I have yet covered my costs. I spent quite a bit of money making the first two, overcomplicated prototypes. The need for the circuit in its original form has diminished because the DTXpress IV doesn’t have loads of underutilised stereo inputs. However, the DIY need seems to be expanding. dD: Can you just clarify the situation on sales of your board? KR: I sell them to anyone, anywhere. They have been sold to the USA, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands and UK, from memory. The original DTXpander I sold was boxed with connectors, but the EU WEEE regulations killed that off. In order to sell an electronic product in the EU, you must now register for a scheme for the safe disposal of the product at its end of life. The cost of registration is prohibitive for such a lowvolume, low-cost product. So, the new circuit is sold as a tiny PCB. This reduces the cost quite a lot and avoids the problem of WEEE regulations as it is now a “subassembly”, not a product. dD: What advice would you offer to anyone attempting to build the circuit themselves? KR: Check your wiring and check you have the components the correct way round! It is not a complicated circuit and because it has no power supply, it cannot blow up the module. So any mistakes aren’t disastrous - it just won’t work.
• Keith Raper is active on many e-drum forums, where he uses the name “keith1200rs”, a reference to a BMW motorbike he previously owned. He can also be contacted through his company, Key Design Electronics (www.kdel.co.uk).
Get DIY help - and a prize for your efforts Jman Acoustic Evolution is offering one of its highly regarded Stealth Conversion Kits for the reader question selected for the next edition of digitalDrummer. On offer is a 20”, three-zone ride kit with step-bystep instructions. (Cymbal not included) To be in the running, simply send your DIY question to email@example.com.
Your DIY connections digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
Do you have a DIY question? Philippe Decuyper (a.k.a. PFozz on the edrumforfree forum) will solve readers’ problems in each edition of digitalDrummer. Whether repairing existing equipment or building your own, Philippe will find the answers. Just email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. This month’s question comes from G.S. in Toronto, Canada: “I am confused about all the piezo choices. I am building a 10” tom and I’m not sure what type or size of piezo to use?” PIEZO TRANSDUCERS ARE often used to convert electrical energy to mechanical energy. As drummers, we’re mostly interested in the converse since we want to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy. As you probably know, speakers can be used as microphones and the piezo transducer inside grandma’s yearly musical greetings card can be used as a drum trigger (the piezo inside my main snare actually comes from such a card). Basically, a piezo sensor converts pressure into electricity. Then your module converts the significant peaks of this analogue signal to digital values that will determine how hard a digital sound or sample must be played. A hit on the mesh head of your tom will generate vibrations. Since piezo transducers are fragile devices, they need to be cushioned from direct blows – hence the foam cones or towers placed above them. Also, the more your piezo element is free to vibrate (i.e. to bend), the more electricity it will send to your module. However, if it moves too freely, it can behave erratically just like kids! So it’s not just the piezo, but also its housing which you need to consider. And, which size? Obviously, the determining factor is where you intend to place the piezo. Its size must fit its “house”. As a general rule, the most popular sizes are 27mm and 35mm – the larger size is ideal for centred “head” triggers, while 27mm is good for anything else (rim, cymbal, etc). Actually, my entire drum set (except the snare) is made of 27mm piezo transducers, mainly because it’s not that easy to find anything else in my local area. My snare has a 35mm piezo in its centre and I must admit this one works like a charm. And even if my toms are fine, I will probably replace all the centre piezos of my toms with 35mm versions. There are a variety of specifications for piezo transducers, but most of their properties are irrelevant for drum triggering and relate more to their use as an actuator or buzzer. 42
Piezos come in a variety of sizes But, as an indication, my sensors have these characteristics: Max. 30V, Freq. range 1-8 kHz, Resonant frequency 4.5kHz. Finally, piezo sensors are sold naked or embedded in a plastic case, with or without soldered wires. The choice depends on your skills. If you know how to use a soldering iron, go for naked piezos. They’re more affordable, you can use better quality wires and you won’t damage them while opening the plastic case some models are sealed in. To solder wires on your transducer, pre-heat the brass part with your iron before you fix some tin on it. Then, it should be easy to solder the first pre-tinned wire. After that, put a drop of tin on the ceramic part before you solder the second pre-tinned wire. The ceramic part is extremely fragile, so you have to make it quick if you don’t want to get a nice hole in the centre part. Don’t forget to put some hot glue on the soldering points in order to secure them thoroughly as it will be roughly treated later! If you do prefer to use pre-wired piezo, just do the hot glue trick. Unfortunately, pre-wired piezos are usually set in a plastic case. Please, watch your fingers when breaking the case using a sharp blade! As with all DIY, there’s a final warning: Please don’t make anything that may harm you, be aware of your skill limitations and use common sense. Building e-drums is a great way to learn how our favourite instruments work, how to repair them and how to build your very own. Of course, not everyone has the skills or equipment to make their own, and let’s face it, there is a huge range of electronic drum parts available from the manufacturers which are readily available. After all, what we’re all about is playing drums… www.digitaldrummermag.com
It looks like a game, feels like a game and sounds like a game. But, Roland’s new DT-HD1 is actually a serious music teaching tool. Just don’t tell the kids...
Just for fun - seriously CONSOLE GAMES LIKE Guitar Hero have made music cool, but more importantly, they have taught musicality by stealth. Young people, who would not be seen dead at music classes, spend hours on end trying to rise up the ranking and show their prowess at expert levels. The lasting legacy of all these games is a new approach to music education using the latest gaming technology. It goes to prove that you don’t have to know a crotchet from a quaver to learn a complex riff. You simply need the ability to watch a stream of racing coloured bars and match their progress with your fingers on a controller. For a brief while, the technology was available to electronic drummers through DTXmania, but that PCbased application is no longer supported. There are a few interfaces around to link PlayStations and Xboxes to drum modules, but these are quite complex to set up. Last year, Roland jumped into the gap in the market with a cool application which, unfortunately, has a far-fromcool name. But the DT-HD1 package (DT for Drum Tutor and HD1 for Roland’s new entry-level drum kit) is every digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
bit as captivating as its PlayStation and Nintendo counterparts – plus it has a more formal side.
What’s in the box? The DT part of the package is a software application supplied on disc. It runs on Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, doesn’t require too much computing power, but it does need USB connectivity. To connect the computer to an electronic drum, the package also includes Roland’s UM-1G USB-MIDI cable, although any USB-MIDI interface can be used. This is connected to the drum module’s MIDI ‘in’ and ‘out’ slots and once it’s all installed, the application finds the drum kit and you’re away. You do need an electronic drum kit for this package which is designed for the entry-level HD-1 V-Drum Lite kit. However, the drum tutor can be used with any Roland kit – although some tweaking is required for higher-end drum modules because they have more sophisticated hihat controls. The tutor should also work with non-Roland electronic kits, provided they have MIDI functionality. 43
Ready, set, learn Much as this is marketed as a serious teaching tool – and in fact, it is currently being used in schools in several countries – most users will no doubt start by chasing the blocks in “game” mode. Here, you choose from basic drum patterns to full songs and “follow the coloured bars”. Just like the console equivalents, the blue bar means hihat, the yellow is a snare hit and the light blue is the bass drum. And like RockBand, you get a point every time you hit the right drum at the right time. It’s pretty easy stuff to start off, but you can increase the tempo and add drums until eventually, you’re playing to real accompaniment, with a full kit of three toms, open and closed hats, ride, crash, snare and bass. By track 36, you’re up to 135 beats per minute and chasing 17,880 points – and that’s a lot of hits to get right! The more serious side of the Drum Tutor is the Notation Screen – a full musical score with the appropriate notations for all the drum instruments, the usual time markers and a bouncing ball to show you the notes as they play. As you play along, you get blue circles around the notes you got right and red crosses on those you didn’t. At the end, there’s a visual trail of your success – or lack thereof. And again, players can change the tempo as they learn a pattern or song, and select a part to repeat until they know it. The programme has eight starting basic beats and 26 songs built in. The complexity builds from one to the next and even when you reach the end, the difficulty level can still be notched up by increasing the tempo. And when you get bored with the included songs, you also have the option of loading your own tracks. They must be in MIDI format, which isn’t really a problem with all the free ones available these days. If the MIDI is correctly configured, the drum score appears on the Notation Screen and the appropriate drums light up as they play. This is a fantastic way of learning drum parts for complicated songs, especially with the ability to select and repeat tricky bits, or slow them down until you’ve mastered them.
The verdict At around US$85, the DT-HD1 costs about the same as two-and-a-half hours of coaching, but at the risk of alienating the entire training community, it offers
Look familiar? The game mode harks back to console games. significantly more. It offers a stimulating, fun learning experience which should keep any new and intermediate drummer motivated for more. The fun factor is huge, and the programme is already being used widely in schools. It combines the game thrill of RockBand with the experience of playing a real instrument (and don’t for a minute suggest electronic drums are not real drums) and should be one of the first accessories bought with any digital drum product. But there are some flaws. The screen resolution is fixed and the display might not fit onto some laptop screens. There is no print function, so while you may be able to load a MIDI track and watch the notation on-screen, you can’t keep a hard copy. And the MIDI functions are not without glitches. Some tweaking is needed for higher-end modules, especially to get the open and closed hi-hat notes recognised. The software is also very fussy about the MIDI format that is imported, and unless you give it exactly what it wants, you won’t get all the notes. And the smallest notes available are 16th notes – certainly challenging enough for me, but some people may be able to go faster. Overall though, for little more than the cost of the MIDIUSB interface, which is almost a must-have on its own, this is a great package which would provide fun and stimulation to drummers of all levels, especially with the ability to load complex MIDIs, provided you get the format right. Now, let’s see how close I can get to 17,880 points…. - Allan Leibowitz
Starting with the Samba Grant Collins kicks off his digitalDrummer lessons with the exciting South American rhythms of the Samba, played on a Roland TD-9 kit. This is up-tempo dance music and you should look to get it up to around 240 bpm. The first object will be to learn the right hand (or left for left-handers).
Next up, I've added a basic Samba foot pattern to help lock in the time and incorporate some Next up, I've added a basic Samba foot pattern to help lock in the time and to incorporate some co-ordination: co-ordination:
Now, we will add the left-hand so that there is a complete flow of 8th notes. The left simply fills in the were leftsoby the main in flow the of previous exercises: Now, webreaks will addthat the left-hand that there is arhythm complete 8th notes. The left simply fills in the breaks that were left by the main rhythm in the previous exercises:
With a little orchestration, this turns into an exciting traditional sounding Brazilian Samba. The left play rim-clicks on the while the right-hand moveSamba. between Withhand a littlewill orchestration, this turns into snare, an exciting traditional sounding will Brazillian Thethe left snare hand will and the floor tom: play rim-clicks on the snare, while the right-hand will move between the snare and the floor tom:
For another variation of the groove, the following exercise makes use of the right-hand rhythm of the For another variation of the groove, the following exercise makes use of the right-hand rhythm of the Samba on th Samba on the cymbal cowbell). rhythm of the left-hand differentexercise from the exercise ride cymbal (or ride cowbell). The(or rhythm of theThe left-hand is different from theisprevious asprevious it represent as it represents the conga part and plays between a rim-click on the snare and the high tom: the conga part and plays between a rim-click on the snare and the high tom:
Get andgrooves grooves you're comfortable and inIncontrol. the next Getthe the sticking sticking and so so thatthat you're 100%100% comfortable and in control. the next In lesson, we will lesson, look toatuse ways use the sticking with different dynamics. start to we lookwill at ways the to sticking combined withcombined different dynamics. Click to download
digitalDRUMMER, JANUARY 2010
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