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Edition 3

July 2010

The global electronic drumming e-zine COMPOSITION Making music with e-drums BEST OF BRITISH For e-drums, UK is OK

REVIEW External triggers tested

Oli Rubow No boundaries PROFILE

TALKING POINT: Is triggering still drumming?

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The global electronic drumming e-zine

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Edition 3

July 2010


Best of British

No-one knows why, but the UK seems to have a hyperactive custom e-drum industry quite disproportionate to its population.

Go trigger

External drum triggers are often frowned upon, but if they’re good enough for Phil Collins, Joey Jordison and Rick Allen, they’re worthy of a digitalDrummer examination.

Rack ‘em up

Racks are the cornerstone of most e-drum kits, and one of the major upgrade options, especially as kits grow.

Re-inventing the basics

When Mark Steele returned to drumming after 26 years away from the sticks, it was as if nothing had changed. The pilot has spent the past nine years re-inventing the tools of his trade.


Oli Rubow: no boundaries

It’s one thing to use electronics to emulate acoustic drum sounds, but German electronic drummer Oli Rubow pushes the boundaries in “an organic electronic live act”.


Roll up, roll up

Electronics help create the distinctive drum and percussion tapestries for entertainment icon Cirque du Soleil.


Composing with e-drums

Anyone who has seen Johnny Rabb in action knows that he’s a musician, not just a time-keeper. Rabb explains how he uses electronic drums as a composition tool.


A TP makeover

Conversions of acoustic shells to e-drums have largely been limited to those with Roland or Alesis modules, with Yamaha owners generally excluded. However, it is possible to create an acoustic look but still take advantage of Yamaha’s triggering.

digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010


--from-the-editor-is published by DigitalDrummer ABN: 61 833 620 984 30 Oldfield Place Brookfield Q 4069 AUSTRALIA Tel: 61 411 238 456 Editor & Publisher Allan Leibowitz Sub-Editor

Solana da Silva Contributors Simon Ayton

Grant Collins

Philippe Decuyper Scott Holder Kurt Pfeiffer

Johnny Rabb

Cover Photo

Thomas Roessler

Design and layout ‘talking business’

with assistance from Jeremy Hoyle

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. 4

Welcome to the third edition of digitalDrummer and many thanks to all those who took the trouble to provide feedback to the last edition.

Congratulations to Kevin Hagan of Wyoming who picked up a pair of Ultrasone HFI-850 headphones in our first subscribe and win competition. And Mike Nyles of Milton Keynes in the UK has also joined the winners’ circle, with a pair of Sennheiser HD-280 Pro cans winging its way to him, simply for subscribing to the magazine. There’s a strong performance flavour in this edition, with techno marvel Oli Rubow talking about how he combines electronics with acoustics. We also look behind the scenes of Cirque du Soleil to discover how the world’s most successful circus uses electronic percussion to create atmosphere and drama.

On the gear side, we take a virtual trip to Britain to find out why the UK seems to have a hyperactive e-drum industry quite disproportionate to its size. The article hears from some of the colourful people behind the thriving e-drum trade, and there’s also plenty of UK eye candy in the feature. This edition includes two comparative reports – one on external triggers. We were able to assemble most of the offerings on the market and test them in real-world conditions. We were a little less successful with our review of racks, with only a few racks submitted for review, despite our approaches to all the major suppliers in the US. While we’re obviously disappointed that most manufacturers did not participate, we are confident that we tested the most desirable racks that are probably on the shopping list of all acquisitive edrummers.

Our regular columnists are all on board this time, with Johnny Rabb sharing some ideas on using e-drums as a composition tool; Simon Ayton offering some valuable advice on module tweaking while PFozz has the answers in his DIY column. And Grant Collins once again provides some food for thought – and practice - in his MIDIaccompanied training page.

On the creative side, we’re happy to welcome enthusiastic e-drummer Jeremy Hoyle, a talented art director who is helping tweak the design of the magazine. Jeremy’s handiwork can be seen in the new-look profile section which he designed and laid out this time. And if anyone is looking for a top-notch designer and graphic artist, Jeremy does freelance work! There’s lots to read this month, so rather than keeping you hanging around here, let me just express the hope that you enjoy our latest offering. I look forward to any feedback. So, let’s take it away. One, two, three, four ...

Allan Leibowitz


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 ...


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


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, providing notation and MIDI instruction.


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 and recently debuted its BIoXpander MIDI solution. PFozz answers readers’ DIY questions in each edition.


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 puts a bunch of racks through their paces for this edition.


Kurt Pfeiffer is a St Louis, MO-based e-drum enthusiast. He makes his digitalDrummer debut with a step-by-step guide to reshelling Yamaha pads. Besides building e-drums, Pfeiffer plays drums with Liquid Courage, a band that describes itself as “not just another cover band”. They provide a professional, high-energy show - aided by Kurt’s sticks.


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 drum set and the TDW-20 expansion board. Johnny continues to design and develop new sounds and innovations for his unique concepts on the drums. digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010



Is it still drumming?

Digital drumming is more than the emulation of acoustic percussion. Technology enables the creation of new sounds and patterns, and many devices now have built-in sampling and sequencing. So this begs the question: Is triggering still drumming?

In our view, all people who use some kind of drums are at least “potential” drummers, as they have a feel for the rhythm and know how to use or express it. So, using software-based “drums” is still some kind of drumming. It doesn’t matter whether you use samples, loops, VSTs or whatever. Michael Zabel, drum-tec

Triggering is a different kind of drumming, especially if we’re talking about triggering on something other then an e-drum kit - like a keyboard, for instance. I’ve seen some absolutely stunning keyboard 6

drumming that left my jaw on the floor. It takes a lot of practice and skill to become a good keyboard drummer, just like it does on acoustic shells. I’ve never thought of digital drums as a replacement for acoustic drumming. It’s a different instrument which just produces similar sounds. Steven Slate, Steven Slate Drums

Triggering samples from a drum set, electronic or acoustic, is no different than “triggering” a Steinway grand piano from an electronic keyboard. The performance is based entirely upon the ability of the player. As far as triggering loops or sequences

within a given performance, this takes the drum set (or other instrument) to an entirely different level as a performance instrument, while also still remaining dependent on the facility of the individual player. So, in my opinion, triggering is certainly still drumming. Peter Hart, Hart Dynamics, Inc.

I’m against the complete replacement of the drum sounds because it kills many of the original drums nuances, but to use the triggering to maximise the original sound and expand the tone palette with unusual sounds, are actions that, in my opinion, improve the drumming and produce new interesting sound directions. Music is an art of freedom and I think that every tool can be used to express it better. Sab Cannone, Morevox

Rhythm is the essence of all music. Each drummer’s individual feel and sound will seal the foundations of a solid track. With modern production skills and an exhaustive number of genres merging together, it has become almost compulsory for the modern drummer to search for new sounds and ways to enable his expression to cut through the mix, whether layering sounds on top of acoustic drums or firing off samples and loops from pads. Is triggering still drumming? Yes, as long as we can still hit stuff. Paul Willard, Loopmasters

Of course, it’s drumming. No matter what route the resulting sound takes to reach your ear, drumming is the talent that created that impulse to begin with. Whether it’s a skin, piece of metal or sound card, drumming is drumming, and it’s an art form. Alan Miller, V Expressions

In my opinion, it is. It doesn’t matter what you hit be it saucepans, a drum kit or e-drums. I think the point is with technology as it is today, a drummer does not have to be limited and can be a lot more involved in the music. I call this beast in evolution a 21st century drummer. Mal Green, Greensoundmusic

It’s more important than ever for a drummer to be technologically savvy. If you want to make a living as a drummer, creating loops, playing back samples during a performance and triggering sounds from your acoustic drums is an absolute must - it’s no different than having a collection of great-sounding acoustic snare drums. Mike Snyder, e-drum guru



D Y D L O D EO H  I RU  ¼   G R ZQ O R D G D E O H  S U R G X F W




digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010




The Best of British

Maybe, as David Bowie suggested, it’s something in the air. Or possibly the water. No-one is sure why, but the UK seems to have a hyperactive custom e-drum industry quite disproportionate to its population size of 61.4 million. Allan Leibowitz looks at why the UK is more than OK. IT WAS THE Brits, of course, who brought electronic drums into the mainstream when the Simmons Electronic Drum Company began “mass production” in the early ’80s. The appearance of the Simmons SDS-V kits on TV in line-ups like Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran is widely acknowledged as the birth of popular e-drumming. KOBY

While pioneer Dave Simmons has been out of the industry for some time, one of his early disciples, Colin Schofield, is still active as the driver of the Koby range of pads and accessories.

Schofield had hoped to pick up where Simmons left


off. “When I was gigging with my Simmons equipment, I was hearing complaints from drummers (and home recording musicians) regarding electronic drum costs,” he recalls. He came up with a plan for “a more portable and inexpensive (without compromising quality) e-drum system” which could be produced using ready-made materials and sold direct to the customer, cutting out the retailer. Schofield tried to interest the Simmons founder in the concept, but Simmons pulled the plug before he could embrace Schofield’s DRUM-Mate line. Twenty years on, Schofield, working in Liverpool, the home of the Fab Four, is still active in the e-

Koby products have been sold to customers in the US, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Italy, France, Switzerland and Brazil.

Working with his father and his son, Schofield is philosophical about the UK e-drum industry. “It was Dave Simmons and his company that paved the way for all that followed,” he says, noting a void since Simmons’ demise.

“Mesh–head technology has been the biggest advancement, but the technology within the pads is still the same,” he points out.

Schofield has little enthusiasm for putting electronics in acoustic shells. “I don’t really see the point in e-drums looking exactly like real drums. I’m very surprised with Pearl Drums doing what they are doing (with the ePro Live kits). “It looks great, but there is no great advancement technology-wise”. JOBEKY drum industry, handproducing a range of mesh-head drums, cymbals and rubber pads (NANO Pads and MICRO pads), as well as external triggers and a 16input MIDI interface under the Koby name. He uses local toolmakers and plastic moulding and rubber extrusion companies which have been very helpful and understanding. “They are there when I need them and are willing to meet me face to face if I need to adapt any ideas,” he notes.

While Schofield turns his nose up at electrified acoustic shells, that activity is a growing niche for the UK market. Take, for example, Jobeky Drums. The company, just north of Birmingham, has been making acoustic-looking e-drums since 2005.

Formed by acoustic drum builder Colin Ackroyd and wife Jane, Jobeky started off producing smaller drums to cope with space constraints and noise considerations. “We currently make a variety of products from

Schofield laments that manufacturing in the UK is struggling. “If I can do my little bit with my product designs to help keep it here, then I will.” He points out that he still gets plenty of positive feedback because his products are handassembled and manufactured in the UK.

While Schofield’s original plan was customer-direct sales, Koby products are mostly sold through successful local drum shop ADC, although he does offer NANO pads for sale on eBay. “I have sold products to various countries in the past and still do occasionally, but not in any great quantity,” he says. Besides the UK, digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010


individual drums and snares through to full kits, cymbals and hardware,” says Ackroyd. “These range from entry-level kits right through to professional-level larger kits. We offer these in a variety of sizes, finishes and depths, and either stand- or rack-based.”

Jobeky also sells its own cymbal range in a variety of sizes, along with its own hi-hat controller. The company claims to be the first to have offered real wood veneers on its drums. “We already had maple shells and chrome shells, but being edrums, what the shell consists of has no bearing on its acoustic sound as that all comes from the trigger, so we decided to use veneers, giving people the beauty of a real wood kit, and other companies are again now following our lead,” he says. Jobeky also recently launched a range of hand-painted drums and full kits, working with Scary Designs.

Besides its own shop, Jobeky recently began selling its products through a UK electronic drum store which focuses on used Roland equipment. Drums are also sold online through the Jobeky website and “occasionally” on eBay.

“We have customers spread worldwide, from the UK through most of Europe and as far afield as Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Canada and the USA,” Ackroyd says. DIAMOND ELECTRONIC DRUMS

Not far from Jobeky’s shop, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, Dave Chetwynd has recently moved to a workshop after starting Diamond Electronic Drums in his home 18 months ago.

“I began making and selling electronic drums at the beginning of 2009 with just one mission - to push the boundaries of what an electronic drum can look like with some exciting new customised options for all e-drummers,” he explains.

Diamond’s offerings range from single electronic drums including full-size bass drums and floor toms to full customised shell packs.

“I hand-build each drum, starting with a totally blank canvas,” Chetwynd explains. “The customer decides what size and depth of shell, lug style and wrap or veneer finish is required. I work together with the customer with lots of contact and interaction to build a kit that’s special to them,” he says, noting the growing popularity of deeper toms, deeper bass drums and floor toms with legs. “I fit the best hardware and mesh heads to each drum (while) each snare and tom is a two-zone offering.” 10

Chetwynd started his business on eBay, but switched to online orders through his website and the various forums where his reputation has spread. His biggest challenge has been meeting the demand for his products and he recently froze orders to cope with the backlog. He has also moved production out of his home and into a dedicated workshop. Diamond Electronic Drums have been sold worldwide, “some in the UK, more to Europe and others to USA, Canada and Australia and even Brazil”. “If it has a postal service, then I will endeavour to send it at the lowest shipping quote I can find,” he says.

Chetwynd plans to expand his offerings with “more bespoke custom options like veneers, new lug styles, different hardware colours and new wrap colours”. He may even be tempted into building the odd acoustic kit. PRDRUMS

Certainly one of the young guns in the UK e-drum trade, Daniel Arrowsmith is taking the industry fullcircle. He recently marked his 18th birthday with a decision to apply what he has learned as a DIY edrum builder to acoustic drums. Arrowsmith started playing around with electronic

Arbiter manager to form Traps in 2004.

What started as a compact acoustic kit clearly had applications for the e-drum market, The initial A400 kit was converted into the E400 with the addition of a module, external triggers and e-cymbals, and in 2007, a five-drum, three-cymbal, rackmounted kit was launched. This was followed by the E450, consisting of a 12” snare, 10”, 12” and 14” toms and 20” kick drum, all fitted with mesh heads and new “under-skin triggers”. The company recently added an E500 range, featuring dual-zone drums. Traps has an extensive global distribution network and sells through music retailers.

KIT-TOYS drums after Christmas 2007 when he got his hands on his first electronic drum kit. “Within an hour, it was in bits as my tinkering instincts kicked in,” he says, adding that he soon realised he could do it himself.

“So I started doing some research into the electronic drumming world, mainly getting my information from the v-drum forum. As my knowledge of electronics grew, so did my contact list, leading me to suppliers who I worked with to design the first production model electro-coustic drum kit.”

Trading as PRDrums, Arrowsmith has “been testing the waters with electronic drums for over three years now”.

Products range from single drums to a five-piece kit, sold over eBay and through his website (which was not available when digitalDrummer tried to access it).

“The main bulk of my customers have been from the UK (but) a lot of drums have also been sent to Spain and France. However, I’m noticing more and more people are coming to me from across the pond (so) I guess the word is spreading.” Besides the move from mesh to mylar, Arrowsmith is also planning to offer made-to-order drum kits “offering a wide variety of drum sizes, lug colours and natural wood finishes”. TRAPS

Traps, by far the largest player in the UK and a significant exporter of kits, did not respond to digitalDrummer’s repeated enquiries, so this information is sourced from its website.

According to the website, Dorset-based manufacturer Alchemy had produced moulds for the Arbiter Flats drum kits, and after a split in the company, an Alchemy employee teamed up with an

digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

No feature on the UK e-drum scene would be complete without some mention of cult cymbal builder, Mike Timms, who began making electronic cymbals in 2003 to augment his home-made electronic kit. Timms’ Kit-Toys disappeared for almost three years, as reported in the January edition of digitalDrummer. But, as flagged in that report, the business is back, and Timms is currently trading again. He has started selling cymbals on eBay and will continue selling direct, ruling out any licence or distribution deals.

The battle of Britain

Most of the businesses are at a loss to explain the vibrant e-drum sector in Britain. Some industry observers suggest it may be a combination of a large domestic market and proximity to Europe and the UK’s trade partners. Others believe it might have something to do with different patent arrangements which allow businesses more leeway than in the US, where the giants are aggressive in protecting their intellectual property. And business analysts suspect the e-drum activity is merely a reflection of the recent restructuring of British industry away from the more traditional heavy engineering and primary sectors towards the service and high-tech fields. This, according to some economists, coincides with a shift away from big business towards smaller privately owned businesses. Regardless of the causes, there is intense rivalry between the independents, leading to everimproving quality, greater personalisation and, much to the delight of customers, fairly heavy price competition. So, from a buyer’s perspective, long may the battle of Britain continue... 11



Ro l l up , r ol l up ! e -d r u m s j oi n t h e a c t



FROM ITS HUMBLE origins in Quebec, Canada in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has blossomed into a global entertainment enterprise employing more than 4,000 people and attracting almost 100million spectators around the world – 15million last year alone. Known for its creative sets and fantastic costumes, Cirque is also a musical force, with a string of successful soundtrack albums from its various shows. Sound, according to Cirque’s creative team, is just as important as costume and choreography in creating the spectacle that attracts audiences worldwide. “In the circus, the soundscape is a powerful emotion,” says sound designer François Bergereon. “It can warn of impending danger, heighten tension or trigger laughter. And it is impossible to escape its influence. “My challenge is to create, with the right tools, an atmosphere that conveys the intentions of the director and which highlights the music and the feats of artists.” Of course, percussion is a key element in Cirque’s soundscape. Benoit Glazer, conductor and back-up drummer at La Nouba, Cirque’s permanent show at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, says drums dominate the score. They are, he says, “used in a fairly traditional way, and we only have a few actual percussion parts”. “Since there is a lot of variety in the styles of music we are asked to perform, things change a lot from song to song, but in general, the drums are a very basic and an essential part of the music.”

For the company’s newest touring show, Ovo, percussion is even more significant, according to band leader Jean-François Bédard.

“Because of this show’s Brazilian backdrop and the importance of percussion in Brazilian music in general, Ovo is very percussion-heavy. The score was also written by a Brazilian composer, Berna Ceppas, and mixed according to his vision.” Cirque’s resident bands use a mix of acoustic and electronic instruments and different shows use electronic percussion in various ways. At the lower end of the electronics are shows like La Nouba which uses an old digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

Roland Octapad, mostly for effects to accompany the clown acts.

Glazer explains that his band uses only the onboard sounds in the Octapad. Drummer Joe Bertrand adds that he uses an external trigger on the kick drum linked to a Roland module “to give choices to the FOH sound engineer”.

Bertrand says he tried an electronic kit at the very beginning. “We quickly found out that we needed real cymbals due to the variety of things I need to do with them (traditional playing, symphonic effects, avant-garde effects),” he explains. “I liked the vast array of tones available on the kit itself, but two factors made us choose the acoustic kit: firstly, the dynamic range is much wider on the real shells (or it was back in 1998, when we did the creation), and secondly, I was getting real tendonitis-type problems with the pads, due to their different response and rebound characteristics. Having played for 35 years on real kits probably played a role in that situation. I am quite sure that a young drummer who starts on electronic kits right from the start might not encounter that problem.”

Electronics are used more extensively on newer shows, particularly touring shows like Ovo. There, drummer Daniel Baeder uses a Roland SPD-20, a PD-7 pad, a PD125 mesh snare pad, an RT-10K external kick trigger, and an RT10S snare trigger. The percussionist, Sao Paulo native Renato Martins, uses a Roland Handsonic with a KD-8 kick pedal. Where La Nouba uses the multipad’s onboard sounds, it’s only computergenerated sounds for Ovo’s SPD-20, using Ableton Live. “Actually, the quarter-inch jacks are not even connected,” Bédard notes.

“Both Daniel and Renato have controllers, both merged into the show computers (although they use separate outputs, so they have independent control of their mixes),” he adds.

He says one specificity of the score is that “most electronic sounds and all effects used by Daniel to accentuate the action come from sampling various toys and devices. The result is that the show’s electronic vocabulary is far from generic.

Ovo drummer Daniel Baeder uses an SPD-20



The touring show’s equipment is all sourced from the same vendor in Montreal, according to Bédard. “This ensures good service and timely delivery. For maintenance and replacement on tour, we buy in local markets.”

And breakdowns are inevitable, especially on touring productions. “The gear gets used intensely and extensively on a show like ours,” Bédard notes. “Consequently, we have occasional failures - although, not yet on this show, six months in. We have spare pads, triggers and cables, of course. An extra SPD-20 and Handsonic stay close at hand always. And when a pad misbehaves at Cirque, there’s no second chance. “We replace them immediately, we don’t have them repaired.”


ba ban

Nou The La

“In certain songs, we use electronic instead of acoustic drums. In these cases, Daniel uses the pads and triggers. Independently of that, throughout the show, Daniel accentuates the action onstage using electronic sounds of all types, instead of typical cymbal hits.” Ovo uses MIDI percussions in a pretty simple way, according to the band leader. “The show programming is intricate but is really a lot of repetition of the same basic concepts. Sounds assigned to pads, with or without velocity, are changed automatically to new patches by the sequencer. The only exception is Orvalho (a hand balancing act) where Daniel needed to have access to eight different kick samples and since the SPD-20 and all its external pads were full, we ended up separating sounds by velocity on four pads (one sound under 64 and a totally different one above, neither affected by velocity change). (It was) quite something for Daniel to learn by heart, since they were all arbitrarily assigned!”

But the drummer took it in his stride because he was no stranger to electronics. “I had previous experience with my own electronic projects,” says Baeder. “I’ve been using a lot of computers in shows since I was17 years old, with sequencers and pads to trigger starts and stops.” 14

Years on the road have given Baeder plenty of experience in packing, unpacking and setting up, and he has this advice: “Be careful with your pads: they are very fragile. I have specific cases for them. When you set up, don’t turn anything on before everything is plugged in. Turn off everything before you start unplugging also. This is a common mistake that a lot of guys make.”

Although they use acoustics predominantly, the Cirque band members who spoke to digitalDrummer are enthused about electronics.

“The electronic drums give drummers the possibility to be part of another world, without being a substitute for the real instrument,” says Baeder. “At Cirque, we have the possibility to interact with clowns and acrobats as well as use electronic sounds in a musical, more traditional way. It is good reflex practice for any musician, doing visual cues during songs.” Glazer also sees real advantages to having an electronic drum kit in the pit, “namely the control over sound volumes on stage and the variety of sounds one can get out of these kits”.

“There are also real advantages to having a real drum kit on stage, namely the reliability, great dynamic range, possibility to play in an acoustic environment and so forth. In the end, it is great to have a choice and to be able to tailor the drum/percussion set-up to one’s taste in every possible theatre situation.

“The one thing that is so important, and common to all long-run theatre productions is making sure you have what you want, and do not underestimate the power of ergonomics. Four-hundred-and-seventyeight 96-minute shows a year is a long time to be uncomfortable!”

Oli Rubow

No boundaries

No boundaries No boundaries It’s one thing to use electronics to emulate acoustic drum sounds, but German electronic drummer Oli Rubow pushes the boundaries, blending acoustic drums and electronics to create what he calls “an organic electronic live act”. Oli shared his enthusiasm for electronic drumming with digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz. Photos: THOMAS ROESSLER and MEINL 16


digitalDrummer: Can you run through your usual equipment line-up? What acoustic and electronic equipment do you use for performances? Oli Rubow: I love to have a small acoustic base (kick, snare, hi-hat, crash and sizzle ride) that I can rely on, even if power fails. This acoustic base allows me to play a range of dynamics and provides me with a lot of different colours. I usually have an open, resonant tuning and love to alter the acoustic sound with different kinds of sticks (brushes, rods, mallets, jingle sticks, maracas, one shot shaker, hands and fingers...) or change the original drum sound by dampening the drums and cymbals with towels, adding chains or even reversing drum heads. On the electronics side, I use a Roland SPD-S loaded with typical electronic drum and percussion sounds, noises, vocal samples and chords. Some sounds (like claps, rims, toms) are routed into a Line6 delay, the rest run through the Acidlab Bassline-2 (a TB-303 clone), where the e-drums get rhythmically filtered. I have a bass section consisting of a triggered bass and an acid bass. The triggered bass consists of a Roland trigger hooked on the kick drum. This impulse triggers an analogue bass sound in the Jomox MBase 01 which will be delayed with a Boss Space Echo and finally filtered and distorted with an Oto Biscuit. I also use a Boss volume pedal to mute the bass when needed. With this set-up, I can easily add a bass signal while playing the groove: I only have to tap eighths on the echo and open the volume pedal. I use the Acidlab Bassline-2 as a pulsating bass computer. The tempo of the Bassline-2 is synched via a MIDI clock, either to the laptop with Ableton Live or a MIDI-clock tap device like the 34one. In what I call the dub section, I split the snare drum mic twice. The first split signal gets its needed gain (and optional synth chords from Ableton Live) from an EHX Vocoder, then runs through an A/B switch to a small mixer where it meets the electronic sounds, and both reach their final destination in my green Line6 Delay Modeler. With the A/B switch, I allow the snare signal to be delayed; with the Vocoder, I can add harmonics to the delayed atmosphere. With a signal being in the delay device, I have the possibility to integrate it rhythmically into my groove (by tapping the tempo), or to dub the signal (playing with the tempo and repeat knob), even feedback or (fake) loop it. My red “mute“ button gives me another option to treat the delayed signal in a rhythmic way. The second split signal runs into the biggest reverb preset of my old Alesis Microverb. By pressing the green button on what I call my “playstation”, I can fire some dubby reverb events. I use a 13“ Apple MacBook Pro with Ableton Live (software), a Novation Launchpad (controller) and a MOTU Traveler audio interface. All electronic devices with knobs or buttons I like to twirl are placed left of the hi-hat, so that I can use my left hand. digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

The delay on/off switch (the A/B box) is on the floor, left of the hi-hat pedal; the vocoder stompbox with an on/off button is between the kick pedal and the e-kick pedal of the Roland SPD-S. dD: How long have you been using electronics and how did you start? OR: I think I started with drum electronics in the late ‘90s. I was impressed with different styles of the DJ culture (drum ’n bass, house, hip-hop) and first tried to emulate all those special and un-acoustic sounds on a traditional drumset by tweaking drums and cymbals and using different sticks (brushes, rods, jingle sticks, the meinl drumbal, shakers, etc). The first electronic device I fell in love with was the Line6 delay with tap tempo. This stompbox gave me a new possibility of creating the illusion of additional loops,without having to play along with a clicktrack and pre-recorded electronic playbacks. It supported the idea of improvising and interacting without losing the electronic feel. Over time, I integrated some prominent signature electronic sounds, like handclaps (for house beats), deep sub kicks (for dub, hip-hop and breakbeat styles) 17

See Oli on YouTube

Some of Oli’s vast array of electronic and acoustic instruments. From apparent chaos come some inspiring grooves.

and classic Simmons tom sounds for the ‘80s. At that time, you could get a lot of the vintage e-drum stuff very cheaply on eBay, so I bought an analogue Tama Techstar drumsynth TS-305 (ideal to generate a boom bass or those disco “piuuu” toms), a Simmons MTX-9 that provided me with typical 12-bit clap samples, as well as some stylish hexagonal pads to drum on. In 2001, I toured with Turntablerocker, a side project of two well-known German DJs. For their kind of music (somewhere between electro, hip-hop and house), I needed a lot of different e-drum sounds. I got in contact with Clavia and combined their ddrum4 brain, three pads and a snare trigger with a small acoustic ensemble of kick, snare, hi-hat and crash. At that time, I also began writing a book about using electronic and programmed grooves on stage. One part of my approach is not only to transcribe the right notes of a beat (of a certain style), but to research the kind of equipment available at the time of production. For example, when you look at the beats on Prince’s recordings in the ‘80s, you need to look at the workings of the Linndrum to understand the reasons for machine gun fills, the lack of dynamics and static groove. Then, I would sit behind my acoustic kit, tune the snare drum down, cover it with a towel or an old reversed drum head. I would try to play without dynamics, very accurately and with a steady balance between the (drum) instruments. I would “overdub” crashes with the left hand, instead of stopping the right-hand flow of the hi-hat. I would try to recreate the illusion of a vintage drum computer by maybe playing the hi-hat a little bit too loud, by playing machine gun-like drum rolls, by thinking in a 18

one- or two-bar pattern structure and avoiding too many different fills. In the next phase, I would integrate electronic drums or eventually play only on e-drums – but again, no dynamics and (using) sounds from the first generation of digital machines like the Linndrum, Oberheim DMX/DX and Drumtraks. I tried to examine as much of the beat production gear I could get. I bought a lot of synthdrums (Simmons SDS-V, Tama Techstar TS-206/TS-305, Coron DS-8, Jomox MBase, Vermona DRM1), digital e-drums (Simmons MTX-9, Simmons Claptrap, Boss Dr.Pad, Pearl Syncussion SC-40, ddrum4), MIDI controllers (EZ Kat), drum machines (Sequential Circuits Drumtraks, Jomox X-base, Yamaha DD-55, Boss Dr.220), grooveboxes (Roland MC-303), samplers (EMU Sp-12000, Akai S-2000, Roland SPD-S, software samplers), effects (tape echo, analogue/digital delay, reverb, distortion, phaser, compressor, gate) and borrowed a lot from friends – just to understand how the machines work, what possibilities and restrictions they have and how they shape the aesthetic of a certain style. (Rubow’s book “e-Beats am Drumset” was published in 2007, but only in German.) dD: I’ve just watched some of your performances and was blown away by your collaboration with Uwe Schenk. There, you start off with what sounds like a regular Jazz/ Latin number with your fellow drummer playing sedately on brushes, and then you take it in all kinds of directions including techno. Do you play with these guys regularly and how have they adapted to your unique style?

OR: All the guys are old friends, but we never played together in this configuration. We also did not really have time to rehearse, so I brought some parts of “floorfillers from 1982 to today” and the idea of mixing the music like a DJ, but playing it with the attitude of a jazz band considering risk, improvisation and interaction. Finally, everybody had to open their ears and eyes, but each was free to contribute his unique way of making music. dD: I’m amazed at how busy you are – changing sticks, switching things on and off, always doing something – how do you remember it all and what sort of changes are required in a song like that? OR: Let me answer that in two parts. Concerning the acoustic section, I collect sonic (and rhythmical) clichés and interesting sound preparations, so that I have a sound library in my mind (and on my computer) like an electronic music producer has his sampling CDs. Throughout the years some gear changes and placements evolved to improve playability. But it is also a lot of improvisation. So, not all the stick changes are planned. And, very often, I don’t get or find the instruments I had in mind, due to the extremely small time window. You see, a certain random factor pushes me to spontaneously deal with new situations and indirectly brings a freshness to my playing. When I integrate harmonic playbacks from Ableton, I thoroughly tune the clips according to my acid bass, trigger bass and vocoder settings so that it would not sound bad if I pressed the wrong button. And I use some of the 64 backlit buttons of the Launchpad only for my orientation... So what do I do besides hitting on the drums and cymbals? I use the fingers of my left hand to control the Launchpad (and therefore Ableton) for starting/stopping/ switching scenes, triggering one shot samples (mostly vocals), adding several effects to the Ableton stereo sum. My left hand also controls the Line6 Delay Modeler. I use my fingers for tapping the tempo, tweaking the repeat and delay time button to crush and finally feed back the signal, rhythmically muting the delayed product with the “playstation’s” red button, while the green button is used for adding typical reverb shots. I also control the Boss Echo, tapping the tempo for the “synth bass” and control the Biscuit’s cutoff and resonant knobs, morphing the synth sound. Then, with the heel of my left foot, I open or close the mic signal gate to the delay and I use my right foot to change position from the kick pedal to activate the Vocoder or to play the e-pedal connected to the SPD-S. The left and right hands use different materials to hit. Some classics are stick, jingle stick, stick plus shaker, rod plus shaker in the right hand, while in the left I use a stick, brush, mallet, one shot shaker or drumbal. digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010


dD: Have you thought about a full electronic kit where you can just assign the sounds you want – and don’t have to juggle sticks, triggers, etc? OR: When I am jamming with a DJ, a full electronic kit is ideal. I listen and play to his music, just put my e-drum stereo sum into the DJ mixer and tell the guy (if we’ve never met before) that he can see me as a third turntable and can treat me in his usual manner (fade in, fade out, kill the bass, mids or highs, cut, mute). For those gigs, I only use a Roland SPD-S with a kick pedal. It’s perfect, as the multipad allows me to load my own samples and to travel by train or plane without heaps of gear. I have also experimented using the laptop as an e-drum brain, and played some performances only with a MIDIcontroller (Drumkat or SPD-S) and NI Battery or Ableton Live’s Impulse, but I always worry about the possibility of technical problems. A broken snare head can’t stop me making music, a power failure or a laptop failure sure does... dD: Tell us a bit about your drumming background – when you started and what you’ve been doing until now… OR: I started when I was 10, then jazz and fusion attracted me for several years until drum ‘n bass opened the door for electronic music. Since then, I get most of my inspiration from the dancefloor, DJs and bedroom producers. I love their rhythmical freshness and the obvious aim: make people dance! dD: How do you see the future of electronic drumming? OR: The perfect emulation of an acoustic kit doesn’t interest me. I like the idea of e-drums being their own instrument genre – as it was when it began in the ‘70s with drumsynths. To be honest, there’s such a huge offering of new, strange ideas concerning electronic beat production and a huge range of products, that I would need a lot of time to check some things out… And part of my concept is to make new things with gear I already have. But some improvements would be nice: no latency when using the computer as an e-drum brain or effect device, tap tempo buttons for all effects and finally, my current setup must shrink so I can tour the world with it . dD: What’s next for you? What’s your next project? OR: Currently, we are rehearsing for an European tour with De Phazz, and after that I will perform at some drummer meetings in Germany and play some festivals with Hattler and my own band, Netzer. I’ll also be feeding my blog Since 2006, I’ve posted all my thoughts, ideas and concepts concerning electronic beats. So far, there are over 1,100 posts, unfortunately only written in German. It is another way of developing and practicing without an instrument. 20

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Go Trigger

External drum triggers are often frowned upon, but if they’re good enough for Phil Collins, Joey Jordison and Rick Allen, they’re worthy of a digitalDrummer examination. Allan Leibowitz assembled an array of external triggers and put them through their paces. TRIGGERS ARE VELOCITY-sensitive piezo switches which respond to impulses on drum heads. Generally, in e-drums, they are fitted on the inside of the drum, out of sight under the head. This approach has enormous benefits – they’re not only invisible, but they’re also protected from direct stick hits and other abuse. They can also be mounted in the centre of the head, allowing for positional sensing. Internal triggers, however, are generally invasive and require permanent installation and the drilling of holes in the drum shells. That’s where external triggers have an advantage: they can be fitted temporarily and can be removed at will. They also don’t require any adaptation to the shell, meaning that they can be fitted to any acoustic drums without any need for modification. In fact, external triggers are increasingly used on acoustic kits for live 22

performances and audiences are mostly oblivious to the e-enhancements.

digitalDrummer tracked down around a dozen different versions, makes and models – although not all were available for review. The offerings fall into two basic camps - rim-mounted triggers, usually metal-encased units which attach to the hoop; and stick-on versions which attach directly to the head or the shell. The latter type consist of a piezo housed in a plastic or resin covering, with adhesive backing on one side. The former usually employ a foam cone to transmit the impulses from the head to the piezo – and some of the more advanced offerings have a second piezo for rim sensing as well. A new model even includes a spare piezo circuit in case of damage to the sensors – a smart move because external triggers are obviously more vulnerable than their hidden counterparts.

Here are the profiles of the major offerings in alphabetical order: Billy Blast

US custom drum maker Billy Blast has entered the triggering fray with a range of Blaster triggers.

Like the ddrum Pro range, these are foam-type triggers that clip onto hoops. The range includes dual-zone snare triggers, single-zone tom units and a larger bass unit, all in business-like black metal housings.

The triggers are easy to mount, thanks to a single screw clamp. There’s no onboard adjustment and the triggers were fairly easy to dial in. Unfortunately, there are no detailed setting suggestions, so it’s a bit hit and miss, but the triggers responded well to most presets on the TD-20 brain. The snare and toms required little adjustment. I had some trouble with the bass unit. The first one supplied was faulty and the second one triggered well with a few adjustments to sensitivity, scan time and retrigger settings. However, the adjustment nut sheared off after a couple of uses, and the trigger could not be tightened to fit the shell. This happened just before a gig (digitalDrummer takes testing seriously) but luckily, I had a spare trigger with me.

The triggers had good sensitivity and dynamic range. Rim triggering was accurate and well balanced on the dual-zone version. Notably, these were the only triggers fitted with a locking jack connector – a nice touch for something that can be prone to tugs and strains.

Blast sells the triggers direct via his website and offers them individually ($35.95 for a tom trigger, $45.95 for a bass unit or $55.95 for the snare) or as a five-piece set (together with cables) for $200.


The makers of the world’s best have rolled out a new weapon in their armory of rugged, responsive and versatile drum triggers for kick, snare and toms. Ddrum have taken all the market winning features of their Acoustic Pro series and added a second transducer element and switching system for guaranteed performance. Find out more on or at selected retailers. AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR

digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

FREE CALL 1800 773 438


--gear-Good Points:  Easy to install

The Skin Link is available in cream or grey, but only as a single-zone trigger. The companion BeatBar ($20) can, however, be used to create a dual-zone drum.

 Easy to set up  Locking jack connector

Bad points:  Quality issues with review samples

Good Points:  Easy to install

Crappy Triggers

Bad points:  Single-zone only

 Easy to set up  Fantastic instructions

 Larger-than-average footprint

The $10 Crappy Triggers Skin Link was featured in the April digitalDrummer and represents the cheapest option for external triggering. The simple project box trigger is stuck onto the head via Velcro tabs which adhere to mylar or mesh heads.

How we tested

As a stick-on trigger, it’s easy to apply and to dial in, responding well to most trigger settings on the TD20. It needed a slight sensitivity boost when dialled in as a PD125 on a 12” snare. But with a few minor adjustments, it soon had a good range of dynamics across the head.


 Takes up some playing surface


This American manufacturer has a range of triggers, but digitalDrummer was only able to test the entrylevel Red Shot Trigger Kit and a single snare trigger from the Pro Acoustic range. Clad in a distinctive red cover, the standard kit (Sweetwater price: $99) is a five-piece set with four head-only snare/tom triggers and one kick trigger. It’s intriguing that ddrum doesn’t offer a dual-zone unit in the set since most drummers would want head and rim capability on the snare at least. The Red Shots require the removal of a single tension rod for attachment.

There’s no height adjustment on the triggers, but the metal fittings can be bent to move the trigger closer to the head, and, if necessary, spacers are available if the units don’t have sufficient clearance from the head. I found the bass unit very effective, and it needed

All triggers were mounted on a range of shells (10”, 12” and 14” toms and a 20” bass) on a Pearl Rhythm Traveler kit. They were connected to a Roland TD-20 kit and adjusted using the manufacturers’ directions, where provided.

The testing was not just academic: digitalDrummer put the triggers through real-life testing over several weeks, using them for practice as well as gigging, alternating between various combinations. (Thank goodness for the TD-20’s multiple trigger banks.) Not all suppliers provided all the trigger options, but only those tested are evaluated in this review.

Finally, we became aware of another manufacturer, T-drum, too late in the process to include its offerings in the review. We also discovered a small Australian trigger maker too late for inclusion. If we manage to arrange review samples from these makers, or any others, we will feature them in a later edition.

ddrum also makes a Pro Acoustic range which includes a dual-zone head and rim unit. These are sturdy metal-clad triggers equipped with seriouslooking XLR jacks. I tested just the snare unit ($59.99 at Sweetwater) which was virtually plug and play – triggering immaculately on a 14” pad in almost any trigger setting – with the notable exception of Roland’s RT-10 presets, where there was dead silence.

Good Points:  Plug and play absolutely no module tweaking, responding perfectly on a range of settings on the TD-20, including the KD-140 setting. The snare/tom triggers also needed negligible tweaking when used on 10” and 12” drums, where I got optimal performance with a stock Pad 1 or Pad 2 setting. I did have some initial difficulty with a trigger on a 14” drum, where it performed poorly, especially at the outermost reaches of the head, close to the rim. However, when I swapped the trigger unit for another in the pack, the problem disappeared. It’s impossible to tell if this was just a dud unit or if it was damaged while being installed. The trigger on the 14” drum did require a sensitivity boost from the stock settings. Red Shots come with reasonably informative instructions, including care directions. Good Points:  Plug and play

 Responsive  Inexpensive

Bad points:  Single-zone only

 Need to remove a tension rod to install  No height adjustment

digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

 Responsive  Rugged construction

Bad points:  No XLR cable supplied

Post script: As we went to press, the company was also about to launch a clamp-on DRT range, coloured black to differentiate it from the trademark red models. According to a ddrum spokesman, the DRT is exactly the same spec as the Pro trigger, but includes an extra piezo and an added switch “to eliminate failure in pro situations for our artists”. ddt

German-made ddt is one of the iconic brands in the trigger market and produces dual-zone snare triggers, single-zone tom units and a dedicated bass trigger, all housed in a distinctive red fibreglass casing. These rock-solid triggers have an industry-leading three-year warranty and, like ddrum’s Pro range, they are fitted with XLR jacks and supplied with special cables. The company boasts a number of patents and the triggers certainly look extremely well engineered with significant attention to detail, down to badge logos.

The snare trigger is relatively easy to fit, with just one spring-loaded turning knob. It was a snug fit on one of my hoops, but should fit most drums. Installation was straight-forward, with the trigger happy at most trigger settings. Sensitivity needed just a one-notch boost, and the rim sensitivity was the best of the batch, actually needing to be turned down a bit. Triggering was extremely even around the drum, with excellent dynamics. The kick trigger was easy to fit, with a sleek, low profile that means it can be left in place and transported without too much risk of being dislodged. The trigger was also virtually ‘plug and play’, responding well in all the Roland bass drum settings, although I found the KD-8 setting most appropriate.



Koby triggers come in the single-zone tom version (£25, including cable) and a dual-zone snare option (£34). There’s also a bass trigger which fits to one of the bass drum lugs, and this sells for £27 with a cable. The latter two were not supplied for testing in this review.

Good Points:  Easy to install ddt triggers sell for around €199 for a five-pack (snare, kick and three toms); €50 for a tom trigger and around €65 for the bass and snare units. All come with 4.5metre XLR cables. Good Points:  Plug and play

 Excellent triggering  Three-year warranty

Bad points:  Limited instructions

 Not available everywhere


The British-made Koby triggers look very elegant, in an understated, minimalist sense. The single-trigger tom version supplied was a simple z-shaped aluminium chassis with a mounting hole on one end and a foam trigger arrangement on the other. It fits, like the basic ddrum product and the Pintech Trigger Trap, to the lug.

 Easy to set up  Very inexpensive

Bad points:  Limited scope of physical adjustment

 Need to remove a tension rod for installation


Pintech offers two forms of external trigger: the simple stick-on encased piezo type, similar to Yamaha’s offerings, and the more engineered chassis type.

The button-type RS55 (RS-5 for acoustic heads) sticks onto the head while the jack attaches to a nearby tension rod. If this set-up feels too exposed, Pintech also has a Trigger Trap. A red metal housing reminiscent of ddrum’s Red Shots mounts on the rim via a tension rod and literally traps the sensor on the head.

The tom trigger was easy to install, and also benefits from a Velcro strip on the jack, which provides a neat solution for attachment.

Dialling in was a cinch, with the trigger happy in almost all of the TD-20’s presets – again, except for the Roland RT settings, where there was no response at the outer limits of the head. However, in most other settings, the responsiveness and dynamics were excellent. 26

Bad points:  Fiddly to set up

The RS55 was easy to install, although I did have some difficulty getting both the Trigger Trap and the jack clips onto a tension rod until I figured out a suitable method. The trigger required little module tweaking but worked best for me when assigned a PD-105 or 125 setting. Once dialled in, performance was good, with fine sensitivity around the head and expressive dynamics. The triggers sell for around $25 each or $120 for a five-pack. The Trigger Traps go for $14, or $32 for a combo with the RS55.


 Good sensitivity  Inexpensive

There’s no doubt that the triggers look the part – they’re made of black plastic, have adjustable sensor cushions and feel robust and well made.

Good Points:  Easy to install

Bad points:  Single-zone only

 No bass drum version  Trigger is exposed without Trigger Trap

 Requires module tweaking

Roland’s RT-10 series – RT-10K for bass drums, RT-10S dual-zone for snares and RT-10T singlezone tom triggers – are chunky, serious-looking triggers that, on paper, should be market leaders. While others are just starting out, Roland’s triggers are already in their second generation.

The Roland triggers attach over the hoop and screw on, with no need to remove the tension rods. These triggers required a fair amount of setting tweaking on the TD-20 module, even though it has presets especially for the three trigger types. All three required significant reduction of the threshold setting as well as varying degrees of sensitivityincrease or -decrease and even after the tinkering, there were still some missed hits on the bass and the stray retrigger when played “too hard”. When dialled in, the snare and tom triggers delivered good response and dynamic range, with even triggering around the head. The rim response on the 10S was excellent.

Pintech also does an upmarket range badged as Trigger Perfect. These are fully housed in a solid metal chassis and differ from the cone arrangements of their rivals, using a piezo mounted on an adjustable sensor arm. The screw-on unit requires some adjustment – firstly to attach the chassis to the hoop, secondly to refine the contact pressure of the sensor arm (both done with a hex key) and, finally, a sensitivity adjustment pot.

I’m told by a Roland insider that the triggers are really designed for acoustic heads and require less dialling in when used with mylar.

The Roland triggers are clearly on the large end of the scale, with a fairly big footprint on the drums, and this may create a potential risk for heavy hitters, especially those who aren’t all that accurate.

I found these triggers harder to dial in than their cheaper stablemates, but once set, their performance was flawless.

The Trigger Perfect range comes in three versions – a dual-zone snare trigger, single-zone tom sensors and a single-zone bass trigger. The snare and bass units sell for around $95 each while the tom trigger retails for around $85. Good Points:  Highly adjustable

 Robust construction  Good sensitivity digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010



The triggers are well packaged, come complete with a connector cable and include the most comprehensive instruction manual of all the products we tested. The instructions include detailed trigger settings for a range of Roland modules, including the SPD-S and SPD-20.

Roland only packages the triggers individually, not in a set, and the 10K and 10S sell for $99.97 at Sweetwater, while the 10T goes for $89.97. Good Points:  Highly adjustable trigger cone

 Comprehensive instructions  Includes cable

Bad points:  Large footprint

 Requires module tweaking  Relatively costly


Yamaha provided two stick-on type triggers for this review: the DT10 and DT20. There’s no explanation of the difference between the two models on the packaging, although the 20 is significantly larger than the 10.

The triggers are flat, oval plastic shells with doublesided tape on the bottom (a generous supply of extra stickers is included.) There are absolutely no instructions – besides the multi-lingual document on disposal of electronic equipment, but the brief website description says they can be used on either the head or the shell. Perhaps the use of a Roland module was not a fair test, but the DT10 failed to trigger except when struck directly – regardless of the module setting – and even then, only faintly. (We tested a second


sample to make sure it wasn’t defective, but found the same result.)

The DT20 fared better, with reasonable responsiveness – but it required the sensitivity to be turned up extremely high. Because of the need for extreme sensitivity, there was limited dynamic response when the trigger was applied on the head and on the shell.

Interestingly, the online user’s guide notes that “the trigger unit is also easily attached to instruments other than drums; the same reliable trigger signal will be generated”. I’m not too sure what value there is in that ability.

According to a Yamaha document, the 10 is intended primarily for mounting on acoustic heads or shells while the 20 is better suited to mesh-type heads.

The triggers are, of course, single-zone only and there is some confusion about their availability, with some US vendors listing them as discontinued. Current pricing, where they are available, appears to be $51.99 for the DT10 and $53.99 for the DT20.

Good Points (DT20):  Easy to attach

 Light-weight Bad points:  Single-zone only

 Limited compatibility with mesh heads (DT10)  Poor dynamics (with Roland module) The verdict

There’s a reason why two names – ddrum and ddt stand out in the external trigger market: they are stand-out triggers. Both brands (bearing in mind that ddrum has three different lines) are easy to fit, virtually plug-and-play and are responsive and accurate. They don’t have too many moving parts or adjustments. Both are robust, well-built and seemingly long-lasting. And both the ddt and the upmarket ddrum models have locking XLR cables – in ddt’s case, the cables are actually included, which is a bonus.

Roland’s triggers, while well engineered, were harder to dial in than one would imagine, given that the module has dedicated settings. It’s complicated further by the ability or need to adjust the cone height. But then a Roland insider does explain that they’re intended more for acoustic heads than mesh. Among the cheaper triggers, there were a few pleasant surprises – the plug-and-play Koby and the simple Pintech RS55 (especially when fitted with its Trigger Trap companion) were easy to dial in, although they do require the removal of a tension

rod for installation. We liked the Blasters’ locking jacks, although we had bad luck with the bass triggers. And for a cheap thrill, you obviously can’t beat the $10 Crappy Triggers Skin Link.

The bottom line is that if you’re gigging with external triggers, it’s worth considering the top-end offerings which combine robust construction with ease of installation and set-up and boast excellent responsiveness and even triggering across the head.

And one of the lessons from our testing is that it’s good to keep a spare – hence ddrum’s decision to build in an extra piezo. In fact, a spare external trigger is probably a good idea for any gigging e-drummer, regardless of how their kit is triggered.

Product update

Oldies revived

If you own a Roland TD-20 and play covers, especially from the 60s and 70s, check out V Expressions’ Vintage Kits expansion pack.

The pack contains 40 kits modelled on some of the big names of the era – including 1960 Gretch, Ludwig, Premier, Slingerland and Tama kits and 70s Pearl, Sonor and Yamaha sets.

Stick it to ‘em

Competition is a great thing and it’s good to see Canadian stickmaker Los Cabos showing an interest in e-drummers. They don’t have a huge range, but there is some variety, with sticks produced in maple, white hickory and red hickory.

Coupled with the improved sounds of the new TD20X module, the Vex packs help revive the classic kit sounds of the era. There is a choice of kit tuning on many of the set-ups. For example, the Ludwigs come in “dead”, “bright low” (a personal favourite), “round low”, “loose”, “boomy” and a few others.

A word of warning: the kit may sound like the Shadows, but Vex won’t turn you into Brian Bennett.

A company spokesman says the models with small round tips are most popular with electronic drummers because of the precise hits, especially on e-cymbals. There are a couple of nylon-tipped offerings and one with an anti-slip jacket.

Los Cabos also makes mesh-friendly brushes with soft nylon bristles and comfortable wooden handles.

And for those who also have a-drums, check out the mallets and slapsticks. digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010



Rack off: (from left) Roland MDS-25, Roland MDS-10, Gibraltar GCS-400 , Roland MDS-3 (back) and Gibraltar GMPR

RACK EM UP Racks are the cornerstone of most e-drum kits, and one of the major upgrade options, especially as kits grow. digitalDrummer reviewer Scott Holder racked ‘em up, stacked ‘em full and tore ‘em down.

UPGRADES IN THE e-drumming world are inevitable. There’s a little Neal Peart in all of us, struggling to break free at some point. You start out on one kit, then decide you need more pads, or bigger pads or more cymbals. Or you get hit with the DIY bug, or purchase that Hart Pro or Diamond Drum pad and suddenly you don’t have room for all these nice goodies. If you do manage to squeeze them into a tight space, you’re suddenly wondering why everything shakes and your clamps start to slip or, worse, break, because you’ve been tightening them like they were vice grips. You need a new rack, the oft-overlooked upgrade option when Gear Acquisition Syndrome results in a pile of new equipment that simply overwhelms your old rack. This review is not purely academic. I and my e-drumming colleague, Lee Krueger, each have older racks from Roland kits: in my case, a MDS-10 30

rack which originally came with the TD-10, while Lee’s is an MDS-3C rack from a TD-3. My rack is 10 years old, Lee’s about five and in both cases we’ve taken very different approaches in gear, me a hodgepodge of brands, Lee going the DIY route in some areas, sticking with rubber pads in others. In both cases, the types of upgrades we’ve done are a good test for what to look for in a new rack. Let’s start with the older of the two racks, the MDS10.

After all these years, the rack still gets compliments for the colour. If you put classic gloss black drum shells on it, the kit looks very elegant. It’s generously sized, but also works if you remove one of the sides for smaller kits. The rack itself is lightweight, which means even with clamps and cymbal boom arms, you can fold it up and carry it fairly easily.

That’s usually where the compliments for the MDS10 end. The lightweight tubing means the entire structure can be unstable. Actually, heavier components help weigh down the overall structure, so if you’re one of the many people on a TD-10 VSessions kit and find it shakes and rattles, heavier tom pads can help. Of course, that also can mean if everything’s “front-loaded”, the whole structure can tip over with just a nudge.

Then there are the clamps, typically seen as the weakest part of the rack. Even with the lighterweight Roland components made for this rack, the PD series of mesh pads, stories of stripped threads and slipping clamps are legion. Anything heavier, and the clamps either slip or break because they’ve slipped and you’ve tried to overtighten them. Plenty of people, myself included, have substituted more robust clamps to hold heavier equipment; in my case, a Gibraltar clamp to hold a Diamond Drum 12” pad. Lee’s MDS-3C rack is a slightly different story. Designed for a much smaller kit, it’s not easily expandable, although Lee has already done so by installing his own, longer crossbars in the front. All plastic, it’s light and can be folded fairly easily. Its clamps are superior to those on the MDS-10. We mounted my heavy Diamond Drum pad and had no slippage whatsoever. The biggest limitation of the clamps is that you can’t actually remove them from the centre horizontal tubes without taking apart one side of the rack in order to slide them off. That’s a huge drawback.

In terms of stability, it’s fine if you don’t put anything heavy on the wings. We put the DD pad on the left wing with a combination of PD-8 pads and the rack would shake significantly. That’s as much a reflection of the rack not having a third or fourth supporting leg. While it’s possible to purchase a similar rack and cobble together a third or fourth leg, you’re still constrained somewhat by the clamp positioning and having potentially four “T-shaped” legs getting in the way of things. Clearly, if you’re at this point, a new rack is in order! The racks up for review represent three price points in terms of upgrading. We’ll look at the Gibraltar GMPR with the GPR-150 extension, the Gibraltar GCS-400 and the Roland MDS-25. We set up all five racks on a deck and moved equipment to each so that we’d get a side-by-side feel for each. GIBRALTAR GMPR

First Impressions: We began by swapping the main crossbar from the GMPR with the GPR-150 extension kit included for the review. That gave a longer centre section and a side wing that didn’t extend further than the main section. This is a conventional “L” rack with two uprights connected to “feet” on the floor; nothing radical here, but functional designs never go out of style.

Build Quality: Great. All Gibraltar racks and clamps are solid. This is no exception. Versatility: All three racks are versatile in their own way; however, the GMPR is a traditional rack with

The pedal that turns one foot into two. The HYPER-BASS exclusive patented Multi-Triggered Electronic pedal delivers a beat on the down stroke and on the up stroke, creating a double pedal effect in a single, easy-to-adjust unit. Conversion kits are also available for popular pedals, including DW, Tama, Axis, Yamaha, Gibraltar, Ludwig and Pearl.

digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

‘talking business’

Engineered in the USA and priced for every player.


--gear-equivalent of the MDS-3C but with more flexible clamping and further room to grow or modify. It makes for a small footprint and something very easy to move. However, doing this could compromise some stability as we’ll discuss in the next rack. GIBRALTAR GCS-400CW

lots of straight tubes and the ability to expand in many ways with minimal extra parts. It’s also lighter than either of the other two with a similar set of wings and arms, which makes it easier to fold and move without taking it apart. What this means is if you typically gig with a small kit, this rack is better suited for it than either of the other two. If you need to expand later, you can. Gibraltar markets this as a “do all” rack and it certainly lives up to that.

Stability: Amazingly stable. We put on all of my much heavier equipment using a mix of the clamps that came with the racks and some on-hand Gibraltar clamps. When compared to the MDS-10, the GMPR/GPR-150 combo had far less wiggle and bounce.

Clamps: Rock-solid, as Gibraltar clamps are known to be. They’re large enough to handle 7/8” Pearl mounts and heavier toms.

Misc: The GPR-150 extension has what Gibraltar calls a “mini foot” and that makes for one less thing to get in your way while still providing a stable third foot. If you intend to fold this rack frequently, make sure you use the clamps without the wingnuts for the front cross section: that way you can easily loosen the one for the extension for easy folding. The rack’s “L” shape can be rather large when each segment is perpendicular to the other but again, we were impressed with how tightly it folded. Another approach, rather than the GPR-150 extension, would be to add either straight or winged curved extensions (GRFSW or GRFCW parts in the Gibraltar catalogue). This gives you a chrome 32

First Impressions: Those curved uprights took some getting used to, mainly when assembling the rack. But, you end up with a curvy beauty. It comes with curved 24” wings. Build Quality: As above.

Versatility: Like the GMPR, this is a rack that can be expanded however you want to. That wide curved front and the two short wings make it pretty good for small kits with the possibility to expand later. Two very nice features relate to the feet. Instead of static mounts from the vertical leg to the feet, Gibraltar uses GCARA adjustable clamps. This allows you to move the location of the feet to the most stable location. Even slicker, you can adjust the angle of the curved vertical bars. One thing we immediately discovered is that we didn’t need one wing. Lee is right-handed, I’m left-handed but given how we set up the equipment, we found one wing simply got in the way.

The two vertical legs are hollow on the top and act as arm mounts. In order to accommodate a variety of arms, the rack has plastic inserts that are robust and clamp inside the main clamp mechanism - very slick. We put a Hart Acupad on one side with its 7/8” Pearl tom arm and a regular cymbal boom on the other. It’s like having two less clamps to hassle with once you decide what goes where.

Stability: When compared to the two old racks, yes, it’s stable. But with only two legs, it is more likely to

shake and wobble if you put heavy items on the wings. We did that, again using a DD 12” pad and, sure enough, the rack did shake. In hindsight, we feel that had we lowered the main horizontal cross bar and moved the feet up a little bit, this would have reduced that wobble. Furthermore, we deliberately put a heavy pad on there. If you’re using lighter Roland mesh or rubber pads or limit what’s on the wings, stability won’t be a problem. Obviously, you can also purchase additional extensions, tubes and clamps and make a three- or fourlegged “cage” for larger kits and fantastic stability - as we did with the basic GMPR.

Clamps: These clamps are slightly better than those supplied with the GMPR. It’s hard to describe, but the Road Series chrome clamps with this set just “feel” a little bit more refined than the Power Rack clamps on the GMPR.

Misc: The curved uprights connect to the “feet” with a hinged clamp - very innovative. That allows you to pitch the upright forward or backward. Theoretically, you could also use them to fold up the “feet”, thus making it easier to transport. ROLAND MDS-25

First Impressions: This thing is low. We’re used to racks that have higher crossbars and higher legs, so by comparison, the MDS-25 is downright squat. That said, like many other Roland three-sided, curved racks, it surrounds you, makes you feel like you’re inside the drum set, not just sitting behind a rack of equipment. Roland routes the cables through two sides of the rack which minimises the “rat’s

digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

nest” appearance of so many kits. They even include little plastic attachment pieces on the cymbal arms to keep the cables from straying. It was far easier to assemble than it appears coming out of the box. Assembled, it is heavy. Build Quality: The MDS-25 is a far cry from something as recent as the MDS-20 rack, evident especially in the new metal clamps with springloaded wingnut screws – a vast improvement on the notorious plastic clamps of old. The cabling is also a touch beefier. Versatility: If you keep all three sides attached, it’s not nearly as foldable as either Gibraltar rack. You can get it fairly tight by removing the right side, where there is no interior cabling. That doesn’t cut down the weight of this beast but does make it very foldable. Like the Gibraltar GCS-400CW, the two front vertical legs have clamps on the top which can take any type of mount. All the mounts, be they cymbals or toms, have a ball joint which makes it very easy to tilt and adjust your kit.

Stability: The squat nature of the rack pushes the centre of gravity down, so that there’s little chance of it tilting over. With four legs, there was no movement or wobble. As we did with all the racks, we mounted a DD 12” pad on one wing to see how it affected stability. The MDS-25 didn’t notice it was there, which means if you’re using far lighter Roland pads, you could put 20 of them on here and still not cause any wobble. Of all the racks, this and the GMPR were the most stable. Misc: Clearly if you go this route, you’re ditching all your old hardware since this package is a complete drum-mounting kit. Roland has done away with lower legs on the sides since the weight and low centre of gravity eliminate the need for them. This is nice since it makes it easier to place your hi-hat stand and bass drum, particularly if you have a large kick drum. The cables now are colourcoded with abbreviations for their connections, a real step up from either nothing or the old sticky tags Roland provided. The clamps are very innovative in that they have an interior sleeve that’s a very soft plastic. It absorbs the pressure when tightening down the clamp which means there’s less chance of scratching the rack itself and they provide some isolation to help mitigate crosstalk problems. One minor gripe: the ride cable (two cables for Roland’s three-zone rides) run to the right side of the rack, thus, if you’re a left-handed ride player (like me), you either take apart the rack at the start and reroute the cables yourself or simply run them outside - they are long enough for that. 33

--gear-Choosing and caring for racks

Racks represent a sizeable investment, so it’s important to choose well – and look after your equipment once you’ve taken delivery. Here are some tips from vendors, players and roadies: Buying tips

1) Size matters. Choose a rack that is large enough to accommodate your current set-up and is expandable for future needs.

2) Quality counts. Pay attention to the build quality of the components, especially the clamps. If you’re planning to gig, these need to be robust enough to cope with the work-out.

3) Portability is a plus. Check out how easy it is to collapse the rig – and importantly, whether it has aids like memory locks to help you get it back to the way it was easily.

4) Check compatibility. Ensure that you are able to add bits and pieces down the track as your kit changes. Check that the tubing and the other hardware are standard sizes. 5) Ensure peace of mind. Check the warranty and availability of replacement parts in case anything goes wrong.

Looking after your rack

6) Keep your rack clean so that you can see any damage as soon as it occurs.

7) Avoid rust by keeping your gear away from liquids and make sure you dry it if it does get wet. 8) Lubricate all the moving parts like retractable legs and wingnuts to ensure smooth set-up and tear-down. 9) Use the right tools. If you need a drum key to tighten or loosen bolts, use a drum key – don’t improvise. 10) Don’t over-tighten. You’ll feel when things are tight. Stop there!

A note on portability

The MDS-3 rack was by far the most portable. Very lightweight, we could remove the cymbal arms and quickly fold it up and place it in the back seat of a two-door car. The MDS-10 rack with just two sides also folded up well and is light but has a larger footprint, particularly if you leave the cymbal arms on. Both Gibraltar racks folded up well, but are a bit “longer” and taller than the rest, even with the cymbal arms removed. The MDS-25 needed to have its right side removed in order to fold it and it was significantly heavier than anything else; therefore, you’d want to remove all the mounts, cymbals and toms before trying to haul it around. The portability advantages of the two older racks comes at a cost though. Both have important 34

components that are plastic and, especially with the MDS-10, have clamps known to break. Both are, in their own way, far less stable with heavier gear than the other racks and, over the years, neither has been known as a robust “touring” rack. You won’t have those problems with the new racks. CONCLUSIONS

Each rack represents how much of your previous equipment you want to carry over into a new mounting system. If you have a large number of good clamps (many people have Gibraltar clamps already), then the GMPR rack and extension is by far the most cost-effective way to get a sturdier and probably better looking rack. The GCS-400CW’s Road Series clamps have, as mentioned, a slightly better feel and look to them. Furthermore, Gibraltar

also makes a complete line of ball-jointed mounts similar to Roland’s so you can mix and match some of those with what you carry over from the old kit. You can also create a two- or three-sided “cage” similar to Roland’s if that’s what you need. The final look is chromy - but then that’s something all three racks share. The MDS-25 represents a significant leap for Roland, not only in component mounts and clamps but in the rack itself. And the internally mounted wiring system minimises cable mess or having to solve that issue on your own. Some might feel the MDS-25 is overkill, particularly with the cabling (it’s designed for the TD-20 module). If that’s the case, you can always look at Roland’s MDS-12X which shares much of the same components as the MDS-25 but with fewer cables (for the TD-12 module). All three are more than adequate for Roland mesh pads since they remain the lightest on the market. However, with a greater move toward DIY pads or, in general, heavier gear like Hart Pros, Diamond Drum or Jobeky pads, these racks provide far more stability than older racks that weren’t designed with that in mind. There is sometimes the temptation to ditch the rack for a variety of stands since you are essentially playing on a kit that looks more acoustic,

and certainly weighs more like an acoustic, than your standard out-of-the-box Roland or Yamaha kit. However, if you gig, you never know how much space you’ll have until you get to the venue. Racks generally mean a smaller footprint for the drum kit which means the singers and guitarists will thank you for not putting out all those stands for them to trip over every time your band performs. Adjustments tend to be easier, plus there’s a presentation effect racks provide for any e-kit. Editor’s note: All the major manufacturers were approached to provide racks for this review. Some, like Yamaha, had good reasons not to participate. Its hex rack is on the way out, and there’s no word yet on a replacement. Others cited reasons like not having anything new to include, while some simply ignored the requests. The author would like to acknowledge the assistance of fellow local e-drummer, Lee Krueger, who was invaluable in helping do the reviews, not only with providing another widely used rack that’s normally upgraded but also by bringing a fresh perspective on the entire process.

Pedal power

digitalDrummer will be examining double pedals in the November edition, with opportunities for suppliers and drummers. We’re looking for real-life reviews of pedals from drummers, so if you’ve owned and used your pedal for more than six months and would like to write a brief review, email us at and tell us which one you can write about. There’s a prize for one review drawn randomly. And suppliers can get in on the action as well. The feature provides a great environment for targeted advertising. For rates and specifications, contact digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010


Licence won’t damage mesh


INDEPENDENT US e-drum maker Pintech has had to change its operations after its licence from Roland expired in April. The lapsing of the licence means that Pintech is no longer able to sell drums “that would infringe on Roland’s US patents” – in essence, drums fitted with mesh heads.

However, acording to Pintech sales manager Lorrie Landry, dealers and consumers will still be able to purchase licensed woven head Pintech products. “We have an independent dealer who purchased a tremendous number of Pintech licensed products over the past two years,” says Landry. “They are allowing Pintech to broker these licensed products for them (which means) our customers don’t have to do anything but what they have always done.” It’s understood that the complicated licence agreement covers only the installation of mesh heads on drums for sale in the United States, and if Pintech runs out of its licensed stock held by its broker/dealer, it will have to supply its products with mylar heads and leave it to customers to source and fit mesh heads.

Landry indicates that it will take some time before Pintech would have to resort to that: “As they have such a large quantity, this dealer simply requested that we sell it for them. This helps us as it gives us time for R&D to investigate all the potential options, and build and get pics of the product with the traditional heads and such for posting on the site once the licensed product is gone. “We will make sure to inform our dealers when the stock reaches a point that the switch is imminent,” she explains.

Landry stresses that the mesh heads themselves do not violate Roland’s patent: “Our mesh heads sold as individual items are completely and totally unaffected. Anyone out there can make and sell mesh heads. They just can’t install them on an electronic drum without violating the Roland patent. As a matter of fact, our heads are actually made for us by Evans.”

Landry also points out that anyone who has purchased licensed products and is in need of replacement heads for the products that they own are assured of future supplies.

Roland US was approached for comment, but declined to explain its view of the current situation.


Similarly, Hart Dynamics, which also sells mesh head drums in the US, declined to explain any arrangements it may or may not have in place with Roland.

An industry observer believes the Roland patent on mesh head-fitted drums was one of the reasons Pearl opted to develop a new head material for its new ePro Live kit. Roland’s patents cover dual-ply mesh heads – hence Pintech and Hart’s use of single-ply heads - as well as its cones. In addition, Roland’s cone patent prevents anyone from using any design where the foam contact with the head is smaller in diameter than the transducer. The company is known to actively pursue competitors in the US attempting to offer similar designs. However, it appears that competitors in Europe and other regions do not face the same restrictions, with both mesh head drums and cone trigger cushions offered by a number of businesses and built into various products available for sale in Europe and elsewhere.

One US patent attorney surmises that Roland’s patents may not extend outside the US.

Meawhile, London-based patent lawyer John Hardwick of Exxapatent points out that a patent has legal effect only in the country for which it is granted and maintained in force. “The USA is no different in this respect,” he explains. “So, a USA patent applies to the USA alone. If there is no other patent anywhere else, anyone, anywhere else, can do what they like, provided they do not export the product into the USA.”

According to Hardwick, there is no such thing as a European patent. “There is no such country as Europe. It is a collection of individual countries, each with its own patent law and legal system,” he notes.

Hardwick says the European Patent Convention (a sort of treaty) “covers a territory larger than the European Union, and only arranges for central examination of a patent application. After grant, the patent becomes an individual, national patent in however many signatory countries the patentee wishes and can afford for the patent to be maintained. European Patent Convention countries include Iceland and Turkey.”

He also explains that there is no European Union patent system. “It has been under debate for several decades, but with no outcome. Legal differences between individual countries mean that no common basis can be found for trial and enforcement. So, there is no such thing as a European Union patent,” he stresses. -Allan Leibowitz

digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010



Re-inventing the basics

When Mark Steele returned to drumming after 26 years away from the sticks, it was as if nothing had changed. Some would see that as a good thing, but as an airline pilot who is used to constant technological enhancements, Steele was disappointed. So much so that he has spent the past nine years re-inventing the tools of the trade. Allan Leibowitz caught up with the self-styled drum revolutionary. STEELE, WHO DOUBLES as the proprietor of Drumagination Inc. when he’s not on the flight deck of a Delta jet, recalls that when his wife gave him a drum kit as a present, it surprised him that “so little progress had been made in the 26 years that I was away”.

His first port of call was the bass drum pedal, which, despite ever-increasing price tags and more bells and whistles, has not changed in basic form since its invention. “At first, I just wanted an extra note here and there, and I couldn’t play it consistently on a conventional pedal,” he explains. “I’m talking three or four 16th notes in a row. There is a physical limit to how fast you can press the pedal down to get notes.” The flash of inspiration: Why not find a way to use the upstroke? “So, I added a second electronic pad and started experimenting.”

The result was the TwinSteele Electronic Drum Pedal, basically two trigger surfaces with a beater in the middle. “The cool part is that the beater (on all my pedals) returns to the at-rest position between the two pads. No false triggering. The upstroke part of the pedal remains dormant when you don’t want it, and is always immediately ready when you do.”

Captain Steele

The result, he says, is that he is now as fast and nimble with one foot as he is with two hands.

“You can’t imagine how much I hate that phrase,” he insists.

The original pedal paved the way for the “SpeedSlipper”, which Steele says was originally a concession to the marketplace “in that it looked more like a ‘real’ drum pedal”.

“I did not expect this pedal to work at all because of the increased mass, but when your foot gets into the strap, you can really horse it around,” he notes,

The invention is typical of Steele’s approach: ”I design all of my things for the same reason. I set out to make instruments that help me play better. I don’t build anything that I wouldn’t gig with, and I don’t waste my time with things that aren’t compellingly better than anything else in the marketplace.”


The Speed-Slipper is basically a conventional directdrive pedal on which the speed has been more than doubled by adding a second impact pad, a lifting device (foot strap or toe clip), and a drag strap on the axle (this invention prevents the beater from flying past the neutral position and false triggering the upstroke).

pointing out that this design is more comfortable to play than the original, although it is roughly 5% or 10% slower at the top end.

pedal, it works normally.

Having brought the bass drum pedal into the 21st century, Steele then turned his attention to the bass drum itself.

Before a gig, Steele dials in an almost-closed sound on the left knob and nearly-full open on the right. “Then I always get the sound I want, regardless of whether my foot is on the hi-hat pedal or not - no clutch, no fiddling around while I try to play. And I can still get that cool sizzle accent sound even when I play two bass drum pedals.”

Next came the Double Speed Slipper, based on a conventional double pedal, but with the addition of a lift device to both pedals, a second pad and drag devices.

“Due to the fact that I only play using my electronic drum pedal inventions, I have to have at least some e-drum equipment at every gig - drum module, wires, amp, etc. I usually have to cram my set into a small area, and I usually can’t use a PA system for sound output,” he says. “So the Electronic Bass Drum (EBD) was born.” The EBD consists of an acoustic bass drum shell equipped with a drum module, speakers, a 300 watt amp and a kick pad.

“I love this thing. It makes it easy to set up for gigs, has plenty of horsepower, fixes my wire mess (the back of the drum module is hidden), and the look of my kit has gone from dweeby science experiment to seriously bad-ass,” he says. “Electronic drums are evolving back into the acoustic look, just for this reason. My next EBD prototype will be in clear plexiglass, and probably have a big Bonham look. Old school meets hightech.”

Having taken care of the bass drum and its attachments, Steele then attacked the hi-hat.

The Drumagination Electronic High-Hat consists of a manual override switch for the electronic hi-hat control circuit which allows players to select an open/closed setting. To provide for the “cool accent sizzle”, Steele added a second switch mounted under the cymbal that takes power away from the manual potentiometer when the cymbal is tilted and routes it to a second manual potentiometer. Steele concedes that like his bass drum pedals, there is a new technique to learn. “But it works so well that I hardly ever use my crappy electronic hi-hat pedal anymore,” he adds.

Pedal power and a hi-hat hit

“When I started using two bass drum pedals, my acoustic hi-hat became useless. Every hi-hat (acoustic and electronic) pretty much sounds awful when you take your foot off the pedal, so I set out to fix this problem. Like all of my inventions, this one is stunningly simple.” The Drumagination Electronic High-Hat is designed to work feet-free. When the player’s foot is on the digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

“But when your foot goes off of the pedal, you automatically get the preset sound from the left control knob (open, closed or in between),” Steele explains. “If you then shank and hold down the cymbal edge, you get the preset sound from the right control knob.”

Steele, who started playing drums when he was 12 and was making steady money from gigging by 14, sees himself as a pragmatist.

“What most drummers see as acceptable, standard drum equipment (an ancient, slow, acoustic bass drum pedal design; a hi-hat that becomes worthless when your foot comes off; an ugly wire jungle edrum set with a 100 pound amp, etc.), I see as unacceptable, interesting problems to overcome,” he says. The invention process usually begins in bed with thoughts about a technical problem. “I wake up in



Steele’s inventions help him play better

the middle of the night and the VERY obvious solution falls out of the sky like a piano. I sometimes get up and sketch, but often just lie awake and work out the geometry in my head. By the time I actually build a prototype, just about every aspect of a design has been thought out,” he explains.

“He tightens up my claims, which are the heart and soul of your patent. Then he starts a campaign on my behalf, challenging the examiner to show cause for rejection. The patent examiner will try to tell you that an apple is the same as an orange - they are both fruit. The lawyer explains the difference.”

“It zes tantly a m dy still a t my bla n’t alrea re ha e t w e s m y in a d e a d i e r l le simp t of and a ” gh thou ide use. w

“It still amazes me that my blatantly simple ideas weren’t already thought of and already in wide use.” Of course, innovation is just part of the process. Invention also requires DIY skills, something Steele admits derives from being “too cheap to pay for the cabinets” in his new house. “I just bought some woodworking tools and a book and taught myself cabinetry. All of my building skills flow from that,” he says, adding that he wishes he had a serious metal shop and more electronics education. “But I get by,” he stresses.

The DIY approach extends to patents, where Steele currently has four e-drum patents in the US and a fifth pending.

He does all the preliminary searches, writes his own patents and does his own technical drawings.

However, he knows when to seek help, and he uses a patent lawyer in Washington, DC when his homebuilt patents get rejected. 40

While Steele uses all his inventions for gigging, he admits that his business is at a crossroads at the moment.

“Life has given me three interesting choices: stay as a high quality international airline captain, run a high quality drum manufacturing business or stay married. I get to pick any two,” he quips.

“My ideal situation would be to hook up with a quality company that really knows how to manufacture, market and keep up with the paperwork while I help design, prototype, and problem solve. I am also talking with firms that process orders, manufacture and ship whatever you want to have built. But I don’t know yet if the price and quality will be acceptable. “In any case, I will somehow find a way to get my ideas into the marketplace,” he says. And we don’t doubt that he will.


Take five - quintuplets, that is

In this lesson, Grant Collins focuses on the quintuplet and the use of accents.

I'm going to use a basic five-note sticking that gives you a strong leading hand stroke on the first beat of each quintuplet to help you identify with the subdivision:

Be sure to practise this and all of the following exercises using a metronome to ensure that you're maintaining solid time. Once you are comfortable with the basic sticking and feel of the quintuplet, we will look at accenting the single strokes (the first three notes: R,L,R). Some of these will feel easy and some will feel a little awkward at first, so make sure that you're aware of the timing:

When you think that you have a good feel for where the different accents lie within the sticking, we can then add the feet. The left foot will play basic quarter notes throughout the exercises. This will help to maintain a constant point of reference for the timing. The right foot is going to play along with the accents of the right hand. If you've spent enough time on the previous foundation patterns, then this should not be too difficult. Be sure to use your metronome and relax - they may be quintuplets, but they should still have a nice flow and feel to them.

These exercises will put you well on the way to having a creative output using quintuplets and this sticking pattern. Make sure that you get full control of these because we will look at using them around the drum set in different combinations next time. Enjoy and keep an open mind to it all..... digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

Click here to download 41


Composing with e-drums Anyone who has seen Johnny Rabb in action knows that he’s a musican, not just a time-keeper. Here, he explains how he uses electronic drums as a composition tool and how to get creative with your module.

THIS FLIGHT TO Atlanta, Georgia reminds me of how important my laptop is for me. I have two clinics this weekend, one on acoustics and the other on Roland V-drums. I am convinced that musicians need a computer – in my case, a laptop (I prefer Mac) - to embrace electronics and technology. My Mac and V-drums combine to provide me with a very nice home studio. If I add an SPD-S or Octapad to the mix, I am practically a one-person band. Whether I am on the road or at home, I am able to create music, using my e-drums as the main component. A lot of musicians use a piano, acoustic guitar or other instrument to write a song. As drummers, we have a lot of untapped information just waiting to be explored from behind our instrument. Going beyond basic grooves and chops is the first step to creating music on electronic drums. I am currently using the Roland TD-20KX kit with a MIDI keyboard controller from Edirol. I am literally using all onboard sounds from the TD-20 module to compose the parts to my music. This is the most basic set-up for me to get great music out of my e-drums: 42

• TD-20 with all standard pads (all internal sounds) • Edirol PCR-M1 MIDI controller (MIDI In to the module)

• SPD-S (stereo cable from headphone out to MIX IN on TD-20 module) • Microphone (plugged into the input of SPD-S)

• MacBook Pro (Ableton Live and Reason, primarily)

Getting started

I like to start by letting the drums inspire me. I always have a CF (compact flash) card in the TD20, ready to go when editing magic happens. Remember, you cannot make a mistake by experimenting with editing. Choose a kit as a template that feels good. Then, start by changing tunings, instruments, etc. The easiest way for me to get started is to choose an unorthodox instrument for the rims of the toms. For example, I like to use a bass sound, synthesizer or effect instead of standard drum or percussion voices. Detuning these sounds or extending the decay can really transform the internal sounds into something original. Most of the time, I can just use the pitch of the sound as my root note for the key of the musical idea. I always

See Johnny in action with an SPD-S in a series of YouTube videos by clicking here. plan for my sequences to be performed in many ways by triggering them from any rim or pad on my kit.

With your e-drums, you can really start to produce more than just original drum kits. You can create tap sequences: sequences that start and stop from a pad, triggering keyboard and bass sounds from the kit.

If I have a bass line or melody I am working on, I will sequence that first. Then, I can jam to it on the kit and tweak my sounds or tune (edit) the e-drums to fit the part. This might mean adding rhythmic delay, reverb, flange or other multi-effects to my drums. The idea is to build a section of a song at a time.

Using the sequencer

You can utilise the sequencer to create your music. My TD-20KX module has over 250 backing sounds built in. Those are all incredibly useful and hardly used by the average e-drummer. Discovering the power of the built-in sequencer is the key to unlocking your creativity. It is easy to think of my e-drum setup as just a high-powered drum and percussion instrument. However, if I simply hook up a MIDI keyboard controller to the module, I am able to produce amazing musical ideas. The Edirol PCR-M1 keyboard controller is a two-octave, full-size key controller which fits nicely next to my hi-hat while I am checking out sounds. With a six-part sequencer, I can create multiple tracks to build a song. Once the sequences are finished, I can assign them anywhere on the kit. I can trigger a chord progression from my crash, or a percussion part from my tom rim. I can also use the tap sequence mode to allow me full control of playing chords or single note melodies in real time. Finally, I can save digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

all of my sequences and drum kits to a CF card for future use. This gives me the ability to take my original kits and music on the road with me. As long as I am using the same module, I can load in all of my custom tracks and sets – something I do regularly these days.

My idea for the future is to utilise the SPD-S for vocal parts. For example, I might have the verse on pad 1, the pre-chorus on pad 2, chorus on pad 3 and bridge on pad 4 of the SPD-S. I can also put extra multi-media samples or loops that match the tempo of my sequences on the remaining pads. Lately, I have been sending scratch (demo) vocals to my professional singing friends and having them re-record their vocals and send me back the wave file. Then, I import their wave file to the SPD-S. I can then control when I want each vocal part to come in. It allows me full control to do an on-the-fly arrangement of my piece of music.

I really encourage everyone to dig a little deeper than just drum sounds on their e-drums. Go into the module and select a synthesizer sound, then detune it or add effects. You will be amazed at how creative you can be with only slight editing. Remember that you can always factory restore your module if you feel like you have gone too far. However, you really cannot make any mistakes. We have powerful technology and modules these days. If we go beyond just drums and percussion, the music will inspire us to take e-drums further.

So, with a computer, a USB keyboard controller and e-drums, the sky is the limit. It is a different approach than the mainstream songwriter, but we are drummers after all. 43


Improvements through tweaking While your module may seem ready to play when it’s unpacked for the first time, it needs to be adjusted to suit your needs and your equipment line-up. Simon Ayton runs through some of the tweaks that can make a difference. Although he draws on his Roland experience, many of the tips and tricks apply to most other modules – but some of the names may be different. JUST LIKE ANY acoustic drummer takes years to decide on or evolve his or her set-up to match their particular style or the personality of their instrument, so too can electronic drummers. In fact, they should! Remember that no matter what you tweak, you can always reset electronic instruments back to their default ‘factory settings’. Jumping in and fiddling with settings can be the best way to work out exactly how each control affects the response and playability of the kit. System settings

The boring but essential settings are often underutilised or ignored, but these are likely to be the ones that make the biggest difference to the 44

actual player. Generally, ‘factory’ settings represent middle-of-the-road settings to suit the widest range of players out there, but that doesn’t mean they’ll accurately suit your personal playing style. A hardhitting rock drummer who uses 2B sticks will find it near impossible to get the same dynamic range or sensitivity out of the kit as would a jazz player with much lighter 7A sticks. Trigger Settings

These settings allow you to adjust how effectively the sensors attached to the brain will trigger sounds. Surprise, surprise! So, like ripping off a Band-Aid, where faster is often less painful, here is a quick run-down of the settings you’ll come across:

Trigger Type It’s most important that the brain/module is set up to handle the particular triggers you are using! The trigger’s responsiveness and the resulting signal it generates can vary greatly depending on its design and intended use. For best results, using the manufacturer’s recommended triggers and pads will make your entire kit much easier to play, which, in turn, will mean less work for you and allow you to express yourself better musically. After all, drumming is about music, not sport!

strength to three different types of hits and setting the trigger sensitivity to suit.

If your module doesn’t have any preset trigger types, just work your way patiently through the following settings, making note of how each setting affects performance before moving on to the next setting so you don’t chase your tail by trying several settings at once.

One situation where you may need to adjust sensitivity is when you connect a double kick pedal to your bass drum trigger. As the beaters will now be spaced apart from the centrally placed trigger, the kick sound will be dramatically reduced in volume.

If the module lets you specify the actual model of the trigger being used, be sure to dial it up! Roland modules, for example, have different settings for every type of pad it makes and also specialised settings for its acoustic drum triggers, which takes a lot of time out of fiddling with settings to get the right response while minimising false triggering.

a) Threshold

This setting determines how hard you have to hit for the brain to respond. It’s usually set at the factory at ‘2’, but a setting of ‘0’ may allow triggers to be played with fingers. Raising this value can help prevent a pad from sounding because of vibrations from other pads or accidentally striking hardware with your sticks.

This can be done to match any style of music and also, obviously, the sticks that are being used. For example: level 1: tap using fingers or wrist, often referred to as a ‘ghost note’; level 2: medium stroke with wrist whip motion and some arm; level 3: full stroke with wrist, arm and shoulder.

The aim is to set the sensitivity of each trigger of the kit, starting with the hi-hat, for example, so that a medium hit registers halfway on the trigger sensitivity meter and a full stroke registers at the top. This helps match the maximum dynamics that the kit can reproduce to your playing dynamics, resulting in a more natural sounding performance.

Often, setting the kick trigger’s sensitivity to twice the default setting will help give you the same responsiveness and volume as a single pedal. c) Velocity Curve Types

These determine how changes in hitting strength from soft to hard (dynamics) influence the volume level of the sounds generated by the brain/module. A very fast speed metal drummer, for example, who plays with a feather-light tapping pedal style may wish to have very limited dynamics by setting the curve type to ‘LOUD2’ so that very light playing

b) Sensitivity

This determines how easily the trigger input responds to vibration - the higher the value, the more responsive the input. If your module has a trigger response level meter, watch this to see how the kit is responding.

Two different curve types - linear (above) and exponential (below).

From the Roland TD-20 manual: “You can adjust the sensitivity of the pads to accommodate your personal playing style. This allows you to have more dynamic control over the sound volume, based on how hard you play.” An effective technique to try to find the right setting for you can be by breaking down your playing digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010



velocity and small changes in hitting strength still produce maximum volume level for the bass drum sound. d) Xtalk cancel:

This setting is used to stop false triggering around the kit, for example, when hitting the bass drum triggers the snare sound as well. Raise the value of the problematic trigger to stop these false hits from occurring. e) Scan Time:

No silly, not how long you have to wait in line at the supermarket! Scientific name: ‘Trigger Signal Detection Time’. It’s about what sensing happens in the critical first moments of the hit. Adjustable in milliseconds (ms), increasing the scan time can help ensure that identical strength hits always generate the same trigger signal strength and, hence, equal volume sound from the module each time.

g) Mask Time

Despite how it sounds, this has nothing to do with your desperate financial status or knocking over banks. This one’s all about double-triggering prevention, dude.

Again, this is adjusted in milliseconds. A good description can be found in the TD20 manual: “When playing a kick trigger, the beater can bounce back and hit the head a second time immediately after the intended note. With acoustic drums, sometimes the beater stays against the head, causing a single hit to double-trigger. The Mask Time setting helps to prevent this. Once a pad has been hit, any additional trigger signals occurring within the specified ‘Mask Time’ will be ignored”.

This setting needs to be very carefully tweaked just enough to stop the unwanted bounce trigger note or you won’t be able to play very fast without losing valuable notes! h) Cross-Stick Threshold

How hard you have to whack the rim trigger before the rim shot sound is triggered, instead of the crossstick one; the cross-over point, in other words.

f) Retrigger Cancel or Detecting Trigger Signal Attenuation

Often when using acoustic triggers, a second vibration of the trigger occurs after the initial one, causing double-triggering. Sounding like a buzz, this can be reduced by raising this value - but be careful because raising it too high can mean notes will get lost when playing fast rolls, for example. The aim is to hit the drum while adjusting the setting just high enough so that double-triggering stops.

Hi-hat settings

a) Hi-hat ‘offset’ adjustment: This is used to tell the module when the hi-hat is closed or when the hihat foot is in the down position. If this is not adjusted correctly, the hi-hat may still sound slightly open, even when you have the hi-hat pedal in the fully closed position. Some modules have an automatic adjustment which is carried out by loosening off the hi-hat clutch so the top hat rests on the bottom, then performing a ‘hi-hat offset’.


If not, adjust the setting manually with the foot in the closed position until the hi-hat produces - you guessed it - a closed sound.

Offset can also be a very useful adjustment to tweak on some brains where your hi-hat foot is busy playing double bass drums, but you still want to get a closed hihat sound at the same time. b) Foot Splash Sensitivity: This determines how easy it is to trigger the splash sound from the hi-hat when it is tapped.

c) Noise Cancel: The amount of force needed to cancel the bow and edge noise when you play with your foot “Foot Close.”

d) HH Note Number Border: This is used when you are triggering an external sound module or drum software plug-in like Superior Drummer, BFD, etc. The note number transmitted when you strike the hi-hat will change depending on the amount of pressure on the hi-hat pedal. Hi-Hat Note Number Border allows you to adjust the pedal position at which the note number switches from the open hihat to the closed hi-hat. Notation programmes like DT-HD1 also use these values to correctly notate open and closed hi-hats.

MIDI settings

Drum devices are normally set up to send and receive notes on MIDI channel 10. Remember there are actually 16 channels that can be used in total via MIDI and they’re not set in stone, so you can change this if you need to. I’ve covered this before in digitalDrummer, but when recording from an electronic instrument via MIDI, the first thing you may want to do is switch its ‘Local’ mode to ‘off’. This ensures that notes are sent from the module’s MIDI out first without playing the internal sounds. If you have a MIDI lead attached from the computer interface back to the module, you’ll get a nasty feedback loop which looks like this: module=>computer=>module=>computer … you get the drift! Sometimes, you may also want to use sounds from a plug-in inside the computer instead of the ones in the brain, so turning local control ‘off’ allows the kit to function simply like a MIDI controller.

The problem with using drum plug-ins while recording can be that you get a delay between hitting the drum and getting a sound. This ‘latency’, caused by the time it takes for the computer to receive a MIDI signal, send it to the plug-in and generate a sound, can be worked around quite well by leaving local ‘on’, not connecting the MIDI ‘in’ lead to the module from the computer, and just turning the module’s volume up enough that the latency is masked slightly by the module’s own sounds. Give it a try! • So, those are some tweaks for the front end. Next edition, I’ll look at crafting your sound before wrapping up this series with some tips for getting the most out of your module’s effects.


% J H J U B M  % S V NNF S 3 F B E F S T  % J T D P V O U digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

0'' 47


A TP makeover

Conversions of acoustic shells to e-drums have largely been limited to those with Roland or Alesis modules, with Yamaha owners generally excluded. However, as Kurt Pfeiffer explains, it is possible to create an acoustic look but still take advantage of Yamaha’s unique triggering.

ONE OF THE great things about electronic drums is that, like shade-tree mechanics of the past, a little knowledge and skill will allow you to make your own drums that work well and are fun and comfortable to play. However, like modern mechanics, the technology is slowly reaching a complexity that makes it difficult to create something from scratch that will work as well as the factory original.

Yamaha’s DTXtreme III stepped up the electronic drum game by creating a three-zone pad that uses a single cable. It uses FSR sensors for the second and third zones which make it nearly impossible to 48

replicate without access to a full machine shop and electronics degree. Yamaha, either intentionally or unintentionally, designed its TP series pads so that there is another alternative: mounting the sensor section of the pad to a drum shell, giving it a more acoustic appearance. This is not a particularly technical or difficult process. There are just a few things to remember. This tutorial should explain how to accomplish this and answer most questions. There are three things you will need to do this conversion:

1) A Yamaha TP series electronic drum pad (TP100 or TP120SD)

2) Some type of acoustic snare lug (for this tutorial, I used Hayman snare lugs from Drum Supply House in Tennessee). You will need six lugs. They can be any style, but single-sided tom lugs will not work.

3) A wood acoustic drum shell cut to 4 inch depth. If you want to use deeper shells, for example 5” or 6”, you will need to purchase longer hex bolts the same size and thread-count as the TP bolts. You should be able to find them at any hardware store. You should also be able to get them in a silver or chrome colour (as opposed to the black bolt from the TP pad) which will more closely resemble a standard acoustic tension rod.

4) While not absolutely required, I recommend using Yamaha hex-style tom mounts. It makes mounting the drum much easier. Tama style (L-rod) mounts will work, but will require use of a TP pad offset, which would look a little odd. Pearl-style mounts should work as well.


First, remove the six bolts that hold the bottom plastic part of the TP pad to the top. They are standard hex bolts and easily removed with an Allen wrench. Looking at the bottom of the pad, there are eight

bolts, but two of them simply hold the plate that covers the tom mount on the pad.

Next, remove the lug inserts from one side of the acoustic lugs and replace them with the bolts you removed from the TP pad. Depending on the type of lug you have, make sure that the bolt will not fall down inside the lug. Some lugs use springs to hold the inserts in place and may fit around the TP bolts. In the case of the Hayman lugs, the lug is too short for the bolt to fall out and requires no additional securing.

The centre rubber section of the TP pad fits perfectly inside a 10” or 12” acoustic drum shell. It is preferable to have the bearing edge to accommodate the shape of the rubber. You will need to notch the shell so that the wire leading from the piezo sensor to the control box on the TP rim will not be crushed. You can see the notch on the bottom plastic part of the TP shell, removed earlier.

Once the rubber pad is fitted into the shell, place the

Get DIY help and a prize for your efforts

Jman Acoustic Evolution is offering more of its highly regarded products for the reader question selected for the next edition of digitalDrummer. Two winners will each get the accessory no kit should be without - an electric cowbel. That’s right, your choice of a Lectric Moo and Lectracrylic Moo. To be in the running, simply send your DIY question to

digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

Your DIY connections



rim of the TP pad over the drum (ensuring the placement of the wire). The six acoustic lugs will line up with the holes for the six bolts you removed from the pad. Once the rim is aligned, finger-tighten the bolts into the rim. When all bolts are finger-tight, turn the drum over and inspect the batter side to make sure the rubber head and rim are lined up correctly.

The Allen wrench used to remove the bolts from the TP pad will slide through the acoustic insert of the lug and into the hex-head of the bolt, allowing you to tighten down the rim. DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN. Tighten it down


securely, but if it is too tight, it may crush the piezo wire which could result in poor head performance or total loss of head triggering. You may also use a product like Loc-Tite to ensure the bolts will not loosen or fall out.

All that is left to do is to place the drum head and rim on the bottom. You can use an acoustic head or mesh head. I use coated Remo Ambassadors on my bottom heads as they are relatively inexpensive and hide the drum’s inner workings. Be sure to tighten the head evenly to avoid an uneven appearance. Having a bottom acoustic head does not affect triggering, but it may result in a slightly different sound when striking the pad. It has a hollower thump, but it is not significantly louder than the stock TP pad. My snare pad has a Hart Magnum mesh head on it and produces no more sound than the stock pad. And the result ....

Which design is best? Do you have a DIY question? Philippe Decuyper, a.k.a. PFozz on the edrumforfree forum, solves 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 This month, there are two winners – Murray Jackson from Calgary in Canada and Mark Hetherington from Melbourne, Australia – both of whom asked about the benefits and disadvantages of the various drum trigger assemblies.

IN MY FIRST column, I identified the piezo transducer as a good candidate to build a pad. But, as our questions suggest, there are a number of ways of mounting the piezo in a drum pad. All have their pros and cons. The “crossbar” is the most common in the DIY community. It works well with modern modules and it is compatible with positional sensing. Positional sensing? A bit of theory...

A piezo transducer (which acts as a microphone) produces a waveform that is interpreted by your module. Using a crossbar-type trigger with a mesh head, the produced frequencies vary depending on distance between the impact point and the physical link that connects the piezo to the head. To understand how this works, think back to throwing a pebble into a pond in your youth. This action produces a wave. If you use a small stone, the wave will be of low amplitude, while a large piece of concrete produces a wave of high amplitude. This phenomenon applied to a pad illustrates velocity.

As an unlucky fish, you would feel the frequencies issued by our stones. When a stone hits just above the fish, it receives much more “bass”. The frequency corresponds to the distance between waves and mostly how thick these are.

If you think of a piezo under a mesh head as a fish in a pond, the piezo will receive more low frequencies (long waves) if a strike occurs next to it. Therefore, positioning the piezo in the middle of the head allows the module to sense a centred strike. If digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010

you are very curious, you can try to plug a mesh head trigger into your sound card and start to analyse frequencies. In practice...

While the velocity is computed by a module whatever the type of pad, positional sensing can only work with a piezo mounted on the centre of a crossbar-type trigger or a basket-type assembly.

A number of DIYers use reflection plates instead of baskets or crossbars because they are easy to use, and produce good triggering results – both as single-zone and dual-zone triggers.

A “reflection plate“ is a sort of extension of the piezo brass part. With this design, velocity detection will be more or less uniform on the whole surface of a pad, and produced frequencies will be more or less the same whatever the position of impact. Positional sensing is therefore impossible. Similarly, a noncentred piezo will usually avoid “hot spot” issues, but it will not allow positional sensing.

Even using a crossbar with a centre-mounted piezo, positional sensing may not work very well. Bear in mind that manufacturers like Roland design algorithms of their modules especially for their pads. So, should we avoid reflection plates? Not at all. A reflection plate has its advantages. As mentioned previously, velocity response is often more uniform. Such a trigger is also often more sensitive and will work well with older modules that require more gain from pads. You can use real acoustic heads with such triggers and you can build flat pads. It’s also a very good option for a kick trigger.




digitalDrummer continues its tour of music rooms in search of electronic excesses. This month’s monster kit is the work of Wes Anderson of Jesup, Georgia. Wes’s story:

Music styles: Pop, rock-n-roll, classic rock and hard rock. Some early influences were Ringo (of course), Jerry Shirley (Humble Pie), John Bonham (Led Zep), Frank Beard (ZZ Top), Bev Bevan (ELO), Joey Kramer (Aerosmith) and Ian Paice (Deep Purple). Music background: I started playing in my early teens to mid-twenties around Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky. Life and family got in the way and I stopped playing for about 20 years. I walked into a music store one day to sign my son up for guitar lessons and eyed a Yamaha DS-10 kit, sat down at it and was immediately afflicted with GAS. Playing now is strictly a hobby for me, with the occasional recording to drumless music and a few guitarists looking for someone to record drums to their compositions. I’m very glad to have discovered electronic drums and be back into the game as it brings back great memories.

Drum equipment:

Modules: TD-10 exp with Vex kits for the nine drums and VH-11 hi-hat. DTXtreme II for the 11 cymbals and four percussion pads. Drums (custom purple sparkle paint): 2 - 22"x10" acoustic kicks (Blastech mesh)* 1 - 14"x5.5" stainless steel (Hart mesh) 2 - 8" Pintech toms (Hart mesh) 1 - 12" Pintech tom (Hart mesh) 1 - 12"x6" acoustic tom (Hart mesh)* 1 - 12"x10" acoustic floor tom (Hart mesh)* 1 - 13"x11" acoustic floor tom (Hart mesh)* *All the acoustic drums have Pintech triggers Cymbals/Percussion Pads: 7 - Yamaha PCY-150 cymbals 4 - Yamaha PCY-10 cymbals 1 - Roland VH-11 hi-hat 3 - Hart Hammers 1 - Alpha pad


digitalDrummer takes no responsibility for purchase decisions made as a result of this feature.

Above: Wes with the apple (or plum) of his eye. Right: A few cymbal pads! Below left: Driver’s view. Bottom right: Roland and Yamaha sure can co-exist.

If you have a monster, email digitalDRUMMER, JULY 2010


WHO HAS THE LAST WORD? digitalDrummer reaches tens of thousands of electronic drum enthusiasts around the world. From Alberta to Zimbabwe, Berlin to Rio, this magazine is just a click away. Its audience is totally focused, motivated and interested in new products and promotions. For a very modest investment, this space could be yours in the next edition. If you’re an electronic drums manufacturer, accessories maker, software publisher, training vendor or retailer who wants to reach electronic drummers, contact us before your competitors do.

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digitalDrummer July 2010