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Edition 18 - MAY 2014


The global electronic drumming e-zine

In the Nick of time XM Busker kit Antoine Fadavi Parsons knows

Š2014 Avedis Zildjian Company


OF reduced volume cymbals

Introducing the NEW Gen16 Buffed Bronze series Zildjian has created the next generation of reduced volume cymbals. Zildjian craftsman used their expertise to make subtle but important changes to the Gen16 cymbal which increases the lower fundamental overtone structure. The most noticeable change is the stunning, buffed bronze finish that produces a warmer tone. Visit for more information.


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--from-the-editor-is published by


ABN: 61 833 620 984 30 Oldfield Place

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

Solana da Silva Contributors

Antoine Fadavi Anders Grönlund Scott Holder Dave Kerzner Joseph W. Nebistinsky Wolfgang Stölzle Cover Photo Mick Mason

Design and layout ‘talking business’

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

Copyright or wrong:

Forget the legalese and just play fair! We work hard to produce digitalDrummer. Please respect that and don’t rip off our content. In this age of electronic publishing, it’s obviously tempting to “borrow” other people’s work, and we are happy to share our stuff — but please ask first and be sure to include a link back to our website on anything published elsewhere.

WELCOME TO OUR people and prizes edition. We feature interviews with some very big names in music in this edition – Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason and producer and recording artist Alan Parsons. Neither is an e-drummer, but both have made significant contributions to electronic percussion. Co-incidentally, both are associated with a new VST pack which we hope to review in a future edition. Mason is an inspiration to many drummers worldwide, with many enthusiasts spending hours on end trying to learn some of his signature drum parts. In our interview, we hear about his background, his motivations and views on drum technique. He also talks about his own e-drum journey, dating back to the early Simmonds days. Parsons, whose musical heritage goes back to the early days of Abbey Road, is a mixing master, and he shares some insight into the role of drums in music production. You can read his take on appropriate volume levels and tools like compression. Finally, on the personality front, we hear how French teenage YouTube sensation Antoine Fadavi uses e-drums in his practice and performance regime. The prize component of the magazine includes a chance to win a pair of DW9002 double pedals, simply by subscribing or confirming your email details. The reason we’re doing this is because a number of subscribers were understandably suspicious when signing up, and provided bogus emails just to gain access. So, while they can read the current edition, they won’t be alerted when the next one goes live. For that to happen, we need a legitimate email address. We’re also giving away some of the new Gen16 Buffed Bronze cymbals. Zildjian has chipped in a 368 Box Set (13" hats, 16” crash and 18" ride – all in Buffed Bronze, together with the new DS Pickups and a DCP loaded with the new "NATURAL" Tone Shapes). Finally, to share the experience of the 682Drums t-Rigg aux trigger, we have three samples on offer to the first readers who enter via the email link in this magazine. As you can see, digitalDrummer keeps giving – information, entertainment, prizes and the opportunity to interact with the e-drum community through our Facebook Group. All we ask in return is that you support us by spreading the word and by supporting our advertisers who make this magazine possible. You don’t have to purchase anything, but we’d all be grateful if you could follow the links and check out their stuff. You may not need it now, but some day it could come in handy. Thanks again for your interest and we hope you enjoy this month’s offering. digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


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The global electronic drumming e-zine Edition 18


8 12 16 20 22

May 2014

TALKING-POINT Good vibrations

We hear the complaints about e-drums not being real, but what about the compliments? Members of the digitalDrummer Facebook Group recently chimed in ...


Mobility at Messe

Mobility was the big trend at Musikmesse, Europe’s biggest music instrument expo in Frankfurt in March.

Buffed and bold

Zildjian’s Gen16 AE cymbals have had a make-over, and Allan Leibowitz found the changes are not just cosmetic.

XMplary hardware outperforms brain

Need a compact kit that’s easy to set up and straightforward to operate? Allan Leibowitz looks at the B18-8SR kit from XM’s Busker Series.

Aux options expand

Last year this time, digitalDrummer tested its eighth and ninth auxiliary triggers in an ongoing head2head in the category. Allan Leibowitz follows up with a new offering from 682Drums.

iPad gets more connected

A year ago, when digitalDrummer put a toe in the iPad drumming waters, there were a handful of viable MIDI/iPad interfaces. Now, there are more choices.

Win with digitalDrummer

Click here for more details of the competitions in this issue 4

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24 30 36 38 44 46


Parsons knows

Alan Parsons started as an assistant recording engineer at Abbey Road at the age of 18 and has left his mark on hits by Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney and many, many others. He discusses the role of drums in music with digitalDrummer’s Scott Holder.

In the Nick of time

Nick Mason’s signature drumming was an essential part of every Pink Floyd album since 1965. Far more than a drummer, Mason wrote a number of Floyd songs and collaborated on some of their biggest hits. He spoke to digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz after wrapping up his first VST offering with Sonic Reality.


How I use e-drums

As the poster boy for KAT Percussion, drummer Antoine Fadavi represents the next generation of e-drummers.


Product review: Drumdrops

Drumdrops is best known for its drum tracks and loops, but now has begun packaging its wares for e-drummers, with two sample packs for the Kontakt 5 engine.


Tech-savvy teaching

For those drummers supplementing their income through teaching, technology can be a valuable investment. Joe Nebistinsky explains


Thinking inside the box

Take one of the oldest percussion instruments, add some ingenuity – and a few piezos – and, if you’re Anders Grönlund, you end up with an e-cajon.

digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


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Good vibrations

We hear the complaints about e-drums not being real, but what about the compliments? Members of the digitalDrummer Facebook Group recently chimed in: Rob Duggan: That they look great! A-E conversion..... And they're versatile. Always a plus.

Michael Camplin: I posted a video on Facebook and I had a comment "I thought you had an electronic kit"...the video was me playing my TD30KV...made me laugh. In a second example, I took my TD30 and PA (2x 12" Mackie DLMs) to a rehearsal with some metal guitarists, they were blown away by how big and good the e-kit sounded. I didn't even take the sub along to that rehearsal....

Jeremy Hoyle: That it looks cool, sounds pretty realistic, plays surprisingly well and would be worth it just to play any time of the day or night. But I don't have a low-end, plasticky set-up. My hardware's all heavy duty Gibraltar stuff, so it looks a little more serious. And I have a TD-30, which helps a lot, too! Dave Chetwynd: Trumpet man strolled into our third rehearsal and asked if they were electronic. Acoustic side snare was voted out by the band.

Alexis Beattie: People are always impressed how many sounds come from my small set-up using an SPD-30 and a few extra pads. Also, because the style of music is electronic, it seems to fit the look. It's still surprising how few audio engineers have dealt with electronic kits before!

Aaron Bradford: How about not having to shell out hundreds of dollars for different cymbals and all? Get tired of a sound and you can just change it! Or the fact that I can play in my second floor apartment and have zero complaints! Sรถren Kรถstel: Never had a problem with acceptance or sound, playing in an electronic music/synth pop range.


You can join the discussion here.

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Mobility at Messe Mobility was the big trend at Musikmesse, Europe’s biggest music instrument expo in Frankfurt in March.

digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


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ACCORDING TO ORGANISERS, the show demonstrated the growing influence of smartphones and tablets in music production and performance.

Around 110,000 visitors from 142 countries attended the event, demonstrating the strong interest in music.

All the major e-drum names were represented at the show, but there were very few product debuts. Nevertheless, there was plenty of interest for electronic percussion enthusiasts.

2Box embraced the hybrid move, exemplified by Roland’s TM-2 launch at NAMM in January, with its two-zone external triggers. These have had a conservative make-over since their prototype a couple of years back, now sporting a black exterior instead of the original orange.


Alesis had some of the few new offerings, two mesh head kits. The DM10 Studio Kit Mesh and the DM10 X Kit Mesh expand on their predecessors’ design with mesh drum heads for “unprecedented response, reduced acoustic noise, and dynamic playability”, according to the company. The kits will be available in the northern summer, but not in the US or Japan.

Also on show at Alesis were the Samplepad Pro which has had a bit of a make-over since its NAMM debut, the Sample Rack (Sample Pad Pro minus pads), the Pro X two-piece hihat and the Transactive 400 wedge.

German drum maker and retailer Drum-Tec was on hand to show its new reduced-rebound Real Feel three-layer mesh heads. The head is

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OPPOSITE: 2Box trigger, Drum-Tec Real Feel mesh head and Alesis Samplepad Pro. THIS PAGE: ePiccolo EE-20 module, Pearl ePro Live, white Mark Drum pads and Yamaha’s DTX502based kit. digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


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KAT Percussion’s KT2 kit, Zildjian Gen16 Buffed Bronze and Roland’s hybrid array.

now part of the Diablo kit series on show, and there were also two new snare drums: a Diablo Hand Hammered 13” and a Chrome Deluxe Pro 14”. Italy’s Mark Drum, which was not represented at NAMM, was on show with new white pads as an alternative to the original black finish.

Roland trotted out the gear it had first shown in Anaheim: the TM-2 module for hybrid acoustic kits and the new compact, KT-10 bass pedal. And from last year’s crop, there were also examples of the NE-10 Noise Eater mat and the NE-1 pad as well as the flagship percussion controller, the HPD-20 Handsonic pad.


ePiccolo, which made its debut last year, had a new module, the EE-20 with the same specs as the EE-100 device shown last year, but in a compact format. Pearl showed its version of the Alesis twopiece hi-hat, which it calls the EHH-1.

There was nothing new at Yamaha, which showed its DTX502 module and new app for DTX400 editing, the DTX400 Touch.

Zildjian aroused some interest with the new Buffed Bronze Gen16 AE cymbals covered on page 12.

 Location reporting and photography by Wolfgang Stölzle

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and bold Zildjian’s Gen16 AE cymbals have had a make-over, and Allan Leibowitz found the changes are not just cosmetic.


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THE FIRST VERSION had nickel alloy cymbals and acoustic pick-ups. Then came direct pick-ups which eliminated feedback and provided a stronger, cleaner signal.

However, for some players, Zildjian’s Gen16 AE cymbals still lacked body and sounded a bit thin. Some of that was addressed with a new batch of sound shapes which beefed up the tones, but the cymbal masters realised they could push it further. Zildjian R&D chief Paul Francis went back to the drawing board and the results of his toil were debuted at Winter NAMM in January.

Tasked with developing “a fuller, warmer tone”, Francis came up with three vital steps: leaving off the nickel plating and going with just the bronze alloy, revising the bell contours and doing some lathing on the bigger cymbals. According to Zildjian, the first step created a warmer tone, the second reduced some of the high-pitch overtones and the last lowered the fundamental pitch. Not only that, but the new range looks sensational and more cymbal-like, another advantage in the growing hybrid acoustic/electronic percussion world.

Raw acoustics

The first step was testing the cymbals acoustically.

There was very little difference between the old nickel and the new bronze 14” hats. The fundamental tone was similar, the bell and edge response identical and the only difference was perhaps a slightly more aggressive attack on the bronze stock. But this was quite subtle and very subjective. On the 20” ride, again the fundamentals were similar. The most noticeable difference was a clearer, more defined bell on the bronze cymbal.

Where Francis’ handiwork really stood out was in the crashes. The extra body, lower fundamental tone and improved sustain were instantly evident. This was even more pronounced on the 16” china, which left its nickel counterpart sounding like a coffee tin lid.

The ear test

Of course, looks alone don’t guarantee success in the musical instrument business and products stand or fall on their sound. I first heard the Buffed Bronze range at NAMM, where they were put through their paces by sound shaper Chris Ryan in live demos with backing tracks. I was impressed, but what really brought it home was the disbelief among some at the booth when they found out that Ryan was playing AE cymbals. To test the new range, I set up a head-to-head comparison of the new and old. In previous comparisons, I would route two instruments into the same module input using a splitter, but because the Gen16 DCP also powers the pick-up preamp and its light show, this was not possible. Instead, I used two identical DCPs, routed through a Yamaha mixer with flat EQ. The results were captured on video and can be seen here. digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


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Chris Ryan showing off the new cymbals at NAMM

Amplified sound

The initial plan was to compare the samples using one of the latest sound shapes for the nickel version and one of Ryan’s specially developed shapes for the bronze cymbals, but it became instantly clear that the comparison would just be misleading since so much of the processed sound is dependent on the shaping in the DCP. Instead, I selected a tone that I liked for the nickel and used the same shape on the bronze. The difference, therefore, is purely in the metal.

I found very little difference between the nickel and buffed bronze hats, and the slight variation which was evident acoustically was not really audible after processing. This, of course, is not a bad thing as almost every Gen16 user instantly embraces the hat sounds.

On the 20” ride, again the difference was subtle. Playing on the bow and edge was almost indistinguishable between the two variants, but the bell performance on the bronze sample was clearer thanks to the subtle reshaping of the profile. So, onto the crashes, which were, arguably, the weakest points of the nickel cymbals. And


here – drumroll please – the results were dramatic.

The crashes were more full-bodied and certainly warmer. In fact, they were more Zildjian-like. And that was using electronic processing designed for the nickel stock.

There was more sustain, more impact and more colour in the bronze cymbals, and the tones actually get even better with some of the yet-to-be-released DCP settings. By far, the most dramatic improvement was in the 16” china, a cymbal that seldom came out of its packet among my nickel collection. Switching to bronze was like adding a jolt from a defibrillator – the cymbal just comes alive with an enhanced sonic range and great dynamics.

And it’s not just the cymbals

While Francis and Ryan were working on the cymbal stock and the sound shapes, the hardware team have also been busy. They have come up with new mounting bits and pieces, the most impressive of which is a new hi-hat mount that sees the pre-amp now positioned under the bottom hat. This allows access to the controls for the light display, meaning that, at last, you can change the colour and pattern after the cymbal is

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positioned on the stand (something you couldn’t do previously). There are also new locking mounts for the ride and crash cymbal preamps which securely fasten the assembly onto the cymbal tilter shaft and prevent movement which could see the pick-up being unplugged. And there are anti-spin sleeves which eliminate the need for the foam washers that were previously included.

And the downside?

Of course, there is some additional cost in the new line. But the price jump is not as much as some feared. For example, one large retailer currently has the 368 starter packs (consisting of a DCP, 13” hats, 16” crash and 18” ride plus DS pick-ups) for $800 for the nickel and $900 for the bronze version.

Current Zildjian recommended retail prices are virtually identical between the two ranges, but some retailers are discounting the original nickel models, so there is a price difference on the streets.

The bottom line

Click here acoustic products, and the Buffed Bronze range is another step up for the Gen16 AE cymbals.

The new incarnation is without doubt gigable, with any weakness in the original line-up now squarely addressed in a range of cymbals that sound as good as they look. The range includes articulate hats and ride and, at last, deep, warm and resonant crashes and a china that really impresses. I’d go as far as saying the bronze versions are playable as acoustic instruments in intimate, low-volume situations, perhaps paired with a cocktail kit and some brushes or rods.

Keen to try them? As the Beatles sang, “it’s getting better all the time”. It’s clear that the Gen16 team are striving for the excellence associated with their

The only question now is: what will they come up with next?

digitalDrummer and Gen16 are giving away a 368 Box Set (13" hats, 16” crash and 18" ride – all in Buffed Bronze, together with the new DS Pickups and a DCP loaded with the new "NATURAL" Tone Shapes) to one lucky reader. To go into the running, just email us at, with Gen16 in the subject line. Winners will be announced in the next issue and terms and conditions are explained on our website.

digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


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XMplary hardware


outperforms brain

Need a compact kit that’s easy to set up and straightforward to operate? Allan Leibowitz looks at the B18-8SR kit from XM’s Busker Series. 16

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THE TAIWANESE E-DRUM maker might not be the best known, but it does have one of the widest ranges of e-drum kits, from small starter set-ups to the huge C-MAX 100SR kit with twin bass drums and five full-size toms. The review kit was on the compact side of the range, the relatively new Busker Series which has two variants – one with a 10” bass drum and the other with an 18” kick and both powered by the 8SR module. (The 9SR module, which was initially supplied with the 18” version, has for some reason been discontinued).

What’s in the box

The heart of the B18 kit is an 18”x11” bass drum, mounted on a compact but sturdy twoleg rack.

The rack supports a single tom, a ride cymbal and the snare, which fits on a versatile ballmount arm. There’s also a separate, decent quality hi-hat stand.

The kit is very easy to assemble, and the hardware feels robust; even the plastic mounts are substantial and look hard-wearing. Both drums – the 12” snare and 10” tom - are dual-zone, while the 13” ride has three zones and a choke, with another 13” cymbal used in conjunction with a VH-11-style controller for the hi-hat. The 8SR module is compact and easy to navigate, with a large touch-screen display.

The kit ships with labelled cables (which are a bit on the short side) and a basic, but competent kick pedal. Interestingly, the pedal comes with a felt beater – a clear no-no with mesh heads – and no doubt XM will soon hear from disgruntled customers who have beaten their way through the head.

Overall, the drums are attractive (the review kit was clad in timber veneer with black hardware) and well finished, and everything fits together neatly. Best of all, this is touted as a busking kit and it has a tiny footprint. The main section (bass drum, rack, drums and ride) can actually be carried with one hand, and you may even manage the hi-hat in the other. At most, you’d be looking at two trips to move the kit.

digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


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The performance

The drums all come with XM’s single-ply, heavy-duty mesh which you’ll either love or hate. It doesn’t have as much bounce as some of its thinner competitors, and also lacks a bit of sensitivity. But it’s sure to last a while. Another omission is the lack of rim silencers, which means you get a combination of the module’s rim sounds and the clack of wood on metal. Of course, this can be tamed with aftermarket rim silencers. We’ve previously reviewed the XM cymbals and found them to be sensitive, responsive and acoustically quiet.

The triggers and hardware are of a much higher standard than the module. Admittedly, the review module was lower spec than the original brain.

In action

When your regular modules are a Roland TD30, a Yamaha DTX 700 and a 2box, it’s always a challenge to face a lower-end module and easy to become fixated on what’s missing. So, let me first address the shortfalls: There are only seven kits.

 There is no recording functionality.

There are no inbuilt play-along tracks. 18

There is limited trigger tweaking.

But, on the plus side, the module has an easyto-use touch-screen interface; the stock sounds are very, very good; and the seven kits cover a range of genres (the only glaring omissions from my set lists is the lack of Latin percussion and brushes). The cymbal sounds, in particular, are almost VST quality. The bell is relatively easily triggered, but it does take some force and accuracy to get the edge sound. And forget about crash rolls – they’re not going to happen from the ride edge and you’ll need a dedicated cymbal with the crash input.

Most of the sounds are also tunable, with users able to pitch them up or down four steps. Another nifty feature is that XM has allocated a second tom sound on the tom rim, effectively giving you two toms in one shell – which is very useful on a kit this compact. On the downside, the lack of deep trigger tweaking means it’s impossible to avoid machine-gunning, and I could not get decentsounding rolls from the snare.

The hi-hat produced open, semi-open, closed, half-closed and foot splash variations – which is probably enough for most applications.

In contrast to the discontinued 9S module, which changes tone as well as volume as you hit harder, the 8S was purely volume-variable – which also adds to the machine-gunning.

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And while there are no built-in practice tracks, the 8S does have a fairly sophisticated and easy-to-use metronome.

The bottom line

The Busker kit looks fantastic, feels great and is very useful for drummers on the go or those with limited space for their kit at home. It’s well designed, well built and fun to play, with excellent sounds – albeit with not a lot of choice.

In my view, the triggers and hardware are a step up from the module, and while the brain is probably competent enough for the average weekend warrior gig, I couldn’t help thinking how good this set would have been with a better brain. In fact, when I connected a TD-6V module, the little kit rocked. The triggering was almost spot-on – except the snare rim which was very hot, but would probably be cooled a bit by the addition of a rim silencer. While the TD-6 sounds were less realistic, the dynamics were excellent and it was possible to produce great buzz rolls and ghost notes.

The other potential downside is the price tag. The Busker kits aren’t cheap, with the 18” bass version retailing for $1,199 and the 10” variant a bit cheaper. This pricing puts it in the domain of Roland’s TD-11K, Yamaha’s DTX532K and the new KT-3 kits, all of which offer more capable modules and more pads and cymbals - but without the acoustic looks and ‘cute” factor.

digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


Drum module: XSM-8S Trigger inputs: 9 x 6.3 mm stereo input Aux input: 3.5 mm stereo Main out: 6.3 mm stereo Headphone out: 3.5 mm stereo Connections: MIDI In and Out, USB

The kit

Drum pads: 18” bass, 12” snare, 10” tom Cymbals: 13” ride, 13” hi-hat Hi-hat controller: XH7


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Aux options expand


Last year this time, digitalDrummer tested its eighth and ninth auxiliary triggers in an ongoing head2head in the category. Allan Leibowitz follows up with a new offering from 682Drums. The trigger: 682Drums t-Rigg ($59)

Form and size: A 4.5 cm diameter, 20 cm tube with a 14 cm rubber-covered strike surface. Zones: Single

Performance: This device triggers perfectly in almost any trigger setting on a Roland TD-30 module, even producing rim notes in some settings – but that’s not recommended. It’s happiest as a mono trigger, set as PAD1. It also triggered well out of the box on a 2box module. The t-Rigg was also one of the few triggers to accommodate a DTX700 module without having to tweak the settings. Response was even across the strike surface, and the rebound was controlled and comfortable. The t-Rigg was very quiet, registering around 65 dB, and has a dull thud tone. The neat design has rubber over the whole surface, reducing the risk of crosstalk. It comes in either neutral grey or less neutral green.

What we liked: Plug and play, great sensitivity, rugged build and a neat design that fits any standard 38mm mount. What we didn’t like: It is supplied without any mounting hardware or cable.

digitalDrummer and 682Drums have t-Riggs and mounts to give away to three subscribers. To go into the running for one of these, email us now with the subject line “t-Rigg competition”.

Our greatest hits ... in one volume

Now you reviews Looking and aux it all.

can find all the digitalDrummer Head2Head in one place. Mesh heads? All in one PDF. for information on internal, external triggers? Again, one click and you get And the same with e-cymbals.And much more...

Everything you need - just a click away.

More sounds, more features, more drumming

Introducing the KAT

Six-piece drum pad configuration with 4 cymbals 550 studio-grade drum, cymbal, DJ, EFX and percussion sounds

USB, MIDI connectivity

Hi-hat pedal can be programmed to simulate a double pedal

New, larger 11-inch snare and floor tom pads

14-inch ride cymbal with a new advanced bell trigger

25 programmable and 45 pre-configured drum sets

Watch Antoine Fadavi demonstrate the incredible flexibility of the new kt3.

Available at KAT Percussion Retailers worldwide. Bass drum pedal is optional on some models.

KAT_DD_KT3.indd 1


4/2/14 11:05 AM

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iPad gets more connected A YEAR AGO, when digitalDrummer put a toe in the iPad drumming waters, there were a handful of viable MIDI/iPad interfaces. Most of them were extrapolated from the humble iPad camera/USB interface and while they worked fine, they were small and not particularly roadready. Well, 12 months is a long time in the iPad lifecycle, and along with new iPad hardware and an updated operating system, there are now a range of interface options.

Behringer iStudio

The Behringer iStudio iPad Docking Station is one of the most substantial offerings around. It is a large and robust unit into which the iPad slides (and fits snugly thanks to a springloaded backing plate). While e-drummers will be interested in the iStudio as a MIDI interface which will enable them to use e-drums to trigger apps like GarageBand, it is so much more. The docking station is powered by either batteries or AC power, serving as power


source and charge station for the iPad. It also boasts two phantom-powered Mic/Line inputs and a stereo Aux Input, turning the iPad into a full recording rig which captures guitars, keyboards and vocals as well as recorded backing tracks.

The unit is easy to operate, even without looking at the instructions. After sliding the iPad in and switching on, one opens the app and selects the instrument one wants to trigger. In the case of GarageBand, it found the e-drum source in default setting. Performance was flawless, and latency almost undetectable using the iStudio headphone out.

In short, it’s an elegant solution which powers the iPad while it easily feeds a number of sources for music apps. The connectors are all full-size – regular MIDI In and Out jacks, combination XLR/stereo inputs and even an RCA composite connector or video out. With a standard three-year warranty, the iStudio iS202 has a street price of around $150.

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IK Multimedia iRig Pro

We covered the iRig MIDI in our last round-up and the iRig Pro goes to the next level. The interface is a compact unit with a couple of inputs and an output. The Pro accepts MIDI (via a supplied special MIDI to mini-jack connection) and a combination XLR/¼” jack for mics and instruments. The package also includes a Lightening and a USB connector. There’s a phantom power switch to enable the use of condenser mics (provided you remember to insert the supplied 9v battery).

Griffin StudioConnect

The Griffin interface takes the form of an iPad stand which connects to the iPad via a standard dock connector. On the rear of the stand are a mono 1⁄4” instrument jack, a stereo 3.5 mm input jack and RCA outputs, along with standard MIDI In/Out jacks. There’s no XLR mic jack, nor phantom power, which can be a drawback for anyone wanting to record vocals. As a MIDI interface, the StudioConnect was flawless. It was instantly found by GarageBand and performed well with e-drum controllers, with imperceptible latency. Monitoring is via a 3.5 mm headphone jack, conveniently located on the front of the unit, with a generous volume wheel for control. There’s also an input level control on the side.

The Griffin solution is elegant and compact, but sturdy and practical. If you’re only interested in MIDI and instrument input, this is an adequate solution, but as a vocal recording, it is hampered by the lack of XLR connections and phantom power.

The unit has a gain control dial on its face, as well as a couple of lights which indicate phantom power and line level (green is good). The interface performs well as a MIDI interface, instantly found by my music apps and easy to use, with minimal latency. As a microphone interface, it is clear and accurate – and as a bonus, you get a lite version of the VocaLive app.

Unfortunately, there are no outputs on this unit, so you can neither monitor your playing directly, nor send to an amp. Instead, you have to rely on your iPad’s headphone output. Also, like most of these interfaces, you can only use one input at a time – either e-drums or vocals, for example. But since many recording apps only do one track at a time, that’s not a big deal.

While it has an impressive mic pre-amp, for edrummers the iRig Pro is on the costly side, at $150 on the street.

The StudioConnect has a street price of $100.

In February 2013, digitalDrummer included a special report on iPad drumming.

The feature looked at interfaces and apps - and you can catch up on it by clicking here. digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


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Parsons knows Alan Parsons started as an assistant recording engineer at Abbey Road at the age of 18 and has left his mark on hits by Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney and many, many others. He discusses the role of drums in music with digitalDrummer’s Scott Holder. 24

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When Parsons is on the desk, don’t look for compression on the drums

digitalDrummer: How important is the drum track in setting the atmosphere and feel of a song?

Alan Parsons: I think ever since “rock and roll” was coined, that meant drums. To a large degree that meant loud drums, so I totally think to anything in rock music it’s incredibly important. Take the drums away from any classic rock or pop record and you’ve got nothing. The whole foundation is the drums. dD: What was your approach to that foundation?

AP: I’ve been in this business long enough to see how the recording process has progressed. When I first got into the business in the late ‘60s, they’d really not figured out how to record kick drum. Around that time, they suddenly had this idea that it didn’t need to sound like a kick drum used to sound. They figured out that by taking the front skin off and putting weights, blankets or damping inside to get a thump instead of a big boom, they got a sound which was much easier to record. That started in 1969-1970, when I first started. That made a huge difference in the very notion of the kick drum forming an integral part of the drum track and that’s been my approach ever since. Before that, it had always been slightly evident but it was this thumpy/boomy thing in the background that blended into the bass end. dD: When should you record drums? First or after a click track? digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014

AP: I’m a bit of a traditionalist in that I don’t believe the drums should be recorded separately. They should be recorded along with as many instruments as possible that are to be a part of the final track. There’s this new thought among modern record makers that “okay, first let’s do the drums, now let’s do the bass, now let’s do the guitars, now let’s do the keyboards”. I come from the old school where you had four tracks or eight tracks at best and everybody had to play together. You didn’t have the luxury of recording unlimited tracks or being able to separate everything. You had to make decisions about mixing down. Even on eight-track, we would record an entire ensemble of bass, drums, keyboards and guitars on one or two tracks. dD: So how do you determine the correct level for drums? Does it need to be constant?

AP: It boils down to the skill of the drummer to give any necessary dynamics. In the modern world, we expect pretty much every hit on the drum to be consistent, unless the song itself demands dynamics. I think there’s a tendency to use compression … to achieve that dynamic or evenness. People will argue with me on this, but I do not like compression on drums. There are countless engineers and producers in the world who will say “drums without compression is like food without wine”. I’ve always believed that drums sound better without compression. In a way, that’s why I’ve always liked the sound 25

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of digital recordings of drums since there was a certain element of compression when using tape. A lot of people record with tape purely for the experience of hearing that compression that tape gives them. I’m not one of them. dD: How do you feel about using loops?

AP: Loops have become a part of modern music. They were never really considered viable for anything when I started. I think it’s become a way people compose these days. People will say “I’m going to base a song around this loop”. I think it’s perhaps a little short-sighted to do that. In my own case, I’d much rather sit down and write a song at a keyboard or a piano and then have everybody come in and actually play, not say: “Oh I know a great loop that will work with this composition”. It could be helpful for demo purposes, but the loops that I might have used in the past for writing have now become an everyday part of compositional life and it’s almost accepted that you can have a loop in there somewhere, certainly in modern pop. dD: Since it was a collaborative effort in “A Valid Path” [2004 electronica CD featuring groups like Shpongle, The Crystal Method and others], how did the guys you were working with record their drums?

AP: That was an exception in my career since everything was electronic. There wasn’t a drum kit in sight on that album. It was all programmed, but I’m not sure we resorted to loops that much. There were possibly musical loops but not so much in the way of drum loops. If there were drum loops, they were certainly not the foundation of what we recorded. dD: What about drum tracks recorded remotely?

AP: Internet recording is now part of the business, part of real life. Drummers like to have a permanent set-up in their own studio and send files knowing the sound of their drums is being exported in a way that they are



with. They can still get screwed up at the other end but at least they know the source is valid. I’ve done that on probably only one or two occasions ever. I’ve always felt the need to “be there” when drums are being recorded. But, that’s the way it is now, it’s just a fact of life that people essentially “phone in” their parts over the Internet.

dD: When you had just finished working with Steven Wilson [on Wilson’s latest solo CD, ‘The Raven That Refused to Sing’], there’s a video of you literally down on your hands and knees doing something with the drums. I assume that material was recorded the way you’ve already discussed, namely everybody in the studio playing at the same time.

AP: Yes, indeed. Steven’s album was the perfect example of how I feel it should be done: all the instruments going down together. Even in the old days, if there was a mistake or something somebody wasn’t happy with, you could edit or if they were on their own track you would punch them in. The success of the record is at least in part due to the wonderful coherence between the players and that is so often lost in modern recording. It’s the way it used to be, everybody played together – they went in and played until their job was done. Only solos and vocals would get added later. dD: We’ve discussed this several years ago, in the context of orchestral MIDI (VST) tracks, but now in terms of drum VSTs, can you hear the difference between those tracks and recorded acoustic drums?

AP: If you had asked me that question 10 years ago, I would have said that I’d always be able to spot programmed or sampled drums in a recording - but the science of drum sampling and recording has advanced. In terms of just the pure audio quality of sounds, you can’t tell anymore. A really good hi-hat can be sampled in various stages of openness or closedness, a snare can be hit hard or soft or a tom can be whacked hard or soft and so on. It’s the technical ability to record or sample a set of drums in a sophisticated way that now makes it indistinguishable. My question would be, ”Is a real drum performance better than an equally good sounding computer performance?” I still maintain that drums should be recorded “for real”. Okay, the technology exists to use MIDI for the performance, but the human content is much more valuable than getting it exactly in time or exactly “on the grid”. That’s where feel comes from. dD: What advice do you have for drummers in their relationship with producers when it comes to input or a “say” into the overall production of a song? AP: Thankfully, there are still drummers out there, rather than just people who program drum sounds. There’s nothing better than a

guy who can sit at a drum kit and really make a contribution, do the right fills and get the right feel. A drummer can change or turn the feel of a song around in milliseconds, whereas a drum programmer will have to press all the buttons, click lots of mouse boxes to make a change. Computers are still slower than humans. A human will say, “Oh, let me try this fill on the verse or let me try this fill on the chorus”, and I feel that is so much more a vibrant and an exciting way to work rather than clicking a mouse, deciding what loop works, what program works or what sounds work. There’s still something great about not only the sound of a drum kit but really hearing the talent of a great drummer behind that kit. dD: I assume that’s enhanced by having the drummer there as opposed to ‘phoning the performance in’ remotely as you put it earlier - there’s more of a dynamic back and forth. So it would help the drummer who wants that kind of production input to be physically there? AP: That’s right. Being there means using this wonderful form of communication called “talking”. This is sadly somewhat lost in computer terms. “Click this, click that” as opposed to “Hey, let’s talk about what works.


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Flashback: Parsons in the famed Abbey Road studios

Let’s talk about what kind of fills are suitable for this song”. That whole premise is tending to be lost by a lot of people in production these days. dD: Now that you have an electronic kit of your own [Yamaha DTX900 series kit], what prompted you to get it?

AP: It was purely a space consideration. I didn’t want to have a full-blown kit in my rehearsal area because it would have drowned everything else. I really like to rehearse at quite a sober, quiet level. Drummers have a habit of always wanting to hit pretty hard, so it’s a nice thing about having an electronic kit, even if he’s playing hell for leather, I can at least turn him down to a point where it doesn’t sound like he’s playing at an earth-shattering level. That was the main premise; it was just a rehearsal situation. The subject of an electronic kit has come up and I might ask Danny [Thompson, Alan’s drummer for live shows] to play an electronic kit at our next orchestral shows. The level of ‘real’ drums against the rather feeble sound of your average violin is so great that we would have to consider the separation issues. I think an electronic kit for an orchestral show solves a whole lot of problems. I see electronic kits as an occasional interim measure for recording. I’m sure that will change. I’m sure they will become amazing and will be able to emulate the sound of a real kit because technical 28

advances happen. Computers are getting more powerful and it’s all related to digital science. Having said that, I still love to experience the sound of an acoustic kit along with a great player.

dD: On the electronic drum side, we struggle with that very question: whether or not you can get the same kind of acoustic feel up on stage with an electronic kit versus an acoustic kit. AP: That’s a good question. I’m not sure I’ve really had enough experience with electronic kits to answer that. Certainly, in terms of the random timing a real drummer will come up with, one drummer will play behind the beat, another ahead. With an electronic kit played by a real drummer, at least you preserve that: the real human interaction.

I still have a problem when it’s programmed or looped, or the computer saying, ”Here’s where the beat should fall, so that’s where I’ll put it.” I still feel that’s the crux of what rock and roll really is; it all started with a drum kit, a big double bass that became an electric bass and an acoustic guitar that became an electric guitar. It’s really just about musical talent and the interaction between people. I think that’s so important. Anybody can create a perfect drum track on a grid by punching this button or that button but it’s not going to give you the same result as a real drummer playing with real feel and soul, playing his heart out.

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Nick Mason’s signature drumming was an essential part of every Pink Floyd album since 1965. Far more than a drummer, Mason wrote a number of Floyd songs and collaborated on some of their biggest hits. He spoke to digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz after wrapping up his first VST offering with Sonic Reality. 30

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Masons’ BFD snare line-up

digitalDrummer: Tell us a bit about how you got into drumming. Nick Mason: I got into drumming and had friends I played with when I was 13 or 14 and I played a tiny bit. Someone had given me brushes and I played on an African drum and I thought that was all rather cool. Then, we decided we’d start a band. None of us could actually play, but one of the guys had already bought a guitar and I didn’t want to be the bass player. I thought that was dreadful. So I went out and bought a drum kit. Then having got it, I decided to try to learn how to play it.

dD: What’s the Floyd song in which you feel the drumming and percussion really made the biggest contribution? NM: Probably Comfortably Numb, because the opening verses probably have fewer drum beats per bar than any other song I’ve ever played. I really like Set The Controls from Piper just because it’s played on wood mallets rather than sticks. Of course, the roto toms on Time from Dark Side have a certain role in that track.

dD: Drums were clearly a key part of Pink Floyd – not just a rhythmic tool, but an essential musical ingredient. Did you push for that creative role, or was it thrust upon you? NM: It happened naturally. One of the great things about being in that particular band is

dD: Do you think that current technology would have enabled you to do anything differently, had it been available then? NM: I don’t think Dark Side is the outcome of just having analogue technology. It’s imponderable really because it is possible that by having the ability to speed through elements of it, that one would miss doing certain things. The fact that something takes an afternoon

dD: When did you realise that this is what you were going to do for a living ... and how did you make it happen? NM: It just happened. I had no idea it was going to work. I actually left college with an understanding that I could go back after a year, but I never actually needed to. But I’m keeping that place open. You never know, it could all go wrong!

digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014

that everyone was just expected to do whatever they thought was right.

dD: Listening back to the tracks now, would you do anything differently? NM: When I listen to any of them, I always wish I’d done something differently. There’s no track where I’ve said to myself “That is perfect Nick. You are brilliant!” [laughs]


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means you have more time to think out how it should go. So, I don’t think one could just go “we could just go quicker”, something would have been lost in the process. But, in essence, from what was done 40 years ago, the technology has been trying to catch up to what we wanted to do and make it easier. That’s where we’re at now, really. Systems of overdubbing, systems of dropping in sound effects are much quicker now than they were back then.

dD: Let’s talk about your Sonic Reality BFD offering. What was it like doing the recordings? It must have been a far cry from your usual studio activities? NM: Yeah, definitely. Because we sort of worked our way fairly rapidly through everything. The issues were not about learning a new piece. It was very clear what the sound is that was looked for. So yeah, it was a very different experience.

dD: How did the other people in the project, like Alan Parsons and Dave Kerzner, contribute to ensuring that the samples had that distinctive Floyd sound? NM: It was terrific working with Alan again because he was a very good engineer then


and an even better engineer now. We’ve always shared the same sort of memories of the period and the time. I enjoyed it. I’ve rarely worked with engineers that I didn’t like. There’s always a sort of rapport, particularly with drummers, because it’s one of the few acoustic instruments left, so to some extent, it’s an opportunity for the engineer to shine. Dave knows what he’s after for his purposes making a Sonic Reality product out of it. I think it all went very well. Mission accomplished.

dD: I don’t suppose you have heard anyone else play your samples yet, but how do you think you’ll feel when you hear “your sound” coming out of someone else’s kit? NM: Fine. I’d be flattered. I’ve certainly sampled other drum sounds myself. Quite often, one mixes drums with other sounds which I think is good. It’s like having colours in a paint box.

dD: Besides the BFD project, are you exposed much to electronic percussion? I know you messed around with Simmons kits early on, so have you followed the progress of the gear? NM: Yes, initially I was quite involved in the Simmons SDX drums, you know sort of 20 years ago I guess, and I still have it. Well, in

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fact, it expired in a puff of smoke but actually we fired it up the other day to see if we could make it do anything. I also had a set of ddrums that were in some ways more practical, more usable. The length of time to load sounds from a floppy disc made the Simmons pretty unwieldy. Plus, it was really rather early days. dD: I gather you have done some stuff with Roland in the UK. What was that about? NM: I do have a Roland V-Drum kit and I think it’s a terrific thing. I don’t use it live, but it’s great for working things out and a bit of practice. I imagine a drummer could MIDI it up to a computer running this product in BFD and have a nice experience playing a virtual version of my kit, if that’s a sound that inspires them. dD: What’s your advice to our readers, many of whom are obsessed with electronic gear?

NM: It really is amazing what you can do with the current technology and sounds. They can offer inspiration and speed up your process of making music. But one still needs to be able to play their instrument and practice playing with others to get anywhere with it. The technology will almost do it for you, but your creativity is still required to make a difference.

dD: What’s your view of the future of electronic percussion – and the “threat” or “promise” of drummer replacement through samples and things like Apple Logic X’s automated drummer functions? NM: It’s certainly not a threat any more than the electric guitar is a threat to the acoustic guitar. They both have a place and both make it possible to do different things. There’s a reality to acoustic instruments that electrics still can’t quite recreate and vice versa. It’ll give a different experience, I suppose. But none of these instruments are threats. I remember everyone thinking the Mellotron was going to destroy the orchestra. But it doesn’t work that way. It’s just another option.

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Working with Nick Mason

Final touches: Kerzner, Parsons and Mason supervise the sample production

WHEN WE SET out to do a project like Nick Mason Drums or any similar type of product at Sonic Reality, I always do my best as producer to gather as many authentic elements as I can to capture an accurate and genuine character in the sound. If it’s possible to use the original engineer who recorded the drummer on a classic album, then I collaborate with them because they were the ones who were there and helped define the sound in the first place. Then there’s the equipment and acoustics of the studio to consider. It’s important to find a studio that will get the right sound and that it has the often very rare mixing console, mics and other recording equipment used on the original - even if it was done 40 years ago, such as on an album like Dark Side of the Moon. We were fortunate to find a place like State of the Ark studios in England, which happens to have the same equipment used on Dark Side, including a beautiful EMI TG12345 mixing desk and an array of rare vintage mics that Alan Parsons used in 1973. That combined with the original drummer and his particular vintage drums and it’s as real as it gets!

To capture the sound, we had Nick tune his kit and with Alan they dampened the snare and some of the toms to get that vintage ‘70s Floyd drum sound. Alan used Coles 4038 ribbon


mics as overheads, which gives a very warm top-end sound to the drums. Then, for directs, the less common vintage AKG D19 and D20 mics were used – as they had been at Abbey Road in the ‘70s. Alan also liked to use Neumann KM86 mics for things like hi-hats and other instruments.

We recorded some ambient room mics just to have it and other extra channels in BFD beyond what they would have used so we could offer more user flexibility. Back then, when they recorded Nick with Pink Floyd, they’d all be recording live in the same room, so that made ambient mics for just the drums impossible. That’s part of the reason the drum sound is generally very dry.

In the mix process, Nick and Alan preferred that some reverb was applied just to the toms and not the kick and snare. That gave it an interesting depth of an up-front dry sound and a big dramatic sound at the same time. These sorts of techniques are all possible to do with Nick Mason Drums for BFD since you have access to the individual mic channels recorded by Alan Parsons on Nick Mason’s awesome Ludwig Custom Black Kit. We even recorded some extra snares and tom flams to give it some additional flavour. Dave Kerzner, Sonic Reality

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You don’t have to go looking for digitalDrummer. Simply sign up at and we’ll email you each time a new edition goes live. And it’s totally free. So don’t wait until the magazine is archived here: read it as soon as it’s published. Just provide an email address and choose a password and you’ll never miss an issue.

Your definitive guide to e-drum gear

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How I use e-drums As the poster boy for KAT Percussion, drummer Antoine Fadavi represents the next generation of e-drummers.


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LIKE A LOT of drummers these days, I started out doing drum covers and posting them to my YouTube channel. In the beginning, playing along with my favorite pop bands was a great way to learn to play drums. But, as I progressed, I began to challenge myself to play more advanced songs in more progressive styles. As the drum parts got more intense, I realised I needed to develop better technique, become a better musician and, of course, play with other people. So, while I’m still doing covers, I’m also working on my hands and feet and looking for opportunities to play in a band. Finding people to play with is not so easy for a 14- year-old living in Paris. In the meantime, my practice pad and I have become very close friends.

I also love producing videos. I started Green Wave Records, my unofficial, independent production company, as a side project. Filming, editing, mixing and mastering are also skills that I am working every day to improve on. I think they are skills that are becoming part of every modern drummer’s tool kit. We’re way past the time where being a good drummer was just about hitting things. Through my connection with KAT electronic drums, I had the opportunity to attend the NAMM Show in Los Angeles last January. Meeting, watching and listening to some of the greatest drummers in the world was an incredible experience that inspired me to work even harder and set my goals even higher. Right now, my plan is to attend Berklee College of Music after high school. That’s only four years away!


I am currently playing a KAT KT3 drum kit. It’s awesome.

A good friend of mine introduced me to the people at KAT about a year ago. They liked my playing and some of the videos I had done and they invited me to help them road-test their electronic drums and promote them to young drummers. I am very lucky because working digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014

with KAT has been like a dream come true for me.

I’ve also played KAT’s KT2 drum kit and KTMP1 multipad and the Roland TD9-KX2 in the past. My first drum set was a Roland HD1.

I use Adobe Premiere Pro CC (Creative Cloud) for video editing, Pro Tools 10 and Adobe Audition CC for audio mixing and mastering and I use Superior Drummer 2.0 for drum sound expansion. I have GoPro Hero 3 and Canon Rebel T5i video cameras plus I’m able to borrow gear from friends and family when needed.

One other thing I’d like to mention is that I use hearing protection whenever I play or listen to music. Don’t get me wrong — I like loud music as much as anyone else, but listening to it can lead to headaches, hearing loss and other problems. So, along with my sticks and cameras, I always have my earplugs with me. I think everyone else should, too.

The e-drum advantage

I live in a very small apartment in Paris. I couldn’t have an acoustic drum set because it would be too big for our apartment and too loud for my neighbours. For a long time, electronic drums were the only way I could play drums at all.

E-drums gave me the chance to be a drummer and learn about drumming: rhythms, techniques, type of drums, different sounds. And they allowed me to begin making videos like some of the YouTube drummers who were my heroes.

Today, I also have an acoustic kit and I’m working to master it, as well. But even though I’m pretty comfortable with acoustic drums, I love electronic drums because I can just turn them on, launch my interface, access a lot of different sounds and play and record as fast as the electrons flow through the wires. If you think about it, all drummers used to start out on acoustic drums and get into electronic drums later but, for more and more drummers of my generation, electronic drums are coming first and acoustic drums second. This is a big, important change and I get to play a part in the revolution. How cool is that? 37

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Product review: Kontakt 5 packs by Drumdrops BRITISH SAMPLE PRODUCER Drumdrops is best known for its drum tracks and loops, but now the “purveyors of the finest live drum multi-tracks, stems, drum loops, drum samples and single hit kits” (according to the company schtick) has begun packaging its wares for edrummers, with two sample packs currently on offer for the Kontakt 5 engine. Drumdrops first released a 1970s Rogers Big R Dub Kit, and has followed it up with a 1963 Premier Outfits 54 pack.

Both require a full version of Kontakt – not just the free Player, so that might discourage a bunch of potential users.

I’m not a huge fan of the Kontakt engine, but I do like NI’s Studio Drummer, so I’ve stuck with Kontakt just for that. The Drumdrops packs are available by download only – the first one weighs in at a modest 1.2 GB; the second is much larger, at 2.5 GB.


The packs are easy to install – simply unzip them and ensure that you know where they’re saved so that you can access them with Kontakt.

And that’s the first challenge. Unfortunately, the kits can’t be loaded as a library, so you’ll have to use the host’s file tab to hunt for them. It’s a bit tedious and time-consuming when you first load the kits, but it soon becomes second nature.

The kits

The Rogers kit offers a fairly limited instrument range - a 24”x16” Rogers Big R bass, 14”x6.5” Ludwig Black Magic snare, 14”x5” Ludwig Black Acrolite snare, two Rogers Big R rack toms and a cannon-like 16”x16” 1963 Premier floor tom. The hats are Zildjian A Sweet 15” and there’s a Zildjian Custom A 17” crash. If you’re more dub kit-savvy than me, you’ll know not to look for a ride (seriously, a VST pack without a ride?).

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There are also some percussion bits – a 14� timbale, hi and lo bongos and a couple of electronic percussion pieces - a Boss PC-2 Percussion Synthesizer and a Tama Techstar TC-204.

Despite the significantly larger download, there are actually fewer kit pieces in the Premier kit. You’ll have to settle for just one snare in this offering – a 14�x5.5� Vintage Premier Royal Ace. The rest of the pieces are a 20�x16� Vintage 1963 Premier bass drum with a 12�x8� rack tom and a 16�x16� floor tom for the same kit.

The pies consist of 14� Zildjian New hats, a 22� Zildjian K Custom Medium Ride and two Zildjian crashes – an 18� K Dark Thin Crash and a 16� Zildjian Vintage Crash.

The interface

The Drumdrops interface consists of three tabs.

The Mixer tab is much like other Kontakt mixers where you control the volume of the individual drums. You can also choose the balance of overhead and room mics and apply various reverbs. The Kit tab contains a realistic kit image, and the ability to audition drums and cymbals by clicking on them – much more useful than NI’s inbuilt mini-keyboard. Here, you can also tune all the instruments and select velocity curves. The Settings tab could really be called the MIDI tab, because this panel allows you to

select MIDI maps and also to change notes and articulations, with an intuitive “learnâ€? function. And it’s worth noting that there are preset maps for most of the popular e-drum options - Yamaha DTX-900, 2box and Roland as well as Addictive Drums, Superior Drummer, SSD and BFD. And the MIDI mapping was spot-on for the options I tried – including very accurate hi-hat variations (open, Âź, 1â „2, ž and closed steps for bow and edge as well as open and closed splash) and cymbal chokes. But if you’re more interested in playing than mixing, much of the work has been done for you in the range of presets, accessed very simply.

Both kits have 14 presets, with vastly different sounds and feels and wonderful names like Single Malt and Bitches Brew. So despite the limited kit pieces, these FX enhancements in effect deliver 14 additional kits to each pack – besides the almost infinite possibilities if you’d like to get down and dirty and start messing with the various effects, buses and modulation options.

The Sounds

My first encounter was with the Dub Kit and while I recognised the quality of the samples, the clarity and the depth of the presets, I was not taken with the sounds. But Dub’s not my genre, and I was too wrapped up in the absence of a ride to really give the VST pack much of a chance.

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The classic ‘60s kit was a different kettle of fish. I was impressed with every kit piece and the overall kit, and could certainly use many of the presets in a covers band environment.

My one regret is that there aren’t more kit pieces, but I did discover a work-around. All that’s needed is to open a second instance of Drumdrops in Kontakt (I saved the kit with a new name), associate the toms with MIDI notes matching your additional triggers and then retune the toms in the Kit pane. I tuned two toms down a few steps to create a full harmonic complement of four. Just remember to solo the toms on the second set or you’ll end up with duplicate hits on all your other drums and cymbals. If that sounds too much like hard work, then just remind yourself of what Ringo achieved with a four-piece kit.

Overall, the packs are both very playable and very listenable – and one can choose to run with the presets or dig a lot deeper and unleash some creativity. The packs have a ‘round robin’ option and various randomisation settings to avoid machine-gunning and robotlike sticking.

Interestingly, despite Drumdrops’ loop heritage, no loops are provided with either pack. It’s not something I miss, but some buyers might be disappointed by their absence.

Bottom Line

Drumdrops has crafted some really useful samples and a batch of terrific and varied presets in two small packs.

The packs are moderately priced (£40 for the Dub Kit and £35 for the vintage Premier kit), but there are discounts if you buy more than one pack at a time and free samples with some purchases. At the time of writing, for example, Drumdrops was offering 20% off for anyone who simply opened a free account. And here’s another tip. If you’re not a Kontakt fan, consider the Multi-velocity Packs, which are around a third of the price and can be loaded into some DAWs.

In short, these two compact kit packs provide lots of tone and colour for some skilfully produced samples. They play well, sound great, offer tons of tweakability and won’t break the bank.

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Tech-savvy teaching digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


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For those drummers supplementing their income through teaching, technology can be a valuable investment, according to Joe Nebistinsky. TODAY WE HAVE technologies that were not even dreamt of a few years ago. Most of today’s good teachers use technology in some way. Outstanding teachers stay up to date with – and benefit from - these important tools.

When we hear the term technology, many people think of just computers. Important as computers are, a number of other technologies also need to be considered. Some are cheap and others are more expensive. Also, some are very simple to use while others have a longer learning curve. Many are worth your investment in time and resources.

Technology Choices

Everyone is familiar with the metronome. Today’s metronomes are much more sophisticated than anything in the past. You should consider one of many choices available that can do far more than just keep time. There is a vast choice, many price points and several online and app options as well. Students should also be required to purchase one of these great practice tools. Many teachers and students have discovered the Roland Rhythm Coach. This electronic practice pad is much more than a pad with a built-in metronome. It features several useful “coach modes” that help you see your progress. Using the Rhythm Coach – and similar functions now found in most modules enhances the practising experience.

The ability to record yourself and your students is very helpful. There are several options including using a computer and digital audio software, built-in module recording, multitrack digital recorders, or a stand-alone CD recorder. Even cellphones can make good quality recordings. When using these options, you can change the tempo or the key of a song independently, making accompaniment possibilities endless. Making practice loops is also easy. You can use recordings in many ways, including:


• Have a student make a recording at home. Then both of you can critique it together.

• Have a student record a part of a duet. Have them play the second part “live” at the lesson.

• Record yourself playing something for the student to use as a reference at home. • Have a “mock” recording session at a lesson.

• Get a good recording for the student to share with the parents and family. • You can even keep an audio record of progress on a particular piece. The possibilities are endless!

The next step in recording is video. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I think a video is worth even more. Relatively inexpensive cameras are available and easy to use. Techniques for using video are similar to audio recording: • Make a video of a student performing at a lesson. When you show the video to the student, you won’t have to say much. The student will be saying things like “I didn’t realise that I had my hand turned like that when I went to the ride cymbal.” They would make observations about their technique or their musicianship. The key is that they will be making the observations. This is very effective and quite impressive. Having the student looking at and critiquing their own playing also helps them become a better listener and observer. • Send the student home with a recording made at a lesson and have them critique it at home. • Make a “video portfolio” of the student’s playing in different styles.

My set-up includes a camera, a tripod and a monitor. If needed, I can edit on my computer.

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We have many more media resources available than ever before. Because there is so much out there, we need to be selective about what we get and what we have our student invest in. Read the reviews and make good choices. The number and quality of online resources is also impressive. But because not everything on the web is good, I caution my students about the sources they use. Be sure to use and recommend only quality sources.

Other considerations when planning your budget should include getting good mics, stands, and acoustical treatment for your room. Invest in your teaching studio. Just as your students need good instruments, you should consider putting some money into upgrading your technology situation.

Why do this?

We live in a tech-savvy world. Students are familiar with using technology for just about everything. Using it in your Other items that are sometimes Apps like Drumspeed teaching studio just makes sense. an afterthought are high-quality monitor progress The rewards of your investment speakers and headphones. Sound are beneficial to you and your students: is our business, so these things are essential for good quality listening. Isolation headphones are a great aid to practising. Several companies make these headphones that reduce the overall sound coming into your ears. They are great for playing along with recorded music at safe sound levels. They have excellent sound, good isolation, and they are not too expensive. Parents like them because there is no loud music coming out of speakers and the volume in the headphones themselves does not have to be dangerously loud. Using them is a good way to help protect our hearing.

MP3 players and smartphones will save you lots of time in every lesson. You no longer need to look for that one CD! All of your tracks are at your fingertips. Make play lists by groups so that you can find what you need fast.

Teachers often write exercises for students to use when working on particular concepts. Having custom accompaniments to go with these exercises works great. They motivate students to practise. GarageBand and Band in a Box are the two of the easiest and fastest ways to make your own accompaniments. These computer programs help you to create music to practise with. Make an accompaniment and share it with your students to practise with at home. Having notation software is also useful. Plan to spend some time learning how these programs work. Whichever notation program you choose, consider your time learning it as an investment. digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014

• It sets you apart from other teachers.

• Using technology makes teaching and learning innovative and fun. It helps make routine practising interesting. • Students will advance more quickly because they are motivated.

• It will make you more successful in your teaching.

Other suggestions

Find people who know more than you. Use these people as resources. Other teachers, retailers and manufacturers can be very helpful in making equipment choices and education. Check out Internet sources, and consider taking some classes. Many organisations and colleges offer classes on music technology. Look at your own situation and recognise the value of staying current. You will find that using technology is a valuable tool for helping your students improve, while also making your teaching studio more successful. Percussionist Joe Nebistinsky is a member of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, the Technology Institute for Music Education, the Jazz Education Network and the Professional Drum Teachers Guild.


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Thinking inside the box Take one of the oldest percussion instruments, add some ingenuity – and a few piezos – and, if you’re Anders Grönlund, you end up with an e-cajon. 44

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The positioning of the piezos (above) and, in true hybrid style, the mic placement (above)

WHEN AFRICAN SLAVES were brought to South America, they were not allowed to play drums. They started to use simple wooden boxes and shipping crates as substitutes. The Cajon (from the Spanish caja or box) was born. My project started with a DIY cajon kit from Meinl. It came with excellent instructions.

Playing on the cajon “as is” is actually real fun! My band, Powerhell, is currently rehearsing for an acoustic performance, and my new cajon was perfect for this gig. However, as an e-drummer, I wanted to add the e-dimension to my new cajon – and do it without sacrificing the acoustic potential. So I have added a couple of piezo sensors to the cajon besides the already added Shure SM-58 microphone.

Some online research revealed a 2006 post on about adding piezos to a cajon, but there was no indication of how it turned out, especially because of the risk of crosstalk, since multiple piezos would be mounted on the same surface. I decided to use four sensors in my solution. Two of these sensors were bought from, but I am guessing any piezo sensors in the 3,000-5,000 Hz range would work. I also bought a couple more from

digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014

So, how and where should the piezo be mounted inside the cajon? The previous pioneer had set his in the upper corners (about 4 cm from top/side) for the snare sound and hihat and in the middle for the kick. I also added a fourth sensor on the side for cymbal/effects sound. Some soldering of the cables with heatshrink tube, some double-sided tape to mount the piezos, some hot glue to fix the cables and finally some drilling for the connectors and it was ready.

The old post described his efforts as “crosstalk hell”, which I assume resulted from traditional head and rim stereo connections. For my instrument, the key to overcoming this was the use of a MegaDRUM drum brain. To handle the crosstalk, all sensors were placed in the same crosstalk group and the crosstalk suppression function value set to 7. Some tweaking of the high/low levels/threshold of the sensors was necessary, but otherwise near-default values were used. The configuration will be posted on the MegaDRUM library of preset configurations for commonly used pads and cymbals. I have the MegaDRUM triggering Addictive Drums on a Windows 8.1-based Microsoft Surface Pro computer. It also worked well with a Roland TD-6V module. And the results … well, click here to see for yourself!


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This month, we head over to Fort Riley, Kansas, to check out Robert Alaniz and his monster.

The kit: Roland TD-30 KV with additions Drum pads: 3 x PD-128S-BC (snare and toms) 2 x PD-108-BC (rack toms) 3 x CowPaddy e-cowbells KD-140-BC (kick) Cymbals: VH-13-MG hi-hat, CY-15R-MG ride and 5 x CY-14C-MG crashes plus 3 modified Rock Band cymbals Modules: 2 x TD-30 Rack: MDS-25 with a Gibraltar 40” curved tube in the front Hardware: Trick Pro 1-V Bigfoot double pedals, DW 9500TB hi-hat stand and a Roc-N-Soc drum throne


Robert’s story: I am about to retire from the Army after 20 years and have been drumming for about three years. Growing up, a buddy of mine had a small acoustic kit which I used to play on every once and a while. I grew up in Corpus Christi, TX and was surrounded and influenced by music. My dad always went to all the concerts and took me with him. I’ve seen so many bands in my time and always wanted to be behind the big kits that I’ve seen. I finally had saved up enough with all my army deployments to splurge on a kit that wouldn’t take up a lot of room or bother the neighbours.



your kit

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

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Robert (right), some views of toms galore and his TD-60 stack (below).

digitalDRUMMER, MAY 2014


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digitalDrummer may 2014  

The magazine for electronic drumming.

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