digitalDrummer February 2011

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Edition 5


The global electronic drumming e-zine


E-cymbals go hi-tech PRODUCTS New gear at NAMM DRUMSTICKS Which are best for e-drums? TWEAKING GUIDE Your onboard studio






F O C US : e - dr u m s in wor s h i p

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hart full page

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Theglobalelectronicdrumminge-zine Edition 5

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February 2011

GEAR New at NAMM New acoustic/electric cymbals, hybrid heads and multipads were among the debuts at the leading music expo.

E-drumming for Him Psalm 50 instructs us to “Praise Him with loud cymbals. Praise Him with crashing cymbals.” Allan Leibowitz explores the rise of e-drumming in churches.

Stick with it Drumsticks represent the ultimate – and intimate - interface between player and instrument. We sample some of the current offerings.

How silent are e-cymbals? How much noise annoys an e-drummer? Scott Holder set out to solve the sonic conundrum.



Lockett in


Jooss triggering

Pete Lockett’s ethnic percussion has been heard on the last five James Bond movies, but the British drummer is equally comfortable behind a kit. When you think about Irish folk music, you don’t necessarily see much scope for electronic percussion. Unless, of course, you’re Frank Jooss of Fiddler’s Green.


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E-drums rule in Europe Michael Schack looks at how e-drums are shaping the music scene on his home continent.

vst Big names go virtual Two major cymbal makers have turned their hands to e-cymbal sample packs and we put them through their paces.

TweakiNG Your onboard studio The modern drum module offers a range of tools to shape the sounds which e-drummers can produce.



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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 Hercules Robinson Michael Schack Cover Photo Zildjian Gen16 Design and layout ‘talking business’ 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.

It’s an interesting time for e-cymbals. When we started planning this edition, we had no idea iconic acoustic cymbal maker Zildjian was poised to enter the market with electronic cymbals. We were aware of its VST offering and include a full review in this issue. We were also aware of further sound vaults about to be released, but the new triggering device was a well-kept secret. We hope to be able to test the real thing in the months ahead and include our findings in the next issue of digitalDrummer. This month, besides the VST review, we also start a series of e-cymbal side-by-side comparisons, thanks to Scott Holder. Scott’s home resembled the cymbal department of a retail store as he assembled most of the current offerings for a range of tests. We kick off with comparisons of stick noise – an important factor for anyone buying egear for silent practice. Sticks also feature in another exhaustive head-to-head review in this issue. We tested a wide range of sticks, looking at how well they were matched, their unique attributes and their “playability”. Drumsticks are, of course, an intensely personal choice, and the review was also not helped by the inconsistency of sizing in the market. One thing’s certain; if you switch brands, make sure you actually try before you buy. We found an enormous difference between the lengths and weights of sticks labeled “A7”, not to mention the confusion unleashed by some of the other naming practices, including the use of player names of genre labels like “jazz”. Our featured artists this month are very different. Pete Lockett is known for his diversity, from Bond movies to Ronan Keating and Sinead O’Connor. But he’s also very active in e-drumming and has some strong views. Frank Jooss, meanwhile, is the drummer for German cult band Fiddler’s Green, and uses external triggers to augment his acoustics. Also a colourful figure, he provides a different perspective on the role of electronics. Michael Schack, who was profiled last year, makes his debut as a columnist this month, with a look at the Euro-scene. Always enthusiastic when he’s discussing e-drums, Schack paints a glowing picture of their future on his home continent. The international flavour of this edition is enhanced by our story about the second international e-drum video collaboration, a project that brought together amateur e-drummers around the world for just under 10 minutes of youtube glory. As a member of that group, I have to share the experience – and hopefully some readers will be inspired to participate in the next one. I’d like to see even more nations represented as well as a broader range of e-percussion instruments. And, on that note, it’s on with the show. One, two, three, four ...

Allan Leibowitz


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--contributors-Cast and crew

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 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 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 Pearl ePro Live kit. Collins is our inhouse trainer, providing notation and MIDI instruction.

PHILIPPE DECUYPER Philippe Decuyper, a.k.a. PFozz, is the founder of the Edrum For Free website. He has consulted to Toontrack since 2005, specialising in electronic drums, and is also the founder of eaReckon, a small independent audio software company which launched in 2009 and recently debuted its BIoXpander MIDI solution. PFozz answers readers’ DIY questions in each edition.

SCOTT HOLDER Scott Holder is a former intelligence officer who now works in IT for the US Department of Transportation. Nine years of organ lessons and two of cello in childhood didn’t prepare him for the world of electronic drumming 30 years later. In the past four years, Scott has performed on and helped produce an art rock CD, several Nightwish and Porcupine Tree covers and is currently working on a previously unfinished (and unheard) song by the Alan Parsons Project.

HERCULES ROBINSON Camera-shy Hercules is one of the returnees to drumming after a long layoff and cites the quality of e-drums today as the main reason behind his rekindled passion. A qualified recording engineer whose day job is as an IT Architect, Herc plays a TDW-20 kit and is currently working on a modern jazz CD as both drummer and engineer.

MICHAEL SCHACK Michael Schack is a drummer/producer, playing both acoustic and electronic drums. An international Roland V-Drums demonstrator/clinician, Michael plays with V-Topia, a duo with Swedish synth and rhymes wizz David Ahlund, accompanies Ozark Henry, and recently released his first album as part of SquarElectric. digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011


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You want to gig

with that? Even broad-minded musicians are suspicious of e-drums when it comes to gigging. So how can we convince the e-sceptics? Here are some thoughts from industry professionals.

I think to give it a fair chance, it’s important that both the drummer and the rest of the band experience playing together in a good electronic environment. It would be a good introduction to understand the full potential of what using an electronic kit can bring to a band, the audience, and you as a drummer. It is not black and white. Think of electric and acoustic guitars and what is needed in the big picture of doing a gig equipment-wise: to be heard and to get access to sounds, it’s a bit the same. Mal Green, Greensound Music While you will still have a little bit of “electronic” sound to your drums (even if you are using the best of modules), I’ve always found it best to point out 6

the added benefit of using an e-kit: sound control at the source, quick and easy load-in/tear-down, and most importantly, not only do you have the ability to produce sounds of today’s modern music (and some great ‘80s), but you aren’t limited to just a drum kit, you have a full array of percussion, voice and sound effects right at your finger tips. Getting your electronic drums to sound like a “real” kit can be the most difficult aspect. I always “upgrade” my modules with the V Expressions configurations. That is something you can do yourself, but those guys have taken the time to tweak the module sounds and arrange kits that will save you a TON of time. Brian Hope, Hope Drums

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Electronic kits represent a more cost-effective solution than using multiple microphones on an acoustic kit with the necessary outboard gear to achieve the same sound quality. Other advantages include sound variation through multiple drum sets at the touch of a button, control over stage volume, and portability, not the least of which is important to any gigging musician. Peter Hart, Hart Dynamics I can sum it up in three words: “controlling the volume”. Large or small venues, that pretty much sums it up! Billy Blast, drum retailer You can change sound and tones depending on song, you can control the volume and overall intensity, you will always have the best possible sound. With correct monitoring – in-ear, for example - the fellow musicians will hear you more accurately and, as a result, play better. E-drums have lower volume on stage and better sound out front. They take up less space and weigh less. Be sure to use a system that delivers a natural sound of superb quality with a fast response time and great dynamics - that is DrumIt Five. It’s unsurpassed and also

allows ability to edit and upload sounds recorded by the band. Bengt Lilja, 2Box Acoustic drums are not better than electronic drums - or vice versa. I believe that e-drums are still relatively new to the music scene and will be better accepted once eyes are closed and ears are open. It seems to me that someday we will see more and more e-drums sharing the stage with bands all over the world. Johnny Rabb, musician, clinician, stickmaker It’s all in the presentation! Consider designing the sounds and levels on a PA before the band auditions your e-drums. Make it fit your situation. Then, enable a consistent set-up for monitoring that every band member can agree on. Always have redundancy (a back-up plan) on hand. Chris Blood, V Expressions Ltd They sound totally amazing and girls love ‘em (but then, girls love drummers anyway!). Al Adinolfi, Boom Theory

Only one company has the most advanced and powerful drum and percussion controllers. And we’ve been doing it since 1985.







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New at NAMM A number of new products were launched at one of the music industry’s biggest events, the NAMM dealer conference in Anaheim, California. digitalDrummer wraps up some of the gear announcements.

THE BIG BUZZ prior to NAMM was Zildjian’s entry into the electronic market with its Gen16 AE (Acoustic Electric) Cymbal. According to Zildjian, the AE Cymbal is not a sample trigger device. “Instead, it’s an actual cymbal, and plays like one, but at reduced volume levels, utilising a unique dual microphone and DSP (digital sound processing) engine to amplify and model the cymbal’s output.” “One of the most important things for us in creating the AE Cymbal was that it had to feel and play like a real cymbal,” says Paul Francis, Zildjian’s director of R&D. “Most of what’s currently available for drummers are rubberised, cymbal-shaped trigger pads, and they typically lack the feel and responsiveness of a real cymbal. For us at Zildjian, we’ve always been about the real feel.” The original concept for a low-volume acoustic


cymbal was proposed by Korg, which came up with the basic perforation pattern. Zildjian adapted that design and also developed an alloy formula “that could deliver the feel, sound and durability we needed, and could be manufactured in a wide range of sizes and shapes”. The cymbals are not triggers that plug into a module, but rather amplified low-noise cymbals that plug into a five-channel controller, and then into an amp or PA. The product will go on sale in about a month, and will be offered in three-cymbal (hi-hat, ride and crash) bundles with additional crash and splash cymbals offered separately. There’s no information yet on pricing. Those who heard the AEs at NAMM were impressed with both their acoustic tones and their electronic output.

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Alesis’ new PerformancePad Pro and PercPad (top row) and the inHEAD hybrid drum head (below).

Alesis used the show to unveil two new multi-pad offerings. The higher-end PerformancePad Pro is an eight-pad multi-percussion instrument with over 500 sounds and a three-part sequencer which can create loops and sequences. Besides the eight velocity-sensitive drum pads, the unit also has kick and hi-hat inputs. The sequencing engine has been adopted from Alesis’ drum machines range and allows users to programme drum, percussion and accompaniment parts for creating complete tracks or playing along with loops. Although not quite in the specification range of the Yamaha DTX-M12 or the Roland SPD-30, the Pro should arouse some interest, not least because of its anticipated street price of around $300. With a price tag of $200, but expected to sell for half of that, the new PercPad has four velocity-sensitive pads, a kick input and inbuilt sounds. The innovative new instrument is very compact, simple and even functions as a stand-alone “kit”. Alternatively, it can connect via MIDI to a sound module or software on Mac or PC. Aquarian Drumheads and Miditronix released the inHEAD acoustic/electronic hybrid drumhead at NAMM, claiming to deliver “great sounding acoustic drums and the power and the control that comes with triggering electronic drum sound modules”. The heads are fitted with FSR sensors and connect to a dedicated control box, also developed by the company behind DrumKat. The inBOX is designed to attach to the shell of an acoustic drum to connect digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011

the inHEAD via a quarter-inch output jack to a drum module. digitalDrummer’s scout on the NAMM floor was extremely impressed with inHEAD’s triggering sensitivity as well as the acoustic performance of the Aquarian head. The inBOX also has an input for another trigger, the rimSHOT. The FSR trigger attaches to the rim to provide for head and rim triggering. Miditronix also flagged its hotspot bass drum sensor that attaches to the acoustic head of the bass drum for “accurate triggering while still maintaining the original sound and feel of the acoustic drum head”. Like the inHEAD, the hotSPOT attaches to the inBOX to connect to the outside world. The heads will be sold in all common head sizes and pricing will be announced soon. 9

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Roland’s updated TD-9KX2 kit features the new KD-9 kick pedal (above). Below: 2box’s module. Roland used NAMM to debut updates to its lowerend TD-4 and mid-range TD-9 kits. The TD-9 module upgrade provides over 30 new sounds and additional kits, taking the tally to 99. It also adds the ability to play MP3 files via USB flash media. The upgrade should be available to existing TD-9 customers loaded onto a USB stick but details were not available as we went to press. Other enhancements include the launch of a new bass drum trigger, the KD-9. This unit replaces the KD-8’s rubber playing surface with “a cloth-design bass drum head and provides extremely accurate triggering with a natural response and feel”. The old CY-8 cymbals are replaced in the new TD-9 kits with a new CY-13R three-way ride and CY-12C crash cymbals which Roland says “offer a more natural swinging motion and playing feel”. The allmesh TD-9KX2 kit also gains a VH-11 standmounted hi-hat instead of the old CY-5/FD-8 combo. The kit undergoes a $200 price hike to cover the upgraded features in the US, but in markets like Australia, the new kits are actually cheaper than their predecessors, thanks to exchange rate improvements. Meanwhile, new player 2box was absent from NAMM, but it has made a number of recent announcements, including the release of new sound patches. Among the new offerings is the Pete 10

Lockett Professional Series Percussion Instruments, a range of percussion sounds from congas to cajons. The free sample downloads also include new walnut kits, based on a vintage Gretsch kit with 12”, 13”, 15” and 16” floor tom, all with Ambassador heads and tuned in the typical Gretsch character. The sounds are recorded in two versions - dry and with a little room ambience, and there are also brushes samples. The new patches come hot on the heels of 2box’s decision to sell its DRUMIT 5 module as a standalone. Until now available only as part of a kit, the module packs a generous 4GB internal memory, allowing users to load their own multi-sampled sounds from .wav, .aiff or .rex files.

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e-drumming for HIM

Psalm 150 instructs us to “Praise Him with loud cymbals. Praise Him with crashing cymbals.” Unfortunately, the good book doesn’t specify whether that should be with hand-hammered acoustic cymbals or new-age e-cymbals, but it does define a role for percussion in worship. Allan Leibowitz explores the rise of e-drumming in churches.. 12

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FROM TABERNACLE CHOIRS to gospel music and phenomena like Hillsong, music is increasingly being used as part of Christian worship, and churches are embracing live bands as part of their services. In a recent article on drums and worship, worship leader and drummer Chris Tussing observed that until as recently as the mid-1980s, the traditional church service “was not exactly considered the proper environment for drums in the ‘combo’ sense, and … even the mention of bringing a drum set into the sanctuary of the local church was a shocker for most regular members or attendees”. Things have moved on, he says, and there is a growing movement within the Body of Christ to expand the musical boundaries to more contemporary music in the regular weekly services. “Many churches and fellowships are finding this to be a relevant and effective way to make the ‘seekers’ of our current generation feel more ‘at home’, and to be a very effective tool of outreach,” he says. Tussing says many churches still shun popular music, and he continues to wage a campaign “to help to dispel some of those fears, to seek first an attitude of love and willingness to look to others’ interests as more important than my own … and to encourage others to find the joy of lifting up our Creator with one of the MANY gifts and tools He provides us with”. So, while drums are increasingly finding their way into places of worship, their use is not without challenges. In his book The Art of Worship: A Musician’s Guide to Leading Modern Worship, Greg Scheer, minister of worship at Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids and music associate at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, notes that the most common problem worship leaders encounter with the drums is that they often overwhelm the rest of the team’s playing. “Sometimes, this is a matter of the drummer playing too loudly or too much, but more often it is simply the acoustics of the room,” he explains.

as their acoustic counterparts. Unlike acoustic drums, the only sound they produce is electronic. Therefore, there is no bleed-through to other mics, and the sound operator can adjust the electronic drum volume to match the room. You can even choose from a variety of drum set sounds, such as jazz, rock, or hip hop.” Danny Snook, a director of worship-throughpercussion group, also sees the ability to control stage volume as the main reason churches have gone to digital sets. “The first solution was to put the drummer in a plexiglass box,” he says. “I hate playing in a box especially when the church won’t put out any money on a decent monitor system, so I quit playing traps at church altogether and only play percussion. “The church that I have recently started to attend not only has the drummer in a box but the percussionist with his congas, timbales and bongos is also in a plexi enclosure (I probably won’t be playing here either). Most drummers have brought this on themselves because they never learned how to play quieter with dynamics or they are just heavy-handed and refuse to. “Many other drummers refuse to play in those hot, stuffy enclosures as well, so the churches went alldigital to control levels,” he says. Derek Senestraro, a worship drummer and sales engineer at Sweetwater, estimates that his company sells about 10 electronic kits for each acoustic kit in the church market, although he admits Sweetwater is not big on acoustics.

Scheer advocates electronic drums as one solution to the sonic challenge, pointing out that many churches have opted to use electronic, rather than acoustic drums. “These digital sets are convincing reproductions of the real thing, featuring touchsensitive trigger pads that are played the same way digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011


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The decision to buy e-drums is usually made by church leaders, but Senestraro says he always tries to have a conversation with the drummer. “They have to be on board and know what they are getting into - the pluses and minuses,” he says. “Sometimes, it is difficult to get to the drummer,” he explains. “I’m usually speaking to the worship pastor or the sound guy or a council/elder-type person. But you really need to talk to the drummer directly. It is always best to start there. ”There are so many great advantages to working with electronics in a church environment (volume control being the most obvious), but it allows the drummer to get into all kinds of other things, like loops, triggering, etc.”

becoming a common paradigm in the mid-1990s. Whereas these instruments could easily be brought into churches, the church buildings themselves were not so easy to adapt. Designed acoustically for choirs and organ, with primarily reflective surfaces and minimal sound reinforcement, acoustic drums are difficult to manage in most churches. Roland’s TD-7K kit was the first instrument that gave churches the opportunity to have realistic drum sounds and complete control of the volume,” he says.

The worship market is also important for Hart Dynamics, and founder Peter Hart says his products are appealing because they are “designed to retain the feel and characteristics of acoustic instruments while also maintaining Roland is currently volume control”. Hart’s Sweetwater’s top seller, electronic drums come according to Senestraro, but equipped with “quiet woven the tough economic climate mesh heads that are barely saw growth in lower-cost audible when struck” while options like Alesis. The retailer has the “ECymbal II series also seen some uptake of Pearl’s cymbals are designed to new ePro Live hybrids. eliminate resonance and acoustic volume while maintaining the The major drum companies take the aesthetics of real bronze worship market seriously. cymbals”, he says, adding Both Roland and Yamaha that Hart’s instruments are have dedicated teams for the compatible with a variety of worship market. Roland popular modules and Corporation US market computer software (accessed development manager Corey through peripheral interface), Churches took to the TD-7K drum kit. Fournier says his company which feature audio outputs has created numerous resources that can be connected to a monitor system or played specifically relating to the use of electronic over house speakers and adjusted for optimal percussion in music ministry. It sponsors regional volume. worship music seminars to which it sends Roland staff to offer hands-on training and classes. According to Fournier, “churches were early adopters of electronic percussion kits and have continued to be the single largest customer group of these instruments industry- wide - an industry that didn’t even exist prior to the TD-7K (drum kit)”. He cites Roland’s first kit as “an instant benefit to hundreds of American churches who were at the same time beginning to adopt more modern forms of ‘rock’ music into their worship styles”. “Praise bands with drums, electric guitars and bass, multiple vocalists and electronic keyboards were 14

For Roland, the worship market is dominated by higher-end gear, with many churches gravitating towards the TD-12 and TD-20 kits, says Fournier. “There are also a number of churches who utilise Roland’s Handsonic, SPD-S and Octapad products. These are often used by percussionists to add additional sounds, or incorporated into an acoustic drum kit,” he adds. “The feedback is overwhelmingly positive,” he says. “The congregation likes electronic drums because everything is easier to hear, the band likes them because each instrument now has more definition, and sound techs like them because they’re easy to

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Scheer, meanwhile, notes that the introduction of e-drums is not always plain sailing. “Not all drummers are happy about replacing their drum sets with drum samples. They claim that electronic drum sets lack the feel and dynamics of an acoustic drum set, and that the sound of the cymbals is especially poor. Some compromise by mixing electronic drums with real cymbals, but many drummers want nothing to do with electronic drums at all.” Fournier acknowledges that some drummers will fight against electronics because they are used to the sounds and feel of playing on an acoustic kit. “But, a lot of them change their opinion as they get experience with the VDrums, and also as they become aware of how much better they sound playing electronic drums in their church environment. Plus, the V-Drums technology keeps improving and drummers are usually impressed by how ‘real’feeling, -sounding and -looking the kits have Carl Albrecht has used many digital drum systems. become.” What do players really think? To find out, we spoke to some leading US worship drummers. Carl Albrecht cautions that while digital drum technology is much better now than it has ever been, “it’s still different than real acoustic drums”. “A player still has to adjust to the nuances of a digital kit,” he explains. Albrecht has used many of the digital drum systems that are out there “from Roland, to Alesis to ddrums and Yamaha”, his current instrument of choice. “Their new DTX series is a quantum leap in digital drums, really! It’s the first time I’ve used an electronic kit right out of the box without a lot of tweaking ... and the feel is amazing.” Albrecht finds e-drums excellent when combined with choirs and orchestras in ‘traditional worship situations’. ”The drummer and engineer would have complete control of volume and mix challenges.” However, in more modern worship rock bands, he favours acoustic kits, but adds that “a digital kit would work great as long as it’s incorporated properly”. “In either setting, the trick is to be sure the ‘house digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011

PA’ can reproduce the great sounds that the kit can produce. Modern sampling is excellent in the new digital kits. If your sound system doesn’t cover the room well and its frequency ranges are limited, a digital kit won’t work well. It might sound good in your headphones or monitors, but the room mix will be lacking. This is where churches fail with digital drums. So, first and foremost, I always tell drummers and techs that they need to be sure the PA can handle the requirements of reproducing excellent sound.” For worship drummer Dave Owens, e-drums are not yet mainstream. Only a couple of the many churches at which he plays use electronic drums. Like Fournier, he recognises that most churches are not designed for good acoustics. Electronic drums “give the drummer the ability to hit the drums harder (many drummers today do not have the ability to play softly) and get sounds that are bigger without massive volume coming off the platform”. “The other big advantage is many churches put the drummer behind plexiglass or in a box to isolate the sound. This really messes with the ability to feel a 15


mix. If the drummer is able to spend time playing the kit and fine-tuning to his/her preference, hear it monitored well and feel some air, they generally like it.”

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part of the communal worship. The other problem with plexiglass is it makes the drums louder behind the glass. So, unless you have a really good monitor system, the drummer is going to have a hard time playing musically because all they can hear is their drums.” Owens sees the biggest disadvantage to be that some drummers “are not familiar with electronic drums at all and it does take a small bit of adjusting”. He is a Roland user and believes the VDrums “seem to be the easiest for most drummers to just sit down and play on comfortably”. Owens finds that most congregations “are fine with (e-drums) if the sound guys are good”. As for other musicians, “the biggest problem … is being able to hear the drums. Again, it is all about sound reinforcement. If they can’t hear them, most people won’t like them.” The drummer believes that electronic drums can play a vital role in a church that has volume issues. “As a drummer, I am in control of the dynamic curve of a song and worship set and the V-Drums are expressive enough to give me that control. There are times when acoustic drums are simply too loud.” The bottom line: “I will always lean towards acoustic drums because that is my main instrument, but there are many sonic situations where V-Drums solve a lot of problems and seem to be a better choice.” Fellow Roland musician Cash McCloy says it is hard to imagine playing worship without his TD-20 kit. “The advantages are that in my church (sanctuary) acoustic environment, we can get a wonderful drum sound while allowing maximum control over the mix commensurate with the acoustics of the room. Simply put, an acoustic kit would be, and has been, a complete disaster - a literal nightmare and unbelievably distracting and unpleasant,” he points out. McCloy was one of the early adopters of the TD-7 kit. “I recall the overwhelming positive response I received from everyone in the church when I introduced that drum kit to worship services in January 1996, especially the grateful response from the sound tech guys. In fact, not long after I started using the TD-7s, one of the older elders of the congregation came up to me after services and said, within hearing distance of the head pastor, ‘this is the first time I have actually enjoyed hearing drums in a worship service’. Very soon after that, the church bought a couple TD-7 kits for the other drummers to use.” 16

McCloy does, however, acknowledge some drawbacks with e-kits: ”First, even though most or all digital drum kits come with an impressive array of factory kits with a lot of great sounds programmed in, they are still not very realistically playable. The factory kit sounds are, at best, a good starting point. It almost always falls upon the individual playing the kit to figure out how to make the digital kit sound like a normal ‘run of the mill’ kit. Now, here is the problem: most church drummers don’t like or want digital drums, even though they know that they sound far better than their ridiculous acoustic kit could ever hope to sound. So, most drummers will not spend the hours it takes to learn how to really make a digital drum talk and sing like a fine instrument. “Also, most church drummers’ basic musical DNA is antithetical to digital drums from the ‘get go’. The drummers, by and large, prefer acoustic drums because it is what they know and what they are comfortable with. Unfortunately, their first concern is typically for their musical/worship experience and not for what is best for the congregation as a whole,” he laments. McCloy urges digital drum manufacturers to tailor their products to the worship market by creating a number of “basic, typical church kits that could be used right away out of the box”. He would also like to see simplified output options to make it easier for drummers and sound techs to map each drum piece to an individual channel on the mixing board. “It just shouldn’t be so complicated,” he says. Roland’s Fournier appears to put the onus back in the drummer’s court, noting that “in the same way that acoustic drums need maintenance and tuning, electronic drums need a certain amount of effort and time to get them to sound best in the church’s PA system, style of music and acoustics”. “Electronics do require a short learning curve, but the benefits are worth it, and the additional flexibility of endless combinations, sounds and effects make the tweaking part extra fun,” he promises. This is re-inforced by Albrecht’s comments on the Sure Microphones site: “The (e-drum) technology is as good as it’s ever been, but my concern about that is that a lot of churches jump to that solution and don’t have the right PA to reproduce the sound. They sound great in the headphones at the store, but without the right equipment, they can sound terrible in church. Technically, you’ve got to be ready to make that work.”

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Stick with it



Drumsticks represent the ultimate – and intimate - interface between player and instrument. There’s nothing more personal in drumming than sticks, and Allan Leibowitz puts his personal preferences aside to sample some of the current offerings.


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WHILE STICKS ARE mostly a matter of personal taste, the huge range and diversity means that some are inevitably “better” than others. But what constitutes quality is still very much open to debate. Some aspects are obvious – they need to be straight and sturdy. Other aspects are relatively easy to determine – consistent length, tone and weight - but are not necessarily an indication of quality. After all, our left and right hands are not equally matched in strength or even size. Overall, quality (in the engineering sense of fit-for-purpose) is harder to measure. So this review will include the makers’ claims about their products, some objective measurements of length and weight and finally a totally subjective “playability” score, based on the feel of a sample. (I requested samples to match the length, taper and weight of my usual sticks – which fall in the lighter end of most ranges.) All the major manufacturers and some of the minor players were invited to provide information and samples – and most obliged. The length and weight ratios indicated below were calculated by dividing the measurements from one stick by those of its partner so that 100 represents perfectly matched sticks.

Ahead The company shtick: Precision-crafted of aircraft-grade aluminium with superdurable replaceable shaft covers, Ahead drumsticks are the choice of today’s hardest-hitting drummers on stage and in the studio. Always perfectly balanced and matched with cushioned grips, Ahead sticks are backed by a 60day replacement warranty against breakage, direct from the manufacturer. Sample tested: 7A Length index: 100 Weight index: 100 – although both actually weighed more than the weight stamped on them. Playability: These sticks are well-balanced, with a fulcrum around the centre of their length. The oval tip provides good rebound on mesh, and rubber pads and rubber-covered cymbals. The sticks feel different to wood, especially on hard rubber pads, where they seem to transmit a bit more impact back to the hand. One issue for me was the band where the shaft meets the butt. This is positioned exactly on my grip point and felt slightly odd, but this did not impede stick control. The material seems very sturdy and given that it is inert, unlike organic materials like timber, the feel of a five-year-old stick should be identical to one just out of the packaging. The black finish and the contrasting white tips make for distinctive-looking sticks which drummers will either love or hate. 18

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Custom Drumstix The company shtick: CDX was started by drummers, for drummers who understand that every musician is different. Every drummer has a unique hand that desires a specific stick length, diameter, taper or any number of options that truly make the instrument feel right. We believe that every drummer deserves the opportunity to fulfill that dream. With CDX drumsticks, you determine the feel by deciding how long and wide the stick is in addition to the shape of the taper and the tip. A selection of exotic woods also allows for additional customisation. Quality and customer service are the number one priority for CDX. Every piece of wood used for CDX drumsticks is handselected by our production expert and co-founder, Nick Fetzer. Attention to details like this is what makes CDX sticks so strong, keeps you playing longer, all while keeping our prices low. Sample tested: Custom Length index: 98 Weight index: 97 Playability: The company made up a range of 7A-size sticks for this review in a variety of timbers. Unfortunately, the timing of its relaunch didn’t permit the addition of nylon tips, so wood-tip models were shipped. My favourite was the hickory version which was light, generous in length, and elegantly shaped. The sticks were well balanced and provided with stylish acorn tips with flat tops. Since they were built (largely) to my specifications, I can’t blame the sticks for any lack of performance, but as it turned out, they were responsive and felt good in the hand. Rebound was probably on the low side and would have been enhanced by a nylon tip. There was very little impact transmission, even with energised strikes on a hard rubber pad. And best of all, the samples carry a digitalDrummer logo, so no-one can appropriate a pair when I am the sole stick source at a jam!

Fixpoint Sticks The company shtick: Fixpoint AREA Drumsticks help you to find your target. No more endless searching for the right sound. Our drumsticks provide you with three zones of sidestick sounds plus a dedicated rimshot area. Better control over the hit-point gives you a consistent sound in rehearsal, on stage and in the studio. Lessonplan 1 and 2 are your mobile drumming school you can take wherever you like ... no need for stationery - no books - no pen and no computer! The drumstick itself is its own learning method. Sample tested: 5A Length index: 98 Weight index: 97 Playability: These are novelty sticks with designated zones for rimshots and side stick articulations. It’s a novel idea perhaps better suited to acoustic playing where it does matter which part of the stick hits the rim. For electronics, the markings are largely irrelevant. So, ignoring those, you end up with an all-hickory, oval-tipped stick that is reasonably well-proportioned, comfortable and well-balanced. I found them expressive on mesh and hard rubber pads, but a bit lacking on rubber-covered cymbals, where the rebound was subdued. A second version of the stick has practice reminders printed on it and also includes a practice CD. Again, nice ideas, but how long will the printing last and will that endure longer than the motivation? I’m not convinced. digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011


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Innovative Percussion The company shtick: Innovative Percussion is a manufacturer of drumsticks, keyboard mallets, and many other percussion implements. Innovative Percussion, Inc. is dedicated to providing the percussion world with professional products of an unequaled quality. Each item is carefully crafted to ensure product integrity and the quality needed to achieve the highest standards of today’s percussion excellence. We at Innovative Percussion, Inc. feel that the attention given to detail and design of quality percussion instruments deserves sticks and mallets parallel in quality. Sample tested: IP7AN Length index: 98 Weight index: 92 Playability: This white hickory stick is part of a new combo line and one of the few offerings with nylon tips – although the company does make an innovative rubber practice tip that slips over the stick to create a softer solution. The samples were lighter than most other 7As and also had a fulcrum closer to the tip. They had a good feel and excellent rebound on all play surfaces, but especially on hard rubber pads where the timber absorbed the impact very well. Less impressive were the tips themselves. The oval nylon ends were smaller and fatter than most others, but unfortunately were also quite rough. One, in fact, had a sharp protrusion that might, over time, damage mesh heads. Of course, this is easily fixed with a quick rub of an emery board, but not the kind of finish one would expect on a quality stick. In contrast, the wooden tips of a number of other samples provided by IP were smooth as silk.

Los Cabos The company shtick: Los Cabos Drumsticks are a Canadian company located in the province of New Brunswick on the country’s east coast. Making a good pair of sticks begins by selecting the best wood possible. We manufacture many different models of sticks using Canadian maple and American hickory. Our maple is considered to be the best in the business and our hickory from the southern USA is known the world over as the top choice for stick manufacturing. We also use red hickory which comes from the heart of the tree, making it stronger and more durable for those who need a bit “more” from their sticks. With nearly two dozen models to choose from, Los Cabos Drumsticks offers something for every drummer. Sample tested: 5A Hickory (Nylon Tip) Length index: 100 Weight index: 100 Playability: As a smaller and relatively new player, Los Cabos doesn’t have an enormous range, and there aren’t a lot of nylon-tipped models to choose from. That said, the 5As weigh little more than some other 7As, but they are slightly thicker and have less of a taper, so some people might not find them comfortable in the hand. The fulcrum is surprisingly central, given the short shoulder, and the sticks feel well-balanced. The tips are oval shaped and generously sized, although one did have a blob of exposed glue. Performance-wise, the sticks had a good solid feel and fine rebounds, especially on mesh heads. There was little impact back to the hand, even from the hardest hits to solid rubber pads. 20

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Pro-Mark The company shtick: Pro-Mark has some of the most exciting and influential drum set artists who play in the biggest bands in the world. From drumming legend Neil Peart to young stars like Paramore’s Zac Farro, learn why the best drum set players in the world feel at home with Pro-Mark. ProMark drum set sticks are the way to go whether you’re into metal, rock, rap, country, jazz, R&B, funk... you call it! They are available in hickory, oak and maple in a variety of finishes and tips! Find the stick that has the right FEEL for you by finding similar diameters using the colors and sizes designated on all of our sticks. Sample tested: American Hickory 7A Length index: 100 Weight index: 100 Playability: The hickory 7As are described as “light and short” and “great for jazz and light rock”. The sticks are well-proportioned, with an elegant, tapered shoulder and a wellplaced, central fulcrum. As a result, they sat very comfortably in the hands. They were one of the few samples that felt “alive”, very responsive and almost elastic in rebound. They felt excellent on all surfaces, with the timber absorbing even the hardest hits with almost no impact on the butt end. The samples had generously sized oval nylon tips which were smooth, even and well-seated.

Regal Tip The company shtick: Nylon tip sticks from Regal Tip are iconic. They were invented and perfected by the Calato family nearly 50 years ago. Made in the USA from American Hickory, these sticks are where it all began! Play harder and longer with Regal Tip’s Wide Series Nylon Tip drumsticks. Available in 5A, 5B, 7A, and Jazz models, the wider taper allows players to play their style, and have a durable stick for other venues. A wider stick, a Regal Tip nylon tip, and our famous finish – What else could a drummer want? Sample tested: Jazz Length index: 100 Weight index: 100

"I wouldn't trust any other drumstick company with The Toasters’ 30-year reputation" - Jesse Hayes, The Toasters

Design your own. Play your own. Be your own. digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011


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--gear-Playability: These long slender sticks are well-balanced, with a long, elegant shoulder and centrally positioned fulcrum. Overall, these were among the bestfinished sticks, with no roughness anywhere on the surface, a good glaze finish, neat tip attachments and even logo printing. The tips are smooth and wellproportioned, as you’d expect from the company which invented them. The sticks sit well in one’s hands and have a lively feel, with excellent rebound and impact absorption. They played extremely well on mesh and also felt energetic on hard rubber, but were a bit subdued on rubber-covered cymbals.

SilverFox The company shtick: Only premium logs are hand-selected for SilverFox drumsticks. In a process requiring a high degree of hands-on production and skill, each stick is lathed, one-at-a-time, using three highcarbon steel knives. The result is unparalleled precision, flawless consistency, and a vastly superior drumstick. After machining, each stick undergoes a rotational five-step sanding process. While our sanding procedures are more labour-intensive than our competitors, we believe that taking extra care to prepare the stick for finishing is a crucial step in the SilverFox process. Each SilverFox drumstick is hand-inspected, rolled and reinspected at many different stages of the manufacturing process. Strict quality control ensures that each drumstick will have a consistent shape and perfect balance. SilverFox drumsticks are individually hand-finished using Duracrylx, an exclusive formulation that is harder than lacquer and makes your SilverFox sticks LAST LONGER! Sample tested: 7A Length index: 100 Weight index: 100 Playability: What’s most striking about this sample was the large silver-foil logo. The hickory sticks were on the heavy side of our sample 7As, but were wellbalanced, with long shafts and elegantly tapered shoulders. They were clearly well finished, smooth to the touch and with seamlessly attached, generous nylon tips – probably the largest of those tested. The sticks played well despite their heavier feel, thanks to a well-positioned fulcrum. The timber felt absorbent, with little impact on any surface. I had expected the larger nylon tips to shine on harder surfaces, and was slightly disappointed to find their rebound good but not excellent. Overall, the sticks were easy to control and felt better on mesh and hard rubber pads than on rubber-covered cymbals.

1 0

D i g i t a l D r u mme r R e a d e r s D i s c o u n t 22



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Super Sticks The company shtick: Super Sticks patented drumsticks are the most incredible revolution in the history of drumming and percussion! Independent testing shows that Super Sticks are superior to ordinary nylon/wooden tip drum sticks. Super Sticks have been noted to produce a sound between a nylon and wooden tip - and that’s just for starters!! Super Sticks will give you greater rebounding-superior bounce-ease of stick-motion; neck to butt equalization - incredible timbral effects on cymbals and much, much more! We beat our competition sticks down! 100% moneyback guarantee if our patented tips ever break! Sample tested: 5A (Flat Top and Barrel Tip) Length index: 97 Weight index: 96 Playability: The review was not helped by the temporary shortage of 7A samples, and the 5A, the lightest on offer at the time, was still significantly heavier than my regular choices. I found them slightly unwieldy, due to the extra weight and the relatively “low” centre of gravity, towards the butt end. That said, the sticks are well-made and well-finished. The unique design element is an oversized, hollow tip designed to increase the rebound. And it certainly does bounce! The sticks felt extremely lively on all surfaces, and rebounded brilliantly, especially on e-cymbals. I sense that the inventor is onto something with the springy tips and my only regret is that I didn’t get to try these in a comfortable size. In fact, I’m tempted to remove the tips and try attaching them onto a lighter body to get a real feel. Super Sticks take a bit of adaptation, but once you’re comfortable, you may never put them down.

Vater The company shtick: At Vater, our goal is simple: to produce the very best drumsticks and percussion accessories in the world. Vater guarantees their drumsticks to be straighter, more consistent and of higher quality than all other leading drumstick manufacturers. Vater’s nylon tips are guaranteed not to fall off, crack or break for the performance lifespan of the drumstick. 100% of Vater’s drumsticks are manufactured in the USA. All Vater sticks are tone and weight-matched by computer analysis. Vater products are endorsed by drummers like Chad Smith, Stewart Copeland and Josh Freese. Sample tested: Manhattan – 7A Length index: 100 Weight index: 94 Playability: Interestingly, these hickory sticks were among the least-matched in terms of weight, but nonetheless felt well-balanced. They were on the heavy end of the 7A scale, but the extra weight is due to a bit of extra length. The extra millimetres make a difference to the performance, with the sticks exhibiting plenty of rebound on all surfaces. They shone on mesh, but had a good feel on both rubber pads and rubber-coated cymbals. The added length also appeared to offer extra shock absorption, reducing impact on the hand and fingers. The sample pair disappointed on aesthetics, with the largest colour difference of all the samples, and we were also surprised to find imperfections in the nylon tip. digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011


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Vic Firth The company shtick: The American Classic line combines tradition and Vic Firth style. With bold designs for fuller sound, the Classics are turned from select hickory – a dense wood with little flex for a more pronounced sound. Hickory is also capable of withstanding a great deal of shock, making it highly durable. The wood tips are deeply back-cut for intensified cymbal response. The American Classic eStick is a one-of-a-kind stick designed specifically for today’s electronic drums. Long taper also provides a great touch and sound on acoustic drums and cymbals. Sample tested: eStick Length index: 99 Weight index: 100 Playability: The eStick comes in one size – equivalent to an A5, which puts it at a disadvantage in this review, but also limits its appeal in the market. The stick is also fairly long, but it is elegantly shaped, with a long shaft and sweeping shoulder. Another unique feature is the short, fat tip with straight edges and a small collar. There’s no explanation of the thinking behind the design, and in testing, I didn’t find much evidence that it performs especially well. The stick was comfortable and balanced – if slightly heavy – but certainly did not stand out in terms of rebound, control or accuracy. In fact, I found it to be inferior on all performance aspects to its sibling American Classic 7A which was supplied in wooden-tip version. I know which I’d choose for e-drums.

Zildjian The company shtick: Developed in conjunction with noted vibration authority, Sims Vibration Laboratory, Zildjian AntiVibe Drumsticks contain a patented feature that effectively reduces key vibrations. By reducing the amount of vibration present in the struck stick, the Anti-Vibe drumstick is easier to play and more comfortable for many players than standard sticks. The stick maintains its conventional lacquer finish and appearance, while the vibration absorption technology is contained out of the way, inside the butt-end of the stick. Anti-Vibe is also great for use on rubber electronic drum pads and practice pads due to the vibration caused by these impact surfaces. The stick feels like you are hitting its sweet spot on every stroke. Sample tested: 7A Anti-Vibe Length index: 99 Weight index: 96 Playability: The Zildjian was at the weighty end of 7As, even though it was around a centimetre shorter than average, with the rubber-like filling probably responsible for the added mass. The sticks are good-looking and well-proportioned, with a relatively short shoulder and long shaft. They feel substantial in the hand and well-balanced, with a well-positioned centre of gravity. On the kit, the Anti-Vibes felt natural and lively, with good rebound on all surfaces. I attempted to verify the vibration-absorption claims with some hard thrashing on solid rubber pads, but really can’t say the stick felt any different from anything else tested. On the positive side, unlike the other “custom e-drum” sticks in the review, Zildjian does offer the Anti-Vibes in a range of sizes – something it will perhaps encourage Vic Firth to do now they have merged. 24

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How silent are









When it comes to cymbals, how much noise annoys an e-drummer? Armed with a sound meter and an array of e-cymbals, Scott Holder set out to solve the sonic conundrum.



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THE LACK OF “noise” is an oft-cited reason for using electronic drums. You could have paper-thin apartment walls or be surrounded by ultra-sensitive neighbours. Perhaps your small children upstairs couldn’t possibly sleep through your death metal kick solos on an acoustic kit. You might have band mates who would like to keep their hearing as they get older. These are typical reasons why electronic drums make it possible to practice and play and not have the neighbours grabbing the pitchforks and torches and battering down your front door because they don’t appreciate the subtle nuances of John Bonham’s style at 3am. That said, electronic drums do have an acoustic sound signature that can still potentially annoy fellow apartment-dwellers and colicky babies. After questions about minimising kick sounds travelling through floors, the next most-asked question about any electronic drum component is “how ‘loud’ are those cymbals?” - a reference to how much “noise” is generated by thwacking a drumstick onto an electronic cymbal. This article sets out to answer that question and provide you with data that should help to determine how much “stick noise” is too much for your situation. Thus, we begin a journey that will, in future issues, look at various pads and cymbals and how they fare as crashes, rides and high hats. Stick noise is just one of numerous items to consider when contemplating a cymbal purchase, but probably the most useful to know and has far less subjectivity since we can test it in a controlled setting. Secondarily, we also tested for rebound, or bounce. This question is typically reserved for mesh drums and how they compare to rubber pads, but it can also be another factor when considering which cymbals to purchase. digitalDrummer tested 18 cymbals across a range of brands and price points. In addition, we tested some older pads and cymbals just to see if there has been any fundamental change in sound levels over the past dozen years. We then tossed in some other sounds most drummers will know as a comparison. By doing this, we intended to allow e-drummers with any budget to know what they can afford and how “noisy” it will be.

ste e t e H ow w


We used a few “control” sounds for base comparison. The first is the venerable sh Roland PD-7 pad, something everybody is 010 me 2 e h t of a ed in familiar with and representative of about that us ambient noise o t r a il every rubber pad, regardless of , sim t the lator rig s used to tes hts. u im manufacturer. The Concept 1 cymbal pad s A a ig view, w ious he is less well-known, but has a rubber head re ped from var op surface with a dampening layer stick dr underneath - all on an innovative mount with plenty of swing. The Drum Tec mesh head is similar to the PD-7 in that it provides a sample sound from a familiar type of pad. Finger snaps are an everyday sound and the drum throne isn’t much different from striking a stick against any kind of upholstered seat. Based on the test results, 67db SPL (sound pressure level) is the baseline stick noise level n be logy ca o d o h t from pad technology of a dozen years ago. ting me

n of lanatio p x e ll A fu ere. found h


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Alesis Surge The Surges are one of two metal series of cymbals tested and the only one without any rubber/foam strike pads. Not surprisingly, the Surges generated the most stick noise although, as we’ll discuss later, surprisingly less than one might expect when compared to some other brands. The sound generated is a bright, “clacky” sound which overwhelms just about all other sounds. We would strike two different pads at the same time to see if one would significantly muffle the other and in just about every instance, we could hear that clacky sound over anything else. Exceptions to that were with the Kit-Toys splash, where both were about the same, and bell strikes on a Surge and the Visulite 18” ride. The Surges were tested “straight up” and also with mutes. This is something we’d done many years ago when the original Smartriggers were released (the Surges are made under licence). Zildjian makes a reusable mute made of soft foam which you can easily peel off the cymbal without leaving any residue. The mutes significantly reduced stick noise from controlled hits. However, full hits easily compressed the foam, which is why the SPL levels, while less than without the mutes, were still elevated. This says as much about the type of mute used as it does the cymbal, but the one thing the mutes did do was reduce the clacky sound of the strikes. The soft foam mutes also meant the module settings needed to be adjusted because sensitivity on the bow obviously was reduced. Edge hits were similar in SPL levels to the Harts (again, no rubber there), but also Pintech’s PC line, which doesn’t have any rubber pad or coating on the edge. Rebound/bounce was at the low end of what was tested but certainly not the lowest and we really didn’t feel it had a negative impact on play. In fact, that impression based on full hits is probably an indicator of how cymbal bounce probably isn’t nearly the factor it is on mesh/rubber snare/tom/kick pads when it comes to playing style and any adjustments one might have to make if coming over from an acoustic kit. Since all the cymbals had one form or another of mounting that allowed for swing, that helped all the cymbals end up feeling similar to acoustics with only minor changes in style.

Hart Dynamics Ecymbal II The other metal entry, Harts, differ from the Surges in two ways: they have a hard, rubber strike pad, and they are heavier, being built around two cymbals riveted together rather than the Surge’s single cymbal construction. Cymbal thickness and weight didn’t have an effect on testing results since if we struck a Hart cymbal on the metal surface, the SPL levels and tone were identical to that of the Surges. We tested the Harts with both Aquarian springs (which are included) and conventional mounting. Results for stick noise were the same. The harder rubber strike pad definitely reduced noise levels of controlled hits but less than one might expect with full hits. However, the tone of the hits was far less



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bright and clacky than the Surges. When struck together, the Surges still came through more than the Harts. However, at shorter distances, there was less difference (3-4db) with full hits than one might have expected. The Harts had consistent rebound/bounce across the board and were surprisingly bouncy, being on par with the PD-7 and exhibiting more bounce than all-rubber pads.

Kit-Toys TD-V2 Because of the erratic nature of Kit-Toys production, we only had a 10” splash to test. Nonetheless, it’s probably indicative of SPL levels of the entire line, at least as it pertains to bow and edge hits. The Kit-Toys cymbal doesn’t have a soft rubber or foam strike area per se. Instead, it has a very hard rubber zone (far harder than the Hart rubber area which is itself pretty hard) that’s not acrylic like the rest of the cymbal (or like the Visulites), nor is it a hard plastic like the non-strike area of Pintech’s PC line. Thus, it does cut down on stick noise somewhat - both with controlled and full hits when compared to the Surges. Nonetheless, the “thwack” tone of the stick is also fairly high-pitched, perhaps just a bit less bright than the Surges, and when both were struck simultaneously, one could hear either cymbal at about the same level and tone.

Stick noise and rebound table Model

ed etail d r o d F ts an n, l u s re io retat . p r e t in here click

Alesis Surge 13” Crash w/choke 13” Crash w/mute 12” HH 12” HH w/mute 16” Ride 16” Ride w/mute Hart Dynamics Ecymbal II 12” China 14” Crash w/choke 12” HH 16” Ride Kit-Toys TD-V2 10” Splash Pintech PC & Visulite PC14-2 14” Crash w/choke PC14B 14” Ride w/choke Visulite 1402 14” Crash w/choke Visulite 1800RB 18” Ride Roland CY-5 CY-8 CY-12 CY-14 CY-15 Yamaha PCY-155

Edge and bell noise*

Rebound (seconds)

Edge 75-76 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit)


Controlled + Hit (dB)

Full Hit + (dB)

78 60 77 59 83 60

86 82 83 75 86-87 83

70-72 74 68 67

78 82-83 78-80 83-84





Edge 73-75 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit)




Bell 75 dB @ 2’-5’ (Full Hit)




Edge 76 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit)




Bell 85 dB @ 2’-5’ (Full Hit)


69 68 67

76-78 78 75-76

1.06-1.10 1.12-1.15 1.10-1.12

66-67 70

76-77 77

Edge 63 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit) Edge 64-65 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit) Edge 65 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit); Bell 75-76 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit) Edge 65 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit) Edge 65 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit); Bell 72 dB (left), 75 dB (right) @ 5’ (Full Hit)



0.85 Bell 85 dB @ 2’-5’ (Full Hit)

Edge 75 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit) Bell 75 dB @ 2’-5’ (Full Hit)


1.3 1.3 1.21 1.3 0.8-0.95

1.32-1.34 1.15-1.21

Edge 65-67 dB @ 5’ (Full 1.07-1.2 Hit); Bell 65 dB @ 5’ (Full Hit) *Where no edge hit data shown, testing of the cymbal was not done. + from height of 3 feet 28

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Edge hits were comparable to the edges of all other cymbals not covered in rubber: expect the same SPL levels when doing edge hits on a Kit-Toys, Surge, Hart or Pintech PC cymbal. The tones differ slightly, which might determine how much any given sound “cuts through” the rest. Rebound was on par with the Surges.

Pintech PC & Visulite Like the Harts, both Pintech lines have a rubber strike pad on the bow. However, these are made of a soft foam material not unlike the Zildjian mutes used as an experiment on the Surges. As a result, they were the quietest cymbals at all testing ranges under controlled hits. However, as mentioned earlier, because the foam is very soft, it compresses easily under full hits and as a result, SPL levels increased significantly. Furthermore, the Visulite ride’s rubber strike pad didn’t seem to make any difference in dampening stick noise and the entire cymbal gave off a very distinct deep pitch when struck hard on the bow. It’s impossible to say if that sound contributed to the SPL level but it was the only cymbal that generated a unique tone of its own when struck in that manner. The cymbals are made of entirely different materials, the PC line being a relatively thin plastic while the Visulites are a much thicker acrylic. The construction had a significant relative effect on stick noise because the Visulites at 5’ under controlled hits were by far the quietest cymbals, even though we were conducting such hits on identical foam surfaces. Furthermore, even at full hits, the interaction between the soft foam and the thicker acrylic composition of the Visulite gave it SPL levels on par with the all-rubber cymbals. The tone generated by the PC cymbals was a very low pitch, high in terms of SPL level but probably as far from bright-sounding as one could get. Also, the PC cymbals showed the most variety of SPL levels and tone depending on where the


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strike pad was actually hit. With the exception of that interesting low tone generated by the Visulite ride, the Visulites were consistent across the strike area in terms of sound. When fully hit alongside a Surge or Kit-Toys, despite their relative high SPL levels, they didn’t cut through, probably because of the low pitch of the actual sound. The PC cymbals don’t have any rubber coating on the edge, whereas the Visulites have a harder rubber coating similar to Hart’s bow strike pad. As a result, while it did have a minimising effect on edge noise when compared to the PC cymbals, it was still 10db louder than the all-rubber cymbals and on par with the uncoated metal cymbals. Nonetheless, it’s apparent from the testing data that the acrylic composition of the Visulites has some dampening effect when combined with various densities of foam and rubber. Those soft foam strike areas on the bow also meant that both Pintech lines were the least bouncy of the cymbals tested. That bounciness test was conducted on a static mounted pad and since both the PC and Visulite lines are mounted on Aquarian springs, that lack of bounce wasn’t noticeable when just sitting down and doing swells or rapid stick bounces on the bow.

Roland Now we move onto the all-rubber cymbals and their different sound levels and dynamics. The most noteworthy characteristic was a 58db drop off in SPL levels at increased distances during controlled hits. Under full hits, the Rolands were not unlike all the other cymbals in that stick noise levels did not fall off over distance. What’s interesting is that the CY line under full hits wasn’t noticeably quieter than the old PD-7, which probably means ecymbals themselves have a baseline of stick noise that won’t change much over the next 12 years. The tone of the CY cymbals was a much dampened thud. When struck along with any of the non-rubber cymbals, that thud was easily masked. One very peculiar quirk was found on the CY-15. On the bell, the stick noise wasn’t as loud on the side opposite the plug housing. That right side was consistently 3db louder. It was so odd that we went back and retested twice more (essentially another 10-12 strikes each time to get a consistent response) to confirm the initial test. Also, we would have expected the bell on both the CY-12 and CY-15 to be similar, but the former consistently gave responses identical to the Hart ride and its somewhat harder rubber strike pad. Because of the softer rubber edging, edge SPL levels were noticeably lower. It’s one thing to try and differentiate just by listening between



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cymbals where full-hit testing showed only a 2-3db difference, but another when levels approach 7-10db and this is where the CYs were far quieter than any other cymbal, except the Yamaha. Rebound and bounce were surprisingly varied, with the CY-14 being very different from the rest. Since the CY-5 and CY-8 are not all-rubber cymbals, that was to be expected but both in controlled hits and simply bouncing two sticks rapidly by hand, we could note the difference between the CY-14 and the rest.

Yamaha The PCY-155 was tested as a ride and crash since it can easily be used as both. Since it’s also a three-zone cymbal regardless of usage, it provided a good test of edge, bow and bell. And overall, it was the quietest cymbal. Yes, at two-foot distances under controlled hits on the bow, the Visulite is quieter, but at full hits, the PCY was on par with both the Visulite and the Rolands. However, its bell was consistently the quietest by a good amount of any of the tested cymbals; it always seemed to be 2-3db less than the rest at full hits. And like the Rolands, the tone generated was a dull thud, which meant any other cymbal (except the Rolands) was easily heard over the Yamaha when they were struck simultaneously. Rebound and bounce were similar to the CY-12, although when actually playing and not doing controlled hits, it felt every bit as bouncy as a CY-14 or the Harts. Again, the swing and play of the cymbal could be a factor in this.

Conclusions So, how important is stick noise? Like all things in e-drumming, the ultimate answer is “it depends”. It’s simply one factor in many that goes into evaluating what gear to get. That said, clearly not all cymbals are created equal in terms of stick noise. Thus, if you’re in a place that demands the quietest e-kit you can put together, you will need to take the testing data into account. Or, pound on an acoustic cymbal, then any e-cymbal, and ask your sensitive neighbours which they’d prefer. It’s doubtful, however, that a sleeping two-year-old would care about the difference.


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From tabla to 2Box

Lockett in Pete Lockett’s ethnic percussion has been heard on the last five James Bond movies, but the British drummer is equally comfortable behind a kit, belting out the rhythm for the likes of Amy Winehouse and Ronan Keating. He shares his e-drum perspectives with digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz. digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011



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digitalDrummer: Pete, tell us how you got started in drumming … Pete Lockett: It was a bizarre thing. I was just walking past a drum shop and I thought: ‘I’ll have a drum lesson’, for no readily explainable reason. I went in and it made sense to me in a way that other things in my life hadn’t before. I was aged 19 and was soon a drummer in a punk rock band. Similarly, my decision to transform from punk rock kit player to tabla dude was totally unexpected. I was playing in a punk band on the London rock scene, and I accidentally stumbled across an Indian gig. It was Ustad Zakir Hussain and Ali Akbar Khan, and it was amazing. I didn’t know what they were doing. When you see tabla for the first time, a good player, it’s the most amazing thing, it’s stunning. I had no concept of what he was doing, but that made an impact on me. Later, I saw tabla lessons advertised in the local adult education magazine, and I was down there like a shot. Of course, the actual transformation took somewhat longer, many years of dedicated study, in fact. My early influences started out with punk, Sex Pistols to the Damned, then I moved on to be a huge Keith Moon fan. I was smashing up my drums at gigs, so that was all part of that influence. Then, I moved on to be influenced by ‘technical’ players of the moment, Simon Phillips, Steve Gadd, etc. From there, I hit the Indian trail, so I started listening to the great Indian masters. One noticeable thing from these early days was that I had an open mind for sound. Instruments such as drum sets have become a standardised set of sounds nowadays, but I have always wanted to integrate different sounds into my set-ups. This began with acoustic additions, but obviously goes on to include electronic as well. dD: We’ll get onto that in a moment, but first can you tell us how you turned pro? PL: This was a very gradual thing. I moved to London aged 23 and started playing around the London rock scene. It took years to earn even a penny. One has to be very, very patient. Then, it was a combination of teaching and gigs. Then, as time moved on, there was less and less teaching and more gigs. I feel very lucky now to be able to choose what gigs I want to do and turn down those I don’t. One characteristic I always had was to pull out of situations to move up to the next level. For example, for a while I played on the London Jazz scene. However, the gigs were really badly paid so I stopped working on that scene and tried to get better-paying session gigs. It worked out well for me. On the one hand, it could seem like the money was the primary concern but the actual truth is that when you do get up to some higher levels, then you can get the luxury of choosing what you want to do, rather then having to do certain things. The music 34

comes first and being able to choose what you play is a really important thing to keep you inspired. dD: What are some of your memorable performances and recordings? PL: Impossible to select individual elements really. I have had so many collaborations all over the world. I have just got back from Jodhpur where I collaborated with 28 Rajasthani folk musicians in the Jodhpur folk festival, a moonlit gig on the top of Jodhpur fort. Before that, I toured Poland in duo with Simon Phillips (Toto). Both were completely different and immensely memorable in different ways. I have collaborated over the years with musicians from Japan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Thailand, Sudan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, USA, Europe, Africa, Ireland, Scandinavia; Beatboxers, DJs and sound designers. I do not have a closed mind about whom I work with - apart from the fact that they have to have vision and something to say. dD: Okay, let’s pick up on where electronics fits into your drumming world? PL: To understand how it began, one needs to understand that it is all about sound and texture for me, whether it is acoustic or electronic. If you go back to the original traps set from the ‘20s, there was everything in there, bass, snare, cymbals, wood block, bongos, found sounds, metal, wood, etc. When you play drumset, you are effectively composing a multi-voice rhythm involving different tones and syncopation. When you compose on percussion, you are effectively doing the same thing, sometimes with different instruments layered

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Lockett in action on a 2Box kit. upon each other and sometimes with multi-limb independence similar to drumset playing. Same thing with electronics. It is tone and texture. Bearing this in mind, it surprises me that there is not more cross-fertilisation between drumset, percussion and electronics in terms of the sounds that are used. A cowbell, wood block, crasher and tambourine are often as far as most set players would go, even with a lot of electronic kits. It has become a formalised instrument which, for such a young instrument, is kind of surprising. I can’t say I was any different before I got into percussion. That really got me into ‘sounds’ and textures a lot more and opened up how I saw the drumset. When you start to think of sounds in abstract, then it opens a lot of doors. I remember recording with Phil Manzanera from Roxy Music and we went around deconstructing the studio and building a set with all the found sounds. Dustbins, lamps, heaters, you name it. It turned out to be a great percussion track. This, for me, is really venturing into a zone where electronics can be a very fruitful addition to any set-up. Sampled found sounds and unusual tones and textures really add colours to the palette. Check out the third track on Weather Report’s ‘Domino Theory’ album for an example. The percussionist was a guy called José Rossy. Really interesting sounds, some sampled and triggered by Zawinal on his Emulator as well. Going back to the eclectic influences, in the same way that I try to perceive sounds as much as I perceive specific instruments, I also mix up various digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011

traditional drumming techniques and rhythmic systems from around the world. When you start to look at drumming methodologies from around the world, you really get to see how in-depth and developed many of them are, often in completely different ways. Take, for example, Japanese taiko and Indian tabla. Completely different approaches to rhythm and articulation on the instruments, Indian being very cerebral and with intense finger technique and virtuosity, whilst the Japanese is a much more physical and tribal pulse approach. Bringing these types of ‘opposites’ together is one of the things that fascinates me and obviously led me to include electronics in my set-ups. dD: And what sort of set-ups are we talking about? PL: It happened in the beginning with a Lexicon JamMan, the old rack-mount unit. I had this and a Boss GX700 guitar effects processor. This was at the time of the Atari and Notator synced with a DA88, so for me the computer side of things was pretty stiff and MIDI. Originally, it was to expand the live performance potential of my acoustic sounds. I was not attracted at all to the electronic kit sounds available and even less to the ‘machine gun’ triggering of the time. The live thing and the studio thing were very separate because of this. With the JamMan, I would live loop and multi-track on the fly, but this is very hard with live percussion where each instrument is a different level. With a ‘line level’ instrument such as Boss, a lot of the time the overdubs would be the same volume and the 35

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performance much easier to technically manage. For me to get this properly happening with live percussion, I was starting to get into really long sound checks. Around this time, PC-based DAWs started to emerge and the whole technology thing started to develop really fast. I started to move onto phrase samplers such as the Korg ES1 and away from the live looping. I still love that unit. So simple and with all the real-time effects. I am at a loss as to why instruments such as the SPD-S do not have these obviously inexpensive functions. From here, I started using the SPD-S live and a laptop to run some sequences and trigger samples from plug-ins such as Battery within Logic 5. The SPD-S was also great for having mini-electronic kits with a bass and snare external pad and also for triggering prepared loops. This became a much more reliable way of doing the live looping thing but with pure controlled HiFi. It would create exactly the same effect as live looping and people would never know it was not live looping. There is a lot of scope with the SPD-S because you can import your own sounds. It is so disappointing that the new Roland pad seems a step backwards with no way of inputting your own sounds via removable media. Unbelievable! I still use the SPD-S and also have a lot of stuff running from iPod, etc. I rarely use laptops or the live looping thing live now. All my sounds and loops I now prepare in my studio. I combine using Logic 9 on a MacBook Pro and also love Soundforge on the PC. It is such a brilliantly easy and flexible editor. Straight to the point. Of course, the big thing for me at the moment with electronics is my involvement as an endorser with 2Box drums.

PL: One very important thing for me with any electronic device is the ability to input your own sounds. 2Box is the only kit that allows this and has a healthy 4GB memory to import sounds. I really think it is the best drum brain out there. I have very little interest in boxed sounds from kits such as Roland or Yamaha. Even with editing, it is nothing even close to what you can do editing an acoustic sound in your DAW or audio editor, presupposing you have a vision. My quest and eclectic taste for different sounds is no different with electronics at all. To me the electronics is an extension of the acoustic. I do not really see them as distinctly separate and unrelated. It is all just sound after all. Feel is also important. I love the mesh heads and 2Box also has great tracking and dynamics. The sound quality is also great thanks to high-quality DAC and AD converters and the internal 24 bit resolution. The pads and the cymbals are virtually silent, which is good if you don’t want to disturb your neighbours but it’s also good to keep volume down on gigs. Also, as I mentioned, the sound architecture is open which means that you can drag and drop your own sound and wave song file into the unit (when connected via USB to a PC). The computer software for this is killing. Basically, let’s say you had 20 snare drum hits of different volume. Well, when you drag all the files onto the pad icon in the software screen, it intelligently places them by putting the lowest peak waveform at the lowest velocity setting and the highest peaks at higher velocity settings. This is a massively convenient shortcut whereby you can create your own velocitysensitive kits without a headache of editing. It is early days for my individual kits and sound sets


dD: With 2Box, you’re more than an endorser. You’re also developing patches for their kit. How does that work, what type of kits are you doing

and what’s it like working on a whole new generation of e-drums?


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at the moment, but we had a brainstorming meeting recently to discuss these developments. What I want is to create sound sets whereby a drumset player with no knowledge of darabouka, for example, can play the instrument on a pad or set of pads and by using their drumset technique will be able to get some grooves happening which do justice to the actual sound of the original instrument. Watch this space. It’s going to be good!! dD: You have also recently recorded some samples for Loopmasters. How did that come about and what sort of sounds and loops have you done for that project? PL: Yes, this and the Toontrack plug-in that is being currently put together. The Loopmasters disc contains everything from Japanese taiko to Indian tabla, from groovy funk bongos to Arabic darabouka and frame drums. The disc is divided into two sections. Firstly, the ‘groove sets’ section which covers five popular tempos: 70, 90, 110, 130 and 170 BPM. For each tempo, there are numerous percussion sets broken down into their individual loops. Secondly, the individual instrument section has numerous loops at various tempos on instruments such as bongos, tabla, cajon, claypot, etc. Also featured is a special top-end section which covers shakers, tambourines and triangle along with a folder of ‘swishes’ and ‘Airtoesque’ sound effects. The Toontrack plug-in also will have lots of interesting stuff on it and some cool single-shot instruments. Something different guaranteed! dD: Let’s look at the state of electronic drumming. What benefits do you see in integrating electronics into drummers’ set-ups and if drummers embrace loops and samples, are they still drumming? PL: It is about sound. By integrating new sounds into your set-up, you give yourself more options. In terms of percussion and drums of the world, drumset is a very small percentage. When you travel the world, you soon realise what an amazing array of percussive sounds and techniques are out there. I am amazed that more drummers don’t get into that, let alone into electronics. With electronics, there is a massive possible benefit. From triggering a massive boomy bass drum sample every eight bars on a pad to having an unusual ride sound for a digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011

chorus, to triggering loops and sound effects; to playing whole tracks or sections with sampled sounds. Most super-heavy thrash metal double bass drummers are all triggering and not playing acoustic bass drums. Many have Roland kick triggers attached to the bass pedal behind the bass drum so the bass drum is actually just for show. With superfast double bass playing, often the ‘roar’ and ‘boom’ of the bass drum will not allow an audible or tight bass drum sound to be defined. For every drummer that comes forward and doubts bringing electronics into their set-up, there will be 20 songwriters who would love it if their drummer utilised it. Are they still drumming? The acoustic instrument has become extremely preconceived. People are still getting electronic kits and wanting them to do exactly what the regular drumset does. Ridiculous!! They are different things. It is about seeing the strengths and benefits of both. Nothing can replace hitting an acoustic drumset, no electronic kit in the world. However, it can add a massive extension to an existing drumset or be a really creative tool in the hands of someone with vision. If there is passion in their playing and they are feeling the music, hell yeah, they will still be drumming. Give me a table and I will drum!!! dD: What will the future hold for e-drummers? PL: Electronic drums are here to stay, just as the acoustic drumset is. There is plenty of room for both. As brains such as 2Box come along, I think the instrument can move forward artistically a lot more. I am not happy with boxed sounds and I am sure a lot of other people are not as well, so let’s hope there are lots more developments along this line. Instruments such as the new (Korg) Wavedrum coming along with no USB, removable media or any way of backing up or importing really needs to be a thing of the past. It is less expensive than ever to add these facilities to a unit and it is shocking to see them overlooked. Along with my Handsonic, the Wavedrum stays firmly stored in the cupboard, full of expectation but pregnant with disappointment. dD: And for Pete Lockett? What’s in store for you professionally? PL: More of the same. I have had a totally manic year, touring all over the world and look forward to more this year. Onward and upward with a bongo!!! 37

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Jooss triggering When you think about Irish folk music, you don’t necessarily see much scope for electronic percussion. But then you don’t really think of Germans as the main proponents of the genre either. These were just some of the surprises when Allan Leibowitz spoke to Fiddler’s Green drummer, Frank Jooss. digitalDrummer: How do you use electronic drums in your performances and recordings? Frank Jooss: I use external triggers – in particular ddt triggers. ddt is a German company and the pickups look a little bit like those by ddrum, but I find the trigger quality a little bit better. When playing live, I use an old Alesis D4 for triggering the bass. That’s the only acoustic instrument I trigger. Sometimes, I add noise samples for effects like sub-basses. In the studio, I also use Drumagog for triggering. dD: Why have you chosen to use external triggers rather than, for example, drum pads? FJ: I like to mix sounds. I always have the natural sound in my strokes, using external triggers. You have more dynamics this way and it doesn’t sound like a machine. 38

dD: Do you use electronics live, in the studio or both? FJ: I use both. When playing live, I only trigger the bass. In the studio, all combinations are possible. In fact, I’ve also experimented with plugging the pickups directly into a preamp and mixing the sound with the mic sound. Through this, you get a lot of attack without making the cymbals louder – a risk you run when featuring the attack of a mic signal with the eq. dD: You mentioned Drumagog. For those not familiar, Drumagog is a plugin which automatically replaces acoustic drum tracks with samples. How do you use that? FJ: Drumagog is MY tool. I mix the gog file with

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PHOTO: Carsten Bunnemann

natural sound, which is very easy. It’s really great! I’ve haven’t yet worked with VSTS like Superior Drummer, but I want to check it out sometime soon. dD: Tell us a bit about your drumming background… FJ: I started drumming when I was seven years old. It was a custom in my family to learn an instrument and I was allowed to choose the instrument myself. I chose the drums, but I didn’t really start practising until I was about 12. First, I played in a marching band - the band of the local fire department. At around the same time, I also founded my first band - a church band – and I also had piano lessons for several years. dD: What were you doing before Fiddler’s Green and how did they ask you to join them? FJ: I always played a lot of different styles. One of my past bands was Merlons of Nehemiah, which was a folk medieval band, and we toured widely in Europe. We also opened for Fiddler’s Green, so we knew each other. So when the Fiddler’s drummer, Wolfram Kellne, left the band, I went to the audition. That was in 2000 and I’ve been with the band since and we have a lot of fun. dD: What’s so appealing about Irish Folk Rock and how do Germans get to take it on? FJ: I think that Irish folk contains a lot of energy and is a great party sound. The melodies are really intoxicating and the rhythm always appears to get faster. The idea for Fiddler’s Green came from six bored university students. They had other musical projects and just joined together for a little party/folk side project. They never dreamed of doing music professionally at that point. But then it happened: the band got more and more known - first locally and then throughout Germany. We now tour a lot through Germany and Europe and the people enjoy the party. dD: How does electronic drumming fit in with the Fiddler’s Green sound? FJ: When I play live with Fiddler’s, I only use a pickup for the bass drum to increase the attack. Otherwise, we don’t use any electronics. In the studio though, it’s a whole different matter. dD: Do you think that electronic drumming is gaining popularity in Europe at the moment? FJ: Yes, I think so. I teach drums in Munich, a city where most people live in apartments instead of digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011

houses. Half of my students therefore have electronic drum sets. And it works! They practise a lot. The new generation of electronic drums feels great and the sound is unbelievably good. If you connect the module via USB to the PC and then use something like Superior Drummer, you get a really great sound. The difference between those sounds and a well-recorded set in a big studio is not as big as it was 10 years ago. But it doesn’t work for every style obviously. For jazz, you just need to play an acoustic set. dD: What sort of artists are using electronic drums and what are some of the impressive new applications you’re seeing? FJ: I’m a great admirer of Danny Carey of Tool. He has an acoustic set and adds sample sounds with an Octapad. He plays cool rhythms on that with tabla sounds, for example - I love it! Johnny Rabb plays cool drum ‘n bass styles on the Roland kits. That rocks! And don’t forget all the metal drummers who trigger their acoustic sets. A great example here is Machine Head drummer Dave McClain. dD: What would it take to get you to abandon acoustic and switch to electronics full time? FJ: Wow. I would have to change my style completely. But since I would never want to miss the physical component of a real-sounding set, that would probably never happen! dD: So you don’t think electronic drums will ever overtake acoustics, like electric guitars did with acoustic guitars? FJ: No, I don’t think so. But perhaps the louder instrument always wins the game. The acoustic guitar therefore didn’t really have a chance. But nothing can be louder than an acoustic drum set, if you hit really hard. 39

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Rammstein’s Christophe Schneider is using V-Drums for live concert pre-productions.

e - d r u m s r u l e i n € u ro p e Judging from the growing adoption in live e-drumming performance, some might think the ‘e’ stands for Europe. Michael Schack looks at how e-drums are shaping the music scene on his home continent. ACOUSTIC DRUMMERS FROM the live Metal and Pop scene have been triggering e-drum modules for years. But with the increasing popularity of electronic music and DJ acts in clubs, on summer festival stages and even in big indoor arena music events, live ‘played’ (as opposed to triggered) electronic beats are definitely the “go” at present. The worldwide multi-genre electronic music culture has managed to encompass both the underground and mainstream. The common element in all the genres is “the beat”. It’s the bottom line that makes people move, and there’s already a clear need from serious DJs and electronic musicians to perform those beats live. Their fingers can do the job for a while, but in the end, nothing beats a live pad-hitting e-beat drummer. 40

Of course, one of the big advantages of electronic music concerts is that the performing artists can genuinely reproduce the sound of their mixes, and kick the PA to the max. Every electronic sub-genre depends on the impact of a specific kick sound, the feel of it, the presence or even lack of a backbeat, the precise frequencies of the hi-hat and clap sounds, and the ducking “compressor” groove feel where kick and bass alternate in pushing subwoofer speakers to their limit. This is not really something acoustic drums can do. It’s all about style “credibility” and sheer sound tweaking, as it should be. Another benefit is the ultimate dream for any frontof-house PA sound engineer - a silent stage. Of course, e-drums have already been there for more

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for instance, some of the top Tanz Band acts, touring professional cover bands, have been using e-drums for years. They take advantage of the silent stage concept and their sound guy has all the possibilities to make them sound powerful, even in smaller clubs in the far North of Lapland. So, edrums on the live stage are not always about reproducing electronic genres live, but also about finding a good balance between practical advantages and correctly reproducing the original drum sounds of those hit recordings. This way, depending on the cover songs or medleys they perform, the drummer reproduces the correct groove vibe whether they play Black Eyed Peas or Abba hit songs. Speaking of which ... guess what kind of drums the Black Eyed Peas are using in their live shows. Yes, up e n i l e-drums! ntage

than a decade. Live music show concepts like The Night of the Proms in Belgium, France, Holland and Germany have been using e-drums since 1998, with drummers playing a combination of electronic kick, snare and toms and regular acoustic cymbals right behind or next to the 40-piece philharmonic orchestra and choir. (The acoustic cymbals are used because the conductor can clearly hear those high frequencies to keep his string section in time). Silent e-drums are an absolute enhancement for these kinds of productions. And speaking of enhancement, edrums are not a substitute for ability. If you want to be a working drummer, both in the studio and on stage, you first of all need to be a good musician. So in what way do digital drums add value to this? Well, if you want to provide the beats and grooves for today’s music, you should at least be willing i and’s v B z n a to learn about the specific T sounds. If you want to be original, you first of all need to look at the combination of your human feel with today’s sometimes over-produced beats which people dance to. Sound is a very important ingredient of what makes those people go totally out of their minds, so you should be able to at least reproduce that sound, and of course, if possible, add your personal twist to it. P-Funkish black soul group Cameo, for example, has developed a trademark sound based on the Simmons-type kick-and-snare vibe. Each of today’s electronic music anthems has a specifically produced Dance Kick sound which can easily be reproduced live. In other cases, there might be mainly one kick that is used throughout the whole concert which blends perfectly with any of the keyboard or live bass lines. In both cases, it’s all about blend and PA impact and the low kick-in-thestomach vibe that makes people move, and most importantly, recognise the songs even more. The e-drum impact is also being felt in genres spanning Metal to Pop music. Rammstein’s Christophe Schneider from Germany is using VDrums for live concert pre-productions and admits that the impact is significant. Muse are playing electronic kick and snare on some of their live concert songs. Some go a little further. In Sweden, digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011

The Ultimate Drummer In my opinion, the ultimate live performing drummer for the near future will be one who can play and groove both on acoustic and electronic drums. Not just hybrid kits, but on both instruments. It’s not “either/or”, but “both”. Isn’t it impressive when you see and hear a synth/keyboard player like Stevie Wonder simply play tons of soul out of the same song on a grand acoustic piano AND an electronic keyboard? That’s what music is all about: the sheer human artist, able to share his music and move the audience on whichever instrument he’s playing. But the music genre itself demands the specific sounds that it is built upon. For Jazz, e-drums will never be able to reproduce the same acoustic impact of a small acoustic kit that becomes one with the acoustic environment it reacts to. But for TechHouse, an acoustic drum kit will never blend with the ducking bass and synth arpeggios that make people dance. So let’s stop the never-ending discussion over whether e-drums can reproduce acoustic drum sounds. It’s time to play the e-kit to PRODUCE the beats of today and tomorrow live instead of ONLY REPRODUCING what acoustic drums can already do. Digital drummers, go for it! 41

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Big names go virtual Australian e-drummer and recording engineer Hercules Robinson puts two e-cymbal packs through their paces.

THE RELEASE OF these two rival packs from two leading cymbal makers is a great indication of how far electronic drumming has come. So what’s on test in this article? We have cymbal sample packs from Zildjian and Bosphorus. Zildjian is a name known to all drummers (its very meaning is “cymbal-maker”) and Bosphorus is a newer Turkish cymbal maker that prides itself on producing hand-made cymbals. The Zildjian offering is the Gen16 Digital Vault Z-Pack Volume 1 A Series and the Bosphorus is the Stanton Moore Series. The packs are powered by FXpansion’s BFD engine – the Zildjian pack includes a custom version of BFD 42

Eco while the Bosphorus pack has the samples only, which are described as BFD2-compatible. My test bed included a Quad core 2.66GHz DAW running MS Windows Vista 32bit, a Roland TD20SX kit and a MIDI keyboard.

First impressions The Zildjian Gen16 pack comprised a CD-sized cardboard pack with an attractive graphic on the front and some descriptions of the contents on the back. The spine title is Gen 16 DV Z-Pack Vol. 1 A Series which suggests that there are more volumes to come in this product range. Inside, there’s a

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Gen16 gets its own interface while the Bosphorus pack simply adds to BFD’s cymbal choice. page Quick Start guide with some clear instructions and graphics – very user-friendly. The item I was keen to get my hands on was the Digital Vault pack itself and it is also nicely put together with a threesection flip-open CD wallet containing another colour booklet describing the Z-pack cymbals, plus two discs of samples. The cymbal selection in this pack comprises 14 well-known Zildjians (see page 44). The samples in Gen16 are recordings of Zildjian’s Vault cymbal (the master) for each of the 14 selections in this pack, so you can be sure that you are getting samples of Zildjian’s ideal for each instrument and not something that you could ever purchase “off the shelf”.

The Bosphorus Stanton Moore Signature Series was shipped in a standard CD/DVD plastic pack. No instructions or brochures were included other than the cover sleeve notes in this evaluation version. The cymbal section in this pack consists of seven Bosphorus products (see page 45). A description of the microphones and preamps used plus studio and production details made up the cover notes along with some images of Stanton Moore.

Installation This installation was performed on a relatively powerful PC, so installation times may vary subject to your PC’s performance – the instructions for installing on a Mac were very similar.

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The Zildjian samples 10” A Custom Splash 14” A Custom Mastersound HH 16” A Custom Crash 14” New Beat HH 18” A Custom Crash 20” A Custom Medium Ride 20” A Custom Crash 20” A Ping Ride 18” A Custom China 21” Rezo Ride 22” China Boy High 20” A Rock Ride 14” A Custom HH 21” A Sweet Ride

First step, after reading the instructions, was to insert DVD1 (that’s Digital Vault Disk). These are software licensed products so there is a procedure to follow to maintain integrity of ownership. It doesn’t have an autorun installer, so you have to manually double-click on the installer icon when the folder opens – full installation of disk 1 took 12 minutes and the process is repeated for disk 2 which took nine minutes. The samples occupied approximately 17GB of hard disk space. The next step was to authorise the licence – this required the creation of an account at the FXpansion website (unless you already have one), input of the Gen16 licence details and validation of the licence within BFD Eco (or the full version of BFD if you already have that). I was fairly thorough doing this and also documented it as I went, so it took about 15 minutes – you do need to be connected to the Internet, although you can perform the licensing on a different computer to the one you use for BFD. So, now I have the BFD Eco screen in front of me with the default template loaded and a heap of Zildjian cymbals arrayed around the kit and viewed from overhead. It is a custom version of BFD Eco which offers a cymbals-only view. There does not appear to be any option to resize the BFD Eco window which is a bit disappointing for those who like a full screen view, but we’re now looking good to start the real business of triggering and only about an hour spent getting to this point – so let’s get on with the fun. 44

Installation of the Bosphorus pack followed a similar process and it took only six minutes to decompress and install the 6GB of samples into the previously created folder. When I opened BFD Eco, it popped up a warning of unlicensed kit pieces and offered to take me to the authorisation page – the process took another four minutes and appeared successful,; however, I could not see the Bosphorus cymbals until I rebuilt the database from the tick menu selector.

The BFD Eco interface The first thing I did was to check the I/O settings via an appropriately labeled radio button on the top left of the BFD Eco Graphical User Interface (GUI) – a few quick selections from the dropdown menus and I had my sound device and MIDI I/O selected. Onboard audio or a higher spec sound device can be used at sample rates between 44,100 and 96,000. The GUI view is split into upper and lower halves: The upper half allows you to select from the three major views (kit, channel and grooves) via radio buttons:The kit view offers two options – just cymbals (up to 11 + HH) or kit + cymbals (5 piece kit with HH, 3 cymbals and 3 assignable auxilliaries); The channel view takes you to the cymbal configuration, equalisation (EQ) and effects (FX) options; The grooves view is a mini-explorer style of screen to allow setup and tracking of grooves and loops, including quantising (time correction) and export functions. Startup preset and help radio buttons plus three dropdown menus with arrow buttons (to save or select presets, kit and mixer settings) complete the top half of the GUI. The lower half is the mixer control with all of the basic mixer functions including: 11 cymbal channels or kit + 3 cymbals and 3 auxiliaries, HH channel, 4 mic channels and Master channel; Fader, pan, auxilliary sends, mute, solo and master assign for each channel; Cymbal modelling controls plus FX power, learn function and offline option; Kit size (MB), mouse-over readout, transport controls, a panic button and time/tempo controls.

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The Bosphorus samples 16” Smash Crash BFD Eco is primarily mouse-driven, and keyboard commands (tab, arrow, etc) don’t seem to work. A control surface could probably be mapped for a more hands-on approach and this would greatly improve the application control, especially if you were driving it from the drummer’s seat. Also, BFD Eco is a floating window on the screen and cannot be resized to full-screen view which is fine when using it as a plug-in, but less than optimum when using as a stand-alone application.

20” Trash Crash 20” Wide Ride 20” Pang Thang 18” Smash Crash 22” Wide Ride 14” Fat Hats

Triggering For testing, I set up a MIDI keyboard as the first triggering device. This allowed me to sit at the mixer/DAW/keyboard and tweak the settings. It took about five minutes to load up 11 cymbals and hi-hat – the options are stick, mallet or brush-based sounds and I went for stick on Test kit 1. Using the standard settings on my DAW (512KB), the latency was so poor that they were unplayable in real time. When I reduced the buffer to 64KB in my I/O and 32 within BFD Eco, the latency was brought down to an acceptable, almost unnoticable duration.

Sound quality So how do they sound? Zildjian is very good as core samples – very A. Zildjian. The overtones and quavering ring are allpresent. I suspect a wood-tip stick and a fairly neutral condensor mic have been used in a semilive studio. The additional mics (overhead and room) allow you to tailor the sound effectively and design the level of ambience you require. The dynamic response is good, but not great, with a KB, and better with an e-kit. My impressions so far are that these samples will work very well in studio recordings – ads, soundtracks and pop songs are going to like these. The sound is bright and quite rich in harmonics and it is obvious that Zildjian has recorded its best cymbals: the recordings appear to come from the sweetest spot on each cymbal and are generally the sounds that I imagine before I go into a drum shop and test their cymbals. A wide variety of sizes and sounds are included and I could not pinpoint a weak link in the pack. Bosphorus, again, has very good core samples – more to my personal taste, being a bit “darker” in tone and a slightly better recording with a little more level and clarity. They immediately sounded very well engineered for mic placement. The depth of harmonics and rich ring are testament to the digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011

cymbals being the best of their range. I felt that these samples would suit a jazz or slightly less commercial album very well. I would have liked a few more cymbals in the selection, especially a splash and a small crash plus a different ride for some more colour. Comparing to a-cymbals from a drum shop, the Bos pack is as good as you would ever find.

Conclusion The only thing lacking in both packs is the variety of notes one can obtain from an acoustic cymbal. This is not really a criticism of the sample packs, but a limitation from the currently available electronic triggers. If the e-drum manufacturers keep developing and make cymbal pads with positional sensing, the sample packs may eventually put real pressure on the acoustic cymbal market. As they stand, the sample packs are a great way to obtain a pure sound that represents the best tone from any one cymbal with dynamic colouration, but without the variety of sounds available from playing across the face of a cymbal. Would I buy these sample packs? If I were running a VST-based kit, yes indeed – both the Zildjian and Bosphorus packs are excellent! Would I buy them to replace the top-of-the-line edrum modules? Maybe not yet, but if e-cymbals were made with four or five zones, rather than two or three, my answer may be different. 45

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Your onboard studio The modern drum module offers a range of tools to shape the sounds which the edrummer can produce. Simon Ayton looks at some of the back-end tweaks.

SOME OF THE most distinctive drum sounds throughout history came not only from the drummer’s individual playing style or even choice of drum kit and cymbals but from how the drums were captured or treated on the recording and mix. This month, we’ll explore the world of ‘efx’ and examine how some of the more memorable classic drum sounds were created. While some modules may allow very basic EQ and perhaps some reverb to help sounds to breathe a bit more, others allow you to have separate effects applied to each instrument. A ‘low cut’ or ‘high pass’ filter could be used on the cymbals to make them airier, while some EQ could be used on the bass drum to help define the body of the drum or help accentuate the beater snap. Gating Gating was very common during the analogue recording and mixing days as it allowed engineers to control the noise levels of tape, but it has also been an essential tool for drummers to help reduce bleed or spill from the very loud instruments of a kit into the nearby microphones. In an electronic drum module, the sounds are recorded generally as separate isolated recordings, so gating is not needed as a fix and, as a result, it has largely been eliminated from the arsenal of on-board efx in modules. Adjusting the decay or sustain of the instrument can have the same effect. You may still find gating as an effect in conjunction with the reverb or ambience section of a module to help with the creation of gated reverb-type effects or helping you to pull that mullet-soaked ‘In the Air Tonight’ drum sound you so lust after. 46

Compression This helps make loud sounds quieter and soft sounds louder; useful for increasing the level of your snare ghost notes, for example. An ‘expander’ will do the opposite. It can be fun for really squashing a snare to make it ring, or great for a gentle squeeze on the overall kit sound to make it sound more like a finished recording. Compression is often misunderstood, so here’s a run-down of typical compressor controls and what they do: ○ Threshold The threshold control of a compressor determines at what level the compressor will start doing its thing. Adjusted to -20dB, for example, no compression will occur until the input level exceeds -20dB; ○ Ratio The ratio control adjusts by how much the dynamics are reduced once the threshold is reached. 1:1 means no compression, whereas 30:1 is referred to as limiting because output volume will hardly increase once the threshold is exceeded. ○ Attack Increasing the attack time will allow more of the snap of the initial hit to come through before the compressor kicks in and clamps down. ○ Release Release controls what happens once the compressor has done its ‘thang’. ○ In Use For a classic compressor sound, clamp one over the entire kit by using a master efx (efx over the entire kit or module output). Try a medium to slow attack and a fast release combined with a 10:1

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ratio and gradually reduce the threshold to hear the effect of the kit squashing. Time-based and modulation efx These effects are usually applied as ‘master’ effects to which each instrument of the kit can be sent. This is done via a send mixer. Simply put, raising the send level of each instrument sends some of its sound to the master effect, in this case reverb, which we’ll then hear at the master outputs. Advanced modules like the Roland TD-12 and 20 let you route this effect out of individual outputs if needed so that the main outputs maintain a ‘dry’, unaffected kit sound. ○ Ambience Often mistaken as the same as reverb, ambience is usually more subtle sounding and is designed to simulate a real-world environment, rather than simply to add a wash of effect. Ambience can help make the drums sound like it’s a kit set up in a real space rather than sounding like a close-miced, dry drum recording. Expect to find controls like size of space, shape of space, wall material, etc. High microphone position will influence the tone of the space by more of the cymbals, where low will reveal more of the kick and toms. ○ Reverb Can be used for dramatic special effects. There are many types of reverb sounds depending on their design. Everything from a small-room effect through to the Grand Canyon can be created simply by adjusting the following typical settings: ♦ Reverb Type - plate, room, hall, chamber, concert, studio, etc. These all have very different characteristics which you’ll become familiar with quickly. ♦ Pre-delay - the time it takes - usually in digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011

milliseconds - for the reverb to kick in. Zero pre-delay will sound quite unusual and muddy as, unlike the real world, the reverb will start immediately. A delay of 10-20ms can help add definition to a drum part whilst making it more life-like. ♦ Time or Length - sustain of the reverb from start to finish in milliseconds to tens of seconds or longer, depending on the processing power of the module. ♦ HiDamp - reverb benefits from the use of careful EQ. Using a high damping EQ can help to soften the reflections and reduce the bright shimmer or brittleness of reverb. Generally shown in KHz, everything above this frequency will be reduced or ‘damped’ down. ♦ HiCut - More severe than damping. Frequencies above the set value will be simply cut off or filtered out altogether. ♦ Gated Reverb - may include the following controls: -Threshold: how quiet the reverb tail gets before it’s gated - Hold: how long it takes the gating process to begin once the reverb tail drops below the threshold - Release: how long the gate takes to close - Delay: there can be many types such as stereo delay. Turning on some delay and sending a bit of each part of the kit to it allows you in effect to play with yourself forever. This can be much more fun than practising to a click as it can make you play more musically and it’s a great way to hear poly-rhythms and beat syncopation at work. The challenge is keeping the pulse of the delay going without breaking the flow. 47

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Adjusting the feedback allows the delay to remain longer and gives you more repeats to play to but be aware that your mistakes will also last longer! Stewart Copeland famously used a delay set to around 320ms on his hihats in particular to help build his complex illusion of incredible hi-hat skills. Flange: Roland’s description is smack on: “Produces a metallic resonance that rises and falls somewhat like a jet airplane taking off or landing”. Yep, that’s the sound… Feedback : Amount of the flanger sound that is fed back into the effect (minus values invert the phase). Chorus: Helps make sounds rich and spacious. Phaser: Produces a swirling modulation effect to sounds. As used on the drums on Led Zep’s ‘Kashmir’. A typical phaser could have the following settings: ○ Freq: Which frequency of the sound is to be ‘Phased’ in cycles per second or Hertz (Hz). ○ LFO Rate: Speed of ‘oscillation’ of the signal in Hz. ○ Depth: How deeply the phase will affect the signal. ○ Resonance: How wide or narrow the ‘bandwidth’ of the phasing will be. High values will sound sharper and more nasal. Distortion: An intense and often more dramatic and fuzzier overdrive. Gain: Amount of distortion. Enhancer: Controls the overtone structure of the high frequencies, adding sparkle and brightness to the sound. Sens: Sensitivity and responsiveness of the enhancer. LF Level: The volume level of the low frequency range of the direct sound. Ring Mod (modulation): Nothing to do with any Peter Jackson film or some kind of new fashion clique, ring modulation is a curious effect where amplitude modulation is applied to the sounds by multiplying their signals and outputting the sum and difference of their harmonic content, effectively ‘frequency mixing’. Great for creating unusual metallic bell-like effects on toms in particular! Check out Wiki for some examples of ring modulation at work. Okay, so those are some of the tools available to you. Get stuck in and see what you can come up with and most importantly remember the first rule: There are no rules… 48

Behind the sounds SOME CLASSIC DRUM sounds have been captured in the most unusual ways and places. Ringo’s famous fat tom sound in the Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ was created by placing tea-towels over the toms and recording them as an overdub or double-track recording over the initial drum kit recording. Once Ringo and the Abbey Road engineers started using this technique, they could hardly stop. You’ll hear these distinctive, compressed and warm tom and snare sounds all over Ringo’s recordings through the 60s, which help add great depth and dimension to the recordings. Listen to Led Zeppelin’s cover version of ‘When The Levee Breaks’ to hear John Bonham’s kit processed with a ‘slap back’ style of echo. The track was recorded by engineer Andy Johns in the main hallway of Headley Grange, an old building with a central stairwell. Microphones were placed on the drums at the bottom and two mics were placed in stereo on the second floor to capture a delayed and slightly muffled version of the kit performance. This can also be done with an analogue tape machine. ‘Slap back’ tape echo can be created easily when using a reel-to-reel tape machine by utilising the inherent physical gap between the record and playback heads of the machine to create this delay. When you listen to both signals at once, you get a single delay pulse happening with a slight difference or degradation in sound due to the inaccuracy of reproducing sound from tape. The delay time depends on how fast you run the tape. Producers like Phil Spector used this to great effect on many John Lennon records. Have a listen to ‘Imagine’, ‘Mind Games’ and ‘Instant Karma’ for some great examples of its use on vocals. Phil Collins’ enormous drum sound on Face Value’s ‘In The Air Tonight’ was created by recording the sound of the drum room through the studio talkback microphone. The SSL consoles as used in the session have heavy compressors built into the talkback mic section so that musicians at the back of a recording room could still be heard even if they were talking quietly (remember that compressors effectively boost quiet sounds and pull down loud ones). Engineer Hugh Padgham had the SSL engineers simply wire the output of the talkback section to the patch bay so it could be recorded. A noise gate was then placed over the talkback mic channel and some direct signal from the close drum kit mics was sent to the side chain or key-in of the gate to force it to open whenever a close-miced tom or snare was hit.

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--TRAINING-Extending the Samba 3UHYLRXVO\ we looked at putting accents within the 6 amba hand pattern on the hihat. Last time, we looked at putting accents within the Samba hand pattern on the hi-hat. In this In this lesson *UDQW &ROOLQV PRYHV WKH DFFHQWV GRZQ WR WKH VQDUH GUXP lesson. Grant Collins moves the accents down to the snare drum. Be sure to keep the hi-hat to keep the hihat part light and rimshot the accents on the VQDUH GUXP part light and rimshot the accents on the snare drum. The bass drum will continue throughout q = 60-130 with the Samba foot part: 1

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™™ ¿ ¿ > ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ > > ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ > > ¿ ¿ ¿ > ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ > ¿ ™™ œœ œœ œ œ / œ™ œ œ œ™ œ œ™ œ œ™ œ œ™ œ œ™ œ œ™ œ œ™ œ 12

™™ > ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ > ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ > ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ > > ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ ¿ > > ¿ ¿ ¿ ™™ œœ œ™ œœ œœ™ / œœ™ œ œ™ œ œ™ œ œ œ™ œ œœ™ œ œ œ™ œ Copyright © Grant Collins: 2010

Grant’s lessons are produced electronically so that you can access them as a MIDI and load them into your software of choice. digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011

Click here to download 49

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e - d r u mme rs u n i t e Eighteen e-drummers, four bass tracks and nine and a half minutes of youtube video. It might not sound like much, but for the people involved in the Second International V-Drummers Collaboration, the final video was the result of many hours of practice, playing and editing. digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz was among the players and spoke to some of his co-stars about the project.

FOR THE RECORD, I’m the sheepish player with mallets in the track which begins with Jim Fiori’s haunting MalletKat solo. I had technical issues, ran out of time and ended up having to do it in one take. And that’s the case for the defence. I, like many of the 18 people involved in the project, was inspired by the first collaboration, a video which has been dedicated to its initiator, Herluf Hermansen, who passed away before its completion. Where the original video combined the talents of 10 drummers, the second collaboration drew in twice as many participants and spanned Europe, North America and Australia. The project was co-ordinated by Eric Brinkerink (pictured above) in The Netherlands, the last player in the line-up last time around, following a year of discussions with Greek drummer Hampis who edited the first video in his friend’s memory. 50

“After video 1 was finished, I had some ideas to make an even better collab video,” Brinkerink says. “Like using a bass track to ‘glue’ the different parts together.” The bass track was the work of American Scott Haskitt from New Haven, CT. “I’ve never really just sat down to write self-contained bass lines like this,” he recalls. “I was very picky about them and feel like this experience improved my bass playing more than most bass playing experiences I’ve had.” Haskitt’s contribution wasn’t limited to the bass. He also participated in the drumming: “Besides the anticipation of seeing everyone’s contribution, it was also a fun challenge on the drums trying to come up with something that was creative, interesting, but where the intention was more to have fun than be competitive or showy.” Tim Jackson from Manchester in the UK was one of the few repeat performers who also featured in the original video.

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His inspiration was the “huge variety of ideas brought to the same backing tracks from the other players”. “We all have our own styles and techniques - you can learn so much from seeing everyone else’s interpretation and expand your own repertoire. “I had a great time doing this, but actually played for about an hour trying to get something right for one of the other bass line backing parts. The main focus was on trying to get a drum ‘n bass piece together, but my timing was just too far off - I guess I need more practice!

way that I could pass this up. “I can honestly say that it was an honour to be able to contribute to this wonderful project. I found it to be a very enjoyable experience and would do it again in a heartbeat,” he says, pledging to get his next contribution in earlier. One of the Australians in the project, Ian Power from Coffs Harbour, says he has “long been interested in the Internet’s power to bring musicians together, and this was the first opportunity I have had to do just that”.

“I finally settled on the backing part in my final video by accident. Having noodled around with it for a minute or two, I decided just to hit record and play a kind of jazz/shuffle thing and see how it turned out. For a quick off-the-cuff take, I think it went pretty well and I’m quite pleased with my playing.”

“Choosing the bass line that appealed to me most was easy. Finding a groove that suited the riff - but also showed a little of my skill - was more of a challenge, but a lot of fun. I would definitely be involved again should the opportunity arise. That would give me an opportunity to use my newer, larger kit!” he adds.

Kev Harper from Crawley, West Sussex, England, says he’s “no flash drummer with all the skills”. His involvement, he recalls, was “not for show - it’s just because I liked the idea of getting involved in something new and different”.

Fellow Aussie Ross McGregor from Melbourne, who did some nifty sampling with his Roland SPD-S, says he jumped in seeing he missed out on the last one “because I was new to the ( forum, and a bit shy”.

Harper says the experience was fun, even though he did “about 40” takes.

“I loved doing this video as I had a lot of fun researching and compiling samples and figuring out how I was going to incorporate them into the minute we were allocated,” he comments, adding that he would definitely be involved again. “It’s a great feeling to be part of something on an international scale,” he notes. “I don’t think I’d do anything different; I think it captured who I am as a musician.”

Jim Fiore from Utica, NY got involved because “it seemed like the neighbourly thing to do”. “I enjoyed this quite a bit and I would do it again,” he comments. Also ready to do it again is Ben from Tétange, Luxembourg. “Collaborations are always a lot of fun! I had a little free time so why not do something useful?” says the player who has been using edrums for just a year. The best part of being involved, he notes, is the international dimension. “I love to see other drummers playing, grooving! So I tried it myself to show the world a little bit of my personal groove!” For Jason Britt from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, who had been drumming for just over a year, the opportunity was not one to be ignored. “It isn’t often that you get to collaborate with other musicians from all over the world, and there was no digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011

So, will there be a Third International Collaboration? Brinkerink says he would join again “but I don’t know if I would take the editing on again”. “Maybe it’s better if other people do it every time to keep it fresh. Also, I thought of some more rules to streamline the whole thing. But later you find out there still are things you haven’t thought of. I think that might have a negative impact on the next collab videos. People don’t like too many rules for something that should be fun. “But who knows, maybe it will catch on…” If you haven’t yet seen the collaboration, you can view it here. 51

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Rails and cones Whether you’re building a trigger from scratch or doing a home repair, digitalDrummer can help. Philippe Decuyper will find the answers to your DIY dilemmas. Just email your questions to This month, we have two questions. The first is anonymous: “I’ve built a cone and rail dual-zone snare trigger and I keep getting slight rim triggering from the head. Is this something to do with the fact that the rail is attached to the lug screws?” USING LUG SCREWS is probably the most practical and least destructive way to attach something inside a drum shell. It is easy to do and this should be robust enough to last for some time. The design can, however, lead to false triggering and it is important to check: Are the two piezo transducers isolated from each other? Is the head isolated from the rim? Are these not the same issue, you might ask. Well, yes - and no… All things that are attached by screws are physically linked. If your rail is directly attached to your shell via screws, both rail and shell will receive vibrations generated by a hit on the rim. It’s fine for rim triggering even if your rim piezo is attached to the rail. The problem here is that your head piezo is attached to this same rail and must be isolated from it. There are various solutions. The cleanest one is to use silencing blocks to attach the head piezo plate to the rail. I personally opted for an ugly but ultra-efficient 4cm-thick kickboard-type foam piece between them (shown here). This is just a first step, though. You can also improve isolation between rail and shell by adding four thick rubber washers. 52

Your lug screws should not be “linked hard” to your rail (and the rubber provides some isolation between the metal parts). In this approach, your rim piezo cannot be attached to the rail anymore as it will now be isolated from rim vibrations. Instead, it must be attached to the shell itself. I use some homemade double-sided foam tape to do it (this is important for many reasons). Now, we have the head piezo isolated from the rail and the rail isolated from the shell – a bit like the double isolation of windows in cold countries. But isolation cannot be perfect (as with windows in old houses – heating is still needed in cold countries). It should, however, be enough to avoid most false triggering issues. Now, what about isolating head from rim? Hitting the head will also transmit vibrations to the shell and then to the rim piezo which is attached to it. You cannot really avoid this, but these vibrations are weak compared to those transmitted by the rim/screw/lug/screw metal chain! To fix any remaining issue, you can adjust the rim sensitivity from your module. Remember that the more your head piezo is isolated from the shell and the more your rim piezo is isolated from the head, the less false triggering will occur. Finally, and slightly off-topic, but nonetheless important: Do not directly attach your head piezo to its plate

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(using glue or epoxy) or it will be able to flex. Using a 2mm-thick foam disc between the piezo and its plate should provide good results, especially if the foam disc has a smaller diameter than the piezo. You can also use a rubber washer instead of a foam disc. This washer should be the same diameter as the piezo. Since a washer is a circle and not a full disc, your piezo will be easily bent in the middle, but it will not vibrate like mad. For more sensitivity, you can add a small and thin foam disc (same diameter as the ceramic part of your piezo) between the cone and the head piezo.

The second question, from Andrew Boey in Sapporo, Japan is: “Many people use cone triggers and I’d like to know what material to use to make my own – and will they trigger as well as the original manufacturers’ products?” digitalDrummer editor Allan Leibowitz answers that one. Not all mesh drums use cones and some manufacturers use foam columns instead – mostly because one company has the patent on a trigger cushion with a top diameter smaller than its base. The benefit of the conical design is that it forms a smaller hot spot. It also requires less energy to trigger the piezo.

A number of DIYers have built their own trigger cushions using a range of foam products and the most popular appears to be Poron foam which is readily available in various thicknesses in the US, but harder to find in other markets. Elsewhere, edrummers have formed cones or columns from foam sanding blocks, obviously removing the abrasive surfaces first. There is no reason why good triggering should not be achieved using home-made cones or columns, but foam is inevitably hard to work with unless you have the right cutting equipment such as a heated blade or custom foam-cutter. Some DIYers have built custom jigs and used sandpaper to shape foam spinning on a drill, for example. The bottom line appears to be that it’s hard to make neatlooking cones which, at best, might equal the performance of ready-made versions. It is unlikely that a homemade cone will ever outperform a bought one, so it comes down to skill, availability of tools and materials and, of course, the value of your own time.

Get DIY help - and a prize for your efforts Jman Acoustic Evolution is offering one of its highly regarded Stealth Conversion Kits for the reader question selected for the next edition of digitalDrummer. On offer is a 20”, three-zone ride kit with step-bystep instructions. (Cymbal not included) To be in the running, simply send your DIY question to

Your DIY connections

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Another Australian shares a surpersized kit this month, as Dannii O’Connor from Geelong invites digitalDrummer into her studio. Dannii’s story:

Drum equipment:

Music Styles: Progressive rock, electronic, jazz, acoustic, ambient Favourite Drummers: David Jones, Phil Collins, Sheila E, Omar Hakim, Terry Bozzio, Chester Thompson, Bernard Purdie, Karen Carpenter, Cindy Blackman, Caroline Corr. Musical Background: I first started in the late ‘70s playing percussive and wind instruments in primary school. In 1984, I took up trumpet and played in the school band. I then discovered a Juno 6 synthesizer in the band room and was fascinated. That got me started on what is now my primary instrument, keyboards and piano. Soon after that, I got some guitar lessons and purchased my first electric guitar which I still own and then extended that to playing bass. My journey into playing drums began relatively recently, in 2007 when I purchased a TD-12 module and the beginnings of my current VDrums kit. Everything just grew (quite literally) from there to what you see now. I believe my case of G.A.S. has now been cured!!!

Modules: TD-12, TD-20 expanded and TMC-6 Drums: 8" x 4" custom A to E toms x 4 8" x 8" custom A to E toms x 2 PD-105 10" snare PD-8 modified toms x 4 (edge trigger is now velocity sensitive) 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" custom mini triggers x 4 6", 8", 10" A to E rototoms 13" x 5" Pearl A to E tom 16" x 16" Pearl A to E floor tom 22" x 16" A to E floor tom 22" x 18" Pearl kick KD-8 kick Cymbals: 14" A to E crash x 2 CY-12 R/C ride CY-8 crash x 2 CY-5 hi-hat 12" Kit-Toys china 8 1/2" Kit-Toys splash 13" Kit-Toys crash



Hardware: Gibraltar V rack x 2 (stacked to form a cage) Gibraltar mounting hardware Sonic Drive dual-chain doublekick pedal Mapex single chain double kick pedal Roland FD8 hi-hat controller Custom splitter box Custom electronic roto pitch controller Mapex throne

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

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Above: Dannii and her kit. Right: Roland TD-12 and TD-20 modules. Below: An array of DIY toms and rotos. Check out Dannii’s music here.

If you have a monster, email digitalDRUMMER, FEBRUARY 2011


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