E-drums at Gigs
Someone who watched my content on YouTube and on this website recently sent me his question about e-drum conversions for live situations. He was really kind and allowed me to publish his questions and my answers.
I belong to the older generation, and my first experience of digital drums was is in the mid-80’s. It was a Dynacord with hexagonal pads and tough response – I get sore wrists just thinking about it.
In the early 90’s so did I have a Swedish Clavia developed kit from the second generation of DDrums and it worked exceptionally good live – as long as we only played cover dance – could still play a multiple role bounce when we played e.g. tango.
Nowadays I use most miked acoustic drums live – but also owns a Ddrum4SE with rack and pads – but it is so ugly with aluminum pads live and there is also a (good) module without PS.
I have also tried the 2box module – do not know if it had PS – but was not convinced. When I use digital drums so is it always with real cymbals? Because I have not heard any digital cymbals which provides my minimum requirements yet.
I have received a used Sonor 507 set from a customer (10, 12, 14, 20, 14) and have become so inspired of your “E-Conversion Kit” videos – so I have become to rebuild this kit.
Now to my questions:
Will I miss the PS if I have a module who has this function – but using acoustic drum triggers that are put on the hoop?
Positional Sensing is a nice feature, it allows you to hear a different sound pitch if you hit your snare close to the rim. However, it is not necessary to enjoy playing your e-drums. PS is not an important purchase criteria.
I want to use mesh heads and wonder how triggering is affected by the foam rubber under the mesh head – like my closed DDrum pads – and how it would affect triggering both with and without PS?
Additional damping trough rubber or foam will definitely effect the triggering result. Positional Sensing does only work properly with an undamped mesh heads. You could damp the toms, but would have to increase the sensitivity, which would result in having disturbing hotspots in case you use “centered cone triggers”. I would not damp the heads.
What mesh head do you recommend?
I strongly recommend the drum-tec Design Series 2 ply heads or drum-tec’s Reel Feel 3 ply head. Those heads are the most realistic mesh heads in terms of play feel. The rebound is great and especially the Reel Feel head does not require dampening.
If the noise caused by the head, is an issue (you might want to use your kit at home too ), I would recommend Jobeky 3 ply heads. They are a bit more bouncy, but much quieter than drum-tec heads. I use them for my bass drum and toms and they are quiet as hell.
EZdrummer 2 sounds great – would it work live?
It would work theoretically, but I would not use a software live. The sound engineer has to mix your e-drums output signal. He will not be able to accomplish this, unless he has access to your pc. Using EZD live will end up in a big mess. You need additional gear and a lot of technical knowledge plus longer setup time to use EZdrummer 2 live. Make it as easy as possible for yourself and avoid computers at a live performance.
If you don’t recommend EZD2 live – which modules do you think has enough good samples and suits live performances (with real cymbals)?
I recommend a 2box module for live situations. It has 6 outputs for the mixing desk, which is really important to work with for the sound engineer. The engineer has to be able to mix your drum set component signals independently, to achieve a decent sound result and keep flexibility. A normal stereo output is not enough for live situations. You can also use a Roland TD-20 or 30, both have even 8 outputs, but lag in sample sound quality.
The 2box module itself has real sounds and you don’t need a pc. However, the 2box cymbals are not great and do not look good. I would recommend connecting Jobeky or Field Cymbals instead of using real ones, since they make your kit look real but are adjustable in terms of volume. However, the Jobeky Hi Hat or Roland’s Vh-11 is only functioning together with the 2box module if you connect them with such a special adapter called “42box“.
There are a couple of videos who shows different trigger solutions – which solution would you prefer for a live situation.
I would convert the toms with R-DRUMS RTB trigger bars, the Bass drum with an R-DRUMS RTB bar system too and the snare with an R-DRUMS RTS (if it is in your budget). Alternatively the Truss Trigger System is great too.
In case you are on a really tight budget, I would use Wronka Easy Triggers or Triggera Intriggs for the toms but still a proper trigger, like the R-DRUMS RTB for snare and bass.
Overall I am think 2 things are really important for an e-drum kit used live.
The kit has to look as real as possible. The reason for people to book a band, is not only hearing live music, but also the look. If I want to book a band for my wedding, I don’t want them to show up with an e-drum set consisting rubber pads and plastic cymbals. I want to have a real drummer with a real looking drum kit. You could look into a custom drum wrap to enhance the look when playing a live event.
This is why I am all for realistic looking cymbals and shell sets in Jobeky or drum-tec style. Most people will not see that you play an e-kit, despite the cables being visible. You provide them some eye candy and the basic thing they expect when they book a band.
I am aware that we are talking about electronic drums, but avoid electronics! What I mean by that is do not bring a PC or software to gigs. The only thing you need is a good module with enough outputs. (2box, Roland TD-20, TD-30). These modules are reliable and work with just pressing a button.
SD2 and Addictive Drums are all great software, but using them live will cause you trouble some day.