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Why won't drummers use electronic kit live?
Old 21st October 2013
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Why won't drummers use electronic kit live?

Seems like such a battle to control just the levels of an acoustic kit and keep it balanced with the rest of the band. Particularly in smaller venues. Also, acoustic kits are a pain to mic up, and only have one sound that can't be interchangeable for different songs.

Why is it that drummers refuse to move with the times, as I suggested our drummer get an electronic kit with a volume control! Got flamed straight away... Who cares about how it feels as a musician, it's the whole band and sound that matters. Me being a Pianists, I would love to play a grand on stage, as it feels right, and sounds like the real deal....but have moved on to keyboards as the most viable option....and as such can use different sounds to compliment each song....why can't drummers do the same?
Old 21st October 2013
  #2
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JohnRick's Avatar
Because all drum modules, including the monsters from Yamaha and Roland have inferior sounds. That's why the sample bank/drum VSTi industry is blooming. Then you must bring the kit and also the necessary CPU power to play the samples live, which may bother some perhaps. Then, for me personally, it's way easier to set up an acoustic kit, then to build the e-kit, with all the cables, stands etc. But I'm sure many are gigging with an e-kit...don't know how many you've talked to.
Old 21st October 2013
  #3
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The new higher end Rolands finally have some good built in sounds, but they are expensive.
Old 21st October 2013
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Wouldn't you agree that an inferior sounding kit in balance with the whole band is better overall than an awesome sounding acoustic kit that is wildly out of balance with the band, and annoyingly loud on stage? Any Korg or Roland keyboard sounds ok, but are way inferior to a beautiful grand piano...
Old 21st October 2013
  #5
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chrisdee's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jumbo View Post
Who cares about how it feels as a musician, it's the whole band and sound that matters.
Isn't feel an important thing for most musicians?

But I agree with the balance thing. I'v been to concerts where the drums sticks out in a bad way.
It ruins the experience.
Old 21st October 2013
  #6
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Actually, in my experience, a lot of wedding / occasion cover bands are using e-drums nowadays for exactly that reason: level setting!

Most people at weddings want a wedding first, and a live gig second, hence the generally lower levels and the non-booming drums.
As for originals music, it can work, sure, but I find only in bands where the drums are very much not a main part of the music, or the required sound is an electronic timbre (live EDM-esque music).

Edrums for original music for live shows, just isnt the same. For gigs that are multi-band gigs, if you're using edrums and the other bands are using acoustic drums, you WILL sound "inferior" sonically, even if you have better songs. Its a part of the whole "louder = better" affect that louder music has over quieter music, pain barriers not withstanding!

While its true that for the musicians an ekit IS easier to practice with, and especially for singers who dont need to rely on a PA turned up to 11 to be heard (not to mention the feedback issues that can cause), live, IMHO, for original music, edrums just dont cut it. They dont sound good, they dont sound "real" and they often add a layer of unwanted "cheesey-ness" to your sound.


Case in point:
I saw Bela Fleck and the Flecktones a few years ago on tour. Bela and his touring musicians (which included Victor Wooten and Futureman) are amazing players. Top-notch musicians, no question about it.
BUT...
By FAR the weakest link of the experience was Futureman. His drumitar is a similar setup to a ekit in that he uses a drumitar (a fancy midi controller) to trigger samples in his nearby Macbook Pro, and IIRC he was using Superior Drummer live. SD is an amazing sounding product for recordings, but for live it didnt really work.
This was even more pronounced when during a Futureman solo, he used his drumitar in conjunction with an acoustic kit, and the acoustic kit just sounded MMMIIIILLLLEEESSS better than his drumitar samples. Night and day differences. It wasnt even close!
Chances are that if he didnt use the acoustic kit we would have gotten used to it and not noticed what we were missing but as soon as he started playing the acoustic kit, their loss was felt.
Old 21st October 2013
  #7
Gear Maniac
 

I have spoken to many drummers about this.... However, they all seem unwilling to change. It feels better, it just seems right... They seem like the only musicians who aren't willing to change their setups, even though it poses great short comings incertain situations.

I understand that in a big venue, on a big stage an acoustic drum kit is the ultimate... But when your mainly doing gigs in smaller venues fitting no more than 200 people or even less, it is problematic.
Old 21st October 2013
  #8
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Same reason guitar players insist on using big, heavy, obsolete tube amps rather than a digital modeler. The real thing sounds, real. I think a good drummer with a good kit sounds better on the real kit than some e-kit. If a drummer needs to use e-drums to get balance, they need practice. Imho.
Old 21st October 2013
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

I understand that feel is important.... However, it cannot be more important than the overall sound of the band being diminished in order for the drummer to have a better feeling kit.....When the audience complains that all they heard were drums all gig and little else.....by the way, we are playing 60's styled shows, lots of Tom jones, engelbert Humperdinck style music.... Vocals being most important
Old 21st October 2013
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stel View Post
If a drummer needs to use e-drums to get balance, they need practice. Imho.
Its not always the drummers fault if (s)he is too loud. Oftentimes the engineers (especially house engineers) like to crank up the drums a bit. I'd say the band need to get a better, or a dedicated sound engineer before replacing the drummer.
Old 21st October 2013
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stel View Post
If a drummer needs to use e-drums to get balance, they need practice. Imho.
There were small gigs in the 60's also. Somehow the drummers managed. I've noticed that some audiences don't actually like live music, or at least the way it sounds. If that's the case, maybe the drummer does need e-drums. Or practice.

I've played with a few drummers that had a hard time blending with the band, a couple got better, at least one never did.
Old 21st October 2013
  #12
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cavern's Avatar
 

I have both and use both and if its something like a wedding where nobody cares about the quality of the music experience,after all,it is about the wedding..E-kits are fine but my E-kit(+SSD4) spends most of its time in storage.So do my sim. plugs,i use a tube driven 79 Vibrolux Reverb amp.
To me music is of the soul and the real thing moves my soul.
I know,that's corny but none the less a reality for me and i think,many others.
Old 21st October 2013
  #13
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mitgong's Avatar
 

I think electronic kits have their place, but should be chosen only for their sound, not for convenience.

What kind of playing are you talking about? I have been seeing shows and doing live sound for 20 years and in my experience it is very rarely acoustic drums that are causing level issues off the stage. It is so much harder to judge how loud an amplifier is compared to an acoustic instrument.

And, as others have mentioned, acoustic drums have worked in ensembles for close to 100 years.
Old 21st October 2013
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mitgong View Post
What kind of playing are you talking about? I have been seeing shows and doing live sound for 20 years and in my experience it is very rarely acoustic drums that are causing level issues off the stage. It is so much harder to judge how loud an amplifier is compared to an acoustic instrument.

And, as others have mentioned, acoustic drums have worked in ensembles for close to 100 years.
+1
Old 21st October 2013
  #15
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JohnRick's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jumbo View Post
I understand that feel is important.... However, it cannot be more important than the overall sound of the band being diminished in order for the drummer to have a better feeling kit.....When the audience complains that all they heard were drums all gig and little else.....by the way, we are playing 60's styled shows, lots of Tom jones, engelbert Humperdinck style music.... Vocals being most important
You can always tell them to get this:
Rhythm Traveler Pod Kit Promo #1 - YouTube

Or use rods instead of sticks to begin with.
Old 21st October 2013
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jumbo View Post
When the audience complains that all they heard were drums all gig and little else
Jumbo, you've hit on what the REAL problem is.

This just shouldn't be that hard. In the corporate and show circuit it's essential that Drummer's know how to Balance themselves. Regardless of however they do it. Whether it's using Thunder Rods or just playing at varying volumes.

Otherwise they don't even qualify for the Gig. So, Right now your Drummer is sounding unfortunately a bit idiotic.

This is one of the Key reasons MOST Drummers and musicians nowadays will eventually FAIL.

They don't get the concept of an ENSEMBLE SOUND. They don't get the Concept of "Playing to The Size of the Room"

They simply can't, don't want, or don't know how to Balance their Volumes on Stage to form a meaningful BLEND, MIX or SOUND.

No. The MIX (Noise) is just some other guys job.
Old 21st October 2013
  #17
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As stated, it's not the instrument's fault. Acoustic drums DO have a volume knob: Stick choice, drum choice, cymbal choice, and playing technique. If it's really a problem for your band, setup a stereo mic somewhere in the audience and let the drummer hear how overpowering the drums are. Sometimes it's hard to tell from behind the kit. Especially if he has a dedicated monitor mix.

I see your logic in saying that key players would of course prefer to play a real piano instead of a nice keyboard, but playing e-drums, even the best, is no comparison to playing a real kit.
Old 21st October 2013
  #18
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Mighty_Zoltan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jumbo View Post
Me being a Pianists, I would love to play a grand on stage, as it feels right, and sounds like the real deal....but have moved on to keyboards as the most viable option....and as such can use different sounds to compliment each song....
If your idea of a great band set up is electronic drums, synth pianos, a PRS for the guitarist through a mesa boogie, Pony Tails and Hawaiian shirts then go for it!

EDIT: Forgot the Bassist! 5 string fretless of some kind I guess?
Old 21st October 2013
  #19
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GeminIAm's Avatar
The drummer in my band uses an Alesis / Simmons hybrid. But we are a New Wave sounding band, we play originals and use those 80s Simmons sounds. We use an acoustic sound on just one of our songs, and it does the job then. The drummer says he has gotten used to the feel of the kit, and likes the ease of use during rehearsals. Also, when practicing he doesn't annoy his entire street. As a band we love it, cause we can balance the levels. Nothing worse than an overly loud drummer!

I do agree that a nice acoustic kit sounds better than samples of acoustic drums, in the same way a grand sounds better than a keyboard as someone mentioned before. But I'm not a purist for the sake of it, and in some situations an electronic kit is just more useful!
Old 21st October 2013
  #20
As a sound person in small venues on a regular basis, I am a big fan of acoustic drums. Especially in small venues without subs or with minimal subs, you're not going to get a full sound from an e-kit. Also, it puts a lot more strain on the monitors, since there's no stage volume for the drums. With an acoustic kit on stage in a small venue, I rarely find myself giving musicians any part of the drums in the monitors.

The type of music you're playing does not require aggressive playing. If your drummer is noticeably too loud from an audience perspective (not just from your perspective- you're on stage, and therefore not in a good place to judge the FOH mix), tell him to play more quietly. Beyond that, some kits and cymbals are quieter than others, and tuning matters here a lot as well. If his kit is tuned to really slam and he's using loud, bright cymbals, maybe he should experiment with a smaller, quieter kit and mellower cymbals. The rods recommendation above was a good one as well. The feel is a little different, but still better than an e-kit.

Another problem that hasn't been mentioned with e-kits is potentially for failure. Especially if you're running samples from a laptop, a beer could get spilled on it, the software could crash, etc etc. With an acoustic kit, you could break a drum head or a piece of hardware, but the odds of your entire kit dying in the middle of the show is nearly impossible.

Acoustic kits are more reliable, better sounding, easier on the PA and sound guy. Plus the setup is easier than an e kit, even including miking IMO. Plus stagehands tend to know how to set up basic parts of a kit (stands etc), whereas I wouldn't trust a stagehand to set up an e-kit.
Old 21st October 2013
  #21
a lot of times when people feel that acoustic drums are too loud, in my experience its often that they sound 'bad' more than they are too loud. in gigs ive been in with subpar drummers who aren't totally grooving with the band, or don't have good left/right hand dynamic interdependence (IE, hitting the cymbals soft and the drums hard instead of just flailing), there is much less tolerance for high SPL because the sound is annoying. HOwever if you get a good drummer playing the songs well and with confidence, you'd be surprised how much extra SPL people will tolerate. It's like saying song B is too loud compared to song A. they may be the same volume, but if you like song A more, then of course song B is going to be too loud RELATIVE TO YOUR AESTHETIC PREFERENCE. Most casual listeners have no concept at all of this bias, and think that their gut reactions of something being 'too loud' is somehow this great scientific measurement that is completely objective. Saying live drums are almost always too loud like its some kind of shared opinion is like saying all action movies are dumb because of Micheal Bay.

Also, there are tonal considerations. Cheap cymbals, even played by the greatest player, will still sound cheap. I have a set of Zildjian A's and those are about the lowest quality i'd gig with. Cheap brass with that clanging resonating midrange usually accompanies novice drummers as well. same goes for the drums themselves though to a much lesser degree. You can get ALOT of mileage out of cheap drum shells provided you put decent heads on them and know how to tune them for your style of music. In my band our drummer uses my old drumset (that he actually sold to me about 10 years ago) pearl forums from probably the late 90's. cheap drums, but he keeps them tuned right and miced right, and we always get compliments on our live drum tones.

acoustic drums are not this big elephant in the room to be avoided at all costs. played right and set up correctly, they can easily complement nearly all situations except for maybe the OP's situation doing light 60's stuff or i'd also even grant some wedding situations as lots of receptions tend to be in big boomy halls that are hard to tame acoustically.

It's like saying tube guitar amps are inferior to modelers because lots of people don't know how to play or set them up correctly. Yes there is a minimum volume for them to sound their best just like drums, but if you have competent players/soundmen, that volume is usually perfectly reasonable in most live music venues. I'd tend towards operator error before assuming that everyone else in the industry is somehow under some mass-delusion.
Old 21st October 2013
  #22
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cavern's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RockManDan View Post
a lot of times when people feel that acoustic drums are too loud, in my experience its often that they sound 'bad' more than they are too loud. in gigs ive been in with subpar drummers who aren't totally grooving with the band, or don't have good left/right hand dynamic interdependence (IE, hitting the cymbals soft and the drums hard instead of just flailing), there is much less tolerance for high SPL because the sound is annoying. HOwever if you get a good drummer playing the songs well and with confidence, you'd be surprised how much extra SPL people will tolerate. It's like saying song B is too loud compared to song A. they may be the same volume, but if you like song A more, then of course song B is going to be too loud RELATIVE TO YOUR AESTHETIC PREFERENCE. Most casual listeners have no concept at all of this bias, and think that their gut reactions of something being 'too loud' is somehow this great scientific measurement that is completely objective. Saying live drums are almost always too loud like its some kind of shared opinion is like saying all action movies are dumb because of Micheal Bay.

Also, there are tonal considerations. Cheap cymbals, even played by the greatest player, will still sound cheap. I have a set of Zildjian A's and those are about the lowest quality i'd gig with. Cheap brass with that clanging resonating midrange usually accompanies novice drummers as well. same goes for the drums themselves though to a much lesser degree. You can get ALOT of mileage out of cheap drum shells provided you put decent heads on them and know how to tune them for your style of music. In my band our drummer uses my old drumset (that he actually sold to me about 10 years ago) pearl forums from probably the late 90's. cheap drums, but he keeps them tuned right and miced right, and we always get compliments on our live drum tones.

acoustic drums are not this big elephant in the room to be avoided at all costs. played right and set up correctly, they can easily complement nearly all situations except for maybe the OP's situation doing light 60's stuff or i'd also even grant some wedding situations as lots of receptions tend to be in big boomy halls that are hard to tame acoustically.

It's like saying tube guitar amps are inferior to modelers because lots of people don't know how to play or set them up correctly. Yes there is a minimum volume for them to sound their best just like drums, but if you have competent players/soundmen, that volume is usually perfectly reasonable in most live music venues. I'd tend towards operator error before assuming that everyone else in the industry is somehow under some mass-delusion.
Old 21st October 2013
  #23
Lives for gear
I've been drumming for about twenty years and I will say that I would never play an electronic kit. Not even for an outfit that plays primarily electronic music.

You really can't beat the sound of a REAL acoustic kit. You say you have "moved on to electric keyboards" over using a real grand, but let's be realistic here: it's much easier to move and transport and set up an acoustic drum set than it is to lug around a grand or baby grand piano (even an upright).

If you're having problems with levels, it sounds like you need a new drummer more than you need a new kit. The drummer should be aware of how loud he is playing, how big or small the venue is, and what sort of dynamics the song is asking for. If he's just crushing away on his kit and making a racket, then he needs to reevaluate himself, or maybe you guys need to reevaluate him. Getting an electronic kit is an easy answer to this, and one that most likely won't solve the problem anyways.

A lot of drummers - myself included - are able to go from a soft jazz ballad, to a Zeppelin rock tune, to an electronic break beat all on the same kit. Whether it requires changing your sticks, your brushes, or putting a wallet on your snare to make it sound more "electric," these things can be done, and the right drummer will know when and how to do them.

Electronic kits are so damn expensive, that, at least from a drummer's perspective, it doesn't make sense to buy one. You could buy the highest of the top end acoustic kits for the same price you'd spend on a nice electronic kit. And a bad electronic kit just isn't even worth it.

Electronic kits defeat the entire purpose of what a drum does and what it stands for. Even the nicest electronic kits don't get it right, and I doubt that they ever will.
Old 21st October 2013
  #24
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Mighty_Zoltan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexevans917 View Post
As a sound person in small venues on a regular basis, I am a big fan of acoustic drums. Especially in small venues without subs or with minimal subs
Totally with you on the subs! The crowd needs to feel the kick in a smaller venue otherwise the music doesn't feel as impactful. Feels a little disconected and artificial. Hence why a lot of electronic bands quite often have a real drummer playing a live kit along with the electronic drums. Just gives it more body and oomph. I know a bunch of bands like that. Studio is all electronic but live they have a dude there playing kick, snare and Hi-Hats.
Old 21st October 2013
  #25
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GeminIAm's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by wcx08 View Post
I've been drumming for about twenty years and I will say that I would never play an electronic kit. Not even for an outfit that plays primarily electronic music.

You really can't beat the sound of a REAL acoustic kit. You say you have "moved on to electric keyboards" over using a real grand, but let's be realistic here: it's much easier to move and transport and set up an acoustic drum set than it is to lug around a grand or baby grand piano (even an upright).

If you're having problems with levels, it sounds like you need a new drummer more than you need a new kit. The drummer should be aware of how loud he is playing, how big or small the venue is, and what sort of dynamics the song is asking for. If he's just crushing away on his kit and making a racket, then he needs to reevaluate himself, or maybe you guys need to reevaluate him. Getting an electronic kit is an easy answer to this, and one that most likely won't solve the problem anyways.

A lot of drummers - myself included - are able to go from a soft jazz ballad, to a Zeppelin rock tune, to an electronic break beat all on the same kit. Whether it requires changing your sticks, your brushes, or putting a wallet on your snare to make it sound more "electric," these things can be done, and the right drummer will know when and how to do them.

Electronic kits are so damn expensive, that, at least from a drummer's perspective, it doesn't make sense to buy one. You could buy the highest of the top end acoustic kits for the same price you'd spend on a nice electronic kit. And a bad electronic kit just isn't even worth it.

Electronic kits defeat the entire purpose of what a drum does and what it stands for. Even the nicest electronic kits don't get it right, and I doubt that they ever will.

I can't say I agree completely. Our drummer can play an acoustic kit just fine. Its just that we like the artificial 80s sound in our music, and we love hexagonal pads!

Of course you can play like a drum machine but you'll never sound like one. In our case, rare as it may be, we prefer plastic over acoustic.

For most other types of music they're probably crap, but that's fair enough.



Sent from my SoftwinerEvb
Old 21st October 2013
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OktoberStorm View Post
I can't say I agree completely. Our drummer can play an acoustic kit just fine. Its just that we like the artificial 80s sound in our music, and we love hexagonal pads!

Of course you can play like a drum machine but you'll never sound like one. In our case, rare as it may be, we prefer plastic over acoustic.

For most other types of music they're probably crap, but that's fair enough.



Sent from my SoftwinerEvb
Ahaha understandable...Going for that sound because of preference is one thing. But if you're just turning in that direction because your drummer sucks at doing what he's supposed to do (a la OP), that's an entirely different thing.

And making your acoustic drums sound electronic is an art in and of itself. It can be done quite effectively, and if played correctly, most people can't tell the difference. Case in point:

Astroid Power Up! - Fireflower - YouTube

That's a real drummer recorded on an acoustic set in one live take. The drums are treated in parts after the take, but it's a real drummer. Deantoni Parks is his name...He's notorious for sounding like a drum machine and he does it quite well.
Old 21st October 2013
  #27
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UnDeFiNeD's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jumbo View Post
Who cares about how it feels as a musician, it's the whole band and sound that matters.

Misconception of the day

Alex
Old 21st October 2013
  #28
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Mighty_Zoltan's Avatar
Actually talking about this, I saw a very well known band play a couple of weeks back in a larger venue (maybe 1500 capacity?) and I'm pretty sure the drummer had some kind of triggering system attached to his acoustic kit. It was a bit disconcerting actually. Sounded really clicky clicky replaced.
Old 21st October 2013
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mighty_Zoltan View Post
Actually talking about this, I saw a very well known band play a couple of weeks back in a larger venue (maybe 1500 capacity?) and I'm pretty sure the drummer had some kind of triggering system attached to his acoustic kit. It was a bit disconcerting actually. Sounded really clicky clicky replaced.
They do make triggers designed for acoustic kits that hook up to some sort of brain and can produce electronic sampled sounds along with the acoustic sound. I've found that mixing the two never really works out well. I'd say always use one or the other. But it can be convenient because you can replace your acoustic kick drum sound with a sampled one, if you'd like, coming out of the monitoring system. I know DDRUM makes nice acoustic triggers.

But, again, I say that if you want your kick drum to sound electronic, tune it that way...Put **** in it, put tape on it, do whatever you can to make it sound more electronic and boxy.
Old 21st October 2013
  #30
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ray_subsonic View Post
This just shouldn't be that hard. In the corporate and show circuit it's essential that Drummer's know how to Balance themselves. Regardless of however they do it. Whether it's using Thunder Rods or just playing at varying volumes.
Exactly. The drum set isn't the problem.
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