GIGGING AN ELECTRONIC DRUM KIT
Have you recently started using an e-kit in a gigging band. As this is still a relatively new approach to live drumming we thought it was a good idea to document our experiences along the way. our weapon of choice is the Yamaha DTX750K. The music is largely 80’s covers. If like most drummers you have been gigging acoustic drums for the majority of your gigging years and this may be the first time you have used an e-kit for anything other than practice or teaching.
After you have spent years perfecting the sound and layout of your trusty Pearl Export Select kit. The thought of not using it live could be horrifying. But then the more you think about it the more appealing the idea becomes, slightly aided by the fact that you may be in two other bands where your acoustic kit regularly gets to see the stage. We have to say, had an e-kit band been the only gigging option Our decision would be somewhat different. A lot of advantages immediately sprang to mind.
1. New venues / markets
Bearing in mind this is for a professional money making outfit, using an e-kit opens up a whole new market such as clubs and pubs who want live entertainment without the 120+ decibels dictated by your average acoustic kit.
2. More control
You can now have absolute control over your sound and fine tune it to the tracks being played.
3. Set-up / Break-down time
This is something you might still be perfecting but using one of these kits you already have the ability to ‘fold up’ the kit for easy transport and you will be ready to play in 10-20 minutes.
4. Easy sound checks
No more worrying about mics, levels and getting a decent kit sound. The stereo output from the drum module (brain) goes straight to the band PA. Levels are all pre-tested and set from the patches on the kit. You can be up and running sound-wise pretty much immediately. Quick sound check with the whole band and your ready. With this kit you also have the ability to do a ‘silent’ sound check (via headphones) and this can be very handy in certain circumstances.
You can practice without going deaf. This can only be positive and if you have been in gigging bands for around 20 years and your hearing has paid the price. Anything you can do to protect what’s left of your ears is a good thing!
Of course there are down sides but most of these can be catered for with a bit of planning and a different approach to playing.
1. It’s not a real drum kit
Well, duh. get over it! a real kit sounds great and You’ll never give it up. but your e-kit also sounds great and fits the bill perfectly for the sort of music you may be playing. So, for example, use your e-kit for a jazz gig – the pros wouldn’t outweigh the cons. This is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome but it’s an obstacle in your head, not in the head of your customers (the audience). Once you view an e-kit as being no different to a keyboard player departing from an acoustic piano (one of the few less practical instruments to transport than an acoustic drum kit) then you’ve really made progress. View your e-kit as an entirely different beast to your acoustic kit and you’ll be in a good place.
2. It can break
This is the biggest concern as you are putting a lot of faith in the reliability of your Yamaha kit. At the end of the day no matter what happens to an acoustic kit it will probably still be capable of making a noise of some description. If heads break on an acoustic kit they can be fixed in a matter of minutes for about £10. If an e-kit pad breaks it’s a warranty repair or a lot of expense, although you can re-configure the kit to use a different pad. Its probably wise to buy a couple of cheaper pads to use as spares. If the brain breaks then you have no drum kit and at that moment you can’t justify the expense of buying a second module purely as a backup – that may change.
3. Locality of sound
As a drummer you’re very used to the sound coming from the object you hit. It no longer works like that with an e-kit. Whether the sound comes from headphones or speakers it ain’t coming from the object you hit, it’s coming from somewhere else and this takes a bit of getting used to. You need to get much more used to listening your drums ‘in the mix’ rather than what was effectively a solo instrument with the accompanying background noise of the rest of your band. This will be a learning curve and more will become apparent when you are on the road.