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Why Using Electronics Will Make You A Better Drummer…

The line between a drummer and a sound engineer has become blurred over recent years thanks to the introduction of a new style known as “Hybrid” drumming, but what exactly IS it? Well, see that little black box you see Michael Schack or every drummer use on Radio 1 Live Lounge or Glastonbury Main Stage? That’s called a Roland SPD-SX, and it’s just one example in a list of HUNDREDS that can make all bands, even two-piece ones, sound MASSIVE with the use of digital samples or effects, particularly the drummer. You don’t have to be Belgian or headlining stadiums to use electronics either, so here’s some products to help your pub/wedding/covers band recreate some iconic sounds at literally the touch of a button…

My crystal ball has already shown me a bunch of comments with remakes along the lines of “pfft, that’s great if you’re touring regularly but how can hybrid drumming help me play 9 to 5 better?” Well, actually it can…a LOT! Hybrid drumming can open up the doors to make your “decent cover” of 9 to 5 sound like the real deal, and Roland help a lot in this department giving several options from small sound modules if you’re just dipping your toe in the water all the way up to the SPD-SX, with some options in between. I’ll try and break this down as simply as I can using only products that we keep in stock, as there’s something for everyone.

TM-1/TM-2

The Roland TM-1 & TM-2 are the perfect Hybrid drumming “Starter Packs” for dipping your toe in the water when using electronics. In order to use these modules, you’ll need some external triggers (sold separately) which are small little boxes that attach to the drums via the hoop and connect into the “Trigger In’s” located on the back of both modules, more on that later. The modules themselves take up a very small footprint around your kit, meaning you can chuck them in a rucksack or gig bag and take them with you to every gig/rehearsal/bar mitzvah and be set up in seconds really to blow your bass players MIND! What’s the difference between them though?

The Roland TM-1 looks remarkably like a footswitch used by a guitarist, with the idea being that you use it with your feet while playing, allowing you to switch effects on/off at your leisure. The TM-1 has two built-in footswitches for triggering sounds, changing kits and muting the module completely. It features 15 built-in kits ready to experiment with straight out the box, making it literally plug in and play. Nice! The TM-1 also comes with a free TM-1 Editor app for iOS/Android, Mac/Windows, which provides over 150 additional sounds along with an option to import your own samples to it. The TM-1 allows you to connect up to two pads or triggers for use on the drum kit. You can use either two single-trigger devices or one dual-trigger device, which basically means you can have two drums make one unique sound each, or one drum make two unique sounds.

The TM-1 is compatible with any of the Roland RT-series acoustic drum triggers and an extensive range of Roland trigger pads such as the PD-8, BT-1 and more! If you’re a little more experienced with electronics, the TM-1 has a trigger-to-MIDI convertor when hooked up to your computer, meaning you can assign any sound you want via whichever recording software you’re using it with. The TM-1 is a pretty nifty piece of kit, now lets talk about it’s older sibling the TM-2

The Roland TM-2 expands on the capabilities from the TM-1 and opens up a few additional options for you. The module has 162 ready to use out the box professional sounds, ranging from acoustic drums and percussion to modern electronic instruments, such as an 808 Snare or a dimension-shattering sub drop. The module then allows for each of these samples to be used as one-shot samples, loop phrases and can also be used to incorporate complete backing tracks. The TM-2 also includes “element” sounds intended for layering with acoustic drums, providing enhanced, high-impact sounds for playing live drums through a PA system. You could add the low-end of a snare drum if you’re using a smaller snare with little natural depth, or the attack of a bass drum beater striking a head and all the in between.

The TM-2 has an SD Slot which allows you to add your own samples, and add effect within the module such as reverb, flanger, delay and more! The TM-2 doubles your “Trigger In” capacity of the TM-1, where you can have either two dual-zone triggers hooked up to two drums, meaning each drum will make two unique sounds OR you can have 4 drums make one unique sound each. This is really where you can get creative, as you can have effectively 4 different drum samples happening all at once. From a practice perspective, you could essentially have a 4-piece practice kit fitted with mesh heads for an acoustic/electronic practice OR even low-noise gigging kit! You can also use the TM-2 as a trigger-to-MIDI device opening up the world of sampling whatever you want. You can have the TM-2 beside you at all times as it comes with a mounting plate meaning you can clamp it to your hi-hat stand or anywhere you want. NICE! So if you’re looking for something a little more bombastic, but not quite as crazy as the SPD-SX, perhaps the SPD:ONE pads are the way to go…

SPD:ONE

The SPD:ONE pads are a fantastic solution if you’re looking to grow your electronic/acoustic set up or are in need of a simple solution to incorporating one sound. The range consists of four individual digital percussion pads which includes Electronic, Kick, Percussion and WAV pads. The Percussion, Electro and Kick pads come loaded with unique sounds from 808 drum sounds to hand claps and beyond! They also have one empty bank to add your own sample of up to 5 seconds long, making it great for one-shot sounds like a snare, bass drum, clap etc. The SPD:ONE Wav allows you to add up to 10 of your own samples with 4G of memory, meaning you can add longer stereo samples, backing tracks and also a click to really move your band into the new age. Now, if you want to have all the abilities of all the SPD:ONE pads, with the personalized triggering aspects of the TM-1 & TM-2, then perhaps you should look at the TM-6:Pro!

The TM-6 Pro is essentially all your triggering dreams in a box. It’s pre-loaded with 500 one-shot samples and includes tones recorded in world-class studios. It also includes 268 V-Drums sounds to amplify your sonic capabilities along with 80 ready to use drum kits. You can only hook up to 4 drums with samples with the TM-2…with the TM-6 Pro you can have up to 12!! If you get creative with it, you could have a full 5pc kit, cymbal set and have space for two more trigger pads. Not only that, but you can layer all of these sounds to really make it personal to you. It has three sound modifying knobs allowing you complete control over the volume, pitch, decay etc of each sample. You can literally have complete control over the attack and release of each drum using the inbuilt Transient feature as well as independent EQ of each sound meaning you can dial in the drum sound literally before it even goes to your sound engineer. Have I lost you yet?

Like the TM-1, TM-2 modules you can also hook the TM-6 Pro to a computer to literally take over the world with sound capabilities. You can also add an SD Card filled with drum samples, backing tracks or whatever you like and have them come from the TM-6 Pro at the touch of a button. The TM-6 Pro is an almighty strong piece of kit that can have you going out as a one-person drumming machine with the rest of the band replaced by backing tracks if you so desire. Finally, we’ll talk about the ultimate piece of Roland Sampling technology that will have your mind BLOWN…

SPD-SX

The Roland SPD-SX visually looks like it was originally part of the Death Star, but instead of destroying planets, you’ll destroy peoples minds as you become a force to be reckoned with. The SPD-SX is the ultimate percussive sampling instrument. It features nine velocity-sensitive rubber pads, each can have two samples per pad that can be routed via the main & sub outs located on the back of the pad. You have the option of adding up to four external triggers to this meaning you can have up to 13 pads running at once. Each of these pads can be struck together or separately with zero latency meaning you can have more than one sound happening at one time. You can also choose if you’d like each sound to be as a Phrase or a Loop and also control the Dynamic Output of each sound. There is also an option to Pad Link two pads together on a Patch, which is helpful if you’re running a click track and backing track and want them to start in sync.

The module has 4GB of internal memory, allowing for around 720 minutes of sampling. The SPD-SX has three separate units of multi-effects onboard, one master unit and two unites assignable per kit. The master effect lets you perform augmentations to the sound. Filters, Delays & Short-Looper are all at your finger tips and can be used in real time with two dedicated control knobs. The SPD-SX also contains essential features for the modern drummer such as individual click output routing, dedicated volume controls, Pad Check functions & much more. The module also allows for live sampling directly onto the SPD-SX, which is fantastic if you want to create some form of intro to your set, for example. You can record into it via the guitarist or even your phone and have it as a sample for THAT night at the touch of a button.

Sub Out is fantastic for routing things like a click track to the rest of the band, ensuring you all play in time while rocking out. Much like the rest of the products spoken about, you can hook the SPD-SX up as a MIDI controller for use with software such as Ableton Live or Logic to really expand on the capabilities. It’s so advanced that ColdPlay use an SPD-SX to control their lighting rig….SERIOUSLY. One of the biggest appeals of the SPD-SX is just how simple it is to use and edit with. The module comes with software known as Wave Manager which allows you to easily import, assign and organise all your samples in one place. The SPD-SX is a frightening piece of kit and if used effectively, can really take your performance not just as a drummer but as a BAND to a whole new level.

So if you’ve been on the fence about going “Hybrid”, hopefully this blog has helped guide you in the right direction and taken some of the mystery out of what being a “Hybrid Drummer” really is. There’s a product in this blog for every step on the ladder but of course if you’d like any more information on any of these products, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

3 thoughts on “Why Using Electronics Will Make You A Better Drummer…

  1. Roger Thomas says:

    Glad to know all this, but can anyone tell me if the Roland TM-2 will accept TS input plugs directly? No-one – including Roland UK – seems to know, and the manual’s impressively vague on the subject. In the immediate term I have just two triggering devices that I’d like to use with the TM-2 (I’ll go down the splitter route later on); each has a mono 1/4 jack plug. Can I just use them as they are, using the menus to select just two sounds? Any knowledge appreciated!

    1. Kevin Mooney says:

      Roger, yes you can. If you put in a standard mono cable, each trigger input defaults to the PAD sound. You only get access to the RIM sound when you use a stereo cable.

      You’ll need a Roland PCS-31L or equivalent splitter cable to split each stereo trigger input into two separate mono inputs. A standard audio XY splitter won’t work. I’m not an electrical wizard, but I think the cable needs to have a resistor to allow the RIM input on the module to receive a normal trigger signal, as the rim piezo on a stereo trigger outputs a different voltage range to the piezo on the main pad surface. This is common for all Roland drum gear.

      1. Roger Thomas says:

        Yay! Thank you, Kevin – proper info at last. One of us should perhaps let Roland know…

        Anyway, I can now proceed as planned. I can in fact make my own splitter (just a matter of soldering a 100k resistor across the two live terminals on the TRS plug, which is the kind of thing I’m fairly handy at). Feel free to delete this line if you think it might affect splitter sales!

        Thanks again – much appreciated.

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