If this was 1998, I would have told you, “Dude, NO! Go to a studio and record a real drummer on a real drum set and let’s move on with the project!” But, it’s not 1998, and we are here, today, thinking about which way to go with the drums. So, if you’re asking me;
“Electronic drum set in the studio for serious productions?”
Hey everybody, Avi here. As you can understand from this intro, this post is leaning heavily to the electronic drums side. So, if you’re a hardcore, old timer, “acoustic drum recording in big studios” kinda type, this may not be for you.
I won’t forget the first time I recorded acoustic drums. I had a high school-type band, and we went to this dude’s house to record our drummer. We set up the drums in the middle of his living room on a brown carpet that smelled like cat food and beer.
We recorded the whole set with only 3 microphones. One for the bass drum, one for the hi-hat and the snare, and one as an overhead mic for the whole set. It sounded like pure shit, but we were high on it! This was my first drum recording experience. Since then, I’ve recorded quite a few drummers in big studios, and although it sounded nice, I really hated the whole process.
I used to take my drummers and drive for an hour to get to my favorite studio. We would set up the drums and microphones for an hour, or even more, and then start recording. After that, we would export the files and all the takes from Protools to my Cubase.
At the time, I was doing my beat detection on Protools before I would open the files on Cubase, but sometimes I would fix the timing on Cubase manually, which was an exhausting process that took me literally hours. After that, I sometimes replaced some drums like the snare or toms or bass drum, or just added extra samples and sounds to it with midi. And then, after all this work, I’m still stuck with one set, one sound, and one drum take for one song.
Around 2007, I really started exploring new continents of creation with electronic drums. I produced my first electronic drums punk rock album. It was an 8-song album. I recorded all of them with a complete toy drum set: Yamaha DD-65.
The first drum software I ever used was Addictive Drums. It took a lot of work to actually convince my client that this is the best option for the budget and that he should close his eyes and give this option a real chance. He did, and he eventually loved it and even told me that out of all of his four albums, the one we recorded with a toy drum machine and a drum plugin was his best album.
Roland V-drums TD-9sx. I didn’t really need more than this drum set for all of my music productions. Drummers used to come to my studio, sit on this drum set, get used to it, and then record.
The sessions were short, the sound was amazing, and the artist and I were happy! This is exactly what I needed. After the session was over, I could change everything. From the playing, timing corrections to adding or changing whole parts. The most important thing is, I could change the whole drum set to whatever set I liked. This alone was enough for me. I was hooked.
No way! I’m always saying this. Electronic drums are maybe replacing the traditional instrument of the drummer, but they won’t replace the drummer. Yes, we have recorded midi parts, but they can never replace a real drummer on the set that is playing his parts for our specific song, at least in my humble opinion.
There is something special in getting a real drummer to play on our production, and this won’t go away soon. So, no, the drummer is not dead. We just added a more versatile instrument to his arsenal. I also want to say that I still think that real drum sets are cool and definitely necessary, mostly on stage, or if you just really want to record them.
Today’s modules are pretty much amazing, no doubt. But, there is some magic in the plugins world. So, the way I see it: on stage, it’ll be a smart move to use the steady and trusty drum module. But, in the studio, plugins are taking the lead. As producers, we love to fiddle with interfaces, different sounds and samples, effects, and mixing components, which you can find on any drum plugin today. Here’s a post I wrote about the subject.
Roland really nailed it with their electronic drums technology. Everything from the modules, the drums, the looks, and the sounds of it, is amazing. So, they are on the top of my list, but they are not the only company to look for while searching for an electronic drum set.
This really comes down to personal preference, specific needs, and of course, budget. When I first bought my new Roland V-drums TD9sx, I bought it from some nice rich dude who didn’t know what to do with the set. He sold it to me for a very small price, and I didn’t really need more than that. It had everything I wished for in an electronic drum set, and every time I needed more, I just added extra components like cymbals, floor toms, extra pedals, and such.
You can always extend and build your own kit, as long as the module allows it. If you’re are on a limited budget, you can really find a good condition V-Drums set for a great price. The second-hand market is full of great options. If you’re a “New everything” kinda person, you can go for a new drum set, of course.
Electronic Drums Vs Acoustic Drums
This is a mid-level kit from Roland, I really like this kit because it’s relatively small and doesn’t take a lot of space in the studio, which is a big factor for a lot of us home-studio-based producers. It comes with all mash pads, which is a must for me.
It’s very important for drummers to get that real feedback from the instruments, and mash pads are the way to do it. The TD25 has a great module with great sounds, but most of us producers prefer using drum software, so modules are not the most important thing in my opinion. If you’re into bigger and more expensive V-Drums, you should really check out the Roland V-Drums TD50K.
• Dynamic, expressive playability and quick customization
• Advanced SuperNATURAL sound engine based on the TD-30
• Sound quality and expressiveness equivalent to the top-of-the-line V-Drums
• Logical interface for easily swapping and customizing each drum and cymbal in a kit
• PDX-100 10″ mesh-head snare pad with support for rim-shots and cross-sticks
• 3 mesh-head tom pads PD-85BK 8″ pads for rack toms, 1 PDX-100 10″ pad for floor tom
• VH-11 V-Hi-hat mounts on a standard hi-hat stand; offers realistic motion and natural feel
• 2 CY-12C 12″ crash cymbals with natural swinging motion, edge/bow sensors, and choke control
• CY-13R 13″ ride cymbal with natural swinging motion and edge/bow/bell triggering
• KD-9 kick pad with cloth head for great feel and solid playability
• Play along with WAV/MP3 songs and capture drum performances as audio on a USB stick
• Build drumming skills with the onboard Coach functions
• Quick-access metronome with a dedicated screen, on/off button, and tempo knob
• USB host port for audio/MIDI communication with a computer
The funny thing about Yamaha is that other electronic drums manufacturers are sampling Yamaha’s acoustic drum sets, and they will never tell you about it. This one is a mid-level electronic drum set. Much like the TD25, it is small and doesn’t take a lot of space in our little home studios.
The Yamaha models are different, mostly, in the way that their electronic drum pads are built. They don’t use mash pads like most of the others. They have a different technology called “DTX Pad”. Yamaha worked with top drummers to achieve that unique feel and natural feedback out of the DTX Pad. In my personal opinion, this is the best electronic drum pad out there.
The engineers in Yamaha just nailed it with the drum pads and also with the cymbal pads. They feel great, they look great, and they definitely respond great to every little touch of the stick. The DTX module has amazing sounds and some of the best acoustic snare samples I’ve ever heard on a module.
• Includes KP100 kick, XP80 snare, 3 XP70 toms, 2 PCY135 cymbals, RHH135 hi-hat, HS740A hi-hat stand, DTX700 module, and RS502 rack
• Textured Cellular Silicone (TCS) heads provide realistic performance
• 3-zone cymbals deliver authentic playability
• 2-zone hi-hat with edge and bow sections yields open, closed, and foot splash sounds
• Real hi-hat controller and included hi-hat stand for realistic feel and playability
• Piezo trigger sensors and dual-zone rim switches allow for expressive playing
• DTX-Pads are matched for consistent performance
• 1,396 voices include 1,268 acoustic drum sounds and 128 instrument voices
• Acoustic drum sounds were taken from Yamaha’s inventory of legendary drums
• Instrument voices include sounds taken from Yamaha’s MOTIF XF synthesizer
• Onboard mixer makes setting kick, snare, tom, cymbal, hi-hat, and click levels easy
• Load your own samples from a USB flash drive to create a custom e-drum kit
• Record MIDI into your DAW and play it back using your favorite virtual drum software
First, I didn’t like Alesis’s electronic drum sets at all, but they’ve made a lot of progress over the years.
The Alesis Strike Kit is one of their top models. It is not a small set like the others and not that compact, but will give you the amazing feel of a real size acoustic drum set. It also has a slightly lower price. The thing that I really love about Alesis is that they give you a lot more for the money. For example, standard size snare drum, bigger floor drums, bigger hi-hat, and more cymbal pads. Alesis uses a black mash on their drums, which is very cool when you get used to it. The drum bodies are made out of real wood, which gives the set a very cool and beefy look. This set will look amazing on stage and in the studio.
The module is full of great sounds and features. More than you’ll ever need for an electronic drum set in the studio. So, if you have room for a full-size drum kit and you really want to give your drummers a good and authentic drumming experience without breaking the bank, this is the one to go with.
• Designed to look and respond like an acoustic set
• Holds its own with some of the industry’s premier e-drum kits
• Comes loaded with 100 complete drum kits and 1,760 sounds
• Wood shells and tuneable mesh heads respond like acoustic drums with low noise
• “Hammered” cymbals have a controlled bounce and good stick response
• Fusion drum sizes provide a comfortable transition between acoustic and electronic kits
• Dual-zoned toms, snare, and cymbals and a 3-zoned ride yield dynamic performances
• Includes a 14″ snare, 8/10/12″ toms, and a 14″ kick
• Includes a 14″ crash, 16″ ride, and 12″ hi-hat
• Strike drum module with 4.3″ color LCD lets you edit drum sounds with ease
• Mixer faders give you complete control of your mix into headphones or speakers
• 8 direct outputs allow for studio-quality record editing
• Strike Software Editor lets you import new drum sounds into the module over Mac/PC
• Onboard sampler lets you capture organic sounds right from the module
• MIDI and USB connections communicate with your virtual instruments and samplers
• Includes a drum rack and double-braced snare stand for dependable setups
• Included cables, drum key, and cable wraps get you up and drumming in no time
So these are my recommendations for small, affordable, and yet professional electronic drum sets for the small production studios. Thank you for reading.