To The Beat Of E-Drums
© 2000 Bruce Shutan. All rights reserved
technology may not exactly be a drummers best friend.
All it takes is one or two screw-ups in band practice for
a guitarist to quip, "My Doctor Rhythm never makes
mistakes. So watch out. You can be replaced!"
dont be fooled. With a surprisingly high integrity of
sound, todays electronic drums will fatten your chops,
broaden your technique and lead to more imaginative playing.
a year ago, I purchased the Yamaha DTX Drum Trigger Module
Version 2.0, which features 64 drum kit presets as part of
a six-piece set up (the extra floor tom packs a nice low-end
punch). The DTX was meant to supplement my "other"
Yamaha: a Power Recording Custom kit with birch shells and
a handsome cherry wood finish. In all fairness, I should mention
that Roland sells an equally impressive competitor featuring
an entirely different interface imbedded in the products
wonderful toy is amazing for a number of reasons, the first
being that it allows drummers the freedom to practice without
disturbing anyone. All you need to do is plug in a pair of
headphones, turn up the volume and go to town. Other obvious
advantages involve ergonomics (forget ever having to strain
for bell patterns on your ride cymbal), a soft touch (playing
with brushes has never been easier) and standard pad sizes
(set up and tear down is simple, especially since the kit
is so light weight that it can be carried to your car with
just one hand).
from messing around with fills and patterns, e-drums allow
you to play along with preset songs (some are pretty cheesy,
others challenging) or to your own CD collection which
is what I prefer to do. Imagine jamming to the deft drum muscle
of the Dave Matthews Band, Sting or Rush.
something for everyone among the presets, allowing you to
work in a variety of styles, including rock, jazz, hip-hop,
electronica, reggae, Latin and World Beat. But the real beauty
of this product is that you can customize your sounds rather
than settle for whats pre-programmed. You could conceivably
edit the entire boilerplate of offerings and turn all 64 presets
into a rock n roll feast for the ears.
possibilities are endless. If conventional percussion gets
boring, then try experimenting with a series of melodic presets
involving piano, bass, vibraphone, strings and steel drums.
Youll soon learn that every player is replaceable
because of this technology not just the drummer. Once
youre more comfortable working your way around this
compact kit, youll eventually feel at home with pad
assignments for cross sticking, vibraslapping, splashing (of
cymbals, that is) and other effects that are triggered when
you hit the beveled lip of each drum.
course, theres no escaping the drawbacks. Its
much tougher to control dynamics with e-drums, while some
cymbal sounds have a phony ring to them and prolonged crashes
are nearly impossible to pull off at the end of songs. But
the caveats pale in comparison to the joy and wonder of playing
e-drums are associated mostly with practicing and recording
(the DTX can be used as a sound generator when playing back
MIDI data using a PC or external MIDI sequencer), theyre
a blast in performance. You should have seen the blank stares,
furrowed brows and pursed lips in the crowd at an outdoor
keg party I performed at last year when my happy hands triggered
car crashes, thunder, record scratching and "get funky"
howls from a rapper as part of a wildly imaginative hip-hop
preset. One witness to this musical madness later came up
to me and said he thought the keyboardist was the one behind
sweet revenge when the drummer can replace the piano player
even if its for a three-minute solo.
the Author: Bruce Shutan, an L.A.-based freelance writer,
has been playing the drums since 1970. He has performed and
recorded in numerous bands and occasionally pounds his cast-aluminum,
Egyptian dumbek along Santa Monicas chic Third Street