Electronic percussion

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by yoooff, Jul 2, 2009.

  1. yoooff

    yoooff Member

    Does anyone have experience, good or bad, of using electronic percussion in a brass band? Like most bands we end up carrying the equivalent of a transit full of percussiony things when we go anywhere.

    I discussed this with an manufacturer of electronice drum kits, who also manufacture brass instruments, keyboards etc (work it out!!) and after he stopped laughing told me that all the sounds I could want out of a kit, timps and a hundred other percussion bits and bobs were available electronically and would fit in a reasonable sized case (not including the amp) and leave room for a few novels for the drummers to read in their tacet pieces.

    Whilst I don't doubt a word I'd appreciate anyone with experience of using it with a brass band giving their take on the option.

    Colin McFarlane
    Govan Citadel Band
  2. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    What specifically are you looking at using?
  3. yoooff

    yoooff Member

    I'm told by Yamaha (gave it away!) that their set up will reproduce drum kit and pitch tunable timp sounds (if you buy extra pads to allow kit and timps to be played at the same time). I get the impression Roland gear will do the same.

    I'd be interested to hear how any users have found it.

  4. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    There are a few things here that have been fed back to me by both amateur and professional drummers and percussionists (bear in mind I'm not one, although I do have access to, for example, Roland and Alesis pads)....

    The main things that I hear include things such as hitting the pads doesn't feel like playing real instruments (although this is improving, you've got to spend a serious amount of cash to get anywhere near)...the quality of the samples / sampling is variable both in terms of the sound set, things like looping, velocity layering etc - this is particularly applicable to sampled cymbals for instance, as it's very difficult to create the same level of nuance in performance...

    Samples can be extremely useful in the cases of obscure or expensive instruments, though, and they may allow you to do things that you otherwise couldn't afford to do.

    You've alluded to the potentially increased convenience of not having to load 4 pedal timps on the back seat of the bus when you're playing Blitz....but remember that you will have to power these things and you'll have to amplify them - which means, depending on where you use them, you'll need to source power, run cables (not always trivial, especially taking local H&S policies into account), may have to maintain PAT records...if you're out on the local bandstand, you may find that petrol generators are a little loud to supply the juice (though you might be able to run off power inverter(s) or UPS depending on, e.g. the level of amplification)....

    IME it's not always easy to balance a fully acoustic ensemble like a brass band with electronic gear - it obviously gets a little easier with practice, but it's dependent on all sorts of things including the venue, the siting of the amplification etc etc.

    The thing to do is see if they'll let you borrow some and see how you get on.
  5. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    (and obviously the "doesn't feel like the real thing" is particularly applicable to timps ;) )
  6. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Keith is right of course, you need to pay good money to get quality samples... however... I have a small BOSS Drum machine that I use with my synths and it has a programmable touch pad section with 20 independently controllable touch sensitive keys. I am sure this could be used - somewhat tongue in cheek... but it could!
  7. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    It's all down to expectation, I guess.

    I've been lucky enough to have worked with some excellent kitchen salesmen over the years and the feedback is always similar....it's getting there, but.....

    For example, the triggers may be rubber or mesh with the latter being better....in the case of the Roland V drums (parent company of Boss) that means you're looking at the TD9K as the entry level, which puts you at £1100 ish. However, the state of the art is the TD20K which comes in at just under £4.5k....even then people remain ambivalent.

    So you're right - things can be used but you need to know what you're expecting may not be what you'll get.
  8. Colin Gray

    Colin Gray Member

    I know a lot of drummers who use electric kits for gigging and recording - The Roland TD12 comes in at c£2500 and gvies you the sound samples from the top end TD20 but with smaller (mesh head) pads and slighlty fewer functions in the "brain".

    As for the tuned percussion, you could get a MalletKat or a Xylosynth. I for one have decided that either of these is the way to go as i do a lot of pit jobs and am fed up hiring the van and lugging Xylo/vibe/glock etc around! The vital part of this is the sound module. If you have a rubbish one that is exactly how you will sounds. The Kuzweil comes in at c£600 whilst the Korg M3 and Yamaha Motiff come in at C£1200-£1500. These modules do of course have more than just percussion sounds. When i do buy mine, i would definately use it at band and like Keith said the issue would then be amplification.

    As for timpani, i don't think you'll find a suitable alternative to the real thing at the moment.....i don't think timpani samples sounds right as you miss all those overtones and the natural resonance you get between a set of "real" timpani.

    Good luck in finding what suits you and your band!
  9. michellegarbutt

    michellegarbutt Supporting Member

    We looked at this option but after discussion with our percussionists decided against it . Instead we went for a portable drum kit which all folds down into 2 bags. We have looked into portable timps as well. We did find a set we liked but the guy who made them is currently waiting for some new equipment before he can start production again. We have decided to wait until he does as the others on the market didn't come any where near them for quality
  10. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Absolutely - I guess I should've said the same but that it comes with my above caveat. The advantages of using them for recording include not needing a particularly good live room and you can record the MIDI data which makes sample replacement easier (remember that lots of records - particularly rock & metal - have the 'natural' drum sounds either totally replaced or augmented with samples) as well as the audio.

    If you've got a decent live room, though, I've generally found (and it's an experience shared by lots of my recording friends) that 'real' hats and cymbals are much nicer ;)

    Yep - I've been thinking along the lines of evaluating something like the MalletKAT and triggering maybe the percussion samples from the Vienna Symphonic Library off a laptop. My intended use would be to use it on sessions to replace instrument that should never see the light of day (e.g. glocks that sound like you're dropping a bag of spanners down the stairs or vibes with broken motors.....plus it'd allow access to things that Bands can't get afford as marimbas or (relatively) more exotic things like celesta...as well as with extra pads you could chuck in all sorts of other stuff as well).

    Agreed, although sample libraries like VSL are routinely used very effectively in, for example, library music and soundtracks the percussion sounds are just like all the other instruments - care is needed to make sure they're used correctly and sound as they should as it's not all just out of the box.

    Yep - let us know how you get on :D
  11. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    The Roland mesh heads aren't that far removed from the 'feel' of a normal kit, (and it's only the snare that you really notice). The response times from the triggers are not bad either. You can alter the pitch of each drum to the sound you like a drum to make. Rim shots can be set for the rims on several of the pads (or all the pads depending on the kit). Cymbal chokes are there too.
    You can also select from hundreds of sounds and assign them to any pad or cymbal you choose. You tube has lots of examples of kits being played that might help you .
  12. Al

    Al Member

    We always have a few problems getting volunteers to help loading and transporting the percussion and then taking it back to the band room. We play a lot of summer concerts, band stands and the like.

    You could have heard a pin drop when I suggested we didn't really needs the timps and glock etc.for these sort of concerts and perhaps we could get away with just the kit, a trimmed down one at that. Anyway, to cut a long story short we still lug around the full monty regardless of type of gig.

    I think when more percussionists start using electronic drums away from band or at home they will naturally take up the option.

    Regarding the quality and capability of the technology, I remember only 10 years ago discussing digital cameras and being told by the local professional photographer (who plays in our band) that digital will never take over from film.

    Anyway, an interesting thread.
  13. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    One way to solve that problem is to adjust the programme so additional percussion is not required. I agree with what has been said before that balancing the electronic setup is a major hassle against the acoustic (and flexible) sound of a brass band. You would require a sound check before every gig.
  14. floppymute

    floppymute Member

    A thought occurred to the cynic in me whilst reading this thread. What is probably not in doubt is that in the coming years such equipment will continue to improve both in terms of sound quality and 'feel' for the player, making it eminently more practical and, dare I say, the equipment of choice in most situations.
    I wonder how far behind our contest rule makers will be in approving such equipment for use on the contest platform?
  15. YellowTubs

    YellowTubs New Member

    I agree with the previous comments, at this precise moment to get good sounding equipment you need to spend some serious wedge! I have an electronic kit, which I think is absolutely brilliant - for practice it is proving to be incredibly useful. I have tried it through a theatre PA system and it really does sound good.

    However, I have to say that I still prefer my 'analogue' kit, mainly because of the feel and the flexibility of it. (And I'm desperately old fashioned).

    I'm not saying never though.
  16. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    I'm a little foggy, but I used to use synthesisers as an alternative to thunder machines nearly 20 years ago...I want to think we once used them on a set piece contest stage (with prior agreement)...but can't be sure.

    We definitely used them on the concert stage, but by the time they'd adjusted the volume to the right level the piece was over :D
  17. YellowTubs

    YellowTubs New Member

    I can see that there may be a bit of concern by the contest organisers - thinking on the lines of an electronic kit here......

    Suppose we have something like Earth Walk being played on the contest stage, and the drummer you have is competent enough with the basic rock and swing grooves you have in it, but then loses it totally whenever he plays the minute long solo. So we get a player of immense standard who produces a bit of an Ian Paice style solo, and save it in the brain of the kit. The solo starts, the 'percussionist' hits the go button and proceeds to do a bit of miming that would put Milli Vanilli to shame. In a blur of sticks, who could truly tell from the audience that they were miming.......

    The same could be said of electronic xylophones, press a button and you have Evelyn Glennie!

    Just a thought......
  18. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member

    Don't allow calculators in the exam ;)
  19. Mr Guinness

    Mr Guinness Member

    .......... except for the timing aspect. Loops and samples played alongside acoustic groups generally require click tracks to ensure continuity. You're into a whole different world then.

    I've used electronics in a variety of bands (not brass) before, and they certainly have their place. Where a PA already exists, the advantages are clear; and where special effects are required they are clearly the only way.

    In terms of a brass band though - I just can't imagine it. The dynamic range of a brass band is far greater than any electronic percussion instrument I've ever played for a start. Each acoustic percussion instrument can produce a multitude of different sounds depending on where or how it is played - electronics are just too sterile (although top end electronics manufacturers are trying to address this now - unsuccessfully in my opinion).

    Given the way technology evolves, I'll certainly never say never for 'classical' groups. But right now - doesn't work for me.
  20. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Actually that was my first thought as well when I saw the thread. I remember the first time I did a gig with a small-ish function band, and the technician wanted the brass players to play a few notes into the mics. Being inexperienced and ignorant, I made the point that I didn't think we would need amplification, whereupon the techie very patiently explained that although there would be virtually zero gain on the brass sound, it "just wouldn't sound right" if the brass sound didn't come out of the speakers together with all the other electric keyboard/guitar sounds and the amplified voices.

    I'm sure that similar considerations would apply to mixing acoustic brass and electronic percussion. Perhaps the way forward is to mic up and amplify the whole band ... :rolleyes: