Electronice percussion

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by cmf290, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. cmf290

    cmf290 New Member

    As someone who has, on occasion, been involved in carting vast quantities of percussion kit round the country, I'd be interested to hear of anyones experience of using an electronic system for percussion effects (inc timpani).

    I find it hard to believe that in this day and age there isn't a good quality system which would provide percussion effects without requiring a Luton Box Van to shift it. I've seen systems of pads mounted on what looks something akin to scaffolding poles, hooked up to some king of electronic box of tricks and wondered if it could work with a brass band once suitably amplified. Whilst the electronic wizardry that goes on in the background is beyond me, I'm aware that these systems use samples of sound which, at least in theory, match the sounds of 'real' percussion. If it could all fit in the boot of a car so much the better!

    Colin McFarlane
  2. Colin Gray

    Colin Gray Member

    There are 2 main electric mallet percussion instruments, the malletKAT and the xylosynth. Both are laid out like a xylo/glock and the sounds come from either the onboard sound card, or a seperate sound module. A lot of pro touring musicals use these as you can have any sound you want on them (inc timp) so they take up far less room and obviously all the sounds go into 1 or 2 channels on the desk.

    Roland and Yamaha also do great electric drumkits. In this area you get what you pay for as they range from £500 - £5000. The obvious advantage with these kits is you can have different sounds for different pieces as well as using them for auxilliary percussion sounds. Some people hate electric kits, but, if you pay the money and get the "mesh heads" they feel just like normal kits and give you the full dynamic range you'd expect to get on a "real" kit.

    I am lucky enough to be endorsed by Roland and malletKAT and have used their instruments for many shows, as well as windband concerts. I've found that if the PA system is big enough (and well worked by someone who knows what they are doing), the instruments blend really well with the band and 99% of people (including MDs) can't tell the difference - esp on the kit sounds.

    If space was an issue, I would use the malletKAT for a brass band, but I would take real timps. The timp patches are good, but you do need the depth and warmth from the timpani in a brass band to add to the bottom end of a band and for me, you can't get this on the KAT. If you did decide to use electronic instruments with a brass band, you'd need a large PA and a person with a good ear to mix the sound. To do that might actually take you longer than unloading a van of real instruments. You'd also need a power supply and extensions etc etc etc.

    If you'd like to come and try either the KAT or any of the Roland gear, do feel free to get in touch. I am happy to help if I can!
  3. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    The problem in my experience is that the electronically generated and amplified sounds do not generally blend well with the acoustic sounds. In theatre pits and the like, the acoustic instruments are mic'd up, and go through the mixing desk. The brass/woodwind sounds are not really "amplified" as such, (they don't need it, usually being already loud enough), but a very small amount of sound does go through the PA, so that it mixes with the electronic percussion (and keyboards), and, perversely, creates a more "natural" balance.

    Given that I don't really see the brass band movement being ready to go down the road of individually mic'ing up all the instruments and having an experienced pro sound engineer processing them with very expensive high-end mixing/PA gear, then I don't at this point see much future in using electronic percussion.

    And as Colin says, the logistics of using this sort of kit are probably worse than using "real" kit ...
  4. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    And it's a visual thing for audiences too, my trombone mentor is a big fan of making sure things look as good as they sound - if there is something fast and flashy going on in the trombones, lets see those slides fly, no shortcuts unless needed for quality. The audience do enjoy that sort of thing!

    Same visual thing goes for shed-builders I think, if Joe Public is paying hard-earned currency to see your band play, he will certainly rather see a team of percussionists playing on real equipment than a man on a laptop or sound desk.

    I have seen some bands though who aren't that smart about programming for percussion... taking to a small bandstand on a grey day with a predicted audience of 50 with 4 percussionists, all the gear and a kitchen sink is good for a chuckle.
  5. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    In what sense would you need to mix the sound? If the volume and quality of sound from the electronic percussion is satisfactory, isn't that enough? Or is there more to it than that? (You can tell I'm not a techie!)
  6. Colin Gray

    Colin Gray Member

    Hi Jim,

    The potential problem is that if you have the mixer/amp next to you so you can control the sound and volume, you might get a different impression to how the band sound compared to the MD/Audience. Don't get me wrong, I've done it loads of times (as have many others!) and its been fine - it is all about using our ears and adjusting as you would with real instruments.

    In a theatre show when most, if not all the instruments go into the PA at some level, I have a monitor mix so I can hear what I am doing but it doesn't interfere with the sound the audience hear. In this instance I am reliant on the sound man mixing the sound so the audience get a great balance.

    I appreciate this is a very different situation to a brass band concert, but, If I was to use the malletKAT on a large gig for Flowers I would be looking for someone in the audience who I trust to give me the nod that I am balancing suitablly with the band as well as getting no reaction from the the MD so I know what he is hearing is what he expects to whilst also sitting well within the blend of the percussion section. The trusted person could of course be a band member during the soundcheck/rehearsal.

    Perhaps "a person with a good ear to mix the sound" is a bit over the top, I just mean you don't want to plug it in, turn it up and leave it! It does need adjustment.

    Hope this helps.... a bit..... sorry if I have confused things even more!

    As before, if anybody wants to come and have a look at the malletKAT or Roland gear get in touch, I will try and help where I can.
  7. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    No no, that's excellent thank you. I'm not a percussionist but it seems to me that the potential advantages of these instruments to bands who don't have all the acoustic equipment - cost, storage, ease of transport, versatility etc. - are very great if the balance issues can be overcome without specialist technical expertise. Most enlightening, thanks!
  8. cmf290

    cmf290 New Member

    Assuming that we wanted something mid range in quality terms (we're not at Black Dyke standard - yet) what would be a reasonable amount to expect to pay including amplification?

    Colin McFarlane
    Govan SA Band
  9. Colin Gray

    Colin Gray Member

    The malletKAT units come direct from the USA so you need to consider the exchange rate. Don't forget you'll more than likely have to pay import tax as well - you'll be contacted by Royal Mail on behalf of Customs when it arrives in the UK. The link below takes you to the malletKAT page. It gives you the price in $ and all the options regarding size/sound module etc.


    For drum kits try a good quality drum store like Drumwright who are based in Reading. They have all the models in stock and will be able to tell you the pro's and con's of each model. http://www.drumwright.co.uk/ As i mentioned earlier, the mesh heads give a more realistic feel than the standard rubber pads. Mesh head Roland start at about £1100 but you get what you pay for - a better sound module and hi hat control for around £1800 and then semi pro models at £2500+

    For amplification i use a Roland PM-30 http://www.drumwright.co.uk/store/electronic-kits/amplifiers-and-headphones/product-Roland-PM304181/ which are listed around £585. I've used them for theatre shows/wind bands/orchestras and as a monitor and it has done a cracking job but I have never tried it with a brass band.

    Let me know if I can be of any more help.
  10. Colin Gray

    Colin Gray Member

    There is a malletKAT on EBAY which might be of interest to you.
  11. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    ... and VAT ... :mad:

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