How To Use Electronic Drums Live On Stage

Learn how to elevate your stage presence with electronic drums. Discover the secrets to creating an electrifying live drum sound that will captivate both you and your audience.

Drummers are no strangers to the delicate balance of playing with intensity while maintaining an appropriate volume level, particularly in venues like churches and halls. The challenge lies in bringing acoustic drums to life while also considering the comfort of everyone involved.

It’s widely recognized that acoustic drums truly shine when played with passion and proper technique. However, achieving this can be difficult in live spaces where volume control is crucial.

Thankfully, a solution exists that enables drummers to unleash their full intensity without sacrificing sound quality or the enjoyment of the audience and band.

Drums with volume knobs

Drummers often find themselves caught in the middle, trying to strike a balance that pleases everyone involved. However, the inherent loudness of drums makes it challenging to gauge what is acceptable for the audience. Finding the right drum level for ourselves, singers, MCs, and the rest of the band can become an arduous process of trial and error. Without being able to hear what others are hearing, adjusting our playing volume accordingly becomes nearly impossible.

To perform at our best, drummers require a unique mix that differs from the preferences of the band, audience, or live sound engineer. Thankfully, electronic drums provide a straightforward solution to volume issues. They allow us to play with the sound and intensity we love while reducing the overall volume to a suitable level.

Gone are the days of hiding behind cumbersome plastic screens to control sound. Electronic drums not only offer relief from this constraint but also save venues money and enhance performances by ensuring an unobstructed line of sight between musicians.

The Roland TD-50X module with its comprehensive mixing controls

The real acoustic look

Immerse yourself in the impressive aesthetics of a large acoustic drum kit through the wonders of electronic drums. These kits feature full-sized kick drums, toms, cymbals, and stands, delivering a visually captivating and dynamic performance for the audience. Unlike miked acoustic kits, electronic drums eliminate the clutter of microphones, stands, and cables.

As a drummer, you gain complete control over your sound and can focus on driving the show from your drum throne. The audience will appreciate the physicality and visual allure of witnessing a skilled drummer perform live.

For instance, the VAD-706 boasts a 22″x18″ kick, while the VAD-507 and VAD-504 kits offer 20″ kicks that faithfully replicate the feel of their acoustic counterparts.

Experience the captivating V-Drums Acoustic Design kits here.

Not just another kit

Roland’s acoustic design series of electronic drums stands out with its customized approach. Each drum size in the VAD series has been meticulously designed with the perfect triggering system and head to complement it. This attention to detail ensures an authentic feel and sound, replicating the experience of playing an acoustic drum kit.

Roland PDA-100 Maple Shell V-Drum

The meticulous attention given to the design of the VAD series drums is essential in discouraging drummers from overplaying on the floor tom, leading to a more natural and acoustic sound during performances. This ingenious fusion of technology and clever design allows for a more satisfying and authentic outcome, where the passion and emotion put into the performance are fully realized.

The feel

In collaboration with drum head specialist Remo, Roland has designed mesh heads specifically for use in their V-Drums. These heads are crafted to replicate the feel and response of an acrylic head stretched over a drum, while offering exceptional durability and reduced volume.

Roland’s V-Drums feature multi-ply mesh drum heads that are adjustable in tension and require no tuning. Straight out of the box, these heads provide a satisfying bounce and feel. The thickness of the mesh heads is carefully selected to complement each drum size. This ensures that the multi-ply heads offer even less bounce and lower volume compared to standard mesh ply heads used in other electronic kits, providing a more natural playing experience.

With V-Drums, players have the freedom to independently adjust the tension of the heads, allowing them to achieve their desired feel regardless of the tuning pitch. This means you can have the sound of a highly tuned 10″ tom with the feel of a 12″ tom or a loose floor tom while maintaining your preferred pitch and tone.

The PD-140DS is Roland’s top-of-the-line 14″ stainless steel snare. With its 3-ply head and digital trigger system with skin touch awareness, it accurately detects cross-stick, rimshot, and head shots without any manual adjustments required. Just play naturally for a seamless and expressive drumming experience.

Roland’s thinline ‘T’ series cymbals, available in 14″ and 16″ sizes, offer a comparable weight to acoustic cymbals while delivering a desired buttery feel with their flex. They can be muted with either your hands or sticks, and the module includes an extensive range of both modern and classic cymbal sounds. Moreover, these cymbal sounds can be tailored to suit individual preferences in terms of size and pitch. The versatility extends further as the cymbals can be stacked and enhanced with virtual chains, beads, and rivets, allowing for the creation of impactful metal accents or the nostalgic sustain of a classic Jazz ride cymbal.

Let’s turn our attention to the exceptional additions for any electronic drum set—the CY-18DR 18″ ride cymbal and VH-14D 14″ hi-hats. These cymbals offer an unrivaled experience when connected via a single USB cable. Equipped with a revolutionary digital triggering system, they exhibit remarkable sensitivity and, for the first time in electronic triggers, enable staccato playing through skin touch awareness. The hi-hat is particularly advanced, capable of distinguishing between left and right hands, as well as detecting skin touch muting. These features add subtle human nuances that are typically absent in electronic instruments, elevating the overall playing experience.

Real Acoustic Sound

Critics of electronic drums often raise the argument that they fail to replicate the sound of acoustic drums. However, determining what constitutes the ultimate “acoustic drum sound” is a subjective matter and varies depending on several factors.

These factors include the individual player, the characteristics of the instrument itself, the acoustic qualities of the room where the drums are played, and the intended audience. Furthermore, the perception of drum sound can differ significantly based on whether the drum kit is amplified or captured through microphones, leading to variations between what the player hears and what the audience perceives.

Rather than pitting electronic drums against acoustic drums, a more appropriate comparison can be drawn between recorded acoustic drum kits and electronic kits. Both types of drums involve capturing and amplifying the sound of acoustic drums. Even in studio recordings, the natural sound of an acoustic drum kit is captured through microphones, effectively transforming it into an electrified sound.

When it comes to live performances, even in moderately sized venues, amplification is necessary for acoustic drums, making their sound less natural. The player hears both the acoustic and amplified sounds and adjusts accordingly, while the audience primarily hears the amplified/electric drum sound, along with some of the live stage sound, which is often negatively referred to as “bleed” by engineers. In smaller venues, acoustic drums adversly set the minimum volume level, forcing all other instruments to be amplified to compete with the kit, resulting in an overall high volume level. The use of electronic drums, on the other hand, allows for better control over the overall volume level, resulting in a cleaner and more focussed sound.

With V-Drums, the technical aspect of miking has already been taken care of, making it easy for users to connect their headphones or amplifier to the module and start playing. Additionally, the built-in library of sounds offers hundreds of options, and sample import functionality allows users to load in their preferred sounds, such as Octobans or a classic black beauty snare. In fact, you can get the exact sound for any song by sampling and importing the original recorded drum sounds from anywhere you like.

In an interview with Simon Kobler of UNITED, he discusses how he incorporates electronic drums into his performances.

Connecting To The P.A

Roland TD-27 module rear panel

Connecting V-Drums to a stage box or recording device proves to be a much simpler task compared to the process of miking up acoustic drums for amplification or recording. In the case of the VAD-504 and VAD-507 kits, the TD-27 module offers two direct outputs and two main outputs that can be flexibly routed according to the desired configuration. For those using the VAD-706 kit and TD-50X module, sound engineers gain access to an impressive 10 balanced channels, eliminating the need for direct inject boxes and providing even greater control over the sound.

This setup presents a significant advantage for sound engineers as they are freed from the complexities of microphone setup and adjustment. Additionally, issues such as spill and feedback from other instruments, voices, or amplifiers on stage are eliminated, resulting in a much clearer and cleaner sound reproduction.

Roland TD-50X back panel outputs and connections and professional balanced outs

Gone are the days of enduring tedious soundchecks where drummers struggled to hear how their drums sounded in the room. With V-Drums, a revolutionary change has arrived. Drummers now have the remarkable ability to listen to their drum sound from the front of the stage, experiencing how it projects in the room for the very first time.

By utilizing the built-in song player function, the process becomes effortless. Drummers can choose from a selection of pre-made soundcheck sequences or simply press record, play beats and individual hits, and then loop the playback. As they step out to the front of the stage, they can listen to the kit playing automatically while other band members even join in, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of how the drums blend within a musical context. The recording of this soundcheck can be saved on an SD Card, ensuring its availability for future use.

Unlike traditional audio recordings where sounds are fixed, V-Drums recordings capture MIDI note performances. This enables drummers to select and modify alternative sounds according to their preferences, achieving the ideal sound for the music being played. The tuning, muffling, microphone position, effects, and even the transient attack and decay of each sound can be adjusted as the kit plays, mirroring the level of control typically found in a professional studio environment.

With V-Drums, drummers can easily adjust their drum sounds and levels using the module fader and knob controls. They can make on-the-fly adjustments while the band plays along, providing the opportunity to hear the drums in the right context and as the audience would hear them. Once satisfied with the sound, drummers can save the module state as a backup on an SD Card, making it easy to reload the settings for future performances. By saving backups for each venue, they can achieve the same sound again at any time.

To Sum It Up

Choosing electronic drums for live performances doesn’t mean sacrificing the qualities you and your audience appreciate in acoustic drums. In fact, electronic drums offer new opportunities to captivate your audience while making your gigs more manageable and fulfilling. You can explore a wide range of sounds, customize drum kits, and add unique effects to create dynamic performances. Electronic drums are lighter, more compact, and offer volume control, making them easier to transport and adapt to different venues. Embracing electronic drums allows you to elevate your live performances while maintaining the elements that resonate with you and your audience.