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Readers' Letters: Electronic drum sets? Why???, and more...

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006
"Electronic drum sets may not have all the subtlety of acoustic drums, but they have other advantages. Electronic drums are surprisingly popular..."
Readers' Letters: Electronic drum sets? Why???, and more...

In response to Electronic drum sets? Why???, Simon Wood writes...

We use a Yamahha DTXpressII electronic kit and there are many advantages and only two disadvantages


- Ease of transport, anyone who has tried to put a drumkit in a case, then car, then setup will know the problems. a digital kit folds up and fits under a bed

- volume control! when I was starting out drumming it was a constant pain to get better because the practice sounded so bad and affected so many people in earshot, that you were never inspired to go and have a bash. the digital kits are turn on turn down and play, they all have headphone sockets. the kick pedal can send some nasty thud thud and silent playing is impossible as they all have a stick to pad noise. but much better than a live kit

- the sounds can be easily edited and the standards are all pretty usable

- Price, typically these are getting much cheaper than acoustic kits, there's a USB model for only $200

- feel, they all play very much like real kits, the velocity of the strike is well captured on all models


- the sounds can sound a little fake, I went in to my local drum store and asked for a new drum brain (the little black box that processes your signal and makes the audio output) but even there most expensive model didn't sound any better

- Stereo output, if your drum audio is going straight to track, there's no way to adjust the sound afterwards, ie turn the kick drum down or the snare up etc. with 8 separate tracks for a live drum kit you can easily adjust the level. it's better to use the MIDI out to trigger a virtual drumkit and then you have more control

I still love to play on a live kit, there's something nostalgic about it. to record though I will stick to digital. you can hear samples of the kit in action at www.simonwood.biz, click on the songs tab

all the best

Simon wood

In response to Electronic drum sets? Why???, Scott Shpak writes...

I've been using electronic drums to record for several years now, and being able to record full bands in a row house or apartment is one obvious benefit.

Another includes the ability to record the performance in MIDI. When working with acts who are enthusiastic but new to the recording game, sometimes a complete, technically solid performance is hard to come by. I've become a hero by taking the phrases from the drum performance that works and re-sequencing them through MIDI to come up with a new, steady composite performance. True, the subtlety of acoustic playing gets lost, but often with novice studio drummers, we're compressing and limiting to iron out extremes in performance variance.

Another very effective use of electronic drums is in saving time in the studio, which of course is often money. My favourite compromise of worlds is a hybrid kit; using the kick and toms of the electronic kick with the snare and cymbals of an acoustic set. The electronic components don't need mics, and the acoustic pieces add the 'real' feel that's often missing from a straight electronic set. As samples get better, the toms and kick get more and more convincing, and when combined with an acoustic snare, played well, I've fooled many friends with otherwise well-tuned ears.

In response to Electronic drum sets? Why???, Oren writes...

We use an electronic drum set with our student worship band. We meet in a fairly small venue and have tried acoustic drums. They were just too loud, and we have found that the volume control on a electronic drum set is worth the trade-off in sound quality. I am wondering though, if there are any tips from expereiced electronic drum set users on how to get a "fuller" sound from the set, whether with pre-amps or effects. We play Roland V-Pro drums. I know we can't get the full acoustic sound, but perhaps just get a little closer than we are right now. I would love your feedback.

In response to Should your loudspeakers have digital inputs?, Ben, Arizona, USA writes...

I'm afraid I disagree with the popular trend that the amp belongs in the speaker box. I'm dealing with a problem as we speak where one of a set of Tannoy monitors has a wanky amp rendering them useless. If they were passive I could yank the amp, replace it and carry on. I believe that the convenience of amp and speaker in one box is greatly over rated. I have found no clear audio advantage with well designed monitors.

Secondly the amp being mounted in the box causes some acoustic compromises not to mention exposing itself to vibration.

I too, was not a fan of Class D amps, but I have to say that there are some fine examples of this technology available these days. Nuforce, Bel Canto and Flying Mole(2 USA, one Japan) just to name a few. Class D is changing drastically since you last listened to one. We need to be more open minded.

In response to Why can't you buy Fiona Apple's new album? Sony says you can't!, Mr. Key writes...

I'm fully agree with your perspective. Major doesn't mean only successful artists and good music, since Fiona Apple is not the only one got stucked...

Independent artists, self production, etc. are good response to the "star system" and internet is the only way to let the people choose for their preferred music.


RP response: The latest we hear is that this situation is resolved and the album is available. It shouldn't have happened though.

In response to A million-selling producer who DOESN'T do his own mastering!, Charlie Mizza - Raise Up Productionz writes...

I agree completely. Here's why:

1) As the creator of a musical piece, your perception of how it actually sounds will be skewed by the way it sounds "in your head". Especially with hip-hop production. I think what happens is we get this "sound" in our head - an idea of what a track should sound like (usually fragments of other works), then when we're tracking it we say "it's close - mastering will take care of the rest" (yikes!!).

Like the old saying goes, you can't polish a turd!!!!

Here's the thing:

Like the article said, the best person you want to master your music is one who has NEVER heard it before the moment he plays the raw mix for the first time, and yes, preferably not someone who has any sort of connection/attachment/financial bearing with you. You might be a who's who in a certain genre, and the mastering engineer just might be kissing your ass because he or she knows that you have enough money to keep coming back.

When I first started out, I had people tell me that my mixes were already good, but I knew they were feeding my ego because it sounded like crap in the car.

Then I met an engineer (who I still to this day work with and respect very much) who told me the truth. But he also had the knowledge and experience to tell me what to work on. With his help, and a LOT OF READING AND TRIAL AND ERROR, when I finally got our album mastered it turned out great!!

Too many people fool themselves into thinking that all mastering is is getting the mix louder. It is so much more than loading up some Waves plugins on your master fader and playing with some knobs. I do occasional mastering for other peoples music, but as far as my own - I'll pay the money to have the other guy do it.

In response to A million-selling producer who DOESN'T do his own mastering!, Yanik Daunais writes...

I totally agree. When you're so much into a production, objectivity is gone in the last miles...

Having someone else ears (that you trust) do the final polishing on the project is of great value. The mastering engineer is the last and best partnership the producer gets before delivering the final masters.

At the mastering stage, it's all about details and that's what separate the pros from the rest... Be critical... and please, STOP the LOUDNESS WAR!

For more info : turnmeup.org/


In response to What are the best ways in getting a good gain structure in a live concert mix?, Greg Harris writes...

I agree with the response, I also like to set all the channels, groups, and masters to 0db. Then adjust the input trim to set the levels, using my ears for the most part.

To me unity gain also means to unity gain the amps. All the way up on the power amps, does not mean your getting all the power from your amp.

In response to Adding warmth with control and consistency , Fred R writes...

Concerning your article "Adding warmth with control and consistency", you mentioned cutting the bass as high as 500hz before the distortion AND compressor; what about the low end/subs? What's compressing any wayward levels there?

RP response: If you split your signal into two frequency bands, then apply warmth to the high end only, then recombine the two bands, it will avoid causing distortion in the low frequencies, which is often unpleasant.

In response to Should you record voiceovers for a living? Could you?, John Barrow writes...

As an 18-year full time voiceover professional, I think this is a great article for people interested in the v-o industry. It's very insightful and I'd print it out, for sure. HOWEVER... using the RE-20 as a voiceover mic I very very highly do not recommend. It sure is pretty, though, and that's why it's used a lot on movies and TV as a prop.

It sounds very good as a cardioid mic if it's processed appropriately. But for a professional voiceover artist, go with a *condenser* mic. A true recording studio that takes your voice track in to mix it for a client's project will probably not be in the least bit impressed if you tell them you use an RE20. Again, it's not that RE20's sound bad , per say.

But FOR THE SAME as an RE20, or NOT MUCH MORE, why not START with a microphone you can also END with and take to your grave? (I've wasted soooo much time and money over the years fretting about mic's, when the answer is simple.)

There are many many good mic's out there. Off the top of my head here are a few *condenser* mic's that would be respected enough for any voiceover session, even at higher echelons of the sdvertising industry, and are reasonably priced.

>> Neumann TLM 103, Audio Technica AT4033 (that one might be discontinued, but the next level up will work- an AT 4???? , or a classic AKG 414.) Those are in the $600-$1200 range now I believe.

Spending over $1300-$1500 on a mic, I think is a waste of your money for VOICEOVER, not because higher-priced mic's won't sound good, they'll sound great, but why spend more than you need?

An engineer might say he's not find of this mic or that, but it won't keep you from getting the job if you have one of the above mic's or something comparable.

Get one of these and move on to other stages of your studio, such as room/acoustic environment, and a good microphone pre-amp, etc.



A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)