We all know the standard argument: Electronic drums don’t sound or feel as good as acoustic drums.
Okay, with that out of the way we can focus on making the Roland TD-10 sound more natural for a live setting. These are some of the steps I took and hopefully they can help you. Also, if you have any other tips for making an electronic kit sound more ‘real’ please leave a comment!
Tip 1 – Tune The Heads
The TD-10 comes standard with mesh heads. Not everybody may be aware that these need to be tuned to specific tensions to react accurately to your playing. You can set the tension to be loose, tight or normal. On the drum module, press ‘Setup’, ‘F1 Trig’ then ‘F4 Option’. Then you tap 3cm in from each lug and the tuner on the module screen will show whether it is tuned too high or low in that particular spot. Check out page 31 in the instruction manual for a better description.
I set the snare to be tuned tight, the first 3 toms as normal and the floor tom as loose to make the heads feel more similar to acoustic heads. This does not effect the pitch of the drums at all, only the feel and response.
Tip 2 – Remove All Effects
The module comes loaded with plenty of cool effects such as room simulation, compression, equaliser and special effects. They are aimed at recording your drums directly into a desk, not really for a standard live situation. I turn them all off. On the module, press the ‘Kit’ button, then ‘F3 FX SW’ and then F1-F4 to toggle the effects on or off.
Tip 3 – Carefully Select Instruments
Probably the most difficult part of this process because its so subjective. I spent time looking for sounds with plenty of nice overtones; the drums and cymbals that didn’t sound too “perfect”. They have noise and character like real materials. Hopefully you agree with my selections, this is the best I can do with this kit at this point in time.
On another note, it’s important to consider the genre in which you will be using this particular kit. The nice thing about e-drums is that you could program a kit for your groovy funk band, then switch to another patch and instantly be set up for your metal band.
Tip 4 – Adjust Trigger Sensitivity
I found that I needed to increase the sensitivity of the triggers to feel more natural. On the module press ‘Setup’ then ‘F1 Trig’. This is something I have noticed with many players on e-drums, they are hitting quite hard because you usually don’t have the same volume and noise as you do with acoustic kits; part of their charm but also part of their downfall if misunderstood. Players may tend to play with less dynamics if they feel its all too quiet to start with. So many bands I’ve been in where everybody turns down in the interest of keeping more ‘civilised’ volumes then wondering where all the fun went. It can be the same effect with electric vs. acoustic drums. With the sensitivity higher a player can get more sound variations from their triggers and may find they can play lighter, encouraging more dynamics. The snare is something I worked on for a long time, a light strike should be able to produce a nice ghost-note. Then a firm strike should almost peak the input signal and produce the full sound. I shouldn’t have to hit the trigger really hard before I get the maximum attack.
The attack response can be customised with the sensitivity curve. For the drum triggers I leave this as linear, but for the cymbal triggers I switch it to the Log1 curve because I feel it better emulates the inertia of a real cymbal. The change is usually not dramatic, but I can better control the response of the cymbals with striking at different strengths and especially when rolling on the cymbal to create a crescendo. You should experiment with this until you find the cymbals reacting more like real ones.
Sensitivity is a major part of enjoying your e-drums and being more satisfied with the sound and feel.
I am much fonder of e-drums these days once I realised that they can sound quite good. The TD-10 is the only professional level kit I have played and I am quite satisfied on the most part. But for all my efforts so far I can not get the toms to sound right when playing rolls on them. They always seem to have this kind of electronic disco sound when the strikes are close together. Single strokes can sound nice and natural, but rolls have this strange sound which is a dead give-away of being an electronic kit. There are still more parameters I need to experiment with but for now it’s eluding me.
A little update
I had listed on YouTube which instrument sounds I use, may as well post them here too:
- Kick – 606 booth K, head:coated, muffle:tape2
- Snare – 644 Ballad25, wood, depth:6″, head:coated, muffle:tape2, strainer:medium
- Hats – 789 ThinEgHH
- Tom1 – 720 MahoganyT1, head:coated
- Tom2 – 721 MahoganyT2
- Tom3 – 722 MahoganyT3
- Tom4 – 723 MahoganyT4
- Crash 1 – 804 Bl16BwCr
- Crash 2 – 814 Swng16Cr
- Ride – 866 Rock Rdr