Using Electronic Drums On Stage: How To Use V-Drums Live

Discover the possibilities of achieving a fantastic live drum sound with electronic drums. This article delves into how to effectively use electronic drums on stage, resulting in an exceptional experience for both you as the drummer, and your audience.

Drummers are familiar with the challenge of playing with intensity while maintaining an acceptable volume level for both the band and the audience. This is especially difficult in acoustic spaces like churches and halls, which can cause headaches and discomfort for everyone involved.

It’s well-known among drummers that acoustic drums come to life when played with conviction and the right technique. However, this can be a challenge in many live spaces where volume needs to be controlled.

Fortunately, there is a solution that allows drummers to play with full intensity without compromising the sound quality or comfort of the audience and band.

How often have you found yourself trying to work out a drum part while the guitarist is happily noodling away with their amp turned down, only to be told to be quiet?

The 7 Benefits Of Using V-Drums Live

  • Controllable Volume Level 

  • Repeatable and Consistent Drum Sound 

  • Quicker Setup and Packdown 

  • Stick and Skin Breakages Almost Non Existent

  • Much Lower Stage Volume

  • Creative Drum Sound Control

  • Silent and Recordable Sound-checking

Drums with a volume Knob

As drummers, we often struggle to keep everyone happy, but it’s not entirely our fault. Drums can be incredibly loud from our perspective, and it’s difficult to determine what’s too much for the audience. Balancing the drum level for ourselves, singers, MCs, and the rest of the band can be a tedious process of trial and error. It’s nearly impossible to adjust our playing volume for others when we can’t hear what they’re hearing.

To play at our best, drummers require a unique mix that differs from what the band, audience, or live sound engineer needs. Fortunately, electronic drums offer a simple solution to volume issues. We can play with the sound and intensity we love while reducing the volume to a suitable level.

Using electronic drums eliminates the need to play behind a large plastic screen to control sound, which is a welcome relief. Additionally, it saves the venue money and improves performances by keeping the line of sight to other musicians unobstructed.

The TD-50X module that comes with the VAD-706 kit allows you to have your very own in-ear monitor mix separate from the one used by the front of house engineer.

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

Real Acoustic Kit Look

Roland VAD-706 V-Drums in Gloss Ebony wood grain finish

You can achieve the same impressive appearance as a large acoustic drum kit with electronic drums. These kits come complete with full-sized kick, toms, cymbals, and stands, providing a visually appealing and dynamic performance for the audience. Unlike a miked acoustic kit, electronic drums lack the clutter of microphones, stands, and cables.

As a drummer, you’ll have complete control over your sound and can focus on driving the show from your drum throne. The audience will appreciate the physicality and visual appeal of watching a skilled drummer perform live.

For example, the VAD-706 features a 22″x18″ kick, while the VAD-507 & VAD-504 kits come equipped with 20″ kicks that feel just like their acoustic counterparts.

See the V-Drums Acoustic Design kits here

The TD-50X module that comes with the VAD-706 kit allows you to have your very own in-ear monitor mix separate from the one used by the front of house engineer.

No Ordinary Kit

V-Drums Acoustic Design
Roland VAD Series Acoustic Designed Electronic Drums

 Roland’s acoustic design series sets itself apart from other acoustic-style electronic drums. Unlike other standard acoustic drums with a one-size-fits-all trigger system, each drum size in the VAD series was created from scratch with the perfect triggering system and head to complement it.

For instance, the PDA-100  10″ tom is designed with a side-mounted trigger to eliminate the center hot spot, and the dual-ply mesh head offers an unmatched feel, as detailed in the following section. This pairing of custom head and trigger provides the perfect performance and feel for a 10″ drum.

Going further, the 14″ floor tom features a multi-trigger basket for the widest sweet spot, and the 3-ply mesh head is specifically designed to mimic the reduced rebound experienced with acoustic floor toms. This attention to detail results in an electronic drum kit that accurately reproduces the sound and feel of an acoustic kit.

Roland PDA-100 Maple Shell V-Drum

The meticulous attention given to the VAD series drums design is crucial, as it disuades drummers from overplaying on the floor tom which results in a more natural, acoustic sounding performance. With this ingenious fusion of technology and clever design, the more passion and emotion you put into your performance, the more satisfying and authentic the outcome will be.

The sheer playability of V-Drums is the result of decades development thanks to close working relationships with the who’s who of the world’s finest drummers.
Continual feedback from Billy CobhamPeter ErskineOmar HakimIan PaiceGregg BissonetteJim KeltnerChris Whitten,  Malcolm GreenJohnny RabbThomas LangMichael SchackCraig Blundell, Chad WackermanKai Hahto and countless other professionals has made V-Drums what they are today.
All of this work results in an amazing playing experience leaving nothing left to miss. 

Great Acoustic Kit Feel

Electronic drums have come along way since the diabolical, wrist-shattering, hexagonal shaped riot shields of the 80’s.

See Roland’s journey in innovation here

 When designing the mesh heads for use in V-Drums, Roland collaborated with Remo, a renowned drum head specialist. These mesh heads are designed to replicate the feel and response of an acrylic head stretched over a drum, but with much greater durability and a much quieter sound.

Roland’s V-Drums feature multi-ply mesh drum heads that are adjustable in tension and require no tuning. Out of the box, these heads feel great with just the right amount of bounce. Additionally, mesh head thicknesses are specifically chosen to complement each drum size. This ensures that multi-ply heads offer even less bounce and lower volume than the standard mesh ply heads used in other electronic kits, which can feel like playing on tennis rackets in comparison.

With each V-Drum, players can independently adjust the playing tension to achieve their desired feel, regardless of the tuning pitch. This means that you can have the sound of a highly tuned 10″ tom with the feel of a 12″ tom or a loose floor tom with your preferred pitch and tone.

The top of the line 14" stainless steel snare called the PD-140DS, features a 3-ply head for the right amount of rebound and a digital trigger system with skin touch awareness so it knows when you are playing cross-stick and rimshot or head shots. You don't have to do anything in the module. Just play like you normally would for a natural playing experience.

When it comes to cymbals, Roland’s thinline ‘T’ series cymbals in 14″ and 16″ are comparable in weight to acoustic cymbals and even flex to provide that desired buttery feel. They can also be muted with your hands or sticks, and the module includes a wide range of modern and classic cymbal sounds. Additionally, all cymbal sounds can be customized for size and pitch, and cymbals can even be stacked and augmented with virtual chains, beads, and rivets to create huge metal accents or a classic Jazz ride cymbal sustain.

Speaking of ride cymbals, the CY-18DR 18″ ride and VH-14D 14″ hi-hats are the ultimate additions to any electronic drum set. Connected via a single USB cable, these cymbals feature a unique digital triggering system that provides remarkable sensitivity and, for the first time ever on an electronic trigger, staccato playing thanks to skin touch awareness. The hi-hat is so advanced that it can even differentiate between left and right hands as well as skin touch muting, providing subtle human nuances that are typically lost in electronic instruments.

Great Acoustic Kit Sound

Critics of electronic drums often argue that they don’t replicate the sound of acoustic drums, but what exactly constitutes the ultimate “acoustic drum sound”? Is there a universal drum sound that fits every player and music style? The answer is subjective and depends on various factors.

These factors include the player, the instrument, the room, and the audience. Additionally, drum sound can vary significantly depending on whether the kit is amplified or miked up, and it can sound vastly different to the player than to the audience.

Instead of comparing electronic and acoustic drums, a better comparison is between a recorded acoustic kit and an electronic kit. After all, both are recordings of acoustic drums, and even in the studio, an acoustic drum kit sound is captured and amplified through microphones so is in fact an electrified sound.

See more about drum recording here with this simple guide

 

If you consider that all drum sounds heard in recordings or live performances require electrification through the use of microphones, it can be said that every sound produced by a drum has already been electronically interpreted.

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.

Here’s an interview snippet from Simon Kobler of UNITED explaining how he uses electronics.

“I like integrating electronics live for a couple of key reasons. When I first started using drum machines to facilitate electronic sounds, it added an extra element to drumming that made things fresh and exciting. I enjoyed the learning curve. Most importantly though, I loved being able to enhance the acoustic sound I provided my engineers. My kick and snare samples are blended together with my acoustic sounds to provide something much richer and I have the ability to achieve one complete sound that lives in a different space to what I could achieve with just a drum and a mic.”

Read the full interview with Simon Kobler and Peter James from UNITED here

Simon Kobler

You too can even record and integrate your very own drum and cymbal sounds into your kit. 

See the guide to preparing samples and how to integrate them into your setup.

Roland VAD-504 4 piece kit

Connecting it to the P.A

Roland TD-27 module rear panel

Connecting V-Drums to a stage box or recording device is far easier than miking up acoustic drums for amplification or recording. For the VAD-504 and VAD-507 kits, the TD-27 module offers two direct and two main outputs that can be routed as desired. With the VAD-706 kit and TD-50X module, sound engineers can access up to 10 balanced channels eliminating the need for direct inject boxes and ensuring even greater sound control.

One major advantage for sound engineers is the absence of microphone setup and adjustment, and the elimination of spill and feedback from other instruments, voices, or amplifiers on stage, resulting in a clearer and cleaner sound.

See how to record the TD-50 into a MAC or PC here

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

Check 1, 2

Gone are the days of tedious soundchecks where you can’t hear how your drums sound in the room. With V-Drums, you have the ability to listen to your drum sound from the front and hear how it’s projecting in the room for the first time.

Using the built-in song player function, simply choose one of the premade soundcheck sequences or press record, play some beats and individual hits, and then loop the playback. Go out front and listen as the kit plays automatically and band members can even play along so you can hear the drums in a musical context. You can even save this recording on an SD Card to use for future soundchecks.

Unlike audio recordings where sounds are fixed, V-Drums recordings are MIDI note performances, which means you can select and modify alternative sounds at will to get the ideal sound for the music you’re playing. You can adjust tuning, muffling, microphone position, effects, and even the transient attack and decay of each sound as the kit plays, just like in a studio environment.

Learn more about MIDI vs. Audio here

Using the module fader and knob con trols, you can adjust your drum sounds and levels on the fly, and the band can even play along so you can hear the drums in the right context and hear the performance exactly as the audience will hear it. After you’re satisfied with the sound, simply save the module state as a backup to an SD Card for easy reloading at any stage. Save a backup at each venue you play at to easily achieve the same sound again at any time.

Check out the other tools you can use for drumming live here

 

Conclusion

By choosing electronic drums for your live performances, you don’t have to give up on the elements you and your audience appreciate about acoustic drums. In fact, electronic drums offer new opportunities to captivate your audience while making your gigs more manageable and fulfilling.

With V-Drums, you can play with the same energy and passion without having to make concessions regarding the aesthetics, responsiveness or sonic quality of your drum kit.

Why not give a V-Drums kit a test run today at one of the many authorized dealers near you?

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THIS TD-50 CUSTOM PATCHES

Created by Roland V-Drums specialist Simon Ayton, these patches were designed using the internal factory sounds and many of the techniques covered in the TD-50 guide. Enjoy exploring the possibilities!