Saturday, June 9, 2012

Transitioning from acoustic drums to Roland's TD-9KX2-S

First gig on the new kit.
I've been playing drums for 23 years as of this fall. I've played all of those years on acoustic instruments.* So earlier this year when one of the bands I play for wanted me to go electric, I was skeptical, to say the least.

In this particular case, the goal was twofold. First, we wanted to reduce stage noise (we also transitioned to in-ear monitoring), and second, we wanted to have more sound options at the touch of a button. This particular band is very show-oriented - an entertainment band that primarily plays corporate and community events, with the occasional wedding.

About two months ago I gave in, bit the bullet and dropped two grand on a closeout model of the Roland TD-9KX2-S. Since then, I have played about 6-7 gigs on the kit, and it's been quite the adjustment. To achieve the goals of the band and also to get a full perspective, I'm using the kit as-is, straight out of the box. No substitutions (like cymbals or snare drums), no additions, and no modifications.

Still getting used to how it looks on stage.

To be fair, I wanted to get a few gigs into the new arrangement before I started blogging about it, so I've waited until now. At this point I feel like I'm starting to understand some of the strengths and weaknesses, so I'm going to be sharing my observations periodically and asking for feedback from other musicians.

Just to get started, here are two quick observations:

  • It's not the real thing. It's just not. After discussions with other players who use both acoustic and electric instruments, I've come to the conclusion that when I play V-Drums, I'm no longer a "drummer." I'm an, "electronic musician." I still play the role of drummer, but I have to realize that I'm not playing drums. I'm essentially playing a computer with a drum-like interface. 
  • Because it's not the real thing, the player is limited by the programming and the capabilities of the hardware. With real acoustic drums, you're limited by physics. One great example of this is the playing of shells, stick clicks, ping shots and cymbal harmonics. The programming simply will not support the natural acoustic responses of wood, metal and mylar.
My load out "stack."
If you have opinions, observations or suggestions for those of us venturing into the electronic side of drumming, feel free to share below. 

More to come...

*Okay, okay. I did own an earlier Roland V-kit for about a year, but it was used exclusively in a teaching studio where volume was a major issue. I think I did a one-song recording project on it for a friend, but that was it. All other gigs were on acoustic drums. I was so non-plussed with the kit that I sold it as soon as I moved out of that studio.


  1. Agreed. They are not the real thing, but as long as the drummer keeps that in perspective, I think they do have a place. One of the things that I often run into are keyboardists comparing playing electronic drums to playing electronic keyboards. Again, not the same thing. Keyboards have measurable action, and in order to simulate the "feel" of an acoustic piano they have the velocity of the keystroke along with the pressure that can be used to determine the volume and tone of each note. With an electronic drum, you technically only have the relative level of how hard the drum is hit. Roland has done a good job of increasing sensitivity, but they still have a long way to go to simulate "real" drums.

    I have to admit, I do love the portability and ease of set up... but I'll still take my Pearl Masters Customs, thank you! ;-)

    1. I agree on all accounts. They're a nice tool to have, but real drums they are not. If I had to only have one kit, it would be acoustic. No question.


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