Mixing with the best

Sunday, 24 December 2017 12:52 pm

Monitoring e-drums is sometimes a challenge, particularly when you’re performing live. Roger Whitsett shares his tried and tested solution.

I started playing drums in 1974 and since then, I have played with and opened for national, regional and local acts. I began using electronic drums in 1988, starting with a Simmons SDS5. Then, I purchased an Alesis HR-16 drum machine to learn how to programme drums and how to play with a click track. From there, I bought a Roland Octopad 2, and Alesis D4 and DM5 drum modules to be able to trigger electronic drums using external triggers on acoustic drums.

Currently, I’m playing with a variety band, Pizazz Band, covering various genres of music. We try to play each genre as close to original as possible, sound-wise, and play 60 to 70 shows a year.  

I’m using Roland Vdrums (drums and cymbals), Alesis D4 and DM5 drum modules, Zildjian L80 13” hi-hats and Westone UM 30 Pro Triple-driver in-ear monitors. I can monitor my sound by using either my mixing board or my headphone amp.

The band decided to go with a “quiet stage” because of the venues that we were starting to play in. There are no monitors, side fills, amps, or acoustic drums on our stage.

In the past, you could go to smaller venues and play with amps, acoustic drums, etc. and loud sound wasn’t an issue. Nowadays, most venues want the music at lower, more controlled volumes. I strongly believe that the band going the “quiet stage” route has allowed us to get more shows. There isn’t ANY venue that we can’t go in to perform and have to worry about the music or instruments being too loud.

Playing with all instruments and vocals running through the digital mixer allows my band to have a quiet mix onstage. We all use in-ear monitors and every member has his own personal monitor mix (Behringer X-32 monitor mix).

When I joined Pizazz Band, the requirement was to own and play an electronic kit, be able to play with a click track and be comfortable with the use of an iPad. I wanted to use my Roland TD-15 drum module instead of the Alesis modules, but the band wanted individual control of the snare, kick, toms, cymbals, hi-hat and percussion. That is why I’m using Alesis drum modules. The Alesis modules have a total of eight outputs (four on each module). However, I will soon be upgrading to a Roland TD-50 bundle pack.

After several shows with the band, I couldn’t get the drum sounds that I wanted to hear coming from the Behringer X-32 digital mixer. I decided to submix my drums using a 12-channel Yamaha mixer that has four line in/outs and two separate monitor outputs. I run five outputs from the Alesis module to my mixing board, and then I run four line in/outs and one monitor mix to front of house. The separate mixes allow me to set my mixing board to the level and EQ that I like and it doesn’t affect what goes out to front of house.

I also have a line in from the Behringer digital board that has the vocals, keys, bass, guitar, backing tracks and click sent to my mixing board. My band runs the monitor mixes in stereo. My iPad monitor mix has separate volume controls for vocals, keys, bass, guitar, backing track and click. I have the choice of setting each level as I see fit.

This set-up allows our sound man to adjust the sound of the drums for the room that we’re playing in.

I also record every show using Ableton Live 9. I run a stereo mix from my mixing board to my laptop.

Using electronic drums helps me to keep my drum sound consistent, night after night. I’ve had a lot of compliments on my drum sound, but mainly compliments on how I have my drum rig set up, what kind of equipment I use and how great the drums sound!

My advice for drummers who are considering getting into using a full electronic drum rig (not hybrid) is to get the best possible equipment that you can afford. I use Roland pads and cymbals because of reliability and durability. I’ve never had to replace a single pad or cymbal. The only thing I replace on occasion is audio cords.