How I Use E-drums

Tuesday, 28 August 2018 2:27 pm

Ryan Halsey uses electronics to recreate recorded sounds in live performances.

I started drumming at the age of 14 and spent most of the early years of drumming playing along to my favourite albums. The Roland TD-3 e-kit was with me through those early years: it took a beating and never had an issue! I soon realised there are only so many things you can play with single strokes and studied at Tech Music Schools (now BIMM London) to learn the other fundamentals of drumming.

Nowadays, I play in the band The Gravity Drive. Initially, we started off playing purely acoustic and stripped back; however, the debut album the band released was almost the opposite, lots of layers and instruments with great production. After seeing and hearing about the Roland SPD-SX, I knew it would open up our possibilities playing live as a trio, enabling us to use the recorded stems from the album live.

We were able to gig with a full band sound despite only having drums, acoustic guitar, vocals and the SPD-SX. It gave us the ability to perform a representation of the album in front of a BBC Radio 2 DJ and led to the band performing a live session on BBC Radio 2.

It took time to understand how to mix the stems correctly for use in a live setting. Bass, in particular, was a challenging area as it would change so much from room to room and with different PA setups. Thankfully, we now have a bass player, so the SPD-SX plays more of a supportive role rather than being half of the band!

Since getting the e-drum bug, I have tried various percussion pads and some of them have felt like you need a degree to operate them! However, I do enjoy using the Roland Octapad and Nord Drum 3. The Octapad is very customisable, with some great layering options, and the Nord Drum has a natural feel with organic and expressive sounds.

I use both of these in stripped-back scenarios in the band. They allow me to play at a controlled volume and have a wide range of sounds to hand, which is not something I can do using something like cajon or brushes. I will make a different kit for each song based off the sounds coming from the rest of the band. I love that I can change to a completely different kit for each song in the set, something that is not easy to achieve with acoustic drums.

Having said that, I’ve recently started using the Yamaha EAD-10 and I think it’s a bit of a game changer! It uses microphones on an acoustic kit coupled with the processing and effects you find on most e-d rum modules. I’ve found it to be one of the most versatile e-drum units I’ve come across and I’m excited to see what it can offer in the band scenario.

All of these units require time and patience to go in deeper and really get the best out of them: there’s a lot more on offer than the preset kits!