Rack off

Friday, 5 June 2020 11:26 am

William Donohue was drawn to the acoustic-like look of his Alesis Strike Pro kit, but not the rack.

I had always played traditional acoustic kits. I have played seven-piece double-bass configurations, but found that I was at my most comfortable with a five-piece set with one tom up and two on the floor.

As my life progressed, my career moved me to small New York City apartments. That eliminated any opportunity to continue my passion for playing the drums on a consistent basis. Never did my love for being a drummer diminish and I knew that someday, somehow, I would get back behind a kit again.

Fast forward to 2019. I had relocated to Boston but was still an apartment dweller. I didn’t let that stop me from running into a Guitar Center and sitting down behind the kits and jamming away. On one visit, I saw the Strike Pro on display. I was grabbed by the realistic look and the even more realistic price point. I sat down, played and realised that THIS was my chance to play again despite living in an apartment. So, I purchased the kit and waited anxiously for it to arrive.

When my kit arrived, I immediately set it up in its standard six-piece two-up-two-down configuration and started jamming away. I loved being back behind a kit; however, just could not get a comfortable feel. I knew right away that it was not the mesh heads or rubber cymbals, but more, the limitations of setting up a kit on the rack. I was limited in my ability to negotiate each drum and cymbal and did not feel confident in my play because of that.

My kit looked okay but felt chunky and cumbersome to play. My immediate thought was to move the kit to traditional hardware for a more realistic experience but decided to first try to set the kit in a five-piece configuration (one up tom and two floor toms) while still on the rack where I had been more comfortable in the past.

Although moving to this configuration helped with my play and comfort, it did not deliver the experience I had hoped. My play was certainly better, but not enough for me to be satisfied. Also, the kit presented awkwardly. Yes, I want the kit to not only play well, but to look cool as well.

I now knew that it was time to break e-drum rules and take this kit off the rack and move to traditional hardware.

I was confident that I could easily find double-tom stands that could support the limited weight of the toms, given that e-drums are significantly smaller than most traditional acoustic toms. Where I had to dig a little deeper was in finding a replacement L-rod that would fit the toms and the tom stand. That is when I asked for a little support from a Facebook group dedicated to Strike Pro users. I had posted several times, asking if anyone had ventured into the traditional hardware space and was met with many responses where other group members noted that they were also curious but did not know where to start. Then I came across a group member named Josh. He had also been interested into moving away from the rack and using traditional hardware. After some dialogue with Josh, we agreed on L-rod size and compatibility.

With only a small amount of research, I determined that for MY specific needs, I did not need best-in-class hardware. I do not gig (right now) and rarely move my kit. I decided on a couple of pieces of hardware that I felt comfortable with.

First was the PDP Concept Series Double Tom Stand. I chose this piece due to solid reviews and price point. Again, I am not gigging, so I trusted that this was a more than satisfactory piece for my needs. At under $100 each, this was a reasonable price point for my experiment. I purchased two of these stands. One for my high tom and one for my floor toms.

Next, I needed to replace the L-rods that came with this stand. This stand comes with 10.5 mm rods which are too thick for the Alesis tom mounts. Fortunately, Gibraltar has a very reasonable 9.mm L-rod that easily fits into the PDP stand.

The replacement L-rods cost under $10 each. I purchased three: one for my high tom and two for my floor toms. Swapping the L-rods took less than 10 minutes total and set me up to finally take my kit to where I wanted it to be: as close to an acoustic kit as it could possibly be while maintaining a reasonable budget.

I put my new hardware together, set my toms accordingly, put on my headphones and started rocking out to some of my favourite tracks. I was shocked at how quickly I was able to play with comfort and confidence again. My timing felt right, my creativity flowed and, most importantly, I felt RIGHT behind my kit. Add to that, my kit looked more realistic than it had ever looked on a rack.

To summarise: with just a little research, some peer feedback and a relatively reasonable cost, I was able to take my e-kit from a mediocre/clunky experience to an experience that is more than rewarding. My playing is dramatically improved, portability is about as easy as can be and, most importantly, I am happy and feel like a real drummer again. Kudos to Alesis, PDP, Gibraltar, Strike Pro Owners Group and Josh for making my dream become a reality.