Vicky O’Neon: How I Use E-drums

I’m a session drummer and percussionist from Finland, based in the UK. Since 2022, I’ve been the touring drummer for the American pop star Anastacia. I have also played in the house bands for a variety of different TV shows; the most recent is the American TV show Name That Tune, where we are performing a total of 1,000 songs over 34 episodes, all filmed in two weeks.

Other live TV performances include the opening of the Eurovision Song Contest (BBC One), the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (ITV) and Team GB’s homecoming from the Olympics (BBC) at Wembley.

In 2020, I worked closely with Brian May from Queen releasing two songs, one of which hit no. 13 in the iTunes chart. My first ‘big’ performance opportunity was with Hans Zimmer and friends (including Pharrell Williams and Johnny Marr) in 2014 at the Hammersmith Apollo.

I am a passionate Ableton Live user and I heavily include Live into my work as a performer wherever possible. Some of my work experience includes programming and creating the playback rig for Anastacia and using Ableton to program electronic drums and live loops for the opening concert of the Eurovision and Olympics Team GB’s Homecoming Concert.

I am also an active educator. In October 2023, I did drum clinics at the UK Drum Show and Herfstfest Drumfestival in the Netherlands and Belgium with a unique Ableton Live looping hybrid set-up. I’ve also done masterclasses and guest lectures at music universities in the UK focused around Ableton Live Looping.

I am a co-founder of the non-profit music organisations Girls Rock London and Rock Donna, and I’ve developed different music workshops in Finland, UK, Jamaica, Mexico and USA.

In 2021, I released an educational YouTube series called “Drumming Through The Decades”, focusing on female-identifying drummers and musicians. I have also written four pieces for ABRSM’s new drum syllabus, which will be released later this year.

Ableton Live is at the heart of everything I do. For the live shows, we have a redundancy-proof rig with two laptops off stage. I am running the show from my Roland SPD-SX Pro, 30 meters away from the laptops, which is possible via a long ethernet cable and MIDI mapping.

For my live looping projects, I use Zoom’s LiveTrak L-20, as I sometimes have up to 20 inputs that we want to live loop. I use iConnectivity’s PlayAudio12s for outputs and redundancy-proof playback. Using different hardware for inputs and outputs is possible thanks to Audiomovers’ Omnibus, a virtual patchbay that makes complex audio routing easy.

For live looping in Ableton Live, I use Max for Live devices called One Button Live Looper and Fixed Clip Length from abletondrummer.com, made by Tobias Hunke. These devices make it incredibly easy to live loop multiple channels with different length loops, by just pressing one pedal. This works via MIDI mapping through my Roland SPD-SX Pro.

Abletondrummer also makes some other brilliant devices for drummers who want to incorporate Ableton into their live performances. Other devices I use by him are Auto quantise clips, Melody trigger and PD-SX button to chain selector.

Ableton Push is also an important tool for my live looping performances, so I never have to touch or look at my laptop during a live show.

For many of the TV shows I’ve done, I’ve been asked to authentically recreate drum/percussion sounds and loops from different artists’ songs, as they are an integral part of the identity of the song. For this, I’ve been required to use a multitude of drum trigger pads for more visual drum performances. These drum pads are a combination of Roland trigger pads and custom-made Jobeky drums. Thanks to the SPD-SX Pro, I can now have eight triggers connected at the same time, which has been a real game-changer for me.

This video breaks down how I’ve built one of those performances.

 

Gear list

British Drum Company Legend Series acoustic kit, various LP percussion instruments and Zildjian cymbals

Roland SPD-SX Pro

Roland KT-10

Roland PDX-100 pad

Roland RT-30K kick trigger

Roland RT-30H snare trigger

BC2 Porter & Davis Butt Kicker Drum Throne

  • Vicky O’Neon will be appearing at the debut digitalDrummer E-drum Experience Labs at the UK Drum Show on Saturday, September 28, 2024. For more information, check out the show website.

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