THE DAY I LEARNED TO HATE ELECTRONIC DRUMS

I can remember the day my childhood church set up drums in the sanctuary. It was a big deal.

As a teenager who was already leading worship a little bit, I had heard rumors of the drums and made sure to show up to Wednesday night rehearsal. I couldn’t believe it! It was so cool!

Until it wasn’t.

V-DrumsYes, like many churches in the 90’s, we decided that those drums were too loud and unmanageable. So we went out and bought Roland V-Drums. The drums that were going to solve the “volume problem” for churches all over the country.

And the night they installed the electronic drums? Yep, I was there for that, too. If I’m being honest, I thought V-Drums sounded pretty cool. But it didn’t last long.

After only a few Sundays with the new high-tech drum kit, something happened.

Something terrible.

Something that changed me.

In about the third or fourth song, our drummer fell into his drum roll beautifully, the perfectly balanced digital tom samples ringing perfectly as he made his way to that crash “cymbal.” (Not an actual cymbal. It was a rubber panel that looked like a plate, but I digress…)

But when he hit the crash, we got more than we bargained for.

Did you know that V-Drums had programmed practice sequences for drummers to practice with? (Rock beats, Latin music, world percussion patterns, etc.)

Do you know where V-Drums placed the trigger for those sequences?

Of course, on the top left corner of the cymbal pads. Makes perfect sense.

And there, in the middle of some Hillsong tune, the sanctuary was filled with a frantic, zealous Samba sequence that the drummer didn’t know how to turn off. (Heck, the poor guy didn’t even know those drums would do that!)

I hear digital drums haven’t gotten much better – and user friendly. But for me, I’ll never go there again. That samba moment was just too painful.

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7 comments

  1. Kelly Perkins

    It was the “elephant in the room” experience…never liked em…never will. I actually laughed when I first heard them and the other guys said “You don’t like them because you’re just a rocker…” I was so glad to see that they turned into an Edsel…

    • toddwright

      I hear they’re getting better and better with regard to both sound and “feel” for players, but I don’t know if I’ll ever come around!

  2. johnnydrummer

    E drums are cool…in the hands of those who know how to use them. The keyboard guy has misfired loops several times one place I play. Still using the loops…which are just electronic drums if you think about it.

    Churches just buy them assuming drummers and sound men know what to do with them. I’ve sat down to so many electronic drum kits with bad sensitivity settings, terrible sounds dialed in that the sound man won’t let you change, all that jazz. It’s the worst.

  3. Jeff Q

    Our church went to the V-drums a few years ago. It obviously helps with the overall volume (instead of the plexiglass shield/box), but you can’t get the same sounds out of them that you can an acoustic set, obviously. My biggest complaint is the cymbal sound. You either get the ping or the crash. Not much to choose from in between.

    Todd, I didn’t realize you were anti-loop? Isn’t that the next (or current) big thing?

    • toddwright

      I like loops…when they’re played by humans on real instruments. To me, it’s much more fun to hear a percussionist create loop grooves than a machine. I like electronic music, but when it comes to worship, I want real people playing it!

  4. Brent kitchens

    I’m afraid that I must disagree with you on this topic.
    I’m a drummer and have been using my acoustic drums for over 36 years. One of my skills that has gotten me quite a few gigs over the years is that I can accompany any group and adjust the volume of my performance to appropriate levels. In nearly 40 years I’ve never had a complaint that what I play is too loud or soft. In short, this problem in churches is in the hands of the musician.
    I’m also an owner of the latest in electronic drums…the Roland TD30KV Pro. I’ve played on every type and brand of electronic drums in my career and this set is a game changer.
    As is true with volume levels, the skills of your drummer will determine if the electronic drums are used correctly.
    Setting up the sounds, sensitivity and triggering are very basic tasks for any skilled musician.

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