Alone on the stage sits your new electronic drum set. No cage around it. No elaborate microphone setup. It's perfect for your church. It might be an easier setup than an acoustic drum kit but electronic drum kits have their own challenges…
Why electric drums sets are frustrating
Electronic drums are frustration for a few reasons;
- One audio send to rule them all. Many of the lower-priced models only send one audio signal out so you've got an entire drum kit in one mixer channel strip.
- One hit to rule them all. The lower priced (and many of the older kits) are not touch sensitive so it doesn't matter if the drummer slams the sticks or just barely touches them, you get the same volume.
- One module to rule them all. Electronic drum kit pieces all plug into a common module on the drum kit and unless it's set up correctly, the drums could sound bad no matter what you do.
What you can do
Upgrade! Perhaps your old drum set is falling about. Maybe the drummer just won the lottery and wants to buy a new kit for the church. Whatever the reason, there are a few benefits to upgrading an old drum kit.
- New kits are region sensitive and so the drum can get more unique sounds out of the drums.
- New kits (even mid-range) are more touch-sensitive.
- And if you've got the money, the high-end kits send separate audio signals for each drum piece, such as with the Roland TD-20SX.
If money isn't flowing so much as dripping, let's look at the variety of other methods to brings new life to the electronic drums and getting a better house sound.
Get me the best drummer in the kingdom!
Electronic drum kit sound is controlled through a module located on the drum rack. This module can control the sound you hear (congos instead of toms), the drum head sensitivity, and in some cases the eq of each kit piece.
Get your drummer with the best ear for sound and have them go through each piece of the drum kit to make sure the sounds and sensitivity are set to the best setting.
Next, within these modules, kits have song functions where they can play out drum/percussion sounds automatically. Make sure your mixer drum channel(s) eq is set straight up. No cuts or boosts. Have the drum kit play a song (using the acoustic drum sound) and have the drummer listen while sitting in the sanctuary. They can then go back to the drum kit and tweak the eq of each piece as best fits.
Quick, to the sound booth, Batman!
Once the kit is set to the optimal sound, you have to look at it from a mixing standpoint.
In the case of a kit with multiple audio sends, you're in the best situation where you can tweak the eq of each kit piece to match the song…brighter cymbals, less-prominant kick drum, etc.
In the case of a single audio send, it's a bit more work. I like to focus on three areas; cymbals, snare, and kick. I'll focus on snare first to get that nice snare sound that often drives a song. This is with my mid-range eq's. Next, I'll use the high eq for the cymbals. Lastly, I work on the kick drum with the low-end eq. Altering any of the eq's can effect the sound of something you've already set, like the snare, so you'll have to deal with that aspect in single send mixing.
Also in the case of the single audio send electronic drum kits, when they are set up optimally in the module, you might not have to eq them at all. But as each song is different, a little boost here and cut there is likely necessary.
Electronic drum kits have a host of benefits over acoustic drum sets, especially in a small sanctuary. However, they come with their own headaches as well. Hopefully my words will help you get a better sound out of your drum kit and even given you some direction if you are thinking about getting a new electronic drum kit for your church sanctuary.
Question(s): What do you love / hate about e-drums? How do you get them sounding best?