1.1 review effective research methods for a selected subject area:
This research project will focus on the integration of electronics with acoustic drums. In terms of both acoustic drums, using triggers and playing electronic elements alongside an acoustic kit, and electronic drum kits or drum modules themselves. The thesis, “how much will disregarding technology hold you back as a 21st century musician”, will allow me to explore different avenues of integrating electronics into my own acoustic set up.
I will use combinations of primary and secondary research, “Primary research is new research, carried out to answer specific issues or questions. It can involve questionnaires, surveys or interviews with individuals or small groups. Secondary research makes use of information previously researched for other purposes and publicly available.”(1)
I will use/purchase electronic additions to my set up and use them in a practice and then subsequently in a live set up and measure the value and benefit of them.
I will look at academic studies on google scholar, articles on the internet/in magazines, interviews etc.
1.2 select and justify academic frameworks that will focus research activities:
I will dedicate equal amounts of time to primary research and secondary research, this in turn will allow me to assess both parts equally and explain the intricacies of each.
2.1 organise research material using appropriate categories:
Beginning with primary research;
This is the setup I currently gig and practice with live. I am using a Roland SPD-SX to my left with Roland RT-30 series triggers on kick and snare; the RT-30HR on the snare, dual zone, to capture both head and rim, and the RT-30K on the kick. These are both detailed below;
These run into the SPD-SX, snare into input 1/2 and kick into input 3/4. Again, this is evidenced below;
Below my SPD-SX, I have a Alto Zephyr ZM-52 mixer. Into this I run a stereo lead from the phones output on the SPD-SX. I also run a monitor feed from the front of house sound engineer; this providing me with my monitoring. The last line I run into this is a feed from the metronome I run the bands click tracks off. From this I run my in-ears out of the phones output on the desk. The individual channels on the desk allow me to mix the levels of all three feeds and give myself the best monitoring sound.
Following on from this I collected secondary research:
Initially a video from Craig Bundell, Steven Wilson’s drummer, who is demonstrating a similar concept and setup to the one I am using. He shows how they are setup and briefly touches on how he uses them and how they can be used in a powerful hybrid setup.
Following on from this I found a video of Adele’s rhythm section talking about their hybrid setups. Once again they are using Roland gear; and this time I was able to draw more parallels between this and my own setup. The idea of music being fresh and innovative and incorporating electronic sounds alongside the acoustic sound is a very positive one in my opinion. The triggers they use are also the same ones I use, the RT-30 series. Triggering the tracks themselves, running the backings and also using the SPD-SX for the tracklists is also a massive benefit, something that can’t easily be achieved using acoustic drums without using a computer and a launchpad of some kind.
Following on from this, Mark Guiliana shows a few interesting ideas about making acoustic drums sound electric; I believe this runs well in parallel with the mixture of acoustic and electric drums I am talking about in this project as a whole.
Next, one man band phenomenon Jack Garratt spoke about this different Roland elements he uses in his live setup. Pre-dominantly this all came back to the use of the SPD-SX, the industry standard in the area.
Ben Barter, drummer for Lorde discusses his electro-acoustic setup in two videos below. His playing and integration of electronics is very close to the fundamental concept of this whole piece. For me, the most interesting point he elaborates upon is that Lorde hates the sound of acoustic drums and the reason he has used so many samples is that she wanted the entire album aesthetic and sound to be transferred to the live show.
Looking into other areas I researched some competitors to the SPD-SX:
The Alesis SamplePad Pro:
“I have to say that SamplePad Pro left me feeling that it was too expensive for the young user and too limited for a serious professional. Some features, like accessing WAV files on a card, are awesome. Some features, like a very limited tuning range, redundant sound set, and no trigger controls, are less than awesome.”(2)
“That being said, I feel that the KAT KTMP1 is a good choice for those who want to control a few extra sounds without spending a lot of money. After all, this device sells for just over a C-note. I don’t know of a less expensive way to add electronic sounds to your kit, or firing sounds from your computer using sticks.”(2)
“The SPD-30’s pads feel really nice. In fact, the playability comes in a close second to the other Roland’s SX version of the multipad, which was my favorite. The internal sounds cover both the traditional instruments you might expect as well a great selection of sounds that would be right at home in the most current popular music.”(2)
Roland SPD-SX’s write up in this piece:
“The SPD-SX is a very respectable machine. The build quality seems excellent and the feel is outstanding. These pads were the most responsive for my personal playing style. They closely matched what I might expect from an acoustic drum. I had no problem playing quick double strokes, and was impressed by the way the SPD-SX tracked a closed roll.”(2)
2.2 evaluate the effectiveness of primary sources of research for a selected subject area:
I believe that the primary source of research being my own setup that I use live is highly effective as it allows me to follow, track and analyse the build up and eventual use of my electronic parts of my kit in my own live performance. Regarding my thesis, I have personally decided to wholeheartedly embrace technology and all of the benefits it can bring with it.
2.3 assess breadth of research by reviewing the validity of secondary sources:
The issue I see with my secondary research is that due to the nature of the area I am researching into a large amount of the content is very opinionated; not in the sense of not having merit or being factually wrong but more in the sense of different people’s opinions on the different electronic elements they use being different and each having their personal favourites.
3.1 formulate opinions based on the interpretation of research material:
After conducting extensive primary and secondary research I feel that I am ready to begin to formulate opinions regarding my thesis; by interpreting the research material I have found. I personally feel that disregarding technology in this current day and age will massively hold you back as a contemporary musician. By the same token I don’t believe that it is necessary to rely on it completely as to do this could cause massive issues in the case of some failure in the equipment.
In terms of the equipment itself, the Roland SPD-SX appears to be accepted as the best in its area; with other alternatives all having shortcomings. In my personal experience I would have to agree that the Roland is a very practical and well set up piece of kit; with an endless number of possibilities being opened up when using one.
The counter argument to such a full introduction of technology is that by doing so you could detract from the music’s raw vibe. Due to this I would agree that a combination of these two factors could/should be used.
3.2 apply appropriate methodologies to research information:
3.3 evaluate the findings, making recommendations for further consideration:
4.1 select a suitable format to present research information:
The format in which I am going to present the research is as a short essay, using a citing parts of the research I have conducted earlier in the project. To do this I will take parts of all of the research and use it to evidence my findings.
4.2 realise and present the outcomes of the research using a recognised format:
The integration of electronics into acoustic drums, while commonly becoming the norm, especially while regarding the pro circuit, is it turning into a necessity for drummers to be able to use? While there is an extensive range of products on the market, starting from products such as the Kat KTMP1 at under £100 pounds up to products such as the Roland SPD-SX priced at £599. Between these there are a variety of different options, all with varying capabilities and prices. For the sake of this piece I will be focussing on the Roland SPD-SX which I own and have used extensively live.
To begin with, what are the benefits of having and using electronics alongside an acoustic drum kit? Fundamentally, you can add massively to your live sound and performance without needing a horde of session musicians. Using backing tracks, with extra keys, synths and horns can add a dynamic to a live performance that would not otherwise be possible with the lineup of a band. In addition to this, playing electronic sounds and layering electric sounds over acoustic drums with the integration of products such as the RT-30 trigger series from Roland can again add to the live performance. To tie this into a professional context, Ben Barter, the drummer for Lorde uses triggers on both his kick and snare to layer the sounds from the albums into his live set. She allegedly “hates the sound of live drums” and he is therefore bound into using predominantly electronic sounds and triggers while performing live. Another example of this is Jack Garret who uses a range of sampling equipment and other electronics in his one man live set, but centers the performance around the SPD-SX.
My personal experience of using one live has been predominantly positive. Using a combination of the pad and the triggers, I have been able to run backing tracks for the band