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Sweetwater Forums [Archived]

After 15 years of great discussions, the Sweetwater Forums are now closed and preserved as a "read-only" resource. For discussions about current gear, check us out on Facebook, YouTube, inSync, and our Knowledge Base.

electronic drums vs acoustic drums

Bob

have we finally gotten to the point where electronic drums are sounding as good as acoustic drums or are our ears getting so used to some of the newer styles where drum machines/synths are so prevalent that the traditional electronic drum sound is just becoming the norm? also, can we be as creative when recording electronic kits as we can are when recording acoustic kits? is there anything anyone does to get a truly unique electronic kit sound? I've got both in my studio and have to say, the ability to go direct into my daw without micing up a whole kit is certainly appealing. Or the fact that I can record the kit via MIDI and then "fix" the performance saving me hours of actually practicing so I can play it right the first time.
So what are you using to lay down your drum tracks? what type of music are you doing? And, are electronic drums being used in traditionally acoustic music settings (rock n roll, jazz, etc)? Any examples of acoustic drums being used where more traditionally electronic drums are used (hip hop, electronica, techno, etc)?
August 9, 2001 @03:18am
Rael

Personally I just don't think the electronic instruments are there yet. I have a couple of drum boxes and they sound pretty good, but most of the time I end up using a real drummer with a great sounding kit. It's a pain to mic it all up and get tones, but worth it in the end. Now, for demos and anything short of the final production I use electronics. This is also true for other instruments like horns and guitars. I've never once heard a guitar sample I could stand to listen to - of course I play guitar so I'm pretty close to that one.
Depending upon the style of music I do think one can get away with an electronic kit much of the time. I actually prefer it for live gigs, just much easier all the way around. The Roland kits are pretty expressive these days.
August 10, 2001 @01:44am
Bob

this is true. And especially the way pop music is going these days, it seems these electronic sounds (drums or otherwise) are what the producers want.
August 15, 2001 @02:38pm
Bob

and that's great in the studio, but why must we have "live" performances based around sequences and drum machines. Especially when there are so many electronic kits that will give that same sound (and so many great musicians that could bring more life to the live show). I've even heard of a very famous 70's Rock band who uses background tapes instead of playing live. At the vary least they should have a backing band behind a curtain or something
August 17, 2001 @04:34pm
Donnie

I think that the "boxes" aren't there yet as far as drum sounds. However there are some VERY good sample cd's of drum kits that would do the trick. Sweetwaters drum cd is very good as well as Giga Drums by East West. As soon as software samplers become stable enough to be used live we will have a great alternative to the real thing.
Which brings up another point. Once the hardware/software is there the advatages will be great. We'll be able to choose between all different kinds of kits and shells....I can't wait!
Donnie
August 22, 2001 @07:35am
atma

i certainly don't have the studio resources to properly mic up and record / sample a drum set (at this point anyway).
if i'm not using analog drum machine sounds, then i generally take samples of breakbeats and manually slice out all the individual drum tones in an editor (never liked ReCycle very much) and use them to form my own kits. in this way, i can have an 'electronic' kit, but one that can be velocity mapped, or otherwise programmed so that there's enough variations / nuances to keep it interesting. in this context, i can manipulate the rhythm far beyond what a normal drummer can do, programming extremely complex or fast rhythms with pitch shifting or other fx. i also sometimes like using analog drum sounds because they have a certain feel to them which can work in some situations with electronic music.
if you listen to the newer "IDM" style music (which is a pretty generic label for a far ranging collection of styles in the underground), a lot of people are abandoning traditional drum tones altogether, in favor of using any and every kind of interesting percussive-like sound as their 'kit'. originally started by groups like autechre, aphex twin, and squarepusher, it's now expanded into a whole new-school of artists bent on pushing the boundries of sonic & musical possibilities. why limit yourself to standard practices? :D
August 28, 2001 @04:34am
Bob

this is true. anything can be a percussion instrument, all it takes is for something to be hit (or in electronica terms sound like it was hit):)
August 28, 2001 @05:42pm
Ted

I think the point that both have their places is an important one. Having said that, although the newer electronic drums have come closer to the sound of acoustic drums and may sometimes be indistinguishable from acoustics on certain types of recordings (depending on how much processing, etc is involved) I think the main thing that is missing is the feel. Even though the newer electronic drums have crossfades between different samples at different velocity levels and even sensitivity to different zones, it's still not quite right. For example, the new Roland ride cymbal has three separate zones and is awesome, it still doesn't give you near the possibilities of a good real ride cymbal. The best jazz drummers have been known for being able to coax hundreds of sounds out of a single ride cymbal, and while that may not be a fair comparison...of all the different genres out there, traditional jazz is probably the last place we'll see electric drums become popular...even in the rock music I play I certainly get more useful sounds out of my ride cybal than I could get out of any electronic cymbal. Same goes for the other drums and cymbals...especially the snare drum. This also applies to the great samples out there. Although one could sample dozens of sounds out of a single ride cymbal, to program a part that would take advantage of all that would take much longer than it would take to simply play the part (if it were even possible). Comes down to the feel.
Having said that, when you look at producers who demand that their drummers give them total consistency...each snare hit should sound the same, etc...why not go with electronics? Especially if all they're going to do once the drummer leaves is "fix" everything in Pro Tools...
-Ted
September 3, 2001 @08:37pm
djflake

i mainly use drum machines and synths to create my dance tracks, i love the manipulation factors of the drum machines, but it is truly difficult to have the live changes a drummer can provide. I have been working for about a year and a half now, and i am just now feeling confident about my "live sound" capability. I definately love the electronic sound and feel of my machines, but nothing will ever compare to a good live drummers spontanious changes.
October 26, 2001 @05:13pm
Bob

djflake. I agree with you about having a live drummer, or live musicians in general, but when you play out live, does your drummer use an electronic kit or an acoustic one?
November 8, 2001 @02:00am
djflake

hey bob, well my live drummer doesnt use kits, but i really dont have a live drummer, i work by myself with several drum machines, samplers and synths. Kindof like a dj, but i make the grooves instead of layering other peoples music (no disrespect to any dj, beat matching isnt easy, i just like creation). Any way, since every machine i work off is synced to a tempo i think it would be hard to find a drummer (in this area) who could keep "perfect" time with my samplers and synts.
November 8, 2001 @02:11pm
HandelMan

I've recently started using a Roland Hand Sonic in the band that I play percussion in. It's really opened our sound up to a whole world of options, but we do have an acoustic drumset in the band. Even with the handsonic's great sounds and control options, I still take a whole shitload of acoustic gear with me to our shows, I.E. Congas, Bongos, Djembe, blocks and what not. I just find that I can be 100% more musical on the real instruments. While I love the flexibility that my hand sonic gives me, I would never give up playing the real drums live. I feel like electronic instruments should just be taken as a way to get new sounds, not recreate sounds that you can already make with an acoustic instrument. The beauty of electronic instruments is that you can create any sound you can imagine and play it in a live situation.
Obviously, the studio is a completely different story, and since every session has it's own needs, there is no answer as to which kind of instrument is "better." I just love the fact that I have the option of taking one box and playing everything I could play with a truckload of instruments.
I will never stop playing the acoustic instruments in favor of an electronic counterpart however. It doesn't matter how much memory and ram we throw into these boxes, I don't think we'll ever be able to have an electronic machine that can accurately represent an acoustic instrument's sound. However, there are a lot of examples where the acoustic instrument's sound isn't what the artist wants.
To me, there is just so much room for experimentation, and it all has to do with individual tastes and the trends going on in the recording industry. The fact that we now have the option is what is great, and the more options we have, the more room I as an artist have to be creative.
Ben
May 21, 2002 @11:24pm
Jonniboy

No..... If we're talking drum sounds, We're pretty close but we're a decade away from good electronic cymbals and hats. Roland's got a good thing going with thier stuff but we're not quite there!!
October 7, 2002 @06:31am
Ted

I wonder if we'll ever get there? I think we're pretty close as far as the end result is concerned...it's often very difficult, if not impossible, to tell when electronic drums are used on a record if it's done right...but I still think we have a ways to go as far as making things feel right, especially with the cymbals. It also doesn't quite feel right to me to hit a drum or cymbal but have the sound come from somewhere else.
-Ted
October 7, 2002 @02:16pm
TeeCee

Since this thread has been revived, if my electronic drums sounds sounded like acoustic drums, I'd be pissed! By the time Electronic drums pass perfectly as acoustic drums, nobody will want acoustic drums (that's just a joke).
October 8, 2002 @02:17am