Love/Hate Relationship with Electric Drums

Ask a drummer about electric drums and he will look at you like this:

Ask a pastor about electric drums and he will look at you like this:

Ask a worship leader about electric drums and he will look at you like this:

Why the difference between everyone?

The negatives:

  • Drummer can’t ‘feel’ the kick. Bass instruments have to felt as well as heard, and lower volumes just don’t do it.
  • They sound terrible.  Sometimes.  You have to know how to get the best sound out of them.
  • They look terrible.  Would somebody just tidy up all them leads hanging around everywhere!
  • When volumes are low, all you can hear is that lovely slap of drum stick on rubber.
  • Practices take twice as long when someone discovers that the hip-hop and beatbox kit and all the cymbal hits give a loud a loud ‘yeeah’ or ‘oooooh’.
  • Drummer wants LOUD.  Worship team wants LESS.  Everyone else thinks ‘isn’t it great we can turn the drums off if we want to.’
  • We have to look at the drummer now he/she isn’t hidden behind a drum screen.
  • Drummers just don’t like them.  They’re just not the real thing alright.
  • Dynamic response?  What dynamic response?

The positives:

  • We can turn the drums down!  Try defeating me now with that crash cymbal oh midi-drummer of weakness!
  • Monitor mixes (should) be more of a breeze for everyone to get a happy mix of drums.
  • Stage volume monitor are lower, making it easier for a front of house mix.
  • They sound great!  Yes they do – with the right kit, at a sensible volume, and with the right sound engineer and drummer, they can actually sound pretty awesome.
  • They’re easy.  Let’s face it, how many church PA people know the way around a multiple mic set up, phase issues, gates, compressors, EQ, mixing 2-8 microphones for one instrument.  Too much room for audio disaster, when all you have from an electric kit is 1 or 2 jack leads.
  • An acoustic kit – you have one sound.  Electric kit – you have the expanse of 100’s of kits and a real pallet of creative ideas to play from.

I reckon there a plenty more positives and negatives to add to this list, but weighing them up, my conclusion is this:  Of course, in the right hands, a real drum kit is the outright winner, but unfortunately in many churches there are too many variables to ever make them sound good.  Yes of course they can and do work very well, but I think the shear ease of use of an electric kit, the expanse of sounds and flexibility tips them in into the lead for me.  Love to hear any thoughts on this one?!

So I leave you with this.

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