Girding for War: Tools of the Trade

One does not go to war without weapons and one does not make music without instruments. Just as the quality of the warrior is more important than the quality of the weapon, so too, the quality of the musician is more important than the quality of the instrument. Nonetheless, limited equipment can impeach the user’s ability for effective action. With that in mind, let us take a look at Roland’s V-Drums.

For the underground musician V-Drums make a lot of sense. When I purchased mine about 8 years ago the price was comparable to an acoustic set. Because of the smaller scale, they play faster than an acoustic drum set. The smaller size of the pads and the built-in metronome encourage accuracy and precision in your drumming. Since you can line-in directly to a recording device, you don’t need any complicated microphone set ups for recording drums. If you are careful not to strike the pads over-forcefully, they will last for quite a long time; in 8 years the only pad I have had to replace is the hi-hat pad. On an acoustic set new drum heads and new cymbals are a constant drain on money – so while the initial cost of the V-Drums might be higher, the overhead cost over time is much lower. They are great for apartment dwellers as you can play with headphones and not disturb the whole neighborhood. Just like acoustic drums they are something of a pain in the ass to set up, but being much smaller are much easier to transport from location to location. They are versatile – each head can be programmed to a specific sound so if you are clinically insane and perhaps interested in producing some unique post-metal, every pad can be a china cymbal. My current programming is snare, small tom, medium tom, floor tom, hi-hat, china, ride. Each pad is also tune-able. For the sake of channeling a mighty evil, my set is tuned to the notes of a c-diminished 7th chord.

Goebbels lied – there is no such thing as a wonder weapon. Every weapon and every instrument has some flaws and shortcomings and the V-Drums are no exception. They don’t sound very good through any amp I have tried with them, although I was very pleasantly surprised by how good they sound on recordings. I learned drums initially on an acoustic set, and I hammered those things with unmitigated violence, a habit I had to quickly unlearn with the V-Drums as they are considerably more delicate than an acoustic set. The snare drum is overly sensitive: very minor differences in striking force or accuracy leads to major differences in the sound produced. When my snare eventually breaks, I will just replace it with one of the rubber ‘tom tom’ pads and program it to snare sound. The (old, maybe they’ve gotten better) bass pads do not really work so well with a double bass pedal so I purchased two bass pads and two bass pedals.

A bit of a disclaimer for a post-script: all the above pertains to my older TD-4 model V-Drum set. I have zero experience with the newer sets. That being said, the balance seems to be in the advantage as far as V-Drums go. They will give the metal musician years of good, quality service as long as he is mindful of the strengths and weaknesses of the setup. So, if you are in need of a battery for battle with the hipster forces at the gates of the metal kingdom, consider the V-Drums.

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19 thoughts on “Girding for War: Tools of the Trade”

  1. Mister Syre says:

    It’s like going to war with a Nerf gun: It’s all good fun until you have someone with a real gun facing you.

  2. Reduced Without Any Effort says:

    I’ve got these. They’re a good option if you can’t be murdering acoustic drums where you live for noise reasons. You can also usually find them for much cheaper if you buy a set on craigslist as opposed to new. The sensitivity of the individual pads is adjustable in the module, and it makes a substantial difference so I recommend doing so.

    1. Charles Stuart says:

      Yeah, I’ve tried adjusting the sensitivity to no end on the snare with little in the way of positive results. I think the problem just a flawed design in the old fabric ‘snare’ drum.

  3. dead butt dreaming says:

    I had some of these (newer model) set up in my olf apartment for a while. I found that I got fatigued much more quickly vs playing an acoustic set; maybe due to the lack of stick rebound or maybe it was mental? Either way great for practicing but they lack the power in a live setting

    1. Charles Stuart says:

      I considered adding that to the article, but in anything other than a tiny venue, the drums are going through the PA like everything else.

      I’ve never noticed the fatigue problem, but like I stated I tend to massively over-exert on acoustic drums. Also, the V-drums are less ‘spread out’ than on an acoustic set, so you are moving laterally a lot less. It seems like it is a mental thing to an extent, although I do agree that the v-drums have less rebound than an acoustic set.

      1. dead butt dreaming says:

        Pretty sure it is a mental hang-up, just like playing an acoustic guitar does not lend itself to thrashing around whereas ripping riffs on a Jackson with the gain dimed makes it hard to sit down and hold still

        Also playing electronic sets in a live setting is strange if you are accustomed to the instant sonic feedback of an acoustic set, since you have the weird effect of hearing the same sound coming from your monitor and then delayed through the PA

        I’ve tried playing with in-ear monitors but again it’s hard to get accustomed to when you have spent so long feeling the raw immediacy of the sound-coupled-with-resistance effect of the acoustic set

        Less important overall but still of note; e-drums look really silly and wimpy on stage, it’s practically impossible to look cool when playing one

        1. Charles Stuart says:

          Ha, and looking fierce and warlike on stage is like 95% of metal. I know I’ve heard of metal bands using them live, but can’t recall specifically who. You point is conceded, though, as I think the majority of bands that I’ve seen use them for live setting are church bands.

          Isn’t it strange how depended we are on aural indicators that we often don’t even know are there until they are gone?

  4. ass donuts says:

    triggers are FALSE. e-drums are FALSE.

    I have more respect for Coldplay than a metal band that uses rapper-tier studio cheats

    1. Jerry Hauppa says:

      Every band might as well go acoustic then, to be true and all. Fuck electricity.

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        An electric guitar uses the same kind of input signal (a vibrating string) as an acoustic guitar (which comes with it’s own pre-electric amplifier, BTW). A ‘virtual drum’ is nothing but keyboard for people who aren’t piano players.
        A real piano player could presumably do much more interesting things with a synthesizer programmed to produce ‘drum sounds’ in response to key presses than someone using a set of movements he happened to learn to play ‘virtual drum keyboard’.

    2. dead butt dreaming says:

      Oh yeah dude coldplay’s rhythm section is fucking fierce

    3. I agree with you….

      However ironically DD Crazy played an electronic kit on INRI

      1. Richard Roma says:

        Anyone who actually plays drums will tell you, triggers dont make double bass easier to play. They make it easier to hear the bass drums amidst the crowded low end of a dm mix. If anything theyre slightly harder at first as it makes slight mistakes more apparent. Cheating is achieved in post production via quantizing beats and altering tempos

        1. Rainer Weikusat says:

          Anyone who actually plays drums will tell you, triggers dont make double bass easier to play.

          That’s a special-case because of the fixed foot pedal. It’s also completely besides the point: Music isn’t sport and the physical performance is not the point of it, the – well – music created in this way is.

          Here’s a track from an old album which was (upon request of the drummer) specifically recorded with ‘unprocessed drums’:

          Some people like this. And no amount of “triggered, drunk Chinese cowbells” (Weird sound, man!) is an improvement here.

          1. Richard Roma says:

            Shut up faggot, you dont play drums

            1. Rainer Weikusat says:

              I’m presently not in the mood for digging up the web site gushing about how “drum triggers” means “you get a consistent sound regardless of where you hit a drum” aka “they fix your mistakes for you” because – as I already wrote – if you consider yourself predominantly a circus sensation, you’re sadly mistaken: You can train playing ‘v drums’ while standing on your head (I assume you have one), but this doesn’t mean I’d feel more inclined to spend money on your “drunk Chinese cowbell standing on its head”.

  5. cornrose says:

    As a youngin i played hard and loud but as i grew technically playing softer allowed for better technique, speed and nuance. I have played v-drums in the past and should probably own a set so as to practice more and i think it would be fun for recording.

  6. cornrose says:

    Insightful articles lately, btw! Guns n gear are always of interest.

  7. Richard Roma says:

    As a longterm Vdrums owner, I highly recommend Rolands products. As long as you get the mesh heads and a real VH series hi hat (the ones that mount on an actual hi hat stand), the feel is comparable to acoustic drums. I use a TD9 brain with PD 125 snare, PD 80 rack toms and a PD 100 floor tom. Dual trigger pads are only really needed for the snare. My old KD80 kick pad sucks and will soon be upgraded to a 120. Secondhand on ebay has good bargains. I still use real drums live, but i wouldnt knock someone for bringing them to a show – plenty of modern metal bands play a fully triggered kit which is essentially the same thing as V drums.

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