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Drums - acoustic or electronic?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Jisch, Sep 26, 2016.

  1. Basic scenario:
    I have a basement studio. I use it for band practice 3-4 times per month and record the band probably once or twice a year. I had a fire in the studio giving me some insurance money to spend on putting the studio back together. I think I will have around $3K (maybe a bit less) to spend on this part of the studio, I can either:

    1) buy a cheaper acoustic studio set and microphones
    2) buy a relatively expensive electronic set and no microphones

    It's a small studio and recording drums has never been easy in there. My initial idea was to buy an electronic set thinking that I could get better recordings than with an acoustic set (and not need as many inputs).

    I have one drummer who says electronic is a good idea and he likes the consistency of an electronic set, another who says acoustic would be better and you can get more nuanced sounds out of an acoustic set, the latter drummer says a used set tuned well with new heads can be made to sound good. I am sick of carting drums around, so having a studio kit would be really nice.

    I am never going to use this studio for anything professional, it's just for fun with my band.
  2. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Fort Worth, Texas
    I would go with the electronic set. Get one that has modeling so you can choose a type of set.
  3. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    As a non-drummer I would go with the electronic kit.

    I would also be willing to bet 9/10 drummers would disagree with me.
  4. I would also lean toward an electronic set (I have one myself) - though the person you really want to be asking is the person that will be using it most often.

    Most electronic kits (at least the higher end ones) have MIDI out and are thus compatible with ezDrummer, superior drummer, etc. to infinitely adjust your sound (for better or worse).
  5. duo8675309


    Jun 5, 2005
    In your situation I would hands down go with the electronic kit. You're not a drummer, you have a limited budget, and you seem to live somewhere flammable. Nothing kills a recording process like spending too much time getting the drums right. If you're working with musicians who are very emotionally driven, you gotta be able to record them the second they start feeling it - you don't want them to wait while you adjust the snare mic.

    My advice: get a nice electronic drumkit and some cheap amp-modelling software that sounds close enough - you can probably use whatever your DAW came with. The idea is to record everything direct using temporary presets, then once everything is captured you can re-amp the guitars and spend however much time you want on the drums after everyone has gone home. So ideally you would want to capture the raw signal of the pickups or end of their pedal chain, whichever makes more sense, and the raw MIDI data of the drums (as in don't record the audio output of whatever presets the electronic kit came with because they aren't as editable). Explain all this to the artists or your bandmates or whoever - how it sounds now isn't how it will sound after it's produced. We're laying down very raw tracks. After everything is recorded, run the guitar tracks through that nice fender amp, use that cool ampeg head you have for the bass, try that drum kit VST you spent too much money on, and do it all after they've left so they'll think you're some sort of wizard.

    You will get more nuance out of a drummer on a mid-range electronic kit who is comfortable and into the music than you will from a drummer on a high-end acoustic kit who has been listening to you tune the snare for the past two hours.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2016
    taylor16 likes this.
  6. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Wikipedia often mistakes my opinions for fact Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Electronic set by a long shot. It sounds like a space ill-suited for recording acoustic drums in the first place.
    japhy4529 likes this.
  7. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Really good article in Sound on Sound this month - about the effect of the room in recording drums and/or room mics. BLUF: the room doesn't make a whole of of difference when close miking drums, but does when using overheads. If quality of mic'd acoustic drums is of importance, you might want to take this into consideration.

    Recording Drums: What Difference Does The Room Make? | Sound On Sound

    That said, I'd lean towards a decent electronic kit. I think @duo8675309 pretty much nails it.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2016
  8. Thanks. I should find a drum forum and ask the same question.
    zontar and Luke19Boarder like this.
  9. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    As a drummer and a studio owner I will say this: It depends.

    How does the room sound? Is it big enough to get a good drum sound? Do you have enough channels to properly mic a full kit? Do you ever need to track multiple instruments at once in the same room (i.e. live tracking), and if so can the other instruments go DI?

    Acoustic drums, if well setup with good heads and nice brass, typically are all much more pleasant to play than their electronic counterparts. Again, I say this as a drummer. That said, getting good sounds out of an acoustic kit in a room that is too small, inadequately treated, overly treated, or any combination thereof (not saying that's the case with your room mind you) is a major pain.

    Electronic drums are generally less pleasant to play on. I have a Roland TD-25KV kit that I've customized a bit (total cost is nearly $3,000 for what is now Roland's third tier kit) and it's very nice to play... as far as electronic drums are concerned. The stock sounds are okay, but there's no way to multitrack out of the brain directly. With that in mind, if you're going the electronic route I highly suggest that you buy the nicest pads and cymbals you can afford paired to the most modest brain you can find that still gets the job done. From there you can USB or MIDI out to your studio computer and trigger something like Toontrack's Superior Drummer 2.0. There simply is not a dedicated brain on the market that sounds as good as a dedicated drum sampler on a powerful computer. Even Roland's new TD-50 flagship model can't touch what Superior Drummer can do. There are other samplers, but SD2 is still my favorite.
    DanAleks, zontar and Luke19Boarder like this.
  10. I will be buying new recording equipment as well, so right now I have zero interfaces. My studio is small and probably not really good for recording drums, but I've gotten decent recordings - good enough for my limited requirements. I will spend 1000X more time jamming in the studio than I will recording. The more I read what you guys are saying, the more I think an acoustic set is the way to go. It will be better for the majority of what they will be used for. I would probably get a Presonus A/D/mixer with 8 channels, that gives me five channels for recording drums if I record the band "live" - bass, guitar and one vocal. Historically everything else beside the drums are scratch tracks, I'll probably use this as an opportunity to move from a hard drive based Tascam to a DAW.

    Anyway, great advice, thanks for the input!
  11. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    What are the dimensions of your room? Length, width and height from floor to ceiling?
  12. Hmm, it's probably 20' x 10' (that's a guess, but close).
  13. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Ceiling height?
  14. LT131


    Jan 25, 2015
    Deep South
    Agree with all of the above. Additionally if you are going to record live the lack of natural volume will be much easier to control in the mix and easier on your players ears.
  15. mikeyjm2

    mikeyjm2 Keepin' it simple.

    Dec 31, 2014
    Houston, TX
    Both bands I'm in the drummers pay electronic kits, so no surprise that would be my vote. Definitely easier to manage.
  16. pbass2


    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    There's simply still no comparison, even with all the tech, to playing an acoustic kit to an electronic kit. It's like playing an acoustic guitar compared to a Line 6 modeling acoustic guitar. That is of course, if you're trying to sound and feel like an acoustic kit, and have the organic quality. If you're after something else, then cool.
    I'm a big electronic music guy too--classic drum machines, various virtual drums, etc., but when it's gotta sound like a live kit for anything other than a demo or maybe a jingle or soundtrack underscore session, gotta be live acoustic drums.
    Bassbubble11 and Fabio_MIJ like this.
  17. If you go electronic, just make sure they are a nicer set that feels and plays consistently like an acoustic set. My drummer uses a rather pricey Roland set. He uses them live, and he has to bring a small P.A. (sub and main) to reproduce typical stage volume, but he can get a really wide variety of kits out of that thing, and it makes a huge difference in my Top 40 Variety cover band.

    Individual outputs are very important for multi-track recording as well. Otherwise, you are endlessly tweaking various kits to try to get the balance you like (when sending a stereo, two-channel mix to the board), just to have it change in the full-band mix, and you have no control over the levels of the parts of the kit you want to change.
  18. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    I agree with you about the feel, but disagree about the sound provided you're using a computer based sampling platform like SD2.0, Addictive Drums, Slate Drums, etc. The sound quality of those have gotten so good that getting good drum sounds through those compared to "inadequate" drum rooms regardless of the quality of drums is very easy.
  19. pbass2


    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    yes, this is true. I kind of spouted that off, admittedly. I use SD, Slate, etc. Heck EZ Drummer is amazing. Unless it's an album project or a soundtrack gig where there's enough budget to track live drums. Granted, if you go acoustic with limited space/recording gear, you're probably relegated to one kit, maybe a few different snares, etc, but generally speaking, one overall sound. If it's a band project and you can get the sound you want then I say go acoustic. If you're looking for lots of sonic options for demos and experimenting, then, electronic is a more efficient, cost-effective bet. But again it really is like the different between an acoustic instrument and a digital modeling thing when it comes to inspiration and performance and feel.
  20. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    The quality of the latest batch of samplers is honestly pretty startling. I've done entire albums with just a MIDI controller keyboard and SD2.0 with great success. I would much prefer to play a fully mic'd acoustic kit with great, well tuned heads and high quality brass in an excellent room, but a lot of the time compromises have to be made, and these new pieces of software really do a nice job of mitigating those compromises if need be.

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