Drums are a challenge wherever you worship for a variety of reasons:
- They are loud
- They take a lot of room on stage
- They have to be properly run into the sound system
- They take a long time to setup
- and on and on…
When we first started Journey, we were using an old hand-me-down acoustic drum set and it worked, but we lacked the proper drum mics to run it through the sound system, so we relied on the sound produced by the kit itself to fill the theater.
Then came the day we got a special gift that bought us our digital drums. [Cue the flashback music] Hallelujah! No need to mic it – it all goes through the processor and comes out in just one channel (or two, but for some reason, one sounds better.). Setup isn’t much faster, but you only have to set up the drums, not the mics, so it saves you time! And it takes less space on the sound board and the stage! And they make no noise on their own, so we have total control of the sound! Oh man, we’re set now…
That setup worked quite well for us for over 2 years. But lately, we’ve begun to hit some barriers with the digital drums.
- Dynamics: There’s loud, and there’s louder. That’s pretty much it. It’s hard to play soft on the digital set.
- Lack of flexibility: The snare on the digital set is capable of producing a good “hit” and an alright “rim shot” but that’s about it. Forget about the differences that come from using brushes or “hot rods” (those sticks that look like a bundle of chop-sticks taped together) or even cross-sticking.
- The Digital Sound: While overall, the sound is pretty good, the cymbals tend to be the part that sounds the most fake. They can’t reproduce the sound of a real heavy ride cymbal being played repetitively. And the high-hat is either opened or closed – there’s no subtle difference in the sound depending on how much pressure you’re putting on the pedal.
We’ve decided that we’ve out grown the digital set here at Journey. Now, we’re not just jumping back to acoustic on Sunday. There’s a lot that we need to do to prepare for the transition.
- We run a lot louder than we did in the early days, so we can’t rely on the drum set to fill the room on its own. But in order to properly mic it, we need more channels than we have on our current board.
- To properly mic the kit, we need to use as many as 8 mics – so we need to buy the mics and stands to hold them.
- We need a better set. The old one we have is a cheap starter set that doesn’t sound very good.
All of the above costs money, and there’s none in the budget to do any of it this year. However, it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to start working that way. Back before Christmas, we ditched the digital snare for the acoustic one. A tad more flexibility, while only adding one more channel. In a couple weeks, we’re going to try adding the real cymbals. We’re using them at rehearsals right now to see how it goes and after just one week, there’s a noticeable difference! Look for the change to happen sometime in the next couple weeks.
That might be all the farther we push it for now, giving us, as Amanda said at rehearsal this week, the “bionic drum set.” Since the cymbals and the snare and the parts that benefit from the flexibility acoustic offers, the others should work being digital. The key will be balancing the sound so it sounds like one unit, but in the end, we should have a better sound while keeping a slightly easier setup than the full-out acoustic.