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Friday
Jul202018

The Rise Of The Sampling Pad In The Modern Drummer’s Setup

No matter how many times I hear the term “modern drummer,” I can’t help but imagine a player that has a smaller setup which includes a Roland SPD-SX. This product is part of a family of instruments known as drum sampling pads. Nearly all drummers I have toured with in the past few years have all had an SPD-SX or something similar. In fact, it’s almost uncommon that they don’t have one!

Sampling pads allow drummers to play grooves with electronic percussion, trigger synth lines, and even use backing tracks with a band. With the amount of expression and flexibility they offer a drummer, it makes sense why they have become so popular in the last ten years. Sure, electronic drums have been around since the 80s, but nothing has become as portable until now.

The big trend I’m noticing in a lot of setups is drummers who remove the rack tom in place of their sampling pad. Smaller kits seem to be the thing nowadays, but I still yearn for the times of a larger drum set.

No matter how many times I hear the term “modern drummer,” I can’t help but imagine a player that has a smaller setup which includes a Roland SPD-SX. This product is part of a family of instruments known as drum sampling pads.

Nearly all drummers I have toured with in the past few years have all had an SPD-SX or something similar. In fact, it’s almost uncommon that they don’t have one!Sampling pads allow drummers to play grooves with electronic percussion, trigger synth lines, and even use backing tracks with a band.

With the amount of expression and flexibility they offer a drummer, it makes sense why they have become so popular in the last ten years. Sure, electronic drums have been around since the 80s, but nothing has become as portable until now.The big trend I’m noticing in a lot of setups is drummers who remove the rack tom in place of their sampling pad. Smaller kits seem to be the thing nowadays, but I still yearn for the times of a larger drum set. 

Backing tracks are here to stay

Whether we want to accept it or not, backing tracks are extremely common in live music today. It’s rare to find a band that doesn’t use them. 

For those who don’t know, backing tracks aid a live band in performance. These tracks run in the background behind the band adding extra parts that may have been recorded in the studio such as harmonies, keyboard parts, sound effects, you name it. Setting up a setup that can run backing tracks can be difficult, but sampling pads do help.

Sampling pads can aid a drummer in the process of “running” a live show if its their job to control the playback. In our example, the computer running the backing tracks will be side-stage near the monitor mixing board.

The sampling pad communicates with the computer via MIDI and the drummer can then control the show from the stage. This is exactly how I use my drum pad, via MIDI. While this is only one use for a sample pad, I still can play samples in real time with pads I haven’t assigned to MIDI, as well as external drum pads that utilize the trigger inputs. 

For bands who use pre-recorded backing tracks, having a drummer play certain patterns or parts on an electronic drum pad can add back the human feel to sections of the songs that feel overly quantized or not human. Backing tracks are not inherently bad but can be abused easily.

Who doesn’t use MIDI technology these days?

MIDI technology is still alive and well. I think a lot of people use MIDI and don’t even realize it! It is utilized to this day in lighting rigs, recording studios, playback rigs, video playback, and even with animatronic musical robots. I still use the traditional 5-pin connections in my setup to this day. It truly is something to believe that it’s been around for more than twenty-five years and virtually is unchanged. 

With MIDI, I’m able to send control changes to Ableton live to change patches for me in real-time, during playback. For example, we may be in the middle of the song, and a control change will automatically change my malletKAT from a bass drum sample to a vibraphone. Not that I couldn’t physically make the change myself, but it’s just one less thing I must do. I can really focus on playing the part, rather than changing knobs.

Acoustic drum kits are still a big deal

 

Despite the growing trend in popularity for sampling pads, the electronic drum set isn’t utilized for performances as often. I believe it comes down a few factors: price, durability, ease of use, and transportation.

Some electronic drum kits are extremely expensive. Who is going to want to take their $6,000 Roland V Drums on a club tour? Transportation plays a huge role in that as well. Setup and take down of an electronic drum set is no easy task. Unless you have engineered a way to loom the cables, store the shells, and have a quick and easy way to pack them away, touring with an electronic drum set will not be fun.

The hybrid kit is the best of both worlds

With the trend of music becoming more and more electronic, hybrid kits make sense. There’s something still so awesome about acoustic drums resonating through a PA system at a live show that electronic drums just cannot replicate. As technology improves, I’m sure we’ll see more and more innovations in the drumming world for electronic and popular music. 

 

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