Electronic Drums – Frequently Asked Questions

Need to know the score about electronic drums? Looking for answers, but don’t have the time to scour the forums… or worse, face the trolls when you post a question? Well fret no more. Here are some of the most common questions we get asked about V-Drums – all in one place, and not a keyboard warrior in sight.

How much do electronic drum kits cost?

Relax: not as much as you’d think. Internet prices for the entry-level Roland TD-1K V-Drums are around £400, and the V-Drums range stops off at various price-points before topping out with the flagship TD-50KV. You don’t need Grohl-sized royalties to get involved.

How are electronic drums powered?

Good old-fashioned plug and play. At the rear of the sound module, you’ll find a familiar DC In jack: simply use the included AC adaptor to connect to the nearest wall socket and your V-Drums kit is alive. In the case of the TM-2 Trigger Module (for use with hybrid drum set ups), there’s no need for power cables – it’s battery powered.

How loud are electronic drums?

Far quieter than their neighbour-baiting acoustic counterparts, thanks to the headphones option. While some brands of electronic kits still make a fair old din – even unamplified – V-Drums are acknowledged as the quietest on the market. If racket is a complete no-no, supplement your kit with a Noise Eater sound isolation board or the ultra-quiet KT-10 Kick Trigger Pedal.

What’s the best way to amplify my electronic drums?

Whether you want to hold discrete rehearsals or raise ear-bleeding hell, Roland has a monitor to suit. From the compact and über-chic PM-03 Drum Monitor to the crushing 200-watt Roland CM-220 studio monitor, simply connect your drum kit via the sound module’s Output jacks.

Can I use my regular sticks?

Beat away, my friend. Both wood and nylon tips will work just fine on V-Pads and V-Cymbals – although feel free to investigate the sticks developed by firms like Zildjian and Vic Firth specifically for use with electronic kits.

Can I use brushes?

Yes, swing to your heart’s content – as long as you’re playing a V-Drums kit in the TD-30 range. A ‘brushes’ setting in the flagship TD-30 module allows the pads to pick up your every swish
and slap. Just make sure they’re nylon, not wire brushes.

Can I transport electronic drums?

Yep, and that’s a major advantage. With no old-school drum shells to fill the van, e-kits travel much lighter and take up less floor-space than their acoustic siblings. If you’re a roving free-spirit, try the Roland TD4-KP, which weighs just 12.5kg and has a fold-up stand for speedy assembly and breakdown.

What are other advantages of electronic drums

Whereas acoustic drums handcuff you to one tone, V-Drums let you switch up your sound to suit any band, gig or song: from clipped techno beats to fat hip-hop booms, a library of tones is selectable via the kit’s sound module. You don’t need to worry about inconsistent sounds live, either, and with no mic’ing required, it’s arguably far easier to record with electronic drums.

What is a sound module?

Some folks refer to the module as the ‘brain’. Its primary role is to convert the thwack of your stick into sound. But depending on the specific unit, V-Drum modules have further tricks up their sleeves, letting you shape your sound with effects and virtual instruments, play along with backing tracks or simulate a range of classic drum kits using built-in modelling technology.

How can electronic drums improve my learning?

Many V-Drums modules feature the Coach function, giving you tutorials in accuracy, timing and endurance that get tougher as you get tighter. There’s also the Quick Record/Quick Play feature that lets you record passages of your own drumming, then play them back to assess your progress.

What is a trigger?

It’s the electronic transducer inside a V-Pad or V-Cymbal that registers the impact of your stick, then relays the signal via a jack cable to the sound module, which then converts it into an audible sound. You’ll also find standalone triggers like the Roland BT-1 Bar Trigger Pad or RT-30 series acoustic drum triggers, which attach to your acoustic drum when you’re building a hybrid kit [see below].
What is a hybrid kit?

It’s the best of both worlds: an acoustic drum kit augmented with a sound module and electronic pads and triggers. For many players – including Neil Peart of Rush – playing a hybrid kit is like having your cake and eating it, giving you both the classic old-school vibe of acoustic drums and the space-age electro features of electronics.

What are mesh heads?

A special type of V-Pad, Roland’s mesh heads feature a two-layer mesh surface and unique 45-degree weave pattern that makes them super-quiet, alongside dual-triggering that makes them highly responsive. They’re made by REMO, and feature as standard on kits across the V-Drums range.

What is dual and three-way triggering?

Acoustic drums and cymbals sound very different depending on where you hit them. Likewise, V-Pads and V-Cymbals that feature dual and three-way triggering are able to detect and relay exactly where you’ve made contact, making for faithful response and more expressive play. You can also apply different sounds to parts of a dual or three-way pad independently, e.g. a hand clap on a pad rim, a snare shot on the drum head.

Can I change the tension of the drum heads on a V-Drums kit?

Well, everybody likes to tinker. Just as you would with a ‘real’ drum head, Roland’s mesh V-Pads can be tension-adjusted to nail the feel you want.

Can I import my own music into electronic drum kits?

That’s part of the fun. All V-Drums let you connect CD/MP3 players for instant jam sessions, while the higher-specced models include USB/MIDI ports, letting you play audio files between your computer and your kit.

Can I add extra pads, toms and cymbals?

While it’s worth investing in an electronic kit that reflects your ambitions from the outset, the higher-specced V-Drums kits are flexible and open-ended. If you decide to make like Neil Peart and max out on the cymbals, it’s just a case of connecting them up via the module’s Trigger In jacks. Get pimping.

What is Roland SuperNATURAL?

Featured on kits from the TD-11 up, SuperNATURAL is technology that lets V-Drums faithfully convey playing dynamics and the strength of your hits, from gentle brush-strokes to assault-and-battery pummelling. It works alongside Behaviour Modelling, which means that when the module simulates an instrument, it also nails the quirks and nuances you’d expect to hear if it were played in real-life.

What is COSM Technology?

An acronym for ‘Composite Object Sound Modelling’, COSM replicates the tone of classic instruments and drum kits in hair-splitting detail. The bottom-line is that you can transform the tone of your V-Drums and create your own virtual kit, swapping in a maple snare, a Bonham-sized kick, a vintage crash cymbal – or anything in-between. Take it a step further and you can swap drum heads, change beaters, add muffling, edit the ambient microphone environment and a whole load more.

Where do Roland drum sounds come from?

It depends on the sound you’re playing – some of the more electronic drum sounds (such as the TR-808 and TR-909) and sound effects are purely digital. But the acoustic drum sounds start out by sampling acoustic drums in a professional studio environment. They’re sampled many times across the lightest to heaviest hits, and different parts and playing positions are sampled. Those samples are then layered to create a representative sound of the original drum. COSM technology is then applied to allow you to virtually edit each instrument as you would with its acoustic counterpart, while SuperNATURAL technology allows each instrument to behave as an acoustic instrument would.

What is’ latency’ and why is it important?

Measured in milliseconds, latency is the length of time it takes for your stick-hit to be registered and leave the speakers as audio. In the bad old days, high latency spelt frustration for electronic drummers, as the kit would struggle to keep up with the drummer’s groove. But with the latest V-Drums offering the industry’s lowest latency figures, it’s not something that will even register to the human ear.

Can I plug brands other than Roland into my V-Drums?

Yes. At the rear of the V-Drums sound module, you’ll find the MIDI socket, which lets you connect and interact with other electronic musical equipment, as well as computers and samplers. When it comes to connecting non-Roland pads and triggers, we can’t be sure of the result – chances are you will have to play around with the sensitivity and threshold settings of each pad or trigger in the module to get it to play smoothly without crosstalk or mis-triggering.

Will I need to do firmware updates?

Yes, if you want to take advantage of the latest features and settings with your own kit. Roland periodically updates the ‘firmware’ (the internal software) of the module to offer new features or settings. To check the latest firmware for your product, head over to the product page and check the ‘downloads’ tab. If you own a TD-11, TD-15 or TD-30 V-Drums module, updating is simple – just download the update, follow the instruction leaflet, copy to a USB flash drive and upload to your module.

I’m a left-hander – how do I set up my kit?

Every V-Drums kits can be set up left handed. Depending on the stand you have, there are specific ways to do this – take a look at our post about setting up your drums left handed. If you own a TD-4KP V-Drums Portable kit, you’ll need a left-hand pedal mounting plate available as a spares item from our Product Support team.

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