Looking at one of the best electronic drum kits in the world
Since the invention of electronic drum kits back in 1971, the electronic kit has become a mainstay in the live, home and studio environment. Once a bulky, unsightly nightmare of arm-shattering hard plastic pads, wires and transistors, the kits of today are now streamlined, comfortable and easy to play. Electronic kits now successfully mimic the feel and sound of an acoustic kit, whilst adding an almost unlimited array of sounds to play with.
In this article, we will take a look back to where it all started for electronic drums, how Roland drum kits became some of the most widely used and coveted products in the music scene, and how the TD-30KV fits into this legacy.
The Evolution of The Electronic Drum
If you’ve ever heard the Moody Blues song “Procession”, then you’ve heard the first ever electronic drum kit on record, created by Professor Brian Groves from Sussex University with assistance from Graeme Edge, the band’s drummer. However, you could barely call it a drum kit, considering it was used more to create a series of bleeps and bloops rather than replicate a snare or floor tom.
In 1976, Pollard Industries decided to make the worlds first commercial electronic drum. The result was the Syndrum – a single sound module that could be manipulated with faders and knobs. In 1978 the British company Simmons got in on the act by releasing the SD1, and the electronic drum continued to improve as a viable instrument.
However, it wasn’t until 1997 that Roland decided to take a somewhat novelty instrument and craft something that drummers worldwide would come to respect – the Roland V-Drums.
After many drummers had complained of wrist and arm problems due to the bulky plastic pads associated with previous electronic kits, Roland set upon creating the mesh head, which would replace the previous rubber pad and revolutionise electronic kits, ultimately resulting in the iconic PD-7 kit.
The mesh head
The goal, and inherent challenge was to get an acoustic feel without the acoustic noise, so Roland would go on to experiment with different materials such as film and skin as head material for the pad. However, it was a trip to a DIY store that caused the eureka moment for Roland’s Mechanical Designer Mr. Yoshino. After visiting the supermarket for capentry and gardening goods, Mr. Yoshino would stumble upon a small trampoline which used a mesh type material on the bouncing mat.
Roland then took this inspiration to Mr. Remo Belli, the founder of Remo. The end product was a mesh head that felt like a real acoustic drum skin when hit, without the sound. The rest as they say, is history.
The rise of the electronic kit
Since Roland’s foray into mesh kits, the electronic drum kit has greatly increased in popularity, with musicians from all different styles and genres. This popularity lies in some key advantages that an electronic kit holds over a traditional acoustic kit.
Firstly, an electronic drum kit allows a player, whether a beginner or professional, to tap into an almost endless variety of sounds and kits whilst incorporating a host of effects into their playing. This includes reverb, delay or a variety of pre-recorded percussion phrases, available at the tap of a drum. Session drummers for example, will appreciate the limitless array of sounds on tap with a Roland kit, especially those featured in the TD30KV, melding seamlessly with any musical genre thanks to the huge range of sampled drum kits available in the Roland TD30 brain. Whether you want to replicate the Bonham sound of “When The Levee Breaks” or want a tight jazz kit, there’s something in there for your style. The host of sounds on offer allows the professional to play a wide variety of styles whilst opening a world of drumming up to the beginner who is just learning which direction they want to take.
There’s also no need for the use of mic’s when recording, ensuring set up is faster, and also allowing the sound engineer greater control. Bleed is eliminated unless you choose to include Tom Drum resonance in there yourself and the chances of feedback are almost zero. For those playing smaller venues, acoustic kits can be a nightmare, especially where sound limiters can be set off with the over enthusiastic strike of a snare drum, but with an electronic kit, the volume is in your hands at all times.
An electronic kit allows you to sculpt your sound and build your very own custom kit. You might want your kick drum to sound tight and your high-hat cymbal to be a loud 35-inch monster – it’s up to you. When you get tired of that sound, it’s not a case of buying another kit, but merely switching some settings. This almost limitless versatility coupled with a natural feel is the main reason a vast majority of drummers choose an electronic kit or at the very least have one in their musical arsenal.
Finally, the fact that you can practice anywhere and anytime with almost zero noise gives a huge amount of freedom, with less chance of waking neighbors and housemates!
The best there is
Roland have been constantly improving the look and feel of their electronic kits since 1997, culminating in quite possibly the most well respected and widely used professional electronic kit, the TD30KV V-Drums V-Pro Drum Kit. The difference between this kit and the competitors is Roland’s SuperNatural sound engine. Not content with creating a drum that felt real, or as close to an acoustic kit as possible, Roland’s engineers set up creating a sound engine that would respond to the subtleties and nuances of your performance. Whether you’re playing in different areas of the snare, slowly raising a high hat, or are busting out paradiddles with varying velocity – the TD30KV will respond accordingly.
The Roland TD30KV -V Drums V-Pro kit includes just about everything you need to get started, with optional extras like pedals, hi-hat stand and snare stands that you have to purchase separately – perfect for those who already have their go-to breakables.
Drum Sound Module – TD-30 x 1 that includes the following:
- 100 different Drum Kits
- A huge variety of instruments including Drum Instruments: 1100, Backing Instruments: 262
- Drum Kit Chains – 16 chains (32 steps per chain)
- Effect Types – Pad Compressor (each pad), Pad Equalizer (each pad), Ambience Section (Overhead Mic Simulator, Room Type (25 types), Reverb), Multi-Effects: 21 types, Master Compressor, Master Equalizer, Reverb (for backing part), Chorus (for backing part)
- 8 Percussion Sets
- USB Memory Song Player Audio File: WAV, MP3
- Sequencer User Patterns: 100, Preset Patterns: 100, Parts: 6, Play Type: Oneshot, Loop, Tap, Recording Method: Realtime, Maximum Note Storage: approx. 40,000 Notes
- So much more…
V-Kick – KD-140-BC x 1.
- 14-inch pad with stable, accurate triggering for natural acoustic-like feel.
V-Pad (Snare) – PD-128S-BC x 1.
- Snare-stand mountable 12-inch mesh head pad.
V-Pad (TOM1, TOM2) – PD-108-BC x 2
- with rim sensor for improved depth when hitting those rim shots. Both 10 inches.
V-Pad (TOM3, TOM4) – PD-128-BC x 2.
- 12-inch pads with rim sensors
V-Hi-Hat – VH-13-MG x 1
- with an improved motion sensor for all natural response
V-Cymbal Crash – CY-14C-MG x 2.
- 14 inch cymbals with natural swing feel and accurate triggering for superior sensitivity across the entire cymbal surface. 2 triggers (Bow/Edge)
V-Cymbal Ride – CY-15R-MG x 1.
- 15 inch cymbal with 3 triggers (Bow/Bell/Edge)
Drum Stand – MDS-25.
- A compact and very solid drum rack complete with flexible ball clamps for toms and snare as well as boom/straight options for your cymbal arms. An internal cable management system keeps your kit looking clean at all times.
View From The Expert
We spoke with Roland representative Jules Tabberer-Stewart, European Drum Product Manager about the TD30KV V-Drums V-Pro drum kit, discussing what type of player would use it and what makes this kit so special.
Who would use the TD30KV kit?
The TD-30KV was designed with professional use in mind – stage and studio. The connections, the professional effects, compression, reverb, faders etc provide strong sound control in those environments. But because it’s our most expressive kit and ‘feels’ as large as an acoustic kit when you sit behind it, semi-pro and hobby drummers also like it. I know quite a few schools that are teaching with the TD-30KV also.
There are also some professionals that have always wanted to play drums and can afford it – so it becomes a stress release and way to enjoy a hobby for those customers too.
How is it unique?
In many ways, actually.
The look is designed to be strong on the live stage and to have a similar impact to an acoustic kit. So the black carbon wraps, chrome finish stand, deeper shell pads, black chrome cymbals are an obvious difference.
By the dynamics and expression of the TD-30 SuperNATURAL sound engine are the biggest step up. Essentially, this is what we call ‘behaviour modelling’ software. The TD-30KV sound engine and pads work together to respond to a drummer’s playing and respond just as an acoustic drum would. So cymbal swells, buzz rolls, edge hits, ghost notes, dynamics are all true-to-life. Because of the low latency (2.9m/s, the fastest out there) it can read the players input and respond naturally as it happens.
How has digital drumming evolved?
The holy grail of digital drums in my view has always been two things – first is sound. Does it “sound” like an acoustic kit? We still sample acoustic drums in the studio for V-Drums and always have. We sample every hit, at every velocity on every part of each drum we use. We do this in some of the best studios around with great engineers. Then we allow those drum sounds to be ‘edited’ in the module by using our V-Edit system. So drums can be dampened, tuned, different head types, different beaters can be used, cymbal sizes changed etc. All using real samples mixed with pcm sound elements.
Secondly, does it play like the real thing? There’s been some huge advances by us in recent times here. Partly it’s about the pads and hardware. Drums are an instrument that are hit repeatedly with force. So they need to withstand a beating and also feel solid when you play them. The drum pads also need to pick up accurate information to send to the ‘brain’. The build quality and sensitivity of pads are an area Roland are very strong. Then it’s about the layering of the sound samples and how they respond to a drummers playing. This is where SuperNATURAL become a game-changer. There’s still no other electronic kit in the market today as expressive as SuperNATURAL V-Drums – even our V-Drums of the past e.g. TD-20, TD-12, TD-9 etc. don’t play as great as a modern SuperNATURAL kit of today. It’s a huge leap forward.
What artists use the TD30KV?
Plenty of artists using the TD-30KV, even when it’s not front and centre of stage. Some artists use them for recording or rehearsing rather than live use, but still it’s their first choice for electronic drums.
Netsky (Michael Schack), Clean Bandit (Luke Patterson), Muse (Dominic Howard), The Vamps (Tristan Evans) to name a few.
An Owners Perspective
We also spoke to Ian, our drum expert and owner of the TD30KV V-Drum kit in our Liverpool store about this kit and why he, and many other drummers have come to rely on it so heavily.
Why would I buy this kit over any other model out there?
It’s Roland’s flagship kit. It’s a giggable playable reproduction of an acoustic kit with a lot more control.
Can you give me an example of the type of control?
Well having been an acoustic drummer and having played gigs, many of them with an acoustic kit, the biggest problems a drummer faces is the balance between instruments, i.e. the balance between the kick drum or a china cymbal or a hi-hat, a tom and snare. To have the ability to change volume and to get a good mix on the kit without being reliant on anyone else for that. This allows you to do that and so much more.
What do you mean by being reliant on someone else? Does it make the sound engineers job easier?
If you can afford of going down the route of a mixing desk it gives you the ability to control your sound, but not only from a recording point of view but certainly the live environment, I can mix on the fly because of the functionality of the brain. It allows me to physically change volumes at will as each room needs. For example, a bass drum might be particularly loud in one room and you might not be able to hear it in another. It gives you the ability to have this control. Not only so far as you can change the volumes but you can also change the sounds.
I could have any type of drum kit, for example a drum kit with coated heads, or I could have a drum kit with clear skins – you can change every element of it. Where that really comes into play is if I was playing a particular genre of music, if I was playing a rock song or something like that. Historically rock songs have a big expansive sound with a lot of effect on it. I can do that with this kit, but having said that if I wanted to do something a little more intimate or a little more poppy for example, and change to a different genre of music, you can get the kit to change that, so that saves you having 15 different drum kits on stage, which is what you would need if you wanted to do an accurate representation of the kind of music you play.
As someone who started out as an acoustic drummer, what made you make the change to an electronic kit? Was it all down to the control you mention?
It’s predominantly the control. Purely because I would turn up to a gig and I would be told there was a full mic up available for the kit – I’d get to a gig and find out that a full mic up consisted of one mic in my bass drum and one overhead! And that doesn’t give you a lot of control! So having done that for many years and having many arguments with many sound engineers and then hearing what was available on the market, certainly since the mesh head has come out, it was a no brainer for me and I’ve never played an acoustic kit since. I’ve done 2,500+ gigs with an electronic kit. I wouldn’t go back.
Tell me a little about the mesh heads.
You get a really great feel from the mesh head. The beauty of the Roland Mesh heads on the TD30KV, is that it gives you that much more choice of how the drum stick reacts as a player. Each drum you see on this kit has individual tuning heads so I can physically change the responsiveness of that skin, without changing the sound. So If I wanted to have a very tight snare drum, I can tune that snare, or tighten the skin up to such a degree that the bounce is realistic. With other brands there’s more effort involved, rather than just allowing the stick to do the work. The mesh head system brings the feel back into it. That’s the thing that was missing back in the early days from all electronic drum manufacturers.
Why is this kit so revered?
This particular kit in its current state is as good as you can get. And the reason why is because it sounds so real. I have many friends who know that I’m an electronic drummer and recently I’ve just a done a little promotional video for my band. The video is not one of the clearest of pictures, but one of my friends said “ah I see you’ve reverted back to an acoustic kit” even though I was playing the TD30KV. He couldn’t see that I was using an electronic drum, but he thought it was a full acoustic kit. So if that is the level that these drums are at, bear in mind that everybody else on the planet who uses acoustic drums has the same troubles that I’ve once had – it’s a no brainer. Really the way forward has to be electronic. Even some of the big bands are putting triggers on acoustic drums to give them the ability to transfer that sound through a processor like the TD30 brain. They’re triggering these samples and the only difference really is that they’re sat behind an acoustic kit but it’s electronic sounds that are going out front. Electronic is definitely the way that everyone seems to be going.
If a drummer came in, what would be the main argument you’d give for them to swap over then?
A lot of acoustic drummers are very adamant that they don’t like electronic. I have to stress that first.
Why do you think that is?
Because they play an acoustic kit they tend to not bother with finding out what electronic kits are doing now. So when they do come and see me, absolute staunch acoustic fans, as soon as I sit them behind the TD30KV even they sit there with their mouth open amazed and say “how did I miss this bit?” they tend to not take the plunge and just try one out. I’m not saying for one minute that a TD30KV will obliterate the need for acoustic drums, it won’t. but what it is doing though is swinging the pendulum of favour over to electronic because of the fact you can get so much out of these.
You’re not buying one kit. You’re buying thousands of kits because each kit can have thousands upon thousands of different combinations, from the tuning to the beater you use on your bass drum, you can virtually change the material that the beater is made of! You can have a wooden beater, you can have a felt beater a plastic beater and this is before you even look at the skins and the tuning and the compressions and the effects and the other things that go to make up what is somebody’s perfect kit. You can have so many combinations and even play along with a sequence to boot if you want! There’s just far too much going on for this to be ignored now.
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