Studio Night

The V-drum experiment (part 1)

Charley kept the kit from looking like it had been set up by a pre-schooler.

During the holiday season we were fortunate to have a visit from our friend (and fantastic drummer) Jim Evans. Jim has lent his talents to the DD69 project on every record so far, and the upcoming album is no exception.

Normally we book a studio in town to record the drum tracks – they’ve got lots of tasty microphones and great mixing desks and killer-sounding rooms, unlike, well, the basement. However, this year it just wound up being logistically impossible to get everything scheduled despite our efforts. It seemed like we wouldn’t be able to do a drum session at all this year, which was a bummer.

Then, as it happened, our friend J offered to let us borrow his Roland V-drums. I knew he had an electronic kit, and had been talking to him about his thoughts on doing a session with electronic drums. He seemed to think it was doable, and he generously offered to lend his TD-20 kit over the holiday break.

I figured it was worth a try, and planned to use the MIDI from the TD-20 “brain” to trigger the BFD2 plug-in running in Pro Tools. That way we could mostly overcome the microphone/desk/room issues by using the samples and flexibility of the plug-in. So I picked up J’s drum kit on a chilly morning, got it back here and set it up.

Well, sort of. Despite decades of playing in bands and seeing drum kits in all shapes and sizes, I still can’t quite get the drums into the right positions. I had the kit set up, but playing it required some pretzel-like twisting around. So I called up Charley, who promptly came over and put everything into positions that an actual drummer would use (thanks Charley!). We then spent a couple hours monkeying around with the V-drum sounds themselves and with BFD2 triggering.

Over the next few days I assembled a basic kit in BFD2. Fortunately the plug-in has a variety of preset MIDI maps, including one for the TD-20. I wound up having to add an extra ride cymbal to make sure BFD would trigger a sound when the “edge” trigger of the electronic ride (which can trigger bell, bow, or edge, which is pretty cool) was played. ¬†Once I had a basic kit set up I figured Jim and I would tweak it during the session.

I prepped the tracks by setting up a stereo instrument track for the BFD drum MIDI, and a stereo audio track for the V-drum audio output. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would use it for, but thought it might be interesting to have just in case. At that point all I could do was wait for the day of the session to arrive.

(to be continued…)