Do you find yourself tapping on your car’s dashboard?
Do you feel the rhythm and simply have to bang on something when you listen to a song?
Have you gone into a music store and wanted to hop on the drum “throne” and beat those skins like they owe you money?
You may be a drummer.
Not a professional drummer, not a band member, but a drummer like me. I simply can’t help it.
I used to get in trouble in school for mindlessly drumming on my desk. Didn’t even realize I was doing it. I feel the beat in my mind and my body has to do something about it. Tap, tap, tapping like a raven on a cellar door. I can’t help myself.
My dad heard me tapping on a metal box and commented that I sounded pretty good. Later he surprised me with a set of bongos.
Bongos are pretty cool. You can tune bongos to a fifth and get some good sounds out of them. Bongos add a special sound like no other instrument .
But bongos, as much as they can do, a drum kit do not make. In fact, a bongo player is called a “percussionist” not a drummer.
Unless you want to carry around a washing machine, a drummer needs a set of drums.
A typical drum kit has a:
High Hat Cymbal w/ foot pedal
A couple of other mounted Tom Toms
With these 8 basic percussion devices, you can reproduce pretty much all the standard drumming in popular music.
At some parties at a friend’s house, I got access to a drum kit and loved it.
It wasn’t like tapping or bongoing. It was much more complicated.
I played along with some guys whose drummer wasn’t around.
I had no training (except driving my teachers crazy) but I had the sense to keep the beat.
The guys I played with thought I sounded pretty good.
After that I wanted a drum set
But you may have noticed that real drum sets cost a lot of money.
Drums take up a lot of space and make a hell of a racket.
Living in an apartment doesn’t go with having a drum set.
Yes, you can get some drum sticks and bang on your couch.
But a drum set is pretty impractical compared to other instruments
Here’s an SAT-type quiz for you.
“Flute” is to “Drums” what “Fork” is to:
C) 12-piece place setting
That’s right, if you said “C” you get my point.
Drums are really 8 different instruments that have to be hauled around and set up in a space at least a big as a bathroom and make enough noise to bring the cops if played between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Enter the age of electronic drums
I got an early electronic “drum set,” a toy really.
It was a fairly expensive piece of junk.
Just four drum heads on a console about two feet square. The sample rate (how fast the drum can respond to a beat) was lousy.
If I drummed too fast, the strikes just fell silent because the signal dropped out. The speakers were junk. No foot pedals. No high hat.
This wasn’t a drum kit. This was a four-headed electronic bongo. And the bongos didn’t even sound good.
The worst part was that these electronic drums had their own internal timing. If I beat faster than that processor, it ignored my input.
Sure, those primitive electronic drums got some beating. But it wasn’t drumming.
Yes, there were better electronic drums on the market but they cost a fortune.
And some electronic drums sounded weird and phasory (I don’t know if this is a word, but I mean to say they sounded electronic and artificial)
Phil Collins made electronic drums sound okay, but I was holding out for a real drum set.
I had tried electronic drums and made up my mind that they were crappy drum simulators.
All the bands I really liked used real drums and real cymbals made out of real metal.
I wanted real drums
Some years passed and I had a chance to play a real drum set again. I had gotten better. A lot better. I sounded like a drummer.
Now I really had a Jones for a drum set.
I was looking through an internet music catalog. I looked at the drums section. They had electronic drums that cost thousands of dollars.
But to my surprise they offered an electronic drum set that I could afford.
This set was fairly small, folded, and you could listen to them with headphones. The reviews said that they had a good sample rate and duplicated the sound of real drums. I couldn’t believe how much electronic drums had dropped in price.
I bit the bullet. I sent off for the drum set and a drum throne to sit on.
(It’s a bit ironic that the drummer sits on a “throne” but the lead singer and/or lead guitarist act like kings, but I digress.)
The inexpensive electronic drums I got were from Alesis.
I needed to buy a foot pedal for the bass drum, which may still be the case. It’s worth getting a good foot pedal, and perhaps this is why the set didn’t include one.
Now this was a few years ago and I’m not going to pretend I’m reviewing one of the latest Alesis drum kits.
I will tell you this: My Alesis drums sound like real drums, and play like real drums. When you hit a drum or a cymbal, it sounds like the real thing. That’s because Alesis uses recordings of real drums.
When you hit a drum or cymbal softly, it plays softly. It you hit one hard, it plays loud.
I’ve played real drums and there are differences, but my Alesis drums feel like the real deal.
The Alesis pros:
Real drum sound
Real drum feel
Easy to set up
You can set the drums to make all kinds of different drum sounds, from wood to metal to Phil Collins type ‘lectronicness to choppy guitar chords (yes, it’s freaky)
You can play them with headphones — and I mean you can beat the hell out of them — and not disturb others
Condenser mics offer excellent signal to noise ratio (low hum) and gain (amplification).
Condenser mics use the standard three-prong XLR connector. That means buying condenser mics is an investment in equipment that interfaces with standard amps, mixers — basically everything. Whereas, USB mics have one purpose – to connect to your computer.
It’s the Sound
I’ve used both types of mics. Even a medium-priced condenser mic has a rich, powerful sound. You can really hear the difference.
OK let’s assume you now are convinced that condenser microphones are the way to go.
How the heck do you hook up a condenser mic to your computer?
Enter the TASCAM US-366 4-In/6-Out or 6-In/4-Out USB Audio Interface
The TASCAM opens a USB doorway to your computer for signals coming from high quality condenser microphones AND jacked in guitars/basses.
Select Product Specs
6-in/4-out or 4-in/6-out USB interface depending on the setting of line 3 and line 4.
Up to 24bit/192kHz recording
2 – XLR microphone inputs with HDDA mic pres and +48V phantom power
On-board digital mixer – “Multi-track mode” or “Stereo mix mode” selectable
2 balanced XLR microphone/TRS line inputs. L channel can be switched to Guitar Input for high-impedance support.
1/4” TRS headphone output
USB 2.0 bus-powered
Can I get that in English?
The US-336 has a pair of combination jacks on the front panel that accept 1/4″ (so called “phone jacks” used by guitars) and XLR jacks (standard 3-prong mic jacks). This gives you the flexibility to attach microphones, line level sources, and directly plug a guitar or bass.
The microphone inputs provide phantom power for condenser microphones and plenty of gain (amplification) for recording any source.
A direct monitor path is available during recording to prevent the delays (echos) that can occur when recording to computer. This allows the speaker/musician to hear the input directly without any delay.
USB 2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface works for both Mac and Windows computers
Works perfectly with Audacity.
NOW with your TASCAM US-336 USB Audio Interface in place you can get a really nice condenser mic!
Make sure to get a good cheap mic cord and a stand.
If you get a nice gold capsule mic, consider getting a shock mount, a foam cover (the gold wafer performance deteriorates when wetted by voice vapor) and a pop screen.
Using a tough Shure dynamic condenser mic?
You don’t need no stinking shock mount or pop screen! Just don’t drop it from more than a few feet. 🙂