Hi Everyone

I'm not a drummer myself (I mostly play bass and fill in on cajon sometimes) but I've experienced playing alongside drummers using variously electronic or acoustic ("real") kits. From  my perspective is can see advantages to both:

Advantages of acoustic kits

  • Huge dynamic range - particularly important in worship 
  • Natural, nuanced sound
  • No PA needed in some situations
  • "You can't beat the real thing"

Advantages of electronic kits

  • PA guy has full control of volume to provide what is appropriate for the venue / event
  • No sound spill into other mikes (or no need for screens)
  • Compact and easier to move around
  • Wide range of kit types at the touch of a button
  • Only needs 2 PA channels (or even just one)
  • Easy for PA guy to mix and EQ

So it seems to me the electronic kits win on practicality but acoustic on musicality. But what do drummers think? An is there a place for a mixed kit (eg electronic kick and toms, the rest acoustic)? Is that the best of both worlds or the worst?

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I'm not a drummer either, but personally have only met ONE drummer... EVER... that preferred an electric kit. Most drummers seem to be willing to leave the church before being forced to play on an electric kit. :) Yes, you have to deal with volume control and such, but I'll take that any day over my experiences with a drummer playing on toys. You need dynamics in worship. Very important. They won't exist with your average sound guy moving sliders all the time, whether he needs to or not, and bringing down the drum level as it gets a little louder... even though it's SUPPOSED to be getting louder in that spot. Your sound guy likely doesn't know and understand that element. 

I already get super annoyed when my wife, or whoever, says "I couldn't really hear the guitar today" and know that an important element of the mix was missing because the sound guy wasn't paying enough attention to that. I won't even take the chance of hearing "I couldn't even hear the drums today". I've been in that situation a couple of times... many years ago... and have avoided it at all costs ever since. I feel the drums are too important to the overall sound, feel, etc to allow it to get lost in the mix... whether intentional or not.

Yes, I agree most drummers would prefer a "real" kit. But the challenge is balancing the practicalities against the musicalities, so to speak. If you meet in a hired hall, or a multi-function room, you probably need to transport a kit to the site, or hire space to store it, which is a whole lot easier with an electronic kit than a conventional set-up. And it takes a lot longer to set up an acoustic kit, especially if you need to set up multiple mikes for the kit (assuming the desk has enough channels). And in a small hall it needs a skilled and sensitive drummer to avoid dominating the mix.

Sounds as it you've had challenges getting sound guys with the right skills and sensitivities. That's a common problem but worthy of a discussion in itself. (Maybe I'll start one.)

The reality is that, for many small churches, there just isn't the space to fit / store / transport a conventional drum kit, the time to set it up, or skilled enough drummers to use the huge dynamic range sensitively. I'm looking for thoughts - hopefully from drummers - on how to work through this. A cajon is a good solution in some ways - quieter, very compact - but has a limited range of sounds, difficult to merge with other percussion instruments (unless you have drummers with four arms) and puts a different feel into the music. Which may or may not be what you want.

So my question is - if a full acoustic kit isn't possible, for practical reasons - what are the best alternatives? 


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