Rather than fork out on a big acoustic looking electronic kit, you might be one of the many who has invested in an A2E conversion kit. If you are unfamiliar with the term A2E, it means Acoustic to Electronic, meaning you take an acoustic kit, stick mesh heads on it, use triggers and electronic cymbal pads, and there you have it – an electronic kit which looks like an acoustic.
The idea for this has been around for decades – I remember seeing an acoustic kit with ddrum pads hidden inside the shells back when I was a kid – but the idea has become more popular over the last 10 years or so.
If you are considering going down this route, then there are a few things to consider – firstly, it doesn’t matter how good or bad the shells are. As they will have no acoustic impact on the sound, they can be ultra cheap or whatever you have to hand.
If you are intending on gigging it, then looks are important, but if it is for home use only, then a £50/$50/€50 kit from Gumtree/Craigs List/eBay/Kijiji etc will do the job.
Except it wont…
…because we drummer are fussy about things like that, so it has to look at least half decent. But if we weren’t so insecure… then the £50/$50/€50 kit would do!
I wont talk about mesh heads as I spent ages on it here http://mikedolbear.com/seriously-wired/not-all-heads-are-the-same/ and here http://mikedolbear.com/seriously-wired/mesh-again/ but lets just mention something that is rarely written about;
Mesh heads can seriously damage your nice, expensive, bearing edges.
Yes, as you hit your mesh head, each strand that is at right-angles to the bearing edge acts like a little saw and will cut small grooves into your edges over time. The cheaper the drum, the softer the wood, the quicker the damage. I use a nice Yamaha Birch Custom Absolute kit as my teaching kit, complete with mesh heads and triggers, and the last time I changed heads, I was shocked by how much damage the mesh heads had done to the edges.
So, what can you do? Well, the easiest thing is to buy some rubber U-channel, like the stuff you put on your rims to cut down the noise of you accidentally hitting it (the official term is ‘rim condom’ I believe), cut it to length, and put that over your bearing edges, under the mesh heads. Not only does this protect your edges, but it also (as I discovered on a project some year ago) dampens the mesh head, cleans up the trigger signal, and so improves the triggering overall.
Then we come to triggers, and you can either go with internal or external triggers. Now, I know the idea of internal triggers are very popular (especially in the world of bedroom players), but in the serious world or touring drummers (which lets face it is surely the pinnacle of what most drummers want to do) internal triggers don’t get a look in. This is because, if anything goes wrong, you cant get to the trigger without removing a head – sure, it looks nice, but practically its a pain.
I know at this point that some people will be shouting ‘Yes, but you can’t get positional sensing from an edge trigger’.
Well, maybe not (give it time…) but if you are playing the Royal Albert Hall/ Shea Stadium/ Budokan and any audience member can hear your positional sensing, I’ll buy you breakfast for a year.
So while, PS is not pointless, its not really something to worry about when you look at the big picture.
So external triggers work great for live – if one breaks, just slap on another and transfer the trigger cable. You can even leave the trigger on when you put them in their cases – I did a whole tour without touching the triggers – just remember to place a firm block of foam on the top head with a cut out for the trigger so that if they are stacked the pressure isn’t taken by the trigger.
So to sum up (and we WILL come back to this);
Any kit will do, but sometimes looks are important
It doesn’t need to be expensive
Cover the bearing edges to protect them from the mesh heads
If you’re using the kit live, use external triggers incase anything breaks
Positional sensing is not important live
Leave the triggers on, but protect them in the cases
Fabulous. Here’s to next time.