Today I want to talk about electronic auxiliary percussion. I currently use an Alesis PercPad (in place of a rack tom) and occasionally the Alesis Sample Pad. Both units have a variety of built in percussion libraries and are great for adding samples to your rig. My primary use of the PercPad is for electronic toms of which I have fondness for. Ever since Alex Van Halen sparked controversy among fans by using a hybrid electronic/acoustic set-up during the 5150 tour I’ve been interested in duplicating that tom sound (see here: https://youtu.be/XfH_dnPae0c). I also use it occasionally for sound effects. When using them as solitary units each one runs through a splitter directly into an amplifier. (This configuration would run through a mixer in a band setting.) I program sequential tom samples into each of the PercPad’s four pads and mount the unit off of a short cymbal stand slightly above the bass drum where a rack tom would normally sit. This does require some precision of stick placement but for the most part it is seamless.
According to the Alesis catalog:
The PercPad enables you to add four drum pads and an optional kick trigger to your acoustic or electronic kit or percussion setup. It’s compact, easy to fit into tight setups, easy to use, and it contains sounds that are perfect for accessorizing standard drum sets. The PercPad has four velocity-sensitive pads, a kick input, and high-quality internal sounds, all in a compact size that’s the perfect choice for drummers and other instrumentalists looking to start incorporating electronic percussion into their setups. Unlike massive, overcomplicated multi-percussion units, the PercPad is specifically designed to be small and self-contained with just what you need and nothing you don’t. The PercPad has a collection of acoustic and electronic drum and percussion that are perfectly suited to the needs of drummers and percussionists. You can easily tune and edit sounds, and assign any sound to any pad, or to the kick input. If the internal sound library doesn’t contain the sounds you need, the PercPad has a MIDI connection to you can use it to trigger sounds from any MIDI sound module or software on Mac or PC.
It is important to note that these electronic units are used to complement the acoustic portion of the kit (kick, snare, floor tom) not replace them. In order to properly utilize a hybrid configuration the overall sound of the drum kit must be balanced. Proper tuning must remain a priority (both acoustically and electronically) as hybrid drums should not replace the tonal stability of the kit. In addition, the rebound of the electronic pads is less than the acoustic toms and must be compensated with more powerful strokes. Despite these minor challenges the PercPad can expand your sound well beyond the confines of a standard acoustic kit and open up a whole new world of sonic possibilities.