plugged-in

The DRUM! Glossary Of Electronic Percussion

STACK: Another trick is the ability to play more than one MIDI note (perhaps even over different MIDI channels) on a single strike. When this feature is available, you could play a number of sounds with a single stroke (bass drum, bass guitar, cymbal crash, and synth stab, for example).

Electronic drums don’t feel exactly the same as an acoustic instrument. That’s to be expected, of course. Certain features of electronic kits allow you to adjust the way the pads will respond to your playing style.

THRESHOLD: A controller that has a threshold adjustment allows the player to set the minimum amount of force that will cause a sound to play. Any strike below the threshold will not “be seen” by the controller, while any strike above the threshold will be recognized.

SENSITIVITY: A pad’s sensitivity is closely related to its threshold. When you set the sensitivity to a lower value, you’re making the pad more sensitive to lighter strokes. If you have a very light touch, you might want to lower both your sensitivity and your threshold.

Electronic Percussion

VELOCITY CURVE: Since we’re dealing with electronic percussion, the strength of your playing (your physical dynamics), don’t always have to match the volume of sound your strokes produce. By calling up a particular velocity curve, you can adjust how the strength of the sound relates to the strength of your stroke. Some velocity curves have a natural relationship between more powerful strokes and more powerful sounds. Other types of velocity curves follow an inverse relationship or a relationship that provides wide dynamic sound within minimal physical dynamics.

MIDI INTERFACE: A MIDI interface is the box that connects your electronic instruments to your computer, smart phone, or tablet. MIDI interfaces can be very basic with a single MIDI-In and MIDI-Out jack, or they can contain multiple inputs and outputs for more sophisticated electronic music rigs.

MIDI-OUT: A MIDI-Out connection carries the MIDI messages from the device you’re playing to another device.

MIDI-IN: A MIDI-In connection brings MIDI messages into your device from another device. For example, when you connect your electronic kit to the MIDI interface of your computer, you’ll connect a MIDI cable from the MIDI-Out jack of the drum kit to the MIDI-In jack of the interface. If you want to send MIDI messages from your computer to your drum kit (to store extra patches, for example), you’ll connect a cable from the MIDI-Out of the interface to the MIDI-In of your drum kit.

Electronic Percussion

SYNTHESIS (Responding to the MIDI data)

In today’s electronic percussion rig, virtual synthesis has nearly replaced hardware synthesis (think about a software synthesizer inside your computer rather than a dedicated box sitting on a shelf). While it’s true that many electronic drum kits still include their own dedicated hardware sound modules, many electronic drummers are connecting their pads directly to their computer either through USB or with a MIDI interface. DAWs and Plug-ins are the waves of the future.

DAW: An acronym for Digital Audio Workstation. A DAW is a piece of software or hardware that is designed to record, edit, manipulate, and play back digital audio recordings. Popular examples of this type of software are Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Logic, Cakewalk, and Sonar. DAWs can also integrate plug-ins and virtual synths.

Electronic Percussion

PLUG-INS: Plug-ins are a classification of small software programs that can be used inside a DAW. Most often these little programs are effect processors that provide echo, reverb, distortion, or pitch correction. Some plug-ins are larger programs called virtual instruments.

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