JUST LIKE LENNON AND MCCARTNEY, HOW DID ELECTRONIC AND ACOUSTIC DRUMS END UP WORKING SO WELL TOGETHER?
New Wave, synthpop, hip-hop, house, electro, pop… The late ’70s and early ’80s produced swathes of classic music. Music technology, recording processes, the microchip and the synth all gave rise to new music – and new ways of approaching it. However, it was also an unnerving time for drummers, as while the acoustic drum kit and the drummer were still prevalent, some composers had no need for the skills of a ‘real’ drummer. Until the advent of the electronic drum kit, hip-hop, house, electro and similar genres were partially defined by the sound of the drum machine and synthesized drum.
Many professional session drummers made the switch to an electronic kit as a way to secure regular work. For the artists that hired them, the sound achieved was electronic, but they still had the natural feel of a drummer and the visual aspect of a drummer on stage. As the ’80s drew to a close, electronic drums and the drum machine became the mainstay of acid house, electro, breakbeat, techno and the emerging dance and rave scenes, while mainstream music’s love affair with the electronic drum kit had faded slightly, when acts once again favoured acoustic drums for their look and sound.
From the late ’90s, the lines between what was ‘band’ (read: acoustic) and what was ‘dance’ (read: electronic) music became blurred. By 1997, it was accepted that indie fans would also own a repertoire of dance music. Leftfield, The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers became rock ’n’ roll and were the poster boys of mainstream dance.
THE BIRTH OF HYBRID
These artists were well versed in sampling acoustic drums, cymbals and percussion, while drum and bass artists such as Roni Size and Asian Dub Foundation took it a step further, using acoustic drums in the studio and on the stage. Meanwhile, pop acts such as the Spice Girls, Robbie Williams and the Sugababes started to include a dance element by adding electronic drum loops and samples that would sit alongside an acoustic drum track. The fans would expect to see and hear the album in the live arena shows as they would on CD, without miming. The stage show had to ‘sound like’ the album. In many cases, Musical Directors would want everything from the exact drum sound and samples, as they appeared on the album, to be replicated live.
It wasn’t exclusively the pop and session circuit that saw acoustic drums and electronic kits sit side by side, either. The commercial development of the electronic drum kit in the late ’70s and early ’80s saw many drummers dabble with the hybrid kit – Zappa alumni Terry Bozzio and INXS drummer John Farriss spring to mind. US glam metal and thrash metal bands, including Mötley Crüe, had been triggering their acoustic drums with electronic kick and snare sounds for some time, creating a sound big enough to fill outdoor stadiums that otherwise would have been lost by using microphones alone.
Over the years, hybrid pioneers Neil Peart (Rush), Keith LeBlanc (Tackhead) and Danny Carey (Tool) have developed near-legendary hybrid setups, enabling access, when playing live, to original album sounds at the tap of a pad.
Today, musical boundaries are being dismantled further as musicians continue to revel in experimentation and cross over. Urban meets rock, blues meets dance, jazz meets hip-hop – the more creative we become as musicians, the greater the need for electronic and acoustic instruments to work in harmony. The hybrid drum allows drummers to stay in control of percussion, to harness untold creativity with a wider range of sound, and to sample and trigger at will.
“The hybrid drum setup allows drummers to stay in control of percussion, to harness untold creativity with a wider range of sound and the ability to sample and trigger at will”
Thanks to hybrid drums, you now have the limitless power and cutting-edge technology needed to achieve the sounds you’ve long had running around in your mind. So go forth and push the boundaries even further – hybrid drumming is ready to back you up.