Electronically Authentic: Roland Launches New Additions to Electronic Drum Line

by Victoria Wasylak • in
  • Issue Articles
  • June 2018
• Created: June 11, 2018

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Can electronic drums be authentic? For Roland, the answer is a resounding yes.

The company gathered members of the press and notable drummers at their United States headquarters in Los Angeles, California, on May 8 to launch their newest additions to their line of electronic drums: the TD-17 series of electronic drum kits, the KD-220 and KD-180 bass drums, the PDX-12 snare pad, the VH-10 V-Hi-Hat, and the KD-10 kick pad.

The TD-17 Series includes three new kits: the KV, the KVX, the upper model with a second crash and new VH-10 hi-hats, and the KL, which is essentially the “light” version of the kit.

Also added to the roster were the new flagship TD-50KVX V-Drums kit and new mid-level TD-25KVX V-Drums kit. “Percussion in its many forms has been at the heart of our foundation for 50 years,” said Roland Global CSO & senior executive officer Gordon Raison during the unveiling on May 8, which was also livestreamed online.

Developed by 15 different Roland team members over a year and a half, these additions to the already-existing V-Drums products build on their legitimate drum sounds with new technology, such as advanced Prismatic Sound Modeling, which mimics the exact sound and reaction a drum would make based on where the drum pads are hit by a drummer.

The final result is different kits that provide an engaging experience and sound and behave like acoustic drum kits.

“We call it prismatic because it’s very much like a prism. You get one input – one beam of light comes in and you get a rainbow, which flies out the other side,” explains Jules Tabberer-Stewart, Roland’s global strategic product marketing manager for the drums category. “If you take that analogy in terms of drumming, if I were to play an acoustic snare drum in front of me right now, and I do one hit, what’s going to happen is I’m going to get tone from the drumhead, but the drumhead is going to interact with the drum shell, and that’s going to affect the same wires, and all of those materials start reacting to one another.”

“What Prismatics does is it takes that input from the drummer – a single hit – and it virtually (in the model) understands how all those materials would interact together and behave, and it means that the second hit, and the third hit, and the forth hit don’t sound like the first hit,” Tabberer-Stewart adds.

The kits also feature the “time check” tool, which players can use to monitor their progress and Roland affirms can help drummers learn and improve faster. An improvement over using a metronome, players can use this tool to adjust the settings on tempo and time signatures, as well as when warming up.

A major plus for the kits in the TD-17 series are their ability to pair with smartphones via Bluetooth technology, allowing players to access lessons, YouTube, and drum-less tracks to practice with. The kits also are able to read SD cards loaded with music and can slow down or speed up the music to help drummers learn better.

“If you’re going to invest in a hobby, you want it to be fun, because if it’s fun, it’s going to be motivational,” Tabberer-Stewart notes. “If it’s anything but inspiring, it’s going to be that thing that sits in the corner that you tap occasionally.”

The entirety of the drums are centered around technology, says Takahiro Murai, Roland Corporation product leader of R&D, drums and percussion, aiming the kits at the younger generations that are accustomed to using smartphones and advanced technology in their everyday lives. “Modern technology is a very key feature,” he says.

The new kits go so far as to include updated drum sounds throughout their included sound libraries to match those used in current popular music. “We killed some of our darlings [sounds],” says Michael Schack, Roland product artist, who was on-deck during the launch as a demo drummer enlisted to show off the capabilities of the new kits. Schack’s comment makes it clear that Roland have departed from some of the well-used sounds of the past, choosing to focus on the creation of new and updated sound libraries for their newest V-Drums.

Tabberer-Stewart noted that the best fit for the kits range from student players as young as 10 to hobbyists in their 30s. Being electronic, of course, the kits are easier to move and store, and make far less noise than acoustic kits, making them ideal for many players.

“I talk to a lot of people who are using our gear, and most of them are using it at home or at some kind of studio,” Tabberer-Stewart notes. “When it comes to electronic drums, there’s the noise factor. An acoustic kit – when you’re trying to play it in a family house or apartment or wherever – it’s big and it takes up a lot of space, and it’s noisy and cumbersome. Although it feels very rewarding to play, those are the immediate challenges. That’s probably why we’ve seen really big growth in electronic drums in the last 20 years.”

The launch also coincided with Roland’s new partnership with Melodics, a practice habit and feedback app for identifying mistakes and missed notes while playing an instrument. Much like Guitar Hero, the app keeps tracks of incorrect notes and streaks of correct notes, as well as if the player hits any notes too early or late. Every set of V-Drums comes with the Melodics app and 40 free lessons.

“We are definitely in the premium range of electronic drums. What we put into the product in terms of R & D, technology, investment in that,” Tabberer-Stewart says. “It’s not just about one thing – like sound – it’s not just about the pads, it’s not just about the sensing, it’s all of those things coming together and working together in harmony – and that’s our strength.”

After launching their new additions to the V-Drums family, Roland hosted a party to celebrate the grand opening of their Los Angeles Artist Relations Center, located on the second floor of their United States headquarters. The new center will allow artists to use the room and equipment for content creation, streaming events, demos and rehearsals, complete with audio and video product support specialists on hand to assist.

“It is the goal of Roland and BOSS to support our family of artists on a multitude of levels, including leveraging our company’s social media reach to their benefit,” says Brian Alli, Roland’s vice president of global influencers. “We have a special passion for these artists – both emerging and established – and with the opening of this new Artist Relations Center in L.A., we look forward to broadening our activities in regard to the content we can create together. We also learn a huge amount from our artists – for instance, their unique real-world needs and insights, which we can bring back to R&D, and in turn can help drive the products we bring to market. Sometimes an artist will use one of our instruments in a way we never imagined, and that can be a real breakthrough for our engineering team.”

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