Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Ion Kit (update)

I posted a while back that I'd purchased the Ion Drum Rocker. After some time with the kit, here's an update on my experience.

First off, I'm still really, really pleased. For what it does, and what it costs, it's terrific. And if you want to upgrade it a bit (not that I, cough, know anyone who's done that), it's very simple. The kick pedal is still largely crap (Omega Pedal FTW), but everything else is excellent.

Second, it's one hell of an adjustment.

How? Glad you asked.
1. Just getting the kit in the optimal position for every pad and every cymbal is a very methodical process. It was only late last week that I felt like I had (finally!) set up the kit exactly the way it should be in terms of positoning. This is true of any drum kit, but that's kind of the point--it is a drum kit, so it's exponentially more flexible in terms of setup.

2. Moving around the kit in terms of playing is much more difficult than using the stock RB drums. Without cymbals, a stock kit basically just requires you to move right and left as required. With cymbals, you've added height into the equation. With the Ion, you have both height to consider and the separation of the pads as well. Again, it's a drum kit, and that's a big difference.

3. The note charts themselves are an adjustment. Here's what I've basically been doing. Unless I hear otherwise (the toms are easy to hear), I assume that yellow and blue notes are all cymbal notes, particularly repetitive sections. This would also be true of the green note, but I don't have a third cymbal yet. I highly recommend that third cymbal, because there are plenty of songs where you go from a blue cymbal note to a green cymbal note, then back to blue (or something like that), and trying to hit a pad instead because you're missing a cymbal just feels wrong.

If it sounds impossible to decode the note charts on the fly, believe me, it's not--I don't have a particularly good ear, and I can do it without much trouble. No, it's not exact, but I'm sure I'm getting 95%+ on most songs in terms of correctly deciding whether to hit a tom or a cymbal. And you'll (very quickly) start recognizing places where you do use the toms (like the "roll" sections where you have four 1/16 notes with the red pad, then the yellow pad, then the blue pad, etc. Plus, when the toms are used, they're often used for emphasis, which means they're loud and easy to hear.

So how much more fun is to play this way? Oh, hell, it's infinitely more fun. Even if your scores aren't as good (because you're playing on a much more demanding setup), It absolutely feels like you're playing the drums--because you are playing the drums. And it's much, much more satisfying to be hitting cymbals when you hear cymbal notes than smacking a pad.

I'm doing an experiment with "Too Hard to Handle," which is both DLC and the beat I'm learning for my drum lesson (it's the two main beat patterns in the verses). I'm going to try to learn the entire song from memory (not as hard as it sounds to learn most of it), then play it on the real kit I use in my lesson. I can play it at 90% on Expert now, so it will be interesting to see how it sounds when I have to keep the beat instead of follow the beat on the screen.

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