In the pursuit of finding a near-indestructable, non-skipping piece of gear that could be used for playing backing tracks in a live show, I have used MiniDisc, iPod, and 8-track digital recorders to get the job done. Each one of them have their pros and cons. But, I have had troubles with all of them at some point, usually in the middle of a show.
So, after a few frustrating gigs with a MiniDisc player that wouldn’t play nice, I decided to see if the Roland SPD-S Sampling Pad would be able to load and play entire songs. Billy Hyde Music’s drum department(*) here in Melbourne was gracious enough to lend me the SPD-S to demo it in a live situation.
The first thing I did with the SPD-S was max out it’s Compact Flash memory, which at the moment is only 512MB. It does not recognize anything larger, and according to Roland support, that is because the unit’s software was written before 1GB and 2GB CF cards were invented. I then loaded 20 full songs into the machine with no problems. Although it took a while for the machine to compress and store the files, once they were burned into the Compact Flash card, they would play flawlessly, and instantly. No delay.
I then setup one patch per track and assigned one song to a pad in the patch that I could start and stop by striking it with a stick. This way, I can use the patch UP and DOWN buttons to scroll through songs. The real beauty of the SPD-S though is that the tracks start immediately as you strike the pad. This worked brilliantly, especially for segues. If you are familiar enough with the tempo of a tune, you can setup a few pads to play a few songs in a row which really keeps the “live” feel.
Anytime you use electronic gear, you are bound to run into some glitches, like a power surge or better still, a deadly power outage! But, I find that the Roland SPD-S minimizes those glitches because it uses Compact Flash memory, so there are no moving parts which means that it won’t skip. Eureka!