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Bryan Bisordi: Live Effects with Drums

Bryan Bisordi Drummer with Effects Pedals

With numerous album credits and national and international tours under his belt, drummer Bryan Bisordi is constantly making music with several different projects including Lip TalkD.A.R.K.CosmicideRaia WasJanitaTwintapesGreat ElkLizzie and the MakersJason Sager, and Big Plastic, to name more than a few. As you are about to see, integrating live effects and other electronics into his drumming has become a part of Bryan’s musical voice, self-expression, and inspiration. In the video below, you can see and hear him playing his setup, which includes Deco and TimeLine.

Can you tell us about the setup you are using for your drums in the video?

My setup is centered around the Roland SPD-SX, which is accomplishing three things: (1) triggering samples via acoustic drum triggers, (2) sending MIDI information from the triggers to an Ableton Live synth, and (3) triggering bass synth samples from the nine SPD-SX pads. There are triggers on the kick, snare, and floor tom, and a homemade trigger on the 10” hi hats, and all those samples go through the pedalboard. I’m using the Deco for a little saturation and an LFO pitch shifting chorus effect that I think is really cool, and the TimeLine is doing bpm-locked delays clocked from Ableton. Especially loving the dTape and Lofi delay machines for noticeable delays, and Duck and dBucket for more subtle/background delays, kind of like constant ghost notes that I think add a really nice rhythmic foundation.

I also had some experience with TouchOSC, and the MIDI capabilities of the TimeLine led me to make a template that controls every aspect of the pedal from an iPad. Since every parameter has a MIDI CC, you can get very deep with controlling functionality and creating patches without even touching the pedal. It’s a ton of fun!

This setup is very similar to the live rig I use most often, but many times I’ll leave the computer at home. That’s one of the most exciting aspects of the Strymon pedals: they provide nearly as much flexibility and depth as running a computer-only rig, minus the stress, possible latency, and CPU strain, and having to babysit a computer and interface.

Check out Bryan’s setup in detail below:

Bryan Bisordi Effects Pedal Drum Setup

When did you first start using effects with drums and how did you get the idea?

One of the projects I perform with, Lip Talk, has a song called “After All” incorporating a drum machine loop, and a while ago we experimented with using a delay pedal in the outro to mangle the loop. It was a lot of fun, and that led me down the rabbit hole! From there I started buying reverbs, filters, and overdrives, and when it quickly became clear that I needed a tempo locked delay pedal, a buddy steered me straight to the TimeLine.

I really want to bring “studio” tools used on drums, like slapback delays, rhythmic compression and delays, gated reverb, etc., into live performance with electronics/triggers and live drums. The possibilities are wide open, and though these tools are utilized for big national acts bringing outboard gear, I want to incorporate it into venues of all sizes and have full realtime control from the kit. In Cosmicide and D.A.R.K., the delay presets and effects for each song are fixed without many changes night-to-night, but in other projects like Lip Talk I’m able to use these tools more improvisationally.

You are in quite a few bands. Can you tell us a little bit about each of them and what your current project is?

I mainly work freelance in NYC, but these are three projects I’m very excited about that allow me to really work the Strymon rig.

I began working with D.A.R.K. at the end of 2015. They’d finished up their album and I put together their Ableton playback rig for the live show. The band is fronted by Dolores O’Riordan, Andy Rourke, and Olé Koretsky. It’s an honor to work with them. Dolores and Andy are legends and sound so amazing! I’ve had a great time incorporating effects in with the playback tracks, and there will be a few surprises for audiences. The album is slated for release in Aug./Sept., and we’ll be touring in Europe mid-September in support of the album.

Lip Talk is an art rock band based in Brooklyn. I’ve been with them for three years and it’s the band where I’ve gotten to stretch out the most with experimentation. The leader and songwriter is Sarah Pedinotti, whose drum programming and vocal effects are an inspiration as well. I’m using the TimeLine for probably half of these sets in various capacities. This summer we’re playing festivals and finishing our first full length album, which we hope to release in the fall.

Cosmicide is the newest project from Brandon Curtis of The Secret Machines. We toured for four weeks opening for Interpol last summer, which really solidified the band and the songs, and I’m loving how the live show is translating. Brandon is an inventive audio engineer, especially for drums, and we’ve worked hard at bringing his drum production to the live show. The Deco has come in especially handy for getting a lot of grit on the drum sound. We have a residency at C’Mon Everybody in Brooklyn this June.

Any tips for other drummers that would like to experiment with effects?

I’d say to do exactly that – experiment. Improvising using effects opened up a huge world of exploration for me. And if I couldn’t accomplish an idea with my current roster of pedals then I’d search for a way to do it. A lot of times I’d hear an effect on a record, scheme a way to mimic it live (with differing levels of success), and inevitably stumble into something cool. Delays are a great starting point. Just getting to interact with yourself is so much fun – almost as if you’re playing along with a second drummer.

Also, running drum machines through a pedalboard is a great way to try out ideas. I think that’s really the way I figured out how I wanted to use effects with the drum set. You can just let the drum machine run, step back, and listen to how each pedal is effecting the signal. It can inform how the effects will react live when you want to hear a certain sound.

It’s also cool that these effects are so applicable to the studio as well, both as outboard on a mix-bus or committing to a sound and just tracking it! I think hearing the effects while tracking changes the way you play because you’re reacting to the sounds organically.

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6 Responses

  1. Hi! there’s one thing that I can’t understand. Why the SPD bass synths aren’t affected by pedals? triggered sounds and synths are stored on Roland SPD, not?


    1. Hi Pablo, I reached out to Bryan and he said “Hey! Good question, and that’s one of the cool aspects of the SPD-SX. It’s got dual stereo outs (main / sub) so all the drum sounds are out of the mains, all the bass routed out the sub-outs. The bass is also going through a different pedal chain for some slight overdrive and compression. Hope that helps!”

  2. I’d go as far to say that with a 32-bit processor like the M3 and a few MB of Flash, it’d be not just possible but easy! I was trying it with a 8-bit processor and no external memory, so it’s necessarily a lot more limited.

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