Rig Rundown : In The Heights

When I heard that I’d be playing alongside a percussion player for In The Heights, I had visions of a simplified drum setup with minimal program changes to worry about.  This was a short-lived dream, however, as the drum part has plenty of incidental percussion and various electronic and sampled sounds that needed to find a home on my kit.

In the end, this turned out to be my largest kit yet thanks to a Roland TMC-6 trigger-to-MIDI converter that provided 6 additional trigger inputs (and at least that many headaches).

Read on for all the fun details!

Three Become Two

The Broadway show and cast recording are supported by percussionists Wilson Torres and Doug Hinrichs and drummer Andres Patrick Forero.  The “Tour” score that we are working from calls for just two players and, comparing the score to what I hear on the cast recording, I can’t really tell what they cut out.  It seems like they just gave us each 50% more work to do!

To support my role as part-time percussionist, I had to find a home for a number of instruments:

  • Timbales
  • Shakers
  • Maracas
  • Metal Guiro (discussed in detail in this post)
  • Various blocks (wood, clave, jam, granite)
  • Various cowbells (Cha Bell, Bongo Bell)
  • Triangle


The key to building my hybrid In The Heights kit was the addition of a Roland TMC-6 trigger-to-MIDI converter.  The TMC-6 provides 6 additional trigger inputs that are converted to MIDI signals received by the TD-30.  The TMC-6 uses the same V-Drum triggering technology as the TD-30 so setting up the triggers was a familiar exercise and the feel of the pads was the same as plugging directly into the TD-30.

The TD-30 has a background Percussion Kit on MIDI channel 11, and  is what I set the TMC-6 to broadcast on.  Once I started customizing the percussion kit for the extra triggers, the learning experience started.  I’ve put a few notes in a separate post, for those of you that want all the gory details: Roland TD-30 + TMC-6.

Even with the issues I noted, the TD-30 + TMC-6 has proven to be a solid solution to building a bigger, faster, stronger kit for this show.


Custom Kits

As usual, I started my setup by listening to the cast recording and searching the TD-30 default kits for a good staring point.  I settled on the piccolo kit (#47)  and got to work customizing it.

My first step was to dampen the toms and kick.  The toms sound great by themselves, but ring out far too much for a performance setting, especially if there is any reverb added by the house PA system.  I was having trouble taming the kick until I turned off “Kit Resonance”.  This is a nice touch to add some realism (similar to “Snare Buzz”) but it made the kick very uncontrollable.

I ended up with “Felt 1” damping on the toms a “Blanket” in the Kick making for a nice tight kit.


In The Heights called for an assortment of snare drums adding piccolo and soprano snares to the base kit.  My go-to snare has been the TD-30 “Stainless Steel” snare (#158).  I wish it had editable damping and strainer options but I keep returning to it anyway for its overall sound.

Sure enough, the TD-30 piccolo set uses a modified version of the #158 snare, and that it was also the base  for my regular snare (stealing the patch from my Legally Blonde kit).  The TD-30 does not have a soprano snare so I customized the “Cooly Maple” snare (#198) to create one.

Finally, the lively Carnival del Barrio calls for a “Repinique”, which is not to be found in the TD-30.  I tried using a Reqinique sample in the Vir2 World Impact Percussion library discussed in my Güira post, but opted for a snares-off version of the TD-30 “Open Brass” snare (#180) to allow  better control of rim shots than I was able to get from the Kontakt player.

Where’s the drum solo?

I had an “interesting” first rehearsal of the number 96,000 when, during a moment of silence, our musical director stopped, looked at me and asked “were was the drum solo”?  My score showed a bar of cues that matched some electronica in the cast recording that I had assumed would come from the synth player.  I took a note, played a lame fill the next time through, and made sure to listen for other sounds / samples that were missing.

At home, I went in search of the Dance Hall, Hip Hop and R&B sounds on the cast recording of 96,000.  As I was demoing TD-30 kits, I hit a cymbal on the “Hip Hop” kit and heard a familiar sound.  The “Philly Hit” patch was a nearly identical match to the sound of that missing “drum solo”.  Problem solved!

I’d later find out that a number of these missing sounds are marked as cues in *all* of our books, apparently coming from a backing track that we did not use.

I mostly don’t tune my drums, mostly.

To add bottom-end to the “Dance Hall” section of 96,000,  I used the synth  “Dancer Kick” patch (#119) but my plan failed when I noticed it was out of tune with the band.  It turns out I needed this in 4 different pitches throughout the song.

Trying to conserve triggers, I squeaked out 2 notes from one trigger using the Hi-Hat “Pedal Bend” feature to control the pitch of a BT-1 leaving the kick and my left-hand snare to round out the 4 needed pitches.


Act I of In The Heights ends with the dramatic Blackout scene.  The opening drum part reflects the extremes shown on stage by opposing a high pitched roto tom with a low floor tom.  Feeling I could do more than just add a roto tom, I swapped out my 16″ floor tom for its 18″ bigger brother, and used an 8″ roto tom tuned +12 for the top end.

I’ve not yet heard this from the house, but I have a feeling I’m giving the PA system a nice workout.


I had started with the timbales on my left side and, after struggling with some sticking issues (as in, how the hell did he play that?), I found a video of Doug, Wilson and Andres playing songs from the show and noticed that his timbales were on his right side, inserted between his two lowest toms.

This configuration made the sticking easier but also made reaching the low floor tom when going “around the horn” a bit tricky.  Nonetheless, I ended up emulating his setup very closely as shown below:

In The Heights Layout

The tables below list the various TD-30 instruments that were assigned to each trigger as I moved through the 42 different program changes needed for this show. Triggers circled in cyan above were connected via the TMC-6.


Name Type Usage TD-30 Patches
Kick (not shown) KD-120 Kick Drum
Hip Hop Kick
Dance Hall Kick (Pitch #1)
#6 – 22″ Classic Maple
#83 – Tight3 K
#119 – Dancer K
#838 – Tambourine 2
Snare (SNR1) PD-128S Standard Snare
Piccolo Snare
Standard (Snares off)
Hip Hop Snare
#158 – Stainless (6″ @ +0)
#158 – Stainless (3″ @ +32)
#178 – Craft Steel
#277 – Processed Stainless
Hi Hat VH-13 Hi Hat #597 – Custom HB
Left Snare (SNR2) PD-85 Snare Drum
Granite Block
Finger Snaps
Soprano Snare
Floor Tom
Snare (Brushes)
Dance Hall Kick (Pitch #2)
#158 – Stainless
#830 – Claves
#831 – Square Block
#1071 – Finger Snaps
#198 – CoolyMpl (6″ @ +60)
#351 – 16″Custom T4 (+3)
#240 – Brush1 Snare
#119 – Dancer K
#180 – Open Brass (snares off)
Tom 1 PD-85 High Tom
Roto Tom
Mallet Hi Tom
#345 – 10″Custom T1 (+60)
#487 – 8″ Roto T1 (+12)
#541 – Mallet T1 (+18)
Tom 2 PD-105 Mid Tom
Mallet Mid Tom
#345 – 10″Custom T1 (+18)
#543 – Mallet T3 (+22)
Tom 3 PD-105 Low Tom
Mallet Low Tom
#349 – 14″Custom T3 (+22)
#543 – Mallet T3 (+0)
Tom 4 PD-125 Floor Tom
Basement Tom
Mallet Floor Tom
#351 – 16″Custom T4 (+3)
#353 – 18″Custom T5 (+0)
#544 – Mallet T4 (+3)
Cym 1 CY-14C Crash 1 #667 – 16″ Paper Crash
Cym 2 CY-8 Splash
#687 – 6″SplazhSp
#838 – Tambourine2
#836 – Shaker
Cym 3 CY-14C Crash 2 #657 – 17″ Dark Crash
Ride Cym CY-15R Ride Cymbal #725 – 20″CustmRd
Bar 1 BT-1 Cowbell
Woodblock Hi
Woodblock #2
Record Scratch
Reverse Cymbal
Dance Hall Kick (Pitch #1 & #3)
#829 – Cowbell Mambo
#938 – Triangle
#1071 – Finger Snaps
#830 – Claves
#836 – Shaker
#834 – Maracas
#832 – Block Hi
#831 – Square Block
#1048 – Scratch1
#1083 – Revers2 China
#119 – Dancer K
Bar 2 BT-1 Güira (via MainStage)
Jam Block
#1102 – Off
#834 – Maracas
#829 – Cowbell Mambo
#836 – Shaker
#831 – Square Block


Timb Hi PD-125 Timbale Hi #817 – Timbale2 Hi
Timb Lo PD-125 Timbale Lo
#820 – Timbale 2 Lo (Head)
#822 – Timbale 2 Lo Paila (Rim)
Cym 4 CY-8 China Crash #713 – 20″ China Crash

Equipment Used

  • Roland TD-30 Sound Module
  • Roland TMC-6 Trigger-to-MIDI Converter
  • Roland KD-120 Kick Drum
  • Roland PD-128S Snare Drum
  • Roland VH-13 Hi Hat
  • Roland PD-85 8″ V-Pad x2
  • Roland PD-105 10″ V-Pad x2
  • Roland PD-125 12″ V-Pad x4
  • Roland CY-15R Ride Cymbal
  • Roland CY-14 Crash Cymbal x2
  • Roland CY-8 Cymbal Trigger x2
  • Roland BT-1 Bar Trigger Pad x2
  • MainStage 3
  • MacBook Pro
  • KSC Q12 Monitor
  • Vic Firth 7AN Sticks

Post your questions / comments below or use the Contact Page to send me an e-mail.

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