Amplifying Your WalkaBout

“I just ordered my WalkaBout Odyssey. What do you suggest for an amp? Is a regular instrument cable okay to use?”

As more and more people are discovering the WalkaBout Drum, we’re getting these questions quite often. And they are important questions too, especially if you want to get the absolute best sound out of your WalkaBout.

Odyssey Model

Because the WalkaBout Odyssey is equipped with a dual-source LRBaggs system, it has both a microphone and a pickup located internally, which makes it capable of amplifying both boomy lows and sizzling highs. In particular, an internal mic is key to amplifying the SounDots (Snare, Riqq, Tamb, etc.) which magnetically attach to the two internal DotSpots in the upper bout. The Odyssey comes from the factory in mono mode, so any quality 1/4 inch instrument cable should be fine to use, and it will output a single output. (To split your output to two-channel, we recommend reading the blog post, WalkaBout Secret Weapon.)

Venture Model

The Venture is equipped with a proprietary internal mic (i.e., unlike the Odyssey, there is no pickup). Thus, it is mono output only. As with the Odyssey, any quality 1/4 inch instrument cable will work with your Venture.

Plugging It In

Whether you have an Odyssey or Venture, we recommend that you plug your instrument cable into a full-range amp (like a keyboard amp or full-range powered monitor) or directly to your band’s PA system. Some acoustic guitar amps can work as well if they are full-range. In the hands of a seasoned street busker, an Odyssey and a full-range battery-powered speaker can be killer. The key is to have an amp that can amplify the full spectrum of sound (say 50 Hz-15 kHz or better). Note that we do not recommend using a guitar amp or bass amp, as both of these types of amps are tuned to their specific application, and aren’t capable of capturing the full frequency range of the WalkaBout. Frankly, it will sound a little thin and wanky.

Just like any other amplified acoustic drum, we recommend that you use equalization and compression, and perhaps some reverb, to round out your sound. Dialing in your settings will allow your WalkaBout to fill a big room with groov-ilicious sound. Of course, you can always go wireless too!

Do you have any tips that you use with your WalkaBout Drum? Let us know!

WalkaBout Secret Weapon: Two-Channel Output

When you receive your WalkaBout Drum, it’s set up from the factory in mono mode. In other words, all of the amplified sound that comes out of the drum comes from a single instrument cable which outputs to your amp, sound system, or recording system. In fact, your WalkaBout ships with an attached Post-It note which shows you the volume and mix dials for mono operation. It’s so simple to get a great sound right out of the box.

But did you know that you can easily switch your WalkaBout Odyssey* to two-channel mode?

Two-channel mode allows your WalkaBout Odyssey to output two separate sources: One from the internal mic (which captures the highs of the Snare or other SounDots) and one from the internal pickup (where all the beefy lows of the “kick” and “toms” exist). This allows you (or your sound tech) to mix the two sound sources independently, as well as add separate equalization, compression, and effects. If done properly, this can really make your highs sizzle, your snare pop, and your lows boom.

Reconfiguring your setup for two-channel output is simple and straightforward:

• On the Dual Source controller (see top photo) located inside your WalkaBout, flip the left top switch from “mono” to “stereo.”

• Instead of a regular instrument cable, use a male 1/4 inch TRS to dual male 1/4 inch cable (see photo below). Plug the TRS cable jack to the WalkaBout and send the “Y” portion of the cable (with the dual male outputs) to your amp or sound system. The two outputs will correspond to the internal mic and pickup.

That’s it! You’ll be sending separate audio signals, and your sound tech will love you for it. Please note that in two-channel mode, your dials are no longer controlling “volume” and “mix” as shown in the Post-It note. Instead, each dial becomes a volume control for either the internal mic or the pickup. This allows you to have control over how much sound is output from both these sources.

Use two-channel mode to literally dial in your sound. It’s a secret weapon that will really make a difference in your mix.


The WalkaBout in Houses of Worship

We’re seeing the WalkaBout Drum being used more and more in houses of worship. From small church sanctuaries to mega-church stages, we’re finding that the WalkaBout can have a significant role in worship. And there are a number of good reasons why.

The WalkaBout Drum vs. the Cajon. In many worship venues, the cajon (a box-shaped percussion instrument you sit on) has become the de facto alternative to the drum set. But the WalkaBout is superior to the cajon in practically every way. The WalkaBout has a greater number of sounds and expression than the cajon. The WalkaBout doesn’t need to be mic’d. A WalkaBout drummer requires a smaller stage footprint but has greater stage presence. For many churches, the WalkaBout Drum just makes sense. Here’s a video comparing the cajon to a WalkaBout. Check it out.

Drummers Take a Stand! In worship settings, it is often more expressive to stand and play rather than sit. Rather than be stuck inside a plexiglass drum cage, the WalkaBout allows the percussionist to step into the worship experience, rather than sit behind it. Here’s a video of top worship artists, We The Kingdom, performing with the WalkaBout as their primary drum. We think they rock!

Church Acoustics. Often times, using a drum kit in a church service is problematic. Sometimes the room size doesn’t lend itself to a drum set. Sometimes the simple act of micing a drum set introduces feedback issues and requires elaborate drum shields or cages. Sometimes a full drum set is just a little much for older congregations. While some churches have opted for an expensive electronic set, we’re seeing more worship teams adopt the WalkaBout. It is easily amplified with a single instrument cable, it blends easily with many worship styles, it takes little room on the platform, and doesn’t visually intimidate like a drum set.

Doing Church Online. As of the writing of this blog post, churches around the country have been limited to online services due to the corona pandemic. For months now, many worship teams have consisted of a guitar or two played in homes or bare stages. But there are a few churches who have discovered the WalkaBout to be the perfect option for adding percussion to their online worship experiences. With it’s small visual footprint and single output, it’s an easy way to add energy to your livestream service. Here’s a short video of my church doing a Facebook Live worship song.

Have you incorporated a WalkaBout into your house of worship experience? Please share your videos with us on our social media.

Guitar Player Habits for Percussionists

by Bob Kilpatrick

The WalkaBout Drum has changed the way percussionists relate to the sound system in some pretty cool ways. You don’t have to set up a microphone and stand still in front of it to be heard. You can jump, dance, and groove anywhere you want—as long as you’re plugged in. However, plugging in is a new concept for many drummers and percussionists. So, I thought I’d share some pointers for making the most of these cool changes.

  1. First, plug your WalkaBout in! It sounds good acoustically, but it sounds great plugged into a sound system or full-range amp. If you’re not wireless, I recommend that you loop the instrument cable around your strap once before plugging in. One of our artists in London accidentally unplugged when she danced away at the end of her cable. This will keep you plugged in and rocking the house.
  2. Remember that you have volume and mix controls (on the Odyssey model) that you will want to adjust. I suggest turning the volume all the way down before you plug in and then bring it up gradually afterwards. (The best sound is at full volume.) Then adjust the mix so that you’re getting about 3/4 microphone and 1/4 pickup. After that, adjust to taste.
  3. Unplug the WalkaBout after you’re done. There’s a battery inside that automatically turns on when you plug in and turns off when you unplug. Battery life will be considerably increased if you unplug between sets.
  4. If you play in a high volume stage setting you might want to pop the SoundCap into the sound hole. It will reduce feedback considerably. Of course, if you’re using in-ears or low volume wedges, you probably won’t need it. But it’s there just in case. Also, your position in relation to the monitor speakers will reduce or increase feedback. Simply turning the WalkaBout slightly away from the monitor will almost always stop it.
  5. When you’re done with your set, turn the volume off (on the Odyssey) so it doesn’t ring or feedback on the stand.

Welcome to the world of amplification!

7 Places the WalkaBout Shines!

The WalkaBout Drum is certainly a unique instrument—but it’s a versatile one too. Here are seven places that your WalkaBout will absolutely shine.

1. Open Mic Venues. Sitting in with a friend playing an open mic night? The WalkaBout drum plugs in and sounds great in just seconds, allowing you to add any amount of percussion with a minimum of hassle and a maximum amount of fun.

2.Café Gigs. A lot of drummers end up losing out on gigs because the room is too small for a full kit. Now you can sit on a stool or stand next to the guitarist and—with a minimum footprint—keep the vibe going. And here’s a hint: If you’re a drummer who sings, this is the ultimate instrument to get you out front with the mic.

3. Church. Drums are a normal part of most modern worship experiences these days, but there are often concerns about the volume in some church venues. With a WalkaBout drum, you can keep the groove going without overplaying in your sanctuary or house of worship. Your congregation will love you, and your worship band will too.

4. Busking! Do any street gigs? Trying to get your instruments on a bus or subway? Now you can leave your jungle kit at home. The WalkaBout drum comes with a custom backpack soft case that makes moving in and out of traffic easy, and sounds great plugged into a full-range battery-powered PA. Plus, the look of the WalkaBout is a real head turner. Believe us—you’ll get noticed!

5. Unplugged Sets. Do you have an unplugged set in the middle of your concert? Trying to get that intimate vibe going? Now you can step out from behind your drum set, and get up front and personal with the rest of the band. The WalkaBout gives you that alternative “voice” that will set your performance above the ordinary.

6. On the Beach. Or camping. Or in your dorm room. Or anywhere you need percussion. The WalkaBout is intended to be plugged into a PA or an amp, but it still sounds great unplugged.

7. Bad Backs! What is it about drummers and bad backs? Now you can ditch that boxy cajon and play in a comfortable and relaxed position. For drummers with bad backs, the WalkaBout is a life saver!

5 WalkaBout Playing Positions

There are a lot of ways that WalkaBout players are performing their instruments, depending on their musical style and playing preferences. We find it exciting that you, the musicians, are the ones inventing the techniques and methods in which it is played. Here are a few.

1. Strap-Worn. The most obvious position is to wear the WalkaBout with a strap (included with the instrument). Position the WalkaBout body similar to an acoustic guitar, with the strap around your head and one shoulder. You can wear the body either facing to the left or the right (we find the people like to experiment with this). This allows you to stand, move, dance, or even sit. Here’s a video of Gil Pulpo Cervantes of DrumTalk TV performing with Kyutaro & Rikuo, demonstrating this position. They rock!

2. Strap-Worn Facing Upward. We’ve seen a few people do this as well, wearing the WalkaBout with the strap, but with the face of the body horizontal, i.e., hole facing up. This allows the player to stroke the playing surface downward with one’s hands, like a conga. Here’s an interesting side note: The first person to demonstrate this to us was none other than Richie Gajate Garcia (Phil Collins, Sting, Tito Puente, et al). Here’s an incredibly cool video of Richie playing with WalkaBout endorsing artist, Zoro.

3. On The Lap. Some players like the stability of sitting and laying the WalkaBout on their lap. In this case, the player will often sit on the strap or run the strap behind their back, so that it won’t slip off the lap. Similar to Position 2, you also have a downward stroke on the instrument. You can vary the amount of ring from the back of the body by moving your legs together or apart.

4. Mounted on a Stand. One of our endorsers, Grammy-winning artist Jorge Drexler, recently performed an NPR Tiny Desk Concert and his percussionist, Borja Barruet, mounted his WalkaBout on a snare stand, allowing it to be the centerpiece of an extensive hand percussion station. We thought that was pretty cool and unique (see photo). Here’s a video of Jorge and Borja performing in that Tiny Desk Concert.

5. Between the Legs. I admit, I’ve only seen one percussionist do this, but it sounded pretty good. From a sitting position, place the WalkaBout body between the legs and set vertically with the upper bout to the top. You can then play the WalkaBout with essentially the same technique as a cajon (but with more sounds!).

Do you have a favorite playing position? Post a pic on our social media (@walkaboutdrum)!