When I doubled as working drummer in a past life, I was exposed to, but never really took to playing Electronic drum kits. I did enjoy the immense sonic possibilities electronic drums offered but I remained biased that they never quite matched up to real-world dynamics and the feel of an acoustic drum kit. There was some truth to that bias, Electronic drums have been largely shunned by most live drummers across most genres of music including popular, rock and jazz even while other stage musicians easily switched to their digital counterparts.
The biggest problem that plagues Electronic drums is an attempt to simulate the sensitivity levels of a drum stroke. From the loudest stroke to the softest tap the dynamic range is vast. Electronic drums have used different approaches with using varying sensors embedded in surfaces to try and capture the dynamic range, the subtlety and the nuance of an acoustic kit with varying results.
I recently bumped into this really nifty ‘toy’ the other day called the Aerodrums that a friend brought over. At first, I brushed this off as a gimmick when I first saw it. Aerodrums, as the name suggests, uses visual reflections of your stick positions in a 3D space with the software calculating in real time what drum was hit and with what intensity. The more I tried it the more I realised how uncannily accurate this was and how close they were to solve the sensitivity problem that never quite seemed to be perfect in an Electronic drum. What I absolutely loved was how they approached simulating drums using software rather than hardware. What was even more remarkable was how accurate this thing really was.
Though air drumming isn’t without its drawbacks from a drumming perspective. Not having an actual surface makes it hard to replicate bounce used in many drum strokes. This could possibly get better through the introduction of some sort of dumb surface to simulate a tactile surface to allow a stick to bounce but I’ll wait patiently on the sidelines to see what they come up with next.
From a Product perspective, the takeaway was how well a new approach solved an age-old problem. I, of course, followed up and indulged myself by giving the Aerodrums a thorough user testing session.