The Future Of Drumming
April 25, 2018
Yannick Weiler in Music Tech, drumming, drums, future, music tech

Modern technology is here to stay — that much is an understatement. In fact, not only is new technology here, it is progressing, and it is doing so at an increasing rate. Our lives are changing, revolutionizing, more quickly than anyone could have ever guessed. It has changed the way we work, the way we interact with one another, and the way we play, musically and otherwise.

The lives of musicians are radically different than they have ever been before. The tools at our disposal are phenomenally powerful, and while they are no longer the same as they once were — and this fact upsets some people — they are opening new avenues of musical creation. Even the physical act of playing one’s instrument is at times different than it could ever have been in the past.

Take electronic drum sets for example. When they emerged on the scene in the 80s they revolutionized the drumming industry by opening up sonic possibilities that were unknown to drummers on stage. They changed the way drums felt, and made the drum kit (something decidedly primitive) an entirley modern piece of equipment. Now, they have become mainstream. A whole new generation of technology is entering the market and revolutionizing the way drummers see themselves as musicians (and the way that they practice their instruments).

There are many devices that have changed drumming, and every year new technology allows even more to be added to the fray. Here are two such devices, each small but both powerful.

Freedrum

Freedrum takes the idea of an electronic drum kit to a new level. It is a digital kit that doesn’t require any pads or cymbals. In fact there is nothing to hit at all. The “kit” consists of two small devices that the drummer affixes to his or her sticks. And that is the extent of the kit. There are two sticks with those two devices and they connect to an app on the user’s smartphone.

Users of the Freedrum are able to make a huge variety of electronic drum sounds simply by playing with their sticks in the air. If this sounds odd, then that may be because it is foreign to most of us. But it opens up an entire new space for drummers. Consider the possibilities for practice when all you need is your phone, a pair of headphones, and your sticks. You can practice anywhere you like, silently, and you have all of the power of modern technology at your disposal.

Whether technology such as this will be implemented in more expensive, professional devices — ones that might be more suited to recording and performing — is yet to be seen, but the possibility is certainly there. This may be the beginning of a whole new kind of drumming. Imagine the possibilities for control: rather than simply being able to strike one of a few different drums in a number of different ways, it could one day be possible to conrol every facet of the sound being produced simply by positioning your hands differently. It is a quite exciting thing.

Soundbrenner

Soundbrenner is another small device that offers a whole new approach to an old problem. Every drummer loves metronomes — even if only for practice. It is a great way to develope, hone, and maintain great timing. But metronomes have always been a little hard to put into practice in certain situations. They may be fine as clicks in your headphones, but not every playing wants to wear a headset. When playing with a full band, some drummers use flashing lights, but most of us know how hard it can be to follow a light, especially if your eyes aren’t trained constantly on the signal (which they are generally not in practice).

Enter Soundbrenner. This wearable device pulses on your body to the tempo of the song you’re playing. No more straining to listen for the click. No more watching a light. This allows your timing to be as solid with a band as it is when you’re practice to your traditional metronome at home.

But more than simply solving an old problem, this metronome reimagines the conversation completely. Metronomes have always been a little distant — not at all involved in the music itself. Not at all embodied. In some way out of touch with the playing of the drums.

The drums are such a bodily instrument. More perhaps than any other, they require a great amount of physical connection to the kit, and so by extension, to the music you are playing. Soundbrenner allows a drummer to have a metronome that is just as connected to their body. You literally feel it. Might this be the beginning of a new way to think about drum gear? A way to embody one’s music even more? A whole array of accessories designed to expose the fact that drummer feel our way through the music more than any other instrumentalists.

What Is The Future Of Drumming?

With all of this considered, there is a natural question to ask: what is the future of drumming? How will it change? How has it already changed? What will the new roles of the drummer be in the bands of the future?

For a very long time, the drums were simply the back bone. They were there to keep time. As time went on, they moved slightly into the fore, and behold — the modern drum solo. But drums are still, in most every style of music purely rhythmic instruments. And there is still a cult of the acoustic that follows drummers wherever they go — digital technology seems to never have quite caught on for a lot of players.

But this is all likely to change. With new technology comes change, and with the changes that we have already seen in drumming since the 80s we can predict that drummers everywhere will be more able to make new and different kinds of music. Does this mean that the drums will become an accepted lead instrument? Who can say? But for sure we have not seen how far down the rabbit hole goes. It is a rather exciting time to be a drummer.

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/).
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