Aerodrum has to be seen to be believed...
This is not some kind of amazing mime artist. The Aerodrum system uses motion capture (mocap) technology and iOS software to pick up the movements of a drummer. By strapping reflectors to each foot and using the Aerodrum sticks, a special camera is able to detect the position of each limb as you tap or wave in the air. The sensitivity of the mo-cap means that varying speeds result in different volumes. In other words, the harder you hit, the louder the drum. The softer you tap, the softer the hit. Ultimately, it plays like a drum kit. However, it’s not some kind of gimmick mimic of a kit. It has a lot of merits within an educational setting.
Firstly, like an electric drum kit, you can plug headphones in. Simply use mini-jack headphones and plug them into the Mac you are running the Aerodrums software on. The big difference between this Aerodrumming experience and that of electric kits is that it is truly silent. You can’t hear the thwack of plastic pads or the click of drum pedals. The drummer is hitting air and tapping their feet. This simple element means that a full-on classroom lesson can be going on whilst a student practices the drums. Of course, if you want to play out loud, you can always unplug the headphones and plug in an amp.
The cleverness of the technology is only really rivalled by the logistical advancements of utilising this system. All of the elements can fit in a box small enough to be posted through a letterbox. Therefore, a teacher can give out and put away the Aerodrum set up quickly and easily. There are a minimal number of moving parts involved. Any music teacher in any music department knows that that means fewer things to break. Most music departments are plagued with broken equipment. The simple nature of playing the drums means that you are hitting something all day every day. Multiple children playing an acoustic or electric kit is not good for the resource. When you are playing an Aerodrum, you are not hitting anything (unless you are doing so intentionally). This makes it much easier to look after.
However, perhaps. the most exciting element is its price. An Aerodrum set up is a lot cheaper than an electric drum kit. You are essentially paying for the software. The hardware is minimal and easily replaced. Therefore, the main bulk of your purchase goes towards the iOS programme that runs the whole thing. This has its benefits in itself. The software is updated regularly and therefore you are getting a fresh experience out of the application which is not an attribute of an electric drum kit.
Ok, it’s never going to be as kinaesthetically pleasing as sitting behind a fully acoustic drum kit and absolutely having it on the skins and symbols. Feeling the response of the instrument in front of you is half the charm of playing. The fact is that most schools are not equipped to provide their students with that experience all of the time. Drums are big and loud. Therein lies the problem. Without expensive soundproofing and a lot of room, it is almost impossible to allow a student to really practice their instrument. The beauty of the Aerodrum set up is that it provides a solution that doesn’t take up any room and is controllable. The ability to plug in headphones is not only a way of not disturbing next doors science lesson, it also enables a drummer a safe environment to be terrible in. Every musician needs to be awful at their instrument, to begin with. It’s just the way it is. Being able to contain that at first gives a lot of children the confidence to carry on with their practising.
If you have a suite of Mac’s in your music department or if you are thinking of installing any number of them, I would seriously recommend thinking about including Aerodrums in your budget.