How AERODRUM will beat a drum kit in your music department

By Nick Acton

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.

 
 
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The fact that it runs off a Mac brings a number of benefits. A nice little feature to mention is the music uploader. Any music on your Mac can be uploaded into the Aerodrome software and played along with. Uploading it into the software enables you to quickly and easily access your ‘practice tracklist’ and control it from within the playing position. You can use your drum sticks to switch through the menus and select your music. Alternatively, it contains metronomes as well. This is perfect for individual practice.

Talking of the individual drummers, the software on your Mac, enables you to reposition and edit the set up of the drum kits. Essentially, you can adjust where the drums are in front of you in the thin air. For big rock drummers, they can add more toms to their kit and space out the kit so that they have a more thrashing experience. Jazz drummers might like to bring the number of drums down to the bare minimum and move the elements up close. Whatever your playing style, you can readjust and edit to your heart's extent by simply using Mac’s screen as your guide to position the drums.
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The connectivity with the Mac doesn’t stop there. By downloading a piece of free software, Aerodrums will work with a variety of Digital Audio Workspaces (DAW’s) like GarageBand, Logic, Protools etc. This enables drummers to play any of the digital pre-set drum kits within any of the DAW’s. Different types of kits can be accessed in just a few clicks. Once you’ve found the one you like the sound of, hit record and input the midi directly from the Aerodrum. Students can therefore do any or all of their drumming midi inputting through the software. The character of the playing will be picked up via the sensitivity of motion capture and generally the drums sound more live. With a bit of editing here and there you can track entire songs.
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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.