The drums section of the NAMM music expo could easily qualify as a new circle of hell. It's absolute chaos. But deep within this maddening cacophony, I found a fascinating piece of technology that's worthy of note.
Aerodrums is more or less a drumset without the drums. You sit down with special reflective panels on your shoes and a pair of sticks with reflective mallet-like tips, and proceed to rock out on the air drums.
A camera and high-powered lamp captures your foot and stick movements, and translates them with dazzling accuracy into midi drum inputs to give a surprisingly accurate soundtrack to your silent performance.
The system reads a quick stick stop as a hit, so the best technique to use is to snap the butt of the stick into your palm to create the impact – but it's sensitive enough to read gentle ghost notes as you drag your stick on an imaginary snare. Check it out:
It does a pretty amazing job of working out whether you're whacking an imaginary snare, tom, hi-hat or cymbal. You can configure your virtual kit to take a double bass drum if you like, and up to 5 toms.
The manufacturers say it's gig-ready, although it doesn't operate well in bright sunlight and strange lighting conditions can stop the camera from tracking the sticks properly. Still, plugging this compact unit into a laptop, and carrying around a pair of sticks and the small shoe reflectors would have to make this the most portable drumkit I've ever seen.
Aerodrums sells on Amazon for US$199, including the sticks, a spare pair of stick tips, the reflectors, the camera and the software to run it on Mac or PC. Oh, and a set of honky cardboard glasses in case you find the lamp a bit bright. I'm not gonna lie, I reckon this is a deadly cool gadget and I'd have one in a minute.
Product page: Aerodrums.