Solo Drum Band

January 10, 2009 at 8:44 pm | Posted in Events, Music, Technology | Leave a comment

Last night Pepe Danza played at a dance I was at. He’s one of this areas premier hand drummers. But unlike previous performances I’d seen, he only had 4 drums. One of them was a band.

To explain, the 4th drum was a digital hand drum. I wasn’t able to see the make but have seen models like Roland’s Handsonic. His technique was to begin each set by playing a bass sequence on the digital. He used a foot switch to set start and end points. As soon as he hit the end point, he started another sequence with toms or bell, and so on. After laying in 5 or so layers, he would begin the lead jam on the skins. In other words, he was using live sequencing to build a rhythm section.

The audience loved it, loudly clapping out the beat while he built up the next set. The people I talked to didn’t realize what he was doing, but they sure grooved.

For myself, this is pretty remarkable. I’ve certainly seen sequencers used live. It’s the only way to recreate some studio sounds on stage. But I’ve never seen live sequencing. We’re talking playing as a way of programming.

The last time I did something like this, I would play the parts one at a time, painstakingly clip each one so it would loop on beat (it has to be accurate to the millisecond), then lay it into a track. It was amazing I could blend digital and analog sounds. But several programs were required, on expensive hardware on a dedicated system. When I laid the dozen odd tracks to ‘tape’, I accidently left one key track muted, leaving that work out. I didn’t have the system time to do it again. More recently, programs such as Acid have come along that make such tasks much easier – and cheaper. But live? Amazing.

Oh – he did have one other drum he played later. A Hang drum. Oh yeah, and a talking drum. And some wind instruments. He just didn’t have the usual big set. Check out the gallery on his web site for many more. With video clips.

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