Automatic Grand Meetup 2016

I recently attended my sixth Grand Meetup, the yearly tradition at Automattic where the entire company gathers together for a week.

This year’s GM is a blur, as usual. I taught a class on user interface design (my first time!), played in the Automatic band, had lots of one-on-one meetings, spent a full day with my entire team, and saw lots of new (and old) friends at some great lunches and dinners.

Triggers have arrived


The triggers arrived today. They’re super simple, and with limited testing (my son, Mason, has played more today than I have) there was no need to be worried; The triggers work perfectly. 

It took a few minutes to completely unscrew the lugs, but I think I’m going to appreciate the “permanence” of the triggers. They’re also way smaller than I was anticipating.

I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with them tonight.

So much hardware…

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I’ve continued to adjust the hybrid setup. I took the Roland v-drum rack, and disassembled it down to just three legs and two spans. I added an additional arm to mount the TD-12 module—one less piece of hardware to lug around.

The Roland rack is super light, but can’t hold anything heaver than a pad. In other words, I can’t mount the real drum on this rack; Its to heavy for the rack clips to hold.

For now, I’ll have to use a wide floor stand just for the small floor tom. Thats added weight and floor space that I don’t want. My solution is going to involve converting another drum; a 16″ floor tom. Its a bigger drum, but it has its own leg stands built in — overall, I think it’ll be less floor space, and less weight.

I have a connection for one more pad. I’m not sure if I’ll use it for an additional cymbal, or just leave it empty for now.

The rest of the triggers come today. If things go well, I’ll be able to get it playing and hooked up for recording soon.

Old Becomes New

 

About a year ago, I bought a new drumset. That makes four kits in total; A new Tama Superstar kit, an older Tama Rockstar kit, a TD-12 v-drum kit, and a TD-9 v-drum kit.

Shortly after I bought the new Tama kit, I refinished the old one. I removed the old, beat up, wine-colored plastic wrap from the wood. This was an intense process as the wrap is glued, and has set for nearly 20 years. A hair dryer and lots of patience was involved. I then sanded. Sanded some more. And finally stained the now-raw wood drums.

The newly refinished drums came out OK — not amazing, but passable. However, they then sat, in a neatly stacked pile for about a year.

During that time, I rekindled my love for the v-drums. I combined the high-end TD-12 kit with the low-end TD-9 kit. I’ve been using this frakenkit as my daily driver. Its perfect for practicing any time without disturbing the neighbors, or waking the kids. The left over bits from the TD-9 kit have since been incorporated into the new Tama Superstar kit to create the hybrid kit I’ve been playing out with for the past 9 months.

With my newly found passion for electronic drums, I decided to bring the refinished kit back to life as an electronic kit. Its a fairly simple process that involves a set of triggers attached to each drum which are connected to a sound module, or “brain.” I purchased some triggers online, and I expect they’ll be here any day.

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Since the “brain” and triggers do all the work and create the sounds, there’s no need for traditional drum heads. Instead, most electronic drums use drum heads made of a fiber mesh. These mesh heads can be tighted to feel just like a traditional drum, but are relatively silent in comparison. You can buy mesh heads online, but they cost $60 and up for each drum. I would need at least 4 of them, including a bass drum head which can cost way more. Instead of wasting money, I found that normal window/door screening available at any hardware store is a great substitue.

 

Making my own mesh heads wasn’t tough work. I took an old drum head and cut out the plastic from the rim. I then used a special type of window screening made for “sunshading” purposes. I chose this type of screening for its durability, and also because its really looks cool on a drum. I cut out a circle about 3″ bigger in diameter than the drum head rim. Then I got out the old sewing kit, and sewed the screening around the rim. It was a little time consuming, but made for a perfect activity to accomplish while watching some TV.

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This is the first iteration of this experiment. The triggers I bought online, the Ddrum Red Shot, is a low-end trigger. However, there’s honestly not much involved in a trigger, and they’re mostly all exactly the same. The next part of this project is to build my own custom-made triggers inside of the drums. Doing so would avoid having the trigger connected to the top of the drum, where its just asking for to be hit with a stick and busted. After that, comes some more sophisticated cable management. Then, perhaps I’ll cut the drums in half to reduce the space need to haul, store, and setup the kit.

Virtual Drums: The Future From the 80’s

I finally got around to setting up my larger electric kit, the V-Drums. I’ve had a very minimal practice kit setup in my office for the past year-or-so, using the Roland TD-12 with 2 of the cheapo rubber pads, one cymbal pad, and the KD-8 kick pad. It was find for basic rudiments, but never quite worked for playing to some of the great drum-less YouTube videos.

This past weekend I took the morning and disassembled my practice and unpacked the full V-Drum kit:

V-Drums in pieces

The whole thing is pretty quick to put together, taking less than 20 minutes from pieces to playing:

Mason Playing V-Drums

I’m really loving the iPad stand I picked up a few weeks back—its perfect here (shown sans-iPad just above the TD-12 sound module) for practicing. I’m able to pull up the bands Dropbox account, chart out patterns using Reflow, or play along with a few of the iPad drum apps or YouTube videos.

It’ll take me a few more practice sessions to get the drums aligned right—I want to mimic my “real” kit’s setup as much as possible. Plus, I’m having trouble with the bass drum pedal and pad; I’ll likely need to replace the pedal soon.