An air of dexterity

Monday, 22 February 2021 4:56 pm

Air-drumming is the butt of many jokes, but anyone who has tried playing any of the new generation of drumless kits will tell you it’s not as easy as it looks.

It only takes a few seconds of Mitch Deighton’s YouTube Aerodrums rendition of 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover to appreciate the skill required to do justice to air-drumming.

“I first came across Aerodrums through watching a YouTube video a friend of mine sent me from a NAMM Show around 2015,” Deighton recalls. “I was absolutely fascinated and immediately had to order some. I figured that it might be a gimmick, or just a bit of fun, but either way, at $150 it wouldn’t break the bank!”

Aerodrums were an instant hit for the UK-based professional drummer.

“I was living in an apartment at the time, and the fact I could spend hours investigating the possibilities, at any time of day or night, in complete silence, was a total game-changer!”

He points out that Aerodrums are super-lightweight and portable and “perfect for being able to experiment and practice in the confines of a ship’s cabin, even when sharing with a bandmate”.

Anyone who has tried Aerodrums will quickly note the immediate challenge of the

the lack of rebound. “Essentially though, it’s not much different to practising on pillows,” says Deighton. “I use the back of the hand to create a kind of a ‘reverse rebound’ stroke. Double strokes are very hard to pull off, but totally possible. Everything else, to me, is just the same as having a ‘real kit’ in front of you.”

Deighton has made a commitment to “be able to play as much as possible with my Aerodrums, so I set ridiculous challenges for myself, like (Toto’s) Rosanna, for instance”.

Not content with mastering the instrument, Deighton has also turned[1] his hand to producing sample packs for his adopted virtual kits.

“I’ve dabbled in MIDI for many years, with various electronic drum kits I’ve owned.
The fact that Aerodrums actually works well with MIDI is just simply incredible. I just personally prefer the ‘immediacy’ and simplicity of not delving into DAWs and all that comes with the MIDI route. Just playing sounds directly from Aerodrums was always the route I preferred. Obviously, there’s a good but very limited selection of sounds which come shipped with Aerodrums, so I decided to abandon MIDI completely and delve into making my own sounds to play.”

What started as an activity for his own satisfaction ultimately led to a small business, recording and producing sound packs for Aerodrums.

Deighton records multiple hits (30-40 each hand) at different velocity levels, exports the recording to computer and painstakingly trims them by hand so that the waveform is really tight with the right amount of decay – “so they won’t cut off unnaturally or have any lag at the start, for instance”.

“Once the samples are ready, they are individually named and then I turn them into Aerodrums Element files, for upload to my shop, where they can be downloaded and literally dragged and dropped into users’ Elements folder for use in their own Aerodrums kits,” he explains.

The beauty of Element packs is that they are very small in comparison to the mammoth downloads associated with MIDI-based drum samplers, so users are up and running very quickly, he explains.

While Deighton has no direct link to the makers of Aerodrums, there is no doubt he is one of the company’s strongest supporters and a leading exponent. “I think that as a product, Aerodrums is very unique, but entirely relevant to the world of drumming on many levels. I can see a vast potential for education purposes and just having fun, as well as a genuinely valuable tool for people who simply wouldn’t be able to play even a regular electronic kit due to volume constraints,” he explains.

And while he continues to play his virtual instrument, Deighton will keep working on his samples. “I have lots of ideas for expanding my range of sample packs, for instance, with cymbals, special FX,  and percussion. I’m currently working on a ‘wide open’ jazzy vintage kit using genuine ‘60s gear.”

Check out the self-styled Aerodrummer here.