Much ado with nothing

Air-drumming solution Aerodrums is set to launch its second-generation system after a successful crowd-funding campaign, as Allan Leibowitz reports.

THE TEAM BEHIND the first virtual drumming instrument, Aerodrums, has just completed a Kickstarter campaign for its next generation “drumless” drums, Aerodrums 2.

Aerodrums 2 achieved its funding goal, attracting 375 backers who have committed almost £160,000.

In fact, the project cleared its minimum funding goal in just one day. And it’s not just drummers who have backed the project. Aerodrums was also awarded funding from the Liverpool City Region High Growth Innovation Fund to continue developing Aerodrums 2.

Now, work is under way to start production so that deliveries can begin in a few months.

The big difference between Aerodrums 1 and Aerodrums 2 is that the new system is fully self-contained where the old one needed a separate computer.

Co-founder Richard Lee says the new product is an evolution prompted by the desire to shed the computer and also to move away from the gaming camera which was used in the original solution.

“The new system uses an infrared camera which solves a lot of usability problems,” he says, adding that the new camera doesn’t need bright light to detect the sticks and ‘pedals’.

“Now, it’s possible to drum outdoors and in daylight,” he explains.

The new incarnation comes on the back of around 30,000 ‘gen one’ units sold since 2013.

To some extent, the Aerodrums was priced too low to be taken seriously, says the other co-founder, Yann Morvan. “In an ideal world, we would have been able to price Aerodrums 2 similarly, “because we’re not in this to maximise the money we can take from the table”.

But he still hopes that the improved functionality and the new price of around US$550 “will help people take us more seriously”.

Also helping is the suite of apps, games and interactive lessons which will be bundled with Aerodrums 2.

“It will teach you how to read notation and how to play drums,” Lee explains.

Another advantage is the plug and play MIDI output which will allow drummers to trigger their favourite VSTs “drumlessly”.

Shipping to Kickstarter backers will begin in November, and the founders will probably be taking pre-orders on their website as they decide how to bring Aerodrums 2 to the market.

The initial product was sold directly and through retailers, but the founders say it was a notoriously difficult product to demo because of the lighting requirements and the need to connect to a computer. This stand-alone version should be easier to show in music stores.

In our August 2014 review, we noted that that while air-drumming may seem like a joke, Aerodrums 1 was a very real product, attracting very real drummers who wanted to try it when it debuted at the NAMM Show.

We explained that while it may seem like a novelty item, Aerodrums is a serious musical tool.

While the new iteration may have added functionality and improved the system’s operation, what it hasn’t changed is the challenge of playing without rebound and the feeling of drums and cymbals under your sticks.

However, the developers stress that Aerodrums is based on the principles of proper stick control, and as we have reported, in the hands of good drummers, even the initial product delivered solid performances.

Indeed, in May 2021, digitalDrummer shared the experiences of drummer Mitch Deighton, an Aerodrums early adopter, who tried it “for a bit of fun” and classed Aerodrums “a total game-changer”.

Deighton explained how he overcame the lack of direct tactile feedback. “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,” he told digitalDrummer.

digitalDrummer hopes to test the new system when full production gets under way.