Friday 6 July 2012

DIY midi triggers on an acoustic drum set.

Okay so I picked up this peavey international drum kit back in February this year with the intention of using it to record. of course i already knew peavey is not exactly a brand known for its drum kits.. in fact peavey is basically not known for anything.. other then crappy sounding amps (i don’t care what kind of thousand dollar eddie van hagar tube version you have) So all i was looking for was any cheap kit i could find so i could put some triggers on it, to record it digitally and yet have the flexibility to jam with it live when people come over.

After doing a few google searches on the subject of drum triggers i soon learned that buying triggers are for chumps, making your own is what real men do. So i ran to the nearest electronic surplus store and picked up about 7 piezo buzzers for 2 bucks each. piezo’s are like the worlds cheapest contact microphones and this is what they look like.

not much to it. i piece of metal about the size of a quarter only a 10th the thickness, and all it has are 2 leads coming off it, positive and negative. thats about as complicated as piezo’s get. they convert vibrations into a signal.. a ‘pulse’ if you will. So my next step was to wire up the other ends of the leads into a quarter inch jack male, so i could plug it into an alesis drum module, which converts the peizo pulses into midi notes which are transferred to my computer over usb.

soldering the leads to a quarter inch jack is hardly rocket science. it took about 2 mins per. My next step was to attach the piezo to the drum head. If you search google you’ll see that there is about 1 million pages discussing the best way to put triggers onto a drum kit, needless to say i didn’t care for any of them. I decided to just use rubber cement and stick the piezo directly onto the top of the head, but; out of the playing range for starters.

i figured i’d mess around with the sensitivity settings for a while to see if i could perfect the response. well i was totally wrong. it worked perfectly right where it was, and i didn’t have to change anything on the drum module. here’s another piezo on one of the toms.

I decided rather then running 10 quarter inch guitar cables across the room to the drum kit to hook up to each of the sensors, why the heck don’t i just use speaker cable because its just so damn cheap and i could probably run it for ten thousand feet. so i did. I ran it from one end of the room to the other and now the kit looks like mess, but man does it record well.

Below you'll find a clip of my first recording using the drums,  just a repetitive little groove jam to test out the accuracy of the triggers.  Hope you have some fun building some triggers too.

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