Automatic pneumatic drum kit

Move over Steve and PEART… there’s yet another robotic drummer in town. [Fauzii] tipped us off to his own MIDI-controlled creation – WizardFingers. According to him, WizardFingers is already capable of 64th note rolls at over 250 beats per minute. That’s on every drum simultaneously. Each drum is hit with a lever attached to a linear pneumatic actuator. A laptop running MAX/MSP generates MIDI sequences, which are sent to Doepfer MTC64 board. All of these actuators are hooked up to the board, which sets them off in sequence.

[Fauzii] ultimately hopes to develop AI software that will allow WizardFingers to compose its own tunes on not only a drum kit, but bar chimes and an organ as well. His site documents the whole concept quite well (just watch out for wild cats).

16 thoughts on “Automatic pneumatic drum kit

  1. wow – by the website, it looks like he built this thing in ’91.

    I couldn’t get the video to load, but there is no mention of dynamics control. If you can’t control how hard the drums are hit, you are better off with software drums.

  2. I don’t mean to be a hater, but we’ve seen a bunch of these lately, and they all have the same failings. As drummers all know, drums and cymbals make different sounds depending on where you hit them and how hard you hit them, and these systems all ignore these fact. A fixed hammer actuated by a solenoid is never going to sound like a drumstick wielded by a human. The striker needs to be able to move in a plane parallel to the drum head, and it needs dynamic control. Even that completely ignores the different kinds of strokes that drummers can use: you can hit a drum and let the stick stay just bouncing on the head, for example.

    This system includes a hammer *underneath* the hi-hat, which really makes me cringe; it belies near total ignorance of the dynamics of that instrument. Next time, collaborate with some musicians!

  3. Double-clicking on the video got it to play for me. But it included the air compressor running, so it was hard to tell what else was going on.

  4. To distill what EFH said, playing the drums requires intelligence, talent and knowledge that a machine cannot replicate. It’s an example of mental masturbation. It has no use.

  5. I couldn’t finish the video; not only do these people have no understanding of the instrument as already stated, but they have no rhythm whatsoever… plus there’s that goofy girl dancing to the air compressor that’s almost as loud as the drums….

    It sounded cool though – I’d like to have an actually pragmatic setup like that to use instead of a drum machine for playing power metal with myself or something… that’s about it though…

  6. I haven’t seen anything robotic drum like Captured! by Robots. I think good songwriting can overcome the limitations of any instrument, including robotic drums, even if they lack dynamics. As long as the timing is right.

  7. Yeah, Captured! by Robots was pretty good when I saw them in 2004. I had been imagining this thing for a long time before that, but when I saw his set-up I realized that I had to build it. Later that year I was in a band, we could not find a drummer, so we built WizardFingers. While WizardFingers does not have the ability to shift accent and play softly, we were an electronic rock band that played loud. We wanted live drums and not drum samples through a PA. Then, as oft happens the band fell apart and the drummer was subverted by Art to be involved in some dance performances.

    To clear up a few things about the test videos, the software system was generating the drum patterns autonomously. It can be hard to listen to, but it never repeats itself, and can be mesmerizing over the course of 10 minutes or longer. It was a fun and painful experiment.

  8. @Jim

    Yea, and so drum computers are equally useless. Me and my hard drive full of music that several friends enjoy would disagree with you.

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