Drums get beaten, synths tinkled and demos hammered in the encapsulated everything section this month
For those wanting more information on the suspension system seen supporting Simmons drum pads at this year's BMF, they are being made for them by a company in America called Ultimate Support Systems, usually to be found making keyboard stands.
Basically it's a tubular frame made from 1½" diameter aluminium tubing which is sprayed black and surrounds the drummer. It's constructed from three foot lengths of tube; four for upright posts and three for the cross pieces. There are also four foot pieces, two short and two long, to stand the whole frame on. Perhaps I should say before we go any further that this is a slightly more expensive one. What you actually get with SDS9 has two uprights and one joining piece and adds an extra £200 to the cost of the kit. Several right angle pipe joint clamps join the frame together to form a very strong, sturdy unit. There's a very large, not-quite hexagonal Simmons shaped plastic-handled bolt to lock the clamp to the pipe. (There's also an Allen screw to fix the part of the clamp you don't need to move once set). These same sort of clamping blocks are used to locate the Simmons pads into playing position, but they have a smaller hole to locate the pearl-type adjustable arm. A 'T' screw holds the tubular arm in place by reducing the size of a split 'shell' inside the unit. This block is made from ABS and at first I was sceptical about its strength, though it seems to be pretty solid. Now, since it will accommodate the tom holder, it will also accept the second and top sections of a cymbal stand. So, you are at liberty to mount cymbals to it as you do with a Porcaro rack. It will also support your Simmons bass drum pad, and for my money this is the best part about it. I always feel that the bass pad is a little bit unstable. (There are a pair of tubes sticking out from the front down tubes at right angles to locate into the receiver blocks set into the pad itself).
The 'rack' is obviously designed for a Simmons solid-bodied set but, in this reviewer's humble opinion, it would work very well for an acoustic set too. It would be necessary to anchor the front rail to your bass drum (via the tom holder block), and then it would be child's-play to make it work. I'm not convinced that it would work out to be any cheaper than the Porcaro rack but it is certainly a great deal more portable for the gigging drummer. It's total weight is measurable in ounces rather than pounds!
It may just be that given a little time Simmons will be able to offer their 'rack' at a cheaper price. But, even if they don't, if you can afford it you'll end up with a very professional holding system at something like 20% of the overall price. It seems like a very good investment to me.
The complete package for the acoustic/electric drummer was up for grabs and Frankie McHugh grabbed it.
A son of Glasgow and a drummer in Glaswegian Jazz Pop combo, Rattling the Cage, Frankie, 19, saw the competition is his August IM and let impulse take control. He answered the mind-bendingly difficult questions and before he could paradiddle his way around his old Sonor kit his entry was being pulled of the editorial commode and the specially commissioned transport was waiting to bring him to London.
The prize to be at all prizes that our Frankie walked off with comprised five Cactus pads and brain, the full C-Tape and Julian Gilbert from Carlsbro handed over the goods, the corks popped and the crustless sandwiches disappeared at an alarming rate.
A few months ago we reviewed Akai's MIDI sampler — the S612. The actual model which I tried at the time was a prototype and having since had the opportunity to work with the S612 in its final form, here are a few new changes.
Firstly, the S612 is now being sold as a complete package including Akai's own disk drive for under £1000. The diskdrive (or Quick Disk asAkai call it) connects to the rear of the sampler via two connectors — one for data transfer and one for power supply. Having a disk drive for storage of your samples totally transforms the system from being a slightly posh sampler to being of the 'truly spiffing' variety. Each double-sided quick disk holds a complete sample on each of its sides and loading/dumping to disk is very easy and certainly useable in a live environment as it only takes three or four seconds to load each new sample.
A few other changes, such as putting the transpose and manual splice controls on the front panel (previously found on the rear), have further improved the unit and over on its rear panel is found a multipin socket which allows individual outputs for each of the S612's six voices.
The only thing which is still missing, however, is some form of audio trigger of the samples — useful for replacing, say, a floppy bass drum with a tighter sample off a compact disc or record. This facility could actually be achieved, however, by using the S612 in conjunction with an audio to MIDI converter such as Sycologic's PSP interface.
The Akai S612's RRP has now been reduced to a more affordable £749 without the disk drive which will cost you another £199.
Ever wish that your Drumulator/RX11/Drumtraks/etcetera had the easy at-a-glance programming accessibility of Roland's TR707 drum machine? Well now, thanks to two readers of our late-lamented sister magazine, Electronic Soundmaker, Ian Beynon and Dave Rosan, you can. Their £35 RAP (Rhythm Automation Programmer) software, on cassette or microdrive for the 48K Spectrum and most popular MIDI interfaces (EMR, Jellinghaus, Micon et al) is a very handy little toy that puts up a 16 by 16 matrix, a la 707, on your TV screen. Despite a somewhat eccentric selection of control keys, programming in step time using this grid is simplicity itself.
Up to 200 separate patterns of up to 16 beats each can be stored in two banks, and organised into 16 tracks of up to 1000 measures each. Although clearly orientated towards drum programming, RAP is in fact a flexible 16-voice step-time sequencer. The programe is preset with the TR707's instrument voice MIDI codes, but these can be altered using the Customise feature to accommodate any MIDI rhythm unit, making this program the ideal accompaniment to Korg's 'dumb' drum kit, the MR16, for example, or indeed, MIDI synths, effect units, and so on. The program could simultaneously trigger eight drum sounds, a simple four-note bass line from a MIDI synth, and four MIDI effects — providing the hardware involved had enough Ins and Outs!
Using the Accent facility, up to seven levels of dynamics can be applied to each of the controlled voices be it drum or synth, if they have this facility. Each voice can also be given a name of up to 10 characters on the main matrix display, as can complete tracks, which may then be saved to tape or microdrive, along with all the relevant MIDI code information.
Extensive edit facilities are provided at every level of the software's operation — I particularly liked the 'Rotate' feature, which allows a complete pattern to be shifted round one beat at a time — ideal for those occasions when two patterns are yoked together, only to find that they start on different beats.
Every page also features a command summary under the H for help function, saving you the trouble of running to the (admirably clear) manual every five minutes.
All in all, RAP is a well-thought out, well implemented and a flexible piece of software, limited only by your hardware, and rhythmic imagination. Buy it. RAP is available for £35 inc p&p from: MIDISOFT, (Contact Details).
Dynacord have very quietly got on with the business of developing further their Digital Drums. I have always been partial to them mainly because they look chunky and because it's terribly simple to change the sounds. The chip itself can be changed to give you a totally different sound and Dynacord have wisely encased it in a plastic block. This makes it a piece of cake to change sounds in mid-song if you like. The company are expanding their sound library all the time and several new ones have just been released. Ten Rock sounds are now available: two bass drums, two snares and six power toms. The Percuter S is Dynacord's brain which has just had a little work done on it; it's now possible to change the pitch on all the drums.
At the Frankfurt show the company introduced their new pad to us. It's just arrived here and is called Duo-Pad. It has two sensors fitted to it — one in the usual place (dead-centre), and another fitted to the rim. The idea is that you can set it up as a snare pad with your usual sound and a rim as well. But you can also set it up with a totally different pair of sounds like, say, tom and cowbell. The Duo-Pad costs about 25% more than the ordinary one, but then you'd have to buy another 'sound block'too. However, this way you could end up with a very comprehensive drum kit. (It would be most convenient to have an ordinary snare and an electronic one on the same pad.) So far Dynacord's brain has a capacity for eight different 'blocks' so you could have your five drum set and (say), cowbell, cabasa and tambourine.
I heard a snippet of information at the trade show. It would appear that Cozy Powell, that master of the very large drum set is very interested in Dynacord Digital drums. It seems he'd like to sample his usual mammoth drum sound and encapsulate it in Dynacord's chips. The revolution would appear to be underway.
At June's APRS show Klark Teknik launched a competition to win one of their highly desirable DN780 digital reverberators... no, actually I didn't enter; unfortunately I was somehow overlooked when the application forms were being dispensed... mmm. Still let us not be churlish, I was at least fortunate enough to be invited to the lucky winner's presentation on board the ship 'Convoy' moored amid the Thames-faring splendour of St Katherine's Dock. There it was that Simon McLuhan, owner of 'F2' 24-track studios in Mount Pleasant, stepped forward to receive his 16-bit DN780 with its ultra high-speed 32-bit internal processing capabilities offering an unusually high density of reflections, 39 factory presets, a further 50 user programmable memories and a whole host of nudge buttons to facilitate the detailed programming of any desired acoustical space. What a lucky chap.
If he hadn't won it, he would have been required to shell out £3,770 for the privilege of ownership. Even though you could buy a brand new five-door Talbot Horizon for that amount, it's actually a very reasonable price for the level of quality offered. It's also really good on petrol.
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