Jan 14

The Day I Ran Out Of Keys.

by in Gear

Is your 25 key controller curbing your creativity? Get inspired and release your potential by upsizing your keys.

Music has always been influenced by the tools we use. Classical music is a reflection of the arsenal of orchestral instruments available at the time, and modern music has been enriched by the use of electric guitars, synthesisers, and drum machines. Of course, music is all about creativity and expression, but it’s important to remember that the tools you use also have an important influence on how you play.

Compact keyboard controllers are among the best selling keyboards for beginners, and for good reason; they’re portable, affordable, and easy to use. But as you continue to develop your skills and expand your repertoire, you might find that 25 keys just isn’t enough anymore. Most music extends beyond 25 keys, and being limited to a couple of octaves could actually be stifling your development and creativity.

If you’re feeling tethered down by having a limited range of keys, or if you’re sick of hitting that octave-shift button every time you want to play a bass line, it might be time for an upgrade. Whether you need something compact, you’re on a tight budget, or you want something that will last you a lifetime; we’ve got a line-up of the best keyboards that won’t get in the way of your creativity.


1. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32

More keys, same footprint.

komplete-kontrol-m32

One of the main attractions of a 25 key controller is its compact size. If portability matters to you, don’t worry, it is possible to get more keys yet still fit your controller into your backpack so you can practice with Melodics on the move.

The NI Komplete Kontrol M32 is a great micro-sized controller for traveling musicians. With its 32 slim keys, they’ve managed to fit more keys into the same footprint of a 25 key controller. Unlike a lot of micro-sized keyboards, these keys feel solid to play and the build quality is excellent while still being light enough to take with you.

  • 32 velocity sensitive keys.
  • Slim key size for portability.
  • Solid key feel and build.

2. Novation Launchkey 49

High in features, low in cost.
launchkey-49

If you’re wanting the best bang for your buck, look no further than the Novation Launchkey 49. As well as 49 full-sized keys, this feature-packed keyboard has eight assignable knobs and faders, and 16 velocity-sensitive pads so that you can practice your finger drumming and keys all on one controller.

The Launchkey 49 has all the features you need but it won’t break the bank, all while offering a solid key feel and reliable build quality.

  • 49 velocity-sensitive keys.
  • More affordable than other keyboards with similar features.
  • Heaps of features including 16 velocity-sensitive pads.

3. Roland A-49

Uncompromised keys.
roland-a49

For serious keyboard players, the Roland A-49 ticks the most important box of all: sturdy, responsive key feel. For years Roland has been producing some of the best feeling synths and keyboards, and the A-49 continues to deliver on that high standard.

Not only do the semi-weighted keys feel great to play, the A-49’s simple design means it’s about as compact as a 49 key controller gets. Roland has also managed to fit in a couple of useful assignable knobs, switches, and their D-Beam controller which is a joy to use.

  • 49 velocity-sensitive keys.
  • Excellent key feel.
  • Compact design.

 

4. iRig Keys 2

Melodics on the go.
irig-keys-2

If you prefer playing Melodics on iPad, we’ve got you covered. While a lot of controllers will work on the iPad, the iRig Keys 2 is designed specifically with that in mind. That means you don’t need an external power source, you don’t need to worry about buying extra adaptors, and it even has a built-in headphone output so you’re not stuck using your iPad speakers.

The iRig Keys 2 has 37 slim keys so as well as giving you more keys to play with, it remains lightweight and portable – perfect for when you’re on the move with Melodics for iPad.

  • 37 velocity-sensitive keys.
  • Compact design for portability.
  • Designed for portable devices so great for practicing on the go with Melodics for iPad.

5. Akai MPK249

Quality and quantity.
5 akai

If you don’t like to compromise on features and quality, then the Akai MPK249 is the one for you. With its 49 full sized keys, 16 MPC style pads, and loads of assignable knobs, faders, and buttons, there’s not much the MPK249 can’t do.

But it’s not the amount of features this keyboard has, it’s the quality feel of the keybed, the responsive pads, and the solid construction that make the MPK249 a keyboard that could last a lifetime.

  • 49 velocity sensitive keys.
  • Great feeling keys and pads.
  • Excellent build quality.

 

Aug 22

What’s in a Standard Drumset?

by in Fundamentals, Gear

History of the Drum set

The drum set (aka the drum kit or trap set) as we know it came to be in the United States in the early 1900s for vaudeville shows. The fact that the trap set could be played with all four limbs made it extremely popular and it rapidly became a fixture in American music and spread to popular music from all over the world. 

The drum kit’s United States’ origins is why drum sizes (diameter of the heads and cymbals, and depth of the shells) are listed in inches even though most countries don’t use American units of measurement.

The Sounds!

A basic drum set is a collection of percussive instruments: typically a snare drum, one or two rack toms, a floor tom, kick drum, hi-hat, and a cymbal or two. Unlike many instruments, the drum set can fill out the entire range of human hearing, from the deepest lows to the highest highs. 

Snare drum

The snare drum sits squarely in the middle of the standard drum set. Its diameter is typically 14 inches, and it is often around six inches deep (shallower than the other drums). The top head (or skin) of the drum is called the batter head (it’s the one you hit!) and the bottom head is called the resonant head (the sound reverberates off of it!) – this is true of all drums in the kit. But what gives the snare it’s signature sound is a group of metal wires called “snares” stretched across the resonant head of the drum. These snare wires can be tightened, loosened, or bypassed completely to change the sound of the drum with the “snare strainer” or “thrower,” which is a mechanical device on the side of the drum that holds the snares in place.

@sunhouseinc

The snare sound occupies the middle frequency range of the drum set and often functions the same as a clap (generally people clap along with snare drum part of a groove).

The snare drum developed as a means to communicate military commands across a battlefield and while marching – so they were designed to have a sound that cuts through a noisy atmosphere and across long distances. Because this function also works perfectly for cutting through a mix of instruments, the snare has been repurposed into all kinds of modern music, and often provides the backbeat (clap-along part). 


Dylan Wissing demonstrates classic snare drums from throughout the last 100 years.

Kick drum

The kick drum (aka bass drum) is the lowest sounding drum of the kit and is also the lowest positioned drum. It sits on the floor in front of you and is played with your right foot (on a righty-drum set). A mallet attached to a pedal strikes the batter head of the drum. The diameter of the drum is around 20 inches and the depth ranges from around 14 to 20 inches. 
The kick sound provides a low thump that people can tap their feet to. In many grooves the kick drum locks in with the bass guitar or bass synth, accenting the important notes that they play. 


The late great John Blackwell’s legendary bass drum techniques.

Toms

It is often up to you as to how many toms you want in your kit. A standard pop drum kit has at least one rack tom and a floor tom, however it’s not uncommon to have more of both. The rack toms are often mounted on top of the kick drum, but sometimes they are mounted on cymbal stands or placed on stands of their own. On kits that only have one rack tom, it is normally positioned above and behind the snare drum so that you can easily hit it with both sticks. Rack toms are generally 12 or 13 inches in diameter and at least 6 inches deep. 

The floor tom has leg attachments so that it sits on the floor to your right. It’s normally 14 to 16 inches in diameter and about 14 inches deep. 

The toms are used in heavier grooves and fills because they have a deep sound, occupying the low to high mid-range. 


Phill Collins’ epic Tom Fill in “In the Air Tonight”

Hi-Hat

The hi-hat is a fascinating instrument with a huge range of sound.. It is two small cymbals (often 14 inches each) mounted on a stand with a pedal that allows you to control the top cymbal with your left foot. You can smack the top cymbal into the bottom cymbal in a variety of ways to produce a range of sounds: from splashy to crisp. And then you can also play it with your stick, tightening the hats with more or less pressure on the pedal for different articulations.

The hi-hat is positioned to the left of the snare drum (often close enough so that it floats over the left half of the snare drum). Its sonic range occupies the high frequencies of the kit and is frequently used to “keep time,” (that means play a steady pattern).


Bernard Purdie demonstrating a tight hi-hat groove with some open hi-hats thrown in.

Cymbals

A standard drum set usually has a ride cymbal and/or crash cymbal.  Both the crash and ride cymbals are similar in size (around 20 inches in diameter), but the ride cymbal is thicker and designed to have a nice “ping” sound when struck with the tip of the stick. Like the hi-hat, the ride cymbal is often used to keep time. This is where the ride cymbal gets its name: you “ride” on it to keep time.

The crash cymbal is most often used for a special kind of accent called a “crash.” You crash a cymbal by striking it on its edge with the shoulder of your stick, often hard. The crash cymbal is designed with crashing in mind, and typically has a rich and heavy attack with a high-frequency, long shimmery decay. 

You can crash a ride cymbal and ride a crash cymbal, but a heavy ride cymbal has a slower attack and more wobbly decay when crashed, and a light crash cymbal has a more washy, less articulate attack when struck with the stick tip like a ride. There is a cymbal type called Crash-Ride, which is on the spectrum in between the two cymbal types.

The crash cymbal is typically suspended on a stand above the left side of the kit, hovering above the rack tom, or above and between the hi-hat and rack tom. The ride cymbal is usually positioned lower on its stand on the right side of the kit, and floats between the rack tom/s and floor tom.

If you have more than two cymbals, it’s pretty common to place them at different height levels and positions around the kit: experiment and find the places that feel most natural!  


Dan Mayo surrounded by interesting cymbals

Extras

One of the many ways a drummer can develop a unique voice behind the kit is by adding different percussive instruments to their kit. Shakers, side-snares, electronics, mounted bongos, are just a few instruments that can be used to expand the sound of your kit. 

Recent Advancements

Advancements in technology throughout the 100+ year existence of the drum set have expanded the range and role of the instrument.

Sunhouse is a recent technological advancement that has given drummers a voice in electronic music by translating the acoustic sound of the drums into a powerful digital controller, and allowing them to use their skills on the drums to produce music for modern pop genres.

To learn more about drums, check out our beginners guide to drums.

Ready to learn a new groove? Try Melodics for Electronic-Drums today.