The ability to finger drum transforms a pad controller into an instrument. Instead of being limited to step sequencing or programming, the accomplished finger drummer unlocks the range and expression available to musicians. The result is creative possibility shifting back into the producer’s hands.
Finger drumming has been around a long time - producers have been banging pads since even before the legendary MPC60 was released in 1988. In recent years it has become more popular, particularly with the release of products like Ableton Push, Native Instrument’s Maschine series, and Novation’s Launchpad.
Rhythm and timing define the groove, and the groove is central to how a track feels. It can be the difference between a repetitive loop and something you can listen to all day. Advances in music software have taken away the need to learn these skills, with only a few clicks a producer can have perfect timing. While that’s convenient, the result can often be lacklustre and robotic sounding groove that fail to engage.
Learning finger drumming helps in two different ways. Firstly, learning to actually play a beat will give you a much deeper understanding than can be achieved by step sequencing. Spending the time to perfect playing a beat will help you to understand how the subtle changes in an arrangement can have a huge impact on the groove.
Secondly, the slight variations that naturally occur when you play the pads live give the beat a much more organic feel. The legendary producer J Dilla famously played his beats live into his MPC, so no two bars are identical.
While it may feel unnatural at first, continuous practice will lead to improved rhythm and timing. Practicing genre-specific patterns allow producers to get into a groove with the samples and lay down drums with a lot more feeling. This all helps build confidence and enable a producer to create the music they want.
Each genre has its own tempo, feel and composition. Understanding these unique attributes is essential in learning and generating new ideas. Knowing where the kick, snare and hats sit on the grid is the first step – however the crucial step is developing a true understanding of how to play the beat yourself.
Finger Drumming allows producers to lay down tracks faster. This will speed up your workflow, as you’ll be able to play the ideas in your head directly into your pad controller.
This combination of understanding composition and developing how to play opens up many doors for producers to get more creative and build better tracks. Physically playing out these compositions ingrains these patterns, you’ll notice that the muscle memory quickly takes over, and you no longer have to thing about what you’re playing.
And then there is the live element. As a producer, when you have the opportunity to play live, you need to re-think your compositions to turn them into performances. More often than not, a track will come together after many hours of experimenting, layering, adding and removing elements. Playing it live is an entirely different thing. For many producers this is a challenge. Finger drumming gives you a way to truely play your track, in a way that your audience can relate to.
Many producers also DJ, and increasingly DJ gear comes with pads. Being able to use the cue points and pads to flip or remix on the fly gives your DJ set an entirely new angle, especially if you’re playing music you produced yourself. Melodics as a range of lessons designed specifically for mastering the art of cue point drumming.
It is an emerging skill that is bringing the traditional elements of instrumentation such as rhythm, composition, performance and moving them to the modern instrument of the pad controller. The array of ways finger drumming can help beginners, producers, DJ’s and live performers continues to grow. Experience the benefits of finger drumming for yourself and learn the fun way with Melodics™. Try out a Free Trial of Melodics™ and get better today.
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