Mike Snyder: Blasts From The Past

This month’s column offers a brief break from the rigors of discussing the nuts and bolts of electronic drums with a look back at four vintage eDrum products. I rediscovered a bunch of fun and innovative gear while researching the chapter on history for my new book, All About … Electronic Percussion. The five that follow — covering a span of over 15 years — are examples of some of the unique gear I found.

The Synare from Star Electronics, along with the Syndrum from Pollard International, was one of the first commercially available electronic drums. Introduced around 1977, the Syndrum’s analog sound was heard everywhere — especially on “cop” television shows! The well-worn specimen pictured here is from the dusty eDrum collection of Drew Armentrout.

BOSS, a division of Roland, introduced the Dr. Pad in 1986. It eventually came in three different models: the DRP-I, DRP-II, and DRP-III (the DRP-1 is shown above). Each contained a different set of six PCM sampled sounds, with a dizzying polyphony of 1! The Dr. Pad can be run on batteries or a power adapter. For a virtual tour of the Dr. Pad, visit the web site keyboardmuseum.org.

Although not a commercial success, the Airtrigger (a.k.a. Airdrum) from Palmtree Instruments was very unique because you didn’t need drums or pads to trigger electronic sounds. The clave-looking Airtrigger had circuitry that sensed acceleration and was “sensitive to rotations about a single axis.” It required a 9-volt battery, located inside the tube, to work. Give two of these puppies to an air drummer, and nirvana was within reach.

The last piece of gear was never available commercially. In the photo, my sister Veronica is shown with the latest in wearable electronic drum pads (the latest as of 1993 anyway). I designed this “trigger vest” for the grand opening of the Future World: Innoventions exhibit at Epcot in 1994. The trigger vest was worn by a dancer who traded drum solos with an actual drummer. The wires for the four pads terminated in a pigtail behind the wearer. Mick Fleetwood was also using a trigger vest at this time, even before I made this one. As I recall, his vest was the inspiration for the designers at Epcot.