Welcome to Drumsability

Adaptive solutions for people who want to play the drums but require
alternatives to conventional drum kits

These solutions may be for you if you are an aspiring drummer who cannot access
conventional instruments, or a previously active player who has become disabled.

Or perhaps you're a drummer who is interested in alternative approaches to the drum kit.
Please e-mail for more information.

The aim of drumsability adaptations is to enable any individual to take on the role of drummer
regardless of physical constraints.
Solutions include:

  • Non-standard ways of physically positioning of drums and cymbals (or electronic equivalents).
  • Different methods of striking drums and cymbals (or electronic equivalents).
  • Alternative ways of operating cymbal sustain / choke mechanisms.
  • Alternative seating arrangements.

Solutions are based on an individually tailored approach:

  • Adapting standard commercially available equipment.
  • Developing new adaptive devices.

Please note: I cannot provide ready made equipment, only help and advice replicating devices I have made for my own use

acoustic kit with floor stands for hi-hat and cymbals

I have developed a playing style that works without a foot operated kick drum, and without a foot operated hi hat, incorporating some of the ideas of linear drumming.

I find the disadvantages of not being able to play 3 simultaneous beats on kick, snare and hi-hat are outweighed by the fact that playing the kick and snare by hand allows some otherwise impossible and spectacular patterns to be performed.

Acoustic Drum Kit

My approach has 2 main adaptations:

  • 1. Re-positioning bass drum so it can be played with drumsticks rather than a foot pedal.

  • 2. Employing mechanisms to operate the hi hat 'backwards' - i.e. the cymbals are weight or spring-clamped closed, and the pedal or lever is used to open them. This is key as it saves keeping constant pressure on a pedal.

I have used cable systems so that the hi-hat pedal can be relocated to where I can use it, as I play sitting on the floor cross legged.

I also use electro-mechanical systems which nvolve adding a stepper motor to open and close the cymbals, and a variety of switches and a micro-controller to trigger and govern the action.for operation by hand, fingers, or any other suitable body part. (The switches are potentiometer type, to give a contiunous siganl rather than simple on/off).

(See videos right)

I am currently developing a system which will sense the position of drumsticks and operate the hi-hat accordngly - e.g. opening if played towards the outside of the cymbals, or closing if struck nearer the centre.

This video features the
power assisted,
switch controlled system

This video features the
cable operated system

custom layout 8 electronic pads for midi drums

Electronic and MIDI Drums

  • Building drum pads with custom designed layouts.
  • Re-patching the set-up so that the bass drum sound can be triggered using drumsticks on a pad.
  • Re-patching to provide one pad with an open hi-hat sound, and a separate pad with the closed sound, removing the need for an opening/closing mechanism.

Alesis drum module with trigger inputs connected directly to pads

mesh head and mini hi-hat kit with looping and fx control triggers

Mesh Head Kit

  • Amplified mesh heads allow much lighter sticks and playing style to be used.
  • Semi-acoustic - has the feel and response of proper drum heads but uses specially developed pick-ups to amplify the sound which is otherwise vrtually silent (like hitting a tennis raquet - fantastic for allowing quiet practice). This also greatly facilitates the use of effects as monitoring is not drowned out by the volume of the drums themselves
  • Prepared heads - the 'snare' has snares mounted above the head which are brought into action by striking the head at the appropriate point (rather than manually levering snares on and off). The 'kick' head is specially weighted to produce bass in the same way as a low tabla drum.
  • The mini hi-hat use two 6 inch hand cymbals - they are quiter, and also tighter sounding than normal. In this case foot lever operated via a cable (bottom left of the kit). (Listen to a live performance here)

Looping and FX Controllers

  • The yellow block to the left of the kit is a set of trigger pads which are used to control loop recording and playback via MIDI messages.
  • They may also control filters, fx and delays (Listen to Itskeri mp3).
  • Loopers I have used include Lexicon and Gibson hardware and Mobius software - there are lots more around.
mini hi-hat normal position closed - pedal opens (mounted on 'snare' drum)
acoustic kit hi-hat, pedal and cable