I often hear that the sole purpose of drums is to keep a steady beat for the band. I disagree. I began playing piano at age 3 and switched to the drum set at age 15. Ever since making the switch, one of my main pursuits has been to apply the melodic and harmonic sensibilities of the piano to the drum set. Despite years of exploring the melodic potential of instruments such as tabla, congas, and batá, I was still dissatisfied with the melodies I was able to create on drum set. Until now.
Zach Harmon started his residency in August and got connected with Gregory Givens to help with the engineering challenges in his pursuit for an elite and unique drum. Zach designed a drum set that combined the physical act of drumming with the piano’s ability to create chords and melodies. The foot pedals have been altered to be electronic control mechanisms. By pressing the foot pedals while striking the instrument, the performer can alter the pitch of each drum.
The design borrows from many fields of technology, some being outside Zach’s expertise. With the help of the Generator community, he was able to create a prototype.
There will also be an interface for programming tuning presets: pressing a button on this interface will automatically reposition the mechanisms in the drums to a higher or lower range of pitch, which will greatly expand the melodic capability. In addition to being a valuable teaching tool for ear-training, composition, and intonation, this instrument will enable drummers to be heard as more than just timekeepers—as equals in harmonic accompaniment. Melodic soloists. Leaders.