Drum machine are ubiquitous in modern music, but playing them live presents a challenge. When playing electronic rhythms live, whether using a drum machine or a laptop, it can often appear that a musician is simply pressing "play" on a backing track, removing much of the perceived spontaneity of a live performance.
My drum machine, DrumKid, aims to tackle this problem by using a variety of controls to alter a drumbeat live, using randomly generated drum hits which augment the original beat. Rather than being designed as a pre-programmed backing instrument, DrumKid aims to be a playable instrument in its own right, with continuously adjustable controls that work well in a live setting. My intention was to create an engaging, interactive device that, like any musical instrument, can be mastered over time with practice.
DrumKid has the following features:
- 4 real-time control knobs
- 20 controllable parameters
- Save/load function
- Tap tempo
- 3.5mm line/headphone output
- Lo-fi mono 8-bit sound
- Powered by 3xAA batteries
DrumKid is an open-source, hackable product based around an ATmega328 chip, as found in an Arduino Uno. The final product features a minimalist design consisting of a single PCB with buttons, knobs, and LEDs mounted on one side, and all other components mounted on the other side. Two laser-cut sections are used to protect the electronics.
I now have a fully working prototype of DrumKid, and I am happy with the audio quality, playability, aesthetics, durability, reliability, and battery life. I am planning to make a small, initial batch of DrumKid units in September to distribute to musicians for testing. After any necessary updates to the PCB design and/or firmware, I hope to build a larger batch of units and launch DrumKid for sale around November/December 2019.
DrumKid can also be constructed as a breadboard/stripboard project using an Arduino Uno - see the build instructions for details.
All necessary files can be found on this page and/or the DrumKid GitHub repository.