Fantasy Project – Robotic Drummer (9/23/2009)

One group of musicians and music producers I have a great respect and appreciation for is The Neptunes, aka Pharell Williams and Chad Hugo.  From what I’ve read, they have an unorthodox process for making music.  They develop their songs using live instruments, but then record and master their songs using entirely digital, synthesized sound.  This gives them the crisp, perfect sounds they are famous for.  However, I find this process to be counter intuitive, especially as someone who is not formally trained to play live instruments.

My idea for the Fantasy Project is to create a Robotic Drummer who takes an input stream of notes / sounds and plays them on a real drum set.  In essence, this is the opposite of what the Neptunes do, and I suspect that it would make the experience of recording music with live instruments more accessible to people, like myself, who do not possess such skills.

Watching a human play the drums can be quite amazing.  In the below video, an experienced drummer wows the viewer.

Reggae/DNB from Xtruist Art on Vimeo.

In this video, a human drummer dsiplays his sense of rhythm, technical precision, and stylized playing. Much of this is possible because of the complex movements of the human arm and because of the sophistication of the human brain. My design is to take the thinking from our brains and supplement it with the dexterity and precision of Robotic arms.

Robotic Drummer – Motion Study from Noah King on Vimeo.

A human arm is quite complex in the way that it moves. This movement can be simulated using a robotic arm in three sections. Using 7 servos for 7 axes of movement, a full range of motion would be achievable.


This design could either work in real-time with a keyboard with each key mapped to each drum strike, or the device could have a pre-recorded drum sequence programmed into it and then it could play back the sounds.