DrumKid is an “aleatoric” drum machine, meaning it uses random numbers to determine the rhythm and sound of a drum beat. It comes in a handheld, battery-powered unit, designed for live performance. Check out the video here:
DrumKid is currently under development, with the aim to make it available to buy as soon as possible. You can sign up to my mailing list to be notified of its release.
The story of DrumKid starts a few years ago. My band, Robot Swans, had just formed and were trying to figure out whether to find a drummer or use a drum machine. I was against the idea of a drum machine unless I could find a way to make it feel like a proper, playable, live instrument, so I set about designing the first iteration of DrumKid: a web app designed to be played on a tablet. You can see footage of it in action with Robot Swans below:
The idea was to harness random numbers in a controllable way, creating rhythms with natural variance. The user acts as a sort of conductor, while the random numbers themselves trigger the drum hits. It worked really well, creating a distinctive sound that underlaid our entire debut album.
A few years later, I decided it would be cool to build a physical version of DrumKid that didn’t require a tablet. Just as I was considering this project, which I had vaguely considered as my first “commercial” venture, the theme for the 2019 Hackaday Prize was announced: “design for manufacture”. I had reached the semi-finals of the 2018 Hackaday Prize, and it was a really positive experience, so I decided the coincidence was too good to pass up. I entered DrumKid (then just an early breadboard prototype) into the prize and started putting a lot more time into development.
There’s not much point in me duplicating what I’ve written on DrumKid’s Hackaday project page, so head over there if you want to see lots of details of the lengthy (but ultimately satisfying) development process. In short, I succeeded in developing the project into what is nearly a viable final product, and was very happy to be announced as one of the 20 finalists of the 2019 Hackaday Prize. I’m just working on a few last-minute complications, but I’m still hoping to be able to sell DrumKid online pretty soon.