The beat of electronic drums resounds in most new songs on the radio—yet, the existing technology for recreating those sounds in live settings is clunky and not intuitive for traditionally-trained drummers. But new ideas happen wherever there are gaps to fill, and music is no exception. Enter Sensory Percussion, an electronic drum-set by Sunhouse, a new music technology company that was launched last year after a successful Kickstarter campaign by Tlacael Esparza, who invented the founding product, along with his brother and sister.
Unsurprisingly, Esparza was once himself a frustrated drummer. After years of playing on the jazz and indie scenes of New York, “I realized how much of a gulf there was between what drummers could do with electronics and what electronic musicians could do with electronics,” he says. He enrolled in New York University’s Music Technology program in 2011, where he focused on a means to link electronics and percussion, and the result of his efforts became Sensory Percussion.
Discreet hardware and groundbreaking software make it rock-and-roll-friendly, while style and nuance can emerge as drummers are able to take up their natural stance. Unlike previous offerings, which have done something similar based on where they are hit, the drum-set responds to how its hit. It can distinguish a feather-light ghost-note towards the edge of the drum from an ear-splitting rim shot, and so on.
New users train the software to respond to their touch—a hard hit in the center of the floor tom can become an 808-style thud, while a snare drum roll could mimic the sci-fi zoom of a flight shooting through hyperspace. “You can map complex sound environments onto acoustic instruments,” says Esparza. “It’s totally intuitive.” Best of all, even as it opens a new realm of sonic possibilities, it honors an age-old technology that doesn’t need reinvention: hitting stuff with a stick.