Nowadays, producers and performers have a variety of options ready to facilitate their percussive controller needs. NI’s Maschine, Akai’s range, including the LPD8 we’ll be looking shortly, as well as Push, each offer interesting ways to play music — for performance or production.
Watching people like Jeremy Ellis and Araabmuzik inspired me to attempt learning how to finger drum on a midi controller. In the past, I had always used step sequencers for inputting percussive patterns, but the time came that I wanted to dive into playing the drums with my fingers and a midi controller.
With all sorts of drum controllers available, and most of them having a 4×4, 4×2, or even 8×8 pad configuration, you gotta ask yourself: What’s the best way to assign drum sounds to these pads so that playing them with my hands works best?
So, I googled finger drumming and came across a great breakdown from Mr. Invisible. I’ve drawn liberally on his configuration to lay out my own. The idea behind my take on Mr. Invisble’s setup has been to arrange the percussion samples in a logical way for using your fingers as the input for the drumming. With that in mind, here is how I have setup my LPD8:
Full disclosure: I am right-handed, and this configuration is based on a right-handed approach. I imagine the mirrored-layout of this configuration would work for my left-handed brothas and sistas…let me know. That said, for this configuration, your right hand plays the down-beat, and your left hand plays the up-beat. Let’s get to the fingers…
For the 8-pad setup, you won’t need to use your thumbs, though if you’re more ambitious and try a 4×4 setup, the thumb comes into play. For the 8-pad setup we’re working on here, your right-hand index finger should rest on the closed hi-hat pad, and your middle finger on kick drum 1. You’ll use your right-hand ring finger to drum snare 1 at the bottom-right of the pad grid.
With those three fingers, you can pound out breakbeat boom-baps one-handed. Just start with the “peace sign”, striking the closed hat and kick 1 simultaneously, then raise your middle-finger and use your ring finger to strike snare 1 as you strike closed hat with your index finger. Now you’re drumming one-handed!