Research Output
Studying Hybrid and Electronic Drum Kit Technologies
  Drum kit related technologies, such as such as sample pads, triggers or percussion controllers, have now become commonplace in the hybrid drum kit setups used by many drummers . For many drummers, these technologies are no longer considered an ‘addition’ to their acoustic setup as the technologies are essential to the process of performing their music. These hybrid kits enable drummers to recreate the sounds produced in studio recordings in a live environment and provide access to a sonic palette, such as playing melodies or percussion loops, that could not be created on an acoustic drum kit. The rise in prominence of these technologies cannot be ignored and drum educators must ensure that their students have developed the relevant practical skills and knowledge required for their future career. As Parkinson and Smith (2015) note “few established pedagogical models exist, the field of HPME [Higher Popular Music Education] is now at a critical juncture, with little to undo, and uncharted territory to map with an aspiration to authenticity as our guide”. Whilst highly established curricular silos do exist that focus on the development of technique and coordination applied to the traditional drum kit (for a detailed description see Dean 2012; Smith 2013), new pedagogic approaches need to be developed that enable drum kit students to develop skills, knowledge and understanding of these technologies and their creative affordances.

This chapter will report on the experience of seven undergraduate drum kit students at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland, who have recently engaged in a program of learning situated around drum kit technologies and live performance. The program seeks to develop in-depth knowledge and practical understanding of drum kit technologies and their interaction with music software, to enable leaners to make creative and effective use of this equipment in live performance settings. The programme of learning is delivered in a blended format (Garrison and Kanuka 2004), using a flipped classroom approach (Bergmann and Sams 2012) which encourages students to learn in a community of practice (Lave and Wenger 1991). The research will examine the following areas of the learner journey: (1) the prior experience of students engaging with this programme of study, (2) their experience of learning a musical instrument via blended and flipped classroom approaches, (3) the perceived challenges of implementing their learning in live performance settings, and (4) the perceived value of learning these technologies to their current and/or future career.

This chapter aligns clearly with two topics stated in the abstract brief: (1) Emergent drumming techniques and repertoire, and (2) Drumming and musicianship. In addition to these topic areas the chapter will examine drumming and technology, and drum kit pedagogy. Currently, drummers must rely on learning how to use the technologies via videos of product demonstrations provided on manufacturer’s websites, the owner’s manual (Stillie, 2019), or through online demonstrations provided by members of the drumming community. Unfortunately, these learning experiences tend to only examine the ‘out of the box’ functionality rather than the full creative potential of the drum kit technologies. There is a dearth of literature that specifically addresses how drummers learn these technologies and how they are being used to extend the capabilities and creative possibilities of their standard acoustic drum kit setup. Akira Jimbo (2003) and Bob Terry (2011) have both written instructional books on the subject of hybrid drumming. Whilst both books have their merits, they are focused on using specific pieces of equipment rather than teaching transferable skills and knowledge related to drum kit technologies. There is therefore a need to begin the discussion on how to teach these technologies holistically and to ensure that future pedagogic approaches can be developed from best practice to enable drummers to use the technologies creatively. This chapter seeks to use the data gathered from this student group to propose a possible pedagogic approach that can enable drummers to learn, consolidate and then deploy their drum technology related skills in performance settings.

  • Date:

    30 June 2021

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Stillie, B. (2021). Studying Hybrid and Electronic Drum Kit Technologies. In M. Brennan, J. Michael Pignato, & D. Akira Stadnicki (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Drum Kit (141-155). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press



drum kit pedagogy; hybrid drumming; hybrid drum kit; drum kit education

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