Occasionally, when I’m in buoyant mood, I will drum along to some percussion-heavy music I’m fond of, using anything around – chair arms, cushions, desk – as surrogate drums. It’s a habit which, as far as I can tell, I share with only about a billion of my fellow humans – including, unexpectedly, The Rolling Stones’ 79-year-old drummer Charlie Watts, who appeared playing phantom drums at his Devon home on the One World: Together At Home coronavirus benefit gig in April. With the drum soundtrack for You Can’t Always Get What You Want prerecorded, Watts used some boxes as pretend drums and the back of a tall armchair as a hi-hat. (It turned out that he doesn’t have a drum kit at home because his wife hates the noise.)
Being able to drum silently but produce sound on headphones was one of the reasons that Aerodrums, which I featured here before last Christmas, has been so successful. Drummers’ partners, children and neighbours tend not to love drumming.
But now there’s a French rival to the Liverpool-based Aerodrums that I and, more significantly, my drummer daughter-in-law believe has the edge. While Aerodrums uses cameras to track your hands and feet, and requires near-darkness to work well, with Senstroke, you slip a Bluetooth-enabled sensor onto each drumstick and each foot, pair with an app, and, voilà, you’ve got a drum kit.
The tactile feedback from a stick hitting an object such as a table or cushion isn’t quite the same as from hitting a real drum, but it’s more satisfying than the sensation of drumming air. And you can calibrate different objects in different positions to emulate different drum sounds. Daughter-in-law toyed with the idea of using a glass and porcelain cake stand as a cymbal, and then wisely un-toyed with it.
Senstroke is not just a bit of fun, although it is definitively that. In combination with a phone or tablet app (tablet is better), you can use it to learn drums from scratch, or to polish and practise your skills. The accompanying app is extensive, effective and serious.