Drum machines have been around for decades. While initially maligned for the purported threat of putting actual drummers out of work, time has proven that they have helped birth electronic-based modern music and can be useful tools in the studio or live performances. Forward-thinking drummers welcome these devices as part of their creative palette and arsenal. Generally, traditional hardware drum and rhythm machines tend to intimidate guitarists unfamiliar with an actual drum kit’s layout, with each drum head corresponding to a pad or button.
DigiTech’s SDRUM Strummable Drums pedal is a godsend for guitarists with a basic knowledge of drum rhythms but still crave the nuances that an actual human drummer provides, and all in a guitarist-friendly stompbox that will not look out of place in a pedalboard. With only two pads to deal with, and the option to program patterns with a guitar or bass, rhythm programming has never been easier (and creativity-inducing).
The most basic way to program a rhythm in the SDRUM (rhymes with “strum”, ya dig?) is to simply tap the intended beat on the dedicated Kick and Snare soft buttons. When played back, the SDRUM automatically adds hi-hats and cymbals. Twisting and pushing the two encoder knobs is when the fun really begins. For example, setting the left encoder to SW (swing) can transform your beat to a bluesy shuffle. From there, twisting the encoder again to Simple, the unlabelled moderate, or Busy adds various degrees of expressiveness including subtle grace notes on the snare sound. Twisting the right encoder knob introduces many hi-hat and ride cymbal variations. The sound selection is a modest 5 (with an ALT mode), but given the extra, and quite musical, flurries the SDRUM produces to even the most basic groove, you can deal with practically any modern music genre. You can record separate Verse, Chorus, and Bridge patterns. You can even get a lot out a basic pattern by pressing the respective buttons again and you will get variations (soft/loud dynamics, rimshots in place of snare hits) for each part. You can even have different tempos for each song section. Tapping the footswitch allows you to shift song parts accented by rolls; holding it will stop the song. SDRUM can hold 36 “songs”.
But what is the “Strummable Drum” bit all about? Well, if you are still intimidated by the Kick and Snare buttons, you can use your guitar (or bass) to input kick/snare data. Simply calibrate the bottom strings to the Kick and the higher strings to the Snare, then strum the bottom strings to trigger the kick sound and the higher strings for the snare (bassists familiar with the pop-and-slap technique already know this analogy). Depending on how versatile your rhythm chops are, you CAN come up with non-standard drum patterns. The SDRUM will determine the appropriate complementary hi-hat/ride patterns leading to fresh grooves, and again, twisting the encoder knobs will give you countless dynamics. Aiming for a 4/4 pattern with multiple syncopations? The SDRUM will be right there with you. You change the tempo by tapping on the Tempo button or by twisting the tempo knob.
While aimed at guitarists and bassists, you can even assign it to someone else. Program a rhythm in, and let your musical partner twist and push the knobs for on-the-fly expressiveness.
The DigiTech SDRUM is currently available at our Lyric Horseshoe branch. Check out our fresh-out-of-the-box demo here for a closer look and listen at the basics of what is actually a deep, and musical, drum-machine-in-a-stompbox.
-by Francis Brew Reyes