Whether you call it finger drumming, live beat making, pad production or controllerism, there is an interesting and growing culture surrounding this exciting new area of live performance.
When played live as an instrument, finger drum enabled controllers allow endless possibilities and sound combinations, which can create any style of music in real time. It can even emulate whole bands and allows full electronic music compositions to be performed live. Many performers use pads for solo performance. Some choose to team up with other finger drummers. Other performers play alongside DJs or instrumental musicians. Some artists choose to use finger drumming in a full band context. The flexibility allowed with finger drumming controllers make it highly adaptable for both solo performance and collaboration, and its exciting to see pads being used in new and imaginative setups every day.
Originating as a production technique for hip-hop music in the late 80s, finger drumming was once only used in a studio setting to achieve a live sounding swing/groove on drum patterns. This ended up heavily influencing and characterising the golden age hip-hop sound. It wasn’t until much more recently that it started to be used in live performance. Artists like Jeremy Ellis, AraabMuzik, M4SONIC, Metrognome and Shawn Wasabi brought the artform to a much wider audience via their hugely popular viral videos on YouTube.
Due to the success of these videos, worldwide interest in finger drumming continues to grow exponentially. In the last few years, companies like Akai, Native Instruments, Novation and M-Audio have invested heavily into widely expanding their range of finger drum and pad production hardware. An increasing number of leading DJ Controllers (from companies like Pioneer, Denon, Roland and Numark) now include pads for finger drumming and sample triggering.
Finger drumming culture combines aspects of the cultures surrounding both hip-hop turntablism and electronic music. Performers utilise the skills of pianists, music producers and traditional drummers in their work. Finger drumming and controllerism are now commonplace in the worlds leading turntablism and DJing competitions, such as the DMC and Red Bull 3Style events. There is also a new scene developing around live ‘beat battles’. These pit two or more controllerists against each other to wow crowds by showing off their best beats performed live. We expect to see a lot more of these events popping up all over the globe in the near future.
With the fledgling scene picking up momentum fast, it is exciting to see whats next for finger drumming and controllerism. Each year, developers release new equipment which expands the boundaries of exactly what can be done within the artform. The possibilities are limitless when it comes combining finger drumming sounds and styles with other more traditional performance setups. For these reasons, we see finger drumming and controllerism as the most exciting area developing in music today. It is certainly one area to watch in the future.