A powerful percussion-modeling synthesizer with nearly limitless sonic potential.
These days, Swedish company Nord is most known for its distinctive red-colored keyboards. But the company’s founders, Hans Nordelius and Mikael Carlsson, originally collaborated in 1983 to create the world’s first commercial-grade digital drum, the Digital Percussion Plate 1. An improved version was released in 1984, under a new name: ddrum. The ddrum brand was sold off in 2005, and it wasn’t until 2012 that Nord put out a new drum product, simply called the Nord Drum.
All in One
We reviewed the Nord Drum and a separate six-trigger Nord Pad in 2014, and we were impressed by how much you could manipulate the internal sounds in real time. But it was a pricey product ($699 for the module and $499 for the pads), and you ultimately had to buy both in order to get the most out of it. With the release of the Nord Drum 3P, the module and pad are integrated into one unit, which sells for $699.
The 3P is a bit smaller, thinner, and lighter than other multi-pads on the market, measuring roughly 12″x11″x2″ and weighing just four pounds. It has six rubber pads with independently adjustable threshold, sensitivity, and dynamic response curve, and there’s an external trigger input on the back for connecting a kick drum pad. Sound from the module is routed to two unbalanced quarter-inch outputs (left and right) and to an eighth-inch stereo jack. MIDI connections are made via standard five-pin inputs and outputs.
The module comes configured with four different drumkit banks with fifty presets per bank, and there are eight empty user banks. The sounds are categorized into bass drums, snare drums, toms, hi-hats, cymbals, percussion, bells, tuned percussion, and effects. The sounds are generated by an internal synthesizer, which is different from other multi-pads that trigger audio samples stored in internal memory or on an SD card.
It’s important to point out that you can’t use the 3P to load in and play prerecorded samples and loops. But it’s not designed to do that. This is a specialized electronic instrument that allows you to create your own unique synthesized sounds and textures by adjusting various parameters, such as resonance, EQ, ring modulation, FM-synthesis, high- and low-pass filters, attack, and noise waveforms.
There are global effects in the module that affect the entire kit, including five types of stereo reverb and three types of delay. Each instrument in the kit can also be affected with drive (i.e. distortion), sample-rate reduction, ring modulation, and EQ. All effects adjustments, as well as sound bank changes, are quick and easy to make via the buttons and scroll wheel on the top of the module. Having all the effects and tone adjustment controls at your fingertips is a great feature, especially when you want to audition sounds and effects quickly between songs—or even mid-song. You can’t do that quite as easily with other electronic drums, where you have to dig through submenus on an LED screen to find the various controls.
The Nord Drum 3P comes with a stand holder that mounts to its underside, so you can attach it to a multi-clamp or cymbal stand base. Because the 3P is more compact than most multi-pads, it’s easy to position comfortably within a drumset. I liked placing it just to the left of the hi-hat so that I could play the pads with my left hand while continuing to hold down a groove with my right hand and feet. I could also sneak it into a spot just above the floor tom and below the ride for times when I wanted to play the 3P’s synthesized percussion tones with the right hand instead.
The 3P pads don’t have a ton of rebound; they feel like the hard-rubber side of a two-sided practice pad. But the sensitivity of the module is excellent. I was able to explore ideas that utilized the entire dynamic range, from pianissimo to fortissimo, and the 3P never double triggered or missed a hit.
There are a lot of cool and interesting drum, percussion, and synthetic sounds to explore within the stock kits of the 3P. Most of them are configured so that softer strokes play one sound and louder strokes play another. Each kit has different effects and synthesis parameters applied to give you a more fully realized soundscape to explore right out of the box.
To take full advantage of the 3P, however, you really need to spend some time investigating how the Noise, Tone, and Click parameters transform each sound into a totally new texture. This is where Nord’s multi-pad excels beyond many others. Then when you begin to explore the array of effects that can be applied to each pad, you open up a whole new world of sonic possibilities. But be forewarned: it takes some know-how on the basics of synthesis and sound design in order to get the most out of the 3P and its infinite capabilities. So read the manual and take time to experiment with each parameter. Once you get the hang of it, the Nord Drum 3P is an incredible tool for drummers looking to add some sophisticated electronic elements to their performances.
The Nord Drum 3P can also be used as a MIDI controller with other modules and software, and the company has created an iPad app, Nord Beat, that allows you to sequence rhythmic patterns that utilize the unique sounds of the 3P.