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Sensory Percussion Electronic System

Innovative technology that combines the natural expressivity of acoustic drums with the limitless power of software.

The goal for Sunhouse’s super-advanced Sensory Percussion system is to, as much as possible, remove machinery from the experience of performing with electronics. With no buttons to push, pads to strike, or knobs to twist, Sensory Percussion is designed to allow you to keep playing your acoustic drums as you always have while unearthing a bold new world of digital sounds, effects, and processing via a set of high-tech sensors and the company’s proprietary software. This isn’t just another electronic system with basic drum triggers sending simple on/off messages to a MIDI controller to fire one-shot samples and loops. It’s much deeper—and more humanistic—than that.

Smart Technology

The Sensory Percussion system includes small phantom-powered sensors housed inside a clamp that connects to the hoop of a drum (snare, tom, or kick). The sensors feed signal to the software installed on your computer via any third-party audio interface and a standard XLR cable. When you play the drum, the software analyzes the signal coming in from the sensor and applies it to various controls. You can use the system to trigger basic drum samples from your acoustic kit. In fact, it does that marvelously well. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s dig in a bit deeper.

Dialing In

The Sensory Percussion system interprets where and how you strike a drum in exacting detail. So rimshots, cross-sticks, stick shots, shell hits, and center/edge strikes can all be utilized to control the software, whether that’s to play different sounds, control effects processors, or transmit MIDI controller information (pan, pitch, volume, blend, etc.). In order to dial in the system so that it reacts properly to your own playing style, you have to first calibrate the software, in Training mode, by striking each zone of the drum (e.g., center, edge, rim tip, and rim shoulder) twenty or so times at different dynamics. The snare and toms have the most regions to establish, but you can also train the software to differentiate between different bass drum sounds (digging into the head versus letting beater rebound and rim/shell strikes with sticks).

The training process only took a few minutes to complete, and once the zones were established I could immediately open up one of the preset banks and begin triggering different sounds by hitting the drum in various ways. At this point, the drum acted similar to a multi-pad, with each zone triggering separate samples. From there, you can adjust the Blend parameter to erase the boundaries between the zones to get a seamless transition between the sounds assigned to the different regions. This is the first step in getting the Sensory Percussion system to respond in a natural, organic way.

The Advanced Features

Once the software is trained to recognize the various zones of the drum and the blend is adjusted to eliminate jagged jumps from one sound to another, you can get super-creative by applying different effects to each zone and then controling them in a multitude of ways depending on how you strike the drum. At this point, the system responds completely organically to your playing, seamlessly incorporating effects (EQ, amp simulation, delay, reverb, compression, filter), controls (timbre, velocity, speed, LFOs), and layers of sampled sounds on top of your acoustic tones. (You can also use the system with mesh heads for a completely electronic approach.)

Having the unending options that the Sensory Percussion software provides can lead to a state of creative paralysis, so I suggest that you begin by messing around with the presets that come with the software before you dive too deeply into building your own sound banks and effects controls. Once you get comfortable with how the system works, you’ll inevitably find some exciting new ways to augment your acoustic drumming or to create fresh electronic textures with an amazing amount of human nuance.

To get a feel for how far you can go with Sensory Percussion, check out Sunhouse’s YouTube channel, which features demos by a handful of cutting-edge jazz and electronica drummers, including Marcus Gilmore, Kendrick Scott, and Ian Chang. List prices range from $699 for the Starter kit (one sensor and the software) to $1,575 for the Complete setup with four sensors and the software.

Michael Dawson