Another piece of music technology which, when seen in action, inevitably has people reaching for superlatives (and the chequebook) is the Wavedrum Mini from Korg.
The Wavedrum Mini comprises a rubberised practice-pad style playing surface, built-in loudspeaker and controls – volume knob, sound selection buttons etc… The unit can be powered by the supplied power adaptor but my preferred option is to run it on AA batteries as this means one less lead to get tangled or tripped over!
The 100 sounds are all very playable and inspiring for such an inexpensive instrument. They range from small hand percussion to huge industrial drums and include a number of tuned instruments such marimba or chordal stabs. A particular favourite is the sitar sound which has enough complex layers and nuances to make you feel that you’re interacting with a proper instrument – not just a toy!
The playing surface is very good. It’s responsive enough to be played with hands yet durable enough to withstand beaters – although I’d take care if using heavier stickers as it might be a little too easy to inadvertently give the speaker enclosure a good whack!
The speaker is certainly loud enough for personal use but, as you’d expect from a relatively small device, it can get lost when played alongside other instruments in a group. I usually take a lead out of either the mini-jack headphone socket or the 1/4” jack output into an amplifier.
So far, so good. However the Wavedrum Mini’s killer feature (and the one which gets people really excited) is the additional sensor clip. Looking like a large plastic clothes peg on a lead, this plugs into the main unit and can be clipped onto any hard surface, transforming that surface into a playable sensor with which to trigger any of the sounds built into the Wavedrum. Imagine being able to play the sound of an immense Taiko drum simply by drumming your fingers on a wheelchair tray! Or play a marimba by banging on a table top! Or augment the tonal and percussive capabilities of a guitar by clipping the sensor to the headstock. The possibilities are endless and inspiring.
The video example below shows students from The Dales School near Northallerton encountering the Wavedrum Mini for the first time. The sensor is clipped to a tabletop. Notice how the different sounds inspire the students to adapt their playing styles – large open handed slaps for the big drums, gentle finger taps for the marimba.
- It’s inexpensive.
- It runs on batteries.
- The sounds are great.
- The playing surface and the sensor clip are sensitive enough to give you a really nuanced playing experience which is endlessly engaging.
- It has the potential to transform everyday objects into musical instruments.
- Sound quality and volume of the in-built speaker.
- The control buttons can be attractive to certain children.