Using piezo-electric sensors or specialized drum pads, you
can turn acoustic drums into triggers, then convert that signal to MIDI. But why stop there, when your
legs are just waiting to be slapped?

To use your legs as a trigger, you’ll want a fairly sensitive sensor — standard drum triggers would require you to hit your legs with your sticks. Hard. (Though you might be into that; I don’t know.)

The Pulse BD-1 Body Pad Drum Trigger is supposedly designed just for the purpose of strapping a trigger to your body. They’re ugly as hell (check the geeky product shots). Loose-fitting costume / parachute pants might be in order. (Better option may be to go DIY or use a different trigger — see the comment at the end of the story.)

The tricky part, as with any drum trigger, is that you’ll need a module to convert triggers to MIDI to make the trigger useful, like the Roland TMC6 Trigger MIDI Converter. (If that’s too pricey, you can usually score something much cheaper by scouring eBay.) Once you’ve added the MIDI trigger, you can trigger percussion, samples, loops, video clips, whatever, by slapping your (suddenly rather bulky) legs.

Let me know if you’ve done anything like this and how it went. As a non-drummer, thigh-slapping may be the closest I can come to percussion – stay tuned.

UPDATE: These are crap? I asked for feedback and got it — our friend Kevin of The Nettles (great band, by the way) writes in comments (in case you missed it):

I’m sorry but I own a pair of these suckers and they’re a waste of money.  

 For a start, they’re not pads, they’re blocks of wood with transducers inside. When you bang with your fingers on a unyielding block of wood, you damage your finger joints.  Secondly, the transducers that Pulse provide with my pair have widely varying sensitivities, an indication of a serious quality-control problem, which I’ve also seen with their Red Dot drum transducers.

Avoid or build them on your own with piezos, a piece of wood and old rubber mouse pads. Then you can use sticks or your hands. For trigger midi converters you can check out older trigger to MIDI converters but your best bet might be to buy an old drum brain, like an Alesis D5, that has MIDI outs. Then you not only get MIDI conversion, you also get a sound bank in case you don’t want to burden your synth.


Thanks, Kevin; that was exactly the kind of first-hand experience I was hoping for. I’ll continue my quest for a knee-slapping good musical time, but if Kevin is right here, lousy triggers are not a good place to start. And wooden blocks? DIY it is. More updates on this topic soon.