Okay, we're drummers and we just hit things – sometimes rhythmically. But deep down, we're all latent composers,
and Korg's new Wavedrum Mini will certainly bring out
the musician in any stick-wielder.
It's an electronic percussion pad with a built-in speaker, so it's really a full solution in a small package – just over 20 cm across and 5 cm deep. And to ensure total portability, it's battery-powered (a mains adaptor is supplied) and even has a strap to attach to your thigh if you don't have a stand or table to rest it on.
The Mini is a scaled-down version of the second-generation Wavedrum, a pretty impressive percussive instrument that provides fantastic triggering across various zones and some super-realistic World Drumming sounds.
The new entry-level pad is smaller than the Wavedrum, has fewer trigger zones and a much simplified sound palette, but it's also half the price of the big brother.
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The Mini has 100 sounds, ranging from acoustic drums to tuned percussion, a sitar, piano notes and a bunch of electro and weird noises that will amuse the kids, but won't get too much airtime among serious musicians. Besides the raw sounds, there are also 100 rhythm patterns, from basic beats to full melodic phrases, and these span a diverse collection of genres, from Latin to techno, R&B, jazz and lots of World Music varieties.
The Wavedrum is played with hands, fingers and palms and the tones vary according to how hard you hit, where you hit and which part of your hand you use. There's a bit of a learning curve, especially with some of the melodic instruments, and it's not as easy as some of the other multipad triggers with their designated zones, for example. To make it more complicated, the variations change depending on the instrument sound selected. So, for example, open and slap techniques on conga or djembe settings produce effects similar to “the real thing”.
One of the nifty innovations is the inclusion of an external trigger – the sensor clip. This velocity-sensitive attachment clips onto anything from a table to a shoe, turning that surface into an additional drum. The Korg website has some fantastic footage of the sensor attached to a paper cup and a soft drink can, producing different tones when tapped at various points on the surface. But one of the most impressive demonstrations sees the clip attached to the neck of a bottle filled with water and used as a shaker. As the water swirls around, it makes a swirling shaker sound that will really impress audiences.
But as impressive as the sensor clip may be, the real genius of the Mini is its easy-to-use multi-layer recorder. At the press of a few buttons, it's easy to overdub instruments onto one of the included patterns. And if you don't want the pattern, you can simply mute it.
I've tried the high-end sequencing pads and have battled to lay down a pattern, but on this little guy, it's easy to do without even reading the manual. It's as simple as hitting the right buttons and starting to play. And there's no limit to the number of layers you can add. The Mini also allows you to create phrases up to 25 seconds long and overdub them ad nauseum.
The one shortcoming, however, is that your creations are only temporary and cannot be saved. Once you exit, they're gone – and that can be disappointing when you've laid down an intricate and effective track that will be lost forever. Of course, you can record it using the stereo output.
The Mini might not be a professional-level electronic percussion instrument because of limited connectivity since it doesn't have MIDI Out, for example. Its plastic body means it may not be up to the rigours of a road tour. But for home play and amateur use, it's a whole lot of instrument in a small package.
The Mini triggers well, with excellent responsiveness and sensitivity, and the addition of the sensor clip makes it even more versatile sonically.
The onboard sounds are good, if a bit off-beat and quirky, but at least a quarter of them would be useful to most drummers. Similarly, some of the patterns are a bit obscure, but there are enough usable ones to keep most buyers happy. The small built-in speaker does an adequate job, but connect some decent headphones or a drum amp and the Mini sounds sensational.
The major benefits are the ease of use, which will enable anyone to be bashing away and producing sounds within seconds of unpacking. And the fantastic looping/overdub capabilities are the clincher, not least because they turn anyone into a composer and producer at the click of a couple of buttons. In short, maxi fun in a mini package.
Biog: Allan Leibowitz is the drummer in Brisbane covers band City Limits and the editor of digitalDrummer, a global magazine for electronic percussion.
• Sounds: 100
• Patterns: 100
• Effects: 10
• Outputs: Phones (Stereo mini), Output (1/4”)
• Speaker: 10 x 5cm; 1.3 Watt
• Power Supply: AA batteries; AC adapter
• Accessories: AC Adapter, Sensor clip, Strap