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Pro percussionists including drummers for M.I.A., The Flaming Lips and David Bowie are already buzzing about the hardware/software system that bridges the gap between digital’s vast sonic palette and living, breathing human musicianship.

Sensory Percussion

Tlacael Esparza, Co-Founder and Head of Products and Technology at music technology startup Sunhouse, announced the Kickstarter launch of Sensory Percussion, a hardware/software system invented and realized by Tlacael that enables drummers to easily control an unlimited array of electronic samples, synths and audio effects with any acoustic drum kit. “Its not about drum machines versus drummers anymore; it’s about bridging the electronic and the acoustic to create a system where drum machines are smart enough to listen to and respond to a drummers' artistry” says Tlacael.

Sensory Percussion turns the surface of any drum into an expressive digital music controller, allowing drummers to play unlimited sounds and effects while preserving all the human nuances of live performance.

With a small, easy-to-attach sensor that communicates with Sunhouse’s proprietary Mac/PC software, Sensory Percussion enables the control of multiple sounds from a single drum. This is already far beyond current trigger systems that can only control a single sound per sensor. But what makes this system truly revolutionary is that it also allows the musician to play "between" sounds and to control continuous effects based on where the drum is hit, allowing creative possibilities that are orders of magnitude beyond any competing product.

This is done by analyzing the rich acoustics of real drums through advanced digital signal processing and machine learning techniques. Each strike of a drum produces a unique sound and Sensory Percussion's software is trained to understand and interpret these sounds allowing the drummer to map them to any electronic process they want.

Sensory Percussion is made by a drummer, for drummers, and promises to usher in a new era of rhythmic intelligence and creative expression across all genres of music. A professional drummer with over fourteen years of experience, Tlacael performs and records with acclaimed artists including Nicolas Jaar and The Dave Harrington Group among numerous others.

This background—augmented by a dual math/music BA from Columbia and a Master’s in Music Technology from NYU, where he teaches Digital Signal Theory—gives him a deep understanding of what drummers need to maximize their creativity in an increasingly digital music scene, and the knowledge and vision to realize that solution.

“Current e-drums are based on decades-old trigger technology. They’re basically buttons disguised as drums,” says Tlacael, referring to the limitations of today’s electronic drum kits, which only allow one sound per pad and little expressive potential beyond limited volume control. “Playing them is like making a black-and-white photocopy of a painting, you lose all the detail and artistry of the performance. Our system, with the ability to respond to all the nuances of the drums and translate this art form to the digital realm, has the potential to reinvigorate performance and transform rhythm-making across genres.”

Drummers who have taken Sunhouse’s prototype for a spin include The Flaming Lips’ Nicholas Ley, who commented: “All of a sudden I can take all of the skills I’ve been honing my entire life and apply it to drum machines, keyboards, vocals. Anything that you could possibly think of. I can’t wait.”

M.I.A.’s drummer Kiran Gandhi exclaimed: “I’m so inspired. . . This is so awesome. I wish I had this on the MIA tour!” as she experienced firsthand a tiny fraction of the sonic toolkit now at her disposal.

“It will spit out information that's really malleable, sophisticated and very human,” confirms Ian Chang from Son Lux.

After playing Sensory Percussion for the first time, Adam Christgau who plays drums for Tegan and Sara said: "I am amazed by the versatility of this system. Most of today’s gear lacks feel or touch, so this is going to revolutionize the way that drummers can connect with electronics from a musical perspective.”

David Bowie’s drummer Sterling Campbell praised Sensory Percussion: “I’ve always been kinda jealous of synth players and people who program - that they have more flexibility with using drums in this age of electronics and making sounds. And now, you can pretty much do whatever you want to with [Sensory Percussion].”

The Kickstarter campaign will offer serious musicians discounts on pre-orders—15% off all bundles of the sensors and software. Prices during the Kickstarter campaign are:

  • Starter kit (1 sensor + software): $595 ($100 off retail)
  • Sensory Percussion Duo (2 sensors + software): $869 ($150 off retail)
  • Sensory Percussion Trio (3 sensors + software): $1115 ($200 off retail)
  • Complete kit (4 sensors + software): $1330 ($250 off retail)

There will be a limited number of early bird specials available at an even further discount of 25%.

Kickstarter supporters of this quantum leap forward in the craft of drumming can opt for t-shirts or totes at the $25 donation level, and tickets to an exclusive launch party with performances by artists using Sensory Percussion for $45 each.

Sunhouse is seeking to raise a minimum of $80,000 from the campaign to cover tooling, production, assembly, and related costs for Sensory Percussion’s initial manufacturing run, with a projected ship date of January 2016. Additional funds raised will go toward software development, including refining the user interface and adding features to the Sunhouse sampler and synth engine being built from the ground up to take advantage of Sensory Percussion’s unique capabilities.

Sunhouse is a new kind of music tech company: a team of musicians, engineers and designers creating high-tech systems that enable new forms of musical creativity. Sunhouse technology is created by musicians for musicians with the vision of building systems with musical intelligence, systems that are smart enough to listen to and respond to a musician’s artistry to open up new creative possibilities in live performance and studio recording.

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