by Tim Kroker

How to master the art of finger drumming with Tim Kroker

Learn basic finger drumming techniques that will improve your timing and coordination, and turn you into a MASCHINE master.

A fundamental of the electronic scene, finger drumming should be and is amazing fun, combining the latest in music technology with the rush of live performance. If you haven’t played an instrument before it can be challenging, but also incredibly rewarding once you get the hang of it. Professional drummer, teacher, and finger drumming maestro Tim Kroker, teaches you how.

In this video series, Kroker demonstrates basic techniques that will improve your timing and coordination. To help you get started, Kroker also shows off new and creative ways to play pads that you can apply live and in the studio. These ideas are simple starting points and not all of them sound great out of the box. Experiment, go wild, and don’t be afraid, there is no right and wrong in music making.

Feel the beat…?

Let’s start with the basics. If you do not play a musical instrument you may struggle to play on time. The bad news is that precise timing requires practice. The good news is it doesn’t have to be boring. MASCHINE comes with plenty of pre-prepared projects and groups, and you can use them as little playbacks to play along with, it’s much more fun than playing to a metronome. Best thing is, you can record yourself directly and check if your playing was on time. To prepare, load a kit plus the pattern it comes with in Group A and a Kick on Pad 1 in Group B. Mute the Kick of Group A and instead play the Kick of Group B on each quarter note.

Playing together

With the fundamentals sorted we can now step it up a notch by introducing your second hand. Essentially, there are just two ways to play the pads on your controller with two hands: together, or one after each other. Let’s have a look what you can do by playing the pads at the same time. Load a Kit of your choice and start with an easy pattern (four strokes on one pad). Play the right hand on pad 4 and the left hand on pad 1 simultaneously. While that doesn’t sound very exciting at first, we can build on it by adding different pads and switching the order in which we play them. I’ll also introduce playing with more than one finger on each hand.

Alternating hands

After playing both hands together we will now take the next logical step and play both hands separately – one after the other. The right hand plays the main eighth note groove while the left hand fills in the 16th notes. This is a very popular technique by finger-drummers to create classic rhythms.

Start with your right hand and play a simple groove on pads 1 to 3 with 1 being the kick, 2 is the snare and a hi-hat on pad 3. That frees up your left hand to fill in the 16th notes in between. We’ll start simple and then gradually play more complex patterns. Note that the groove you play with your right hand always stays the same.

To cheat or not to cheat …is not the question

Until now we have focused on the basics for “classic” finger drumming. With the above techniques and a little bit of practise you should be able to create basic drum grooves and play along to a song. However, as already teased in the introduction, MASCHINE becomes even more powerful when you treat it as an instrument and use its features as part of your playing. Take Note Repeat for example, using it is not cheating. In the following lesson I’ll demonstrate three ideas how to work with it, from basic to slightly crazy.

Loop on the fly

In the previous exercises we used the pad controller like a drum-set with one sound for each pad. But there is a completely different way to play grooves and beats and create little loops on the fly.

For this approach you need a one bar musical phrase (loop) – this can be a drum groove or a small part out of a complete song. You then slice this one bar phrase into 16 pieces and assign them to pads 1-16 (luckily, MASCHINE is doing this for you). If you play the pads in the same order and tempo you recreate the original phrase. Let’s switch it up now and have some fun with it.

Tim Kroker studied jazz and pop music in Frankfurt and has been a professional drummer for over 25 years. More recently he’s been increasingly active in the electronic scene as a finger drummer using MASCHINE. Next to being the drummer for Belgian band Front 242, he hosts his own finger drumming blog, writes regularly for numerous German music magazines and teaches finger drumming at workshops and on Melodics.

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