Some might say it started with skin heads -- much easier to play on than hollowed out logs. And, oh, that rebound!
Others could point to the mylars we played on in the 60's -- even more rebound, and they didn't get soggy in the rain when we marched in parades when the weather was less than cooperative.
Still others might say it was Kevlar® -- that Formica®-like surface that all but destroys the wrists of any drummer who learned to play a long roll on a pillow. You can't do that anymore. If you do on a Kevlar® (or any over-tensioned) head, it will hurt you.
Forget arm movement, forget elbows (remember those terrific takes of drum lines like the Chicago Caveliers, viewed from behind where all you could see was their elbows?), forget wrists (Kevlar® all but eliminates the need for those joints), and forget even having to learn to play. It was terribly inconvenient anyway. Just hold the sticks near the drum head, flip a switch and, whamo!, you're a drummer.
Everyone's a drummer anyway. We all know that. Anyone can play the drum, right? So, here we have a drum that proves it.
In fairness, this device is part of studies designed to develop muscle memory and teach movement by taking the muscles through the motions desired. And who knows? It might actually work. Let me know when I can toss out my wooden wedge drum pad built when finding a suitable rubber surface to glue or nail to the wedge was a major undertaking.
Based on the early work shown here, there's a long way to go to replicate the muscle movements required to duplicate the drumming of Earl Sturtze and disciples (such as Bob Redican, Hugh Quigly, and Frank Arsenault).
Joseph Flatley reports in "engadget", January 28, 2009:
Developed by the Magnetic Musical Training project, FielDrum sees a pretty standard percussion instrument fitted with a series of electromagnets. Placed beneath the drum head, the magnets can either be told to "attract" or "repel" via-MIDI, creating some kick-ass paradiddles as the new drum student holds his or her sticks over the instrument. Sure, this all sounds like fun, but this is the kind of research that could have serious ramifications: How do people learn things involving "complex physical gestures?" Can people "learn-by-feel?" How does this approach compare to traditional motor training?
Flately's article referred to this snippet on an MIT (yes, that MIT) website:
by Graham Grindlay
How do people learn the kinds of complex physical gestures required to play musical instruments? Although a beginning percussion student may know what motions are involved in a paradiddle, it will still take practice to develop the motor programs required to produce those motions. Part of the underlying hypothesis of the Magnetic Musical Training project is that beginners would benefit from a kinesthetic "preview" of a target gesture's correct execution. The MMT project is investigating whether people can "learn-by-feel" and if so, how this approach compares to traditional motor training.
One of the current MMT projects is the FielDrum, an acoustic drum outfitted with a system of electromagnets, permanent magnets, and control electronics. These are used to induce pushing and pulling forces on a drumstick, moving it through a desired path in space. In its current state, the FielDrum has two states (attract or repel) which are controlled using the MIDI protocol (noteon messages attract the drumstick while noteoff messages repel it). Presently, we are working to add a position sensing system for the drumsticks as well as continuous control over the electromagnet.
Gone Are the Drums (with apologies to Stephen C. Foster)
Now that we don't need to learn to play, here comes another goodie that frees us of the burden of having to carry a drum. Virtual drums. You be the judge.
What's Next? An electrical abdomnimal muscle maker that will take the work out of exercising and give each of us our own 6-pack? See this on electical muscle stimulation.