Introduction: IDrum: Changing Practice and Performance
I've been drumming for about 8 or 9 years now and something that has always frustrated me was the distance of my sheet music from my drums. Playing on the kit, if I don't have a song memorized, I'll print the sheet music and place it on a stand next to the hi hat, but then my head is facing the stand and not the kit. Sometimes I'll miss symbols because my eyes aren't focused on the drums themselves. So I envisioned sheet music that could keep you centered. But this isn't the primary reason I created the iDrum.
I was vastly inspired by my fear of forgetting my music in live performances. I've forgotten words before in front of crowds and it's something I've become a little paranoid over. I also despise playing live with sheet music in front of me, I don't feel like I'm engaging with the performance and the audience itself. It takes away from the mood of a concert - no one really expects a rock drummer to have their eyes locked on sheet music over the hi hat, but that is expected for a classical drummer. I created the iDrum to not only keep me centered, but also confident as I'll have the music in front of me, and engaged with the performance. In regards to a practice setting, this I believe will really help me improve my rudiments as I can watch my sticks and sheet music at the same time. By putting a monitor or tablet inside of a drum head, I believe memorization will never be a problem for me again.
What is it?
Essentially the iDrum is a screen inside a snare drum (but doesn't have to limited to a snare drum) that is suited for a drummer who wants to be centered and facing their entire kit.
The iDrum has a hammock and case for a tablet and an access door to get to the said tablet. It allows one to eliminate the need for printing sheet music AND the need for a music stand.
This project took me about 10 hours in all (including getting materials). It's not incredibly difficult, but it isn't easy either. You have to be very careful when messing with the frame of a drum and tampering with acoustics. The tablet cannot touch either head. Also replacing and removing drum heads must be done properly or you could damage the drum permanently. A challenge that presented itself to me was the stripped screws in the used drum I bought. When making this project you have to be able to improvise, and I urge you to only take this design as but a suggestion and baseline; make yours best suited to your drum and your tablet.
All in all, I spent $60 on this project - $40 for the used snare and $20 for the clear drum head. If you don't have a tablet, of course the budget will increase, but as I said, use what ever resources make the most sense to you, if it's a phone screen, an amazon kindle, or a Microsoft surface, it's ok. The string and wire I used for the hammock I already had but I don't expect that to cost for than $5, and I used car molding tape to create the access door ($5), but an actual hinge could work too.
-Learn how to properly change drum heads before completing this Instructable
-Be conscious of drum sound quality/acoustics
-Do not put a tablet you use regularly in the drum, it's a pain to take in and out.
-Wear the proper safety equipment when using electric tools (eye wear is important)
Step 1: Materials You'll Need
-A wooden drum (use ebay or craigslist. I got mine at Guitar Center in the used section): make sure the drum is big enough for a tablet- my snare is a 14 inch
-If the snare's head isn't already clear, buy one that is the same size as your snare (14'')
-at least 10 feet of string
-at least 4 feet of wire.
-a charging cable
-a case that corresponds with your tablet
-car molding tape (or door hinges with nails, I used tape because I exceeded my budget)
-A drum key
-Philips Head screw driver
-Dremel Multipro Cutter
Accessories that will be helpful
App and foot pedal for no touch page turning : https://onsongapp.com
An app that allows for airplay from phone to iPad (I couldn't find one) - however if you use a Microsoft tablet you can connect a mouse to access the screen.
Step 2: Removing the Old Drum Head
If the drum head is not already transparent, you must remove the drum head. Here is a link if you are not familiar with that process:
Refer to step one of the article.
Note that you should use the drum key to loosen each of the pegs around the snare. You must loosen each peg in pairs. When you loosen one a bit, loosen the on the opposite end of the drum next. Work your way around, loosening in intervals (not all at once), until the rim pulls out from over the head.
Step 3: Cutting the Door
It's important to know which side the tablet's home button will be, the door must be to left or right of that home button. Every snare drum has an air hole between two poles, we'll call that space section 1. To the right we will call the next space in between poles section 2. For a 14'' drum, there are 8 sections, the ones next to the air hole are 2 and 8; cut this door in either of those spaces based on preference as the charging port must be facing the air hole in section 1 to run the wire through the said hole later. I chose to go to the right (drum facing upwards) and cut the frame of the door there. Pencil out how large you want the door to be, can vary based on wrist size, you want to make sure your hand can go through (IF YOU ARE USING A PHONE, MAKE THE DOOR LARGE ENOUGH TO TAKE IT THROUGH, THIS WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE MUCH EASIER).
First, drill a hole in one of the corners. This hole will serve as a divot to start.
Using a Dremel electric circular cutter, gentle saw down into the wood. If you push to hard, the blades will quickly snap and fly everywhere (use eyewear). Cut out a rectangle with the Dremel and if the blade didn't go all the way through, detach a blade from a hand saw and finish the job.
It's very important to keep the block you've just cut out intact and available for use as it must be used for the door.
Step 4: Making the Door
This step can be done with a hinge, but because I was out of my budget, I used the car molding tape, which has worked very well thus far.
Place the wood you just cut out in the opening like a puzzle piece. Make sure it's in the correct orientation. Take a strip of tape and place on either side (preference)- this will serve as the hinge. Put half on the tape on the drum and half on the door. Push the tape down with force. After, using a knife or scissors, cut through the tape to reveal the continuation of the line beneath it. This allows the door to stay open.
Using another smaller piece of tape on the other side, create a latch that will keep the door from swinging inwards. This can be done with an actual latch as well.
Step 5: Making the Hammock
All snare drums are different, so depending on the brand, type, and price of your drum, the following steps must be suited to best fit your drum.
I used a 14'' drum, and my particular snare had 8 poles on the side. These poles are held through a clamp of sorts that is screwed into the side of the drum from the inside. You will see washers in between these screws and the wood of the drum. These washers will be used to keep the hammock in place.
There are two screws keeping each clamp in place, use the bottom one. Loosen one of these bottom screws and call it your starting place. It should be loose enough that the washer is no longer touching the wood. Take the string and tie a loop around the screw which should still be in place. After this knot is secure, re-tighten the screw and washer with the string behind the washer. Run the string across to the opposite side at diagonal and loop around the next loosened screw behind the washer. Make sure the string is taught. Tighten and cross over to another screw and washer. Loosen, loop string around the screw, tighten, repeat. There isn't a particular way to do this, try to cross over as many times as you can, even returning to screws already used. The goal is to make a hammock that keeps the tablet suspended, the order doesn't have to be perfect. Just cross over enough string that the entirety of the tablet's weight is supported.
I had to improvise as some of the screws were stripped and impossible to remove. Two of the screws had this problem so I forced some thin wire behind the washer and looped it around the screw. I allowed for some slack and used that slack to create a loop I could bring the string around. This improvisation is seen in the picture above.
Finish this step when the hammock looks secure and tie off the string on one final screw. Make sure everything is tight.
Step 6: Putting in the Case, Tablet and the Charger
Some drums have two very small holes on the opposite side of the air hole. We will be using those to secure the case.
Take a case and poke small holes on each side of the top. Run one piece of wire through one hole, bring it to the other hole and push it out the opposite way it entered through the first. There should be a line of wire revealed on the top of the case, and the ends of the wire should be on the other side of the case. Run the both sides of the wire through the two separate holes and twist them around the poles on the outside. This will keep the case in place no matter how you hold the drum.
Place the tablet in the case and run the charger through the air hole by the door and plug it in. It's important you keep a charger accessible so the tablet doesn't die while you're playing.
Before the next step, enable Assistive Touch if you have an Apple device. This will allow you to lock your iPad by pressing the screen instead of the top button. Drag the assistive touch logo to the corner of the screen closest to the door. This will make everything easier. Instructions on how to enable this setting are linked below.
Tip: Turn off your passcode. Turn on rotation lock. Turn off low power mode.
Step 7: Putting on the Transparent Head and You're Ready to Go
Now refer back to Drum Magazine's instructions on how to replace a drum and tune a drum head. Follow their steps.
Download some sheet music and start playing. If all the steps were followed correctly, the sound quality should not have been affected in a detrimental way. Since you're using a transparent head, which is more common on toms, the sound may be a little different than before, but the snare should still sound sharp if you tighten the head enough.
Fun fact, the music pictured is Whiplash from the movie Whiplash.
Step 8: Final Thoughts
This was fun to make, definitely changes the way I play drums. I can focus on rudiments while playing now which is hugely important to me. I'm looking forward to playing live with this.
This design isn't perfect. I suggest using a Microsoft device because you can connect a mouse to it, and don't have to really worry about getting your hand in the drum. If there are any apps that allow you to share your iPhone's screen onto the iPad, please comment below with the name of the application. It would make this design all the more useful.
In a perfect world, you could take out the tablet without removing the drum head, but I'm not sure how to do that with damaging the poles on the outside which literally make the sounds of a snare function. If you have any ideas on how to avoid this, let me know.
If you want to make yours out of non-wooden drum, you will need to use different resources for the door, but everything else is transferrable.
Please comment if you have any suggestions, recommendations, or thoughts on bettering this design! Totally open to feedback.