The first percussion instruments involved striking any two objects

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					        The first percussion instruments involved striking any two objects together to produce a
sound. Around 6000 B.C., a percussion instrument known as the drum evolved and has been
used by all major civilizations throughout history. Drums have long held strong ceremonial,
sacred, and symbolic associations all over the world. In Africa, for example, certain drums
symbolize and protect tribal royalty. Drums also played a major role in Europe during the
Medieval and Renaissance time periods by sending coded instructions to infantry soldiers [1].

         The idea of using drums for communication continued through the centuries to the
military regimes in Europe and America. Drums were also used in both the Revolutionary War
and the Civil War to keep the soldiers in good form and as a means to signal each other. From
these signals came a term called “rudiments.” Rudiments are the single most important thing for
beginning drummers to learn. They are a set of patterns that are related to scales and are the
foundation for percussion used in marching bands worldwide [2].

         In today’s constantly changing electronically-driven world, percussion has made its way
into the electronic realm. During the 1960s, simple acoustic pickups were attached to surfaces
that were struck to produce electronic signals. These signals were routed through envelope
followers that produced a voltage proportional to the strike intensity, together with a trigger pulse.
Though a major accomplishment for that day, these early electronic drums had limited
functionality. Then in the early 1980s, electronic percussion gained momentum thanks to a man
named Dave Simmons. His innovative design combined new attractive sounds with playable,
elastic drum pads [3]. Since then, electronic percussion has continued to gain popularity among
many drummers. The advancement of electronics has allowed for the invention of multiple types
of percussion devices. Among these newly invented devices is the electronic drum practice pad.
The drum practice pad has been around for quite some time but did not function electronically.
Drummers, especially beginners, now have a way to learn how to play more efficiently and
advance much faster than ever before.

         Since the percussion section is the clock with which all other instruments time
themselves, it is imperative that novice drummers master the fundamentals before moving to
more challenging material. Music professionals, including band directors and private tutors, face
the challenge of teaching the essentials needed to become a proficient drummer. Band directors
know how quickly a well-written piece of music can become a chaotic without the support of a
well-synchronized drum line. They have long gone home with sore fingers after an exhausting
day of directing the percussion with one hand and tapping on the board with the other to keep
time for their inexperienced students. Both band directors and music tutors have listed students’
need for a visual aid in teaching when to strike the drum head and when to be silent as a glaring
need. The Novisync is designed to provide the equivalent of the musical score, complete with the
finger-tapping band director controlling the tempo.

         Currently, band directors and other music teachers have started to disappear at an
alarming rate. Funding for the arts and music has been cut at an unprecedented rate in an effort to
keep school budgets balanced [7]. This has occurred despite countless studies that champion the
effects of music on a child’s intelligence. At the same time, 94% of respondents in a recent
survey believe music to be a part of a well-rounded education [5]. This same survey found that
more people take up an instrument at the encouragement of their parents than become interested
on their own or because of a teacher [5]. Clearly, most parents are concerned that their children
receive an education in the arts and music whether schools provide it to them or not. This has
given rise to an increase in private tutors and a shot in the arm to the practice pad industry. These
tutors have a limited amount of money to spend, yet are still interested in correctly instilling the
fundamentals in students before moving to the so-called “fun riffs” that often generate bad
technique. Young future drummers themselves are also blessed with more discretionary spending
money than ever before. The 30 million teens in America spend $175 billion dollars annually of
their own money [5]. These teens have an enormous amount of spending power and the closely-
held belief that they too could strike it rich in the music industry.

         The percussion industry is poised to take advantage of several recent trends. Over half of
all U.S. households currently have at least one person over the age of 5 who plays an instrument
and 40% of households have two musicians [5]. This has led to percussion sales increasing 24%
in 2004 alone [5]. That year the percussion industry took in over $129 million dollars with
electronic drums pocketing a cool $25.9 million [4]. With electronic drum sales increasing over
350% between 1997 and 2004, today’s technology-driven youth culture has made a choice to go
electric in a big way [5].

         As these young students take up the drums, the first obstacle to overcome is the intense
dissatisfaction held for that rubber block called a practice pad. In the beginning, the opportunity
to beat out a riff from “Highway to Heaven” was reason enough to overlook the fact that there
was no sound coming from the contraption. However, soon thereafter “Highway to Heaven”
started sounding very similar to “Mary had a Little Lamb” with no way to tell which was being
played.

         Recently Roland has introduced an electronic practice pad (RMP 5) with a “rhythm
coach” function that is a dramatic leap forward from that hated rubber block in the past.
However, for the retail price of $159, there are still several categories where the RMP 5 falls
short. While the competition displays only four notes at a time, the Novisync scrolls musical
scores and basic drumming patterns for the user to practice on a LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)
screen that is approximately 350% larger than the competitions. Also, the RMP 5 has a minimal
accuracy feature that can decide if the user is striking a particular note correctly, while the
Novisync will check the accuracy of the entire piece of music played. Since the music does not
scroll across the competition’s LCD screen in a realistic fashion, the user does not learn how to
read music effectively. There is also no visual demonstration of the rhythm to be played. The
Novisync aims to solve both of these problems by scrolling the music across the LCD at the
correct speed. In addition, the Novisync has a left and right LED (Light Emitting Diode) that
blinks according to which stick should be used to strike the practice pad. For even more
convenience, the LEDs blink different colors to correspond to different dynamic levels.


         The Novisync will be a strong instructional tool for both novice drummers and band
directors and private instructors alike. With the larger LCD screen, scrolling music, and
coordinative flashing LEDs, the Novisync combines tools for both the kinesthetic and the visual
learner to capture a significant share of the market. As the competition is an established entity
with name recognition, Novisync will have to make a name for itself with far better learning tools
at a comparable price. A share of 10% in the electronic practice pad market the first year and an
increase by that same amount every year thereafter is reasonable when considering the limited
competition. The low starting price of approximately $150 leaves room for additional features
that could be added at a minimal price increase to capture an even greater share of the market.
[1] Iben, Hayley. The Guide to Symphony Orchestra Instruments. “Percussion.” 1997.
http://www.mathcs.duq.edu/~iben/percus.htm

[2] O’Neill, Brian. A Brief Look at Contemporary Percussion. “Marching.” 1999.
http://music.rhythmspice.com/mus210/marching.htm

[3] Paradiso, Joseph. Electronic Music Interfaces. “Percussion Interfaces.” 1998.
http://web.media.mit.edu/~joep/SpectrumWeb/SpectrumX.html

[4] “Musical Instrument Manufacturing: 2002.” U.S. Census Bureau. 2002.
http://www.census.gov/prod/ec02/ec0231i339992.pdf


[5] “Music USA: 2005.” National Association of Music Merchants. 2005.
http://www.namm.com/themusicedge/wfd.html


[6] “Company Outline.” Roland Corporation. 2006.
http://www.roland.com/about/en/corporate-data.html


[7] Dillon, Sam. New York Times. “Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math.”
2006.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/26/education/26child.html?ex=1301029200&en=0c91b5bd32d
abe2a&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

				
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