KaDON practice pad

Reviews, Music-Related

200321 KaDON practice pad

Frustratingly limited

180617 Thomas Carbou -- Directions

A true album! Plus my ideal balance of catchy and quirky.

120418 Mark Miyoshi odaiko stand

Reclaimed wood, amazing craftsmanship.

KaDON practice pad

Imagine a toddler learning to speak.  The toddler listens and watches and mimics.  Its ears are more sensitive than its physical control, so the toddler can hear others say "water", but can't immediately reproduce the word.  The toddler experiments with the lungs, the vocal chords, the tongue, and the lips and learns what the myriad muscles do through a sensitive feedback loop between ears and the body.  Subtle changes are immediately heard and progress is quick.

Imagine the toddler is outfitted with a technological device -- perhaps called, "Talk Trainer" -- consisting of a microphone, a processor, headphones for the toddler, and a speaker for others.  The microphone and processor listen, and as soon as Talk Trainer thinks the toddler is trying to say "wa...", it plays a recorded sample of the word "water".  The system isn't perfectly accurate, missing some vocalizations and rounding anything with roughly an "ah" sound to "water".

Talk Trainer would clearly be a detriment to learning.  An insensitive device has been inserted in the otherwise exquisite feedback loop between the ears and the body.  Instead of the rich information of the toddler's own voice, it gets only what is filtered through the system.

The KaDON practice pad (KTT) is an adult version of "Talk Assist".

Here's what's wrong.

Hardware

The sensors are frustratingly insensitive, especially in the rim.  Hits are sometimes missed, and sensitivity varies unpredictably with location.  Sensitivity on the main pad is low too, such that small hits (below about 1~2cm stick height) don't trigger sounds.  It feels clumsy, and removes the potential of practicing sensitive techniques like ghost notes for which a normal practice pad is so valuable.  Pads like the Roland SPD One Percussion and the KAT Percussion Electronic Drum are much more sensitive.

The KaDON practice pad has only pressure sensing -- no x- or y-axis information.  The system can't adjust tone for hits in different locations across the face of the drum.  This places the pad far behind the curve and misses educational possibilities.  For example, if the sensors could precisely track location, the system could give feedback when you hit directly in the center.  Nothing like that here.  Check out Sensory Percussion to see what's possible with strike-location information.

There is no function for teaching timing.  No built-in drills or trainers.  The Roland RMP-5 Rhythm Coach has games that compare strike timing to metronome and built-in rhythms.  Here, nothing.

A few minor quibbles.  There is no MIDI out, so the device is locked to the internal sounds.  There is no option for battery power, an annoying omission for a practice pad meant to be quiet and portable.  The design orients the control panel at the top of the pad, where it's farthest from the player and often obscured when sitting with the pad slightly elevated.  The build quality is low.

Sounds

The sounds provided are not the worst I've heard, but they're not particularly inspiring either.  In the worst systems, a single sample is used at all volumes, simply scaled along with hit strength.  Such a simple implimentation sounds unnatural because the tone of an actual drum changes at different volumes.  Thankfully, on the KaDON practice pad, there is at least one different sample at stronger volumes, and perhaps a few interim samples as well.

Hitting in quick succession also sounds passable.  It's certainly not inspiring, though.  The first time I heard a sampler using randomly-selected, very similar samples (aka round-robin), I was shocked at how natural it sounded.  There's no "wow!" here.  For a purpose-built, standalone device making only a few sounds and meant to be enjoyed for long periods, this needs more.  Samples should be extremely detailed stereo recordings, use round-robin, incorporate a bit of reverb and use subtle amounts of random pitch shifting to keep the sounds from being stale.  

More fundamentally, why are large drum sounds included?  Who would practice odaiko with shime sticks and small-drum technique?

Learning materials

None of my criticisms thus far would matter if the system were designed with learning in mind.  If KaDON were asking the hard pedagogical questions and taking stabs at answering them, I'd be all for this.  How do we inspire players for long-term at-home practice?  What are the critical hand skills for taiko players?  How do we determine the right challenges for players at different experience levels?  How does this system provide clear feedback for accelerated growth that's worth the cost and materials?  I don't yet see any attempt at addressing these hard questions.  

Compare this with the Roland RMP-5 Rhythm Coach.  The Roland pad comes with built-in games that measure your timing and strike strength accuracy.  I tried this device and wouldn't buy it either, but at least it makes a serious attempt at training.

Save your money

The KaDON practice pad totally misses the mark.  A practice tool should amplify feedback, inspire the player, or ideally, both.  With clumsy response, barely passable sounds, and no well-considered practice materials, the KaDON practice pad achieves neither.

I've been told the device's sounds are meant to help inspire a player who wouldn't use a regular practice pad.  It is meant to smooth the transition from group practice to individual practice.  If this proves true, it will be hugely beneficial.  I fear, however, it will do the opposite.  Players will try it for a few weeks and struggle to figure out why they're not inspired.  They'll come away thinking they don't have the willpower necessary to practice on their own, and the KaDON practice pad will sit in a box untouched.

Here's a suggestion.  Practice to music you love.  Focus on enjoyment and curiosity and they will become your default emotions for practice... on any pad, phone book, or pillow.