I’ve been working on some new music over the summer and hope to have an album out by the end of the month. It’s called Thank You for Holding, and the basic premise is that the world’s last customer-service robot answered the world’s last customer-service phone call just moments before the world ended and has been patiently waiting for the next available human to pick up the line ever since. In the meantime, the robot has also learned to play the flute with limited results.
I’ve had my Alesis Nitro electronic drum kit for about a year now, and I recently discovered that it’s more than just a drum kit. It’s also a synth module with 125 different voices.
In case you’re wondering, here’s what the kit looks like:
It’s an entry-level kit without many bells and/or whistles (not even a samba whistle!), which is why I was so surprised to find out that it had so many sounds beyond the expected drum kit sounds. The funny thing is that Alesis makes no mention of these extra sounds in any of the documentation that came with the unit, and I haven’t seen anyone else mention them either. There’s only this slightly mysterious reference to “surprises” on the Alesis website:
What all of this means — and why I’m so excited — is that in addition to being a drum set, the unit also acts as something akin to a full orchestra. I can plug a keyboard into the module and play any one of the 125 instruments built into it.
Though I haven’t systematically explored all of the sounds the unit has to offer, my favorites so far are patches 4, 73, and 93 — an electric piano, a flute, and an organ, respectively. Also, perhaps as a subtle joke on the part of the manufacturer, the final patch sounds like applause. Maybe it’s their way of congratulating users for finding the secret orchestra built into their drum set.
One reason this discovery is a big deal for me is that I was in the market for a synth with a decent electric piano sound, so I’m very happy to find that one was hiding in my drum set all along. Another bonus is that the drums and the synth sounds can be played simultaneously, so I can teach my dog* to play the drums while I play the keyboard. Or vice-versa.
So if you’ve stumbled upon this post because you have an Alesis Nitro or are thinking of getting one, I can assure you that the drum set sounds great for an entry-level electronic drum set and that the synth patches are a pleasant addition to the entire package.
To access the additional sounds, all you have to do is plug your MIDI keyboard controller into the unit’s MIDI-in input. Accessing the various sounds will probably depend on your keyboard’s specifications.
I’m using an Alesis Q-49 (pictured below), which allows me to select different sounds by pressing the MIDI/Select button to the left of the keyboard and then using the numbered keys at the high end of keyboard to select which patch I want. High C is “Enter.”
What I do if I want to play the electric piano, for example, is press the MIDI/Select button, then tap the keys associated with 0 and 4 (C# and F), and the tape high C for “Enter.”
A pleasant discovery to say the least!
*PS: I got a dog last Monday. More on this development later.