Five years ago we formed Mix Music Education with a vision to provide appropriate, engaging, all inclusive music educational programs that would allow schools to transform their music departments. The Roland Handsonic 10 formed a huge part of our initial JamPod™ program. Last year a new model appeared, the Handsonic 20. We felt this was the perfect time to take a look at this new instrument and see what it offered music classrooms. We gave it to an award winning music teacher to put it through its paces…..
About six years ago I got my hands on my first Handsonic. It was the lower model at the time with 10 pads spread out over a rudder drum head, similar in size to a djembe. Immediately I was struck with the intuitive nature of the instrument and the engagement it empowers. It quickly formed the cornerstone of many of our first music educational programs. This new model, the Handsonic 20, stirs some of that initial excitement back up!
First of all I think we need to try and clarify exactly what this is! There are supposedly ‘similar’ products out there, many of which have filled the percussion station within JamPod™ over the last five years. The Handsonic 20 ‘is’ unique though in my opinion. It is a solely hand played instrument, no sticks can be used here. The head that you hit is separated up into 20 distinct areas, it reminds of a little of how a steel drum looks. Each one of these areas can be hit or pushed with your hands and fingers to create music.
Now I say create music as the Handsonic 20 not only produces all the rhythmic sounds I could possibly imagine, but it also covers pretty much all the tuned percussion bases too. If you select Marimba and push the roll button on the top of the unit, when you push down on the different sections of the drum you get malleted rolls of the corresponding note. The sound created is tremendous, it does not sound like an electronic instrument. The feature is particularly great for getting students who perhaps would not normally get excited about tuned percussion engaging with the medium.
You see, the Handsonic 20 is naturally engaging, its one of those things that left out in a crowded room gets people looking and playing. The really tremendous thing about the instrument is once it hooks you in, the features within enable even the most experienced percussionist excited.
- Lets take primary school pupils, usually with some experience of djembe’s, bongo’s or conga’s. The drum offers one head of a similar size. Even to non musician adults the one head approach presents no obvious barriers to entry
- As students begin to engage, the Handsonic 20’s sound set allows access to all the instrumentation and so much more thats specified in the national curriculum
- Built in within the drum are coaching options which work you out in the key areas of rhythm – the exercises are also structured in such a way where they are great fun to take part in
- Touch screen drum apps are becoming more and more prevalent on iOS & Android devices. The Handsonic 20 picks up on that method of learning offering zones to hit on one surface
- As students begin to master the basics, the Handsonic 20 grows with you. You can input pedals creating a multi layered percussive approach
- As students begin to explore studio work, the midi compatibility combined with the units USB access allow easy set up with desk top mixing software
In summary, the Handsonic 20 offers very much the complete package for drummers and percussionists. It provides ease of access for beginners, allows intermediates to progress un-aided with the coaching features and offers more than enough depth to keep the most experienced musician happy. So whats the catch?
The first is minor but needs consideration. You cannot hit the Handsonic 20 with sticks. If you plan to use the instrument in an environment where drum kits and drum sticks are readily available, you need to consider carefully if your students and your workflow dictate you need an instrument that will allow sticks OR hands. We will be reviewing options for this in later posts. If you need advice in the meantime you can contact me at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
The second catch is the biggy and I’m afraid it is probably what you expected, its the cost. At £849 inc VAT RRP it would stretch most music departments budgets, although you will find some great deals online cheaper than this. Even so it is still a major investment. But stop for a moment and reread the bullet points above, the Handsonic 20 fulfils a huge part, if not all of your potential rhythmic curriculum. If you consider the investment needed to fulfil all the areas we’ve discussed it far outways the price tag.
The key to success is applying the instrument in the right environment and in the right way. With a lesson plan structured to get the most out of the instrument and with the classroom best constructed to allow you to get going immediately, the Handsonic 20 could pay for itself very quickly. We are here to help you do exactly this, so. If you are interested in incorporating the Handsonic 20 in to your classroom, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can share lesson plans with you and point you in the direction of schools who are using these instruments every day to deliver their music curriculum. We can then best advise you on how to procure and then implement using this amazing drum in YOUR music classroom.
Dan Jones – Managing Director, Mix Music Education