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Sensitivity (in the drum department)

When I first got the Akai MPD18 drum mad controller, I immediately noticed that I had to hammer on the pads to get it to register much of anything. While playing on the pads did feel much more natural than playing drum patterns on a keyboard, the fact that I had to hit so hard did detract from the overall experience. Plus, it kinda hurt my fingers.

I poked around the internet for a bit and found out that my problem was far from uncommon. Why this didn’t come up in any of the reviews that I’d seen for this unit ahead of time, I don’t know. But as with many common problems these days, the solution was also ready to be found on the very same internet. Pad corx are simply little circles of very thinly sliced cork cut to exactly cover the underside of the rubber pads on the MPD18 (as well as all of Akai’s other drum controllers, it turns out). I poked around on the net and saw a handful of glowing recommendations, so I ordered a set.

They came in the mail about a week back, and installation was completely painless. They seriously just stick on to the bottom of the rubber pads, resting right on top of the sensors on the PCB. After using them for a few days here, I can gladly add my voice to the chorus of glowing reviews.

The transformation was immediately noticeable. Instead of having to jab the pads to get anything to register, I could now gently let my fingers fall by their own weight and have appropriately light-touch signals be picked up by the computer. Amazingly enough, this didn’t lead to spurious hits or a lack of volume control. On the contrary, I feel like I have much more control than before, and can actually use the whole expressive range that MIDI is capable of. I was even able to rattle along a fast hihat section without it skipping, which was an important and welcome change of behavior.

If you’ve got an Akai MPD or MPC, you really should do yourself a favor and pick up a set of pad corx. They are well worth the tiny cost for how well they help a very real problem. I’ve been using the MPD to track out scratch drums on several new songs already, and I will likely be using it to program many of the drums on the new album.

Speaking of the new album, if you want to be the first to hear anything about it, then you should sign up for the Electric Goodies newsletter. Incidentally, we’re changing things up with the newsletter, but more on that in another post. For now, if you want to sign up, just go here and drop your email into the form!

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