Here’s What 100 Hours of VR Drum Practice Gets You

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Virtual reality drumming app Paradiddle recently accepted submissions for VR drummers to show off their skills. One drummer, who says they’ve never played drums in the real world, submitted a killer cover of ‘Assassin’ by MUSE.

Yet another case for the power of VR training: YouTuber ElNeax claims to have “never played a drumkit in my life, either acoustic or electronic.” But after 100 hours in VR drumming app Paradiddle, he would have had me fooled:

According to a spokesperson for Paradiddle, the virtual drum kit is not offering any assists to the drummer in this case (like quantization or visual queues). “It’s all being played live on top of a drumless track,” they told me.

While VR drums clearly lack the force-feedback of the real-deal (which can be critical for certain drumming techniques), it’s clear that practicing in virtual reality has equipped ElNeax with a sense of rhythm and jam becoming of any ‘real’ drummer.

Paradiddle, which has been available in Early Access on Steam since 2017, lets users build their own drum set by providing a ‘palette’ of different drums and cymbals, which can be dragged, dropped, and scaled into any arrangement. The sound of each element is dependent on how hard it’s hit, and in some cases (such as ride cymbals) the location will change the sound as well.

What’s more, because it’s virtual reality, you can even create ‘impossible’ drum arrangements, like a cymbal fused with a drum so that both can be played simultaneously with one hand (we can see this in action in ElNeax’s ‘Assassin’ cover).

Alongside in-game recording and sharing tools, the app also offers MIDI and USB device input, allowing electronic drum pedals and other input accessories to trigger bass drums or hi-hat position for more authentic control. MIDI output is also supported so that users can tap into their own sound samples through a DAW.

The case for practicing drums in VR seems pretty compelling, even with the lack of force-feedback: drums can be costly, especially as the size of the kit grows, not to mention the space they take up and the intrusive audio that’s the bane of apartment neighbors and family members alike. VR offers the potential for a drum kit that’s unobtrusive to the real world while being only limited by your imagination.

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  • I NEED THIS ON QUEST, YESTERDAY!!!

  • iThinkMyCatIsAFlea

    Where’s the bass drum? Let me guess; He’s pressing a button on the controller?

    Those 100 hours would’ve been better spent learning to play a real drum kit.

    • Jukka Muhonen

      VR is more than drums. If you want to buy all things you try on VR your House isnt big enough. That and VR is actually More educating and cheaper than most hobbies

      • Gonzax

        It’s like someone saying “why do you play Aircar instead of going out and flying your own spaceship?” well, because I don’t have a f*** spaceship and I don’t live in the future, that is why.

        • Immersive_Computing

          I feel like I am living in the future:-

          I have virtual reality system in my house,
          augmented reality on my smartphone, I use smartphone to place order for 3D printing with supplier in China and pay using cashless escrow service.

          I walk outside onto street after hearing electric motor noise, there is a young man flying small drone, then a woman pass my street on electric gyroscope, then I see 3 electric cars charging. The refuse lorry passes with HD display on side advertising me to make my local authority payments online.

          What a cool time to be alive!

    • Emre Tanirgan

      Hey there, the developer of Paradiddle here. You’re right that the drummer in the video is using his controller, and also hitting the bass drum directly with the sticks since he can set up his set however he wants to in VR. However this is not the only way of triggering the kick or hi-hat in Paradiddle. Feel free to take a look at http://paradiddleapp.com/pedal-guide to see a full list of all other options, including electronic drum pedals, USB pedals, Rock Band pedals and more that can all be used within the app.

      I’m a drummer too and drumming has never been a particularly accessible or convenient hobby for me to practice, compared to a lot of other instruments. Factors like cost, the space taken up by drums or noise can make owning drums impossible for a lot of people. And taking classes or renting a studio out can get expensive as well just for accessing a drum set. Paradiddle isn’t trying to replace drumming – but I do think VR/AR can make this a more accessible hobby for a lot of people. In some cases, it can let you do things you’d never be able to do in real life such as move around your whole set with ease, load other people’s recordings and slow them down, while seeing visual cues on the drums that’ll help you teach certain beats etc. And especially with mobile headsets like the Quest coming out, people could literally carry around a mobile drum set/percussion suite with them wherever they go, which I find incredibly exciting! Happy to talk more about any of this if you have any more comments or questions :)

      • Gonzax

        Absolutely, this app is incredible and the video is a good proof of that.

      • doug

        >”Factors like cost, [space]”

        Exactly, and this is where people complaining about the cost of VR are so often shortsighted. VR can do an ok job at replacing a huge number of expensive things.

        I was wondering about the timing of the beats. Since a drummer is more accurate than the 11 ms frame timing vr, is Paradiddle interpolating between frames?

      • iThinkMyCatIsAFlea

        “Factors like cost..”

        For the price of a pc plus a vive headset, you could get a pretty decent drum kit. In fact, you could get a decent drum kit for the price of the vive.

        If anyone here is thinking about learning to play the drums (or any other instrument) go to your local church or community center and enquire about practice/rehearsal space.

        • ElNeax

          You don’t just get a VR headset for one app though, you get a huge value out of it and all the experiences it can give, more than a standard console I’d say.
          Although I can totally imagine 5 years from now a guy buying a Quest just to play the drums with an amp alongside his friends in a band. I refer you to my answer to Foreign Devil, although all my comments here reflect the entirety of my view on the subject.

          Also, this is just personal, but shifting the cost / place / noise issue to a local community center or renting a studio means creating other cons, such as travel time, and making sure to invest at least enough time at once, like an hour or so. When I’m already going about the city for work, administration, and other hobbies such as working out, and even playing other instruments like the electric guitar, I need to measure the pros and cons! Of course there’s no one true answer, if you want to practice the acoustic drum kit you make the time for it!

          I’ve already posted about how I think this is a great midi instrument of its own and doesn’t need to replace or be replaced by acoustic drum kits, so it’s just nice to be able to get in a half hour or even 15 minutes of practice between working on my computer or gaming in the evening, by just putting on the VR headset, without freaking out the neighbours, and without having to move everything in the room, before going back to what I was doing. I can even sit on Discord with friends whilst doing so, if I feel like I’d enjoy the company.

          Now I’m only replying to what I think your message implied, but I absolutely agree about everything you wrote!

          Thank you for your comment.

        • Caven

          Well, that’s great for someone interested in music who doesn’t already own a PC and VR headset. I’m not about to sell or trade my PC and VR headset away just so I can dabble in something I may never be good at. $9.99 for a copy of Paradiddle to have fun with is a lot cheaper than getting rid of my computer (which I use for a lot more than just games and VR). And if I ultimately decided to move on to real drums, that $9.99 is hardly a waste. On the contrary, $9.99 to let me get a taste of something I otherwise would have been afraid to invest in sounds like quite the deal. That’s in stark contrast to all the musical instruments I’ve seen people buy, only to quickly lose interest and leave them to collect dust.

          By the way, you might want to be careful about bringing up the cost of the Vive. You might steer people toward less expensive alternatives like the Oculus Rift, which I’m sure Palmer Luckey would thank you for.

        • We get it, you don’t like this idea.

          Plenty of others do though, for reasons of their own.

          As everyone has said over and over this isn’t designed to be a replacement for actual drums.

        • asshat

          yeah but this is if you already have a vr set up, now you can have both.

    • Gonzax

      yeah well, provided you have the drumkit, the space, your neighbours don’t care about the noise and a lot more things to consider.
      This is actually incredible stuff, the fact he has learned to play like that without having played a real drumkit in his life is AMAZING!

      • vtid

        It’s not ‘AMAZING’ though is it. So much exaggeration these days. Most Muse tracks are pretty simple on drums and that guy practised for 100 hours! He’d find it harder using a kick pedal on a real drumkit. What is amazing however is this vr app. Unfortunately though without an electronic kick pedal (I don’t own one but I know you can use them) and the recoil from hitting drums, this can never be anything more than a bit of fun and limited (but legitimate) means of learning SOME drum skills. I got this app a couple of years ago. For what it is, it’s great.

    • ElNeax

      Indeed, pressing the A button! I’ve got a few hours of practice with an electronic kick pedal, but I’m trying to be gentle with the neighbours, we’ve all had a rough year noise-wise.

      I totally agree that a 100 hours would have been more efficient to learn the real drums than on Paradiddle. As the dev said, it’s not trying to replace the drums. But here’s the thing… Paradiddle is like a different instrument, a midi controller, with its own pros and cons. Which is why I enjoy playing it and I don’t think I would have had as much a chance to practice without it.

      It’s kind of like an unweighted midi keyboard won’t ever replace a grand piano, but I still enjoy jamming some Fur Elise on mine, when I have free time, since the whole purpose is to make music and enjoy it to me.

      I refer you to my answer to dogbite and to Emre Tanırgan’s answer for more detail!

      Thank you for your comment!

  • dogbite

    As a drummer of 50+ years, I appreciate some of the effort here. The learning value for someone interests in drums is there as is the ability to position your drums. The lack of haptics and actually physical recoil with regard to drum skins means this isn’t going to produce a real life experience. I wouldn’t be playing Grand Funk Railroad’s” Closer To Home” Certainly not in any fashion resembling how I play it on an actual set. I don’t see playing things like SVR’s “Tin Pan Alley” either.
    Without the participation of the drum heads themselves, it is fun, but not going simulate the exact experience or techniques.
    That said one could play a lot of basic Rock and such. The lack of physical response means you actually have to work harder to play and so upper body strength would be to the benefit of actual drumming endurance.
    I won’t use it much but I won’t refund. The price is fine for what you can do with it and it’s cheaper than having someone bang on my real set and maybe splitting a head.

    • ElNeax

      Hey! All of what you said is absolutely true. I view Paradiddle as something entirely different than just a virtual drum set, it’s like an instrument of its own, a very expressive midi controller if you will, that has a lot of resemblance to a drum set. It’s its own percussive instrument with some carry over to a drum set. I totally see where its limits are, especially regarding the lack of physical feedback and bounce, but I’ve still picked up some rudiments of drumming from it, like basic paradiddles on a hard surface which I couldn’t do before, and kick independance!

      What I feel is special about it is that you get better at this app by playing it, and you pick up some drumming skills on the side, but you shouldn’t use it as the one mean to get better at real drums. As the dev said, this is absolutely not meant to replace a real drum kit! I enjoy playing Paradiddle to get better at jamming in Paradiddle, plus benefits.

      The physical downsides come with upsides too. You can build impossible kits, you can play in the same room as someone who’s in bed, you can customize all sorts of stuff, add and remove and resize any of your drums. One really fun aspect about it is when it’s released on Quest officially, and you can just pull out a virtual drum kit from your backpack anywhere for some basic practice.

      Anyways, thank you for the kind words.

    • benz145

      50 years! That’s dedication. Thanks for your perspective on this : )

      • dogbite

        Well that’s not 50 years non-stop or the arms would be really sore hehe. Old drummers never die. They just get slower and start playing more blues than rock. With the exception of Ginger Baker of course. His 10 minute drum solo during the Cream reunion was a master class.

  • ElNeax

    @Ben Lang, thanks a lot for the shout out! I’m glad you enjoyed the video. I’ve sunk a lot of time into this app considering how sweaty it makes me under that headset, and I think it’s such a cool tool to make music or just jam for fun.

    • benz145

      It would be cool to see a totally virtual band come together — maybe you can provide the drums to someone DJing in Electronauts : P

  • sebrk

    Absolutely amazing! I’d really like to see him play a real drum to see how it translates to real world now that he has got the muscle memory down.

    • dogbite

      Well to be fair, he would definitely improve upper body strength which would be an asset in real drumming, but the lack of physical contact with drum heads will leave a lot of muscle memory undeveloped.
      Not a reason not to enjoy what Paradiddle does offer, but lets not attribute too much to it in that regard. There are types of drumming that one can get away with quite well, but without actual heads to bounce off of, there are things and effects that will be missing. For banging out a beat and change-overs it’s great fun and worth having but if one is considering learning drums they should also consider at least getting electronic drums with physical pads.
      One could spend money on kick pedals and such, but that money could go toward the next step should Paradiddle stir the wannabe drummer in you.
      Don’t let that discourage anyone. On the contrary, Paradiddle is a great way for potential drummers to see if they can actually carry the beat. This would be a great way for parents to assess whether they should buy those drums for their aspiring little drummer.

  • Foreign Devil

    imagine if he has instead used those 100 hours learning real drums. . He could join a band! Learning virtual drums or guitar in Guitar Hero. . just seems like a waste to me. . if you could have any chance of learning on the real thing.

    • david vincent

      You know, he kinda learnt real drums at the same time… Just like some people learnt how to play real table tennis from ‘Eleven Table Tennis’. Because it’s very close to the real thing (unlike Guitar Hero which is just a rhythm game).
      It is the very principle of simulation…

      • vtid

        ETT is very close to real life, but Paradiddle isn’t because you use your touch controller for the bass drum instead of your foot (unless using an electronic kick pedal of course). This is a huge difference. Also there is no recoil from hitting a non-physical drum. It’s a completely different experience to a real drum kit. However this app is great and fun, but it won’t set you up for a real drum kit.

        • Adrian Pupaza

          Your first argument is not a limitation as long as you *do* use a pedal. Your second argument is the one that’s an actual limitation and worth arguing about.

          • vtid

            I’m not here to argue, but fair comment.

          • ElNeax

            Actually I did buy an electronic kick pedal a few months ago, and found a way to hook it to my DAW without a drum module, so I’m one of the rare people who will get to explore the wonderful world of air drumming with a pedal :D

          • vtid

            But you didn’t use it for the video in question did you? That was the point. I did read that you’d had a few hours with the pedal.

        • david vincent

          The lack of feedback is a fair point. But I still think it’s better than nothing for the people who can’t have real drums at home (for various reasons), they can learn something.

          • vtid

            You really want to learn drums with all 4 limbs from the beginning. It takes a lot of practice to synchronise and play multiple rhythms at once and get it into your subconscious. So many key drumming techniques revolve wrist and calf/ankle movements, none of which are applied in this app as it comes. I’m still not trying to bash this app because as I repeatedly say…. I like it a lot, but I’m trying to explain that this really is not drumming. Sure its fun to wave your arms around against virtual drums, but it’s nothing like using a real drum kit. I’ve been a drummer for a very long time and I’ve had Paradiddle for 2 years. A genuinely more realistic experience would be whatever that multi-instrument rock band type game is, where you use a physical drum kit. You could genuinely learn drumming techniques using that.

      • toby

        Re table tennis – see here for evidence that table tennis skill learned in VR transfer to the real world https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0222351

    • ElNeax

      Paradiddle is an actual app that has earned a place next to a ton of MIDI controllers in my book, I’ll be able to use it to record drums for my own music, it can make pretty videos for people to learn tabs, and I can jam along very expressively unlike with video games like Guitar Hero which are just midi files accepting or refusing to play depending on your hits.

      Think of it like a synthetizer keyboard, a lot of people probably thought it was a waste of time and you should practice on a grand piano when it was first invented, now it’s used in most popular music production, in movie soundtrack production, it even brought to fame people like Hans Zimmer.

      Now of course I’m not saying Paradiddle is gonna have the same fate, that would be silly. BUT it has earned a place in the world of instruments, next to beat machines, electronic drum kits and it doesn’t have to compete with real drums.
      If it absolutely hasn’t felt like a waste to me, if we go this way playing the electric violin, the theremin, the electric guitar or any relatively new variant of instrument or any video game or VR is a waste!
      And we all know that’s not true.

      In fact, it’s never been done before but there no reason at all you couldn’t play in a band with whatever you want. We’d never seen VR drum covers before Paradiddle, so why not make a fun band where the drummer is just a guy with his Quest sitting on his chair and plugged to an amp, how cool would that be?
      Hell, we have 8bitdrummer playing concerts with his electronic drumkit, and Lindsay Stirling with her electronic violin, so why not be even more creative than that?

      Music can be simple, complex, can reach through a huge spectrum of emotions, or non emotions, overly technical or minimalist, but it MUSTN’T be confined and restricted.
      We’re all living through the rise of VR, we should all get creative and push new stuff!

    • Bakkster

      You say that, but I learned to play drums with Rock Band. Well enough that when I jumped to a real kit, nobody realized it was my first time.

    • benz145

      Guitar Hero is not about learning an instrument, it is a game, and whether or not any of it translates to real guitar skills has no bearing on whether or not it’s a fun game.

      Paradiddle is a tool and no one is saying it’s an outright replacement for real drums. It’s an option that’s nice to have even if it’s, let’s say, only 50% like real drumming. There are people who might never have thought to go through the hassle of buying their own drum kit, but for the price of $10 figured ‘hey why not?’ From there they might get to enjoy some of what it’s like to play drums, and maybe some of them even decide to take the next step and pick up a real set.

      Point being: to say ‘it’s not exactly like real drums therefore no value or fun could come of it’ I think is quite obtuse.

      • MosBen

        First, man, I miss Rock Band and wish that people hadn’t just moved on from it as we transitioned to new consoles. It was the absolute best party game. Anyone could play, and up to 5 people could play at a time. Beat Saber is great, but it’s hard to have an activity that only one person can really participate in at a time.

        Second, I’ll come at your response from another direction. When I was a young guy working at Best Buy, the lady in the camera department got very fired up about the just becoming popular point and shoot digital cameras. She would complain that someone shouldn’t be proud of any pictures that they took because the camera took the picture, not the person. We see this in a lot of areas of digitization; the old guard that learned the physically or technically difficult analog method dismissing or resenting the digital version that makes things easier, and I suspect that we’ll see this in music as well. Music games and apps will continue to evolve until we have tools that can be used to create wholly new musical works that sound good. And ultimately, just as nobody cares today that the good-looking pictures that I took during my recent vacation were tweaked by my phones camera to look better, eventually nobody will make an important distinction in whether a guitar sound was made on a traditional six string or a digital equivalent.

        • Pray4Mojo

          You just made me realize how cool a multiplayer dance-off version of BeatSaber would be. You could call it Beat-off!

          Alright… maybe the name could use some work, but being able to play multiplayer with 2 or more Quest headsets would be fun as hell.

          • MosBen

            Hopefully we’ll reach a point in the future when more or less everyone has a VR HMD, they’re all portable, and they’re all cross compatible. So you can have some friends over and everyone brings their VR gear, and then you can do stuff together. Maybe there’s a program that turns your house into a haunted house! As you said, maybe there’s some kind of music or dance game that you can play together. There are lots of options, we just need this kind of gear to be ubiquitous.

  • jlschmugge

    So how do you set up the bass drum? A quadruple kick would make for some of the meanest metal.

    • vtid

      You can assign an electronic bass pedal to the bass drum sound if you have one. I already listen to the meanest metal :)

    • Emre Tanırgan

      You can see a full list of all peripherals that can be used with the app on the Paradiddle Pedal Guide: http://paradiddleapp.com/pedal-guide.

  • ManwellC

    Well, I sure am buying this now,

  • Jarilo

    Hardest thing to learn is the foot though.

    • Emre Tanırgan

      Yep, Paradiddle has full MIDI input/output support so you can record your sessions out to a DAW if you’d like, trigger samples from other audio software, or connect MIDI hardware such as electronic drum pedals to the app. There’s also support for various peripherals to be used for triggering the bass or controlling the hi-hat, the full list can be seen here: http://paradiddleapp.com/pedal-guide.

      • Jarilo

        Thanks, I like the sound of all of that. I’m going to check it out.

  • impurekind

    Once again VR shows just how awesome it is.