Today I was inspired so it’s a two-post day…here at Off Beat I’ve written extensively about electronic drum kits, pads, modules, and triggers. All of these posts are about technology that is modern, relevant and used today (Search the word ‘electronic’ to access previous articles). This post however, harkens to the “days of old,” when drum machines were still in their infantile stage and primitive versions of e-drum technology were used for toys. Perhaps the most popular computerized drum machine to hit the toy market was Mattel’s Synsonics Drums. As a testament to their relevance at the time Buddy Rich, Carmine Appice and Nigel Olsen all endorsed the product. (Mike Dolbear has an excellent essay on the history of Synsonics Drums: http://www.mikedolbear.com/story.asp?StoryID=3957).
My recollection of Synsonics Drums is that I was very fond of the toy and played with it for more hours than I can count. The multiple sound options and recording capabilities enabled users to emulate the sounds of an actual four piece drum kit and record their playing which could be played back exactly as it had been performed. Years before I got my first drum kit Synsonics Drums were, along with a rubber practice pad, the tools of my earliest development as a drummer. Lost to the past are many recorded patterns created on Synsonics Drums which represented my first shot at production as well as drum solos. In fact, with the exception of a few times I can count on one hand, they may have been the only drum solos I’ve ever played.
Frankly, I miss my Synsonics Drums and I am disappointed that they, like most childhood toys, where either discarded or destroyed. I can’t remember their fate. It seems that I’m not the only one looking back on this vintage drum machine as you can still find Synsonics Drums on eBay. There are even websites that provide instructions for removing the internal chip boards for customization. It seems there is a whole community of drum nerds out there carrying the Synsonics banner while preserving one of the best musical toys of the 1980’s. Clearly one of the forefathers to today’s electronic sample pads Synsonics Drums were, at least for a kid, the real deal.