Synthesizing the craftsmanship derived from Yamaha’s 40-odd years of acoustic drum making with cutting edge engineering, the DTX900 both replicates and enhances the capabilities of its pre-digital counterparts. The DTX900 Special kit can produce 50 combinations of pre-set kits run through a control module and mixer, as well as up to 50 more kits loaded by individual users. Much of the labor in producing the drums went into sampling the voices, which include Yamaha’s beech, birch, maple and oak custom acoustic kits. Makoto Katsuura, who was in charge of planning the drums, recounts that his team went through exhaustive sampling sessions. “The electronic pads respond to the intensity of the drummer’s strokes,” Katsuura says. “But for us it wasn’t just a case of turning up the volume, because what we were dealing with were actually different sounds and reverberations. So we had to sample the acoustic kits at each different intensity.”
Getting the voices right was something of an obsession for Katsuura, who studied speech recognition software at Osaka University but has been drumming since he was in middle school. He admits, “I probably spent a few more late nights working with the sound engineers than was necessary.”
Once the first prototypes were ready, Katsuura and his team collaborated with Yamaha’s resident artists in Japan and the US to fine-tune the drums. Katsuura was particularly excited about working with Tokyo-based drummer Akira Jimbo, who rose to fame with the jazz-fusion band Casiopea in the 1980s. Jimbo was already using Yamaha acoustics in tandem with electronic kits, and he pushed the design team to incorporate more digital features. The result was the addition of a one-man orchestra function whereby drummers can hit assigned pads to activate and deactivate simple guitar and bass accompaniments.
The kit’s visual design emphasizes a functional, high-tech aesthetic. The view from the drummer’s throne evokes a space-age cockpit, and the evident sturdiness of the pads and rack invites hard playing. Unrestrained by physics, the pads are sleek discs coated in white synthetic material. However, Katsuura explains that his team modeled the digital cymbal pads on brass cymbals. “When you play with your eyes closed, that’s what you visualize, you want something that moves and responds like a cymbal,” he explains.
(Pictured): Rick Young, Yamaha senior vice president, left, and Yamaha president Hogan Osawa