Think those Shawn Wasabi Midi Fighter videos are cool, but have no idea what’s going on? Just pick up a Midi Fighter 3D and want to get started right away playing beats? This article is for you. Inside, get a better understanding of what’s actually happening in the videos, and some tips for getting started.
This article is intended to give new and aspiring performers a all right sense of how to get started (we get hundreds of questions about this every month). Have knowledge or advice to share? Please do so in the comments!
What am I looking at in Shawn’s videos? Finger Drumming!
Shawn Wasabi relies on a Midi Fighter to make his amazing videos. The Midi Fighter is one of the most popular finger drumming controllers on the market. The authentic Japanese arcade buttons are among the highest quality buttons in the world. They offer a hyper-low latency and the highest durability around (yes, the same ones used on arcade machines).
What You’re Hearing In the Videos
What’s actually coming through your speakers is the Midi Fighter triggering audio samples that are in the computer software Ableton Live.
To do this, Shawn compiles 16 (or more!) samples he likes and activates them in Live using the Midi Fighter. This “playable song” is called a soundpack.
Shawn’s videos also have fun LED light shows. Eye-catching LED light animations illuminate the controller automatically. It’s a more advanced process, but works awesome for routines. You create your own custom light shows using Ableton Live like Shawn. However, we recommend nailing the drumming part first before you start adding extras.
What is Finger Drumming?
Before computers, people just played instruments. While there are some genuinely amazing things about electronic music, it does have a tendency to lack dynamics. Dynamics are small timing and volume differences we hear in music. They give the song a “human element” that makes the song sound natural to us. When you combine real musicianship (drumming) with electronic sounds (sound packs), you get finger drumming. It’s insanely fun and introduces dynamics back into the music.
Imagine the Midi Fighter is a laptop keyboard. On a laptop, each time you hit the letter “A”, you’ll see the letter “A” popup on the screen. The Midi Fighter’s buttons work the same way, but instead of letters, you’re triggering sounds. A single button can trigger a drum loop, vocal line, melodic sounds or single percussive hit (like a snare or kick).
A awesome way to get started finger drumming: practice playing drums over your favorite song. You’ll see improvements each day, and after a few weeks you’ll have some drum rhythms you remember. From there you edit sound packs, remixing, and then creating your own music. If you can type, you can start finger drumming. Just like any musical instrument, it just takes some practice. The more time you spend on it the better you’ll get!
Sound Packs: Play Your Favorite Sounds
Part of what makes Shawn’s videos so unique is his careful sound selection. You can use any sound imaginable to create your own sound packs or remixes.
To do this just:
- pick any MP3 or similar sound file
- drag it to the correct pad (in an Ableton drum rack)
- adjust the start and end points so only the part you select from that file will be heard when triggered (e.g.: only using the “I have a dream” part of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous speech).
It’s possible and fun to make music from anything:
Here’s how to load your own sounds into a Drum Rack, which the Midi Fighter can then trigger.
Where Do I Find Sounds Like Shawn?
We recommend getting started using pre-created sound packs like Mad Zach Volume 5. This gives you immediate access to 15 awesome-sounding songs. They’re like Shawn Wasabi’s and ready to jam on immediately.
These sound packs are editable, should you want to swap out a kick sample or synthesizer sound. Volume 5 has extra lesson videos included in the Ableton Live session files that teach you how to play with a Midi Fighter. The video speed can be adjusted so you learn at whatever speed you are comfortable with.
Here’s what you need to get started + what it costs:
All you need is a computer, controller (Midi Fighter), software, and sounds. Here’s two options we recommend for beginners:
Intro Kit – $219
Essentials Kit – $349
How hard is this? Who can learn this?
Think of learning to finger drum as modern piano lessons. It’s not too different a traditional instrument – age isn’t a big factor. It does take some practice and a little help at the beginning – so we’ve provided free resources to help you get started:
The basics: how to practice finger drumming
A few more soundpack editing tricks
1 on 1 help and common questions:
Practicing finger drumming
How can we make this more helpful? Post your questions in the comments below – we want to make this the most helpful intro guide possible!