behind the scenesThe Orange County Coast has been bathed in either icy winds or surprising sunshine this past week and a half; musicians are promising to reconnect with friends on Facebook; and musical instrument marketers are promising new breakthroughs in everything from reeds and strings to virtual instruments that are sure to revolutionize the entire history of music. Wow, it must be time for the 2019 NAMM show.

With four days of demos, showcases, big star concerts, and international deal making ahead, it’s a chance for intrepid percussion journalists to think about the important questions in life, like, “Which industry party will have the best food?” and “Can I score three extra tickets to that private concert?” Along the way we’ll even have time to see all the things that can be seen at NAMM, such as the new drumming products of 2019.

What Took So Long?

First off,  before we get down to handicapping new products at the show, we have a life-changing announcement to make recording musicians. Thirty-six years after the MIDI standard was first proposed and 27 years since General MIDI (which imposed a minimum standard set of features on all MIDI instruments) was introduced it looks like, maybe, hopefully, the world will see a MIDI 2.0. That’s right—after thinking about it and talking about it for, oh, a couple of decades, the MIDI Manufacturers Association is ready to leap into action. We’ll try to hunt down GM honchos like Athan Billias of Yamaha or Tom White of the MMA to get the skinny. Okay, let’s get down to business.

Sorting The Sticks

Meinl’s new stick line, which is already in many online and traditional stores will be one of our first stops… Zildjian’s metallic-finish sticks we’ll also get a look… Innovative Percussion, which started making all of its own sticks in 2018, will get the once-over, too. Previously the company subcontracted some models, a not uncommon practice in the industry, while making their own mallets… Pro-Mark has expanded their oak line… and Vater has some tricks up their sleeves as well.

What’s Old Is New

We already get the feeling that 2019 is a year of incremental improvement, rather than giant new strides, in drum set design. We look for Pearl, which rolled out a lot of products in the past three years, to show some upgrades and line extensions… DW, likewise, and of course, the Oracles of Oxnard will unleash new special editions, including the world’s first almond wood kits… One thing that is new is innovation that looks old: Welch Tuning Systems Artistry Series drums. These tubs have a early 19th century appearance thanks to a new patented tensioning systems of pulleys and cable that brings both heads into tune with the turn of a single handle. The drums are available in various shell packs and snare drums… Similarly, down at A&F Drum Co. they are continuing to make things look old but sound great due to their love affair with designs that are one part English Arts & Crafts movement and one part vintage sound. It will all be there in their Bell line of bronze snares and other new products… There are many other killer products on our to-do list that runs from Dunnett to Ludwig to Rogers to Tama, so stay tuned.

Hunk Of Burning Love

Over in percussion land, LP is trying to kick up excitement and snare some mindshare with a bunch of new 55th Anniversary Edition toys including congas and bongos of New Zealand pine with a special burnt finish covered in “Candy Black Fade.” Is that a thing? It is now… Rhythm Tech is introducing an affordable and comprehensive line of Palma instruments that include a lap cajon and mini 12″ djembe. The cajons include bass ports and a Palma snare… Also in our sights, new hand drums from Atempo and Toca, newly reinvigorated under ownership by RBI, which until two years ago mainly focused on K-8 educational instruments.

Baking The Bronze

There are at least a couple of new cymbal lines, probably more, and some interesting new wrinkles. TRX has a new line of highly polished cymbals called Ice… And Bosphorus has their new Syncopation series. Over at Istanbul Mehmet, there are rumors of new Tony Williams models… Sabian has done a complete revamp of AAX to create a more modern sound… and we expect line extensions from Zildjian, Paiste, and several others.

A Pad For Your Crib

The new Alesis multi-pad is already getting rave comments—and with good reason. It holds a ton of sounds and is user-friendly. But the company has promised it won’t stop there, so we are expecting new peripherals or perhaps some revamped kits too… Roland has gone to schedules that introduce products at various times in the year, not just NAMM. They made changes to the V-Drum lineup right through 2018, and the TD-1 DMK entry level kit has only been out a few months. We’re eager to see the TM-1 module, which should make hybridizing your kit about as simple as it is going to get… The show will also provide our first look at a complete new e-kit from Muzzio Drums and our personal first shot at playing the DW system produced in conjunction with Gewa, their European partner. However, DWe won’t be fully available until summer 2019… I expect surprises from Pearl too. Their e-offerings such as Bop Pad and MalletStation have been legit contenders for the “revolutionary” throne and we’re sure they’ll continue to keep pedal to the metal in terms of introducing new tools that upend convention.

Support Systems

The rack researchers at Gibraltar have extended the Stealth line with a new V-Rack designed to reduce the number of stands without increasing the kit’s footprint. That should find favor with today’s practical setups… And, INDe‘s BR3 mount lets you mount toms or add accessories without drilling holes. People are already talking about it… We’re certain there will be plenty of pedals too—DW, for one, continues the make-it-old-but-new trend with a DW 5000 AH4 model. It’s a single-chain accelerator cam pedal complete with modern technology, but with the original retro 5000 footboard shape.

Let’s Skip School

Going off-campus may be a new trend. Craviotto and Pork Pie are retreating once again to Wall of Sound Studios in Anaheim. This allows them to escape the noise of 100,000 attendees and some 2,000 exhibit booths and present their wares in a more demo-friendly venue. But they are away from the main show. Maybe this is the trend. DW chose this year to show less product at the convention center and instead spend the money inviting customers to their headquarters before the event.

Don’t Stop There

There are loads more NAMM stops on our itinerary, from in-ear monitor vendors, like ClearTune with its new Aaron Spears model, to loads of boutique drum builders. Look for us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook this weekend and for followup reports and plenty of videos at and on our YouTube page in the coming weeks.