Percussive dance sensors - request for any information

Ross Allen (
Mon, 31 May 1999 20:08:36 +0100

This is my first posting, I'd be very grateful for any assistance or for

I run DanceAV, a percussive dance group (any form of dance where the primary
component is sound, normally of feet on floor e.g tap, irish hard-shoe,
appalachian clogging, step-dance traditions from canada, english clog,
flamenco, kathak etc.) and would like to explore the possibilities of
dancer's beats triggering samples etc.

My ideal would be to develop a complete instrument - a floor based
'drum-pad' large enough to be divided into zones much as the steel-pan drums
used in steel-bands. Ideally this pad would provide position and velocity
information for each impact to a system which would interpret these two
factors and fire off the appropriate MIDI message in real-time. This
'system' (application hosted on a notepad?) would allow sophisticated
control over the placing of the zones and the parameterisation of the
effect, e.g. increasing echo or changing the pitch as a boundary is
approached. My limited reseach has suggested than this is not likely to be
feasible but that is the concept!

More realistically I can envisage a small number of robust sensors (perhaps
those used in drum-pads) suitably protected feeding into a drum machine. I
have no knowledge of the sensors required or their characteristics
(including cost) so any information would be most welcome, as I am unsure as
to how I can proceed further.

Particular questions:
a) Has anyone done this already? They appeared to use a sequence of five(?)
mats in 'Tap Dogs', each one triggering a single drum sample, leads for
further info?

b) There was a sequence at the end of the film 'Tap' starring Gregory Hinds
where the sensors were built into the shoes and the sound was then altered
at a sound-desk. Unfortunately, I believe this was just the magic of
cinema, does anyone know?

c) I've been told that the sensors in drum pads are binary (ie off or on
when a certain threshold is reached), is this true? My problem is that
percussive dance isn't this discrete...a limited number of levels would be
fine but just on/off would be very limiting.

d) Finally I've heard of an impact-sensitive peripheral for the Sony
Playstation previewed at a Japanese trade-show for the home version of the
Japanese arcade hit bust-a-move (basically follow the on-screen disco moves
with your feet). Any more info?

Thanks for your time!

Ross Allen