Rhythm Quest was more than just a 2020 Covid project!

Providing opportunities and tools to rediscover and empower the inner musician that wants to play, dance and collaborate with others.

by Phil Didlake – February, 2022

When I look back at 2020 and the transition to online drumming and music making events, I realize there was a thread that continues to motivate my work even today:

Providing opportunities and tools to rediscover and empower the inner musician that wants to play, dance and collaborate with others.

I have been facilitating group drumming programs for over 13 years. I bring drums to groups that typically think that they are not drummers or have the skills to play drums. I use group entrainment and improvisation to remind everyone that we can all inherently drum. Through drumming, we can go deeper into intention setting, musical expressing, communication, and simply experiencing the joy of creating music together. 

The origins of Rhythm Quest began in response to the pandemic shutdown. Realizing that I could no longer drum with groups in person, the concept was simple:

  1. Each person was invited to go on a self directed quest to find or make an instrument in their home or work environment. 
  2. Bring that found instrument to the Zoom screen to play and share it with others. 

It was encouraging to see children and adults making drums out of pots and pans in their living room. They created unique homemade shakers, rattles, and all kinds of instruments. Even though we could not collectively hear one another or play in time, we took solos, checked in with one another and developed games using movement, drumming and music.

The next version of Rhythm Quest was inspired after a corporate team events coordinator from AutoDesk reached out to me as they were interested in the Rhythm Quest challenge. At this point I realized I needed to develop this concept in order to cater to a tech savvy and experienced team.

This called for a breakthrough concept: a tool that had the ability to record any sound in our environment remotely, otherwise known as the recording function on a cell phone! 

So I designed a sound upload form and through the Rhythm Quest process we collected samples from participants all over the world. With the help of my sound engineer Joshua Parrott, we processed these samples in a digital audio workstation (DAW) to edit, loop, and create an original song built from these collected samples. (Check out some of the music tracks we created with remote teams here)

However, one would think it would be simple to record and share audio files from your phone. Wrong! We ran into a lot of challenges along the way. I was also getting feedback from participants who were interested in learning more about the music creation process.

I then began to explore mobile apps and see if we could simplify this process. That’s when Alex de Raadt, a fellow music and health technologist, introduced me to a new app called the KOALA sampler. This $5 app is a lot of fun! It turns your phone into a digital sampler and recording device that captures sound and creates music on the fly. KOALA also makes it easy to share your music and can act as a controller to Ableton, other apps and professional DAW systems. 

I could see the potential music collaboration opportunities that this app could provide so I began to share it with my friends who were interested in music and recording. However after checking in, I learned that most of them had purchased the app but had not created any music with it.

Bringing me to my most recent breakthrough: Realizing that intention, collaboration and dare I say deadlines(!) are incredibly important in moving the creative process along until it’s completion.

Even though we have accessible music creation tools, there seems to be so much more to creating music on a human level that we may not initially recognize. For example:

  • What brings us to create music?
  • What inspiration keeps us moving forward through technology issues and writing blocks?
  • How do we collaborate with others in order to complete a song?

That is why I designed the newest Rhythm Quest 2.0 Online Event featuring the Koala app. My objective is to inspire music creation while facilitating a virtual tour to visit various music making platforms and apps. Through this gamified song building weekend we will not only cover how to use the KOALA app, but more importantly we will learn how to show up to create music, choose a self-directed path in a supportive group environment, and finally, to record and publish your own music on the Drum Innovation website.

We hope you will join our community on the next evolutionary quest and make more music online together.

Thanks for reading. If you found something inspiring or resourceful, please leave a comment below. 

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