Bespoke Drum Machine Controller

Sound Designer
Jun 2017
Unlocking the sonic potential of the Nord Drum 2 by sidestepping its hardware UI with custom software built in Max/MSP.


Clavia's Nord Drum 2 is a fantastically robust drum synthesizer trapped behind a very uninspiring user interface.

A matrix of LEDs and buttons where the user has to select the row, parameter, and parameter layer and dial in changes with a single knob doesn't invite exploration, but instead encourages users to rely on factory preset sounds which tend to be a bit bland.

Perhaps this is why so many musicians have overlooked this little box, which I consider to be one of my favorite pieces of kit.


Since I'm not enough of a hardware engineer to build a new physical interface, I relied on a graphical programming language called Max to build a piece of custom software for controlling the Nord Drum's parameters. I had two main goals with this approach: give the user dynamic control over all dual-layer parameters with X-Y sliders, and create "randomize section" and "randomize all" buttons.


These UI enhancements and additional features not only make the Nord Drum simpler and more fun to program, but they make it easier for users to push the drum synth into wild sonic territories.


Armed with this new software precision, I designed and recorded an array of samples augmented with some of my favorite vintage analog effects.

You can download the Max patch and the sounds I designed (as samples or SysEx) here.

Next up