The Story of On Trigger
The On-Trigger story began properly in 2014, by a drummer looking to solve his dilemma of how to achieve a reliable solution for live bass drum sound reinforcement.
By 2013, I already possessed a strong experience of studio recording techniques and also enjoyed taking part in the recording process, on both sides of the glass. What really bothered me however, was that in a live performance setting, many aspects of the sound of amplified drums, especially the bass drum sound, was too far from the quality that could be captured in the studio. This is where the story of OnTrigger began, with the purchase of a sound module, triggers, cables and the my own dedication to making it work.
I knew from my background in studios, various web groups and other sources, that achieving the perfect settings for my triggers wouldn't be an easy task. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that if I was going to play utilising a piezo trigger-based setup, I would have to transform the kick drum into something that felt similar to a drum pad. It would need to be packed with foam, a blanket or other absorbing material, with the drum head tightened a great deal more than an acoustic drum would be used to, and much more than I was comfortable with. I also soon discovered that despite all my efforts, from a performance perspective, It wouldn't be possible for me to utilise a double pedal on a single bass drum linked to a module. No matter what settings I tried, I couldn't replicate sonically what my feet were playing: notes were either missing, duplicated or inconsistent and that was before even considering how to replicate dynamics.
I experimented with this setup for some time, eventually resigning myself to the fact that it wouldn't be possible for me to trigger a kick live, instead achieving a better sound from my drum module (my own pre-recorded sounds), even though this too was also not a long term solution.
The final issue came when my trigger stopped working, whilst on stage, a mere three months into using the setup. I claimed against the product warranty, however it wasn't long before I once again had issues with the sensor.
This is where the story of OnTrigger truly can be said to begin. With the issues I was experiencing in mind, I decided to break down the trigger into its component parts. To figure out how everything worked, before ordering replacement components from the internet and diving into experimenting with potential setups.
After some trial and error, I finally created a sensor that worked and seemed durable (which I still have on my snare drum to this day). However, this sensor still wasn't as precise as could be in replicating what I was trying to play and was even more confusing when performing, with bass drum signal coming through in my headphone mix.
From my industry knowledge at the time, I knew that there was a single company who offered a trigger and pedal solution, however it was both costly and designed in a way that I didn't like. A decision was made that day (a memory so fresh it feels like yesterday), that to make a solution that would work for me, the way I envisioned it, would require Triggers to be placed on the pedals themselves. This would enable two signals to be triggered, one from each pedal, rather than a single signal from the less reliable vibrating membrane of the bass drum head.
At the time, I spent a lot of time online, searching the web, groups and forums for tips, of which there were many, however none that I could find which could really work in practice. What I did gain from my research however, was a lot of interesting knowledge on topics like module settings / delays etc, especially for older units. All of which would become useful once I had finally designed a trigger system that worked.
My first trial was to incorporate the sensors into the beaters themselves. This was a great idea, with two signals, one from each beater. Using Iron Cobra beaters, I was able to remove the felt pad from the beater head, seal the sensor under the pad (with a secret substance). The design was finished off with the cable wrapped around the beater shaft with shrink cable, left to dry overnight ready for first trial at rehearsal the next day!
The next day came and I excitedly drove to my rehearsal space, rushing to setup my new trigger beaters, before starting to play.
Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that this system wouldn't work, as when one beater was pressed against the head following a stroke, it would trigger again, in sympathy, with the next beater strike. The re-Trigger was quieter and more subtle, however any double triggering would of course not be acceptable and wouldn't be something that could be 'fixed' via my module settings.
Sat in the rehearsal room, looking at my double pedals with my trigger beaters attached, wires and all, I debated what could be done or what my next step should be. Kneeling to get a closer look at the pedal, moving it with my hand, I said to myself the elusive words: "The footboard is a moving part, just like the beater, what if I put a trigger under the footboard?" This thought however came with yet more questions of how to fit and position it there? how exactly would it work? Many more questions, all of which would fuel another round of experimentation.
More trial and testing begun, with much fastening, soldering, sticking, bending, milling and most importantly visiting all sorts of hardware and electronics shops looking for adequate components.
The end result of this design phase was the construction of a sensor that could be affixed under the pedalboard, utilising a metal plate and screw setup beneath the pedalboard, which could be moved up and down to ensure it made contact with the sensor during performance.
All appeared to work brilliantly! The setup was working! I even added some felt to cover the sensor, preventing any damage from the impacting screw, which not only appeared to protect the sensor, but also in no way affected its performance in replicating the notes to be triggered.
I took the system out on a number of occasions for live gigs, to test its performance under pressure and although the system worked fine for triggering purposes, issues soon became clear from an adjustment perspective. As most drummers who perform live on a regular basis know, the stages we find ourselves playing on are often uneven, drum rugs can be creased, shared bass drums can have different head angles and different size rims etc. All of these factors effected my need to re-position the contact screw all the time, loosening or tightening the screw to enable contact to be made with the trigger at the optimum point for the triggered signal.
Back to the drawing board, and another phase of trials were needed, (it felt like the thousandth). A thinner metal sheet, was required; bendable yet firm enough not to bend during playing or when detaching the double pedal form its drive shaft, but pliable enough to enable simple adjustment to compensate for any changes in bass drum angle / stage surface etc.
I was keen to learn all I could in the trial of methods of manufacture such as; shaping, drilling and forming various materials etc, until I found a suitable solution.
Finally and at long last, this solution worked, problem solved. My new triggers worked both for rehearsals and with their new adjustable format, also worked under the changeable constraints of a live setting. Finally, my vision for an adjustable, reliable under-pedal mounted trigger system had been realised!
One day at the rehearsal rooms, my guitarist approached me, having witnessed my efforts over the prior weeks and months in creating my triggers. He suggested that I should bring the triggers to market, starting to sell my inventions to other drummers, after obtaining the relevant patent protection for what I had designed.
I kept his words in mind for some time, whilst continuing to use my triggers in rehearsal and for gigs and making a replica set of triggers for a friend of mine. I know Antonín Salva (who works with well known guitarists and producers) quite well and approached him for advice on the matter, as I had read a lot of contrasting information online surrounding the legalities of selling self-made products to friends etc, deciding to approach the matter professionally through the application for a trade licence at the local patent office. Around the same time I also approached a local music store, to enable me to access their wide stock of pedals lines, to test my product ability to adapt to different pedal designs and construction methods.
The date of the patent office visit came, And I demonstrated my product and explained everything related to design, function and form to the officials there. We browsed the records to find any result of something similar on the market, which of course we didn't find! (Fantastic news). There were no records of an under-the-pedal sensor that had been installed on a classic drum pedal, (and certainly not one taped onto the pedal with a double-sided tape, with a small bendable metal plate and a sponge below the sensor). At the patent office, they have the possibility to search in various global registers and databases, etc, all of which came up clean. However, when it finally came to registration, It would have been far too expensive to secure a patent for my design.
I spoke with several people around that time who had personal experience of patent protection procedures, gaining advice wherever I could and with everything in mind, I eventually came to the decision that to go through the costly process of a patent application when I didn't legally require one, didn't really make much sense for me.
I did have other options to consider, one of which was to offer my design to a large enterprise / drum company. This, albeit a logical option, would be a rather tricky one, as contracts, intellectual property and confidentiality agreements are all tricky to work out. Remembering Antonín Salva's advice, that I would be in a helpless position if I had to constantly be afraid of legal agreements; I elected to film and publish a video in 2014, demonstrating my trigger setup, explaining how they worked and what the advantages were of my design. This offered me an element of security in my invention due to the public nature of the 'press release' video.
Here is where it all then started! In 2014 I began selling triggers, creating a website for sales and information, to begin spreading the word about my product.
At first, things started slowly, with sales starting in the Czech Republic, however it didn't take long for orders to start to come in from foreign countries. All was going well, with customer satisfaction, within the drumming industry, helping information spread from user to potential future customer. A great example of this came in early 2016 with a Slovak recording studio, who started using my triggers on their kits. At this studio many drummers had the opportunity to come into contact with my product, trying them out and seeing first hand the benefit they could bring to their setup.
Around this time contact levels started to rise, with many drummers from more renowned bands starting to make direct contact with me, keen to get more information on my triggers, to place orders for their own trigger setups, or to discuss potential 'brand endorsement' options with me. I'll discuss more about 'endorsements' later, however It was at this time, with the sudden uplift in interest, that I started to think of the 'what ifs' involved. What if someone in the USA for example were to use my product on a large stage for an important gig and something were to go wrong? What if the sensor stopped working mid-gig? (it may last three or more years, however at some stage everything will wear out sooner or later) Someone, for example a roadie, might step on it or yank out the cable, or something along those lines, potentially damaging the unit pre-gig! As with all those who create products for the marketplace, considering 'what ifs' is best dealt with by further working on and refining design.
With all of these eventualities in mind, I drew up a version of my design with a replaceable sensor and worked on utilising different connection leads, to enable the fast change of a sensor should one fail at a crucial moment. Most of these were too big and quite complicated, however eventually after much trial and error I found a connector that worked well, was conspicuous enough to not get in the way and facilitated an easy change of sensor whilst still being firmly attached to the trigger unit.
I was once again happy in the knowledge that the triggers were now reliable enough for sale abroad to drummers around the world, and that should something go wrong in any eventuality, a sensor could be changed out in a matter of seconds, without the need to remove or reposition the trigger body itself.
Now seems like a good time to return to the subject of 'Brand Endorsements', as I promised I would earlier. Endorsements, do not seem like a good deal to me from either side of the arrangement. It seems unfair to 'feed' someone with triggers and to tie them up to your company in some form of exclusivity contract. For example, how often do you see people promoting products, not because they are worth it, but because they get it for free (or at a discounted rate). I don't believe that this adds any value to a product at all. OnTrigger will therefore, always be promoted by people who play my triggers because they work for them, they trust them and they suit their playing style. I also do not believe in drawing a line between drummers of different 'levels'. I believe OnTrigger Trigger sensors should be affordable and therefore be within budget and available for drummers of every level, from pro drummers from popular bands to drummers from developing countries looking for a better solution for their live sound.
Thanks to the fact that I seldom give OnTrigger products free to anybody (especially for example; to the drummer from a big band, who already has five sensors from different companies and merely wants to try OnTrigger), I can keep prices low, ensuring they remain within the remit of all drummers. Please rest assured though, that our low prices are in no way negatively reflective of the earnings of those who create our products. Our employees are well paid and do a first rate job, with all sensors going through testing programmes prior to dispatch.
On Trigger is now, already on its 3rd generation of design, constantly being perfected to meet the ever changing needs of the marketplace and becoming more adaptable and friendly to every pedal brand on the market. There are however, many drummers who are still using our 1st generation triggers, who don't feel they need replacing (the sensors work well even after years of usage).
On Trigger is a lively, responsive firm, capable of reacting positively to our customers' demands and market changes. From different connection options, to different cable choices, if you have a special requirement that you feel will better suit your setup, you can always contact us to discuss a bespoke trigger design. This adaptability is easy for us to achieve, as all our products are designed and made in house in the Czech Republic.
I appreciate all of those who have bought our sensors and choose to discuss and promote them online, on their websites, in articles or in social media groups they are a part of. I would like to express my gratitude towards all our customers by saying that it simply wouldn't work without you! Your help in promoting the word regarding our products and their reliability is very welcome indeed!
For our part, we are always keen and ready to keep refining our designs and products, to keep up with changes in the marketplace and the ever demanding needs of drummers whose feet are getting more technical, as well as faster and faster as time goes by. Our focus as always, is on the perfection of percussion instrument electronic triggering!