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Yamaha FGDP – Best Finger Drumming Pads Or Waste Of Money?

May 16, 2024
Yamaha FGDP-50 & FGDP-30 Review

Recently, Yamaha released their new FGDP (Finger Drumming Pad), which is a brand new finger drumming instrument designed for playing drums on a pad controller.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from my finger drumming students about the new Yamaha FGDP and whether I recommend it for learning finger drumming. These are my thoughts.

There are two different models available: the FGDP-30 and the FGDP-50.

Both of them offer very similar features and layout, but the larger FGDP-50 has extra pads, a small LED screen, and more buttons for better navigation, plus a few additional software features.

The general idea of the FGDP is to be a standalone instrument focused on playing drums or percussion with your fingers.

There are many well-known pad controllers with similar features used by music producers, such as the Native Instruments Maschine, the Akai MPC, the Novation Launchpad, Ableton Push, etc.

The difference between all these popular MIDI pad controllers and the Yamaha FGDP is that it’s focused on drumming rather than general music production, and it works on its own right out of the box, without requiring a computer to plug into or any music production knowledge to set up the samples and drum sounds.

You can just turn on the FGDP, plug in your headphones (or use the little built-in speaker), and start drumming right away.

This is the FGDP’s strongest feature by far. I believe that finger drumming will be a very popular and mainstream way to play drums in the future, and we will definitely need pad instruments that focus on drumming without any additional software or a computer required.

Just like a guitarist can plug their guitar into an amp and start playing, finger drummers need this kind of easy accessibility for the instrument to grow in popularity.

So far so good, right? The FGDP seems like it might be exactly what the finger drumming world needs, with a strong focus on drumming, an easy plug-and-play setup, and lots of drum-centric features like a built-in metronome, lots of realistic drum kit presets, etc.

The Problem With The Yamaha FGDP

But there is one HUGE problem with the Yamaha FGDP. And this problem is so significant and glaring that I unfortunately cannot recommend it to anyone who wants to play finger drums.

This problem is the design of the pads themselves. As you can see by the photo above, the pads are not designed in a traditional grid like all other pad controllers (usually 4x4 or 8x8).

Instead, the pads on the Yamaha FGDP are various sizes, with some being long like a keyboard spacebar, some being odd-angled rectangular shapes, and others being very small, barely large enough to strike with your little finger.

Yamaha says that this design is intentional, and is the best ergonomic setup for your hands to rest comfortably on the pads.

Unfortunately, this particular pad setup is designed to work with the popular Mirror Layout, which a lot of finger drummers use.

I have a full article on the problem with the mirror layout for finger drumming, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but basically this pad layout is not ideal for realistic finger drumming.

It works for the most basic beginner drum patterns, but if you ever want to start playing advanced rhythms with more complex finger isolation, the mirror layout becomes impossible to use.

I personally teach a hand isolation layout, which is based on my years of experience playing acoustic drums, and it makes it very easy to translate real drumming skills to finger drumming on the pads.

It works for all levels of finger drumming from beginner to advanced, and building your skills to a very high level is easy with this layout.

However, my hand isolation layout requires a standard grid of equal pads (like the Maschine Mikro that I use in all my videos, with the classic 4x4 grid of square pads).

The different sized pads on the Yamaha FGDP simply don’t work with the hand isolation layout.

I tried to figure out different ways to possibly program the FGDP pads with my hand isolation setup, and it just doesn’t work. The pads are built to have the drum sounds split down the middle, with the same sounds accessible to each hand.

In contrast, my hand isolation layout requires each half of the pads to be different, with some sounds accessible only to the dominant hand, and others only for the non-dominant hand.

This setup is exactly the same as a real drum kit, and it’s the reason why I can play advanced drum parts on the pads so effortlessly, just like a real drummer.

It’s really unfortunate that Yamaha made such a huge, crucial mistake with this device. If someone wants to use the mirror layout, they should have the freedom to do so, but it can easily be done on a normal 4x4 grid of pads.

So if somebody like me owns a Maschine Mikro, I’m free to easily program my hand isolation layout, or try a mirrored layout, or anything else.

By fixing the sizes and shapes of the pads, Yamaha has made it basically impossible to try other pad layouts, and forced users into one primary way of setting up their pads.

And with the mirror layout being a very poor choice for realistic finger drumming, I would recommend all aspiring finger drummers to avoid this device.

This is such a crucial problem that all the other features and benefits of the FGDP don’t even matter. It’s great that it’s a standalone unit that doesn’t require a computer, it’s great that it has a bunch of built-in drum kits, it’s great that it has audio input so you can jam out with backing tracks on your phone – but none of these things matter because the pads themselves are badly designed.

Should You Buy The Yamaha FGDP For Finger Drumming?

So, the verdict is: do not buy the Yamaha FGDP for finger drumming.

You won’t be able to play realistic finger drums at an advanced level, and your playing will be severely restricted for anything beyond the most basic drum beats.

I don’t want to end this article on a low note, so allow me to recommend an ideal alternative: the Maschine Mikro MK3.

I’ve personally been using the Maschine for years, I’ve owned several different models, including the full-size MK3, the Mikro MK2, and the Mikro MK3, and they’ve always been incredible.

The pads are the best I’ve ever used, they’re incredibly responsive, and most importantly, they are standardized to a large 4x4 size that makes it super easy to play finger drums like a real drum kit.

If you want to get into finger drumming, the Maschine Mikro is the way to go. All you need to do is map it with a realistic drum emulator software (which also sounds much better than the Yamaha FGDP built-in drum sounds, by the way).

I have a free Finger Drumming Starter Course that includes a full setup walkthrough of my favorite FREE drum emulator software.

Inside, I’ll take you step-by-step through the finger drumming setup process, and show you exactly how to program your pads, exploring the hand isolation layout, and we’ll start playing drum grooves together.

Just click the button below to get the course for free right now:

If you want to learn the secrets of realistic finger drumming, don't miss out on my FREE Finger Drumming Starter Course:

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