Product Planning

The story behind the birth of the FGDP, a potential game changer in the world of finger drumming.

How the FGDP came about

As instruments that are used specifically for finger drumming, the FGDP Series is brimming with the potential to be a game changer. The series of inspirations that led to the invention of these products was based on a familiar yet also unexpected premise. When broken down from many different angles, these instruments hold an amazing degree of possibilities for expansion as percussion instruments. Here are the product planner and the product director of the FGDP series to talk about how the development journey began.

FGDP product planner: Yamashita


This all got started in 2018 at an internal Yamaha technology research presentation, when I saw a prototype of an instrument that was specifically for use with finger drumming, created by the engineer who came up with the idea. The moment I saw this, I immediately felt that this product would offer significant value to those just starting out with music, if we were to bring this to market.

First, percussion instruments can be enjoyed with rhythm alone, unlike other musical instruments that require all three musical elements—melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Second, percussion instruments are easier to produce sound from compared to other instruments like wind instruments, which require practice just to produce sound—simply striking the instrument allows you to play. What’s more, this new instrument is even easier to play since you can drum with your fingers, and fingers are a more familiar “tool” than playing with sticks. So, in the end, Finger drumming is easier to learn than keyboards, wind instruments, or drums.

FGDP product planner: Miura


Being a drum player, I’ve always thought how great it would be if more people got into playing the drums. By coincidence and unrelated to this project, I started getting into finger drumming in 2017. I was astounded to find finger drumming performances on YouTube. As I was idly watching these videos, I suddenly heard real acoustic drum sounds that cannot be achieved without using acoustic drum playing techniques. I kept thinking that someone was playing acoustic drums, but there wasn’t a single drum shown on screen. Rather, the player was using their fingers to tap out rhythms on a 4x4 drum pad, to which different drum sounds were assigned.

When I saw this, I was amazed but also really pleased. I’d been thinking all the time about how we could contribute to the number of drum players out there, and here was the answer! If this high level of performance is possible with just the fingers, without having to learn to use drum sticks, it would make it much easier for everyone to enjoy playing drum parts... and from that point on, I was hooked on finger drumming.


As a side note, before grid pad controllers came into being, finger drumming was done by assigning different drum and percussion sounds to notes on the electronic keyboard, and then playing the sounds with those keys. However, it was not popular because it was difficult to do. Later, with the introduction of grid pad controllers, finger drumming began to become more widespread.


In a way, this FGDP project got started based on Yamashita’s feeling that this idea was going to take off. And it was just a coincidence that I happened to be there, as someone who was massively into finger drumming, and envisioned a pad interface that would match the shape of the user’s fingers. These factors came together to set the stage for a product that could be a revolution in the finger drumming market.


Actually, we didn't have interviews with end users during the planning process because we thought end users couldn't provide an answer as they hadn't seen the product yet. Rather than look to the outside world for solutions on what a musical instrument that doesn’t yet exist might be like, we were convinced that we could find the perfect solution as product planner, director, and developers by creating the product in a very tactile way.

Drum playing for the masses

Although it is comparatively easy to start playing percussion instruments, not everyone can go out and buy a drum kit if they want to begin. This has been the same for finger drums as well. You’d normally need to purchase a variety of different equipment to have at your disposal.

The fact is that FGDP neatly takes care of these various problems that people face when they want to start playing drums.

FGDP product planner: Yamashita


Although finger drumming is easy to enjoy, up until now, users who wanted to get started in finger drumming needed to buy a lot of equipment like a pad controller, computer, speakers, and so on. However, with just a single FGDP, you can now start playing drums without needing to buy anything else. We felt that the FGDP had to be an all-in-one product if it was to allow beginners to start finger drumming easily.


We also thought that for many people to accept and enjoy the FGDP as a drumming instrument, we would need to make an instrument with not only acoustic drums but also with sounds that allow you to play in ways that are like the music you hear on the hit charts now.


Yes. When we decided what sounds to include with this instrument, we certainly weren’t thinking of including just acoustic drum sounds. We made it a point to cover a wide range of sounds, from rock, pop, electronic, and jazz, to every other type of music that you hear in the world today. Our aim was to make this the definitive percussion instrument from the moment we brought it out as a new product. That’s why we included many percussion sounds that are familiar in music around the world, like the music of India and Arabic music, not just the sounds you hear on the hit charts today.


The all-in-one concept is also important for people who have already started finger drumming. Users should be able to set it on their lap and start playing right away—playing drums anywhere, anytime, without the need to set up a drum kit. We wanted people to be able to use the FGDP as a drum kit outdoors, in places like a park, not just in a studio or live performance venue. You can use it in a simple session anywhere—pull out the FGDP, and you’re ready to join in the music.


For instance, this could be an option if you want to play drums in a situation like a wedding hall where you can’t set up a drum kit.

The meaning of being easy to get started yet full of possibilities

The essence of music is simply this: it should be something that’s fun to do. You might need to practice a little to have fun with it, and the fact is that people feel a sense of joy when they take on a challenge and gradually start to master something. Music is no exception. The fun comes when you get better at it, and you become more confident as well. If this kind of experience appeals to you, we invite you to try out the FGDP. It’s fun when you’re starting out, and once you start down the road of mastering the more advanced techniques, this instrument responds to your desires. The FGDP is a revolutionary musical instrument that lowers the barriers for people who are at a point in their lives when they want to start playing, but also offers a level of quality and power that can handle advanced playing techniques.

The FGDP will be the perfect musical companion for people who want to experience the fun of music right away, but who also want that feeling to last a long time.

Miura playing FGDP-50


Having started out as a drum player, I was instantly drawn into the world of finger drumming. I also believe that the world of finger drumming will keep expanding, as finger drumming as a form of music, together with how it’s embodied in our new instrument, offers tremendous possibilities.

As Yamashita mentioned, one of the major reasons why finger drumming is so appealing is because it’s easy for beginners to get into. However, it’s also very deep. Once you become an expert at finger drumming, you’ll be able to play phrases that you can’t perform on an acoustic drum kit.

This is because when you’re playing a typical drum kit, you hold a stick in each hand and play with both of your feet—four limbs, hence four sources of input. On the other hand, you have ten fingers you can fully use when finger drumming with both hands. This means that you can explore more expressive possibilities with your fingers than you can do with just drumsticks and feet. Also, since this is a digital instrument, many kinds of musical expression are at the tips of your fingers besides just striking the pads, such as playing drum rolls by pressing into the pads with your fingers (aftertouch), and you don’t need to use sticks to do this.

I realize that there will be many different opinions about this. For instance, since I’m also a drum player, I feel that it’s almost like cheating when you just press into the pad with your finger to get a drum roll. That’s because part of the magic of playing drums comes from playing the difficult techniques using sticks. However, when you take a step back, this is just part of the nature of playing digital instruments.

As a way for anyone to enjoy playing drums, finger drumming is a fantastic invention. However, at the same time, it shines a light on new possibilities for drumming itself.


Of course, I still think that acoustic drum performances are terrific! But I also think that the FGDP could offer a gateway into playing the drums. The reverse could also be true. I’d like for acoustic drum players to find new ways of performing and expressing music through the FGDP.


The FGDP is a musical instrument created exclusively for finger drumming. In a way, it’s also a miraculous instrument, as it lets you enjoy the fun and the possibilities of playing while still lowering the barriers to getting started. With an ordinary drum kit, it takes some time before you can really experience the fun of playing, but with the FGDP, you can enjoy playing right away.

When we were developing the FGDP, I taught many people how to play it. We found that for people who have played an instrument before, it took less than an hour before they were able to tap out an eighth-notes rhythm. Even people who have never played a musical instrument can have fun playing on the same day they pick it up.

What’s more, the possibilities expand once you start improving your playing skills… and eventually, you can surpass what a regular drum player could normally do. This is an instrument that offers you endless hours of play while still holding its fascination as one with which you can endlessly refine your craft.

I’m so excited to see what will happen once the FGDP is released, and I hope that this energizes the community of finger drummers out there. I want to see more people have fun with this. We want to stoke the fires of excitement that are already burning around finger drumming… and I want to keep participating in this community as we work to make this something that many more people will use to excite others.

Yamashita and Miura conversing while looking at FGDP on their lap


Aside from the FGDP series, I've been involved in many portable keyboard-related projects. The philosophy behind those projects has been to bring the fun of playing music to the people of the world. Music itself is a wonderful thing, and it's also a great joy to try to play and improve your playing skills. My sincere wish is that the FGDP will help bring this joy of playing to others.