Exploring integration of DAW Processes for Effective Instrumental Practise

Tom Pierard



This lecture/recital addresses key points and conclusions from a larger study around educational applications of Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs).

Exploration of liveness in computer-based music is far from new, and though there is now a strong culture of performance which integrates both DAWs and acoustic instruments, this study seeks to investigate the role DAWs can play in facilitating effective instrumental practise. This multi-perspective approach can provide a unique insight into the incorporation of compositional approaches into instrument practise, potentially resulting in a more enriching experience.

The lecture/performance discusses four distinct areas of drum set practise (polyrhythm, micro-subdivision, timekeeping and supporting song form), and whether each area can be uniquely developed through DAW associations. Parallels and relationships between practical performance tasks and session building in Ableton Live are discussed and demonstrated, and the application of unique DAW techniques (e.g. audio warping and analysis, rhythmic/melodic randomization, session view) are used to create specialized drumset exercises.

Some learning strategies are explored, such as ‘flexible meter’ exercises; where a single melody and accompanying rhythm are programmed, allowing a drummer to accompany while making subtle changes in approach to micro-subdivision. The purpose of incorporating melody into this exercise is to give a second point of reference for the drummer, potentially providing a stronger link to real-world application.

The relationship between DAW-specific processes and drum practise are further explored, particularly concepts around symbiosis achieved through integration, potentially resulting in simultaneous proficiency development. The lecture will conclude with a short solo drumset/Ableton Live performance which uses the points of discussion as a method of highlighting interplay between the two media.


Tom Pierard is a performer, producer, commercial composer and educator currently living in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

He completed a degree in jazz performance (drumset) at Massey University Wellington in 2005, after which Tom secured a fulltime performance role with the Wellington-based ensemble Strike Percussion, which saw extensive national and international touring for the next five years with the group twice attending and performing at the Taiwanese International Percussion Convention.

After the birth of his second child, Tom decided to step back from fulltime session performance and moved to Hawkes Bay in 2011 to take the role of Head of Music Studies at the Eastern Institute of Technology. This marked the beginning of his academic career, during which he led a successful faculty and developed NZQA-accredited programmes as well as numerous teaching resources, including ‘The Modern Beat’ – an online blended learning system which hosts a number of comprehensive video and written courses and practise tools for drumset players.

As a drumset player and percussionist Tom’s playing can be heard on recordings such as Rhian Sheehan’s ‘Standing in Silence’ (2009), Strike Percussion’s ‘Sketches’ (2009), The Family Cactus’ ‘Spirit Lights’ (2011) and many more.

As a solo artist Tom has produced four EPs and one full-length album to date (The Devil You Know, 2013) under the alias Kingfischer.

Tom completed a Master of Music in contemporary composition through the University of Auckland in 2016, his thesis and body of compositions focusing on atypical rhythmic stress and transfigured audio in contemporary popular music. He is presently completing his PhD in the field of pedagogical applications of DAW use, and has recently produced research papers around new systems of graphic scoring, polyrhythmic function, music technology in education, and the influence of jazz drumming concepts in western popular music.