Recording drums with the Fostex AR-4i (Review)

I recently purchased the Fostex AR-4i audio interface for my iPhone 4s. Even though it came out a few years ago it still had the best reviews for a recording interface in it’s price range.  I wanted something under $100 that’s really quick to set up and portable so I can take iPhone video recordings of myself and my drum students.

Fostex AR-4i

Fostex AR-4i

Basically, it’s a mini-interface that attaches to the iPhone 4 or 4s. (They make a similar model for iPhone 5-see link below.) The interface is also an iPhone doc connecter with built-in AD/DA converters and three 1/8″ mic jacks (only two can be used simultaneously for either horizontal or vertical orientation). It also has some nice features including:

  • LED level meter (with three green and one red, for clipping)
  • Input level control
  • An external headphone jack

It also comes with a nifty grip handle, but since I already own a mini tripod stand I don’t have a use for it. There is a free app you can download from the app store which gives you the ability to set some recording parameters including input mode (mono or stereo), low cut filter, limiter, and clipping reducer. Once I started recording the drums, it took me a good amount of time to find the correct input level where the drums were not distorting. Although, to be honest, my drum space is currently much too acoustically live sounding to get any decent recording.

Anyway, without further ado here is the clip of playing with the built-in iPhone mic:

Here is the take with the Fostex AR-4i:

If you listen to the clips with a pair of decent headphones you can hear that the AR-4i mic captures more low-end and slightly less white noise than the built-in iPhone mic. Also, the cymbals sound more like cymbals with the AR-4i, as the mic captures more of their tonal characteristics. Overall, I’m quite pleased with the results; however, I do prefer the compressed snare sound with the iPhone mic over the the cleaner snare sound of the AR-4i. Amazon had the best price when I bought it. You can purchase it from Amazon here: Fostex AR-4i Audio Interface for iPhone 4/4S/iPod Touch 4G, Battery Powered

If you have an iPhone 5 you can get a similar model here: Fostex AR101 USB Powered Audio Interface for iPhone 4/4S/5, DSLR Camera, and PC

Moeller Traditional Exercise 2

Download Moeller Traditional Exercise 2 PDF

I’m exaggerating the upstrokes using a forearm rotation and then stoping at the top (so the stick tip faces up.) I’m exaggerating the movements to make it easy to see the forearm rotation.

I’ve noticed that if you utilize forearm rotation on the upstroke it makes it natural to unwind the forearm rotation to produce the downstroke.

I originally learned Moeller playing matched grip and without forearm rotation. After playing professionally for a few years I developed tendonitis in my right shoulder due to overusing muscles in arms and shoulders while playing at high volumes.

I revisited my technique and developed the Moeller with forearm rotation as well as focusing on just the wrists and forearms to create the whip. My wrists and forearms got stronger and I was able to produce the same high volume sounds without the stress in my shoulder joints. This helped alleviate my discomfort.

I now play the Moeller with and without forearm rotation. I like to utilize forearm rotation to produce loud volume snare and tom hits. However, when I’m playing at lower volumes I just use mainly the wrists and fingers without the forearm rotation.

If your experiencing any overuse issues it might be useful to develop your Moeller with forearm rotation. However, more importantly is to play relaxed without holding any tension in your neck and shoulders.

Performance in Orange

I’ll be playing with Chuck Ousley and Quintet this Friday and Saturday night 5/17 and 5/18 in Orange, CA. Here is a short clip from the last time I played with the band in April (sorry about the video shake in the beginning). If your in the area come down and say hello!

Moeller Traditional Exercise 1

Download Moeller Traditional Ex1 PDF

In the above video I’m demonstrating the moeller exercise as written in the PDF using matched grip. I like to call this traditional Moeller because of the utilization of the pinky and ring finger grip (Sanford Moeller’s preferred grip) as well as the forearm rotation.

In Sanford Moeller’s book “The Moeller Book” he describes just three strokes–down stroke, up stroke, and the single stroke–which we now call taps. Notice in the video at the very slow tempo the down strokes and up strokes are almost identical movements. Both are similar wavelike movements. Actually, the only difference between the two is the stick makes contact with the head during the up stroke; the downstroke gets close to the head but does not make contact.

Forearm rotation was a key element in the snare drum technique that Jim Chapin and Sanford Moeller taught. I initially learned Moeller in matched grip but without the forearm rotation. Around a decade later, when I studied with Jim Chapin I realized what I was doing wasn’t actually what Sanford Moeller taught. My wrists, arms and especially shoulders were all working harder than they had to. I realized that whipping a downstroke using forearm rotation reduced my shoulder joint stress (I’ll expand more on that in a future video post).

In the video the forearm rotation is easy to see at the slow tempo. It’s still there at the faster tempo but it’s a smaller movement-like flicking water off your fingers.

If your a drummer that’s experiencing muscle overuse issues or curious about incorporating this forearm rotation into your technique feel free to download the PDF above to get started.