Wayne State Exemplar
by Sydney Redigan
Brad Giorio, who received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering technology in December, can trace his career path all the way back to 1992 when the drummer of his band, Lovehammer, quit to move to Washington D.C. Giorio, who was then studying music at Henry Ford Community College, didn't want to abandon the songs that the band - which practiced three days a week for eight hours a day - had worked so long on. So Giorio set off on a journey to reproduce the sound of the band's drummer that would take him several years and eventually lead him to the Wayne State College of Engineering.
Giorio had luckily enough recorded the bands' songs on 4-track tape, so he could easily separate the drum track from the others. "I didn't know if I'd ever need them," Giorio says. "But it just so happened I did." Giorio listened to the tracks over and over and then programmed them into a sequencer in MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) format that would then be sent to a drum unit to reproduce the drum sounds.
Giorio and his remaining band mates next spent a year and a half recording their music. "When I got into the studio I used this sampled drum unit that already has pre-packaged drum sounds in it," says Giorio. "This doesn't sound like what drums sound like. The 4-track recording sounded better because it used a real drummer. The drum sound on the CD was a real disappointment."
In search of a more authentic drum sound, Giorio began experimenting with the drum tracks he had programmed originally. He realized he could take the sampled drum unit, which produced the synthetic drum sound he disliked, out of the process completely. Giorio devised a way to send the MIDI signals directly to a solenoid (a device that can push or pull a rod up or down when a current is applied to it) which would then strike a drum head, producing real acoustic drum sounds. Giorio spent years and more than $5,000 on the "Robo Drummer," completing it in 1998.
While the idea of the Robo Drummer was impressive, Giorio says it became outdated just as he made it, as computer software was coming out that allowed a user to record their own drum tones and make their own samples, rendering his invention irrelevant. "But," Giorio says, "it did get me into electrical engineering."
Giorio had struggled with the ear training portion of his musical education, so he decided to take the electrical engineering credits he had earned at Henry Ford and transfer to Wayne State.
Giorio spent eight years earning his degree in electrical engineering while also working full-time as a web developer manager at MCM Learning, Inc. For his senior project, he revisited the drum unit, updating the micro-control by reprogramming a new and more advanced chip. He plays guitar frequently.