The best ideas generally make you think, "Wow! Why hasn't anyone ever thought of that before!?" Thi-Hat is one of those ideas. This piece of hardware really stood out to me and I also wondered how I hadn't seen it anywhere on Instagram. I heard about it because CEO of THI-HATS, Nick Acocella, had asked me about reposting one of his videos. His contraption looked like pretty slick and homemade all at the same time. It was in an instant that I knew I had to interview the man behind this interesting hardware.
One of the first things that came to mind with THI-HATS was that it could be a huge sensation with percussionists and one man bands. Another thought that ran through my mind was, what if one morning Nick wakes up and discovers 30 orders came in overnight. How would he cope with the success? I figured it was safe to assume that he had a day job and other obligations to tend to. Also, I had to know the length of time required to produce a single THI-HAT because it looks time-consuming to produce. This appears to be a product that requires an organized and efficient method for manufacturing to truly be successful. So how can he do this? This is where my curiosity lies with Nick and his THI-HATS.
After I read the answers Nick provided it was clear how he does it and it was a nice message. He is a very passionate dude about his invention and he is feeling that he is on the right path. What I enjoy most about people like Nick is how excited and proud they are about what they work towards. It is the kind of energy that makes writing articles like this easier to do because you sense that if you believe in your work, anything is possible. Nick has recently received his patent for THI-HATS and he ready for start becoming visible to the market. Let's have a closer look at what THI-HATS are and what Nick is doing to make it happen.
DG: The Thi-Hat is incredibly ingenuitive. How did this idea come to you? NA: I got the chance to play for Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, 3 amazing brothers who rip on their instruments and were a fun challenge and privilege to play with. Part of the challenge was fitting a percussion element into bluegrass that didn't overpower what they were doing acoustically, and also that wouldn't make me a big thing on stage with them. So a full drum kit seemed too much. Drums are widely thought of as sacrilege in bluegrass anyway, (though Bill Monroe, the "father of bluegrass", did actually perform with drums despite purists' contempt for it now). But I wanted to fill the rhythm role just right. Someone kindly gifted me a Pearl Boom Box cajon around this time, which really boomed better than cajons I had hit before, so I brought that to the boys and ran with it. I started playing cajon with a shallow kick from Sidekick Drums and hi-hat with a boom for a crash, and a tambourine I'd hang off a boom stand on my right with an elastic headband to grab and release quickly in the middle of hyper-speed songs (you can see this on Jimmy Kimmel). But sometimes there were mini concerts, for execs or at tv stations, where even just bringing the hi-hat stand along with cajon was cumbersome. I searched for a more compact way to play hi-hats, thinking I might find something like the knee snares or jingle pads Meinl makes. But there was nothing. So I thought about it and picked up some home depot hardware one night and put something together that mounted on the thigh to play my hi-hats right, and it seemed natural to call them "THI-HATS", being hi-hats on the thigh.
DG: What was the process in developing your prototype? NA: I tried a number of different ways to do it and thought through more possibilities and after enough tinkering and Khan academy math classes, one design rose as the clear best.
DG: Besides Thi-Hat, have you invented anything before? NA: There is another percussion invention I have to go with this but I probably shouldn't spill it yet. I haven't started the patent process on that.
DG: How much time is required to produce one unit? NA: Right now I could make 2 a day. It is pretty painstaking building each one individually still. But I'm getting better at it and tweaking things in the design not just to make it the best it could be but also to improve how efficiently I can make them tooling-wise. I still experiment with materials too. The thing works so well but comfort is my main focus now. If someone has a 2 hour performance and wants to use heavy 15" cymbals with the THI-HATS the whole time, I don't want their leg to feel strained from the weight. So I've got the final product ready for people to start playing out there with whatever cymbals they want (THI-HATS are adjustable for different size cymbals), while still perfecting it for THI-HAT 2.0. For example, you can't quite play them standing up, but I'm working out a new version to give people that option too. I picture an upright bassist using it like that.
DG: In your current lifestyle, how much time can you dedicate to building THI-HATS? NA: Because I do not have a manufacturer yet, it takes all my time after work and whatever I can squeeze in between jobs at work (I'm a drive shaft mechanic in New Jersey). I am doing everything myself, not only making them but starting the THI-HAT business, because I want to be in the proper place to make, promote, sell them and just do right by them in the long run. Right now I come home after work and split making them in my apartment - part of which I've converted into a little machine shop - and simultaneously testing them out while practicing so my chops don't suffer too much having to limit how much I play these days doing all this. My landlords are wonderful but they live above me and must wonder what in the world is going on some days hearing the noise I make between machining parts and jamming out below them.
DG: What will happen if THI-HATS takes off? Are you prepared for that? NA: It is what I am preparing to be prepared for. That's what I hope to see happen so I must be ready. I want to see them played all over in different niches. With buckets, cajons, full kits, everything else. But it's just me at the moment and without getting ahead of myself, I prepare for each possible step and try not to get in over my head.
DG: If a percussion company approached you to sell your patent, would you? NA: I do consider this and think I can sell if I can continue having a good role and say in its future, working with the company that has the wherewithal to take THI-HATS as far as they can go. It makes sense to offer them with cymbals so for that I would at least need to partner with another company. Come what may, I certainly would keep being an ambassador for THI-HATS until I die.
DG: The previous questions outlined the challenges you might face building this unit to meet demands and also a probable solution where you could potentially live well from this fine invention. What would be your ideal outcome for THI-HATS? NA: Ideally, I'd like to see it catch on not just for the size, space, and lighter gear solutions it gives drummers, but I'd like people to take it to new levels... doing much more with hi-hats than previously conceived requiring stands. New ways of playing... Drummers of course can use it to eliminate the hi-hat stand, but can also play THI-HATS along with their hi-hats on the stand. Throw the leg up in the air for solos on hi-hats while still perfectly foot controlling the hi-hat cymbals on your leg with the THI-HATS! Now with cajon, the dream there is to enable it to turn into a legit compact full kit for anyone simply by using THI-HAT and kick pedal. Just bring that combo on your back to any gig, especially shows with tight stages. And this dovetails with another part of the vision... To be something any of us can go buy used old splash cymbals for $15 at some corner music store to throw on the THI-HAT and sit on a box or bucket and make a drum kit right there. I think of inner city a lot near my neighborhood and everywhere else where kids are so creative and could do so much without having to spend all this money. I imagine a scene growing from it and I'd love to be in that. And not just drummers and percussionists... I'd like to see all kinds of musicians using it. A singer-songwriter can simply get the hi-hat chink on the upbeat with it while they play guitar. Really I envision players getting highly inventive playing it with different instruments.
DG: Is there anyone you may like to shoutout to?
NA: You. Thank you for featuring THI-HATS on DrumGAB! It's a thrill and honor!
A personal comment to the last answer. I am truly humbled Nick and thank you. I find his story quite remarkable and I have a lot of respect for people who apply themselves like this. I certainly wish Nick the best of luck and success with THI-HATS, because I personally know cajon players that would love to use this hardware. Also, check out the two video links, I will put them at the bottom of this article for easier navigation. These boys are killing it!! They have a new fan over here for sure.
So I walk away from this particular article feeling pretty rejuvenated. With each article, I am allowed to have a glimpse into somebody's passion in life. It is awesome that people are creating, inventing and evolving in the drum world. Another notch in the DrumGAB belt, you have another supporter, Nick! Best of luck to you brother. You can follow Nick on Instagram and for ordering and more product information you can visit his website.