Drum Wagon

All things percussive

I’m in the process of pairing down the weight of my main gigging kit. It’s a painstaking process of weighing each piece of hardware and then mixing or matching them and in some cases replacing them with the aim of making my overall kit as light as possible.

Along the way I decided to try to add a tom mount to my kick so that I could replace my main boom stand with a lighter straight stand. I’ve always needed a beefier stand there in order to support the weight of my top rack tom, you see. Since my Sleishman kick has a heavy supporting ring, there really isn’t any reason not to attach the toms directly to it. There are no concerns of putting stress on the shell or or dampening the resonance as the Sleishman system so elegantly eliminates those problems already. And since there are plugged mounting holes on the kick rail already, this seemed like a no-brainer.

The trouble however is that neither Sleishman nor Mothertone seems to offer such a mount, so I was forced to try to find an aftermarket rail that would fit those mounting holes (in my case, they are spaced about 74mm apart). It turns out the the DW 7771 Retro-style Mount is pretty much a perfect fit. If you’re looking for a similar solution, I highly recommend it.

Here are some pics of the mount as it attached to my 20″ kick (though it should fit any size).

May 20th, 2014

Posted In: acoustics, DIY, hardware

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I *love* my Sleishmans, but one persistent problem I’ve had are rattles from my floor tom. The depth of that drum requires fairly long tube lugs, which in turn have a significant amount of play at their longest extent. I do keep that drum tensioned fairly low (about low to middle I’d say) and it’s actually possible to grab the top rim like a steering wheel and turn it a couple degrees either way. Tightening the drum might keep it from being able to twist like that, but that’s a tuning compromise I’d rather not make.

When the rim is not twisted and the lugs are correctly positioned at 90° to the hoop, then all is well. However between bouncing around in the car during transport and being pulled out of the case by the rim it inevitably gets twisted a bit. When that happens one or more of the tension rods can be in contact with the side of its hole in the hoop. This metal-on-metal contact is what’s causing my rattle.

May 11th, 2013

Posted In: acoustics, DIY, hardware, how-to, present

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Over the past couple years, I’ve tried a huge number of different sound sources with my Zendrum, trying to the find the “perfect” live rig to suit most situations.

I’ve tried small and simple, large and complex, dedicated hardware modules as well as VST hosts. None of them were quite “right”. With any one rig, I’d have to sacrifice a level of one feature to gain in another.

The key features of a live rig are (to me):

  • Portability. Ideally, it should be as light and small as possible. I’m willing to compromise on size in exchange for other considerations, though.
  • Quality of sounds. A Zendrum is not a drum kit, nor is it a replacement for hand percussion, orchestral percussion, etc. However, when I’m using my Zendrum live, I am trying to emulate these types of instruments and therefore I want the sounds and performance to be as life-like as possible. Not every Zendrummer may agree with this position, but it’s important to me. If I’m going to sacrifice sound quality, there has to be a huge payoff for doing so.
  • Quantity of sounds, ease of kit change. One of my biggest gripes with VSTs used to be how hard it was to switch kits on the fly and how long it would take. I’m coming to terms with this more though by:

    1. Realizing that hardware-based drum modules spoiled me into thinking this was a big deal.
    2. Realizing that I would never expect to be able to swap out my acoustic kit between songs outside of maybe the snare.
    3. Leveraging all the “instrument slots” of my VST to create massive kits of which I just use portions of at a time.
    4. Realizing that much like playing acoustics, changing from sticks to brushes, rods or mallets creates enough variation for one show, and leveraging my Zendrum’s ‘user setups’ to accomplish this rather than changing kits whole cloth.
  • Flexibility. In addition to supporting the Zendrum, a live rig optimally provides different routing options, inputs for click tracks and sequences, etc. In other words, it shouldn’t be a closed solution.
  • Tactileness. A huge deal to me and the purpose of this article. If something in the mix is not right, I need to be able to grab a knob or a slider and fix it — often on the fly and as I’m playing.


August 1st, 2011

Posted In: DAW, DIY, hardware, how-to, present, Zendrum

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I’d been working on refurbishing my old snare drum recently. Here’s a shot of the finished product.

The shell is from a vintage Duplex Tonecraft (Rogers) snare, from the 60’s. I first acquired it in the late 80’s at a flea market for $10.

Back then it was in blue sparkle wrap. The original hardware was in sad shape, the chrome pitted and peeling and with rust setting in. In the early 90’s I stripped the original wrap and replaced it with piano black. I also replaced the original lugs with the old “Pearl style” ones and sharpened the bearing edges. I also added a layer of satin polyurethane to the interior to help the shell project more.

Now for its second refurbishment, I’ve restripped the shell and sealed it with clear polyurethane. I’ve also replaced ALL the hardware this time, with newer Pearl “bridge” lugs and a modern throw off from Drum Foundry. I’ve also added a larger vent and custom Purecussion snares. This drum just plain sings now! I could not be happier with it.

To add to its personal historical and sentimental value, the rims it uses are now from my very first student snare drum from some 28 years ago. My drum teacher, Mrs. Horst, engraved our names on them so we students could tell them all apart. I’m flooded with memories whenever I remove this drum from its case 🙂

November 22nd, 2010

Posted In: acoustics, DIY, hardware, present

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One of the best upgrades you can get for your Zendrum is the integrated wireless option. This adds an internal MIDIJet board along with a battery compartment for a single 9-volt that powers both the Zendrum board and the MIDIJet. I cannot say enough good things about this setup, it simply rocks. Once you’ve tried it you’ll wonder how you ever ;t by being tethered with a MIDI cable!

Of course keeping the option to go back to being wired is important too, if for nothing else than to have a “plan B” should things ; wrong. For instance you may have for;tten to bring or charge your batteries, or perhaps there is too much radio interference at the gig. Whatever the circumstances, it’s important to be able to ; back to using a wired connection at will.

Which brings us to the point of this article, because if you have one of the first crop of Z4 boards and utilize any Roland drum modules, you probably have discovered that a wired connection (i.e. not using the MIDIJet) simply no longer works! The Zendrum powers up fine, but no amount of banging on the triggers will register with the Roland unit. The official explanation for this that I’ve received from the Zendrum folks is that the Roland units expect just a slightly higher electrical current than the Z4 is providing at the MIDI port, even though the Z4 is adhering to the official MIDI specification.

One workaround for this that I stumbled on is to rectify the MIDI signal before it reaches the Roland unit, by doing a pass-through on another unit. In other words, by placing an additional MIDI device between the Zendrum and the Roland unit, the MIDI data signal is boosted to a level that Roland can pick up on. This would seem to contradict the notion that the Z4 board is operating correctly and that it’s the Roland unit that is at fault, but i can’t speak to that — I only know that using a middle-man approach here works. Of course that adds a bit of complexity to your rig, and it’s not always practical to drag around secondary MIDI devices, so it’s less than an ideal solution.

July 15th, 2010

Posted In: DIY, hardware, how-to, present, Zendrum

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Lately, I’ve been getting back into the DIY trigger spirit. Dusting off the tool bench and trying to complete the project I started last year.

The triggers I’m building right now are of the cross-bar variety and one of the frustrating aspects of these is getting the height of the trigger cone just right. I utilize rubber grommets and nylon spacers in my design to reduce vibration and increase isolation between the head and rim sensors. Finding the right size spacers can be a pain and even more than that can quickly run into money as most hardware stores insist on selling them individually and at a premium.

Well, today by happenstance I stumbled on a spool of polyethylene tubing in the plumbing aisle and the heavens opened. This stuff, when cut to length is virtually indistinguishable from nylon spacers. It handles being compressed like a champ, I can cut it to exactly the length I need and best of all it’s damn cheap. If you’re using plastic spacers in your designs you should do yourself a favor and pick some up. Why continue buying milk when you can have the cow!

April 13th, 2009

Posted In: DIY

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Started work on converting the 13″ snare from the Chameleon kit. I don’t anticipate running into any major problems with this one, seems pretty cut and dry. I am however looking forward to applying some of the lessons learned from my first attempt, with the 10″ tom.

Here are some pics of the snare before I started:

The first step was to strip and clean all the hardware. Once again, I was amazed at the difference that some chrome polish made on the hardware. I wish I had discovered this decades ago as it’s sad to think of how long I’ve lived with yucky chrome :/

After stripping the hardware, I proceeded to examine the shell and bearing edge. One problem I’ll need to solve is how to plug up the holes left from the installation of the strainer and butt as I don’t intend to reattach these to the final drum. The factory messed up drilling the holes for the strainer which will probably complicate things a bit.

November 7th, 2007

Posted In: DIY, hardware, present

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Throw a bunch of actuators on an acoustic kit and now you don’t even need a live drummer to play em… neat.


Would sure be a lot of fun to set one of these kits up on stage and then use a zendrum to slave it. Sort of a remote controlled drumset. shweet.

October 8th, 2007

Posted In: DIY, elsewhere, present

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I’ve finally begun work on the electronic conversion of the kit I purchased a while back. I’m starting with the high tom (10″) since it should be the easiest to convert.

Here are some pictures of the procedure.

Unfortunately, pics of the early stages didn’t turn out right, so we skip ahead a bit to the middle. No biggy, you just miss watching me removing and polishing all the hardware, outfitting the crossbar and soldering in the triggers. I’ll document these steps better with the other drums in this kit.

This first pic is from after I had completed the wiring, but hadn’t secured it all yet:


October 7th, 2007

Posted In: DIY, hardware, present

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One of the more pointlessly time-consuming aspects of setting up an electronic kit is plugging everything into the module. For trigger inputs alone there are 16 cables that you need to plug in for a Roland TD-20. Digging around in a bundle of 16 jacks and plugging them all in can be a major drag, worse still, if you should mix two up and don’t have enough time for a sound-check so that you can discover the mix-up, you’re gonna be in for an interesting show.

Enter the Kable Keeper!


September 24th, 2007

Posted In: DIY, hardware, present

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