Drum Wagon

All things percussive

You can now learn everything you’ve wanted to know about the MIDI specification without needing to pony up printing and shipping costs.

Long time coming but better late than never.

May 23rd, 2016

Posted In: elsewhere, hardware

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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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For the past year I’ve been using this bassoon stand with my Zendrum. Prior to this I was using a modified guitar stand like the kind most Zendrummers wind up using, however I found out first hand how unstable those can be.

I experimented with violin, saxophone and mandolin stands among others in a search for a better, safer Zendrum stand. Eventually this led me to the Hercules stand.

While a little bit pricier and somewhat heavier than a guitar stand I feel this is the perfect solution for the Zendrum ZX (and probably the EXP model). The stand is rock solid and it fits the Zendrum like a glove. It cannot easily tip over and the Zendrum stays puts even when bumped around. If you’re looking for a solid Zendrum stand then I highly encourage you to check it out.

Here are some photos of the stand folded up and in action.

August 21st, 2013

Posted In: hardware, present, Zendrum

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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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My new rock maple Zendrum arrived the other day! I truly haven’t been this geeked about getting a new instrument in a long time, I feel like a five year old on Christmas morning!

The learning curve will be steep — general consensus is that it takes about a month to become proficient — but it’s going to be a fun, rewarding journey for sure!

It won’t be suitable for every gig of course, but for ones where it is, the benefits are simply huge. I won’t have to tear down my kit, shove it in the car, unload and setup it up, etc. Nope, I’ll be able to gig outta just one or two bags. What’s more is I won’t have to sit behind a kit to perform, after already having to sit in the car for an hour to get to the gig in the first place.

Ergonomics and back pain avoidance aside though, it’s pretty clear after fiddling around with it for only a short while that the Zendrum is ;ing to allow me to do things that I couldn’t do before, even with my electronic kit. Likewise there are things I won’t be able to do at all with it, at least without some trickery (cymbal swells and press rolls come to mind). But I think that this just reinforces the fact that this isn’t meant to be a drumset replacement, it’s a completely different instrument.

This is gonna be fun!

June 18th, 2009

Posted In: hardware, present, Zendrum

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So despite my previous dragging of feet, I finally went ahead and preordered a TDW-20 after I heard through the rumor mill that Full Compass was offering them for around $360 USD, shipping included.

What really gets my goat though is why this isn’t their advertised price? At the time I placed my order, their reported list price was $599 and the price they were offering under their “low price guarantee” was $495. I’d never before encountered a situation before where phoning in an order resulted in a nearly 30% savings over an Internet price, especially one that claimed to have a “low price guarantee”.

Look, I’m not complaining — $360 was low enough for me to take the plunge and buy the card. It does make me wonder though how many times I’ve gotten the shaft by paying what seemed to be the lowest price on the Internet. I guess we should all start getting quotes over the phone again.

September 17th, 2008

Posted In: hardware, present

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So the word that Roland was finally coming out with the much anticipated module update to the TD-20 has kinda knocked me off my footing. I’ve been waiting (sometimes less than patiently) for over 2 years now for this card to come out and you’d think I’d be overjoyed now that it finally has, but somehow the final product just doesn’t seem like it’ll live up to the waiting. At this point, I’m not even 100% sure I’ll pick one up.

Don’t get me wrong, the TDW-20 does add a lot of new features — but the MSRP of nearly $500 doesn’t quite seem justified. The only features that I truly know I’d be interested in are the enhanced hi-hat resolution and support for fitting all of my kit collection onto one compact flash card. The rest of it, while nice, just doesn’t blow my skirt up. I really was hoping for positional sensing and interval control on the toms, and while the unit does have 300 new sounds, I’ve yet to see a list or hear samples of what they actually are. Historically I’ve only ever found about 10% of Roland’s sounds useful anyhow, so chances are there are only a few new ones I’d be interested in.


Maybe I’ll pick one up if they drop below say $299. Paying anything more just doesn’t make sense to me right now.

July 16th, 2008

Posted In: hardware

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