Drum Wagon

All things percussive

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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A brief tutorial describing how to work with projects within the ZenEdit interface.

September 9th, 2012

Posted In: how-to, software, Zendrum, ZenEdit

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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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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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I threw together a quick template for jotting down mapping ideas for the Zendrum. I find it more useful to work out ideas on paper rather than by fiddling with trigger settings or sysex directly.

Use it in good health.

June 25th, 2009

Posted In: how-to, present, Zendrum


This article details step-by-step how to fire off a TD-20’s percussion samples from an SPD-11 or SPD-20.
The concepts work pretty much the same if using other modules or pad controllers as well.

Why bother?

The first question you might ask is ‘why’? Why not just utilize the onboard sounds already present in
the SPD-11? Well, the short answer for *me* is that I already had an SPD-11 laying around from my first
foray into electronic percussion back in the mid-90s but have since upgraded to a TD-20 which has much
better sounds onboard than the SPD-11 and I would like to trigger those instead. Some other reasons and
benefits for doing this though are:

  • Doesn’t use up the mix-in bus of the TD-20 or require an external mixer to combine the two signals.
  • Doesn’t use any DAC/ADCs if you use S/PDIF out of the TD-20 — allows you to stay completely digital.
  • Doesn’t require any level adjustments. This is a big one if you gig out or move your kit a lot — no need to mess around with
    the headphone out and mix-in trim knobs, the levels between the percussion instruments and the rest of
    the drumset are just always exactly the same.
  • Consistency of effects. Since the sounds are being triggered from within the TD-20, they use the same
    ambient and compression effects as the rest of the kit, allowing the two blend much more nicely. The
    overall effect is much more natural as you won’t have a dry kit with an echoey woodblock or a gong that’s *way*
    louder than the rest of your kit, etc..


November 16th, 2007

Posted In: how-to, present

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