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Topics - kbour

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ZenChat / Attempt: Chromatic Zendrum LT
« on: August 01, 2009, 04:17:04 PM »
Hey Everyone:

It's been a long time since I visited let alone posted, but I have been playing my LT strong ever since I first received in back in Dec 2007. I remain an enormous FAN!

Last night I had the opportunity to watch a steelpan player and got the idea to try a tonal chromatic map on my Z- LT.  I thought I would  emulate the pattern they use in tenor steel pans which is a set of concentric circles of fifths.  It's not perfect, of course, but I managed to get pretty close with 24 triggers - 2 octaves starting with F4. I messed around with it for several hours today, but it's tough getting the hang of it and feels like starting all over!

Before I go too much further with this experiment, has anyone tried a mapping like that and, if so, how did it work out?



P.S. Has anyone upgraded their LT to the new Z4 board and do you recommend it? Did you add any triggers?

ZenChat / Zendrum and Bass Amp: Myths Shattered
« on: October 19, 2008, 09:27:30 PM »
I have read numerous times on multiple forums that electronic drums will not work properly when played through a bass amplifier.   I am prepared to offer another viewpoint on that subject, so read on if interested. 

This weekend, after reading many positive reviews, I visited my local GC intending to purchase a Simmons DA200 amp for my Zendrum.   I already own 2 JBL 15" EON G2's and an 18" JBL Sub; but, I prefer to leave those puppies up on their stands in my music room and not lug them around when playing out.  Also, I lilke to practice my Zendrum in my library and wanted a good portable amp for that purpose plus one with decent power that could be ported to gigs.    I was using a Roland KC-150 (65 watts) and, even with its 12" speaker, it just could not reproduce a respectable kick drum sound.   

After listening to the Simmons amp in the store (connected to V-Drums), I was somewhat underwhelmed at which point the drum technician said, "What you need is a good bass amp."   I quickly replied, "No, I don't think so.  I've read countless reports that bass amps cannot produce the frequency range required for electonic drums."   "That's nonsense, man; you gotta stop believing everything you read on the internet.   We'll pull a Fender Bassman 250/210 in here and A/B them so that you can hear for yourself."   And so we did...  Holy smokes!   This Fender amp sounded incredible.   The bass drum was deep, powerful, and punchy; the snare sharp and realistic; the mids were all there; and the cymbals sounded crisp and lifelike.  This 250 watt Fender amp has two 10" woofers combined with a horn tweeter, 2-band EQ, and a knob on the back to raise/lower the tweeter's presence.  The rated frequency range is something like 10Hz to 42KHz!   Sheesh!  While I was there, I also auditioned the Fender Bassman 250/115 (a single 15" woofer plus horn tweeter) and, while it had a bigger low end, it was boomier (esp. lower toms) and the mids were also deeper and seemed muddier.   It would have required a lot more EQ to get it to sound as well rounded as the 210, which had plenty of chest pounding bottom anyway.   I was sold.  The bonus was that, unbenownst to the sales guy, until he rang me up, the 210 amp happened to be on sale for $500, regularly $650!   I also traded in my Roland KC-150 keyboard amp on the deal.   

After I got this baby home, I started putting it through the paces with my Zendrum LT and Battery3.   It's still only the 1st day, but I am astonished at how nice it sounds.   I am running it mostly FLAT with just 2 clicks above center on the Bass knob and I have to back that off depending on the kick drum patch I select.   

For those who are laboring under the notion, as I had been, that bass amps are not suitable for electronic drums, it is my reformed view that such information is misguided and obsolete.   The guitar and pro audio guys at GC advised me that most modern bass combo amps have horn tweeters and 10" woofers which produce an incredible sonic range.   Keyboard amps cannot do justice to the bottom end where e-drummers really need the deep punch.   

I love my JBL PA system; it is phenomenal and highly recommended, especially with the 18" powered sub.   On the other hand, this Fender Bassman 250/210 is a close cousin if one considers portability, power, great kick drum, shimmering cymbals, solid mids, and a smaller capital investment.   The Fender is not light by any means, but is reasonably liftable (by my scrawny physique) at 63 lbs, comes with with side handles and casters, has 2 band EQ (low and high mids), Aux IN, XLR Out, Compressor, and other buttons/functions that I probably will never use (e.g. Contour, FX, etc.).   

I was considering going the Barbetta route (e.g. 41C), but it is very expensive, hard to find/audition, and there are unsettling complaints about high end hiss as well as poor service response from the company.   I know that JE owns one and is a big fan.   That's why I researched it before deciding on the Simmons amp, which then led to the Fender. 

Anyway, while I decided to buy this Fender unit, there are many other 2 x 10" bass combo amps available that should also do the job quite nicely... 


ZenChat / First Experiences w/ Battery3
« on: June 09, 2007, 07:16:32 PM »
Thanks to excellent assistance from Duojet, I am just now experiencing the world of SW sounds for the Zendrum on a starter budget ($400).  For those who didn't follow that thread, here's what I purchased:

1)  Firewire 800/400 Express Card ($82) for late model Dell notebook computer
2)  Echo Audiofire2 external sound module w/ ASIO and MIDI support ($195)
3)  N. I. Battery 3 ($125)

I ordered this stuff last Sunday, and all but #2 have arrived as of Sat afternoon.  So, instead of fooling around with my laptop this weekend, I took Battery3 down to my music room desktop computer, loaded it, and applied the upgrades (3.01 and 3.02).  N. I.'s licensing permits the owner to install Battery on a desktop and laptop without any restrictions.  I have an external Roland SC-D70 Sound Canvass module (w/ MIDI) on that PC and, fortunately, I was able to find a new XP driver which supports ASIO 2.0.  Attaboy, Edirol!  After setting up the audio drivers and plugging my ZD into the Roland's MIDI port, my latency is only 8-9 ms and hardly detectable!  Today, I ordered another 2GB RAM upgrade for that PC, so it can only get better...right?

For reasons I cannot justify, I started Zendrum mapping with Battery3's "Tight Kit."  I couldn't find any other way than to start at MIDI note 36 (kick drum) and work my way up the MIDI chart one at a time (maxes at 89 or so).  Finally, I was able to program each ZD trigger to a MIDI note corresponding to the way Battery has the various sounds assigned (they don't display MIDI note anywhere that I could find!).  I have no clue what will happen when I try another Battery kit!  Maybe I'll have to move the pieces around in the Battery3 cells to correspond to the MIDI assignments that I now have programmed.  I didn't see any useful help in the Battery manual regarding MIDI assignments, so forum consultation will be appreciated.  I did notice a "learn" function in Battery, which seemed to work OK, but I elected to follow their note assignments hoping that it will make adding other kits easier.  Fortunately, the ZD has 16 map possibilities, and I've only used 3 so far...

The "Tight Kit" is one of the acoustic groupings in the Battery3 ensemble.  I don't think it's their best, but I was experimenting and it just happens to be where I got started.  The toms sound much more ringy and alive compared to my Roland TD-20.  Some of that could be ambience settings, but it still sounds good.  I do love the snare's buzz/press roll capability and I assigned that one to a ZD trigger.  Battery also has the ability to vary L/R strikes on any drum to make it sound more 'human'.   So far, I have figured out how to balance the sound levels for each instrument although I am still clueless on the many other adjustments that are possible.   Time to read the manual... 

I managed to create my first saved kit:  "KB-Tight Kit" and it doesn't sound half bad.  The hi-hat sucks on that kit (IMO), the ride cymbal doesn't fit that genre, the kick drum is a bit too dead/thumpy, and I couldn't get the Snare Ruff to work at all.  Still, for one afternoon's investment, I'm liking what I hear! 

More after another day's experimentation and some education from the manual...


ZenChat / Still Lovin' my ZD-LT, but...
« on: May 15, 2007, 06:40:50 PM »
I play the ZD-LT almost exclusively now and thought I might have reached the point where I could start playing with other musicians - yes - even in "pooblic"!  To that end, I have been both posting on Craigslist and answering drummer ads selectively.  OK, I've only been at it a couple of weeks; but, the response has been underwhelming!  Occasionally, I get a nice rejection email thanking me for my interest; but, most of the time, a resounding zilcho.  I'm starting to feel a tad unloved as a new Zendrummer.  Even my drum buddies tell me, "Dude (not really, but it sounds cool), no one is gonna want electronic drums.  You need to get a set of acoustics if you want to play in a live situation."  Now I know that some of you are, indeed, playing your ZD's with other human-like creatures and have managed to garnish not only acceptance, but appreciation and even admiration.  Any tips for your Zen-Bro?  For example, should I stop telling the truth and just show up with ZD akimbo? 

I haven't lost any enthusiasm in terms of actually playing the ZD, but I'm starting to wonder if I ought to (1) break down and purchase an acoustic kit just to gain admission, then break out the ZD, or (2) focus on percussion technique (e.g. latin, indian, asian, etc.) and try to get accepted as a color sideman.  Trouble with #2 is that I'd really have to study that stuff technically -- another six months (at least) of woodshedding in my basement!

I did work a musical recently ("Peter Pan") with the ZD in which I played my elbows off.  At the time, I thought it went remarkably well; however, I have compelling evidence casting doubt on that assessment!  My wife happened to be in the audience at the final evening performance.  During intermission chit-chat, she casually mentioned to her seat-mate that she was married to the drummer.  Glaring down into the pit, the lady remarked coldly, "You must be mistaken; they don't have a drummer this year!"   :'( 

Needin' a Zen-pick-me-up...


ZenChat / "Peter Pan" Musical Perfomed Entirely on ZD-LT!
« on: March 18, 2007, 03:34:20 PM »
I received my Zendrum-LT in early December.  Shortly thereafter, I was invited to play in the pit for an upcoming musical, "Peter Pan."  I didn't tell the music director at the time, but I had the notion, from the get-go, that I would play the show solely with my ZD.   In the previous three years, I used my entire V-Drum ensemble which worked out extremely well.  Actually, I'm glad that I had this "gig" coming up because it really helped me focus on techniques in a big hurry.  The 5 piece ensemble rehearsed in my music studio and, from the very 1st session, I played every tune only with the ZD.  My fellow musicians were quite skeptical at first because it hardly seemed plausible to them that all the drum/percussion parts could be played convincingly on this instrument.  Today (Sunday matinee), we just completed our 3rd performance and I have to say that the ZD has worked out famously.  I did not even have to resort to foot pedals  which I originally thought would be necessary.  The enthusiastic support from the band, the cast, and director had been so positive that they already invited me to play next year's musical -- "Oklahoma" -- and, yes, they would like me to use the Zendrum. 

Surprisingly, I haven't experienced much audience response to this newfangled device.  I don't know if they can't see into the pit or just don't care that much about percussion.  One elder drummer did approach me after today's show and remarked, "..and here I thought I used to be a drummer!"  It was an extremely gracious compliment.   I suspect that some people may just feel a bit timid about coming up to the "drummer" and inquiring about the instrument.   Anyway . . .


ZenChat / My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« on: January 14, 2007, 10:34:54 AM »
On Friday afternoon, I had my first three hour lesson with Zendrum Meistro and Tribal Wizard, John Emrich.  I am fortunate to live only 1.5 hours from John; so, once we found a free date on his calendar, it was easy and inexpensive for me to get there. 

Where do I begin?

First, John has an extensive studio in his townhouse basement with tons of gear including multiple sounds modules, computers/monitors, mixing consoles, receptors ("Freddy's") that he is loading/testing, a full e-drum kit, three Zendrums (a new Zebrawood laptop arrived while I was there!), MalletKat, acoustic vibraphone, ceiling tall shelves packed with acoustic drums (incl 32" bass -- for sale), several guitars (5-string and Bass), stage speakers/subs, reference monitors, and dozens of world percussion instruments piled everywhere (djembe, congas, you name it).  John prides himself on being a complete and versatile percussionist and the collection of instruments that he can play at a professional level is remarkable.  He played a bit on the Tar (sp?) and his skill was incredible! 

After getting the quick tour of John's studio and learning about his various projects, including preparations for the upcoming NAMM show, we got down to strapping on our laptop ZD's.  I brought my TD-20 brain and a couple of foot pedals (FD-6 and KD-7).  John provided the sound system. 

John asked me to play a bit and, almost immediately, he recommended that we start from scratch.  No offense taken by me, but I was in for an awakening!  The first thing he observed is that my ZD was positioned quite high on my chest.  As a result, I was making awkward wrist motions that looked, if not felt, uncomfortable.  Loosening the strap and lowering the ZD about 6 inches has made it much easier to navigate.   

Next, he suggested that we remap my ZD to his layout so that he could demonstrate his playing concepts and show me, on my instrument, how to accomplish them.  John illustrated several critical basic movements very slowly and thoroughly.  This is where we spent the remainder of our time together.  These positions and motions were/are challenging for me to accomplish since my finger muscles/tendons are not used to those constructs.  As with anything else, it will take some long practice sessions to gain proficiency. 

John's approach to the ZD is quite different than anything I had conceived in my first month of experimentation.  As I quickly learned, it isn't just a simple matter of having his trigger mapping.  John employs various hand/finger techniques that he has learned, over 30 years, and applied them specifically to the Zendrum.  The map and the techniques compliment each other.  If I had John's layout without the movements, it would have been practically useless.  He explained to me that he doesn't publish his trigger map for that very reason. 

I decided to wait a full day after my lesson, before posting here, to see how I felt about it after settling in with the concepts.  I spent all of Friday evening and Saturday working out John's teachings on my ZD.  To say that it is like starting over, completely, is no exaggeration.  I couldn't execute the simplest beats or patterns when I got home from my lesson.  I have returned back to material I was performing reasonably well and flipped back to page one, exercise one.  Even though I am having to relearn how to play this instrument from scratch, I have concluded that John's approach is SOLID and will make for a much cleaner, more efficient, and versatile playing style than what I had been doing without guidance.   

If I had to pick one key principle it would be:  Conservation of Motion.  Watching John play the ZD, it is almost effortless.  I now see that his efficacy and efficiency derive, in large part, from the hand/wrist/finger techniques married with a complimentary trigger mapping.  His "system" allows the player to catch 3, even 4 triggers, with just the right hand.  Although John uses his feet when he plays, he can execute pretty much anything on the ZD with just his hands.  We spent very little time on the foot pedals, mainly just to show how adding two additional limbs can spice things up a notch. 

I am glad that I only had my ZD for a month or so before visiting with John.  Had I been playing one way, however inefficient it might have been, for too long, I might have been unwilling to learn new techniques.   After a day and a half of minor torture, I am starting to see progress.  I'll continue again the rest of today.   Having been through a learning curve once already, I know that I will achieve success with this system. 

For any new Zendrummers out there, if you have an opportunity to spend a few hours with John, it's definitely worth it. 


Tech Help / Drum Rolls
« on: January 07, 2007, 02:59:15 PM »
I am currently using a TD-20 to trigger ZD sounds and, for most things I have tried to do, it has worked out extemely well. 

Today, I was trying to work on a few rudimental solos to improve finger control and quickly realized that playing "rolls" is difficult, if not impossible.  Has anyone figured out how to play 5, 7, 9 stroke rolls on the ZD that sound nice and even?  Is the problem that there is no mesh head or bounce capability?   

I started playing fast single stroke rolls, which works to a point; but, then began experimenting with this kind of finger approach:

5-Stroke Roll:     RMF, RIF, LMF, LIF, RMF  (or)  LMF, LIF, RMF, RIF, LMF

I can get up some steam with practice, but it is still very challenging to produce a true "roll" sound. 



P.S.  I did find a Roland percussion patch is called "snare roll," but it does not appear to be controllable in terms of duration.  I couldn't make it work for a 5-stroke or 7-stroke roll, but it might be OK for an extended roll. 

ZenChat / Posting Pics of my ZD-LT
« on: December 29, 2006, 09:48:38 AM »
My son brought over his new digital Nikon and took some shots of my month old Zendrum-LT, so I thougt I would post a couple.  This is a flame maple LT in a custom color fade that I sent to David and he matched beautifully.  It was taken from one of the Les Paul guitar series which Gibson calls "Cayenne".   

Here is another shot in standup playing position...

ZenChat / Gel Pad Shoulder Accessory for ZD Strap
« on: December 17, 2006, 09:50:33 AM »
After wearing the ZD for many hours at a time, I started to find that the strap was digging uncomfortably into my left neck/shoulder.   I searched the internet and ended up ordering a Gel Shoulder Pad that just arrived.  After a full day of ZD playing with the gel pad, I am prepared to recommend it for anyone else who desires more comfort.  Here is the information:

Link:  http://www.janetdavismusic.com
Product:  Gel Shoulder Pad (Black)
Price:  $14.99 + Shipping

The pad enclosure appears to be durable (heavy duty nylon), well constructed, and is designed so that the ZD strap fits inside a full length foldover velcro assembly.  The gel pad then slides along the ZD strap so that it is easy to position.  It would only take seconds to remove and use on another instrument if you happen to own multiple ZD's.  Once it's in place on the shoulder, it tends to stay put although it can be easily adjusted by simply raising the instrument and sliding the pad forward/backward.  There are actually 7 independent pads positioned about 1/8" apart which allow it to conform nicely to the shoulder bend.  If I had to guess, I'd say that the gel pads are about 3/8" thick, enclosed in a soft fabric, and quite comfortable. 

Ken Bour

ZenChat / PASIC 2006
« on: November 05, 2006, 06:48:22 AM »
Anyone from this forum going to PASIC this year?  I arrive Wed afternoon (Nov 8 ) and leave Sunday morning (Nov 12).  This will be my first trip to a PASIC event.  I would like the opportunity to meet any other Zendrummers who are attending.  In case you don't know, it's being held in Austin, TX.  http://www.pasic.org

Ken Bour

I don't have a Zendrum, but... / Intrigued, but confused...
« on: October 16, 2006, 09:59:37 PM »
I own a Roland TD-20 outfit and recently have become interested in purchasing a Zendrum.  After enjoying John Emrich's latest video (on his website), I think the laptop version is for me, but I do have a few basic questions:

1)  I am forever tweaking the TD-20 patches, as assigned to various "kits", including mixer volumes, trigger settings, ambience/EQ/compression, pitches (e.g. raise snare +35, drop tom4 -20) and so forth.  Can the Zendrum take advantage of these customized module parameter settings?  I guess I'm not understanding how, by simple MIDI note selection, I can obtain the tweaked/customized sounds that can be produced by the TD-20 (and COSM editing).   

2)  I also own a Roland SC-D70 Sound Canvas which I use with a computer for Band-in-a-Box, MalletKat external sounds, and other purposes.  I purchased it before I got into V-Drums.  Would I be better off using the Roland GSAE Editor to tweak the SC-D70's patches and then trigger those sounds via the Zendrum MIDI?   Although the SC-D70 has 1600 excellent sound patches, it is not exclusively drums/percussion.

Obviously, I have never fully understood MIDI, so a basic orientation would really help me in this instance.  If I can obtain the specific tweaked sounds via Zendrum MIDI that I get now from my TD-20 via Roland V-Drum triggers, that would be outstanding.   

Due to the cost and initial uncertainty, I would prefer not to invest immediately in a Muse Receptor and FXExpansion software.  I would like to use the equipment I have for starters...  If I make decent progess with the Zendrum, then it would make sense to upgrade. 

Normally, I use headphones when practicing; but, for amplification, I currently have twin JBL EON G2's and a JBL 18" sub.  Will one or more of these powered speakers be suitable for the Zendrum?   

Finally, which of the Zendrum equipment upgrades are recommended? 


Ken Bour
Newbie from Northern VA

P.S.  I am selling my MalletKat Pro WS (v3.6) to obtain funds for this next acquisition.  If interested, email me or see post on http://thevibe.net/smf/index.php?PHPSESSID=61d7b2efcffb559d357389cff0814919&board=13.0

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