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Topics - SWriverstone

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ZenChat / OPINION UPDATE: Best portable amp for live Zendrum performance?
« on: February 19, 2013, 03:42:46 PM »
I know this has been discussed here before...but I'm curious to get some current opinions. I've had (for many years) a Peavey keyboard amp that I've been using with my Zendrum. It's a KB-5 (I think), with a 15" cone. It's got plenty of power, especially for relatively small clubs, coffeehouses, bars, etc. and a good bass response (the 15" cone helps a lot there). But the thing is huge (plenty big and strong enough to sit on) and weighs a ton---a real pain to haul around.

John E, I remember you touting the virtues of the Barbetta amps...and I know people who have been pretty happy with the Roland KC series keyboard amps (though I realize the Barbetta is in a somewhat more "Gucci" category of amp).

Of course I'm looking for the impossible---something with big, deep, pristine sound...that is almost as easy to carry around as the Zendrum itself!  ;D (Oh---and also won't cost as much as a Zendrum!)

Any suggestions?

ZenChat / Can someone describe the 4.0 chip in more detail for me?
« on: February 07, 2013, 07:53:35 PM »
I'm considering upgrading to the latest chip. My understanding is that this improves sensitivity, and I'm hoping someone can describe in a bit more detail **how much** the sensitivity is improved?

Specifically, I'm wondering about the extreme soft (low-velocity) end of the spectrum: will the new chip make the pads so sensitive that even those incredibly tiny, feather-light, whisperings of my fingertips (almost not even touching the pads) will all trigger?

Currently, I often like to use 2-3 fingers on a single pad to play figures like grace notes, ghost notes, 2-stroke and 3-stroke ruffs---that sort of thing. But the 3.0 Zendrum often misses some of these very fast, very light/quiet notes. So I'm wondering if the new chip will change that?

Thanks for any more detailed comparisons!


ZenChat / Software Zendrum Editor: A possibility?
« on: June 12, 2009, 06:42:03 PM »
Hey everyone...

I don't know if I'm the only one who hates trying to edit/tweak/change things using a few buttons and an LED display...but I think it would be fantastic if we could all pitch in to get someone to develop a software editor for the Zendrum!

This might be irrelevant to those who use hardware modules...but many of us use laptops, and having a great on-screen interface showing all the Zendrum's pads...and being able to click on any pad and bring up a parameter entry window for that pad...as well as global parameters, etc. would be AWESOME.

What do you think David (Inspector 109)?

I for one would be willing to pitch in toward the cost of developing such an editor. Or just consider it an advance purchase. I'd be willing to pay up to $50, maybe even $100 to have this. If enough other people showed serious interest, maybe we could make it happen?

As an aside (and this is directed more at David)...the difficulty of editing the Zendrum is definitely a barrier to entry for "the masses." Not that having a software editor would suddenly result in selling 10,000 more Zendrums...but from a usability standpoint, it would make the Zendrum a lot more accessible, in my opinion.

What does everyone else think? (Editing the Zendrum just reminds me a bit too much of trying to edit patches on my old Roland JV-1080 synth module...AARRGH!!!  :)


I've been having problems recording the Zendrum (using Battery 3 as a sound source) in Sonar Producer 7. It took me some sleuthing, but I think I discovered what the problem is: when recording into Sonar, the Zendrum is producing some MIDI notes with a duration of "0", and these notes don't sound on playback in Sonar.

It seems that the Zendrum sends a MIDI note-ON and note-OFF command almost simultaneously when a trigger pad is simply struck (as opposed to held down).

Is there any way to adjust this "gate time" between MIDI note-ON and note-OFF? I hope so...if not, perhaps this could be added to the operating system?

By comparison, Alternate Mode's TrapKat and other controllers actually do have a [b]"Gate Time" parameter [/b] you can adjust that specifically sets the time between Note-ON and note-OFF. They provide increments in tenths (or hundredths) of a second up to "INFINITE" where only note-ONs are sent (if I'm remembering correctly).


Tech Help / Does anyone record your Zendrum playing within Windows?
« on: March 18, 2008, 05:07:04 AM »
I use the Zendrum with Battery 3 in Windows XP. I spent some time last night trying to record direct-to-WAV from within Windows and failed completely. In my case, I was trying to do it from within Sonar...(using Battery 3 as a DXi plugin). It didn't work, and I was getting some strange results...almost as if the Zendrum were sending some bizarre MIDI information along with the standard note information. The really odd thing was that I could hear what I was playing perfectly---and every MIDI note I played *was* recorded by Sonar (because I could see all the notes in the event list)...but MIDI playback was just messed-up as only every 2nd or 3rd note played back...

Wondering if the problem was the Zendrum, I swapped out the Zendrum with my M-Audio MIDI keyboard controller and did a few tests with Battery 3. Everything worked perfectly. Hmmm....really strange. So the problem definitely appears to be with the Zendrum, somehow.

It may well be my fault (something I'm not doing or did wrong)...but I just thought I'd ask to see if anyone else records direct-to-WAV...and if so, how are you doing it? (e.g. which software, routing, etc.)

By the way, when I say "direct-to-WAV" I mean the audio signal never leaves the computer (as opposed to routing your audio output to some other external recording device...or just using a plain old microphone!).


ZenChat / Mastering the Zendrum: The Process
« on: January 31, 2008, 08:52:54 PM »
My Zendrum arrived today, and I've spent a couple hours so far with it. I decided it might be interesting to other Zendrum owners—and informative to new Zendrum owners—if I started a thread here in which I describe my own personal process for learning and mastering this great instrument. I'll contribute to it over time. Take it for what it's worth, and please remember, this is my own personal process—and not a "tutorial" on how to do it. If it helps anyone, great! (And feel free to chime in!)

DAY ONE: Here's my setup, for now:
• Zendrum ZX
• Peavey KB-150 keyboard amp
• HP Pavilion zd7000 PC laptop (Pentium 4, 3ghz, WinXP, 2GB RAM)
• Echo Indigo DJ PCMCIA audio card
• MOTU FastLane USB MIDI interface
• Native Instruments Battery 3

I got everything hooked up, opened Battery 3, tapped a few pads...and nothing happened. After a couple minutes of scratching my head and checking everything, I realized the MIDI Thru button on the MIDI interface was activated—DOH! Aaah, that's better! My first impression of the Zendrum's pads is that they are definitely as touch-sensitive (e.g. velocity-sensitive) as the Roland HandSonic...and maybe a bit more sensitive (though they're both very close in this area, and both very sensitive—no complaints with either!) I actually like the feel of the harder plastic surface of the Zendrum better (rather than the HandSonic's softer rubber surface)...it seems more responsive to finger playing.

Like any MIDI controller used with software samplers/synths, the Zendrum isn't exactly plug-and-play. Battery 3 kits, for example, typically have many more instruments mapped than the Zendrum's 24 pads...and right out of the box they aren't mapped how you want them. This isn't a criticism of the Zendrum...but rather just a basic point of working with MIDI controllers.

So I quickly realized a couple things:
1) I need to figure out where I want the sounds on the Zendrum to be.
2) I need to figure out which sounds in a given Battery 3 kit I want to map to the Zendrum
(knowing of course that I can save as many different Battery 3 kits as I want)

As someone else here pointed out, it's definitely easiest to stick with Battery 3's existing kits, and simply use the MIDI "Learn" function to map a sound to a Zendrum pad. I realized that this is a little hard to do at first because there end up being duplicate note mappings (e.g. one pad triggers two sounds in Battery 3). So to get around this, I either need to edit the default MIDI note numbers on the Zendrum, or edit the MIDI note numbers in a Battery 3 kit, to give me a "blank slate" so to speak...that I can easily use the "Learn" function to assign sounds.

All this aside, I realized one very important "first task" for any new Zendrummer: you've got to figure out where your hands naturally work best on the pads. Some folks make specific recommendations, but I think this is a highly personal and variable thing.

So in my case, where I am now is this: I unplugged the Zendrum, and I'm just gonna sit and "play" it silently for an hour or so...just to explore various hand and finger positions. While doing this, I get rhythms going without (at first) thinking about what instrument is what---I just tap on the pads. Then, when I find a certain hand/finger position that feels natural and comfortable, then I start thinking about the placement of specific instruments (e.g. kick, snare, etc.)

I know it'll be a neverending process, and it's one I'm really looking forward to!  ;D


ZenChat / Cable routing and strain relief for ZX?
« on: January 31, 2008, 11:55:37 AM »
Just so I don't reinvent the wheel, I'm curious to know if there's a "best way" you folks have worked out to route the MIDI cable from the Zendrum ZX to the merge brick? (I'm sure I'd figure something out, but just figured I'd see what others have done...)


Tech Help / Opinions on Battery 3 with Zendrum?
« on: January 18, 2008, 01:24:34 PM »
Hi All:

I've already decided that my laptop will be my "sound engine" for use with the Zendrum, at least until I can afford a good hardware module. I'm reformatting it, tweaking it to WinXP "stripped-down perfection" (at least as close as you can come), and upgrading RAM to 2GB. I have an Echo Indigo PCMCIA card (ASIO) that works really well and has super-low latency.

So that leaves software. I have Kontakt 2 and Reason 2 (NNXT) as far as samplers go...but I'm considering picking up Battery 3. I think using Kontakt or NNXT just for Zendrum kits is a little overkill...plus I like the Battery 3 interface---it's easier and faster to use just for programming drum/percussion kits.

I've certainly considered BFD and others, but my decision to go with Battery 3 is based mainly on cost---Nova Musik has it for $160...and I'm on a TIGHT budget for a while! So Battery 3 appears to be the best thing going in terms of value. (Features versus cost.) I'm not even that interested in the sample sets that come with it (or any other virtual instruments) because I have thousands of samples I've collected over the years, and enjoy assembling my own sample kits from scratch.

If anyone else here is using Battery 3 (or v2) with the Zendrum, I'd love to hear about it. Is it working well for you? Any particular likes/dislikes? Any "gotchas" to be aware of?


Tech Help / How many velocity layers are practical?
« on: January 18, 2008, 07:07:39 AM »
I'm working on some sample sets while waiting on my Zendrum. My initial plan is to use Kontakt 2 on my laptop with an Echo Indigo PCMCIA card (with ASIO). I'm wondering how many velocity layers are realistic for the Zendrum?

I ask because, not being familiar with the Zendrum's sensitivity, I don't know how sensitive (and more importantly, how subtle) the dynamic sensitivity of the pads (or do you call them buttons?) are.

I think with MIDI controllers in general, people often get a little carried away with velocity layers---in the sense that some sample sets I've seen simply exceed the velocity "granularity" that a given controller is capable of.

I'm not familiar with BFD and some of the other good virtual instruments, so don't know how those sample sets are constructed.

So basically, do most people find they can easily and repeatedly produce _____ dynamic levels? 3? 4? Or actually more than 4?

In my experience with other controllers, I've found that going with 4 velocity layers provides a sound that's realistic/sensitive enough for me (in musical terms, levels for p, mf, f, and ff).

Of course I can construct samples with ppp, pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff, and fff per-note...but I think that's getting a bit silly!  :)


ZenChat / How many use a laptop for live performance?
« on: January 13, 2008, 08:40:41 AM »
I'm already making plans for live performance with my (near-future) Zendrum. At the moment, what I have available to me is a reasonably good laptop (Pentium 4, 3.0ghz, 1GB RAM, WinXP, Echo Indigo audio card and Edirol UA-25 interface).

I have Sonar 7 (with lots of great DXi and VST plugins), as well as Kontakt 2 and a TON of samples. What I do *not* have is a Muse Receptor (and won't be getting one anytime soon due to cost), nor do I have any other hardware modules.

I'm curious to know how many people here are using their Zendrums for live performance triggering samples and playing DXi's and VSTs from a laptop? I'm emphasizing live performance here because almost everyone uses computers at home or in the studio...but live performance requires a certain level of, shall we say, reliability!

If you are using a laptop for live performance, what software/DXi's/VST's are you using? And are you using them in standalone mode? Or from within a larger app like Sonar?

Have you found this to be a fairly reliable setup?


ZenChat / Ordering a ZX Monday! (Moving on from HandSonic...)
« on: January 13, 2008, 08:33:26 AM »
Hi Everyone:

I'm a Juilliard-trained percussionist who left music as a career years ago, but continue to enjoy percussion and music for fun (and for some side income now and then). I've been involved in MIDI and digital music since the beginning (starting with an Atari 1040ST computer and C-Lab's Notator back in the late 80's).

About 4 years ago—unaware of the Zendrum at the time—I discovered the Roland HandSonic (HPD-15) and went nuts over it! I bought one immediately and played the heck out of it for 4 years, including a live performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Even knowing about the Zendrum, the HandSonic is an incredibly capable device, with the obvious benefit of having great-sounding world percussion samples from Roland. (And I don't think there is a better "electronic tabla" on the planet than the HandSonic!)

But over the years, one thing really bugged me about the HandSonic: it just looked dorky. I never liked Roland's "Flash Gordon" silver plastic design, and frankly always felt a bit embarrassed by the thing. Though, interestingly, nobody but me seemed to care...fascinated audience members were constantly coming up and peppering me with questions about the HandSonic. (As an aside, if Roland made the HandSonic with a hand-finished wood case, it would be a lot more appealing!)

I wanted something with the same degree of expressiveness in a hand controller...and an instrument which just looked cooler and had more of the qualities we appreciate in a finely-crafted musical instrument. I found out about the Zendrum a couple years ago and thought "Wow, this looks great!" But for some stupid reason didn't buy one right away!

Instead, I picked up a used TrapKat off eBay. The Alternate Mode gear has a good reputation and is certainly high-quality, and I figured I'd enjoy getting back to playing with sticks again (heck, I had 15 years of world-class training and performing experience using sticks, so why not use 'em?) Long story short, I never took to the TrapKat. It was just too much of a hassle to configure, and it was way too big and heavy to easily carry to gigs. I know—it's probably no bigger than an average drumkit...but I've gotta tell ya, after decades of hauling around timpani, marimbas, and other gigantic instruments...I'm OVER hauling big stuff around!

Flash forward to today...and I just sold my HandSonic *and* my TrapKat on eBay...and Monday morning, I'm ordering a Zendrum! (WOOHOO!) After all I've seen and read and heard, I really think this is "it," the ultimate hand percussion instrument I've been wanting for all these years! (You hear that Zendrum? Big expectations! LOL)

Like everyone else, I can't get one soon enough. I really want to get back into live performing again—I think I've subconciously been avoiding playing live for the past year because I didn't like any of my live instrument options. I'm hoping with the Zendrum, I'm gonna "bust loose!"

Regarding my choice of instrument: I studied (and watched video clips) of both the ZX and the LT...and for me, the choice is obvious: the ZX is just FAR cooler-looking than the LT. The LT—though a fine instrument—just has (for me) too much of the "HandSonic Dorky Factor" against it. (No offense to LT owners!) The ZX on the other hand is an instrument that ranks right up there with electric guitar, bass and acoustic drums with the "cool" factor. I'm not obsessed with appearances (after all, it's what you do with it that counts, right?)...but after years of playing the decidedly un-cool HandSonic, I want to look cool!  ;D

All that's left is to decide on a finish (but I won't let that delay my Monday morning order! LOL).


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