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!