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Author Topic: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!  (Read 3316 times)

kbour

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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. 

Ken
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Ken Bour, Northern Virginia
Current Equipment:  Zendrum LT, TD-20 VDrums, Musser M-75 Vibes, JBL 15" EON G2's w/ 18" JBL Sub, Roland SC-D77

duojet

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2007, 12:35:49 PM »

sounds great. i would love to have a lesson but unfortunately i'm in NJ nearly 3 1/2 hrs away. i may be there (MD) for work one of these days who knows.

i
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retro surfer

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2007, 04:02:21 PM »

sounds cool does anyone produce a video (DVD) training class for the zen drum that is for sale Ive seen several demos but no realclasses or extended lessons that I have seen I would sure buy them.  Hint Hint John or other pro's out there
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Jaay

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2007, 09:10:24 PM »

The idea of a Zendrum instructional video has been kicked around before; the general consensus is that because there's no real Right Way to play a Zendrum, a video could only really show you This Person's way.  Add to that the fact that some Zendrummers use their instruments for melodic purposes and the maps for those can be as varied as you can imagine and the problem just compounds.

Now, that being said, there are a few video clips that have been put up that a lot of Zendrummers have found helpful in figuring out technique.  Mine and many others' personal favorites include the David Kuckhermann videos in the "Media" section of the forum, particularly the "one-handed groove" demo. That was a big influence on me when I was figuring out my maps.

-Jaay
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retro surfer

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2007, 10:11:35 PM »

Thanks Jaay that makes since just seems that new users are always looking for some help and a fast start
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Pyrate

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2007, 05:17:29 AM »

I think our local neighborhood Tribal wizard was thinking of putting together a video, but has not yet had time in his schedule to do so.  I live only 30 minutes or so from him, but we have yet to meet in person.  My loss, I'm afraid. I look forward to whatever John produces in the way of video or anything else.  He is a consummate professional, right up there with David, Kim and Gina, whom I also hold in the highest regard.

Fair Winds and Following Seas,
Pyrate
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redsparkleset

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2007, 07:21:21 AM »

I'd have to agree with kbour.

I too spent most of a day with John.  I am re-learning the instrument as well.  We spent about half out time on equipment (because I am useless in the area) and the other half of our time on playing techniques and set-ups.

I am embarased to say that I have not had the time (with 2 kids; 3years and 8 months) to finish working on my new techniques.  I plan to spend several weeks working on it before I go back to see him.  (And I will soon.)

John has spent a great deal of time working with the instrument and he has figured out a great deal that many of us part-timers have struggled with for years.

Andy
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Alexei

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2007, 03:39:26 AM »


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. 

Hi Ken, as you mentioned ZD laptop layout by Wizard could you share it?

Alexei
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kbour

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2007, 06:44:41 PM »

Alexei:

I'm uncomfortable sharing John's laptop layout for several reasons, not the least of which is that it may be contrary to his wishes.  He did tell me, during our session, that he has not posted his layout because he feels that, absent the proper techniques, it might actually be counterproductive.  After spending a 3 hour session with John and an even longer period adjusting my hands/fingers to learn his approach to the instrument, I would tend to agree with his assessment.   

I suggest that you ask John directly.  The best bet, of course, would be to spend a couple of hours with him in person if you can possibly arrange it.  My sense is that he wants to share his concepts; but, he is also a professional musician/educator and, deservedly, this is one way that he earns income. 

Regards,

Ken

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Ken Bour, Northern Virginia
Current Equipment:  Zendrum LT, TD-20 VDrums, Musser M-75 Vibes, JBL 15" EON G2's w/ 18" JBL Sub, Roland SC-D77

john emrich

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2007, 11:13:04 PM »

The bottom line is this!

The best part of the Zendrum is that everyone will have their own approach.  Each of us has different ideas on how to play it.  What I do would take time to explain and adapt to your style, but I would need to see what you are doing first.  For example, Ken had his way of playing and what we did was to take real close look at his technique and adapt what I have to offer.  A great deal of my technique involves parts of th hand that are not easy to film.  Michael Render and I have started talking about a program that he is working with that will help to see what is going on with a virtual Zendrum.  What he is working on looks very promising.

I don't claim to know it all, but I have taught drums and percussion for a long time and I believe that the best teaching approach is to use the strengths of each student and try to help them see a bigger picture.   There is no right and wrong.  There is only what works, and what doesn't.  For each person it will be different!

Hope this helps,
John
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Alexei

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2007, 02:39:51 AM »

Thanks guys for your comments,
I understand your viewpoints and please sorry if I touched you.
Let me describe my attitude to this point. I'm not professional musician and unfortunately don't have enough time to play Zendrum. So I try to find fastest way to learn playing techniques and to feel the instrument. I study all the forum materials and of course video files. By the way, John's video with ZD, BFD and Receptor was the last straw on my way to become zendrummer. I would love to visit John but you know I live in Russia and most of my business trips are to Europe countries. I've visited States just once.

Michael Render and I have started talking about a program that he is working with that will help to see what is going on with a virtual Zendrum.  What he is working on looks very promising.

It sounds great and another point is video courses that discussed widely in this forum. Don't you think about it, John? It's the only way for long distance students to learn the techniques in details.

Alexei
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bjames

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2007, 11:43:37 AM »

John, why not publish your LT mapping?  As long as you indicate on the diagram (as you have in your posts) that that particular mapping is based on employing specific hand/finger techniques.  Then if people are interested in the technique, then they can contact you for private instruction/consultation.  I don't think you'd be giving away any trade secrets by doing so.   Perhaps this is one way you could satisfy's people's curiousity without giving away the barn.

I liken this to the variety of drum kit configurations that people use; single vs double kick, many toms vs few toms, cymbals placed very high vs cymbals placed very low, symmetrical vs asymmetrical setups.  No one's configuration is proprietary...partially because it's very easy to figure it out using pictures, videos, and attending live performances.  But also because it's the technique that is employed by the individual that determines whether or not that configuration works.

Even if I someone else's mapping, it doesn't mean I can play to that person's level. of ability  My finger dexterity, independence, coordination and endurance may be vastly different than the other guy which would render their mapping irrelevant to me.  However, I still enjoy seeing how other people configure their instruments.

Respectfully,

Brian

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Geosphere

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2007, 09:23:32 PM »

I actually think everyone should work their first 20 hours with a Zendrum having no idea as to who maps what where.

Let your fingers tell you where to go.  Years of conga playing has me tringger most pads on the face of the Zendrum with the heel of my palm.  This is really annoying to some players, as it requres they learn a whole new place to come from and erases years of kit practice, which feels more natural at fingertips.

I'd really like a randomize feature on the Zen.  Right now, I hand it to my son and let him screw it up and then see what I can learn from it (I have 2 ZDs - he messes with the backup).
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drumhead99

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2007, 10:17:05 AM »

Alexei:

I'm uncomfortable sharing John's laptop layout for several reasons, not the least of which is that it may be contrary to his wishes.  He did tell me, during our session, that he has not posted his layout because he feels that, absent the proper techniques, it might actually be counterproductive. 



   Hmm.  Well,  I find that a little strange.    I guess I'm a a share what I've got and everything I've got--  and let the person decide if they can use any of it to thier benefit.  But that being said--  that is just me.  John has no obligation to tell people his layout either.  If anything,  it has peeked my curiosity on his layout.

Mike
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redsparkleset

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Re: My Lesson with Tribal Wizard!
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2007, 01:31:47 PM »

I have the secret layout as well.

I also know where Jimmy Hoffa is burried. ;)

I did have a lesson with John and I can tell you that just getting a layout isn't the secret.  I personally have not had the time to perfect some of the techniques John and I worked on but they are interesting.  There are some aspects of hand drumming that are taken into consideration as well a ergonomics.  (Spelling?)

But at the end of the day it's all about making something work for you.

Andy
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