Growing up with his love of music and playing drums, Keith quickly realized that being an acoustic drummer all his life was going to be lot of work. It required multiple trips when moving his drum gear from storage to car then car to stage (and back again after the gig, four moves on gig day!) and he didn't like being tired and exhausted before the gig even started. He wanted to play music rather than expend all his energy moving, setting up & tearing down his drum and band gear. So, with his technical background and experience (and his 50th birthday creeping up on him :) he thought..., “This is the 21rst century for Pete's Sake!… there's GOT to be a better, easier way to be a drummer these days!”
AND THERE WAS! ... Thank God for Zendrums!
1. He is now one of the world's select drummers that can arrive at a gig (with all his gear)… on a motorcycle if he chooses.
2. He is Wyoming's only drummer with a setup time of less than five minutes. From car to "ready to rock" in 5 minutes!
3. He was mentioned in the local Gillette paper during the 2015 Donkey Creek Festival.
4. Last fall he solely provided music and entertainment for the Senior Cititzen Center's Holiday Dance.
5. He can be seen (and heard) performing every Saturday night out at the "Church at The Barn"
6. He has his own one-man-band he calls "What Band?" available for hire.
7. He has played countless volunteer gigs to get the word out here in Gillette.
7. He has gone from using two drumsticks to ten! (his fingers).
8. He is Wyoming's most technologically-advanced drummer… now playing smarter, not harder… no longer schlepping around all that drum gear…AND…
9. … no longer exhausted before he takes the stage.
Okay, so they all ask themselves (and me), "What the hell is a Zendrum?"
The technical answer is... it is a midi controller. Midi stands for musical instrument digital interface. Basically, it allows instruments to talk to computers. It allows a drummer full control over any recorded sound (not just drum sounds) with control over pitch, tuning, length, attach, velocity, decay, volume, channel, output... etc. FULL CONTROL!
Why A Zendrum?
Keith's comments upfront:
I did not write this article but I wholeheartedly agree with every word. The Zendrum has changed the drummer's view. He no longer has to look at guitar players' hind ends all night long. He can now be the last one in, the first one out at gigs and rehearsals. He can get out from behind his band mates and come join the front line on stage. Heck, he can even go out into the audience, grab a bite of a fan's salad and never miss a beat. He can sit down next to a fan or out on the dance floor and show them close up – the awesome coolness and obvious benefits of the Zendrum. He can be the band's built-in sound man making live adjustments to the mix while still playing. Instead of hearing the normal comments about the drummer being too loud, I hear … “Turn it up!”
And now, for the original article:
As a Zendrummer, I am constantly being asked questions about my instrument. What is it? How does it work? Is it easy to play? What's wrong with REAL drums? Are you REALLY playing it or is it playing itself? Some askers are musicians, many of them drummers. Others are band mates, family, friends, audience members, drunks in the men's room. I once had a long conversation about the Zendrum while waiting in line to use the big plastic Porta-Potty while playing at a park concert.
The point is, as rare and new an instrument as it is, people just don't know what to think when they see and hear this crazy thing. And so they ask. Quite honestly, these constant questions are some of the reasons why I do play it! The saying goes, "There is no such thing as BAD publicity." In a business like music where people talking about you is a good thing… any way to stand out and be remembered can be seen as a bonus, maybe even an advantage.
This page is my answer to those questions and more. It is my personal philosophy about an instrument which I have chosen to call my own. I did not invent it but I have invented my own way to USE it which is just as important to me. I have made it a part of who I am as a musician and I am known for playing it. I have played drum sets for ten years longer than I have the Zendrum yet I am not known as "the guy who plays the drums"...I am "the guy who plays that weird electronic drum thingy." And proud of it.
There are a myriad of reasons for using a Zendrum but what it boils down to in the end is… what do YOU play music for? If you can't stand the sound of a Midi keyboard because it is not a 9-foot concert grand, and hate CDs because they are not analog and think that computers and cell phones and PDAs are a waste of time, then my guess is that the Zendrum is not for you. It is not "traditional" nor is it acoustic or even analog. But it IS an eye-catcher, it IS unique, it DOES stand out, it DOES peek fan's interest and once they understand it, the LOVE it! Typical first-timer's response, “What the hell is that? Next thing out of their mouth is, “Oh DUDE, that's soooooo cool!”
But if you love CDs, MiniDisc, MP3s or dig digital effects, sampling and loops or get lightheaded when contemplating the endless sound possibilities in Midi systems, then the Zendrum IS for you!
In my opinion, to embrace the Zendrum requires a spirit of adventure, exploration and taking things a step further. There are no "For Dummies" books about it, no instructional videos (yet) and indeed no standard way to play it. These factors alone make it a daunting task to decide to use it as your main "axe". But how exciting! As a drum set player, I (and everyone else I know) have the lofty goal of defining my one's own style, my own chops, my own sound. And I feel in small ways, that I DO have my own "voice". But on the Zendrum, EVERYONE plays it so differently right down to the way that the instruments are assigned on the pads. Every single Zendrummer I have ever heard has been completely different from all of the others! I believe it is its "no rules" setup system that promotes this variation. In fact, I would wager that if I picked up another player's Zendrum, I could not play the way I do on my own and vice versa. So in essence, every Zendrummer invents his/her own INSTRUMENT while learning to play it! This alone fosters a sense of individuality on the instrument.
And about the sound...how DOES a Zendrum sound? Well, tap your fingers on a desk. That is the sound of a Zendrum. It is the Sound Module that you plug the Zendrum INTO that makes the sounds. What this means is, not only do you have nearly infinite possibilities in setting up the pad assignments (which pad makes which drum sound) but then there are literally HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of sound modules available - each with hundreds to thousands of sounds available for Zendrum assignment. And to add even further, sampling allows players to sample and play back literally ANYTHING that can be recorded. Like the sound of your dog barking? Sample it. How about your dad's '88 Cadillac? Sample it. And your vintage Slingerlands which never leave the house? Yep, sample those too. In a nutshell, if you like the way something sounds, you can play it! No more endless tuning experiments, buying new drums/heads/cymbals/mics/etc to get that ever-elusive perfect sound...if you can imagine a sound, chances are you can MAKE it. And tune it, add effects, stack it, whatever. So where does it all end? That's the point...it DOESN'T. Two people could go out and buy the same Zendrum, the same module, and lock themselves in separate rooms. Two weeks later they have back-to-back gigs with the same band and the variation between the two players would be STAGGERING. Again, individuality is a key point.
Another factor, which I would never have even considered before owning a Zendrum myself is that people are concerned about the way the instrument LOOKS. To me, sound is an audible issue so you have to make good sounds. What it looks like is secondary. But I can't deny that I have seen that 19-piece double-bass monster with 79 cymbals all 12 feet high, and thought "OK, here comes the rock-star wannabe." Or when I saw Depeche Mode on the Tonight Show and was disappointed because it was just a singer and three keyboardists. There IS a certain appeal to the way a band looks, how they move when they play, what their instruments look like. The Zendrum is no exception...it has its own look, its own "aura", if you will. I like the fact that I am no longer trapped behind a wall of drums, cymbals, hardware, and monitors. I no longer have to set up at the back of the stage or in the corner or sit on stage while my band mates are running long cables and wirelesses to talk to friends and listeners. I even get to stand up and jump around! How cool is THAT?!?!
But there IS something missing on stage to the average listener's eye. Where are the drums? I hear them, but where ARE they? I believe that this confusion is the first step in people's thinking that the Zendrummer is not REALLY playing the drums. People, even non-musicians know about drum machines. They know that there are computers that can play drums and it is my experience that the Zendrum falls into this category when people do not know what it is. It has become a crusade for me to make SURE that people know, or at least assume that the notes being heard are also being PLAYED by me! People often ask and assume whether I am hitting one pad and an entire fill or measure of drum beat comes out. I always have them play a few pads themselves (the old "See? Nothing up THIS sleeve!" trick) or if they can't or do not wish to, then I go around the instrument and play some pads one at a time to prove that one hit = one sound. That usually convinces most people except that drunks passed out at the bar.
So no, it does not look at all like a drum set. But it certainly DOES look cool in its own way with its sleek lines and pointy, dangerous-looking extremities. I am very into the finishes on my Zendrums and absolutely LOVE the way they look. Once again, individuality.
Apart from the things people observe when a Zendrum is being played, there are several other significant factors that lead me to play the instrument. If you are a drummer, many of these points will appeal to you more than any non-drummer could ever understand. If you are a soundman or recording engineer, this could save some of your hair from being torn out. If you are not yet a musician but are considering becoming a Zendrummer, this should help with your decision.
1. I can load all of my gear in the trunk of my mid-sized sedan in about two minutes.
2. I can get from the car to the stage UNASSISTED with all of my gear in ONE trip, without needing chiropractic help afterward.
3. I can have my setup ready and sound checked in less than five minutes.
4. I can take up as few as one or as many as twelve mixer channels. (And even more control is possible, depending on the module(s) you use).
5. I have never needed earplugs when I play nor do I damage my hearing while playing.
6. When someone says the drums are too loud, I turn them down. With a KNOB like all others in the band.
7. The stage volume level is no longer dependent on the mix with the volume of acoustic drums so more control and a lower overall stage volume are possible. The rest of the band will actually be able to hear themselves for once.
8. I have never had a blister, callus, sore hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, leg, ankle or back after playing.
9. I can practice with headphones in the same room as my sleeping wife and not get in trouble. Usually.
10. I can have band practice anywhere, anytime and even do a whole-band-in-headphones session if need be.
11. I can play quiet gigs, like coffeehouses where an acoustic set would not fit and would be far too loud.
12. Unlike drum mics, it is impossible for a Zendrum to cause feedback.
13. Tuning drums is possible on modules used with a Zendrum and they will NEVER go out of tune!
14. No sticks, heads, pedals, hardware or cymbals to wear out. And if you find that your taste in cymbal sounds changes, change your cymbals! No money involved. Do it between songs if you want to. Change drum kits on the fly in the middle of a song!
15. The Zendrum is a Midi instrument meaning it can play ANY sound that is accessible through Midi...piano, organ, bagpipes, birds chirping, guns firing, old guys burping and farting, synthesizers, samples, sequences, ANYTHING. Can your acoustic set play that extra keyboard part this song needs? Mine can't. But my Zendrum can!
Please understand, I am not trying to sell you a Zendrum. I simply want to share with the world the reasons why I use one...and maybe why you should check one out too.