HypnoSapien (aka Patrick Petro) loved the Zendrum, the cult-hit, ultra-sensitive, boutique drum controller. But he wanted something compact with a specific configuration. He writes:

Check out the new Zendrum ZAP desktop midi percussion controller, the first truly professional level instrument of its kind. I contacted Zendrum about custom building this particular model for me with this particular pad configuration. They loved it and made it a full production model.

The results: a Zendrum that costs less than the other models (US$999 list) and fits into tight spaces.

Of course, cool as this hardware may be, it’s easily upstaged by the ridiculously dexterous finger-drumming chops of Maestro Petro, as seen in this demo video:

As Patrick says, “Good stuff! My ZAP is my monome 256’s new best friend. Mmm…wood.”

Actually, that’s not a bad coupling at all — one of my criticisms of monome way back before all the Web buzz when it was released was that its buttons lack velocity sensitivity. With monome handling button-pressing duties and ZAP responding more as an instrument, your fingers should be very happy indeed.

Zendrum ZAP Product Page [Zendrum Catalog]

  • dead_red_eyes

    Looks nice! I use an MPC1000 and a Korg padKONTROL for playing percussion live, just like the way "Jel" plays. I like the huge round pads, and it looks like they have some great feedback and spring to them … so you can actually do rolls on them. I'm definitely gonna have to check these guys out.

  • Mapoosa

    I recommend that nobody buy one of these for the next week or two, until I scrape together the money to put my own order in. I'm telling you it's a terrible instrument! Until I get mine.

  • None

    So what exactly does this do that basic drum machines can't? I can certainly flail around wildly on my Dr. Rhythm using my fingers to get the same effect (which is also velocity sensitive but not made out of wood).

    As for the second portion of the vid… why would you use this for other sounds when you have things like a midi keyboard that can play any notes you want (again volocity sensitive but not made out of wood unless you count a midi-fied Minimoog)

    It's kind of reinventing the wheel but making it oval instead of round. And charging $1000 for it.

  • Darren Landrum

    Am I the only one who thinks these things are overpriced? Is it the nice wood case that drives up the cost, then? In that case, I'll wait for my cheap plastic one. Or I'll just build my own with the Megadrum brain (http://www.megadrum.info/).

  • dan s.

    now a touch sensitive monome that'd be something to write about…

  • I am now officially porting my rule of judging the intelligence of drummers by the size of their kits to the virtual world as well.

  • Um, assuming the others aren't taking Mapoosa's tack and trashing this for the sake of keeping supplies from running out …

    Basically, you get more accurate response from this than you do from a set of drum pads, both in terms of consistency across the pad and the level of detail of velocity response. That can make a big difference — one I don't think comes across in a YouTube video. I've gotten to touch the earlier ZenDrum, and I can vouch for it — and have talked to very experienced players who are really happy with it. That's not to say it's for everyone, and in fact it's very possible to get virtuosic with a cheaper drum machine. But for a specific audience, this is an important tool — and interesting to see how one customer has taken a custom design and made it useful to him and others alike.

    They are pricey, though, so if you don't have the budget of course it's worth looking at other options.

  • That's an amazing vid – sounds great, too. I have a Trigger Finger, which is velocity sensitive, but there's no way I could get that kind of detailed sound out of it – the feel of the pads is important (not as much for me since I mostly use my TF for video, but still…)

    What I like best is that this is clearly a good match between artist and instrument, in that Petro obviously enjoys using it enough to put in the time and become an expert. I have trouble with cramped spaces (I prefer tennis to ping-pong), but you have to respect virtuosity on any scale.

  • Wow, I always wondered what a wanky drum solo would sound like on those devices…..

    Too bad he never actually settled into a groove to give people a feel of what it might *actually* sound like.

  • PK's right. I can basically drop a sheet of paper on this thing and make it trigger. I too had a trigger finger, and the amount of force needed to get the pad to produce a velocity level of 40 with the highest sensitivity setting would register 127 on the ZAP. The lightest hit I could ever get from the TF was around 30. Less than that and it wouldn't even register. The ZAP allows complete range from at least 3 or 4 up through 127.

    @richo: I'll be sure to get a more groove-based video up soon, so check back on youtube. I just get bored easily with repetition…

  • Well, in fairness, the Trigger Figger's velocity response is terrible. It's a nice controller, but not if you actually need its velocity sensitivity. In the drum pad area, I'd suggest the padKONTROL, which handles much better. The ZenDrum is still way ahead of any of the cheap pad controllers, but on a budget the Korg is what I'd get. (Actually, it IS what I've got. I've relegated my Trigger Finger to video triggering, which doesn't need velocity sensitivity.)

  • Yes, I've heard that the padKontrol is much more sensitive than the TF. That's probably the only one of the mass-marketed midi percussion controllers I haven't tried. Couldn't get beyond all the flashing lights. But then, I have a monome…nothing but flashing lights. Hmm…

  • te2rx

    $1000 is only $300 off a regular Zendrum, so it's not the most significant of discounts. At that price I'd rather pay the extra $300 for a layout that's more ergonomic than a flat hexagon grid of pads.

  • Just get Roland Handsonic, it's not only a controller with sensitive pads 9meant to play with your fingers, same as Zap), but it has pretty good world sounds and regular percussion sounds, and it's much, much cheaper.

  • Had a Handsonic. Great if you want an electronic replacement to traditional hand drums. I still didn't think the pads were that sensitive. And the plastic vibrated and rattled when I played it. I just couldn't love it…

  • Ray

    I had a Zendrum, the lap top model. Sent it back for a refund. It would not track fast patterns or rudiments. You have to use two triggers for flams, etc. The triggers' sensitivity is only just so good. I notice in the video the guy appears to be using multiple pads for the same sounds, which is the only way to play fast patterns. On trigger will not do it. I was very disappointed, especially for the cost. I should have kept my trapkat. Although, I'm searching the web now, for DIY finger set ups. I made one, but had problems with 45 wires running out into three modules. I need a midi set up. Plus I had some cross talk/false triggering problems.

  • mikey

    so ray , did you find the right one yet? i m dying for one where the pads are really similar to palying on a desk. i play on desks using my fingers , and nails for variations/higher pitched sounds , and my feet too are invloved…im a lot better playing on desks with my fingers and nails than on larger sized pads or even on reg. drums. i thought of putting triggers of some sort under and on the sides of desks but that prob. wouldnt work. i guess pad kontrol would be best

  • hypno|sapien

    @Ray: You are correct. I have the same sound on multiple pads. There's definitely not room on the small pads for more than one finger at a time. I haven't experienced any difficulty tracking fast patterns, though. What were you using as a sound source?