Zendrum’s the Word

Image Courtesy of David Haney

Zendrum: A Review

by Allison Lahikainen

It’s a Zendrum. A what? A Zendrum – a drum controller you play with your fingers and hands, wear like a guitar, and plug into a separate sound module. It’s one of the most nuanced and versatile pieces of percussion I’ve ever played. It’s the drum you didn’t know you needed in your life.

I saw my first Zendrummer in the wilds of Epcot. He was tapping away on this percussive guitar hybrid while the full sounds of a drum kit filled the air.

One Internet search later I was on: http://zendrum.com/. My enthusiasm dipped a bit when I saw the $1,600.00 price tag. It would be four years before I took the plunge, finding one on Craigslist for $900.00 (the average price for used).

Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel in 1993 trying out a Zendrum for his US tour.

The model, a Zendrum ZX, has 24 programmable triggers comes with a gig bag, strap with locks, 20’ and 3’ MIDI cables, ZenEdit Visual Editor, power supply/merge box, and instruction manual. Mine being used, I missed out on the ZenEdit and manual. The Internet comes through again with a downloadable PDF and very easy to follow instructions.

Within a half-hour of having the Zendrum I was fully programmed and ready to gig with it the same weekend. For reference, I’m running my drum through an Alesis D4, the workhorse of drum modules.

Worried all those pads partnered with the word MIDI may be out of your experience range? Ask yourself, what drummer doesn’t like to tap on every available surface? The Zendrum gives the feel of ‘just noodling around.’ While having experience with hand drums and/or electronic percussion can shorten your learning curve, it’s not necessary. You’ll find with a little practice, the Zendrum comes to life under your fingertips.

The response from the triggers is ridiculous in such a good way. I’m not a subtle drummer, nor am I a tech head. My philosophy runs in a pretty straight line of logic – hit drum, make noise, noise good. I was able to fuss with the settings to fine-tune every aspect of how the drum responded to my hits. The instructions are great in letting you know what’s typical, and how velocity, sensitivity, volume, etc. can be customized so you get the most out of your playing style. I’m still learning how the softest of finger taps can be as effective as pounding out the beat. It’s also lightweight, and for once the drummer will have the fastest set-up/tear down in the band.

The Zendrum comes in a variety of sizes and design styles. You can pick up the small, square desktop ZAP design, the futuristic looking LT made to sit in a snare drum cradle, or just put the ZX on your lap.

I’m a little sad it took me four years to get around to buying one. Don’t be sad, yourself: new or used, the Zendrum — with its easy portability, short learning curve, and total customization — is worth the investment.

It’s time you let a little Zendrum into your life.

Allison Lahikainen is the drummer for the synthpop band Platform One


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