E. Doctor Smith plays the new Zendrum EXP, MIDI percussion controller!

Doc's interview from the November 2013 issue of digitalDrummer explains his latest set-up...
"I first saw a Zendrum at a NAMM show back in the ‘90s and thought it was great, but I still preferred the ergonomics of the Drummstick. One day, a friend surprised me with a maple ZX he’d just bought, and happily let me program it and try it out. The first thing I did was to flip it up vertically, so I could play it the way I play the Drummstick. Although the straps weren't in the right places, it worked well enough. After 20 minutes or so, I'd programmed the ZX to a playable level. It was so incredibly responsive. I immediately loved it.

In 2007, I finally made the switch. The Zendrum Corporation’s David Haney built a beautiful, black “Jimi Hendrix ZX” for me, which was modeled after Hendrix’s Fender Stratocaster. After I replaced the strap locks, so that I could play it vertically, it worked like a charm. When Haney and John Emrich announced the new Zendrum, “EXP”, in late spring, I took a look at it, saw that it had been redesigned to allow greater left hand trigger access and to be worn vertically, and I knew I had to have one. I bought the first ever production model, and it’s been a dream come true.

Live, I’m a hybrid of new school meets old school, so I use a MacBook Pro with BFD2 and GarageBand for my basic kits, along with an Alesis DMPro. I also use iDrum to trigger my pre-recorded samples. My rigs vary depending on the size of the venue, and my sound is fed into either a Fast Track Ultra 8R, a Tascam US-1800, or PreSonus USB/MIDI interface. I use either an Alesis iMultiMix 9R or a Mackie mixer and a pair of Mackie SRM450s. For recording, I mostly use GarageBand, Logic, and ProTools. I also enjoy using Darin Kadrioski’s Zendrum editor app, ZenEdit.

My Zendrum technique is based on my nearly 20 years of playing the Drummstick. My left hand carries a lot of the snare, open hi-hat, crashes, and sample triggering. With my right hand, I do my signature finger rolls, as well as carry the basic kick, ride, closed hi-hat, snare, and toms, split between multiple fingers. I was really happy when I discovered that I could put the EXP on over my right shoulder, ala Hendrix. This gave me more range with my left hand, allowing me to use the EXP’s additional triggers more comfortably. So far, I haven’t used any pedals, but you never know..."

Doc has several rigs depending on his musical situation. The latest Zendrum EXP set-up, consists of a MacBook Pro with BFD2, using the Billy Cobham/Ken Scott VST samples, GarageBand and iDrum, PreSonus USB MIDI interface, an Alesis Nanoverb, a Mackie ProFx16v2 mixer, and a pair of Mackie SRM 450 monitors.


custom 10 piece Ddrum, hybrid acoustic-electronic kit with Ddrum Acoustic Pro Triggers routed to an Alesis DM10 and several Roland PD7 pads connected to an Alesis DM Dock for iPad. Inspired by the double bass, “tonal array” drum kits of Billy Cobham, this kit is currently being used with Steve McQuarry’s “Echelon” quartet.

The Ddrums

other acoustic kit is his 6 piece Gretsch custom, with a Tama Stewart Copeland Signature snare. His set is also open-handed and inspired by one of his favorite drummers, Lenny White. Doc uses this smaller kit with Steve McQuarry’s new organ trio featuring guitarist David McFarland!

the gretsch

Simmons electronic kit was inspired by drummer Bill Bruford and the music of his 1987-1990 groups Earthworks, David Torn's Cloud About Mercury and Kazumi Watanabe. Originally part of an SDS9 Simmons kit with a Roland PM-16 MIDI interface and assorted Alesis D4 and DMPro drum modules, Doc has updated it with an Alesis Trigger I/O and a MacBook Pro for all of his sounds and samples.


Doc's smaller rig features a Barbetta Sona Elan 41c, mated to the Zendrum EXP and SKB Studio Flyer with a MacBook Air, M-Audio FastTrack 8r, Korg Nano Kontrol, and ART Mixer in a SKB Studio Flyer, also running BFD2, iDrum and GarageBand. I also made a custom stand for the rack from an old computer table, some leftover Ultimate Support tubes and Gibraltar hardware.


Doc's other “axes” include the original Drummstick, Drummstick #2, the Black Drummstick #3, the custom-made "Jimi Hendrix-style" Zendrum ZX and a Dynacord Rhythm Stick.

docs axes

Doc's Rototom kit was also inspired by drummer Bill Bruford and the music of 1978-1980 his groups U.K. and Bruford. Doc has two versions; the all acoustic Gretsch kit and the hybrid acoustic electric Ddrum version. This kit uses Remo Silentstroke mesh heads on the rototoms, Hart Dynamic Magnums mesh heads on an old, converted 6.5" x 14" Viking snare with an internal Pintech trigger, and Maxxums on the floor tom and kick drum, plus Ddrum RedShot or Pro triggers, mated to an Alesis Trigger I/O and MacBook Pro.

Ddrum Hybrid Rotokit

latest kit was inspired by the Indian Subsonic Bass Sound and the music of Trilok Gurtu! The hexagonal shape came via his love of the Simmons electronic pads. This kit was built by Doc and Herb Sessums of Coos Bay Oregon and refinished by bassist and luthier Kate Aragon! Doc will also be adding the new wireless Versatriggers… Stay tuned!

Trilok Kit