Using the e-Cajon with a built in MegaDRUM module and Ipad!

Some background

In my project building an e-cajon as the last step, I ended up with installing an ARM-Based MegaDRUM module (MD) inside the cajon. I had prior to that installed 4 piezo sensors which were delivering the MIDI information to my trigger device.) The benefit to have the MD module installed directly inside the cajon was that the MIDI information could now be delivered through a plain USB interface to any PC/MAC or Ipad/iPhone. For more information about this please visit my e-cajon page The MD module is now a complete blackbox implementation – it turns on direcly when inserting the USB Cable, there is not any buttons, Leds or display on the e-cajon. The device shows up as a MegaDRUM devive over USB and for Apple products  utilize the CoreMIDI device stack.

New ideas!

To be able to go out on the “road” and play with the guys and have an extremely light and fast e-drum implementation to setup, I did figure out that an Apple Ipad could be an optimal platform for being the “brain” creating the actual e-sounds. Based on an article in digitalDrummer the editor Allan Leibowitz made a convincing job and talked well about the Ipad software from Alesis called DM-Touch.  This app will transform your iPad into a full-color, multi-touch drum module. With about 10 professional drum kits from the leading software developer SONiVOX, it can instantly call up and play a range of preset rock, jazz, electronic kits and more. Just perfect for my purposes! There are of course many other drum apps for Ipad available but I felt that the DM-Touch gives med as a user a professional GUI and good sound. (Not feeling like an extension to a game etc)

Get Connected

After this the question came up…How can I access the midi information and get it delivered to my Ipad? The secret to be able to send USB based information is to use a “Ipad Lightning to USB adapter”, which will add USB capabilities to your Ipad regardless what you connect to the USB port. I am guessing that the adapter includes some type of electronics and logics. If you connect a USB midi device through the adapter which supports Apples CoreMidi protocol or even a audio card which supports CoreAudio, no drivers is required and these devices will be seen immediately on the IPAD. Beware: Not all kind of musical devices do support these protocols. But very many do! MegaDRUM DO! So, I did connect the my e-cajon to the Ipad. MegaDRUM do support CoreMIDI. One nice thing especially for the MegaDRUM module is that the power consumption is very low, so the Ipad can actually deliver the power for the MD over USB – which is handy when going to tour. It seems to be very thin terms of power consumption. I have been running my “setup” for hours. But if you want to be more safe – you can always add a USB powered hub between the IPAD and the e-drum device.

Make DM-Touch to trigger

Starting up the DM-Touch application you will realize that the application primarily is built for Alesis own hardware called DM-Dock. (A complete TMI for Ipad) So the DM-Touch settings with triggering settings etc is especially for that hardware. Luckily in my scenario the midi signal is already being delivered from MD to the Ipad and my job was only to figure out which midi note value the kick, snare, hi-hat and crash were responding to in the DM-Touch application. It is fairly straight forward and it seems like the application follows the general midi map (GM).

Setting up the right midi map for MegaDRUM

Most often when setting up a MegaDRUM device, you do it directly on the MD device or by using the MegaDRUM Manager on a PC or MAC. In this application you can setup all triggering, midi mappings etc and store it in eprom on the MD. In my special case I setup the rule that the Ipad was the only brain and that I even needed to configure everything on the Mad from the Ipad! Also for further purposes when on the road, it could actually be so that I need to be able to change stuff and don’t have access to a PC or MAC. So my option in this scenario was to be able to do this from the Ipad. However – I was lucky again – The MegaDRUM forum / Dmitri has created a special version of MegaDRUM Manager especially for Ipad/IPhone called MD Commander, which can handle almost every task which the full product (MDM) can do with one exception updating the firmware. So it was just to download it from AppStore and install it on the iPad/iPhone. MDCommand is not 100% compatible ,with the current MD firmware 20150111 but you can complete most MD tasks from the app. And play! After setting up and stored the settings on the MD, you can immediately start to play. Some adjustments on the mixer settings and of course select the right sound etc…

One great drawback with the solution (Solved in Firmware 20150111) One nice standard feature on the MD is the dual midi port implementation in the hardware which is great for PC and MAC’s using MDM together with a DAW software at the same time. The idea with this implementation is that the midi ports won’t collision when playing and configuring the MD device at the same time. The ports are equal and sends the same information on both the ports but could actually receive information from two different sources like MDM and a DAW software. A well known issue with this dual midi port implementation is in DAW software’s like Cubase or Logic – which default receives midi information on “ANY” of the midi ports are that you will get both ports information as one midi stream. What will happen then are that you will see the midi information twice in your recordings. You will probably hear phasing sounds etc. This is not a big problem on a MAC or PC where you can select MD Midi port to receive on. But on a Ipad/IPhone and running DAW applications like Garageband or Drum applications like Alesis DM-Touch…you can’t select port…it is capturing on “ANY” port and receives all the midi information twice. This has been fixed in now in the MegaDRUM firmware 20150111 so you are able to switch off one of the ports in firmware. There is a new parameter called Midi2 for Sysex only which need to be checked. Works great! This can only be done from the latest version of MDM. (MDCommander can’t do this.

Closing the loop – playing the e-cajon and use cajon sounds from AD2 !

Environment & Gears

Some other iPad apps that also will work with the MD based e-cajon: Garageband, Roland Friends Jam, XD DRUMS. For iPhone I have tested Apple Garageband with successful results.

Comments
  1. Good afternoon , I am Brazilian and I play cajon , I enjoyed the adjustment you made in the cajon with drum module. I wonder if you are selling this cajon . Hug Fernando Amaro

    • angr777 says:

      Hi Fernando!
      Everything is for sale…but I am a bit chocked to get the question…However – I could easily build a similar e-cajon for you. The project would include a cajon, PAD, Cajon bag, implement the electronics and contacts, configure the trigger to midi module and the sensors + a Quick start manual. I have no clue what a proper pricetag would be for it, but I am estimating it to be about $450 + shipping. (Too expensive?) Best Regards Anders

  2. rashi says:

    hi
    first of all this is an amazing kit for drummers well doen.
    after that being said, im very interested in buying this module trigger system
    but i have a few questions.
    first can it work with android?
    would you sell the system with out the cajon (i belieave i can install it my self)?
    if willing what would be the price?
    the mic installed inside is just for amlifying the cajon? if yes whats the benefit of that?
    does it give you a better sound from mounting a mic out side?
    can you connect a kick trigger and play with the natural sound of the cajon?
    can you describe in more detail how sensitive it is to finger tapping (maybe another video)?
    most important part for me.

    i hope i didnt .exaggerate to much with my questions.
    thanks alot
    rashi.

    • angr777 says:

      Hi Rashi. The e-Cajon is bult using a MegaDRUM module. There is a Megadrum Light module available with about 20 piezo input channels. So you could use 4-5 internal triggers and also have some external inputs for kick and hi hat triggers. The MD delivers a core midi based USB connection. So you can use it with a PC, MAC, iPhone or IPad and your favourite drum sample app. (No sound generating device in the e-cajon.) I think it will work even with android devices. Have not tried this. Let me see if I could create a complete DIY package and a price tag…:-)

  3. rashi says:

    Hi
    thanks for your reply all sounds very good
    Waiting for your DIY kit pricing.
    i would like to have 4 piezo triggers in the front and another 2 on each side 6 all together if possible.
    and 2 inputs for kick and hi hat in the back.
    pls tell me more about the sensetivity
    of the triggers, did you ever play the
    roland hpd20? is their any way you can compare or describe how sensitive are the trrigers?
    This is the most crucial part for me.
    Thanks rashi.

    • angr777 says:

      Hi! I currently on vacation. I could do a new video showing the sensitivity when I am back home again. It it is possible to tap on each sensor with your fingers. It is always a fight between sensitive/crosstalk between other sensors mounted on the same surface but we have some parameters to hold this back in the MegaDrum firmware. When these settings are properly set the e-cajon works like charm. If you buy a package from me…my best settings will be in the MegaDrum. Take a look at Megadrum.info if you are interested in the MD.

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