By Jim Misunas
Ever since Great Bend native Jeff Sallee played drums in the Argonne Rebels Bugle Corps more than 30 years ago, he’s been captivated by the percussion sound.
Sallee and long-time friend Mark Schnose, a Hays native, have turned their lifetime fascination with percussion into a money-making endeavor with their company Visionary Directions LLC in California.
They created the Qube Shaker, an innovative percussion shaker. Beads are captured in a qube structure that can be used by conga and shaker players. The original intent is to use the Qube Shaker as a musical instrument.
“It’s a unique percussion instrument that has technology inside that channels the beads in a certain way,” Sallee said. “It gives a player an additional tool for rhythmic enhancement. It’s very appealing to a percussionist.”
They’ve sold the marketing rights to Latin Percussion (LP), the world leader in production and marketing of percussion instruments. LP is selling it as the LP Qube. The Qube Shaker has patents pending and U.S. and international patents have been applied for.
“With the Qube shaker, it is now possible to easily syncopate rhythms with minimal effort by using lateral, circular and arc arm/wrist motions using a bit of centrifugal science — all with one hand,” Sallee said. “The Qube is also unique because it produces a well defined staccato attack and release sound difficult to achieve with current products.”
Sallee and Schnose were close friends while marching in the Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps in Great Bend from 1975 to 1979. Both were students of Mitch Markovich, the drum instructor for the Argonne Rebels and percussion chair at Fort Hays State University.
During their years attending FHSU, Schnose and Sallee dabbled in creating their own percussion instruments. Schnose recalls they made wind chimes and a set of Plexiglas shelled drums and mallets for keyboard percussion. At that time, they were not particularly interested in marketing any of their creations.
“We tried to sell some of our mallets, but had limited success and just simply gave up,” said Sallee.
After years living in different parts of the country, they both landed in Los Angeles County and quickly became inseparable friends.
They formed a percussion group “CanUnDrum,” a percussive conundrum. The group is named CanUnDrum because they play on cans and other “un-drums” such as bowls, pots and pans and buckets.
They expanded their horizons in 2010 when they formed Visionary Directions, LLC (www.visionarydirections.com), intending to take innovative ideas from “brain to shelf” and help others bring new ideas to market.
“We want others to be able to learn the process of licensing and not give up like we did the first time many years ago.” said Schnose.
Also helping in the process was a mentoring friendship with Stephen Key, a successful inventor who has brought more than 20 products to market. After their success with “The Qube,” Sallee and Schnose are profiled in Key’s book, “One Simple Idea,” published by McGraw Hill. Schnose and Sallee can be heard being interviewed by Key on-line at www.InventRight.com in a webinar.
Inspired by Key, they put their minds together and began dreaming again. They focused their shaker product concept on the percussion instrument industry.
The duo’s collaboration proved magical when they moved forward with an idea Schnose had conceived in 1983. Sallee further developed the concept and added final improvements.
The first step was to try a prototype. They started with a power saw, a drill, a 4-inch-by-4-inch block of wood, Plexiglas and some tin.
The first prototype was partially successful. They went back to the drawing board.
Later that same week, Schnose had a moment of inspiration while looking at a wooden box in his kitchen that held tea bags. The prototype from this inspiration was much closer to the desired result.
On a phone call to Sallee, Schnose used percussive onomatopoeia to describe the prototypes new sound as a “chee-chee-chee-chee,” “cha-cha-cha-cha,” and a “woochaw-woochaw,” sound.
Sallee further developed the tea-box prototype into a manufacturer design close to the current Qube.
“Our eighth prototype finally gave us the “Wow” factor we were looking for,” Sallee said. “Within weeks, we had multiple manufacturers interested in our product.”
Sallee developed a demonstration video using a home studio that was marketed to four interested companies. They were pleasantly surprised when all four companies expressed interest in marketing the invention.
Latin Percussion made the strongest pitch to land the rights to the Qube. A contract was signed in October and the Qube won a Best of Show Award at the National Association of Music Merchandisers Show in Anaheim Calif. The NAMM Show in January is one of the world’s biggest events for the music industry to highlight their products.
The Qube is available in music stores and through numerous on-line dealers by visiting www.lpmusic.com. LP has produced two versions — the Studio version which produces a lighter sound, and the Live version which is designed for live performance.
Sallee and Schnose have posted a series of home-made videos on the web site Youtube.com using the name of QubeTubeTV.
“They are designed to be instructional as well as humorous and entertaining,” Sallee said. “We would love for the Qube to become popular for musicians and non-musicians alike.”
They really enjoy the moment when a novice picks up the Qube for the first time.
“Watching for the big smile that occurs on the experimenter’s face.” Schnose said. “There is something psychological about holding the geometric shape and then experiencing the rhythmic pulse in their hand -- it brings about a joy reaction.”
Sallee believes the Qube could easily catch on a fad gift item that could be popular with youngsters.
Sallee and Schnose are working on additional projects with hopes of further impacting the percussion industry as well as branching into others.
Schnose, the son of Arthur and Ruth Schnose, is a 1979 graduate of Hays High School and 1983 Fort Hays State University. He works as a psychologist in the Los Angeles area after earning a doctorate degree in clinical psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA.
Sallee, the son of Virginia Sallee, is a 1979 graduate of Great Bend High School. He attended Fort Hays State University before leaving to Los Angeles to attend the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. He works for an office machine service and repair company and continues his music passion playing drums in his own jazz band, SpareTime (www.sparetimejazz.com).