3 Ways to Record Electronic Drums to Your Computer

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It is not as difficult to record electronic drums as you think. There are many ways to record performance and sound in a module, record a midi performance, or the first record the audio with Audacity and use any digital video camera to record video and merge both in Windows movie maker or similar software.

Electronic drum kits make recording far easier than their acoustic counterparts. They do not require microphones, nor does the recording room matter. You can even use a single channel MIDI interface to begin. So, if you are looking to record electronic drums, here is everything you need to know.

How to Record Electronic Drums in 3 Easy Ways


1. Record the Performance and Sound Directly from the Module

The easiest approach is to record directly from the module. This method lets you select the instruments and edit them to the desired sound. Afterward, you can record your performance as an audio track.

The interface for recording electronic drums will vary from model to model. For instance, some modules will let you create a mono track, enabling you to layer all the sounds into one audio file. Some modules can record drums and cymbals in stereo, which places the sounds on individual channels.

You have three primary options when recording on a module: use a multi-track recorder, an analog mixer, or Digital Audio Workstation software (DAW). If you opt for a multi-recording, 10 to 12 tracks are preferable, while eight tracks are the bare minimum. Remember, the one track (or two tracks) for the vocalist and guitarist will not work for the drums.

When it comes to analog mixers, the most important thing to know is that they receive and combine inputs and send them to output jacks. Mixers will differ based on how you choose to navigate them. That includes setting the levels, gain, and equalization, as well as any other additional features.  

The organization is critically important when using a mixer. You will want to connect each piece of equipment, starting with the main speakers, then the monitor speakers, microphones, instruments, and payback devices in that order. Once you set the levels, you can turn on everything.

Lastly, you can use DAW software or an equivalent system. DAW software gives music producers the ability to record, edit, and create audio files. Like the multi-track recording system, it enables recording across individual channels. 

You can easily connect your drum module to the computer using a USB cable. If your sound module does not have any digital USB output, you can connect the audio outputs to an audio interface. 

The interface will be able to convert the analog signals into digital signals that your computer can understand. Just plug the USB cable from the interface into your computer, and you are good to go. 

Make sure that the computer meets the minimum requirements of the DAW software. Do not worry, though; most software will run adequately on most computers that have come out in the last five years.

Advantages:

  • Requires minimal effort to set up, making it an ideal option for recording practice sessions
  • Simple to use. All you have to do is click a few buttons on your module, and you can begin recordings. No need to go through complicated DAW setups
  • If you plan only to use the default sounds that came with the module, this method will be perfectly adequate.

Disadvantages

  • You cannot process the audio properly as most modules only have stereo output, and therefore, you cannot separate each component’s audio output. While you can make changes to the entire song, you cannot alter each drum and cymbal specifically. This makes editing the sound post-production quite hard and simply not as good as what you get with MIDI output.
  • You are limited to the sounds in your module.

2. Record a MIDI Performance and Add Drum Sounds Later

Another option is to record a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) performance. MIDI recording allows the drum performance to record on your computer as MIDI data, though there is no actual sound from the module. Instead, you can edit the track after the fact to create the idealized audio performance.

When making a MIDI performance, you can edit any sections as you see fit. For instance, you can rearrange notes to synch the drums or cymbals with the rest of the performance. You can also quantize each note to match the tempo of the track.

The versatility of recording MIDI has made it a popular audio production software for many years. All you need is a computer, a USB or MIDI-to-USB interface, and audio drum software. Some modules only have a MIDI interface, so always check your module’s specification before buying anything. You may also use a MIDI drum module to replace the USB or MIDI-to-USB interface. 

After turning on the computer, connect the drum or MIDI drum module using a suitable MIDI cable or USB cable, and launch the drum recording software. Next, set up the recording software to map the MIDI notes to the ideal sound. This step will vary based on your goals, as well as the software you use.

When you begin recording MIDI, you can view your drums on the software’s track. You should see discrete notes that correspond with each strike of the cymbals or the drums. Each of your components gets a separate instrument track, so you get incredible flexibility. After recording, you can go back and alter the arrangement as necessary. You can map any drum sounds, actually any sound, to any of the MIDI tracks. 

Recording a MIDI performance is ideal for several reasons. The approach requires minimal effort and is very straightforward. There is also no need to mess with mapping. If you are satisfied with the sound’s quality, you can record it directly to your computer.

Advantages

  • Great mixing capabilities: Since MIDI gives separate output for each of your drums and cymbals, you can have complete control over your sound. Reverb, EQ, compression, you can do anything you want to any component.
  • Infinite sound possibilities: Using DAW, you can map whichever sound you want to whichever track you want at any production stage. Even if you decide a month after recording that you want a more bellowing bass, you can make that happen.
  • You get significant control over your instrument tracks. You can rearrange them and even automate their timing. 

Disadvantages

  • If all you need is recording your drum’s audio, MIDI is too much effort for no real gains.
  • MIDI mapping has a learning curve, and it will take quite some time before you are proficient with it. Even if you get experienced, it will still be tedious to pull off complex setups.
  • Not all electronic drum modules support MIDI output.

3. Via Software

Triggering software is your third option when recording an electronic drum. This approach is more complicated because it involves mapping the trigger notes that correspond to the drum pads and cymbals. If both components use the MIDI drum-note standard, you can proceed immediately.

However, many people find the MIDI drum-note standard to be too simple. Because of that, it may not adequately capture the ideal and expressive drum performance you want. That is why many drummers opt for custom drum maps, which enable superior nuance and expression.

Re-mapping via software is possible in two ways. You can re-map based on the factory setting within the plug-in. Many electronic kits also come with the ability to save the custom map.

If you cannot re-map a plug-in, many DAWs have MIDI plug-ins that offer the same capabilities. Here, you can transpose the notes one-by-one. For instance, Logic offers MIDI transforming and mapping in real-time. Simultaneously, the plug-in can adapt from a chord trigger application.

The trade-off here is time for precision. Sometimes mapping a drum sound to an electronic note is not one-for-one. High-end drum plug-ins, like the Roland TD-50 V drums, often have more complex triggering mechanisms. Therefore, an e-kit can trigger multiple snare sounds for a single drum, depending on where you strike it.

Less intricate e-drum kits will likely produce a single note, regardless of whether you hit in the center or on the rim. The same goes for if you hit the panel at different velocities. If you plan on recording your electronic kit via software, these nuances are worth investigating before committing to a purchase. 

Advantages

  • You will be able to capture the nuances of your playing much better than with MIDI.
  • Similar to MIDI, you get excellent mixing capabilities and an infinite sound library.

Disadvantages

  • Quite complex to set up and takes a significant amount of time.
  • Not all e-kits can benefit from this.

How do I Connect my Electronic Drum Set to My Computer

Connect your Electronic Drum to Computer

It is relatively easy to connect your electronic drums to a computer. If you are using a drum module, you can connect the device via a USB cable. That is because the electronic drum set acts as an audio interface. Once you put the USB into place, you can install any necessary drivers. After that, you will be good to go.

Drum modules that have audio outputs will require audio cables. The cables transfer the audio signals so that your computer can interpret and produce the sound. Similar to USBs, they connect the e-drum kit and the computer. If your computer does not have audio connectors ports, you should use an audio interface to convert the audio signals into digital signals that your PC can understand.

Finally, MIDI performances allow for the capture of digital notes from the electronic drum kit. This experience is entirely different than recording from the drum module. The digital information from MIDI then triggers drum samples and synths on the audio software. Note that some kits allow you to record audio and MIDI via USB at the same time.

Common problems along with solutions for Recording electronic drums


My recordings have background static in this (hiss sounds) – How to solve this

There are many reasons why this can occur. If you use cheap cables, they will usually struggle to handle high volume and produce static. You can reduce the volume levels to prevent this or buy a better quality cable.

The problem can also arise directly from your drum module due to its electronics, so place your ears near the module and make sure that no sound is coming from it. 

Sound can also come from nearby gadgets like your laptop or maybe an external hard disk. The hiss can also be caused due to electronic interferences due to any nearby devices. 

The culprit is usually the laptop; you can try running the laptop directly off the power socket instead of the battery to help with this issue. 

There is a delay between me hitting and hearing the sound (latency or lag)

A few different issues can cause this problem. 

Like, your computer might be slow in processing the audio. In that case, you can directly plug your headphones into your drum module to overcome this problem. 

The problem can also be with your audio interface; in this case, you should refer to the product’s manual and follow the steps to overcome it. If you are using a Windows device, you can spend some time optimizing it to prioritize audio processing.

My computer isn’t recognizing the audio interface.

Your computer cannot recognize the audio interface because either the required drivers aren’t installed or they are outdated. Go to the manufacturer’s website, download the latest drivers and install them. 

There is also a chance that the audio interface might not be compatible with your computer or OS. You can make sure it’s compatible by looking at the manufacturer’s website.

The problem can also be with the USB cable or USB port connecting the interface to the computer might not be functioning correctly. Try with a different USB cable or a different USB port to see if it works. There is also a chance that your audio interface might be faulty, so try connecting it to another computer to make sure that it’s not the problem.

Conclusion

There is no single way to go about recording electronic drums. The tools you use to record the affordable Alesis mesh nitro differ from those you would use with the premium Roland TD-50 V drums. The best solution is the one that works for you. 

As a rule of thumb, you have three options: 

  • Recording the audio track(multi-track recording
  • an analog mixer, or DAW)
  • recordings with MIDI, or via software.

Recording directly from the module is preferable for people that want a straightforward approach. MIDI also requires little effort and circumvents the need for mapping. Experienced drummers, however, will likely want to use triggering software, which provides a great deal of control over the drum sound and expression.


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